Holden – Interview
Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
MIKE: We’re really a fusion of several styles. At our core, we’re definitely post-metal mixed with doom. But there’s elements of prog, sludge, black metal and others throughout the album.
PD. Tell us the brief history of yourself.
MIKE: We’re Holden, based out of Richmond Virginia. Palmer and Sam have been playing together for over 8 years and were in a prog band called Lapis. I’d been playing in extreme metal bands up in Northern Virginia for years. When I moved to Richmond, I found them as they were launching something new with a focus on heavier, post-metal doom type material. We just clicked, and we started writing for Ursa Minor immediately.
PD. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
MIKE: We all have musical tastes that are all over the place. That’s what really fuels what we’ve made here. It is obviously heavily influenced by bands like Yob or Isis or Conan, but we draw just as much from our non-metal influences. I’m just as likely to pull a hi-hat lick from a Bee Gees album as I am to pull tricks from metal influences like Gene Hoglan. It’s all those weird influences that helps us bring something unusual to the table and make it fit in a completely heavy setting.
PD. What are your dreams and goals?
MIKE: I have really humble goals when it comes to music. I’m so over the rock star dream. All I care about is that the music we make reaches people, they enjoy it, and they support us enough that we can do it again. If we have an audience for our music, I’m happy.
PD. Who writes your songs, what are they about?
MIKE: Palmer writes the underlying material, but we all weigh in on it. Sam carries a ton of the weight in the process because the bass is so prominent in the music. So while Palmer creates a riff, what Sam does under it is paramount. And I do a lot of arranging. I’ve always had good sensibilities for that, so when Palmer brings riffs in, I help chop things up and put them back together to create the song structure or lead him to a spot where the riff expands and gets better. Sometimes things stay exactly as they are when he brings the riff to the table, but often times we’ll say “let’s change this, try this, and move this here” and all of us are totally open to that sort of input. Same with my drums, the guys never tell me what to play under their riffs, but I always ask if what I come up with works, and if they think it sucks, I go right back to the drawing board. We all do a great job of swallowing our pride and putting the music first.
PD. How do you promote your band and shows?
MIKE: Social media is king. We try to engage as much as possible on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. And now that we have an album release to such, we’re doing interviews with great outlets like yours that keep metal alive in the public conscience to get the word out.
PD. What do you think about downloading music online?
SAM: I have no issues with it. If we’re talking legally, cool, beats having thousands of CDs laying around. If we’re talking illegally, does that even really happen anymore with all of the streaming services that are around?
MIKE: It doesn’t matter what we think. It’s here, and it is here to stay. People get their music digitally now. CDs are a dying format, it’s hard to even buy a car with one now. Everyone is streaming. I subscribe to a streaming service. But the great news is we don’t have to settle for shitty quality MP3s anymore. You can stream albums in higher resolution than CDs now. The question though, is how can we make money from that? And I’m not talking about getting rich, I’m talking about how can bands avoid spending thousands of their own dollars up front to record and then make zero off downloads? Streaming sites get your stuff out there, but we’ve all heard the horror stories about getting paid pennies for tons of streams. Right now bands have to trust the fans, trust that when we offer an album for $5 on bandcamp that fans will support us and pay us for the art so we can do it again, for you. For the fans, it couldn’t be better than right now. You can get anything instantly. But it has to get to a place where bands can afford to keep making it or the availability of good new music will start to dry up.
PD. What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
The record INDUSTRY sucks. By that I mean the whole label situation and them serving as the gatekeepers to distribution or instant access to playlists and radio play. The labels don’t serve the function they used to. They don’t maintain real A&R staffs, they don’t get out there and try to discover and cultivate new artists. Nowadays they’re like “do you have 20,000 social media fans, 5 tours under your belt, a built in guaranteed following?” If you already have that, you don’t need a label for squat so it has become a chicken and egg thing. The labels aren’t taking any chances any more, they are playing it safe. But the tools are there for the independent artists now, and the need for the labels is waning. Yes, Big Label X can get you on that festival, get you on XM Liquid Metal, front you some studio money, but that’s really it and they aren’t doing any of that for a band they aren’t guaranteed to recoup from, i.e. an already established band. For the rest of us, its guerilla warfare, and that can be a really fun position to fight from.
SAM: That’s a double-edged sword here. Self publishing has made it easier than ever for anybody to get their music out there, and you don’t need a label contract anymore to do it. You can do a digital release, get a small batch of vinyls printed, cut some tapes if you find yourself inclined, and put it out there. Labels are certainly a help, but not a requirement anymore. However, that means that everybody can get their stuff out there, which can lead to having to dig through a lot of trash to find the treasure.
I’m not sure if the costs themselves are getting a bit out of hand or not. It’s been a long time since I’ve bought a CD, but I feel like those prices have been pretty much the same. Records seem to have increased, but maybe it’s just me not remembering how much I paid for records 15 years ago. I love that records are still around, and even that tapes are coming back, which is kinda cool if you’re in to the lo-fi, thin but warm kind of sound.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
MIKE: Man, that is so tough. I could wake up every day and come up with a different answer. I’m a monster Beatles fan so in general I’ll go with the Long One medley that comprises most of Abbey Road side B. That’s probably the greatest piece of modern music ever made. For any band that would be a legacy defining moment, for the Beatles it was all in a day’s work. If we wanna stick with metal, I could go to my grave a content man if I knew I wrote Carcass’ Incarnated Solvent Abuse. That’s probably the sickest metal song ever, off my favorite metal album ever.
SAM: Anything by Bowie, except for Under Pressure, which I’ll let him keep since his original collab with Queen didn’t work. As for why, well, it’s David Bowie, so I’d like somebody to explain to me why they wouldn’t have wanted to write those songs. Bowie was a genius who managed to evolve with musical eras and never seem out of place any more than he needed to be.
PD. What are some of your pet peeves?
MIKE: People who talk during movies in theaters. And there is a special place in hell for people who pull their cell phones our during a movie and check their messages.
PD. What is your proudest moment in music?
MIKE: As a group I think we’re all super proud of this album. I think we all agree this is the best sounding album any of us has ever made. Yes, I know it is so cliché to say that the current album you’re flogging is the best thing yet, but in this case it is true. We all have recording credits with previous bands. This album really is the shit. It rocks from start to finish, and it sounds GOOD.
PD. Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there
MIKE:We don’t have anything concrete lined up, and we’re focusing on the album release and family stuff right now. But when we play next you want to be there because it’s always a special event and we do bring it heavy.