Today we have the privilege of sharing an early stream of Madison, Wisconsin-based heavy psychedelic/grunge/metal solo act OLD SPIRIT‘s debut EP ‘Old Spirit‘, which releases this Friday, February 4th on limited edition CD and 12″ vinyl by way of the artist’s own label Bright As Night Records. Fans of everything from early 90’s Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate to Melvins and Love Battery will appreciate the catchy brew of gloomy garage fuzz and riff-rocked heavy metal feeding their emergent sound. The fellow behind the project Jason Hartman (Vanishing Kids, Jex Thoth) has been kind enough to answer a short interview pertaining to his methodology, inspiration, and some notes on what differentiates this band from his other work.
Thanks goes out to the artist for the interview and their representation for the opportunity to share this mind-bending, catchy EP. Scroll down to the Bandcamp embed below to experience the whole thing for yourself, as always do your best to support the heavy metal underground and grab a physical copy from Old Spirit‘s Bandcamp.
Just as your work in Vanishing Kids isn’t reducible to simple formulization, Old Spirit bears some familiar nostalgic waft yet dodges direct genre classification. As a musician and curator much of your work appears to intentionally step out of bounds, either to blend sub-genre or avoid certainty of genre for the sake of an original vibe or sound. Where does your process begin? Do ideas come to you in various alchemical combinations of inspiration and influence, or, has it taken a concerted effort of regular songwriting grind not to land in the ‘genre music’ bubble?
Hey, thanks for having me! Of all the musical projects I have, Old Spirit is the easiest and most natural. There are a few different song writing processes with this project. I usually start with riffs and songs I have on guitar or bass and build around that. Most of the time these ideas are pre conceived but sometimes I just write as I record and it just builds and develops on it’s own seemingly. As far as not fitting into a genre, it is as easy as just letting sounds or instruments be together that aren’t normally together. I’m not trying to be overly original to the point where songs are no longer enjoyable. I definitely like “songs” rather than sound experiments.. but maybe I mix those elements to various degrees?
Heavy psychedelic/proto-extreme grunge metal? How would you classify the experience of ‘Old Spirit’? What’d inspired these songs and the solo project? The energy and rhythms of these songs speak for themselves as something different but, what do you feel separates Old Spirit from your work in Vanishing Kids and Night Eyez?
Without confining the project, Old Spirit is my most metal focused project I’d say. It’s hard to categorize for me but your classification is pretty good! Definitely 70’s/ 80’s classic metal mixed with psych/ shoegaze/ a bit of electronic. Inspiration for this has always been around for me. I am just catching up with being able to actually record myself to a degree that it doesn’t sound awful! I grew up on these influences.
Vanishing Kids is a collaboration with my wife Nikki Drohomyreky who does at least as much of the songwriting as I do, if not more in that band. Night Eyez is more electronic based but also has elements of rock/ metal etc. –
Your vocals on this album go a long way toward characterizing the experience as surrealistic, carrying a bit of King Diamond, a hint of ‘Cold Lake’ (“Cave”), and to my ear a bit of HR’s range in late 80’s/early 90’s Bad Brains (‘I Against I’, etc.) with a wide range of esoteric modulation at hand. Are these performances tailored to each song as a later part of the process, or, is there some improvisational aspect to your method? Where are you channeling ’em from?
I’ve always loved King Diamond’s vocals and it’s a pretty natural style for me. Tom Warrior too of Celtic Frost. I am a fan of his more pouty vocal style. I wasn’t thinking Cold Lake, although I do like that album. I think I was going for more of the “In The Pandemonium” album.. more specifically “Mesmerized”. Possibly my favorite Frost song. HR is a funny comparison that I wouldn’t have thought of but I love Bad Brains! Vocals are always last and tailored to the feel of each individual piece. I don’t over think it on the vocals. I just let them come out.
Old-souled, old school, old… spirited. Would you consider yourself a student of heavy music history, someone who appreciates nostalgic and retro sounds? Does the name Old Spirit have a personal application or aspect? Would it be fair to say that however serious the end result is, a lot of these rhythms stem from a sort of bank of heavy rock muscle memory?
Yes I am definitely a student of heavy music! The name actually comes from lyrical themes of death and aging and not really from the retro sound. Also I am a big fan of James Plotkin’s (who mastered the record) band “Old”. I didn’t realize that I had used part of his band name until I thought about who should master this. This kind of mirrors some of the riffs and ideas on the album… your influences just appear sometimes.
As far as I know you’ve got a Night Eyez LP coming out in late March, can you give anyone digging this Old Spirit stuff an elevator pitch? Do you have any other projects in the works at the moment?
I actually recorded both of these albums, Night Eyez and Old Spirit at the same time. There are a few tracks that could have been on either album. I think if you like the adventurous side of Old Spirit, you could like Night Eyez too. However, Night Eyez is not really a metal album but could appeal to the more open minded metal listener.
I do have a lot of other projects going on actually! Since I’ve been getting better at recording, I have another Old Spirit already in the works! Also a project called “Diati” that is more hard rock oriented (Ozzy/ Rainbow/ Thin Lizzy) that I’ve been working on intermittently for years now! A few songs have come out on comps but I have yet to release a full album. Also, I’ve spent a good portion of the last year working on the new Vanishing Kids album! I am not recording that one myself. We are recording that at a “proper” studio, Blast House in Madison, WI with Dustin Sisson engineering. Very excited that we also have Randall Dunn on board to mix it next month!
What is the best way that fans can support Old Spirit?
Thank you for your time.
Thanks for having me!
Per the press release:
BRIGHT AS NIGHT RECORDS is proud to present OLD SPIRIT’s striking debut mini-album, self-titled Old Spirit, on CD and 12” vinyl formats.
OLD SPIRIT is a new creation of Jason Hartman, who is renown for Svart recording artists Vanishing Kids as well as being a frequent collaborator with Jex Thoth. By and large a solo effort, OLD SPIRIT indeed lives up to its moniker with a wild ‘n’ weird amalgamation of elder heavy metal and hard rock tropes, all done with Hartman’s characteristically lysergic sensibilities.
As such, Old Spirit is the project’s debut record, totaling six songs across 26 minutes. Immediately, one is whisked away to a world where Mercyful Fate is melded with the Melvins, Witchfinder General with the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Mind-melting solos singe that listener’s perceptions with almost alchemical logic, remaining frazzled and free-flowing in equal measure, and making the sum result all the more engaging – and memorable. And just as Hartman places a premium on (bent-askew) hooks, his vocals take a comparably crooked aspect that somehow sounds like an ancient wizard and rock god simultaneously.
And just as he’s soon revealing the electro-oriented alter-ego NIGHT EYEZ, OLD SPIRIT encompasses a lyricism that’s characteristically Hartman. As he explains, “Lyrically, it seems I’m always writing about death or impermanence. Especially as I look back on the NIGHT EYEZ lyrics, it’s all about that and also making the most of your time/life. I’ve kinda always written about that, but especially as I age, it becomes more prevalent. OLD SPIRIT also has death-related lyrics, too, but also a lot of disgust for society/humanity. I don’t usually like to write with any kind of humor, but there’s inadvertently some in there. Like ‘Cave,’ for example, is silly and ridiculous. I don’t try to force things too much; it just comes out the way it comes out. This is cliché, but if a listener is interested in the lyrical end of things, there should always be room for their own interpretation. It’s a way to make it your own experience.”
With rich ‘n’ robust mastering courtesy of James Plotkin and psychedelic cover art, Old Spirit is a sulfurous first conjuring for OLD SPIRIT.
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