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HEAVILS


The Heavils - All of the Above


By Dr. Abner Mality

Being unique is both a blessing and a curse. Just ask the Heavils. The Rockford-based band has a sound like nobody else, which means they have achieved the most elusive of musical goals. But it also means the humanoids are always trying to pigeon-hole them. Are they metal? And if so, are they thrash, nu or hardcore? Or are they instead surf rock gone insane? Or party rock for the apocalypse? Are they fish,fowl, animal, vegetable, mineral?

As the title of this interview indicates, the answer could be "all of the above". I think that's what they'd be happiest as. Rising out of the quagmire of the Rockford music scene, they've made a nationwide splash on Metal Blade Records, playing their quirky but heavy brand of rock. Ever seen a toilet seat turned into a guitar? You will if you see the Heavils play...and that's no shit! The inventive bunch transforms common objects and avant-garde sculptures into buzzing, crunching riff machines. In addition to the toilet guitar, there are many more "meanies" that the band has in their arsenal.

"Heavilution" is the latest release from these home-grown maniacs and it sees them reaching new audiences with an improved production courtesy of Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad). A conversation with the guys was long overdue so I corralled the fabulous, furry guitarist Jason "Mossy" Vaughn and picked his brain concerning everything "Heavilish". Experience with me now, the Rise of Heavilization...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: After many trials and tribulations, we finally get to speak to this great genius of the local scene...

MOSSY: I'm sorry. I can't be a genius!

WC: Well, if you can't be a genius, what would you like to be?

MOSSY: I'm a GEE-nius! (he pronounces it with a hard G--Dr. Mality). Which is like a half genius.

WC: The Heavils recently had some really high profile tours, one with Slipknot and Fear Factory, the other with Six Feet Under. How did those go, how were you accepted by the crowd?

M: It was really awesome, actually. The Slipknot tour was probably the best for us because so many people came out, like 4000 people a night. It was crazy and people dug us from the get go. The Six Feet Under tour we just did was a little different because it was a mix of metal and hardcore. Hardcore crowds tend to be different. It's like they're accepting and yet they're not, if you know what I mean. It was a little slower for us to get through but we finally won people over.

WC: I remember when D.R.I. played Elixur and you were on that bill. They had never seen anything like you or your band before...

M: That was a great night,though!

WC: Any good road stories from these tours?

M: Everything that could have happened, happened, and everything that shouldn't have happened, did. No money, flat tires, the same stuff that happens to every band, pretty much.

WC: When you were putting together your new album "Heavilution", what were your goals for it?

M: Basically, the goal was to make our second album have more of an impact on the industry. We wanted to do it with Devin (Townsend, the wunderkind mastermind of Strapping Young Lad and Devin Townsend Band--Mality) , do it with a real producer this time, and spend a shitload of time on the actual outcome. That was the most important thing. Doing it with Devin, getting out of Rockford and doing the album in Vancouver, really helped. There were no distractions from being at home. It was music every single day. Devin's a tyrant.

WC: Did Devin push you or did you push him while recording this album?

M: Both! But he really pushes you to get parts right and get the best performance out of the band.

WC: Did he tweak any of the songs structurally or did he just try to get the best sound?

M: He didn't mess with any of the song's structures or anything like that. All he really did was just push us really hard to get the best performance. He and the other producer Shawn Thingvold, who's worked with a lot of bands this year too, just helped us make the meanies sound like meanies and we had real drums on this album and there's actually bass this time. They worked above and beyond to get the kind of sound we wanted.

WC: You've gone out of your way to get this unique sound for the Heavils that nobody else has. What are the origins of the Heavils sound?

M: Me and Brian just started playing together. I wanted to play music again and Brian was really the only singer I wanted to work with. When I found out he wasn't doing anything, We had a practice space with another guy and this guy had a guitar on the wall called the Blue Meanie. I just took it down one day. It had a couple of broken treble strings so I put on my own and started playing. It was fretless. anyway and I just started messing with it. Brian hated it at first, he really did. He said, "I'm not playing that, Moss,I'm not doing it." Then I wrote two songs specifically for this guitar and Brian really started to love it, he loved the way it sounded.. He came back a day later with the toilet. Seriously. The next night, he had a new meanie built.. Ever since then, it just took off, we've crafted a lot of them and gave them the sound we've become known for.

WC: When you construct a meanie, is it something really spontaneous or do you pick out the object you're going to use and think for a while how you're going to build it?


M: Brian does it all. He'll get a concept of what he wants to do and draw it out and he'll usually have it done in two or three days. He's really obsessive about it.

WC: How many meanies do you have at this point?

M: I think Brian's come up with about 15 or 16 and then we have six or seven other odd instruments like the "Dragon Box" and the "Coffin" that I play. He built a violin meanie this year and a cello and a bass...

WC: It's all for the use of The Heavils?

M: And Kadigimonk, which is kind of a side project yet part of the Heavils. We have a Kadigimonk piece on the end of each of our albums so far.

WC: "Heavilution" is your second album for Metal Blade Records. Are you happy with them so far?

M: Yeah, it's been good so far. They've been doing what they should be doing and they've really been helping out. They're a cool label because you can actually call them up and talk to them if you've got problems or if you need guidance. They are there to listen and they've been helping out quite a bit.

WC: I see a lot of ads for the band, but I don't see as many reviews as I think I should.

M: Oh, we have about 40 or 50 off the new album already. They're everywhere! You just have to punch in "Heavilution" on Google.

WC: I remember seeing the Heavils in their very early days and remember when Brian used to pull out a saxophone and wail away on it. I haven't seen that in a while. Will the sax raise its head again at some point?

M: Yeah, we mess with it once in a while, but there just came a point where people said it was boring or it slowed the show down, but I think later on as the band evolves, we may use it again. We use it in Kadigimonk a little bit but we haven't added it into The Heavils yet.

WC: Speaking of Kadigimonk, have you ever given thought to splitting it off and doing a whole Kadigimonk album?

M: Actually we're working on a full length Kadigimonk album right now, an album of ambient noises and the other instruments we play.

WC: Would that be self-released?

M: Right now? Yeah, we're exploring the possibilities because enough people have expressed interest in us doing this now. It's really just me and Brian on stage with all this crazy stuff. We've done a couple of live shows so far.

WC: Outside of Kadigimonk, do any of the Heavils have any other outside projects that they are involved in?

M: Not yet.

WC: That means something is definitely coming?

M: Yeah, there's something coming for sure from one of us, but it's under wraps!

WC: Can you give me a little info on how you acquired your new drummer Toast? And then, I must say I was suprised when your old drummer Milo left. What was the deal there?

M: That was Milo's deal. He quit. That's kind of a subject where he quit and that's it, not much more to say. I know we are really happy with Toast. Him being on the new album has really changed our sound. You really hear a change and it's all because of Toast. He's incredible. I actually met him years ago when he was playing in Magnum Opus and I've been watching him for the last two or three years. I loved that band, I used to go to a lot of their shows and when I found out that there was a chance for him to join the Heavils, I called him up and he joined right away.

WC: So there wasn't even an audition or a thought of getting anybody else?

M: We called him up, he came over and three weeks later, he was with us in New York City. Dax Nielson from Harmony Riley (son of Cheap Trick's Rick Nielson--Mality) was actually jamming with us then and was going to go to New York with us, but he couldn't do the whole band thing with us. When we found out Toast could be a permanent member, it was easy. And plus, he gets along with all of us.

WC: Years ago, I interviewed the band Bill for RAM magazine and Milo and Corey (Heavils bassist--Doc) were in that band. They played together for a long time. Did Corey adapt to playing with Toast pretty quickly?

M: Yeah. Toast came along and jumped right in. We had a new song "Outside the Circle" written with Toast even before we went to New York and we didn't even miss a beat.

WC: What would you say is your favorite track from "Heavilution" and why?

M: Hmmmm. I'm not really sure if I have a favorite. I do like "Laundry Day" a lot because it's a totally different sound for the band. But "Get Behind Me" is definitely one of my favorite songs to play live off the album.

WC: I kinda like "Space Heater" myself.

M: Yeah, that song is fun!

WC: It's not just the sound of the music that makes the Heavils different, it's these goofy lyrics as well. That song is literally about a space heater. It's not symbolic or obscure, it's about a space heater!

M: Brian only writes from what he knows and what he does. It's all personal experience for him.

WC: How do you see yourself expanding in the future?

M: We're just going to keep evolving Eventually, people are going to get it, I hope. It's been really hard for people to pigeonhole the band and lump us in with metal, with hardcore, with punk, with rock. But we've played with so many different bands this year, from Bury Your Dead to On Broken Wings to Black Dahlia Murder. And then on the other end of it, we've played with Slipknot, Saliva, (Hed)pe, D.R.I. We can go with any band, but not enough people have figured it out yet. We are a little different and being different is hard, sometimes.

WC: Some people describe as nu-metal but I don't see it myself.

M: I don't think it's anything like nu-metal for sure. And then, when you're on Metal Blade Records, people hear that word "metal" and they expect something else. Then we come along and fuck everything up.

WC: What was the last CD you picked up for your own enjoyment?

M: The new Misery Signals album. I just got that. I love it.

WC: What's the last show you caught just for your own enjoyment?

M: I just went to Summerfest in Milwaukee and saw Ben Folds, which was weird. That was actually the last show I drove up to see.

WC: What was your most memorable "Spinal Tap" moment?

M: Oh,man, we've had so many. If we're in a hotel room, me and Brian like to wake Corey and Toast up every morning. We call them "little rattlesnakes". Once I put an exercise bike in and put it on the bed between 'em and was exercising on this big ol' machine. I love putting an ironing board that's all the way opened on top of them when they're asleep. Once they wake up, the whole thing falls over on them.(laughter) I do that once in a while. We do so many funny things, I can't really pick one out. I mean, we laugh every fuckin' day.

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