Saturday, February 18, 2012

Interview with Stephene Hoffman, man from Swamp


Steven Hoffman lives in Indiana. He creates and records rocky, sometimes ragged, sometimes viscous sludge doom, with a lot of inclusions of hardcore and stains of stoner rock. In the year of the white rabbit he released his first disk - a three song EP, which he vigorously promote in every possible social network - on Last.fm, Bandcamp.com, Myspace. It's free to download, of course. The artwork is created by himself. He plays the bass, with his guitar he creates tenacious riffs, savouring of oriental spirit, lead passages and other sounds without which no one decent sludge release can do.  Very unexpectedly, taking into account his constitution, he vigorously roars into his mike something about sludge. We had an oppotunity to ask him a couple of questions, concerning his music, his views on some issues. Here are his answers to our questions.

1. When did you start to play music? How did you do that, did you have any possible guidelines? Did you have difficulties of technical or any other kind?

I've been playing music since I was a kid. When I was young my parents signed me up for piano and violin lessons and then later on electric bass lessons, but I received the majority of my formal musical training on the trombone. I went to a high school for the performing arts, met a lot of musicians, and eventually started a band named Plaidypus with some friends. In order to do so, we all had to teach ourselves new instruments, so I taught myself how to play guitar by listening to (and playing along with) grunge and punk rock like Nirvana, Mudhoney, the Dicks and the Stooges.  After the members graduated and went their separate ways, Plaidypus stopped playing together. But I wanted to keep on going and start making heavier music. After dropping out of college, I found myself sitting in my parents' basement with a serious bout of depression, and six months of free time on my hands to smoke weed in my underwear and play guitar. I had started using a drum machine when I was in college due to the difficulty of finding a drum kit and a place where I could bash it for hours on end without someone calling the police, so I figured that I would continue to use the drum machine. I spent the next couple months working and reworking guitar riffs and learning how to hand-write drum tracks so that I could just tell it what I wanted to hear without having to search for a specific beat in the sample library that may or may not actually exist. By the end of my six month hiatus from school, I had the three tracks on the "Three Cheers for the Firing Squad" EP written and recorded exactly the way I wanted them.

2. What are the roots of your music? What's your source of inspiration?

Although Swamp is very much rooted in sludge, stoner, and doom metal like Eyehategod, Bongzilla, Sleep and Electric Wizard, I am personally very influenced by death metal like Autopsy, Entombed, Dismember, as well as black metal, grindcore, noise rock, punk rock, and the blues.

3. Do you see yourself as a part of a band? What does one man band mean to you - obstinacy, unaccommodating nature and creative egoism, forced and temporary inconvenience or inevitable lot of a creative man?

Most unfortunately, it means not being able to play live very well (although I would like to), but it also means that I have complete musical authority to create exactly what I want, when I want, the way I want it without having to deal with the logistics of finding a place to practice, hauling equipment in and out, etc. I suppose it is obstinacy, but it's probably also laziness to a certain degree.

4. Is composing for you spontaneous or is it implementation of some schemes? Do you know what a track is going to be before it's composed and shape it according to a premeditated plan? Or do you just hardly have time enough to fix your thoughts and feelings in material form?

Writing a song is definitely more of a process for me. I usually set up a simple drum track that follows the basic structure that I have in my head for a song, then I just riff across that drum track, trying to incorporate riffs that I've had in my head for awhile as well as trying to be spontaneous and see how those riffs progress naturally in my mind so that I'm not just mashing riffs together. Once I have a basic guitar part that I want to follow in my head, I'll record myself and improvise over that to try and get new ideas for melodies and harmonies to incorporate into the guitar and bass lines. I like to go through this process over a length of time so that my ideas have time to transform themselves, and therefore eventually solidifying into the best form I can achieve with my own musical and technical restraints.

5. For a one man band Swamp is quite a well-known project. At least, people from abroad know you :) How did you come to the decision to familiarize the world with your music? How did you start releasing your works? Was it difficult to promote the band in the very beginning?

I spent a lot of time dicking around, recording and re-recording the EP material so that the quality of the music might overcome the obscurity of the band, and the fact that it is difficult to tour and promote as an unknown, unsigned one-man-band. So when I finally got around to releasing the EP, I did so in the most comprehensive way that I knew how via websites like Bandcamp, Last.fm, Myspace, Facebook, YouTube, etc. Eventually a couple of people who happened to stumble on the EP by accident wrote a couple of good reviews on various blogs and the band seems to have been gaining momentum since then.

6. And continuing the previous question. What are your works and their releasing for you - the means to let the world know what you think about it or a vent through which you let off the steam accumulated by contemplation of the surrounding shit?

To me, the music that I write is a culmination of my musical and artistic passion as well as my observations and frustrations with the world. Everybody has anger, I choose to work it out in the way that feels the most cathartic to me, and that means writing pissed-off, detuned, amped up, fuzzed out, bomb-ass heavy fucking metal.

7. What can you say about the world surrounding you? Everybody sees it in his own way, doesn't he? Tell us about Architoa swamps :)

I'm a firm believer that everyone sees the world in their own way, but I also believe that there are some fairly solid facts about the world and that there are some really stupid, obnoxious people out there. Architoa is a fictional swamp that I use as a metaphor for all the horrible places that I've been and all the horrible people that I've met in those places.

8. Do you still work with you sound yourself? Or do you have any assistants?

I'm too cheap to pay for a studio, so I do most of my recording on my own because I know that way I can take the time to get the sound that I'm looking for without worrying about the cost of doing so.

9. What do you listen to now? Bands, styles...

I listen to just about anything, depending on what I've been digging recently. One week I listen to a lot of death metal, another I might be listening to a lot of blues or southern rock, it just depends on what I'm feeling like at a particular time. Recently though, I've been listening to the Clash, Black Sabbath and a lot of Autopsy, as well as random metal songs that people post on Facebook and whatever happens to come up on random.

10. Is there any song you wish you had been the author of?

If there were any song that I would like to have written it would have to be "A Moment of Clarity" by Death off the album The Sound of Perseverance, pure death metal mastery. The harmonies and melodies are beautiful and wrenching, but they still manage to fucking rip like a chainsaw to the chest.

11. Now even more statements like "Show business is fucking dead, pirates killed CD's" are made. What do you think about that? And in general, does the underground have to give a shit about it all while it has, say, Bandcamp.com? And, well, though the answer may seem obvious, but nevertheless - what is your attitude to free\name-your-price downloading in general and to downloading of your music particularly?

I'm of the firm belief that art should be done for the enjoyment of the person making it, regardless of whether or not you're making money on it. I've made a whopping $26.00 dollars in earnings on the EP so far through Bandcamp, but I'm not complaining because I never planned on making any significant amount of money on it to begin with. I provide my music for free because I'm proud of what I do, and I want people to hear it whether or not they are willing to pay any money for it.

12. And the next question: is it allowed to earn money making music, or does one have to have work for earning one's living? Is taking fees profanation of music?

There is a fallacy passed down from the DIY punk ethos that taking money for music is somehow inherently wrong. There's nothing wrong with taking money for making music as long as long as you're still making the same music that you wanted to make before somebody wrote you out a check.

13. Have you ever performed live - on festivals, gigs, in garages? If not, how would you react if you were offered to perform? What would you feel before the performance? And if you have, how's that to share your innermost feelings and thoughts with people standing at arm's length from you?

I've performed before with Plaidypus and countless times as a trombonist. Performing live is a real thrill but I haven't had a chance to with Swamp... yet. If I was offered a show then I'd make an effort to put a band together and practice, but as of now I'm focusing the majority of my attention on finishing my college degree.

14. A question from our representatives from "I Hate Books" - club: what book would you like to tear to pieces?

I've already torn a copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen to pieces, so I guess the Bible would have to go next.

15. What do you do apart from music? Where do you work, what hobbies except music and drawing do you have?

I'm an English literature major at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, so I spend most of my time reading, writing, doing schoolwork and working at 90.7 WVKC, the Knox College radio station. The rest of my time I spend taking drugs and watching rented movies.

16. What's the point of the "birth control glasses"?

Not much to explain really––they help me see better, they give me something to whip off dramatically when necessary, and they make me laugh because they're goofy looking.

17. What's your favorite quotation?

"Bitch, I'll feed yo dog as much of my muffin as I want!"
-Dr. Pepper

18. What creative plans do you have for the future?

Hopefully I will get around to writing enough material for a full album at some point, but it takes me a long time to get things done so it probably wont be for quite awhile. However, I am finishing up a new Swamp track, it's all written, it just needs to be tweaked and recorded, so keep an eye out for that.

19. What would you wish to our readers?

I would like to thank your readers for reading. Thank you for keeping metal alive, keeping the underground alive and most importantly, thank you for rocking the fuck out.

Interviews Oakim a.k.a. Jigsaw Quandary, EmilRegis a.k.a. EzekyleAbaddon & ElGatoEnjuto a.k.a. ElGatoEnjunto

Spelling of the interviewer and the interviewee was cynically preserved, kekeke

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the interview fellas, I appreciate the exposure!

    ReplyDelete