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Interviews

Ice Dragon - Joe

21/03/12  ||  Curt

Yep, it's the Ice Dragon logo

Ice Dragon is a band that I found on Bandcamp recently while scouting for some new music. If you are into fuzzed out Electric Wizard and Sabbath inspired doom then you will want to check out all of their albums. Best of all the albums are “name your price”. I caught up with their bassist Joe and here is what he had to say:

Global Domination: First of all, for those who are unfamiliar with Ice Dragon, can you give a brief rundown/chronology on the history of the band?

Joe: Thanks for having us. Ice Dragon was formed in early 2008 or thereabouts by Ron (vocals, synths) and Carter (guitar), who had done some other musical projects together. They had an album’s worth of recordings-which, incidentally, are being released via cassette by the Acidpunx label soon, so watch for that-by the time I came along to play bass, in June of the same year. By then, they’d been playing with a guy, Ryan, who did all the drumming on what became the band’s first official release, “The Burl, the Earth, the Aether”. Our emphasis at the time was playing as loudly as possible in a small concrete tomb, basically, but we got the bulk of the Burl written in ’08-09, I’d say, then eventually got around to trying to make a proper recording. We’d played out a good amount during this time period as well. In early 2010 we became a three-piece, and Ron took over drumming duties in addition to singing. We put out “The Sorrowful Sun” at the beginning of Summer 2011, and a split single, “Astaroth”, with young whippersnappers of doom Pilgrim in December 2011 on the label Yersinia Pestis. And now, we’re less than two weeks away from the release of our third LP, “Tome of the Future Ancients”, which will also get a vinyl release at some point by Yersinia Pestis. “The Burl” is finally getting a vinyl release this year by the fine dudes at Stone Stallion Rex, out of Germany.

I was really impressed by your first two albums-“The Sorrowful Sun” and “The Burl, The Earth, The Aether”. What’s been the general reception that you’ve had towards the album?

Thanks, man. The reception has been great and quite surprising. We put the first album out digitally with zero expectations, but gradually people came to find out about it, and the support grew incrementally. The second album got some good reviews on various websites and blogs right out of the gate, so that helped raise the album’s profile, I think. That album we were sure everyone would hate, but again, it’s been mainly good vibes. Our new double album, “Tome of the Future Ancients”, is our best release to date, so it’s very possible that everyone will hate it. Like when Metallica puts out an album like “Load” and says “It’s the best thing we’ve ever done-and even better, there’s a whole ‘nother record of the same awesomeness,” and then drops “Reload”. “Tome” is our “Load/Reload”, except it’s killer, I swear.

I saw on your Facebook page that you’re putting out a new album called “Tome of the Ancients” less than a year after your last album “The Sorrowful Sun”. How the hell do you get the time to put out two albums in so short a time span?

We get together every week and record songs. It doesn’t take long to have an album ready to go. Our emphasis has shifted from playing live to creating album’s, EP’s, singles, whatever. We all get off on watching an album take shape more than playing out or touring, which we’re in no position to do anyway. We’re getting old, and we’re homebodies. It’s fun to sit in a basement and record. And it’s really not that much when you consider bands in the 60’s were putting out an album every eight or nine months or whatever.

I also saw that you released “The Sorrowful Sun” on cassette. How come? Do you feel that cassette is the superior medium for music or was this due to finance reasons? What’s been the reaction to having it come out in this format?

Necessity, although I do like cassettes and would take one over a digital-only release any day. Cassettes are the format we grew up with, so there’s a familiarity and nostalgia about them. But ultimately, necessity drove that decision. We were able to make the entire release ourselves and get it out there, and I think we were kind of surprised by the demand. We made a cool package for it, and people seemed to dig it. For those who missed out on the initial release, the good people at Acidpunx will also be reissuing “The Sorrowful Sun” on cassette, though this one will be a straightforward release, with no velvet spellpouch, button, patch, scroll, etc.

Back to the new album-I heard the track “Manuscript 408” which you put up at “Temple of Perdition” and it smokes! Can you tell me a bit about the song? What’s it about?

Thanks, man. That was the first track written for the new album, recorded right after “the Sun” came out. The song is about the Voynich Manuscript, an indecipherable (as of now) book, which may or may not be an elaborate hoax, and which has all sorts of interesting drawings and diagrams that I can’t do justice to, so it’s perhaps better to read about it yourself. As I said, that was the first song written for the new album, so it kind of set the tone, both musically and lyrically, to greater and lesser degrees.

Other than the obvious Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard influence, what bands inspired you to play this type of music?

Well, personally, I grew up worshiping Black Sabbath, so any band that claimed them as an influence I was all over, though it was often hard to find that stuff as a kid. I was buying releases by bands like Cathedral and Sleep as they were coming out and flipping out on them. Back then, those bands were considered out of step, really, but I dug them. We all listen to a wide variety of music, a whole bunch of which isn’t even remotely heavy. That may or may not come across in our music. I don’t think we even really consider ourselves a metal band-not post 70s metal, anyway. I think it’s safe to say that our favorite music was released in the 1960s and 70’s. We all have a certain way of writing and when you mix it up, you get Ice Dragon. We work well as a unit.

How has the whole experience of releasing your albums as “Name your price” downloads on Bandcamp been? Good or bad? Have you been able to at least recoup the cost of recording by doing it this way or has it been more successful than you thought?

It’s been great – people get to hear an album that we’re excited about, even if they’re broke. Of course, they could just as easily gank it from the Internet somewhere, but it allows a modicum of a relationship to be built between the band and the listener. For instance, when “The Sorrowful Sun” came out, it was a $5 download or something just so we could recoup the costs of the cassette release, but sent anybody who had bought “The Burl” a free download link. Small things like that make both the band and the listener feel appreciated. Our recordings cost precisely nothing because we do everything ourselves, so there’s no issue of recouping recording costs. The only thing we spend money on is putting together releases, as I just mentioned or making t-shirts, patches, buttons, etc, or acquiring recording gear, all of which we’ve been able to do because of the generosity of Ice Dragon listeners. There’s no money being made or lost-it’s pretty perfect in that regard. It also allows you to be nimble: we weren’t going to release “Tomb of the Future Ancients” until later, when we’d be able to put it out on vinyl. But we’re so amped on the record that we decided to get it out there sooner and technology allows us to do that.

Any bands that you’ve been listening to lately that you want to tell our readers about?

Lots of old stuff as you might imagine but one newer band to check out is Fellwoods from Portland, who just released their first album. They were cool enough to ask us to do a split single with them, which is coming out later this year, I think. They’re a band that has it down-from the tunes to the packaging.

What’s your top 2 Black Sabbath albums and why?

“Master of Reality” and “Sabotage”. “Master” because forty years on, it’s still one of the heaviest albums ever, with some of the best riffs ever committed to tape. “Sabotage” because it’s the band at their most weird and unhinged. It’s the sound of a band experiencing one last, huge creative burst, and they’re hurtling towards a cliff and don’t care.

Anything else you would like to say to our readers?

“Tome of the Future Ancients” comes out on March 20 2012-check it out. There’s nothing as bad (or as good?) as “Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire” on it.

Check out the band’s “The Sorrowful Sun” album and the rest of their discography here.