Mount Saturn – Interview

So, I’m scouring the month of January Doom Metal charts and I come across a new band ‘Mount Saturn’ from Washington, US – Totally new name to me but No.4 on the Doom Charts just doesn’t happen by chance; someone is listening and voting. Next port of call? Bandcamp! Hit play and I’m instantly sold with the sound, the riffs and their vocalist Violet Vasquez! Take my fkn money! Repeated listening to their debut 4 track EP ‘Kiss the Ring’ (Review LINK HERE) had me enthralled – so much so, I just had to find out a little more about the band and where they’d been hiding until this point. Within 5 minutes of messaging back and forth, Violet and her partner/guitarist Ray Blum agreed to have a chat…Here’s the end result! Enjoy!

Welcome Violet and Ray, thank you for taking the time to chat with us here at Blessed Altar.
Thanks for inviting us.

Mount Saturn is a new name to most I would think, can you give the readers some background to the band, introduce your members and how you came to form?
Yeah, sure. So, Mount Saturn is a heavy band from Bellingham, Washington. Ray and I are partners and knew we wanted to start a heavy band to help resurrect the heavy scene in Bellingham. Our good friend Autumn Marceau introduced us to her friend Cody Barton and told us that he was also looking to join a band. We knew Cody was the one because he wanted to jam as much as we did. Ray met Tanner when they were making thrashier metal together, and we convinced him to try out some doom and join Mount Saturn. Unfortunately, Tanner has since left Mount Saturn and we’re actually looking for a replacement drummer now.

Of course, I invited you here to have a chat about the fantastic new 4 track EP of yours, Kiss The Ring! I was immediately taken with it, Violet – how has the response been to it since its release in early January?
Thank you so much! It’s been really positive. We weren’t sure we were going to need more than 100 copies of our CD and optimistically ordered 200, but we’ve sold 100 in the first month since its release and might be looking at another order. We were best in “Metal” on Bandcamp in January and even got to number four on the Doom Charts in January as well. We’re definitely feeling the love.

I definitely noticed that! Can I get a feel about your thoughts on how the EP turned out? Were you happy with the process and end result?
We’re very pleased with Erik Wallace’s Work. He runs Shibusa sounds, and he had recorded some of our friends and really puts his heart into making other people sound amazing. I think the EP is a great example of that. He was invested in getting us to sound how we imagined, and we’ll definitely consider working with him on our full-length.

Awesome, Erik has done a fantastic job! Musically, Mount Saturn sit in a very comfortable box – a heavy blues based rock/stoner doom vibe permeates the EP, however to my ears there is a real balance between rage and melancholy in its conveyance. Ray’s guitar work is a major driver here – Were you conscious of not being a one-trick pony when writing your music?
RB- It’s cliché to say, but writing with people whose interests lie outside of your own pulls songs into new territory that you may not have explored otherwise. Maybe on some level it could be frustrating to have to edit your vision, but some of my favourite movements of music on this EP came from curveballs from the other players.

Ray – you have all the chops – who inspires your work? Who are your influences?
RB- Thank you, you’re kind for saying so. Like most guitar players I could go on and on about guitar players I think are awesome, so I’ll try to be brief. I gravitated towards heavy blues-based bands and guitar players in my adolescence as a musician. Cactus’ Jim Mccarty and Captain Beyond’s Rhino Reinhardt always stood out to me when I was young and learning about heavy music beyond the usual suspects of Sabbath and Zeppelin. For a period of a couple years, I spent more time listening to The Allman Bros than every other band combined (to be fair, they write long songs), Duane, Dickey, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks are all absolutely inspiring as players and crafters of melody. When I was 15, my two favorite bands were Thin Lizzy and Motorhead, so Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson and Fast Eddie Clarke all had some factor in shaping how I think a solo or riff should go. As far as contemporary guitar players go; Stefan Koglek, Isaiah Mitchell, Ben McCleod, Sean McVay and Nick DiSalvo all blow my mind on a daily basis.

Wow! Such an eclectic bunch of muso’s right there! The other major ‘point of difference’ is you Violet. And those vocals! In my mind, they are the clincher with Mount Saturn – riffs aside, your vocal performance was the thing that instantly drew me in! Where the hell did you get those pipes from?? Have you had vocal lessons? Who do you draw inspiration from?
This is too kind, thank you. I started singing young but was discouraged from participating in talent shows by PTA moms who thought I sang too close to how a man sings, and said they would let me perform if I sang songs by women. So I stopped singing. It wasn’t until I discovered doom that I realized that singers like me had a place. I found King Woman, Holy Grove, and Windhand, all bands with women who have deeper voices that don’t try to be anything but powerful, and it works. Those women really inspire me. Then of course, there’s women like Grace Slick and Janis Joplin with big booming, honest voices that also offer me inspiration. I have never had lessons but I was just gifted lessons from a vocal coach that has worked with people I admire and I’m very excited to start.

Can I mention a name that springs to mind when I listen to you – I have no idea if she resonates with you at all, so this question could be moot – but does former Nymphs vocalist Inger Lorre mean anything to you?
So I had never heard of her, but I checked her out and I’m really into it, thank you. I’m an instant fan.

That Nymphs debut was so ahead of its time! Glad you checked them and Inger out! The vocal mix of ‘Kiss the Ring’ is also an interesting element of your ‘sound’. There is a real echo-ey, bewitching, cavernous feel to your delivery – Christ, it works well – the effect adds so much drama to your songs…was this a deliberate move, or did you play around with how you wanted to capture your vocals?
That was a deliberate move, for sure. I saw Kristina Esfandiari of King Woman using a Boss VE-20 for that cavernous sound, and was awestruck. I ended up coming upon a TC Helicon Mic Mechanic that has some of the same basic functions as the Boss but simpler. I use it for my live shows, and I wanted to capture that in the recording. I told Erik that I wanted to sound like I was singing at the bottom of a well and he did that for me.

Ok, let’s get a little political. If its ok with you, can we chat about this ‘female fronted’ term that gets thrown around in the heavy music circles. I’m not one to make the distinction really, as I find it condescending – but I am interested in what you think of being a woman playing heavy/doom laden music?
Yeah, so I consider myself a feminist and I have conflicting feelings on this term. On one hand, it makes the music about gender first and foremost. I don’t think it should be. But I like to support women in music on the other hand, and I like when I know right away that a band has a woman in it because I am actively seeking out those bands. I value representation in heavy metal. It draws me in, for sure. I think “female-fronted” as a term needs to die. I think that there need to be more women seeing themselves on stage and joining the ranks. That’s where I stand on that.

I also have a colleague here at BAZ who bemoans the portrayal of women in heavy music – it’s either overtly sexual or dressed like Xena Warrior Princess – what are your thoughts her issues with this?
I think this points out the fact that there is a clear double standard for women in heavy metal. Men are less often sexualized, and therefore are judged more on their talent and not their appearance. And then when they are judged on their talent, I feel like women are judged more harshly. The expectation is higher. This is admittedly a generalization, though. A lot of fans are in it for what sounds good. I respect that. But I want to be clear, I love when I see the Warrior Princess or the stereotypical “Doomstress” on stage, I think that’s really cool and being someone who comes from a theatre background, I really admire the commitment to the overall presentation, and I will never bemoan those performers, but that’s just not my thing. I do want to own a cloak, though. I’m working on that.


And finally, with all due respect Violet, I do notice that you openly embrace your own body image – celebrated in fact – have you always been so inclined to say ‘fuck you’ to the stereotypes and the pressure to look a certain way? Are there women in music – or in general – who inspire you in this way of thinking?

You know, this is an interesting question. I have never made a post via Mount Saturn’s outlets that indicate I say ‘fuck you’ to traditional beauty standards. I just take up space. Now, my personal platform may be another story, and that may be where this question is coming from, but I want to point out that Fat MEN in heavy metal NEVER get this question. To me, this supports the double standard thing. Being a Fat Womxn is automatically a political statement. That is true. And of course, I haven’t always given the middle finger to beauty or body standards. But metal is all about giving things the middle finger. So this message of “fuck people telling you how to look” fits in with that ethos, I think. There are a lot of women who inspire my sureness, but I wish there were more. I won’t out anyone as Fat here, but I will say that there are women in rock n’ roll who I saw in myself and inspired me to get on stage.

Thanks for answering those somewhat personal and delicate questions. I hope the readers hear what you are saying! Returning back to the album itself Violet – the band name: and album title – Any significance in these choices?
Or band name is actually a palmistry reference. We wanted something that was mystical yet fit the genre, and we had to restrain ourselves from donning a “witch” name. We decided on Mount Saturn. The album title is just after the title track, and we liked it because it has a little Saturn reference in it.

Ahh yes, we’ve just about exhausted the ‘Witch’ named bands hey! How old are these songs Violet? And can you tell us what your lyrical themes are about? I really love ‘Dwell’ and the title track – what are you singing about on these two?
These songs are a year and a half old, Dwell being the oldest track, and Kiss the Ring being the newest. Dwell was inspired by an interaction I had with this guy in some band at Psycho 2016. He was complaining about “feminazis” ruining rock’n’roll. He was mad that King Woman and Wax Idols were sticking up for themselves against Pentagram and speaking out. I remember telling him off less coherently than I would have liked to. I thought that what he was feeling was fear, that women would take over rock’n’roll and it wouldn’t be the boys club he grew up knowing. Dwell is about telling those men to go back to living under a rock. Because women ARE coming to take over rock’n’roll and make it theirs too. The title track is about those same kinds of men showing up to hell and realizing that their personal hell is worshiping a Demoness for all of eternity. A bit of poetic justice. Salt is my favourite track, and it’s about Revenge. It’s about witches. It’s inspired by a song called ‘Kansas Witch’ that Parks from All Them Witches wrote, solo.

Have you been playing live in support of the Ep? On your own? Who with? Where? Have you a following in your area?
We played a release show in January, but we haven’t played since because we’re looking for our next drummer. We hope to be up and running again by the Spring. We’ve gotten to play with a few of our favourite bands already and that has been the biggest reward. We’ve played with Holy Grove, Castle, and Mos Generator, all at our local metal venue, The Shakedown. If you’re touring through, you gotta play there. We love them.

What are the future plans for Mount Saturn – more live dates? New music being written? Plans for a full length album? Had any label interest yet?
We’ve had a couple of offers to press our EP to vinyl, but none that we have seriously considered. We want to wait to press anything until our full-length, ideally. We are releasing a cassette version with Ice Fall Records, though. We hope to put out a full-length in 2020.

And what does Violet Vasquez do in her spare time, outside of the band? (if that exists) and Ray? Cody/Tanner?
We all go to a lot of shows. We will even follow bands down to Portland or up to Vancouver to see them twice. We’re all pretty big music junkies. We like to crate dig, make music, and see live music. What else is there?

Care to name anything you are currently listening to that we might want to investigate further?
We’re excited for our pals in Dryland to release their first full-length. They’re like our “big sister” band. They’ve been around a bit longer and honestly, they inspired our formation a bit, too. No release date has been set so far, but definitely check them out. They’re also from Bellingham.

I will be keeping an eye out for them! Thanks for the recommendation. Finally, Violet – in closing, I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with us here at BAZ – I am thrilled with the new EP and hope it opens doors for you moving forward. Is there anything we have missed or want to say before we end?
I do just want to say thank you for giving us the opportunity to open up about our music, our interests, our inception. It’s been fun. Wish us luck finding our fourth member!

 

Interviewer: KMaN
Interviewee: Violet Vasquez/Ray Blum

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