Exclusive: Ben Sharp (Cloudkicker) Interview

If you are unaware of who Cloudkicker is, then you must
have been living under a rock for the majority of 2010. The guy
(yes a one-man project) self-released a full length album, and EP
and a single all in 2010 alone. Not only is his music absolutely
mind blowing (making not only mine, but a load of other peoples
year end lists), but Ben gives his music away for absolutely free.
You can purchase CDs, vinyls and t-shirts if you wish, but if you
just want some killer instru-metal tunes, head over to Cloudkicker’s
BandCamp
page and get educated. I recently interviewed
Ben Sharp himself in order to learn a few things about the man
behind the music. Read on to learn how Cloudkicker makes Ben
nostalgic, how Ben has no intention of playing
live and what records Ben liked in 2010. The first thing I wonder when it comes to
strictly instrumental band is how song titles are decided upon.
When you have lyrics, it’s a little easier to come up with a title.
How did you come up with some of your song titles?
For
me it’s just whatever fits with how the music makes me feel. If I
can use song titles to direct people’s imagination in a way that I
think best associates with the mood the music creates, I go with
that. Initially, why did you
choose to make Cloudkicker an all instrumental
project?
Because I don’t have anything that important
to say, I would rather create an atmosphere that invites an
individual experience than whine about things that make me feel
bad. You have stated many times
that you are a hobbyist when it comes to your music. Do you think
you would ever inquire into a recording contract and try to make
more money off of it?
Nope. Just the idea that I would
do something purely for the sake of adding a digit to my bank
account pisses me off. If I ever arrive at that point I will have
seriously fucked up. Just seeing how easy it has been to release
Beacons and handle everything that has come with it makes me
realize what a joke it would be to try and get signed by some bogus
label. For what? I’ve had a few label reps explain to me the
benefits of signing with them and it always leaves me scratching my
head wondering what the big deal is. Since the pressing of vinyls and t-shirts
going on sale on your BandCamp page, how have sales
been?
Pretty great. I’ve made back all the costs
associated with the production of Beacons, I’ve made back the costs
of making the shirts, I bought myself new monitors, and I’ve made
enough to fund at least one more release. What more could I have
asked for? I am sure you have
been asked this before, but the name Cloudkicker is a reference to
the Tail Spin character, am I right? If so, why was this name
chosen?
It’s just a little slice of nostalgia for me,
plus it has a nice ring to it. In 2010, you released not one but two
albums. You also did a song right before the year ended, “You and
Yours.” What is in store for you in 2011?
Honestly I
have no idea. I haven’t written anything that I would like to
explore enough to base an album or EP off of yet. I think I’m just
now getting to a point where I can shake off Beacons and try new
things. Your music has been
considered djent to some. Me, personally see it more as progressive
instru-metal. How would you describe the Cloudkicker
sound?
Who cares. It’s music, let’s just leave it at
that. Have there been any bands
lately that serve influence on the sound of
Cloudkicker?
Lots of bands that people who listen to
metal all the time will hate. I’ve been listening to things like
The Appleseed Cast, Mogwai, The Books, Iron and Wine, Jose Gonzales
and Sufjan Stevens. I play the Air, Philip Glass, Tycho, Four Tet,
and Caribou Pandora stations all the time. Basically anything
but metal. You played a single show with an actual
band, right? Have you tried to put anything together since
then?
Nah. Did you
listen to many records in 2010? If so, where there any that stood
out to you?
As far as first impressions of 2010
releases go The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens, Go by Jonsi, and
Valley of Smoke by Intronaut blew me away.

Band Spotlight: Birds In Row


Last night while surfing BandCamp, as I have been doing a lot lately, I stumbled across a band out of nowhere. The band is called Birds In Row. I was intrigued by the name alone, so when I pressed play, the music drew me in. After an interesting intro, the music becomes a punishing melee of crusty hardcore chaos. Much in the vein of Trap Them and Black Breath. And I love those bands, so Birds In Row is right up my alley. The music is chunky and filthy. The vocals are extremely powerful. And what is the best thing about this band besides being amazing? Their album, Cottbus is available on their BandCamp page for free. Yes, I said free. After downloading the album and extracting the zip file, I found another interesting thing. A word document titled “FVCK LARS ULRICH.” Amazing. It is a press release from the head of Throatruiner Records and it reads as follows:

Thanks for your download, we hope you will enjoy this record as much as we did! When I have started Throatruiner Records last year, one of my guidelines was to put all my releases on free download. Because the stuff i love should live without any boundaries. So if you want to support Throatruiner Records & our bands,  please visit http://throatruinerrecords.tumblr.com/ and pick some stuff, we need it; and if you think we don’t deserve any $, be kind, share this album with five of your friends!

This band is great, go and check them here and jam the shit out of this free fucking metal! Expect an album review later today.

Review: Royal Thunder – S/T

The intro is waves crashing against a dock, I believe. Then in comes a chant in a very creepy fashion. The chant turns into very beautiful singing. This is almost haunting with the waves still crashing in the background. I am very interested and curious about this band. The ambient music carries on into the next track, “Sleeping Witch.” This track is very bluesy. Still rather creepy in the tone being set. I like the vocals. It’s the woman from the intro. What a shock. I’m an idiot. So far, I’m not a huge fan of the music. Wait. The entire tone just changed. Guitars got louder and the drums are hammering harder. This is a little better. Some nice chugging guitar work. This chick has a great voice. She reminds me of someone, I’m just not sure who. This style of music isn’t exactly my strong suit. There are hints of doom mixed in here, but its more doom rock. I think that makes sense. It’s not bad. It’s melodic and very catchy, it’s just different to me. I like when the track picks up, however. This reminds me of the band Across Tundras and I never could get into them. Who knows, though. The album has only begun. I might be surprised. “Mouth of Fire” opens with a southern rock styled riff. Not bad at all. This track is faster than the previous, but so far, still not tickling my fancy. This is like doom-y southern goth psychedelia. This has it’s moments. This track is actually starting to grow on me as it progresses. I’m not sure why. I don’t think it’s something I would jam on a regular, but sitting around, drinking with some friends, I’d throw it on. The next track “Low” opens with a kick drum that makes me want to hear Black Betty. The riff in this song is very similar to the one from “Sleeping Witch.” The vibe is the same as well. I’m actually really starting to dig this. I’ve been listening to a lot of chaotic metal lately, and this is actually a nice change of pace. The vocals are still amazing. This woman is becoming one of my favorite female clean vocalists. The steady pace of the drums is fantastic. The solo around 2:25 is great. Still very southern rock, but hell, I grew up on that shit, so this ain’t too bad. RIght after the 3:00 mark, the song picks back up and my head gets to nodding. This isn’t too bad after all. I still probably wouldn’t put it on my everyday playlist, but still. This band is very bass-heavy. I like that in a band. “Grave Dance” opens with a very melodic riff. This reminds me of Mason Jennings. Not sure how that makes me feel. This has a definite country influence. This song is kind of odd. Very weird timing all around. The vocals are still nice, I’m not to keen on the guitar playing. This is just not my style at all. The rest of the album I can handle. This is pushing my boundaries. When the song picks up right before the 3:00 mark, it gets a little better. Another band that this reminds me of is Silversun Pickups. Or that band that Michael Cera played in on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Yeah, this song is definitely not my favorite on the album. “Hotel Bend” begins like a Skynyrd song. Melodic picking with what sounds like steel guitar in the background. This sounds pretty much like the rest of the album has. The vocals are absolutely amazing on this one, though. They have a creepy effect on her voice and the back up vocals support her very well. This is a song I can see myself getting royally drunk to. This is better than the last track for sure. When the track picks up around 3:30, I’m digging it. The heavier parts of their songs are not bad, it’s the sections leading up to the heavy parts that I’m not that into. This is one of the best tracks on the album. “Deacon” opens with a nice lead riff and a thick bass line.  Once again, I like the effect on her voice. It definitely adds a melancholic tune to the tracks. A heavy sections right before the 2:00 mark. Very nice. I like this a lot. Probably one of my favorite sections on the album. The picking on this song is great, also. I actually really, really like this one. I guess the phrase “save the best for last” falls in very well here. At 5:00, the track takes a whole new turn, the drums spazz out and the guitars go mad. This is definitely a new side of Royal Thunder. This is great. Melodic lead guitar work and extraordinary drumming. That plays out around the 6:00 mark. The song slowly and eerily draws to a close, as does the album. Not bad at all, just not my cup of tea. Nice work, guys and gal.