Stone Magnum Interview

Stone Magnum are a band from close to Chicago who have a really awesome self-titled album which is available on vinyl from RIP records and as a digital download from Bandcamp. If you are a fan of doomy 70’s style metal give these guys a try-you won’t be disappointed. Dean Travernier was a great interview and I’m glad he gave me the chance to talk to him. Listen to their album on Bandcamp, buy their vinyl release and show your support!

Can you give some general information about the band? Where are you from, who’s in the band, history etc.?

We are Stone Magnum from Michigan City, Indiana…being so close to Chicago…we consider ourselves to be part of the Chicago scene. The current lineup consists of Myself, Dean, on guitar, Jim Brucks on guitar, Ben Elliot on bass, Brad Toth on drums, and Nick Hernandez on vocals. The current lineup is fairly new. The band formed in mid 2010 and Brad and myself are original members from our formative years. Stone Magnum agreed prior to officially forming the band to release an album on RIP Records. I had song ideas in the works, gig opportunities, and RIP records to support the band, but no band to perform with, so assembly of the band began with contacting Brad, who I’ve always wanted to do something with since the day we discussed the importance and pure genius of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in a local redneck bar over 15 years ago. We had a few other members to get the band off the ground, but it took some time to find the right fit, obviously. After a few lineup changes over the past year and half with different vocalists, and guitar/bass players, we now have solidified the lineup.

I can hear an obvious Sabbath and Judas Priest influence in the band-the vocals remind me of a cross between Ozzy and Rob Halford- what other bands influenced and inspired you?

I think almost any band who plays the traditional form of metal…be it doom or any other legitimate genre that rings true to what the meaning of heavy metal is meant to be has it’s roots in Sabbath and Priest. How can you not be influenced by those bands if you claim to be a legitimate metal band. I’ve never thought of my vocal style as resembling Halford at all, so to me that is an interesting and puzzling comparison, and the first time I’ve heard that. It’s cool though to hear. I naturally have this early Ozzy vocal approach I think, and it shows in some songs like Fallen Priest and Rolling Storm. In other songs I’ve unnaturally tried to stray away from my natural tendencies to sound that way simply because I don’t want to be lumped into the category of being another Ozzy clone. There are too many bands who want to copy this…and most of them seem to be in the “stoner” rock or doom genre…and that is not what this band is about. While it is natural for me to sing this way playing these songs with the riffing structures, tempo, and vibe…it just cannot be that way, which is one of the reasons why we recruited Nick into the band.

As far as inspiration…you are looking at over 30 years of heavy metal and hard rock music that all in some way or another inspires how we play, sound, and carry ourselves. Everyone in this band has had many years playing in various bands of our own, so the influences all get melded together. The influences are too many to list really…but I think some of the obvious in our sound are Sabbath, Pentagram, Count Raven, Candlemass, Saint Vitus, just to name a few of the well known names without getting into the more obscure acts that we draw from. Bottom line is that we are not trying to be something new or different. We expect music to mean certain things and have a certain integrity about it, and experimentation in this day and age for us is not what we are after, nor will it work for us without making a mockery out of the respect and love we have for heavy metal. The first round of tunes that you hear on the album are the product of the influences mentioned above, but also from personal emotions and the reality of certain circumstances that contribute to the way the band sounds.

What led to the decision to release the album as a “name your price” download on Bandcamp? Have you experienced decent sales this way or do the vast majority of people just listen and not pay anything?

The bandcamp download is just a tool for us to use to easily get the word out without a significant budget for promotion and advertising. We didn’t get into this to make a career out of doing it, we’re all over 40, so you have to be realistic that you are already washed up before you even start. The days of pumping a ton of money into promotion or advertising with the hope of getting someone’s attention so you get enough return on your investment to be able to make a career of music is not in the cards for these old blokes, ha. But it’s a cool tool because newcomers to the scene haven’t lived through the dubbed cassette trading days of old. I guess this downloading stuff is the new way to do it. Bandcamp offers us that opportunity to get our name out there, and by making it available as a “pay what you want” type of deal leaves room for people to test out the product before they invest any money on something. It’s kind of cool because we’ve had nearly 1500 people check it out, and those who really appreciate it have donated anywhere from a buck to as high as 10 bucks for some 1’s and zeros that comprise a digital song. So we’ve gotten a few carrots here and there. The intent is to get people to hear it and if they like it, they can purchase our LP.

Our album is actually released on vinyl only through RIP Records. Those who truly devote their life to heavy metal typically cherish their music on wax, the original physical format for music. Those who grew up slicing open the plastic shrinkwrap and extracting a black piece of wax from a 12” cardboard sleeve and reading the lyric inserts as they listen to side one of the album, then having to put forth the effort to put down the bong and drag himself over to the turntable flip it over to hear the second side will still do it to this day. It’s part of that experience that makes it so special. These people still want that experience, and we’ll give it to them. If by making a download available to someone results in someone forking over their hard earned cash to have that experience, then to me it serves it’s purpose in this day and age.

What are your opinions on the current state of the music industry with file sharing? Do you feel it’s akin to the tape trading days which resulted in more promotion for bands, or do you feel its going to be the downfall of musicians and result in less quality product?

I kind of covered some of my thoughts on this in the previous question, but I have some different thoughts concerning the file sharing thing that are dependent of the goal of the bands that it is affecting. For a band like us…I don’t mind it…share away. It’s not our career. I didn’t invest anything significant to make this music, so I’m not losing anything per se. Bands like us get the satisfaction of having somebody tell us they like what they hear. If we are missing out on hitting the lottery and becoming the next big thing, then oh well…the way I see it at this point in my life is that I’ve got maybe 20 years left, if I’m lucky (way too long in my opinion), on this earth before I’m layed to rest anyway. I’ve struggled for over 40 years already…so big deal if some kid from Singapore is uploading our songs for others to hear. If one person who downloads it and likes it sends us a letter or message telling us how much they like the music, then it’s worth it to me.

On the other hand, bands and labels whose sole purpose are surviving from their musical endeavors should, and probably do have a differing viewpoint on file sharing, and rightfully so. It’s all about the motives or goals of the band involved. But to them I would say that if they are that worried about their survival and don’t wish to have to work a day job, then they better set their own standards for the music they create and the product they deliver considerably higher. In the 90’s before file sharing existed, any band who could put something on tape could find some bedroom record label to invest money to release their material on cd. Cd’s were abundant, and for the most part these labels would get their money back out of it because there wasn’t this easy alternative for people to hear the music like there is now. All you needed to do was cut a demo and someone would jump on it. Sure, you had the tape traders, and cdr burners passing stuff around…but it was a small market of people as compared to today where the entire market of metal listeners has it blatantly available to them in an instant. You have to consider that back then, you still had to pay for cassettes, cdr’s, packaging and postage in order to trade stuff with people from around the globe, and then you had to wait weeks or months to get a dub of a band you’ve heard about before you decided if it was worth it to buy the album. Those overheads and time restraints don’t exist today in file sharing.

What will essentially happen is that only good quality metal bands with great music will be able to secure a label to release their physical product…because there is no point for a label to invest money to produce an album that is shit because the potential buyer can preview it instantly. What it means for the guy who likes to own a physical product is that he’ll feel safe to invest his hard earned money to buy that physical product because he knows it will be quality music. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve thrown away back in the day ordering a cd because I’ve read a description of the band in a flyer or ad only to buy the cd and be disappointed that I wasted my money on something so shitty.

What is the origin of the name Stone Magnum?

It was a nickname give to me by my bandmates in one of my other bands. I always thought it would make a good band name. The name evolved out of partying, and I’ll just leave it at that, ha ha.

The album sounds extremely bleak at times. What drives you to make doom metal instead of more of the “party style”? Are you generally a depressive person in life or is the band more of an outlet for your inner demons?

When I first started writing the first couple of songs that eventually kicked the band off…the intention wasn’t to make music that was doom metal. There wasn’t even an intention of starting this band. It just kind of evolved. The songs were just outlets of the emotions and circumstances that were going on in my life at the time the first few songs were created. I was trying to deal with the situations going on, and at the same time had the intention of making these songs for my other band, Skullview. The problem was, what was being created was so far off stylistically from what Skullview was about that it just didn’t seem appropriate to use them . The vibe, lyrics, tempos and everything were really personal and didn’t fit what Skullview was about lyrically or stylistically, so I never put them on the table for Skullview…just wanted to keep it personal. I let a couple people hear this stuff, RIP being one of them, and people liked it…shortly after the offer to release an album of this music was made. So eventually, things developed and the band was assembled and the writing continued. I guess the only way to categorize the music of Stone Magnum is doom metal. Maybe we should called it “bleak metal”?? ha ha. Unfortunately, the personal situation hasn’t gotten any better over the past couple years, so Stone Magnum continues under the category of being a “doom” band. As long as someone in this band, myself, or one of the other guys is going through some kind of epic turmoil that is reflected in the way the music sounds….then we’ll likely have to remain in the category of “doom”. If all the problems and misery subside…then it will be a contrived effort to try to write doom metal songs.

Any touring plans?

We have no goal here…as long as the music continues to flow, we’ll go with the flow as well. We’ll do the best to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves, and maybe even pursue some things that seem possible…but we don’t have an agenda as to what we want to accomplish.

As someone who came from the “olden days” of metal (Like me,I’m 35) how do you feel about the current “retro” style of metal that is coming back like The Devil’s Blood, Christian Mistress, Blood Ceremony, Cauldron etc?? A bunch of knock off’s or awesome tributes to the 70s and 80s?

I don’t really understand the whole “retro” metal thing myself. A band is either metal or it’s not. If a band is trying to be “retro” then to me it’s pointless. If a band sounds and is classified “retro”, then that may not be the fault of the band…that may just be the sound they come up with when the members of that band jam together. As far as the bands you’ve mentinoed…Blood Ceremony are the only band that I’ve spent any time listening to. They have a female vocalist, and typically I’m not into that too much. But she pulls it off good. The band definately has a 70’s vibe to them, and they do it well. I’d like to hear them with someone like Liebling on vocals, however. But they are good at what they are doing. The only other band I’m familiar with are Cauldron, and to be frank, I’ve forgotten that they even exist. They seem like nice boys…but then again, so did Dokken…and I’ll leave it at that.

What did you think of the recent announcement of Ozzy era Sabbath getting together for a new album and the possible tour (Cross your fingers Tony Iommi gets better), great idea or a definite blemish to their legacy?

Does anyone really think that this reunion is going to produce anything that tops any of their first 3 albums? I just can’t see it, the production will likely be modern, and if Sharon has any influence in dictating to them what will sell…the music will follow the same pattern. I could be wrong…but I’m not excited about it. I’m sure I’d check it out, but my expectations are not very high that it will capture the magic they once had. It’s all about money, and nothing good can come of that. As far as seeing them live, I’d probably pass…because i’m not into the huge 30,000 people outdoor festivals where you have to watch the jumbotrons to see the band. I’ve been to the Ozzfests and the Sabbath incarnations at those things in the past, and they weren’t too cool. I expect nothing but the same. Consider this…the super soaker didn’t exist in the 70’s, so the only thing Ozzy had to do was be cool on stage and rock out….but now this super soaker is too much temptation for him to jump around and act like f ool…. so it will never be the same with Ozzy running around on stage squirting water on a bunch of emo, deathcore, and hipster kids who are rushing to the stage to be in the front row.

What’s your all time favorite Sabbath album and why?

Born Again is my favorite. It’s an album with a disturbing vibe to it…in my opinion. And Ian Gillan was simply amazing. The photos on the back of the LP are of 4 menacing looking dudes.

What would be your top 5 favorite metal and non metal albums of all time?

My Metal choices belong to:
Black Sabbath – Born Again
Carnage – Dark Recollections
Black Sabbath – Master of Reality
Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

My non metal choices are:
Ted Nugent – Double Live Gonzo
Pink Floyd – Animals
Rush – 2112
The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour
Uriah Heep – Look at Yourself

Any other local ( or localish) bands you want to recommend? Any underground or lesser known bands you’d like to point us out to?

From our local scene I think recognition needs to go Scythe (chicago) which features the founder and pulse behind the former Chicago legends, Usurper. Cianide are another staple of the chicago scene, these guys are simply death metal from days long past. Yellowtooth from Michigan City, Indiana are getting ready to release their debut, and they are doing some solid sludgy heavy doom. Nocturnal Torment have recently released an excellent technical death/thrash styled album. Question Of Madness from Chicago are doing some the best epic doom metal out there…they need to be heard. Absconder is another amazingly heavy real death metal band…featuring former members from the legendary illinois band, Morgue. Johnny Vomit…violent hardcore/thrash from Chicago. I mean, none of these bands are really newcomers…or at least their members are not newcomers….they’ve been around in some form or another pummelling chicago for many years… and just keep churning out real metal music with integrity. Other bands I’m really into are Sleestak from Milwaukee…a great physchedelic doom experience is to be had when you listen to these guys.

Any plans for another album? If so, when?

We are currently writing material for our next release, which we hope to have released by the fall.

I appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions, anything else you want to say to the readers?

First thing I want to say is to you, we’re appreciative of your support and the opportunity to share our story with you. Thank you. For your readers…we want you to know what you are getting with Stone Magnum…we don’t experiment, we’re not trying to invent anything new…we’re just playing heavy metal. Head over to http://stonemagnum.bandcamp.com/ and check out the album. If you like what you hear, we have vinyl available at our website www.stonemagnum.com or from RIP Records.

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