Body Hound: A Solid Body of Work

Ahead of a Cork stop on their upcoming Irish tour, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with Body Hound bassist Joseph Thorpe about the math rockers’ beginnings, their extended-player and the future.

A band blurbing themselves up as sounding like “Yes playing Meshuggah songs” is bound to raise eyebrows, but considering Body Hound’s pedigree in awkward and noisy tunes, it’s not that much of a stretch. The band came together initially as a departure from UK grindcore outfit Antares, before being joined by ex-members of multi-headed prog beast Rolo Tomassi, including bass player Joseph Thorpe, who explains the band’s early movements. “Body Hound was initially just Calvin (Rhodes – guitarist) and Ryan (Bright – drums), although they played under a different name at the time. They rehearsed at the same place that a lot of Rolo stuff was recorded, so I used to hear them jamming and I always thought it sounded incredible. At that point Calvin had this synth pedal and it sounded way more like The Locust. I’d been friends with Calvin since we were teenagers, and when him and Ryan stopped playing together I managed to convince them to do the opposite, with me. Calvin and the other Joe (Nicholson – guitar) are a symbiotic entity, so there was always a place for him in this new band. Since he’d left Rolo Tomassi to study he was really keen to carry on making music.”

Rolo Tomassi’s body of work is a tall shadow to get out from under, with the raucously noisy synth-prog band having toured the world, garnered critical acclaim and become a live favourite. Eagle-eyed Cork heads may well remember the band destroying the Quad on Tuckey St. a few years back. No surprise, then, that Thorpe is keen to place the spotlight on Body Hound’s constituent parts as they are now. “People seem to get really involved with the Rolo Tomassi thing, like having your name in lights equals certified talent. Calvin and especially Ryan have had very little praise in the press relative to how phenominally talented they are. Nobody seems to realise that they are the band. I liked the stink they were kicking up and they were nice enough to let me roll around in it.

I can only answer from my perspective, but for me it was about taking all of our musical interests and doing something that was completely unfettered by anything other than that and our own impulses.”

Debut extended-player Rhombus Now released in April of 2014, and the songs thereon have become the backbone of the band’s set. Thorpe gets into how the band look at the record now, and the yardstick it sets for future endeavours. “The tracks on RN were all based on stuff from the duo incarnation of Body Hound. We learned them together, chewed them up and spat them out. It’s a process of regurgitation that is still very much how we approach writing, at least in as much as we often revisit things that were considered finished. Those recordings capture how those songs sounded on the days they were done. Having said that, some of the alterations might go unnoticed, but we know they’re there. It’s like getting a tattoo in a place that it’s not likely somebody else would see outside of an intimate situation. The tattoo says ‘are you quite finished with that?’ Considering it now, I think we did ok considering the time and resources we had. There’s things that it’d be nice to change, but hopefully it’ll serve to highlight the progress we’ve made since then. You don’t take over two years to write a new record for no reason, or something.”

Much talk surrounded Body Hound at the outset centred around influences, musical reference points and the whole, well-worn game that still gets played among musos of “sounds like”. It’s something Thorpe has thought about a little. “I’m always interested to hear what people think we sound like. On two separate occasions we’ve had Nomeansno, which makes me laugh because they were pretty prog for a punk band the only real similarity is my bass sound, kind of. Just to be clear, I really like Nomeansno. I think the fact that it’s a talking point means it does different things for different people. That feels good, and I’m flattered anyone wants to talk about us at all.”

After the EP’s release, the band processed to impress at progressive/math rock symposium ArcTangent festival in 2015 and again last year, which played a part in directing the band’s fortunes. “That festival is just a big, wet, steaming drunk launching pad for bands who play nerd music. It’s brilliant. Every year you’ll meet people who’ve come over from other continents to hang out in a sodden field near Bristol. It’s a magical place and it’s very close to our hearts. Anyone who goes there will tell you the same.”

Ireland has been a fertile breeding ground for math-rock, post-rock, and other forms of guitar experimentalism in the last decade. Was this a big pull-factor in getting across the water? “Some great bands have come from Ireland over the years. Personally I’ve been a big fan of We Are Knives, Bitch Falcon, The Redneck Manifesto, Jetplane Landing, Girl Band… last summer I was playing a festival in Portmeirion and we saw this band Documenta who had three thousand guitarists and they played in a lighthouse. I think they’re from Belfast. We can’t take any credit for booking any of these dates. We were asked by Vasa if we wanted to go and we said ‘yes’. In this situation we were mindless drones. Sometimes being a mindless drone pays off, and you get to play in cool places. I’m really excited to come back to Ireland. Last time I was in Cork I ended up at a stranger’s birthday party.”

Body Hound are here on the 10th, supporting Scottish outfit VASA, with Cork post-metallers Ealadha also on the card. How would Thorpe describe the live show to those of us seeing them for the first time? “Part of the official press release for these dates, which I wrote when I was less tired, reads: ‘the band serve this up with a live show soaked in sweaty zeal’. We’ll be at An Spailpín Fánach on the 10th of February. We’ll be having a really brilliant time playing our stupid music and trying to maintain a good ‘fun:correct notes’ ratio. If you come and you hate it, just imagine we’re playing all your favourite songs, we’ll still look very happy and damp. We’re really loud because our drummer is really loud, but we’re not a blunt instrument. We put a lot of thought into what we play. If you suspect yourself of enjoying acoustic drums, electric guitars and physical enthusiasm then there’s something for you here.”

As with a lot of tours at this time of the year, Body Hound’s Irish excursion is prelude to a big twelve months of touring and recording, the latter preoccupying the band throughout the next few months. “I imagine we’ll spend a lot of it wishing we could have four more days in Ireland. The cold, harsh reality is we’re writing and recording a new record. After that we’ll be looking to get it out there and to play as many gigs as possible. Hopefully we’ll go to more places this band hasn’t been before.”

Body Hound co-headline a gig with VASA on the 10th of February in An Spailpín Fánach on South Main St, with Ealadha in support. €8 on the door.

Megacone: Hitting Cork With Absolute Magnitude

Ahead of their trip to UrbanJungle on November 12th, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with Megacone guitarist Conor Callan about their formation, new extended-player and the support they’ve received so far.

With a sunny disposition as prevalent in their output as their consummate musicianship and eclectic musical frame of reference, it’s little wonder that Dubliners Megacone have developed the following they have in recent times. The progressive/math-rock quintet have only been together a few short years, but have taken on the Irish music industry already, quickly rising to headliner status and doing so at a relative young age. Guitarist Conor Callan explains the band’s beginnings, stemming from time together in BCFE’s renowned music course. “We all met in music college in Ballyfermot. Ross (guitar), Podge (guitar, etc), Bala (bass) and Nimai (drums) were all in a band already playing together. We were all really good friends, and would jam in classrooms quite often. I, nervously, messaged Ross and asked if he thought the band could use a third guitarist. He invited me down to jam with them and we came away with the starting bits of The Accidental which is the first tune on Fondle Fantasy.”

From the off, the band have distinguished themselves live, no mean feat to accomplish in such short order in Irish math-rock/prog circles. Playing fast and loose with genres and influences, the band remain accessible, yet seem to relish leaving something to unearth on repeated listens. Callan recalls the band’s early excursions, as their initial set was coming together. “We went down quite well at our first few shows. The rest of our class in college was really supportive. Watching back videos of our first shows we definitely weren’t as good as we thought we were (laughs).”

Debut extended-player Fondle Fantasy released in 2015. Conversation turns to the initial process, and Callan recalls the band’s first attempt at putting an EP together, as well as the attendant work. “The whole writing side of it came quite naturally. The four songs that are on Fondle Fantasy are the first four songs we wrote together. We were really excited to be recording at all, and then on top of that we were recording with David Prendergast (of Dublin post-rockers Overhead, The Albatross). It was a great learning experience, and we got to spend a nice chunk of time doing pre- and post-production out in David’s studio in Clane. I think it was our first time all recording to a professional standard, despite having been in other bands, and recorded with other projects before. It was a lot of work, but a great learning experience and a lot of craic was had.”

The band’s live engagements began to pick up, among them regular bookings with Dublin alternative/DIY bookers & promoters Dimestore, for whose support the band have been especially grateful. “The Dimestore lads have been a great support for us, they gave us a lot of gigs playing in Sweeney’s (Dame St., Dublin) when Dimestore had a weekly event there. They also gave us an amazing slot at Knockanstockan festival in 2015. It was our first time playing the festival, and we were playing it at 10pm on the Friday night, so we were over the moon about it. It was such an amazing night, and gave us a big audience we otherwise mightn’t have gotten. Then we got an equally amazing slot at Knockanstockan 2016, so those Dimestore lads are good lads.”

The band’s new extended-player, Absolute Magnitude was recorded alongside Rian Trench, one-half of recently-disbanded duo Solar Bears and a busy producer and engineer in his own right. Callan gets into the whole experience. “It was pretty exciting, getting to record with Rían, and his co-producer Robert “Scan” Scanlon. We got to go out to The Meadow, Rían’s studio in Delgany. It’s a pretty special place, and it is sort of secluded, which is really nice. You can really just get into it, without much distraction. We had only planned to record two songs Crocodile Dundalk and Absolute Magnitude but we got the two of them done and still had another two days in the studio. So we quickly got together some click tracks for Dance of the Sand Wizard and Straight for the Juggler. It was a little hectic getting everything done, but Rían and Scan really know what they are doing, and we are really happy with the end result.”

The EP’s eponymous lead single is a stomper to say the least, and your writer’s first thought was to ask what rush of blood to the head brought it all on. Callan dissects the song’s creation. “We played an early version of Absolute Magnitude at the Fondle Fantasy EP launch, so the tune has been floating around for a long time. It just came together from a bunch of different parts that we made fit together. Our process is the same for most songs. It’s a lot of time writing parts as a band, or as individuals, and then making this random part work organically with that random part. There’s a lot of trial and error in working out songs but when they are finished, we are usually pretty happy because we have spent so long working on them.”

The band is playing UrbanJungle, the basement venue of the Mardyke complex, on the 12th of this month, with support from Cork proggers Meniscus and the debuting Aponym. The latest in metal auteurs Pethrophile Promotions’ Welcome to the Jungle night, it’s the conpany’s penultimate gig of the year, and occurs before the announcement of their 2017 programme. Megacone have been to Cork before, on occasion, and Conor, like the rest of the band, is fond of gigging Leeside. “We love playing down in Cork. We have played down there a handful of times. The last time we were down, we played the Crane Lane with our friends and Cork natives White-Line Fever. We had a great crowd, and the people of Cork seem to really dig our music, which is always a plus (laughs).”

It’s been a fairly hectic two years for the band, but as 2016 winds down, the band focuses on the future, and Callan leaves the conversation on a cliffhanger. “We have some pretty huge, juicy news to announce for 2017, but we can’t announce it just yet. Soon. Very soon.”

Megacone play UrbanJungle on the 12th of November, with Meniscus and Aponym in support. Tickets are €5, kickoff at 8pm.

Mutoid Man: “It’s Hard to Find a Phil Lynott Lyric I Disbelieve”

Mutoid Man are about to hit Ireland running this month with a selection of dates including Cyprus Avenue on the 14th. Mike McGrath-Bryan catches up with singer/guitarist Stephen Brodsky.

Few bands are as iconic, as important, and as often-imitated in hardcore as Converge, the Salem, Massachussetts-based pioneers that welded metal and hardcore together in increasingly violent and dissonant fashion throughout the ’90s, through to 2013’s ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’. Frantic, demanding and visceral, the band is firmly entrenched in the genre’s DNA. Less nightmarish and more strident, post-hardcore band Cave In, also from Mass., established themselves in the early ’00s after several line-up changes before cementing a more alternative-friendly sound.

Any fusion of the two was bound to be potent, but Mutoid Man, partially comprised of Cave In’s Steve Brodsky and Converge’s Ben Koller is no mere side-project curio, it’s a beast of its own. Yet Mutoid Man are often referred to, somewhat eye-roll-inducingly, as a supergroup. What does Stephen make of the tag? “We’re fine with it! Slightly better than ‘poopergroup’. Seriously though, we can’t control what people say & write about us, so we just stay focused on writing big riffs & playing banger shows.”

Was the band’s pedigree a key to selling labels and other industry types on the merits of Mutoid Man? “On the day of our first show in LA, we spammed the hell out of Sargent House until their email system crashed… which means we basically forced Cathy out of her office to come see us play. Sargent House now uses Mutoid Man-generated profit to invest in top-notch firewall protection, so don’t even bother trying this tactic with your own band.”

Indeed, Mutoid Man have released their second album ‘Bleeder’ on internationally-respected independent label Sargent House. One listen to album standout ‘Bridgeburner’ should make the MO clear, a molten slab of classic riffs married to naildriver drums and snarling punk attitude that sets the tone, but the record itself vacillates between classic rock swagger and Cro-Mags-inspired aggression over ten tracks, recorded at Converge member Kurt Ballou’s GodCity studios in Salem, MA. What was the experience like? “Nick baked Kurt vegan cookies all day while tracking his bass in the studio kitchen. Ben actually mixed the cookie-batter with his drumsticks to sweeten the drum tone. And I choked on a splinter and had to be rushed to the hospital right after finishing vocals. Those cookies were good.”

The Sargent House connection is an important one. As well as the label’s European operations being based in Dublin, after absorbing the infrastructure and distribution of the former Richter Collective, Mutoid Man’s labelmates No Spill Blood, fronted by Corkman Matt Hedigan (formerly of Elk and Hooray for Humans) will be joining them on this upcoming Irish jaunt. Beginning as a side-project itself to the dearly-departed Adebisi Shank, the power trio quickly took off, setting about establishing themselves as a force in their own right. “We’re pretty thrilled to play with both No Spill Blood – a rad band that has Sargent House connections – & 7.5 Tonnes Of Beard”.

Coming to Ireland, many of their influences have emerged from, the question of favourite Irish albums and artists quickly arises. “Thin Lizzy, without question. It’s hard to find a Phil Lynott lyric or vocal delivery that I disbelieve. Also Rory Gallagher’s “Top Priority” album gets many spins at home.”

With the new album out and touring underway, what next for the erstwhile power-trio? “
Shortly after Europe, we’ll hit Texas for Fun Fun Fun Fest. We’re always looking for a reason to escape winters here in the northeast US… which means dreaming of crashing the Sargent House farm in California to write and maybe record some new material. Either way, the prospect of writing new songs is very appealing. And we’ll tour wherever we’re truly wanted.”