BONES "Sleazy Does It"

By Dr. Abner Mality

The Chicago metal scene is a very unique one, as you will discover in the following interview. Pretty much ignored by the coastal hot spots of New York and L.A., Chi-town bands were left to develop their own sound. A lot of times (but not all!), that sound was raw, bare-fisted and brutal. Among the most infamous of Chicago's metal royalty was USURPER, a band that reigned with an iron fist for about 20 years, finally abdicating their throne in 2007.

Emerging from the wreckage of Usurper we now have two great bands, SCYTHE featuring Rick Scythe and the subject of this little dissertation, BONES. Scythe recently released a great album "Subterranean Steel", which you can read a review of HERE, but Bones is now on their second LP and it is one slimy piece of rocking death metal fury entitled "Sons of Sleaze". Bones boasts the talents of three ex-Usurper personnel, Joe Warlord, Carcass Chris and Jon Necromancer. I've had the pleasure of speaking to Mr Necromancer before in his fortress of doom somewhere south of BERWYN and a nicer, more articulate practitioner of the blackened arts you would be hard-pressed to find. You can read that previous interview, conducted when he was still in Usurper, here.

But now it is time to speak of sleaze and bones and Jerry Lee Lewis and Ginger Lynn. The floor is yours, Jon...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Let's talk about the "Sons of Sleaze" album. This was the all-important sophomore outing for Bones. What sort of goals did you have for it and did you accomplish everything you wanted to with it?

JON NECROMANCER: I kinda think we did. It's kind of different with the sophomore album. On our self-titled debut, we had a lot of older songs, we had them kicking around for a while. I had four songs written before me and Joe got together and formed the band. I didn't know if I'd ever do anything with them. We already had a head start with the songs for the first album, there was a kind of congruency to the sound, the same shitty, sloppy no-holds barred vibe to it. (laughs) Basically we just wanted to make something that kept the same vibe going, We liked that first album, we liked the way we recorded it almost live. It was important to keep that feel to it. And I think that we did, pretty much. It's a little bit different, but it's not like it's a completely different band.

WC: It's a straight line progression.

JN: Maybe! We weren't trying to progress, really. We just wanted to keep that same kind of fire burning.

WC: It did have more of a sleazy rock n' roll sound than the first one. I'm sure that was intentional. How hard was it to put the rock n roll feel while still keeping it death metal?

JN: It just kind of came naturally. We don't sit down and plan what our next album is gonna sound like. We just sat down and wrote songs. We had some riffs that worked and those are the ones on the album. We had a couple of clunkers where we jammed on them and went, nah, this doesn't sound right. Those we left off. The rock n roll thing is just something that we're all fans of. We like good rock and roll, we like good hard rock. We weren't really trying to marry a rock n roll element with a death metal element or anything like that.  We weren't all that concerned with being death metal, either. We were just jamming out and this is what we came up with. We liked the way it sounded so we went with it.

WC: What are some of the more rock n roll influences on Bones? Or maybe bands that people wouldn't ordinarily expect as Bones influences?

JN: You know, we're all huge fans of The Who, actually. Me and Joe the drummer in particular. Joe's always had this Keith Moon quality to his drum approach where he's all over the place and kind of like a loose cannon. That's what Moon was, too, I play bass so John Entwhistle in my opinion is one of the greatest bass players of all time. He was amazing in "Tommy". They had a real way of building tension. On the "Live at Leeds" record from 70 or 71, they had one of the heaviest records of all time. It was heavy to me. They had an attack that was unfuckwithable! (laughs) That was pretty cool. And then we all like Van Halen, old Scorpions, that kind of stuff.

WC: I get kind of a feeling of bands like Zeke and Nashville Pussy on the new record, particularly on the guitar solos.

JN: That's cool. We were all influenced by the same bands, the same rock n roll sound. To me, heavy metal is like the ultimate expression of rock n' roll. What Chuck Berry was doing in the 1950's was extreme back then, like Napalm Death or Impaled Nazarene is now. You don't want your kid listening to it, you don't want your daughter messing around with it, you know what I mean? It's got that danger quality to it.

WC: Rock n roll was considered more of a threat back then than Napalm Death would be now.

JN: Totally. Now we're so condition to the extreme. Back then, if you went to see Jerry Lee Lewis doing "Great Balls of Fire", people would be spitting their soup out! (laughter)

WC: When he walked in with his 14 year old girlfriend especially...

JN: Yeah, that was his cousin, too, I think.

WC: That's even got guys like you and me spitting soup out! (laughter)

JN: My wife and I saw him play two years ago. at the Congress Theater, which is 2 blocks from our house.  This old man shuffled out on stage with white tennis shoes on looking like he busted out of a senior center and he sat down at the piano and he still kicked ass! His voice sounded great and he still had that evil look in his eye...a complete bastard!(laughs)

WC: He was quite menacing for his time.

JN: He kinda still is!

WC: That's like the ultimate compliment. If you're lucky enough, some guy someday will take a look at you when you're in your 80's and say "I'll bet that was one mean son of a bitch!"

JN: I don't even really care what anybody thinks about me, I just hope I make it to my 80's and still be a bastard! (laughs)

WC:  Another thing that was really notable about "Sons of Sleaze" was that the songs all managed to keep their own identity. They don't blur into each other as most extreme metal does. Was that also something that happened naturally or was that always an important consideration?

JN: Well, I never really thought about it. We never sat down and said "every song needs to have its own identity" but when we write a new tune, we would play with it for a while and let it "settle". Then we'd get to work on a new one and obviously it's not going to sound like the one we just did.  We'd go for a different sound, not necessarily to give every song its own feel, but more selfishly because we don't want to play the same thing over and over and over.

WC: This is the second album you've done lead vocals on. Was there anything different in how you approached the vocals this time? And how liberating is it for you to be the voice of the band for a change?

JN: I'll second the second part of the question first. I never really wanted to be a vocalist. I never thought one day I'm gonna be front and center and sing. I always thought that was not a big deal. Before, I was in another band and I played bass. Later', I'd do some backing vocals. I was cool with that. I'd just stand by the amp and banging away and delivering the line. I loved playing bass, that was reward enough. When we were putting Bones together, we just wanted a three-piece. We didn't really want to have a four piece or five piece band. My old band Usurper was a five piece band. I think we just thought it would be easier for us to get along! (laughs) We only had 3 people to argue and talk things over.

WC: It worked, because it's the same three people doing the second album.

JN: Absolutely. This is really the only line-up for Bones. If anybody leaves, there's no point in continuing. It's a unique thing for the three of us. None of us is replaceable. I never really wanted to be a singer so I can't say I found it liberating.  On the new album, Chris sings two songs, "647 Bastards" and...oh God, I can't think of it right now...

WC: There's one song where there's an absolutely Godawful scream and I wonder if it was you or Chris...

JN: I dunno, it depends on the song. The first song on the album, "Poisoned Breed", has a scream for all of us, so it might be that. For the first t ime, I never heard myself recorded singing before. At rehearsal, you don't hear it so much. When you're yelling in a microphone, you just hear the sound in your own head. Hearing my voice back when we did the first album, I was afraid it was going to sound worse. On the new one, I tried to focus on singing longer and drawing things out more. I tried to do longer screams and expand the range a little bit. Going higher where possible and going lower where possible. I just tried to not make it a monotone.

WC: Bones is a Chicago band. To me, Chicago metal bands have always seemed to be more raw and primal than what I hear from elsewhere in the States. I just don't think of Bones and Usurper, but also Cianide, Master, Lair of the Minotaur. What's the cause for that? Is it these horrendous winters we are experiencing like right now?

JN:  Last winter was like pretty nice. It's not as fucked as this winter is, so they're not all bad. You're from around here, aren't you?

WC: I'm from Rockford.

JN: Ginger Lynn! (laughs)

WC: Ginger Lynn and Cheap Trick!

JN: That's right! That's awesome! What's in the water down there? (laughs) Getting back to your question, I don't know for sure, but I just think Chicago is a working class Midwestern blue-collar town. The cities on the coast, L.A. and New York, seem more white collar. The record labels are based there and there are a lot of industry types. It's a more cosmopolitan scene, I guess. I've played in New York and L.A. a few times. They're both great, but it's a different vibe.  It's all about getting on the guest list and hanging out backstage.'s not like a guest list town. The people are real fans, they go out in the shitty weather.

WC: It's probably the metal capital of the States.

JN: Detroit and Lansing, Michigan, those areas are really shining lately.

WC: A lot bands sell out that wouldn't draw flies elsewhere.

JN: We'd go to Milwaukee to see stuff sometimes. Dio would come into Chicago and we'd get a ticket for Dio, but you gotta get it right away because it's gonna sell out. You go the next night or the night before in Milwaukee, it's not sold out and the tickets are cheaper. It's a different experience.

WC: Now you've got a few years behind you from being in Usurper. With the benefit of hindsight, how do you look back at the Usurper experience?

JN: You're right, it's been a while. It's been almost seven years since the band broke up. It's been about 15 years since we were at your prime, from 95 to 2000. I think that's when the band was at its best. Could more have been done? I dunno, we look at Usurper as something that we were never going to make money at but at the same time, we still wanted to take over the world! We had two conflicting egos. We wanted to tour, we wanted to go out and get fucked up, get laid and get free drugs and play heavy music and headbang all night. I mean, who doesn't want to do that? For me, Usurper was amazing. For me, the 13 years I was in Usurper were the most important years of my life. It was my 20's and over half of my 30's and it was brilliant. We were all great fans and had a camaraderie and brotherhood. We were doing something that not a lot of people got. We got to travel and experience a lot of good stuff. I have nothing bad to say about it. We had tension in the band at times, but it's like a marriage.  A good marriage is great and this was great. I wouldn't trade it for nothing.

WC: If I had to put the finger on you, what would you say was the best Usurper album?

JN:  I think "Diabolosis" was the best, the very first one. We were the hungriest then.

WC: Of course, you're now in Bones and Rick has the Scythe band going. Would you guys ever play a show together, with Bones and Scythe on the same stage?

JN: I'm not sure. There was a Scythe show over the summer and it was brought up if we wanted to play that show also. Rick threw it out there. We just thought it wasn't necessarily the greatest idea. The timing wasn't really right. Is it too hokey, almost?  You know what I mean? We passed on it. We all get along pretty well.  Actually, we rehearse in the same building as Scythe so we bump into each other all the time.
It's cool because we all still talk, we all still get along. It took a while before we all got along! (laughs)

WC: To live so intimately with people not in your family for such a long time, that takes a lot of persistence. It's just as challenging as putting out good music.

JN: It's a labor of love, too. With underground music, nobody's making any money. Nobody's making the mortgage payment with it. Usurper never made any money at all. It's rock n' roll, man. It's feast or famine and it's always famine for underground metal, which is great. Everybody's struggling, everybody's getting older. You've got over a decade under your belt of the same guys, going out in a's one of those things. It's a classic situation, like everyody getting stuck in an elevator together! (laughs) It drives everybody nuts!

WC: Let's move to the lyrics on the new Bones album. What's the story behind the song "647 Bastards"? Why that number?

JN: It's a police code for drunk and disorderly. We were jamming together and ready to record our first album. We still didn't have a name for the band at that point. We wanted a one word name. All the great names have been taken already. Venom is the greatest band name of all time probably. All the great concepts and names are taken. The one word name is the easiest to remember and the simplest, but those were all taken. Well, we thought, let's go ahead and use a number. Why don't we call the band 666? We talked about that, but it was too linked to religion and Satanism. We thought we might get lumped in with Satan and shit like that and we really don't care.  We also thought about using 13. Then this whole 647 thing came up. Chris wrote the lyrics for that song and brought it up again. We saw the lyrics and they were all about being drunk. We thought, let's call ourselves 647...drunk and disorderly bastards!

WC: That makes sense then! I thought it was just some sort of number that was pulled out of a hat!

JN: Actually we could be wrong with our facts! It might mean something completely different, like jaywalker! (laughs)

WC: Back in the Usurper days, you used to have a lot of lyrics about the paranormal and cryptozoology. Does any of that survive in Bones?

JN: No and the main reason is that Rick Scythe wrote all those lyrics. Dave the singer from Usurper also wrote those kind of lyrics. That was kind of their thing. That's Rick's main passion...he's way into conspiracy theories and that. It's awesome and it's cool and it's great for Usurper. But that's his thing, he's doing that with Scythe. For us to try and continue with that, when we're not as passionate about doesn't make sense. It's weird, because all three of us in Bones were in Usurper but none of us were the primary songwriters there. We are the drummer, guitar player and bassist from Usurper, but we're in a weird situation where we don't always want to be "Usurper Jr." or "Usurper 2". We want to do our own thing and not always be compared to Usurper, but we are proud of being in Usurper nonetheless. So it's strange.

WC: It's not a bad legacy to draw from.

JN: No! We don't want to necessarily lean on it, Our M.O. is not to pick up where Usurper left off.

WC: I also wanted to compliment you on the cool looking cover on "Sons of Sleaze". Putrid Matt did that, right?

JN: Yes, he did! Despite our best efforts, he kicked ass on it. We tried to come up with a concept for it, the three of us. We focus on music, that's where we're creative. Matt's creative visually. We were trying to give him all these fucked up ideas of what we want and he's like, yeah, OK, I'll get back to ya.(chuckles). We said, can we see what you're working on? No. He showed it to us when he was done and it was way better than anything we could have come up with.

WC We interviewed him at Wormwood not long ago. He's very critical of his own work. He said in 2013, the Bones cover was one of the things he was most pleased with.

JN: That's really amazing. I met him at a bar just down the street. He lives a few blocks from me. When he was finally done with the picture, he showed it to me and I'm like, OK, here it is! This is it!

WC: Does Bones have any live plans?

JN: We've been particular about what shows we play. We're basically a local band, we've just played in Chicago. We're ready to branch out. We wanted to take it easy doing that. We're all in our 40's. We all have houses, we all work, we have families, all that shit. We also didn't want to be like, oh yeah, let's get in the scene! We don't necessarily care about the "scene". We don't need to prove anything. It's actually kind of a selfish thing for us. We've been playing with each other for over 20 years, we're old friends and we rehearse twice a week. We meet up on Tuesdays and Thursdays, throw down some 12-packs, and swerve home! (laughs) We did a couple of shows at the beginning of Bones and then we just wanted to do the bigger and better shows in Chicago, so we brought Autopsy out...

WC: That was a huge regret that I couldn't see that.  What was the last CD you got just because you wanted to get it?

JN: It was the last Autopsy album. It was amazing. My wife and I brought 'em out here to play with Bones. I'm a huge Autopsy fan. When their first one came out, I bought it on tape and I was like, holy fucking shit, this is so amazing! They are different than most of these "reunion" bands. Autopsy was a perfect example of how to do that.  They had the same sound they had when they left.

WC: They pretty much ran as Abscess for 15 years or so...

JN: Eric had left Autopsy and I think he was one of the main writers. So the rest of the band changed the name to honor that. That's probably what would happen with Bones if one of us should leave. That name wouldn't exist, the remaining members would call it something else out of respect. I got the impression that's what happened with them. Yeah, they sound great, they sound current and they're just doing their thing. And every year they put out a new fucking Autopsy record! How do they do that? They're so prolific! They didn't tarnish their name, they're still delivering the goods.

WC: What was the last live show you checked out just because you wanted to see it?

JN: Every show that I go do, that's why I go. When I was younger, I'd go to shows just to go out or whatever.  Hit on chicks. Now, if I leave the house, get on the train or get in my car, it's gotta be something that worth going to see and spend money on. And as I said before, Chicago's not a "guest list" town. If I go see a show, I want the band to get paid, I want to support. When we play, we don't have a guest list so we put our money where our mouth is. We played with Funeral Nation in November and I couldn't believe they were playing again. Witchtrap was supposed to be on the bill, but they had to cancel at the last minute. It was awesome seeing Funeral Nation, though. There have been some great shows this year. Sabbat from Japan was totally mind-blowing, Manilla Road was incredible. The Dictators played this last year...

WC: Was Ross The Boss with them?

JN:  Yeah, Ross was with them.

WC: You should check out his new band Death Dealer, which is a really interesting band. It has Rhino, who used to drum in Manowar. The singer is Sean Peck, who sings for Cage and has an amazing Halford-like screaming voice. The bass player was the guy who played in Halford's solo band...

JN: Yeah, Mike Davis!

WC: Mike Davis. The guitarist was a whiz they brought over from Australia to play with them. If you think the recent Manowar is too symphonic and overblown, this is more like their old stuff, mixed with "Painkiller"-era Judas Priest.

JN: I gotta check it out!

WC: Any last words for the faithful out there?

JN: I wanna go back a little bit. You noted how Chicago metal has this raw edge to it. What I think is kind of cool about Chicago is there are bands like Yakuza who aren't quite as raw that are also from Chicago. You've got your Cianides, your Usurpers, Macabre...there's a lot of weird stuff out there. It's a great diverse scene.

WC: There's a lot of weird industrial and post-metal stuff.

JN: Yeah! There's stuff like Wolvhammer. A lot of weird stuff. Is there a Chicago sound? I don't know if there's a real Chicago sound.

WC: You've got your place right in the middle of that.