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A Virtual Chat with Preston Maddox of Bloody Knives

Bloody Knives at Beerland
2 December 2012

Bloody Knives is a band that stands out from the shoegaze crowd by virtue of its lightning fast bass runs by angelic-voiced Preston Maddox, a stark contrast from the band’s name and the visceral imagery that entails. The Austin, Texas quintet seems to regularly raise the roof wherever they go, and have a reputation as a killer live band with their unique blend of noise and dreamy vocals. Preston is also curator of his own label, Killredrocket Records, though he and the band chose to release last spring’s Blood on the up and comer label, Saint Marie Records, home to such acts as Spotlight Kid, Keith Canisius, and Trespassers William (who no longer exist). The band is planning a short winter tour, and have some new music in the pipeline.

Tell us how the new members came into the fold, and how your song/sound creation may have changed due to their presence (such as having a guitarist)?

PRESTON: Jim Moon had to leave the band to devote more of his life to career and family (he has a solo thing going now called Masterblaster that’s pretty cool). So we had an opening to fill.

I posted an open invite on Facebook for people to audition, and Ish Archbold (sound manipulator) hit me up about it. He is also in another great Austin band called Coma in Algiers that we have played with a lot in town, so it was an easy fit in the group.

Kim Calderon (sound manipulator) had come to almost all of our shows for months. Contrary to her efforts, I found out she was in a noise project. The idea of having two noisemakers on stage seemed pretty awesome to me, so I asked her to join the band.

Christo Buffam (guitar/keyboards) is in another band called Dead Leaf Echo that we have played with a lot. He sent me some samples to work with online, and I asked if he would like to tour if he got the chance. Hopefully his schedule will be clear enough for him to come along when we are able. He lives in NYC, so that is what it is. He is a really talented guitarist/keyboardist.

Ish’s style with us is gritty and atmospheric, sometimes chaotic, like engine noise or alarms going off.

Kim is part cat. She pretty much plays like a cat would play.

Christo has all the classic shoegaze guitar sounds down, really all the current ones too. He can make harsh chaotic noises accessible and atmospheric and writes cool melodies.

Where does most of the writing get done? Is there any set way it happens, or is it more fluid than that?

PRESTON: Our writing style is an odd conglomeration of all the musical situations I’ve been in. I took what I thought were the best aspects of each were and re-arranged them into something new. We change up the writing method for each record, with a new set of rules and procedures. With Blood it was under 30 minutes total and no guitars. With Disappear, it was jamming everything out on the spot and re-sampling all the melodies.

Generally speaking, Jake Mccown does the drums and I sing, play bass, and put the songs together. On most of the records, I’ve played the majority of the sounds with the exception of the interludes on Disappear and Blood and some of the fx, which Jim Moon did.

On this record, I’ve been having fun sampling other people and working with that. It’s cool to take somebody’s vibe and work off of it. LG of Dead Leaf Echo came by and laid down some stuff for me to sample from. Christo laid down some samples and some tracks, Ish and Kim will be doing the interludes and samples, effects and various noises. I’m trying to get a few other people to lay some stuff down, we’ll see who is into it and who would work with the music.

Our main studio is in my garage. We also do some recording at Makeshift Studios in Brooklyn with Ryan Steele (Me You Us Them, Appomattox) when we are in NYC.

There are a million keywords one could use to describe your sound. Does industrial shoegaze come the closest? And do you hate labels as much as most artists do who don’t want to be pigeonholed?

PRESTON: Jake Reid from Screen Vinyl Image (SVI) penned the Industrial Shoegaze description on us, and I thought that was on point. Ish says we are a shoegaze band with a metal heart. I can roll with that too. Jake and I were both in metal bands and like heavy music. The noise band element is even more present in our live set.

I’ve always considered us a punk rock band in the traditional sense when punk rock meant playing from the heart and not giving a fuck, before it turned into Fall Out Boy like bands needing a way to cover up how typical and safe they were.

I’m totally cool with the genre labels. Most people need reference points. Labels help lead people to our music, and I’m good with that.

I hate it when I ask somebody what their band sounds like, and they can’t tell me. Like their sound is some novel unexplainable thing that nobody can qualify. What a bunch of self indulgent bullshit. Every band that says that crap I can pretty much sum up in genre or two.

Then of course there is the Pitchfork “Everybody Gets Their Own Genre Name” crap. Now we have genres like “lo-fi ghost house folk” or “sailor waltz mood punk” or “electric slide bass-step”. What the fuck is all that about?

What was the best era for shoegaze, the 90s or what is happening now?

PRESTON: 90’s.

Basically just because of what they were doing in the context of the time. What they did was not accepted then, they did it purely for the love and the need to make cool music.

Shoegaze is acceptable now. Now there are bands that become “shoegaze” to become popular, the same way 80’s butt rock bands did. The dudes in Warrant teased their hair and wore makeup and got Floyd Rose tremolos and did what all the other butt rock bands did. Modern wannabee shoegaze bands buy a fuck ton of reverb and delay pedals, stand there and act depressed, and do a whole set trying to put the audience to sleep like all the other cookie cutter modern shoegaze bands do. So boring.

As soon as a genre gets hit with a set of rules to abide by, it starts to fall off.

Where is the spirit man!!! Throw some shit or something!! DO SOMETHING.

Many of these people don’t even party, they just mope around and don’t do anything but fuck around on the Internet. All the cool modern shoegaze bands I know are punk rock people at heart, they show up on the stage to GO OFF, not to piddle with their reverb pedal and pretend to be cool.

With your own label, why not self-release your material? Does Saint Marie have their fingers into a bigger distribution network? And how is it running your own shop, with such awesome groups as Screen Vinyl Image?

PRESTON: Saint Marie is a great label. They pick good bands, their distribution network is good, and they put real work into it. I have a lot of respect for them, or any label that comes into the game and puts it on the line. They are the real thing in a world of fake labels and cold shoulder majors.

They just put out the STATIC WAVES comp, which we have a new song on (“What You Need”. Good comp, and its really cheap.

I am also stoked that Saint Marie picked up Nightmare Air. Great band.

As far as I’m concerned, my energy is limited. Releasing a record is a lot of work. I felt we were better off with Blood working with a label to focus their energy on that side alone. My energy became used up booking the band and working on promoting the record from our end. Joint efforts hels when everybody is working hard at something.

Interesting that you bring up Screen Vinyl Image. We have been working on a split with SVI that we are doing independently, so I’ll be helping to work that record. That will be the first time back to that side of the work.

I see lots of free music on your Bandcamp page. Do you only do that periodically?

PRESTON: The first three releases are up for free, and probably always will be. We may go back to that again for future releases. We could use the download revenue, but I also want people to have the record.

Even if I try and charge for the download, somebody will put it up for free somewhere (ed-that stinks).

Where are your biggest fan bases geographically? Do you find more appreciation overseas?

PRESTON: We have a solid fanbase in Europe. Almost all of our downloads come from Europe, I’d say about 75%. I think they have a good understanding of where we are coming from with the band, where as many Americans have a different group of cultural references to draw from.

We go over well here too. My favorite places to play are Chicago, NYC, and St. Louis. We know good bands there we fit well with, and we tend to go over well with the audiences at the show.

What creative influences (music/books/film) have had the most impact on you?

PRESTON: That list is so long. I couldn’t even start without leaving out something important.

I like Sci-Fi and horror movies most, all kinds of music.

Once I read Bukowski, I pretty much stopped reading other books. He had most of what I wanted to know figured out already.

I recently found out about Jay Reatard and Lost Sounds. He is one of the most talented musicians of the last decade. “Blood Visions” is sick. Trust is sick too. That band is so good.

I’m still bummed We Are Hex broke up. One of the best bands in the US not enough people heard of.

Do you still actively hate CDs?

PRESTON: Yes. To me they are disposable trash, always have been. I can’t even keep original copies of my own band’s stuff.

People still buy CDs. Lots of people. As long as people are buying CDs, we will put them out.

Can we giggle about Billy Corgan before moving on? I laughed all the way through your interview with When The Sun Hits when you dumped on him. And what was the deal with him and Courtney Love? If ever there was a match made in hell, it was that one.

PRESTON: It’s always fun to giggle about Billy Corgan.

Fuck Courtney Love.

Courtney Love is a living insult to strong women everywhere. She screws talented dudes, and gets them to write her songs for her. Then she takes all the credit, and acts like she is some sort of bad ass. Billy Corgan wrote all the decent stuff on Celebrity Skin. Kurt Cobain wrote Live Through This, you can’t convince me that’s not Kurt Cobain ghost-writing. That is a Nirvana record with her shitty lyrics and singing on it.

If a woman uses men to do things she cannot do, she cannot be the torchbearer for fem power. The fact that any woman idolizes and respects her as a role model is sad.

Every good female artist I know, all the good female musicians in town, every single one of them- all of them are more hardcore than Courtney Love. That dumb pathetic, pill-poppin’, babbly-mouth, money-lovin selfish bitch. Even her own daughter has to apologize for her in public. Fuck her.

Do you folks have to do the daytime job route like so many others?

PRESTON: I drive a truck around town. Jake carries boxes. Ish hands people food. Kim types stuff.

_Just love your Blood album, it’s such a mix of styles, and melds together so effortlessly. I think those ethereal vocals over furiously pumping bass and keyboards make you standouts. Do you foresee any new directions for the band’s music, and do you have anything in the pipeline you can discuss?

PRESTON: Thank you.

The framework of who we are as a band is set. Working within that framework is where the fun is.

The new people create new dynamics in the music. It will be interesting to see where that leads us.

The Screen Vinyl Image/Bloody Knives split is in the works. No date on that yet.

We have talked to our friends in Bug Chaser about putting something out. Hope we can make that work.

Our next EP DEATH is 75% finished. It is a 6 song EP with a full length video, and will come out as a 7” vinyl and DVD package. We start shooting video on Sunday. No idea of the release date yet.

We are taking our time and letting people stumble across Blood. For the first time ever, I feel no real rush to put out anything, just letting things develop and enjoying playing shows with cool bands that I like.
Check out the band on Facebook and Bandcamp.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Litteral