PALE HORSEMAN “…And To Dust You Shall Return”
By Lord Randall
Begun a decade ago in the Windy City, riders of the sludge apocalypse PALE HORSEMAN have spread their glorious plagues over half as many full-lengths and two split releases, one with fellow Midwesterners THE MOUND BUILDERS. It is the second, however, with Pennsylvania crew BUZZHERD that concerns us. Vocalist Flesh (in the human guise of Andre Almaraz) sat down with Lord Randall to discuss…
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Couldn't help but notice this is your 10th anniversary as a band. Doing anything to mark the occasion, either on the release or show front?
FLESH (AA): We plan to celebrate our 10th anniversary by self-releasing our first ever international full length 33 1/3 rpm split record on multi-colored vinyl and trading a few cross-country shows with our new friends from the other half of the album, BUZZHERD. We will also be releasing our second beer collaboration with Soundgrowler Brewing Company in Tinley Park, Illinois (U.S.A.), and we will most likely be pulling together a release party show for that as well.
WC: Chicago's got its share of doom, as does the Midwest as a whole. When the band first started did you already have a style or reference points in mind, or was PALE HORSEMAN born out of just jamming in a room and this is what came out?
FLESH (AA): We didn’t have any premeditated plans of aiming toward a specific sound or style. What comes out is just simply what's inside of us, but I would also say that our style has certainly evolved over the years.
WC: Is The Double Door still around? Had some great memories at that club, no doubt.
FLESH (AA): Double Door officially closed down in 2017 but they are supposed to be reopening this year in a different location. We all definitely have some great memories there so here's to hoping the new location will be just as awesome as the old one and that it will be up and running soon! (Believe that was the location of the first and only time I was ever in the same building as the Lord—Dr. M)
WC: Knocking out your first three albums in three years is no small feat either. Obviously with all art there's the issue of "quality over quantity" to take into account, but those were all solid pieces of work. When did you as a band feel like you'd finally honed in on the path to follow? Sometimes it takes a couple albums, sometimes (“Appetite For Destruction” as an example) it was that first explosion, and the rest was kind of anticlimactic ever since.
FLESH (AA): Thanks for the compliment. I would say that we were focused on our path from the start. Eric Ondo (guitars/vocals), Rich Cygan (bass), and myself (Andre Almaraz - guitars/vocals), have all been friends since the mid 1990's and we have been in several bands together since then. By the time PALE HORSEMAN officially formed in 2012, there was no period of getting to know each other on a personal or musical level at all. Jason Schryver (drums) came to us several years later in 2016 but we have so much in common with him and we all get along so well that it's as if he's been with us from the start.
WC: What brought you and BUZZHERD together for this one? Kind of reminds me of the BURMESE / FISTULA split from way back, where the bands were completely different in style but shared the same feeling, the same aesthetic if you would.
FLESH (AA): One day I was looking at our Spotify profile and I started scrolling through the "fans also like" bands. I started checking out these other bands but none of them really grabbed my attention until I came across BUZZHERD. I can usually tell within a few seconds of listening whether or not I like a band's music and more often than not, the answer is no. I don't mean to be this way but it's just how I'm built. I would love to be one of these people who like 90% of everything they hear, but that's just not the case. So, when I discovered BUZZHERD on Spotify, I was so excited about discovering a new band I really like that I felt compelled to reach out to them and let them know how much I enjoy their music. Terry and I ended up meeting in person a few months later and we hit it off very well, like old friends.
WC: Going into the writing/recording of your part of the EP, roughly 2 years after “For Dust Thou Art”, were there any lessons you'd learned, things you tried that hadn't worked? On the other side, were there new things, ideas you wanted to experiment with yet still hold true to what PALE HORSEMAN is?
FLESH (AA): I can't think of anything specific that hasn't worked for us previously but one thing I guess you can say is a lesson learned over the years is that we use a minimum of 2 separate recorded tracks for all vocals and guitars. On the other side, we definitely did several things throughout the recording/mixing/mastering phases which we had never done before.
Here's a list:
~ We used a guest lead vocalist on "Vimanas" and she also added some keys (Suzi Uzi -BLACK ROAD).
~ We used a guest backing vocalist on "Orisons" (Danny Polak – HIGH PRIEST, LIKE RATS).
~ We used several different guitars, amplifiers, and speaker cabinets for tracking guitars and bass.
~ The whole band played together while we tracked drums.
~ We used a Kick Pro pillow in the kick drum.
~ I recorded two tracks for the guitar solo in "Exile."
~ We recorded at Bricktop Recording Studio in Chicago.
~ We recorded and mixed with Pete Grossmann (HIGH PRIEST).
~ We had the recording mastered by Justin Broadrick at Avalanche Studios in the U.K. (GODFLESH, JESU).
WC: How do the songs come together usually? A band effort or are their what you would call "main" songwriters, then each puts a bit of themselves in?
FLESH (AA): Eric and myself (the two guitarists) are the main songwriters and lyric writers but the songs usually get tweaked a bit by everyone (including ourselves) after the initial demos are made.
WC: What was your guitar set up like for recording? How were the recording sessions done? At home or mostly live?
FLESH (AA): All recording sessions were done at Bricktop Recording in Chicago by Pete Grossmann. The guitar set ups we used in the studio were basically the same as we use live and at rehearsal but there were a few exceptions. Eric and I both use pretty basic rigs. We both use Gibson guitars exclusively with minimal effects pedals. I typically use a Mesa amp and Eric uses a Peavey, but we did experiment with some alternate studio speaker cabinets on different tracks. We both recorded two separate rhythm guitar tracks; each one with a different speaker cabinet and I used 3 different amplifiers this time too. I recorded one rhythm track with my Gibson Flying V and my Mesa Triple Rectifier through one speaker cabinet, I recorded my second guitar track with my Gibson RD and Randall RG100ES through a different speaker cabinet, and then I used my Gibson Les Paul Classic with a studio Soldano amplifier to track my leads at Pete's recommendation. All guitars and amplifiers were made in U.S.A. I'm a bit of a stickler for using gear that's made in U.S.A.
WC: The split format also reminds me of old mixtapes and the tape trading days where you got some half-ass scratching of a tracklist on sheet of notebook paper ripped out of a freakin' Trapper Keeper, and you might not even know what songs went with each band, but piecing it together, putting in the work, you'd find some gold in there usually.
FLESH (AA): Yes, those were the good ol' days! We certainly hope that people enjoy what we've put together. We're very satisfied with how the recording turned out and although we don't have the finished product in hand yet, the packaging will be very appealing as well. Each band has their own full color cover art and full color insert (one on each side), and we also designed it so that the opening for the vinyl will be at the top rather than at the side like most records.
WC: Chicago foods or recipes for local dishes that more people should try? Worst road food experience ever while on tour?
FLESH (AA): I'm sure everyone already knows about our pizza but I would also add the Chicago style hot dog, the Chicago style Italian beef sandwich, the combo sandwich, pizza puffs, giardiniera, pepper & egg sandwiches, saganaki, jibaritos, and Chicago mix popcorn. I would also say that our Mexican food in general is among the very best on the planet. (A lot of those extend all the way to Rockford, where the Dr.’s lab is currently located. Uncle Nick’s pizza puffs are better than most of what’s in Chicago—Gourmet Mality)
WC: Plans for the remainder of the year?
FLESH (AA): Release this album, release our beer, play some shows, drink some beers, and kick some ass!