Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Interview with Adrian Manges from Cloud Rat, Old Soul, The Breath That Moves the Branches, etc.

Adrian is a dude I’ve seen play music a good bit over the past couple of years, but who I’ve never really gotten to talk to or hang out with very much. This is probably chalked up to me usually running around crazy if I booked the show, or both of us just being a touch reclusive.

At any rate, I was pretty excited when he asked me a month or two ago if I’d be interested in chatting with him for the blog. I had already talked to Rorik from Cloud Rat last year, but as you’ll read, Adrian has tons of other projects up his sleeve, and I knew it would be a great opportunity to get some new insight into a person I’d always been intrigued by.

Anyway, as a drummer, Adrian is one of my favorites to watch. He basically beats the living shit out of his drums with reckless abandon, which is the best way to do it!

At any rate, read on about Adrian’s background and his many bands and musical ventures.

Talk about your childhood a little bit and your earliest memories/experiences with music.

It's really hard for me to remember exactly when music started becoming important to me.  I was really young, 6 or 7 or something, that's just as far back as I can remember.  My dad wasn't around when I was a kid, and the first memories I have of him are seeing him leave to play shows (he was in a slew of 80's metal bands) and just seeing him play guitar the few times I saw him.  As a young child, I just wanted to be like him, do whatever he was doing, since I didn't really have him as a dad I think it was more just trying to hold on to something that I wanted/needed.  

Shortly after, (maybe 8 or 9?)  I got a shitty acoustic guitar and was basically hooked.  My mother always tells me stories of me and that guitar.  I guess I could already play from what she tells me.  I have a really hard time remembering my childhood so, I’m sorry if this is all scattered.  I got into Nirvana and Soundgarden basically as soon as I started school.  Maybe before that, I remember getting a The Offspring tape, when we still lived way out in the country, and that was before we moved into Mount Pleasant.  I would have been in kindergarten, and that shit back then was super gnarly to a little country boy, who had mostly only heard 80's schlock rock.

So I think it’s fair to say, I was one of those kids who knew what I wanted to do when I "grew up", almost from the beginning.  I only ever remember being obsessed with music.  Listening to it, and just wishing I could be making it.

Are you a lifelong Mt. Pleasant native?
I was born in Mount Pleasant, and have been trying to leave ever since.

Seeing that your father is also a musician (especially a metal musician!), is he pretty supportive of the stuff you're doing? Do you guys ever compare notes or is that stuff a lifetime away for him now?

The old man is pretty supportive; he gets all our records, and has come to a couple shows/practices.  We pretty much just trade stories from time to time. He never really showed me that much about music, even when I was just learning. He taught me a couple basics for playing guitar.  He still plays sometimes I think, up until the last couple years he was playing shows every weekend around Michigan, but I think the bar band scene kinda burnt him out.  

We don't talk all that much really, but yeah, I consider myself fortunate to have a rock n roll pops.  Most of my siblings are all into music as well, and super talented, but it’s strange, even though we have such a bonding thing between us all, we are all pretty disconnected from each other.  I think that will change at some point though, everyone is busy growing up, and doing their own thing.
How did you eventually get hooked into underground music; metal, grind, punk, etc.?

I was into punk and metal at a pretty young age, but I didn’t know things like local shows even existed. I pretty much had one friend growing up, and we would try to find music, and show it to each other as much as we could. 

The first time I really knew what I could, and wanted to do, the first real, small DIY show I went to, was in Midland at a shitty hotel.  I lived there for 2 years as a teenager, too many fights and stuff in Mount Pleasant, so I moved in an attempt to "find" myself, and also not get my ass kicked so much.  

This show was the first time I met Rorik Brooks and Jimmy Stellwagen; I never even began to think someday I would be traveling the world playing music with both of them.  Even though it was a long time ago, and kids were playing border-line shitty metalcore, while I was watching them play, I just knew that I wanted to be doing that, and that it wasn't so far out of my reach like I had been thinking most of my life. I met so many people that night that ended up basically changing my life.  Too many to list.  It all just went crazy after that one show, that’s all I wanted to do, learn, and be, after that night.
The first time I ever saw you play drums was at a basement show in Detroit, where you played double sets with both Quietus and Cloud Rat. I was completely in awe of how someone could play with such speed and intensity for essentially an hour straight. Do you have any sort of physical regiment to keep yourself in grinding shape or is just like “the adrenaline hits, let’s go”?
I play multiple sets at shows semi-often.  The first little tour I went on was Cloud Rat and Quietus.  I wouldn’t say I have much of a regiment for staying in good shape.  I've been skateboarding probably almost as long as I’ve been playing music, and I try to skate every day.  Being vegan probably helps?  But the show you’re talking about, I was probably just getting back into being vegan.  I just play as much as humanly possible, not so much anymore with so many tours and different bands, but before all the craziness, I was jamming all day, every day.  A lot of those double set times were just jumping into it though, and hoping for the best. Adrenaline helps.  

There was a good period of time where I wasn't healthy at all, mostly drug-related stuff, and it was a real struggle to get through a lot of those demanding sets.  I would still play in band after band at a show.  I still love doing it, even if it’s harder on me now; it’s just one of the best feelings in the world, so why wouldn’t you want to do it over and over again?

What ever became of Quietus? I loved your set, but after that show I never saw you again or heard any recordings. I sort of remember hearing someone say your guitarist may have been arrested at some point and moved to the U.P.?

Quietus just kinda fell apart for no real reason.  We recorded a 5 or 6 song EP, made some merch, and lost it all at a show. You know, classic short lived screamo I guess, haha.
Casey our singer/guitar player did get arrested, but for some silly shit, and that had nothing to do with him moving, or the band breaking up.  He is still one of my favorite people. We did a reunion show once; we want to do another one.  Jimmy doesn’t really play bass anymore though, Old Soul pretty much takes up all the room in his brain these days. Either way, it will probably happen.  I really like the recordings we did, so it’s cool to have something left, after a a brief stint of something that I found to be really special.

I feel like Old Soul's stuff has become slightly more atmospheric and melodic, less heavy as the band has gone on. I know there are multiple splits on the horizon, talk a little bit about the new records and how they compare musically with your output thus far. Also, I know with the first 3 LP's there is sort of an interconnected story going on. Do the splits continue to play into that unfolding narrative or do they address altogether different subject matter?

Old Soul never really consciously tried to be more atmospheric or anything, it kind of just happened, and we tend to just roll with the times.  Most of us have always wanted to just keep expanding our sound and writing style drastically, so we leave things real open, and experiment with new stuff constantly.   We have 2 splits coming out right before we head to Europe in June, one with Lentic Waters from Germany and one with Nic from Czech Republic.  

I think the upcoming splits are some of the heaviest/craziest stuff we've done so far.  They're still attached to the original story of the first 3 records in a way, but don't necessarily follow the narrative.  It's always hard to explain that stuff, especially since Casey's writing is pretty huge with so many things tying into each other.  We've been calling the split songs “Artifacts”.

Recording-wise I believe "Nature's Arms...." was recorded with Kevin Kitchel whereas the last two LP's were done with Alex Larson. What does each of those fine gents bring to the table and how would you say their styles compare, both in terms of technique and just in terms of the vibe they bring to recording?

Both Kevin and Alex are amazing to work with.  It's always fun, chill, and both of them always have good input and are great at what they do. I've recorded with both of those beautiful beings so many times now.  Cloud Rat has only ever recorded with Kevin so far, and the only thing I can even say about Kevin is that he really is the most down, most real, nicest, funniest dude to work with, and just to hang out with. 

Once Old Soul started recording with Alex Larson, it took a bit to get the vibes going and stuff, and I imagine from an engineers perspective, Old Soul could be an intimidating band to record; regarding how many parts, time changes, and general stupid length of songs.  Alex really came through though, and he really just understood what we were trying to do after we recorded 'Who Are Willing to Draw Close”.  

I think that’s part of the reason “Tidal Lock” was so special for us, and why we worked so insanely hard on that record.  We knew Alex was on the same level as us when we went to record those four songs, and I think it shows.  Both dudes are the best dudes to have on your side, working on your records, and I consider myself lucky to get to work with both of them so often.

You guys are headed to Europe this summer and for you it will be your second trip as Cloud Rat went last year. What would you say the highlights were for you personally last time, and what are you most excited for on round two?

Man...Cloud Rat Euro tour was something.  I get asked about the best places or times….so many things, and I always feel like I don't have a good enough answer.  I can say that for me, the friends we made, is easily the best thing.  Everyone in LICH, SKY:LARK, RESURRECTIONISTS, REPUBLIC OF DREAMS, our touring mates, made that trip into one those things that can bring you to tears if you think about it too long.  All the beautiful places just made everything that much more intense.

Round two, Old Soul in Europe...I start laughing just thinking about it. We all have so much fun together, and the tour is almost twice as long this time.  Everyone is beyond stoked, and we are all best friends, so I can only see great things happening.  We've been talking about going since before we ever even played out of Michigan.

For a band like us, it feels like there's more people that get what we're doing over there, and I hate that I think that, but I believe that to be true.  Our U.S tours are always out there, of course there’s good shows, and we have friends here, but at least 40% of U.S tour dates always seem to be strange, and most people either don't know what to think when we play, or they just get bored.  Maybe if we all looked cool, or super punx or something it would be different.



I think I can speak for all of Old Soul when I say we are super excited for Cry Me A River Fest, Fluff Fest, all the amazing bands, countries, people, everything.  I'm excited to skate, and hopefully film a good amount while I'm over there.

Alright let’s shift gears to Cloud Rat. I guess this is sort of a weird question to ask because I really don't know Madison very much, but I know you guys were romantically involved in the past. How (if at all) does that affect the dynamics within the band?

I don't think it's a weird question at all.  It actually gets asked semi-often.  Madison and I were young loves; I think we started seeing each other when we were 15/16.  We were also dating, and living together when Cloud Rat started like four years ago or whatever.  We split maybe 6 months into the band or something?  Honestly, I think it works both ways….on one side of it we are still really close, so we look out for each other a lot.  And I think just having such history with your band mates makes for good music, and a stronger bond.  Maybe that’s why the three of us click so well together.  It gets tense at times, sure.  Sort of a brother/sister fighting and arguing thing still happens from time to time, but I guess it would be stranger if it didn't. 

What it really comes down to for me though, as kind of fucked up as it sounds, is that all the fighting and sadness and pain that came with us splitting up, basically just when the band was starting to find its way, was fuel for a long time to make really emotional, angry stuff.  And, we are still friends, and love each other, and (mostly) get along, so all is well.

You guys leave in a couple days for a pretty massive run with Thou, a band who seems to have developed a pretty legendary reputation in terms of both the scope and volume of their output, as well as in terms of being a model of how a d.i.y. band can and should run. Talk a little bit about how your relationship with them has developed over the years.

Yeah.  Tour with Thou...what is there to even say?  They are one of my favorite bands, and I just started getting into them right when Cloud Rat started.  We did a couple shows with Wolves in the Throne room and Thou a few years ago, and it’s silly, but I definitely felt pretty rad about everything when we found out that was happening.  

The first show with Thou was in Cincinnati at this amazingly giant and epic old brewery.  One of the coolest buildings to play in, ever.  The show was really good, and packed, but Thou had blown a tire or something on the way there and no one knew if they were going to make it.  Cloud Rat ended up playing for like 50mins or some shit to fill time, it was insane. Wolves played during a thunderstorm and the night went on pretty well. 

Thou ended up getting to the venue around 2am, and the crowd went from a couple hundred people to 40 or so.  They set up anyway, and played basically everything I had heard and loved before that point.  I just had one of those moments when you see a band, I’m sure you know the feeling.  I just stood in awe, and honestly held tears back. 

Some time after that we did a few shows with False and Thou when they toured together, and the vibe between all three bands was just too good.  And I think just about everyone was stoked on the other 2 bands every single night, so that was just a really special time I think.  Special enough to do another little tour with the three of us, during which I got to know the dudes in Thou better.  So the idea of just doing a Thou/Cloud Rat tour was tossed around for a long time, and here it is finally happening, 30 shows in 20 days.  Couldn't be more stoked.

I feel like you guys have been getting tons of praise, especially after the release of "Moksha"; both from more d.i.y metal and grind publications, as well as bigger channels such as Decibel and even NPR (even though I think it must just be one person there who happens to have kick-ass taste in metal, haha). I guess I'm curious if you feel any sort of pressure with all that as well as whether or not all the acclaim changes in any way the ambitions you all have for the band.

For me personally, I don't feel any pressure, no.  It was kind of crazy for a while though.  I’m not used to that at all, and just cruising the internet to find your band on like 30 albums of the year lists; it definitely feels a little strange, to me at least.  I don't really look up a lot of that stuff though, usually its people linking me to them.  Nothing changed really, all we want to do is keep making records and explore more of the world, and all that attention has opened a lot of doors for us to do some really cool things and go play some amazing places I never thought were possible. So, that's what we plan to do, regardless of internet hype or any sort of praise. 

Both Old Soul and Cloud Rat are obviously very loud, intense, etc. How would you say playing in those two bands is both similar and different?

Being able to play in Cloud Rat and Old Soul at the same time is one of the best things ever.  I basically get to cover everything I want to do, as far as heavy music goes, and play with a good portion of my life-long friends, on a regular basis.  Really, they are completely different in almost every sense to me; the music obviously, but the vibe is way different as well, but it’s usually a good thing.

To me Cloud Rat has always just been so intense, not just the music, but all of our lives.  We all have sort of intense personalities as well, in our own ways.  So many beyond amazing things have happened to us as a band, and a lot of tragedy as well.  I think all that shows in how we write, play, and just feel when we are together.  It's what makes it what it is.

Old Soul, for me, is just such a huge thing.  Everyone is so crazy talented, and the ideas flow too fast most of the time.  But the vibe is sort of opposite to Cloud Rat, for me.  Old Soul has always been so laid back, it’s all about fun with us, and I also think that shows through in the music, with it being all over the place and covering so many different sounds.  With that being said, there are times where Old Soul will not get things done, or getting everyone together is usually a cluster fuck.  So with each distinct feeling and process to both of those bands, comes what makes them work, makes them strong, and is what makes them difficult.

For me, it’s perfect.  The two extremes.

I know besides those two bands, you have a number of other musical ventures (forgive me for not being as knowledgeable about those). What would you say those projects provide for you that Old Soul and Cloud Rat don't?

I do always have a lot of other projects going, all of which are way different.  I don't know what it is, but for a long time now I just haven't been able to stop, or even really just take it slow. It’s a  blessing and a curse sort of thing. I’ve been getting a little crazy these days.  I do a good amount of hip hop, electronic, chillwave stuff under the name SaWTOoTh.  I have 5 albums of raw, all vinyl sampled instrumentals, and a few splits coming out soon with some really cool peeps.  I also recently started a net label/art collective called Phantom Drip Collective.  So that’s been cool, finding new artists and building a little crew of weirdos from all over the world.
I do some solo stuff, mostly piano and weird samples, sad sorta ambient long songs called Sola Vulpes.  But I’ve been too busy, and haven’t been playing piano that much.  I also have a couple noise/drone/ambient projects that I have done a few records with, but haven’t done anything in a long time. The main one being a band called Found Letters.  It looks like we are going to try to put out a new release sometime this summer though. 

My main focus right now, outside of Old Soul and Cloud Rat, is for my band 'The Breath That Moves The Branches'.  It’s sad, woodsy, folk kinda stuff but has a lot of really dreamy or almost droned out stuff in between.  It's just myself, and my good friend Eyra Lucas. TBTMTB allows me to do everything I always felt I couldn’t really get, being in heavy bands.  It's really nice to be able to sing, and write lyrics.  And I play a lot of instruments that aren’t drums, so I get to play all sorts of stuff.  I just ended up getting stuck playing drums for bands when I got in to punk, I never even wanted to be a drummer. 

TBTMTB plays a lot of different acoustics, 12 strings, cello, piano, mandolins and other instruments.  We record in interesting places; the woods, run down farm houses, things like that.  Which you obviously can't do that, easily, with a 5 member band with enough amps to fill a cruise ship.  It’s just a different feeling, you know?  And it’s something that I really love, and have been getting way more inspired and motivated to do.  

We just got done filming a 4 part video series out in the woods.  Clearing out tons of invasive species that took over this beautiful hilltop, building fires, recording, and filming performances lit by the brush fires.  So that’s been really fun, as it’s finally not freezing fucking cold out every day, and we can actually get back to doing things like that.  The videos are almost all out and TBTMTB has a new full length that we spent the last 6 months working on called "Dire Winter".  Its over an hour long, and it’s quite a different approach from our last release, which we recorded in two days.  The record also has several guest recordings from Mikey (Old Soul) and Brandon Fernweh (Theyeattheirowngod).  “Dire Winter” I believe, will be out late April.

Man you seriously have so much going on, damn! What would you say is the engine that drives all this creativity?

I'm not sure really, I think part of it is that I left school when I was 15 and just started making music as much as possible.  It never really slowed down, just turned into more and more.  Sometimes I think it's all I can really do, I seem to be pretty bad at social things, being responsible, working a normal job.  But I like to think that's not really the case. 

I like to think that I owe my life to music.  It basically raised me, helped me find out who I am, and who I wanted to strive to become.  Most of the long term friends I have are because of music. I used to have no confidence at all, and the little I have, I'm sure is from playing so much all these years.  My first long tour, Cloud Rat/Xtra Vomit, was basically what got me clean, after several years of drug abuse.  I've had slip ups since then, but I've always had something to look forward to, to keep me from falling back into old ways, of not giving a fuck about anything, and just destroying myself.  Heroin is a fucked up drug, and it takes you so far down, no matter what.  Everyone I knew from back then, doing that stuff, almost none of them made it out.  Certainly all of them gave up on dreams that we all shared.  Most of them are just gone; dead or in prison.

Music, punk, and touring, quite literally saved my life. 
And I just have so much more to give, it almost seems endless.
So I don't plan on slowing down anytime soon.

 Adrian’s Personal Blog
Cloud Rat
Old Soul
The Breath That Moves the Branches

Sola Vulpes

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