Sydney three-piece Death Mountain are about to play the first of three East Coast shows they have booked over the next few months to launch their recently released debut album ‘Volcanic Panic‘. The album was recorded and mixed by Dylan Adams and mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side. To find out a little more about it, Adam from the band took the time to answer our On The Record questions this week. Expand this post to take a read of his answers. You can pick up a copy on vinyl [Here]. Catch them this Saturday 24th January at Black Wire Records in Annandale. On Sunday 7th February they’ll play at Trainspotters in Brisbane and Saturday 7th March at The Old Bar in Melbourne.
Tell us about the release title.
I think the unspoken rule in Death Mountain is to choose weird-sounding or grandiose or slightly silly titles for things, even though the content (e.g. the lyrical content) is rather earnest and banal a lot of the time. Though I think it might not be completely obvious, this was the approach we took with the band name too—it’s supposed to be grandiose and slightly silly. “Volcanic Panic” was chosen in this sort of way. We also often joke that we’ve got to be the most neurotic band ever. I kind of like the idea of emphasising and celebrating that, because it contrasts with a common idea of what people in rock and punk bands are supposed to be like. The band was almost called “Nervebag” for that reason. Originally, we were going to call our second record “Volcanic Panic” and our first record “Ape Nebula”. But “Volcanic Panic” just sounds punchier for a debut release, I reckon.
Tell us about the artwork.
I (Adam) did the artwork. But it was quite a prolonged hit-and-miss affair! A lot of the earlier ideas didn’t really seem to suit the music or what we were going for exactly. One thing that we definitely wanted to do was to have artwork that wasn’t too dark or serious-looking, partly because we wanted people to get the right idea with the name “Death Mountain”; we’re not a capital ‘M’ metal band just because the word ‘death’ is in there, you know? So pink and a whole bunch of flowers sort of did the trick there. The main image on the cover is from an old aeroplane safety card. It’s a woman demonstrating the brace position. I guess that fits with the “panic” thing. But I like that this is contrasted with flowers raining down all around her. An explosion of flowers! The other cool thing (I think) is that, at first glance, it sort of just looks like she’s crying into a pillow.
What format/s will it be released on and how will it be packaged?
Volcanic Panic will only be available in vinyl and digital formats for now.
Who will it be released through, and when?
The record is self-released, but distributed by MGM (so you can order it in pretty much anywhere). The record is actually available right now, but we’re officially starting to launch it this month (towards the end of January).
Tell us about the studio and why you chose to record there?
We recorded at our mate Dylan Adams’ studio. We chose to record there because we know Dylan well, and we knew he’d look after us and genuinely care about the record. It also meant that the recording process was more laid back than it might otherwise have been. Dylan set up a makeshift vocal booth at my place, and I recorded my vocals at home. It was really nice to have all the time in the world to make sure I was happy with my vocal takes on the record. I don’t think I’ve ever been cringe-free about the vocals on a record straight away, until now. It usually takes some time and distance to be at peace with it. Not this time.
Tell us about the producer / engineer and why you chose to record with them?
That would be Dylan Adams. See above! It’s also worth mentioning that Dylan’s enthusiasm and willingness to try out and explore different approaches is brilliant, especially for a new band like us, making a first record and trying to figure out what they sound like.
Did you go into the writing process with a clear direction in mind?
For the most part, I wrote all the songs maybe 2 years before we all worked on them and recorded them. I think the main thing I was thinking was that I wanted the songs to sound different from my previous band (Lungs), and I also wanted the songs to be lean. I didn’t want any song to have a section in it that didn’t make sense or didn’t make the song better. More specifically, I guess I wanted the songs to be “riffier”. Heavier on the noodles and runs and lighter on the chords. And I had it in mind that the vocals would be quite light and melodic compared to the music.
Were you listening to anything in particular during the writing / recording process that influenced the songs at all?
It’s possible that I completely ripped off the band Party of Helicopters. Despite what I said earlier about us not being a metal band, I think older metal bands were a bit of an influence on some of the guitar parts, to be honest. I feel like Rob Crow was an influence too (Heavy Vegetable, Thingy). And I think it’s clear that the influence of 90s emo and math rock bands like Braid can be heard in the songs.
Were there any albums you were referencing to aim for a certain type of sound production wise?
We were pretty bad at referencing other albums. We aimed to do that, and we tried to get some records together. But in the end, I really think we just tried to sound like us. We had a vague idea that the production should sound a bit more 90s. I’m not sure whether we achieved that, or what that even means.
How long did you spend in the studio recording?
We recorded it mainly over January 2014 (a year ago!). But Sofia went away, and Dylan had another project starting, and so it was kind of a piecemeal affair. I think I finished recording my vocals in February or March, but I can’t quite recall!
Tell us a little about the recording process the band used?
We tracked the drums with all three of us playing together in a room. I think we kept some of the live bass, but I’m not sure. Sofia was by far the most efficient of the three of us! Nelson likes me to track the guitars first, before he finishes up recording his bass parts. After all that was done, the vocals were tracked at my place. I think the neighbours probably thought I was having some kind of episode.
Was this any different to previous processes you have used?
I’m not sure how to interpret “process”. Certainly it was a far less streamlined approach. We recorded bits, went away, came back. Recorded vocals in a different place. It was maybe spread out over a longer period of time. One thing is that I double-tracked my vocals for this record, which I’ve never done before. I did it partly to aim for a different sort of sound, and also because I had the time to do it. I recorded the left and right guitars with different guitars and amps this time too. I’ve never risked doing that before either.
Any particular equipment outside your usual live gear used in the process?
I think Sofia borrowed some drum stuff (Dylan is a drummer, which was extremely helpful). I used the SG I use live for this band, but also my other Gibson (ES-333), and Nelson’s telecaster for some clean stuff. For one guitar I used the Marshall JCM-800 that I use live, but I think I actually used a VOX for the other guitar. I also used some pedals that I don’t use live.
Any memorable studio moments?
Oh man, it actually seems like so long ago. I recall that whenever we were frustrated or down about something, Dylan liked to read out inspirational quotes from a certain famous engineer. But the quotes ended up being helpful mainly because they were super vague or cheesy or made no sense. So in the Death Mountain way, we would over-analyse them and pick them apart (over-analysis of pretty much everything derails almost every band practice). That lightened the mood!
Any additional tracks recorded that didn’t make the cut but may see the light of day sometime?
No, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a band that’s done that. Time and money, I guess! Plus I’m admittedly kind of precious when it comes to the songs I write.
What track/s are you most looking forward to playing live?
We’ve already played them all live. As is often the case, some songs seem better recorded that performed live, and vice versa. I personally enjoy playing the opening track, Life Throes, very much. I think we all have fun playing Heat Death, even though it’s probably not an initial crowd-pleaser. Word Salad is probably the song that ticks all the boxes.
How would you compare the final product to previous releases?
I’m very satisfied that Volcanic Panic sounds different to records I’ve made with other bands. The different approach to recording is definitely a part of that. I feel like it’s more sonically rich than anything else I’ve done personally. It’s also nice that there are areas that we’d clearly want to do differently or improve upon with future recordings.
Anything else you want to say or about the release?
Volcanic Panic is, without question, the best record that’s ever been made. I may have neglected to mention that.
DEATH MOUNTAIN – ‘Volcanic Panic‘
Available now independently.
Grab a copy on vinyl [Here].
24th – Black Wire Records, Annandale [AA] w/ Oslow and Burners.
7th – Trainspotters, Brisbane [18+] w/ Grenadiers and The Ravagers.
7th – Old Bar, Fitzroy [18+] w/ Foley.
—> Tickets available at the door.
—> For more information, visit [Here].