Saturday, December 31, 2011

Live Well My Friends

To our friends: Happy New Year!

May 2012 surround you with love, wealth and happiness!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grant's Tomb: Interview with Jen Allen of Hath No Fury

I. I. I. I. I. Seems like that’s all I’ve been writing about lately, making lists, bitching about the current state of hardcore, etc. Time for a change, and what better way then to share some of the great/up and coming acts we have here in Des Moines. The next several entries I’m planning on doing for Bigfoot will be candid interviews with some of our local talent and this first one was absolutely enlightening!

Hath No Fury is a relatively young band, but most of the members have been in/around the Des Moines scene for the better part of the last decade (I can even remember seeing the bassist and drummers old band at the House of Bricks when I was back in high school), but unlike some of their peers, they are not bound by any specific genre and have played with bands that are polar opposites from them-a very gutsy move for a band so young. Guitarist/Vocalist Jen Allen graciously took some time out from her very busy (really, she has had a lot going on the past few months) to let me pick around inside her head.

The Band: Hath No Fury
Kristin Sauvago/Vocals
AJ Arterburn/Drums
Jeff Stone/Bass
Jen Allen/Guitar/Vocals
Jayson Kempf/Guitar
Who: Jen Allen (guitars/vocals)Where you can hear their music:

What was the first thing to really spark your interest in music?

I really can't tell you--its been there as long as I can remember and more. I have a picture of me when I was three years old, using my grandmother's cane like a microphone and striking a pretty typical rocker pose. I'm not sure where it came from, but it runs deep in me, this need to make and share and experience music.

What was the first show you attended? Was it a local band or a national?

The first show I attended and paid attention to was actually in 2001 when I first saw Tool. (How did I not see bands earlier? Combination of being rather secluded and growing up quite poor.) Tool was an experience I'll never forget. I was completely blown away by the whole thing, and have seen them twice since. They'll always have a special place in my heart and mind.

Any particular artist/s that have influenced you, not only as a musician, but also as an individual?

To be slightly repetitive, Tool first. Not only through their music, but their attitude. I remember Maynard [James Keenan] saying, when I saw them the first time, that everyone out in the general area, in the pit, needed to be careful and to watch out for their brothers and sisters. To not only be badass but to want people to be safe and happy really affected me. There is no reason we can't have an amazing time and still be good to each other. They really go hand in hand.

What kind of genres do you find yourself most drawn to?

I listen to a little of everything. Hard rock always catches me first, but there are a lot of pop influenced musicians out there that I really enjoy. Even though I do play guitar, I am drawn to vocals first, so a great singer--or better yet, an emotional singer--will get me every time.

Where did the name “Hath No Fury” come from?

Jeffro named the band, actually. He was at Carl's Place (bar) one night playing Roshambo with our friend Craig, when Craig's girlfriend Lindsey slapped Jeff so hard out of nowhere that he almost fell over. The next day he was driving around and thinking about it. "Hell hath no fury like Lindsey's Pimp hand." Hath No Fury for short. During the naming process we tossed around all sorts of jewels, including "Grandma's Red Panties" which certainly was a favorite.

How old is the band now?

Hath No Fury is only about a year and a half old. I played on my own for about 10 years before that, and almost all of the other members were/are in other bands for many years. Jeff and AJ have played music together for about 15 years, Jayson has played for at least 8 years in Mindrite. Kristin is pretty new on the scene but rocking it. It's great to have Jeffro, AJ, and Jayson's experience and knowledge to help guide the music I wrote and that we will be writing together.

How has your band grown over the years, as far as sound?

Jen Allen
(Photo by Willie Sheldon)
Right now we're almost done recording our first EP, so we haven't had a lot of time to grow and change within THIS band. I wrote the original guitar/vocals and we have definitely expanded on that through this year. I think we all, as individual musicians, have come a long way. Some of us were in acoustic pop music (me), some were in heavy rock/metal bands, a couple of the members have been in blues bands, cover bands, a Primus tribute, death metal, R&B, etc.

I think Hath No Fury has given us all a unique chance to use everything we have learned and build something incredible out of it. All of our influences come together, and despite being very different, they don't clash--they melt together into something new.

Has your voice developed more or has it stayed fairly consistent?

My voice has changed, grown, and become something I LIKE over the past year and a half, which has been really great. I used to feel like I had a small, unreliable voice. The problem was--I was trying to sing in ways that weren't right for my voice. Singing harmony with Kristin has let me relax and adjust in ways I couldn't with the spotlight all on me. It also has given me the ability and
confidence to completely give my all to the few songs that I sing all the lead parts on. You can't do it if you are scared, or tense, or full of doubt. I can't. It's all or nothing.

What has been the most embarrassing moment on stage so far?

Oh, gosh....the first time we played "out" together. We went to a small open mic and totally bombed it. My guitar wouldn't stay in tune, which made harmonizing very difficult. I think we got flustered enough to forget some of the words, some of the chords..... It was a humbling experience, but a great one--pointed out some very specific things we needed to work on. It was like a homing beacon
aimed at our weak spots (Ha--read: mine and Kristin's).

What would you consider to be your biggest triumph as a group?

This EP we are recording. Since we've done it ourselves, it has been a huge undertaking, but we have done it in such a way that it has cost very, very little. We have worked to keep it sounding very real and organic, so that if you listen to it and then come to a'll have a similar experience. Jeffro has spent so many hours mixing, planning, setting up the recording areas, and really putting his heart into it. I love him for that. We have all worked to be as real and true to ourselves in the recording and to bring that forth. The special effect sounds that Jayson made with Jeff are really amazing and cannot be duplicated, also, and I can't wait for everyone to hear those. Want to know what happens if you hook a keyboard up to all your guitar pedals and then run on intuition? Listen to our EP when we release it.

Hath No Fury
You mentioned that you are in the process of finishing up your first release, an EP, how has the process been so far? If I understood you correctly, you’re actually doing by yourselves, was this a conscious decision or something that just kind of happened?

It's really been a great experience that has helped us come even closer together as friends and as a band. Most of the album was recorded in a studio apartment, all the guitars and bass were located in a small, sound treated closet so that we could use our real amps to record and get our real sound. We spent a goodly bit of time talking about whether we wanted to pay to go to a local studio to do it, but decided that for now we wanted to have full control over all aspects. We were also able to experiment with different set-ups and get the organic sound that we wanted. That, and we could work on it all hours of the day and night for no additional cost, tweaking things, trying it differently, etc. Having NO time constraint has been really nice. Granted, that means it has taken longer than we expected, but I'm really okay with that. This means we're making the product that we wanted to, and that when we can start getting it into the hands of fans--we are confident they'll love what they get.

You mentioned that the EP will sound organic and similar to your live shows, what made you decide to go that route vs. using some studio tricks?

I've seen a lot of bands live that I loved until I listened to their CD. Live= energetic, fun, powerful. Recorded = glossy, too perfect, no spirit. Now, this isn't always the case, of course, but I've seen it too many times. We definitely used a few studio tricks to make things sound good and balanced, and added a few simple effects, but for the most part, you'll get the same pure sound on the CD as you would live, with the addition of some amazing effects made from plugging the keyboard into all of our guitar effect pedals. Still--we didn't program them into the computer--Jayson made that noise. Even drum wise, we recorded live to keep all the emotion and emphasis that AJ plays with. We wanted nothing on this EP to sound sterile or cold.

Have you picked a title for the release yet, and when can we expect it to drop?

We're currently tossing around names for the EP. Things like "Grandma's Red Panties" and "Just the Tip" keep getting brought up, so we haven't been super productive yet, but we'll get there. Hoping to have a release party in February, and we're planning some pretty cool stuff to happen there. We want to give our fans a whole new experience.

When writing lyrics, what kind of things inspire you?

Life. This EP tells a lot of stories from my life, some from my perspective, some from the perspective of others. I try to be very honest. Therefore, if I caused the pain, I say so. If I caused the joy, I say so. If we all survived to see more sunrises and lived and learned...I say so. It was hard to share the songs, sometimes, because I feel like I am baring my soul for all to see and that can be frightening. It is also the most liberating thing I feel I can do.

How did you get your start in the Des Moines music scene?

I played for a long time on my own, but very small shows, and only occasionally. My friends were always supportive, but Jayson Kempf had a big hand in giving me the direction I needed to get better, to branch out, and to become a better musician. When I was ready to start a band, he was in 7 other ones and not an option for mine (though that changed later on). It was really talking to Jeff one random night at House of Bricks after his band Divided We Stand had broken up that got the ball rolling. He indicated interest so I sent him a song I had recorded at home. He sent it back about an hour later with some edits and a sweet bassline and I knew I had something special. I found Kristin not too long after that, I think. We were at People's talking and she mentioned trying out for a band in Ames. I had her sing me a couple lines and I was blown away. Still took a couple of weeks for me to put my ego away and ask her to be the lead singer instead of me, but I'm glad I did it. A.J. was in when Jeffro vouched for the music being decent, and he's been amazing at giving everything some heavy spirit. About a year after we started, Jayson Kempf was able to join us and bring his amazing guitar voice to the group, and everything seems splendidly solid now. One person in particular I'd like to thank, who isn't in the band, is the great Denny Harvey. He came and gave us a listen, and has helped with guidance and advice, as well as helping us get on some great shows, like New Years Eve at the House of Bricks and opening the Junk Poet Resurrection CD release at People's. We love Denny.

Hath No Fury Live
If you could form your own super group, consisting of any musicians, who would it be?

Right now, I feel like I've got it. I believe in these people so much, and they bring so much talent to the table. Kristin Sauvago, Jeff Stone, Jayson Kempf, A.J. Arterburn. I feel we can and will tackle any challenge that comes our way with, in the least, a very stubborn determination and a refusal to believe that we can't do it. I think all of our photos are likely in the dictionary next to the word "Stubborn." We've really learned to work together, though, and it's priceless to get to make music with your best friends.

How do you feel about illegal downloading?

Oh, man. What a complicated topic! As a consumer, we always seem to want things for free. With respect to the musicians and artists of the world, though, it's so important to buy what you want. Somebody's heart, soul, blood and tears went into making the music you are enjoying, and throwing some cash their way is the least you can do. I won't say that I don't download things, but if I like it,
I'll buy it. Most often, any downloads I make are because I've listened to a CD so much that it's too damaged to keep listening to, and this procrastinator didn't put it on I-
tunes yet.

Any tour horror stories?

Not yet! I have a feeling we'll fight over who gets the unicorn pillow, but it's all supposition at this point. We haven't made it that far yet, but we are networking and laying some groundwork.

Do you have any crazy fan stories?

Again, not yet! Our fans have been supportive and amazing and I couldn't ask for anything more!

Any song in your catalogue you wish you could go back and delete?

Nope. Not yet.

Any singular line in a song you wish you hadn’t written?


What do you feel separates your band from the rest in the local scene?

That's something we've been discussing lately, especially in reference to booking shows. We're essentially an alternative rock/pop band, and I haven't found many of them in this area. The covers we do are NOT alternative, we're female fronted but not soft, but by no means what you could call hard-core. We DO refer to ourselves as Awesome-Core. That's obvious. I'm not sure, but I've had people tell me that there is something about our vibe, something about our music and personalities coming together that draws them in. We have fans who normally only love Metal. We have fans who listen to country. I described us the other day as somewhere between Tool and No Doubt, but without the stereotypes. I think it's something you have to see and hear to experience. Hopefully we'll see you all at a show soon and you can tell us!

Thanks for your time Jen! It was a great pleasure!

Hath No Fury’s next show is December 11, 2011 at Vaudville Mews (benefits show). The band is extremely active on Facebook. Why don’t you hit up their page and give them a like!

Monday, December 5, 2011


The sticker on the box said that this is the most anticipated album in rock n roll history, or something like that and really who am I to argue. Personally I would be more geeked to see a recording of The Psychedelic Stooges come to see the light of day. Or maybe a recording of some of the stage invasions The Pretty Things and Pink Fairies motorcycle club and All Star Rock Band (or whatever they were calling themselves) conducted. Or maybe even a cell block recording of the prison band that reputedly had both David Allen Coe and Screamin' Jay Hawkins as members. However, I'm just one guy out here in the rock n roll wilderness and it is certainly true that more people know the story behind the famed, or would it be more appropriate to say mythological Smile. The masterpiece that never was.

Well all I can tell you is that if you latch on to this Smile Sessions box (be it either the 2 cd or entire box set) you still ain't gonna hear it. It's probably as close as you'll ever get but this is still not the completely realized dream of what Brian Wilson had. I'm not even sure that the Smile album that he released himself a few years back is that but only he can say for sure.

If you are a true blue Beach Boys fan then you have also probably heard most of, or maybe even all of these songs before in other forms and various permutations, so just how much of a revelation this is is strictly up to you. The thing about this is that using Brian's aforementioned release, the compilers have put together what is, well, like I said the closest thing your ever going to get of having Smile by The Beach Boys.

What you get here is some nice packaging for one thing. A poster of the cover, a button, a nice booklet although it seemed to be not all that informative about a lot of the stuff I would have liked to have known about the sessions themselves but then maybe you gotta shell out the bucks for the complete box set in order to get all of that stuff.

The music is great as far as I'm concerned and a lot of that has to do with the reason why the album never came out in the first place, because it's WEIRD. Not weird in a Captian Beefheart kinda way, but it is hard to figure out what was going on in the mind of Brian Wilson at the time. The other guys in the band were not behind it for one thing, and who knows how many other people were scratching their heads wondering "Wow, what's up with Brian?"

Say what you will about Mr. Wilson but when it comes to the creation of sheer majestic pop music that can transport you to somewhere and sometime else, the guy really had the knack. The musical layers of rich texture and the beautiful harmonies that you of course expect are on here, I of course don't need to tell you that. There is also a almost hypnotic, or maybe I should say zen like element in listening to this. Underneath all the positive vibrations that Brian was intending on sending out into the world with this music, there is a current of melancholy that seems to be present but not overpowering. That is in no way to say there is a problem here, in fact quit the contrary. This music can be as life affirming as you need it to be.

After the album proper I guess, you get all sorts of alternative tracks and some studio conversations and tomfoolery. You hear Brian asking the guys if they can feel the acid starting to kick in, another time somebody is asking Dennis if he has any hash joints left, ahh the creative process. If your a completest of course you'll be getting (or already have) the box set. Being the poor destitute guy I am I had to settle for the 2 cd set which is good enough. I mean I love the song "Good Vibrations" but do I really need a whole disk worth of the song in all of it's forms and takes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New To Your Ears: Black Box Revelation

When the Meat Puppets came to town on November 13, they brought along their friends from Belgium, Black Box Revelation. I can honestly say, my hearing hasn't been the same since.

Black Box Revelation in Belgium
(Photo furnished by Jan Paternoster)
Black Box, or BBR, come from Dilbeek, a castle laden municipality of Flanders in the northern part of Belgium - a region that, to this day has a very strong Medieval heritage. A two-piece band, they are currently on their 2nd passing of North America. They aren't just merely  gliding... They are out to conquer. Never has a two piece band graced my ears with such beautiful and powerful noise, and neither could I imagine two conquerors being as polite and engaging as Jan Paternoster and Dries Van Dijck are.

But that's part of the secret... Or revelation of you will. I hadn't seen nor heard these guys play live until after I had spent time with them prior to the show in a backstage interview. Their friendly and jovial personalities were not a very good indication of what BBR was about to bring to the stage. To place a metaphor mildly, these guys might have just as well brought the Belgian Army with them.

Forget everything you have become familiar with in today's rock and roll sound, and you got BBR. You'd have to go back to the early days of The Stooges to hear raw power of this magnitude. Paternoster's over-droning guitar is the perfect single accompaniment to Van Dijck's boulder smashing drums and they've got the voodoo right where it needs to be. The addition of any other instruments would just be an unnecessary evil.

Simultaneously playing lead and rhythm, Paternoster encompasses the entire neck of his guitar with each bellowing note he plays. Early in his 20's he is already a master of the pedals and the other  accessories that are needed to wrap those notes around your head like musical duct tape. Van Dijck's style is to lambaste on his drums with the ferocity of a jackhammer. Somehow amid the musical chaos, he is able to keep perfect time. Together these two are the musical equivalent of a violent thunderstorm. While there is no real sense of danger, the ability to stand and watch overshadows the desire to run away and seek cover. I felt like I was an invincible presence, standing in the path of an oncoming tornado.

In my opinion, these guys could be a household name very soon. They have had two songs featured on FX's Sons of Anarchy. “Where Has All This Mess Begun” was on episode 8 of the 4th season, and “Do I Know You” was featured on episode 5. They've toured extensively with the Meat Puppets, and they are currently supporting Liam Gallagher's new band, Beady Eye. They will be touring the United States until December 10, after which point they will be heading back to Belgium for the holidays.

Upcoming shows:

Dec 2 - The Warfield - San Francisco, CA
Dec 3 - Wiltern Theatre - Los Angeles, CA
Dec 5 - First Avenue - Minneapolis, MN
Dec 6 - The Rave - Milwaukee, WI
Dec 8 - 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
Dec 9 - Terminal 5 - New York, NY
Dec 10 - House of Blues - Boston, MA

Paternoster rocks the crowd at a recent concert in Belgium
(Photo provided by Jan Paternoster)

BD: So, you guys are from Belgium.

Both: Yes.

BD: And this is your first conquering of the United States?

Jan:  No, it’s not the first time. The first long tour we did here was in June, a couple of months ago. Then we toured with Grace Potter and also the Meat Puppets. Then during September and October we were touring here for another five weeks. That was just a co-headline tour with another band from Australia… Which is… Not that famous.

Dries: It was a good tour. We had a good time. Now we’re back on tour so we’re happy. We are playing with the Meat Puppets again. The next tour is with Girl in a Coma and after that with Beady Eyes, Liam Gallagher’s new band. So we are very excited.

BD: That’s ironic. Not to compare you guys to anybody, but when I listen to your song, "High On A Wire," I think of them… Just the way the vocals come out. It reminds me of Oasis.

Jan: Cool.

BD: So tell me about the tour so far…  What’s been crazy?

Jan: Oh, we had a really good time already. Yesterday was a very very good night, so we are happy to be going back to Minneapolis tomorrow. The crowd was amazing!

Dries: And the day before as well. We played in Chicago at the Double Door with the Meat Puppets. That was a really good show as well.

BD: Right on. So any crazy stories from the tour?

Jan: All the people in the crowd yesterday were really excited, acting really crazy or… Really drunk?

BD: Yeah?

Dries: Yes. Some of them got so excited that they got kind of aggressive because of that!

Jan: They were all with the adrenaline inside of them! (Laughter)

Dries: I love adrenaline in the room! (Laughter)

BD: What has been the highlight of the tour so far?

Jan: For me it was up in St. Paul.

Dries: I’d say Chicago and yesterday. Like in Chicago and St. Paul, we had Cris (Kirkwood, Meat Puppets) joining us for one song.

BD: Nice!

Dries: So he played bass on "Sealed with Thorns." It was great because it was the first time EVER that somebody has played bass with us on one of our songs.

BD: Right on. And it happened to be the bass player from the Meat Puppets. That’s pretty cool!

Both: Yeah! (Laughing)

BD: So how are the crowds in the United States different from the crowds in Europe?

Jan: Well in Europe there is a big difference between all the countries. Like Switzerland has a crazy crowd, like dancing and having fun. So it depends. You can compare the show we had yesterday and the day before. It was a bit more like Switzerland. It was more party people. But that’s what we like. It’s good with the music as well, ones are getting into it and start partying and drinking. It’s good for us.

BD: Yeah… People getting into the music.

Jan: And in Belgium it’s more like, at first they are going to check you out. And then the next time they will be back and they like you, and they’re going to start partying more than the first time.

BD: They want to get to you know you first?

Dries: They just want to know your songs first.

Jan: I think there is a big contrast between Europe and the States  because there like every couple of hundred miles it’s a different country and a different language and a completely different audience. In the States you can travel for days and it’s still the same culture…

BD: Right.

Jan: But we really like Americans because they are always really warm and that’s the good thing. You just feel like they really like music and for our music that a big plus because we like to make pure rock music. We like to play everything right in the studio as well as touring and that‘s why I think American people appreciate the songs when we are really having a good time.

Dries: Yeah.

(Photo provided by Jan Paternoster)

BD: So tell me about Black Box Revelation. You started out as a four piece band, right?

Jan: Yeah.

BD: So then that fell through and you decided to stay together and do your own thing. How did you come up with the name Black Box Revelation?

Dries: (Laughter) That’s a hard one.

Jan: That’s right. it’s a mystery for us as well! Um… All of a sudden we joined a rock contest  and we didn’t have a name for it so we had to come up with a name and suddenly Black Box Revelation was there. We actually don’t even remember where it comes from but we actually needed to have a name for the contest!

BD: Did it work out for you?

Jan: We actually got second in the contest. So it was pretty important to be on stage and have a name! But where it comes from is actually a mystery.

BD: So there’s no secret connotation to it, like the password in the revelation is…

Jan: (laughter) No… But it sounds good and it fits our music.

BD: It’s a great name!

Jan: Thank you.

Dries: But it does have room to make associations and you can make your own thing out of it.

BD: Like, what’s in the box?

Dries: (Laughter) Yeah.

BD: What IS in the box?

Dries: Everything!

BD: So tell me about your new EP, Shiver of Joy. You are touring in support if it… Is it selling well? Are you getting good fanfare from it?

Jan: Actually it is kind of an introduction  EP with two songs we have done already. It contains six songs. It’s sort of an introduction to the album that’s coming out in February. So now we have played all summer and in September and stuff, and we have played a lot of shows and we didn’t have any music (for sale) so they asked us for some music and so we made the EP which only sells for like five dollars. We wanted to make it cheap so that the people can get a cheap introduction to the band. They see us live and then they can get it also in the car. And the cool thing is that we made them on vinyl as well, and there is a limited edition green version, a clear one and a yellow one and a black one. It’s fun to have physical music here as well, because the first two albums… Well the second album is on I-Tunes I think, but it never came out in stores, or we never had it live with us. So it feels great to have it here with us and people really dig it to see art work and play it on the record player.

BD: Excellent. So where’s the future for you guys? Where’s the limit in terms of where you want to be?

Dries: The sky. Higher.

BD: Yeah?

Dries: Yeah because we are really busy now. We don’t want to leave Europe behind, but we are also ready for the US and we like touring here so we are going to give everything we have to get some success over here.

BD: So you guys are just basically pushing forward…

Jan: Yeah. We have double as many shows as before. Before we had like, the European shows and now this is the second continent and we don’t want to give any of the continents a second feeling so it’s like play as many shows as we can. I think the last time we was at home… We spent two days at home last week. Before that we were home in December for a couple of weeks.

BD: In Belgium?

Jan: Yeah. The next time will be around Christmas, so we better look for Christmas presents on this tour already, ‘cause we are really busy...

Paternoster and Van Dijck breaking the sound barrier in Belgium
(Photo provided by Jan Paternoster)

BD: So tell me about the transition of playing in your home town in Belgium, then getting a tour across Europe… Then getting thrust to the United States. Tell me about the mindset of that. You guys are pretty young… Was there a fear involved with that at all?

Jan: The first time we came over here to play was like four years ago, but that was more  for the experience of another continent where all the great music comes from so that was the first experience we got here. Three years after that we played the South by Southwest  for the first time.

BD: Down in Austin.

Jan: Yeah. That was a great experience too. The year after that we came back and recorded our album with Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Spinerette) here. We did South by Southwest again, we got on David Letterman’s show, so it’s all great. Things are happening now and we’re real excited about that.

BD: Who are your influences? You mentioned great bands from this continent. Who are they?

Jan: Well right now for the album that will be coming out in February, a big influence was Neil Young.

BD: Hmmm.

Jan: Especially with his On the Beach record. One of my favorites. And the Stones in any kind of way. Especially their Exile on Main Street album and the way they recorded it. The way we recorded the new album is sort of similar. We spent six weeks in Alain Johannes’s house in Los Angeles and just recorded whenever we felt like doing stuff. We got great recordings but some days we were just hanging out. Nothing like the Queens studio, but just in his house with the amps in his bedroom wired to another room and the drums in a different room and just playing.

BD: You mixed all the sounds together?

Jan: Yeah. People were coming in, but we were recording so if you listen to the tracks you can probably hear people talking in the back ground and kids playing video games and stuff.

BD: Wow! That sounds really cool. I'm looking forward to checking it out. That's actually all the questions I have for you guys... Thanks so much for meeting with me.

Both: You are welcome.