Not even 3 months after the release of their impressive record “Bread Solstice”, released in late March on Artificial Head Records, Brooklyn based doom/sludge/psych metal trio MOUNTAIN GOD are already working on a new album, tentatively entitled “Psychic Driving”. We had teamed up with the band in early Spring and asked them about their local grounds, the evolution of their projects, “Bread Solstice” LP, their associations with European music scene, and MOUNTAIN GOD’s plans for the future.
MOUNTAIN GOD‘s latest album “Bread Solstice” displays the band’s gift for balancing raw soundscapes, atmosphere and songcraft that will reward fans of various tastes and guarantees numerous listens.
The band offered the following on the recent changes (scroll down to read the full interview):
Gabriel Cruz from Hollow Senses will be joining us on drums. Ryan Smith, a dear friend and huge part of Bread Solstice, will be leaving the band to focus on Thera Roya and his solo project, Crusasis. This was an amicable parting, and a relationship forever set in the music we made together.
Finally, Mountain God will take the stage for the first time in nearly 2 years this coming July. We’re in the process of booking shows for a late July/early August tour. If you’re a booker and have an interest in booking us somewhere on the east coast, feel free to hit us up (mountaingo[email protected]). We hope to have a complete list of dates soon.
MOUNTAIN GOD is: Ben Ianuzzi – guitar/vocals, Nikhil Kamineni – bass, Gabriel Cruz – drums. Album artwork by Bijay Pokhrel.
Hey there! Thanks a lot for joining us here on IDIOTEQ! I’m in the middle of wrapping up some curios and basic stats about more than 700 interviews I’ve conducted so far and you must know that Brooklyn is definitely on the very top of the list when it comes to a number of local artists featured in my zine. It’s amazing to be able to find more and more striking artists from that part of NYC alone! How are you? How’s Brooklyn this fine Spring?
Thanks so much for having me on IDIOTEQ. I appreciate it!
Doing well over here in the States (politics aside of course). Weather has been really nice- its a generally good time of year in my opinion. I actually live in the suburbs- about 30 miles north of Brooklyn. Ryan and Nik both live down there, and our studio is there as well. I’d say I commute down there once a week. Its a pretty burgeoning place. Lots of benefits and some drawbacks to being there.
Sick rent prices aside, what are the cons of living in Brooklyn?
Well again- I personally don’t live down in BK, though I’ve spent a ton of time making and playing music there. Don’t get me wrong- there are a ton of amazing things about the borough. But, there are assloads of people everywhere, the traffic gets worse and worse each year, and there is a constant influx of trust funded yuppies buying up real estate. Several of our favorite venues have closed for noise related/space related issues. For me, on a personal level, I need quiet and space to stay sane- two things I’d never be able to get in BK unless I hit the lottery.
It’s also fair to say that the music scene is pretty saturated as well. For every great BK band like UNEARTHLY TRANCE, GODMAKER, KOSMODEMONIC, THERA ROYA, and IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT, there are dozens of new ones just starting out, which does water down things on some level.
Alright, so please drop us a little introduction to MOUNTAIN GOD. Have you been in other bands before? What led you to create this band?
Well, I got my first guitar the day I graduated High School. A cheapo Squire strat. I didn’t grow up in a musical household, though I did play a bunch of instruments in school. I fiddled with the guitar a bit, but didnt really get into playing until my 3rd year of college or so. I jammed with some friends here and there, but didnt really get into a real band until 2005 or so. I played in a quasi-SEPULTURA cover band in so far as our songs sounded a whole lot like SEPULTURA! It was fun, but those guys weren’t into the idea of playing shows. I moved away for a bit, and got back to playing with then in 2011. I showed them 2 or 3 of my original songs and they weren’t interested cause they were too doomy. That’s basically what pushed me into starting MOUNTAIN GOD. I struggled at first to find players, but once I discovered Ian, our original drummer, everything fell into place from there. We met Nikhil Kamineni in August of 2012, who in turn brought Jon Powell in on keyboards. That was the original lineup that cut our first 2 EPs.
How does it feel looking back? How do you feel you have evolved until now and how does this new record reflects this change?
It feels great. I’ve always been really proud of what we’ve accomplished as a band. We’ve evolved quite a bit. If you look back at the first record, I think there was a distinct noise rock/industrial edge to a lot of the songs. Almost like traditional doom metal meets all of these other elements. As time went on, we kept that style, but got more refined and really found out who we were and where we were headed.
“Forest of the Lost” definitely got a lot heavier, more experimental, with harsher vocals, and “Bread Solstice” capped the journey as being our most introspective piece. All of that said, I have a constant feeling of wanting to do more. We’re always looking for the next idea, the next riff, and the next big gig. Now that “Bread Solstice” is done, the band is ready to take some new steps.
Considering both writing and recording for ‘Bread Solstice’, how challenging was the creative process?
Well, it was certainly a long process, that’s for sure. In certain ways it wasn’t challenging at all. When I was composing the riffs and songs, I was never really short on ideas. Lyrics- that was another story. It took time developing the idea for the record, and given that I wasn’t sure what order the songs would be in. It was hard knowing how to tell the story. One major difference with this record is that on each of our first EPs, we did some arranging as a band, but the vision I had for most of the tracks remained pretty true throughout the process. The songs didn’t change that much. With “Bread Solstice”, there were a few tracks that started with just one riff. Junglenaut is a good example of that, as I had originally had the main riff as a short segue in Karmic Truth. We ended up taking it out of that song and built Junglenaut around it. Similarly, Unknown Ascent was just a single idea I brought to the guys, and we collaborated to put the whole piece together. It was an interesting and very new process for me, complete with the usual kinds of growing pains. The end result was a lot of debate, discussion, and modifying, which isn’t necessarily a band thing, but certainly a process that was much longer than previous records.
So what qualities does a lyric need in order to make it an interesting subject matter for a MOUNTAIN GOD track?
I generally like to focus on subjects that revolve around history, religion, politics, and how those concepts come together and coagulate. There is also a tinge of the occult in our work. I don’t necessarily think there is any particular formula. “Bread Solstice” started out on a night in which I couldn’t sleep. My wife and I had traveled to China for vacation, and I had been watching television trying to tire myself out. It just so happened that this documentary was covering the Nazca Lines, which I had heard of before but never explored too much. Watching it gave me a lot of ideas for songs and such, not to mention that the subject is pretty closely tied to a lot of ancient astronaut theory, which I do think comes up on the record in a weird way.
Alright, so back to the record in general, how did you team up with Artificial Head Records for this release?
It all started with JJ Koczan of the Obelisk. I had been chatting with him about professionalizing the band – finding a good PR guy, a label, etc. He recommended that we work with Sheltered Life PR, who have been amazing with getting MOUNTAIN GOD out there. Richard, who runs the company, very quickly mentioned that he knew someone from Texas who had a label and was interested in the music. Within a few weeks I spoke to Walter Carlos, who plays in FUNERAL HORSE and runs the label. We hit it off immediately. He is a very easy person to work with, as is Richard. Hopefully it’s a long term relationship!
Do you plan on booking some shows outside NYC?
So without going into too much detail, we do have some plans to get back onto the road sometime in the late summer/early fall 2017. And yes, we do want to hit cities outside of NYC. It’s hard to do a full tour as I have a pretty extensive day job September-June, but we do have summers to really get out there. We plan on playing shows up and down the eastern seaboard, but we’ve always talked about playing out west, and we’d love to hit Europe. With any luck we can make that dream a reality in 2018. It’s just a matter of getting all our ducks into a line.
Great! What are your first associations with Europe and European metal scene?
Whenever I think about the scene in Europe, power metal always seems to come to mind!! Also, big festivals with really diverse lineups and far more open minded people. Also, anyone I know who has ever toured overseas has told me that a) people would really like MOUNTAIN GOD there and b) that artists of all ilks are held in such higher regard. Bands are just treated much better. Nik speaks very highly of European music. He grew up in Hong Kong, and was far more exposed to bands like PARADISE LOST, MY DYING BRIDE, KATATONIA whereas I, here in the states, was much more exposed to SLAYER, METALLICA, ALICE IN CHAINS etc. But overall, we have a lot of respect for the European scene and want nothing more to play shows in as many places as we can.
Also, I think it’s fair to say that a lot of early European doom was influential to me personally, particularly when I started MOUNTAIN GOD. WITCHFINDER GENERAL, CATHEDRAL, and PARADISE LOST come to mind immediately.
Alright, so back to your local scene and American independent ‘market’, how popular is this particular kind of psych tinged, atmospheric doom blend of rock and metal nowadays?
Popular is a strong word, though I totally get what you mean. I’d say the scene is pretty big right now, especially compared to what it was like when we first started in 2011/2012, and even more so than when bands like UNEARTHLY TRANCE and TOMBS were coming up in back in the early to mid 2000s. With so many venues disappearing, and the venues still around having x amount of time in a week for shows, its seems like everything is saturated right now.
Any cool bands we should check out before we say goodbye?
If we’re talking specifically BK bands, I can’t recommend UNEARTHLY TRANCE enough. Ryan (the frontman) is a great dude and has worked with Nik on his side project, HOLLOW SENSES. UNEARTHLY TRANCE was one of those bands playing this type of music when it wasn’t trendy. Very similar story to that of SLEEP back in the 90s.
We’ve been friends with GODMAKER for awhile- they are a pretty gnarly sounding doom band.
KOSMODEMONIC is phenomenal. Total blackened doom with great vocals from Shaun Bozzler.
Ryan Smith’s band, THERA ROYA– they are always doing new things and put out a lot of sound as a 3 piece.
PANTS EXPLODER is a pretty awesome sludge band as well. Nik used to play with their drummer, Robin Fowler, in another band called QUIET LIGHTS. PE’s music is really heavy and also has a bit of punk and hardcore in it- at least to my ears.
If we include NJ in this, DEVOIDOV just put out a new record. They used to be called PHARAOH. What I like the most about their new record is the fact that they are definitely doomy and sludgey, but you can hear their other influences in very subtle ways. Sort of reminds me of the first time I heard Black Coffee by BLACK FLAG.
Lastly, SUNROT is a stellar band who we have a lot in common with. They are a very noise oriented band, with Lex, their frontman, triggering all sorts of samples during the set. Very heavy stuff. NJ has a cool DIY scene, all centered a spot called The Meatlocker. Its about as metal/punk as anywhere can be in this day and age.
Great, thanks a lot! Cheers for your time guys! Good luck with the new record!