From the first time I listened to Caustic Casanova‘s God How I Envy the Deaf (from which we premiered a track recently), I knew I wanted to run an Anatomy Of segment with them. The album is a veritable smorgasbord of influences, styles, and approaches, all culminating in a fast, fickle, and furious album, punchy in all the right ways. What kind of influences go into the pot which makes this broth? Would those choices be “obvious” and translate clearly into the sounds and ideas which ended up on the album?
Funnily enough, the choices not only “made sense” but they also allowed me to understand the album a bit better. Take the decision to include Rush‘s Signals; it’s not an influence that originally came to mind but now that I’ve seen it on paper, it makes perfect sense. The vibe on opening track “Fancy English”, the melodic touches throughout the album, and more work really well with the Rush underpinning. So too the swagger that seems to run through the album now screams Queens of the Stone Age and Soundgarden. All in all, the choices below give some really good context on the hectic pace of God How I Envy the Deaf and help to amplify the already powerful connection I’ve had with the album.
Read on below for more details on why, how, and when these albums (all of them excellent and seminal I might add) came to influence Caustic Casanova and don’t forget to pre-order the album right here. It releases October 18th.
Francis Beringer (bass/vocals)
Rush – Signals
We just finished a two month tour, our first with guitarist Jake Kimberley and our first without Andrew Yonki, with whom I’ve been touring since 2013 (he couldn’t make this tour, we return to four piece shows in October). As a way of getting to know each other’s favorite records, we explored some entire discographies – Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, The Mars Volta and about half of Rush. Jake hadn’t explored Rush much and I was happy to give him the grand tour of my favorite band. When Signals came around on the second to last date of the tour, it immediately connected with Jake, Stefanie was struck with a newfound appreciation for it, and I was reminded again why it’s one of my favorite records of all time. But what hadn’t occurred to me until the most recent listening was how much of a blueprint this record has been for what I’m trying to accomplish as a bassist, vocalist, and songwriter with Caustic Casanova.
Signals marked Rush’s first direct turn toward overtly 80’s influenced pop songwriting and arranging, though they retained some heavier riffs that they’d strip away on later releases. This album is singularly dark for Rush – Geddy Lee’s heavy, simple synth lines weave in and out of Neil Peart’s lyrical musings on being an outcast, paranoia, and death – and even the half of the record that has more uplifting themes still retains a foreboding edge because of the arrangements and production. Though Rush has been my favorite band for nearly 20 years, it’s only recently that I can claim direct influence from them, because for so long what they were doing seemed so far beyond my grasp.
To an extent it still is – but with some of the material on God How I Envy The Deaf and much of what we’ve written since, I’m finding myself putting into practice lessons I learned from Signals: balancing frenetic, crazy bass work against super simple lines and keyboard-esque drones, keeping the big hook in mind always while being unafraid of dramatic shifts in tempo, rhythm, or mood, always being open to trying new sounds and new approaches, and making sure that the lyrics are given as much thought as the music.
Anyone who knows Caustic Casanova’s music well would probably find something familiar with the guts of the second track “The Analog Kid” – the thrust of the main riff is something I’ve imitated more than a few times, and epic, hooky major key heavy music with room for over-the-top drums and blistering guitar solos is a huge part of our discography. That’s probably why it’s my favorite song of all time. I’m forever in musical debt to Lee, Lifeson and Peart – and especially Signals.
Andrew Yonki (guitar)
Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
Soundgarden has always loomed large in my sonic psyche. When I was eight years old, I saw the music video for “Black Hole Sun.” Anyone who has ever seen that video should know that eight is WAY too young an age to see that video without turning out forever changed and messed up in some way. I wanted more. I was musically aware at an early age, thanks to an older brother and decidedly “hip” babysitters who’d let us watch MTV, so by the time I was 9 I was listening to alternative rock radio on a daily basis. “Black Hole Sun,” “Spoonman,” “Outshined,” and all the singles for what was at the time their final album, Down on the Upside, were on the radio all the time, and I loved it.
Fast forward a few years. I’m a teenager, diving into the dark realms of punk rock, hardcore, and extreme metal, really seeking out intensity. I must have been fifteen or sixteen, when I’m watching something decidedly retrospective on VH1 or MTV, some fluke of a day where they’re actually playing music videos for rock songs, and “Rusty Cage” comes on. That slick, greasy opening lead, singing out just before the thunderous drum fill, and we are OFF. There was no gimmick, it wasn’t clean like Upside, it was definitely not something that you’d expect on mainstream rock radio. This was HEAVY, and it was punishing, and Chris Cornell’s voice was peeling the fucking paint from the walls. I needed this record. I needed Badmotorfinger.
When I got my hands on it, it bowled me over with down-tuned sludge riffs, counter-intuitive rhythms, and OUTRAGEOUS vocals. Those riffs, especially on “Rusty Cage,” “Jesus Christ Pose,” and “Holy Water” have all seeped into my guitar playing, and this album is the first time that this influence has been so far up front. What I love most about Soundgarden’s riffs is how they were able to take such basic patterns and twist them into knotty, other-worldly rumbles that sound both subterranean AND extraterrestrial, thanks to their explorations of odd time signatures and tunings you WON’T see in a Hal Leonard book!
Speaking of musical convention, “conventional” is not a word you would EVER use to describe Kim Thayhil’s guitar leads. On Badmotorfinger, dude goes INSANE, spraying wah-drenched leads that hit you like the waterfall from hell. His note flurries don’t just go in your ears – they attack your brain from all sides, shifting from one side of the mix to the other, never letting you adjust.
I couldn’t possibly say that this was part of the plan, but there was just something about The CC’s compositions this time around that really pushed me to explore this chaotic and visceral style of lead guitar, but hearing the results on God How I Envy the Deaf, there is no other touchstone to compare my playing to, and if the worst thing you can say is that my leads resemble Kim Thayhil’s, well, congratulations to me, cuz I fuckin’ LOVE Soundgarden.
Stefanie Zaenker (drums/vocals)
Max Roach – Drums Unlimited
I’ve never thought of myself as someone who’s consciously inspired by a particular band, album, or player when creating my drum parts or helping to arrange a Caustic Casanova tune. I’ve always relied on my background in jazz trumpet, marching percussion, experience in this band, and of course listening to copious amounts of music as my main influences. My drum parts sort of write themselves. That’s why I was initially slightly vexed by this assignment, but it led me to reflect deeply on what general drum concepts I’ve been working to develop lately. All of that pondering led me to Max Roach! I could probably write a five page essay on how his approach to drumming is beginning to consciously influence my playing but I’ll try to keep it succinct!
Max Roach didn’t just keep time, he played music. I have a particular fondness for his 1966 record Drums Unlimited which features both solo drum compositions like ‘The Drum Also Waltzes’ (covered or frequently referenced by three of my favorite drummers – Bill Bruford, Neil Peart, and John Bonham) and fuller bebop tunes. He plays melodically and conscientiously. On top of his intimidating speed and skill, his free flowing movement around the kit, groove, and surface choices are consistently engaging. I particularly love his creative hi-hat and cymbal choices.
Hearing Roach play reminds me of something Neil Peart said about studying under Freddie Gruber: “He’s not the kind of teacher who teaches you how to play the drums, he teaches you how to dance on the drums.” This will be my quest until the day I die. In the last couple years I’ve really tried to add musicality and percussive melody to every new Caustic Casanova song, with a particular focus on using the hi-hat in unconventional ways. I try to accent what my bandmates are doing (snare hits following along with a melody, for example) and build the percussion part through the lens of what each hit will add to the song as a whole. I think I started on this path while recording our upcoming release God How I Envy The Deaf, but I’m so excited to expand on these concepts and I owe a lot of that to Max Roach. RIP.
Jake Kimberley (guitar)
Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
If there is any album I could attribute to being responsible for my creative injections into Caustic Casanova, it would have to be Era Vulgaris by Queens Of The Stone Age.
I can’t think of one singular piece of work that encapsulates all of my favorite guitar textures and tones more than this record. From the impossibly quick (and often overlooked) slap back delay that produces a bounciness and velocity that makes you feel like you’re inside of a gigantic metal chamber, tied up by your ankles with springs, to the mechanical slides, diad chord selections and skitteringly stilted guitar solos layered within every track (courtesy of the peerless Josh Homme and Troy Van Leeuwen) mocking you and making you dance about it, there is quite a lot of fun to be had if your ears can handle the glassy-ness and battery acid dripping through the cracks. There is something so undeniably diabolical underneath it all.
Era Vulgaris is raw, and sounds artificial and mechanical – yet the band retains a clarity and tastefulness to the licks, lyrics and songwriting that few can muster, in my mind. Everything is exactly where it should be in Era Vulgaris. It scratches a laundry list of itches, and some song or another is always buzzing in my mind.