Continuing the week’s Tech Yourself theme, we continue our series of interviews with the bands behind the forthcoming Heavy Blog Is Heavy-sponsored Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself Tour (which starts next week). A thousand thank-yous to the super-awesome people at Basick Records. Second to the plate is Paul Ortiz, better known in the realms of the internet as Chimp Spanner.
Paul has made quite a name for himself, releasing the fantastic At the Dream’s Edge in late 2009 after causing something of a stir online with the likes of Misha Mansoor and Acle Kahney. We get to grips with beards, simian mechanics, and how he would handle the other bands on the tour in a fight…
Hi Paul! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us. First of all: why is a chimp spanner better than a regular spanner?
Well I don’t know if it’s better…it’s different. I mean a regular spanner has real practical uses. I am no good at tightening/loosening things. I do have a beard though. Beards are pretty cool. How many spanners you seen with a beard?
I actually googled that exact phrase. Your picture appears on the first page. Point taken! So do you forsee a future where we’re all getting ripped off by simian car mechanics, telling us our carborators and flux capacitors are buggered? But in all seriousness, how did the name come about?
Pfff, we’re already there! Got totally fleeced for a new Mr Fusion just the other day. Ahh the name! Unsurprisingly I get asked that a lot. For a while I was quite happy to tell people, but the more I think about it, the more ludicrous it seems, so I’d rather let people make up their own explanation. It can’t be any more stupid than the real one. A few people do know, though. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find out!
Given that a lot of one-man multi-instrumentalist/bedroom endeavours (we’re calling ’em – OMMIBE’s – watch it catch on![?!]), such as the like of Cloudkicker stay just as that, what prompted you to want to take Chimp Spanner out on the road?
I like it – rolls off the tongue! Well I’ve really got Basick to thank for that. I think left to my own devices I might still be just doing the bedroom thing, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but being on a label, it’s nice to be set up and ready to play with other Basick bands when the opportunity arises, and potentially reach a totally different crowd. It’s a really big challenge, because online I feel kind of ‘established’ (even if my output isn’t quite so high as speedier or more prolific writers) but live wise, I’ve got a whole new audience to win over. It can only be good for me, though, to leave my comfort zone and push myself harder.
Many thanks to Hayato from Cyclamen for arranging this. I agreed to the TYBYWY tour and then promptly began to panic when I realised that touring requires a band. Prior to this, I’d borrowed Monuments for my first couple of shows, and their drummer Mike Malyan is an insanely tough act to follow so I was really wondering how it’d all come together. Hayato put us in touch with each other, and I’ve been hugely fortunate to find someone as talented and enthusiastic about the project as Boris. Swanney, also from Monuments, will be on bass this time but I’m still on the hunt for a full timer. My good friend Jim Hughes will be on second guitar…and that’s it for now!
At The Dream’s Edge has a very futuristic/science fiction-y feel to it, particularly with the thematic influence of the track titles. Was this your intention, or is there a completely different concept we’re not getting? Did this come before or after the music?
Yeah, the intention was always to make something ‘futuristic’. The songs were written over a pretty long period of time, but the overall idea was to have them be part of a coherent whole. It wasn’t until I sorta stepped back and looked at which songs were looking like they were going to make it onto the album that a little narrative started to appear – like they all connected nicely. That was a cool moment!
You’re known as one of the pioneers of the ‘djent’ scene along with the likes of Misha Mansoor and Acle Kahney. How did you all become so integral to its creation, despite living miles apart? Could it have happened without the internet?
Well the internet has been a big part of it for sure. I don’t know if we knowingly collaborated in any way together to create a scene. I mean, sure we exchanged ideas, probably without realising it half the time. But for the most part we were just doing our own thing and making the music we wanted to hear. The craziest thing is how similar Misha and I were in our approaches, before we even knew of each other. When I began uploading my songs, people were saying “dude you should check out Bulb”, and on Misha’s posts people were saying “man, you should check out Chimp Spanner!”. I guess we just had equally nerdy upbringings or something. But it’s like we all just had this sound in us that we wanted to hear – so we made it!
Well, I do tend to go for sounds and vibes from my childhood – stuff I probably couldn’t even tell you the name of now. There’s something satisfying about experiencing those sounds again, and even more so when someone else out there picks up on it too. Also, having musicians for parents has helped steer me in the right direction. I did have a phase of writing very simple, heavy stuff and at the time I thought they just didn’t ‘get’ it, because they kept telling me to keep my other influences in mind (blues, latin, jazz, classical, soul, etc.), but it wasn’t until I actually listened to them that it all came together, and I found this middle ground where I was making heavy, edgy, modern music that still managed to strike a chord with my folks. I think that’s the point where I wasn’t making metal. I was just making music, that happened to be metal. Ish.
Practitioners of your particular style of music are renowned as rig junkies – are you the same? What’s your set-up and why does it work for you?
Up until very recently, no. My setup has pretty much always been PC, POD, and my instruments, and in the studio, it still is. It works for me in that I don’t annoy my neighbours, and doesn’t cost a lot of money! Now I’ve got the live element to think of, though, I’m spending way more time thinking about amps and cabs and stuff than I usually would. I still want to keep it pretty simple though. When I played the Basick show last year, I just had a guitar and an amp. No effects or anything, and I was perfectly happy. So anything else will be a bonus in future.
Despite the fact that metal is often associated with bravado and machismo, the community to which you belong is very supportive of its members. Why do you think this is?
Haha it is?! I’m like the least metal person ever. In fact <whispers> I hardly even listen to it, but don’t tell anyone. I think our community is so supportive because the listeners were as much a part of the journey as the bands. Speaking for myself, a lot of my album was floating around online in various unfinished forms, so when it all finally came together it was like this cool thing we could all get behind, like “hey guys remember all that unfinished junk you’ve all been listening to for a few years? Well now it’s an album!”. There’s also a lot more contact between the musicians and the fans than in other metal sub-genres, and a lot of them are insanely talented musicians themselves, so there’s a lot of mutual respect.
We’re asking this one to everyone on the tour: as I said, you’re all fairly friendly with each other. In a ‘battle royale’ between the three bands on the tour, how would you ‘tech yourselves’ out, and how would you use your knowledge of your opponents against each of them?
Look, if I’ve learnt anything from Star Trek it’s that diplomacy, understanding, and a hokey moral message are the key to resolving almost any conflict. But then I also learnt that where that fails, you just shoot stuff with ray guns. Knowledge of an opponent is irrelevant when they’re vapourised. Now how to build my own phaser…
What’s the best thing about being a Basick boy?
I get to work with a great bunch of people who love what they do, and love what all their bands do. Can’t ask for more than that eh?
Thanks very much again for your time Paul, and good luck with the tour. Any parting words (of wisdom or otherwise)?
No worries, thank you! Can’t wait for the tour. Hopefully it’s the start of a new Chimpy chapter – so tell your friends, tell your neighbours, tell Randy Gonzalez to come get involved and help me get this show on the road!
The Heavy Blog Is Heavy-sponsored Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself Tour starts next Monday 18th at the appropriately-named Satan’s Hollow in Manchester. Be sure to catch it somewhere along the way – it’s going to be awesome!
Make you check out the other industry wizards at the helm of this rampaging invasion of your earholes: the ever-sexual Demise Management and the magnificently-hung Realising Media, as well as the aforementioned Basick Records.