Friday, December 16, 2016

"ME"TAL 101 Exclusive Interview w/ Joseph Spiller of Caricature

Caricature just dropped a groundbreaking new EP, Unborn. The band is a Genre-busting
delivery system of heavy metal that blends clean and harsh vocals with ultra high caliber musicianship. Joseph has successfuly harnessed his personal hardships into a beautiful post apocalyptic landscape of heaviness that has quickly put the new "Unborn" Ep on many metal critics 2016 "best of's" and "top bands". I'm very fortunate to have known Joseph through social media the past few years. He's not only an incredible musician but a bright & honest human being who cares a ton about people. I set out to make this interview a vehicle to get to know more about my friend and how his mind creates such powerful musical statements. I hope you'll take the time to read and enjoy this. But don't forget to order "Unborn", it's one of the year's best!


HMT: While I hate putting genre tags on music , what would you call Caricatures core sound? And for folks just hearing about the band, what do you feel first time listeners should check out of your work? 

Cover of UNBORN EP Available Now!
J. Spiller: The whole genre/subgenre concept seems to escape me these days. Every time I have tried to throw one of those labels on there for listing purposes or promotion, there are always people doing that whole neck beard "no its not" sort of thing so I guess I am not a good judge for that sort of thing. When I'm writing music, I don't think about genre or whatever box I could put things into. Seems like a waste of time. I guess it's some sort of metal? Maybe? There is a fair amount of hard rock influence with how things are put together. I hear prog thrown around when people discuss the music I write, but I am not sure if I believe it. As for where someone could start: Not to be a salesman but the new EP, Unborn for sure. It's sort of the sum of all parts, so that isn't just for the sake of push. For the past year and a half Caricature has put out a few singles that were done with the idea of pushing the limits of the sound in mind so, though I feel them to be great material [especially the 28 minute long song about my cat, Parmesan] I am also aware that some of it is not exactly easy to digest and is dense. The new ep is more streamlined and has all of the elements of everything previous so I would honestly say to start there. Probably the track "Man Of Science" off that but if someone were going for older material, I would say "Birth By Sleep" off of "The Sound Of One Man's World Collapsing" its fun and shares it's name with one of the finest RPGs ever made. 

HMT: I'm often intrigued on how musicians caught the music bug. What's your earliest memory of hearing music and who was the artist that inspired you the most to first pick up an instrument? 

JS: The earliest, earliest would be listening to Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, and Alabama with my grandfather while he worked in his wood shop on weekends. That was what he grew up with [and what his more current favorite was at the time with Alabama] and he would hum along, so I would learn the words as best I could to take part in that with him. Aside from the Kiss Christmas special that made me want to actually be in a band, I remember a neighbor got a copy of Slippery when Wet from his aunt and listening to it at his house when I was probably 4 or 5 and pretending to play air guitar to it so that's probably the one. Maybe? I was raised by people far older than most people my age, so I came up with a perception of music that many might consider "antiquated" haha


HMT: You've been sequestered in Maine the past few years. Tell me about life in the woods as most of us southern new englanders look at our northern counterparts? What brought you there and what have been the transitional difficulties of finding like minded musicians in your area to play with? 

JS: Aside from certain... obstacles that I won't really get into, the wildlife and being in the woods part is pretty nice. It's quiet. Living in Atlanta, New Jersey, New York, the Boston Metro West area things were never silent. In the woods of Maine it gets pretty silent most nights aside from some rednecks trying to do burnouts or whatever. So that is nice. When I lived elsewhere, I would take trips back to Maine just to get some sleep, so that is a plus as well as just being able to sort of disconnect a bit from everything. Decompress. The other side of that is that there isn't much industry at all once you get further north than the Portland area, so the scenery and culture changes pretty drastically the further you go. Some towns around here look near identical to the way they looked in the 1960s save a few gas stations and road signs. Things as well as the people tend to be a bit more worn down and the drug problem is pretty substantial. Meth especially. A lot of people who feel very frustrated with the grind of trying to make ends meet and not a very welcoming mood. So on one hand you have all this beautiful wildlife, lakes, mountains, forestry, but then you have some very hard to deal with people that are bitter about their financial standing and who have too much time on their hands when winter lasts for about 7 months a year. As for being up in Maine, I went back to help out my grandmother. Her health was not great. She seems stable now, but there were 3 occasions where I had to carry her myself and put her into the car and rush her to the nearest hospital. Another downside is if you need help, don't expect to see a police officer or an ambulance within an hour of calling. One upside is that Evan Sammons [of Last Chance To Reason] is from a town only about half an hour away and way back he and I used to jam in his parent's basement just before LCTR came to be. I ended up moving to New Jersey so nothing really came of those jam sessions, but he ended up back up near here as well so it was the natural choice to partner up with him. Finding other people is almost not an option. There is virtually no metal scene even in Portland. You could count the metalish related bands on one hand really and anything further than 20 miles north of there... just forget about it. I had met Gerry when I was living in MA. He actually sold me my last laptop when he worked at one of those big box stores. Luckily I have been playing around for years and did well for myself so I have contacts for when we play shows so an almost "music collective" sort of vibe crept up and just makes sense. I always get to bring in my friends and have a good time to do shows and tours when it comes up. Rooting anything up in Maine just isn't an option though.


HMT: Tell me about Parm the Cat, your families top fur friend and inspiration? You've even included Parm on cover artwork. 

 JS: Parmesan is my number one guy. The light of my life. He was a stray. I think he was born out in an abandoned barn and he and his mother sort of just wandered onto the property. He came over and said hello and tried to play one day when I was washing my car when he was super tiny but ended up keeping what I can only assume was a safe distance. He ended up getting infested with parasites and pretty sick. I was having pretty severe health issues at the time and was in and out of the hospital then pretty much confined to my bed for the month leading up to seeing his mother carrying him into the middle of the road and leaving him there. He would cry then crawl his way to the side of the road. His eyes were matted shut and he looked awful. His mother would then drag him back to the center of the road and walk off. It looked like she was actually trying to have it so a car would hit him. I had made up my mind that I would never get another cat, but I just couldn't leave him. I was having a hard time getting around at the time, but i sort of held myself up using the walls then tried to get momentum to get outside and get him. Luckily the road isn't very popular. I scooped him up a brought him. The rest is history. He was a sweet guy and just wanted to purr and cuddle so after a few days of his health getting worse and worse and not being able to get his eyes open. I actually went out and opened up a credit card that I knew i couldn't pay just to be able to get him into a vet. I went deep into debt, but he is the most loyal and loving being I have ever met. It wasn't ideal, but I would do it again without a second thought. That giant 28 minute long song "Stampede" that came out earlier this year is the story of us, but the focus is really about him. He;s in the art, there are samples of his purs, chirps, and meows from the first 2 years of his life. I didn't feel that an average length song was befitting of such an extraordinary little guy, so that song came to be. 

HMT: We've been friends through social media for a few years now. I always admire that you are not one to mince words and you stay true to your values. What pisses you off about the music industry these days? What band or artist is the antithesis of who you want be as a musician? 

JS: I will never be one of these people who proclaims themselves to be holier than anything or that his view of the world is the be all end all, but I have been around long enough, traveled and met enough diverse people all over the world, where I at least hope that I a somewhat accurate perception of my own life and have fashioned and honest lifestyle for myself. I would never hope to be treated any better nor any worse that I treat others. I am aware that many times people are not mindful enough or simply do not care to treat others well and with respect. So that would be my number one thing. Egos. Bands/people who do not treat others as equals or who extort things from others or manipulate others to get things just gets on my nerves. I, personally, would be more at ease if people would just be fair to one another and not play this bullshitting game of creating fake life stories or who act fake to people. It's needless and generally comes from people who having something to hide. The same goes for a lot of these start up labels. Buyer/listener beware. I'm not even trying to start anything, but I will be honest here. Rings of Saturn and the main dude [possibly only actual member] Lucas Mann is quite a piece of work. He knows what he does. Anyone that has ever used production software and guitar pro is aware of what he does so why pretend? There is talent in being able to compose those pieces. It's a different type of talent, but it's still talent so the extent he has gone with it is something i feel is insulting all around. His attitude just makes the entire situation worse. Plus his failed kickstarter for a solo record that included a video where he couldnt even come close to miming along with what was clearly a guitar pro file being played was just something else. I don't want to be the guy that paints himself as hard to work with or a talker of shit, but come on... there are limits. 

HMT: 2016 has been a real grab bag of craziness. Between election talk, dead celebrities and Harambe, everyone seems to have an opinion and they are quick to voice it. Do you long for the pre Internet days as much as I do? Have we devolved as a species? 

JS: Though I honestly do believe that we as a global culture and species are devolving, I think the biggest problem is also what could have been the internet's biggest strength. It gives EVERYONE a voice. On social media those voices are pretty much equal. Someone super educated in a subject that is also very well known is at odds with people who have no idea what they are talking about and made a snap decision based off a headline. Then people with extreme views can then find other people with extreme views and then justify their own extremeism by reasoning out that it's somehow "normal" just because, in a world if over 7 Billion, they found 4 people on a comments section voicing the same opinion. The race to the bottom with that sort of behavior is at a fever pitch. Intelligence and compassion are being drown out by people who do not care about facts or betterment of anything who have nothing better to do than to post replies every 2 minutes revoicing the same misguided and degradative sentiment regardless of it's ties or lack there of in reality simply because their egos have gotten so out of control by a handful of people clicking/tapping the "like" button on stuff they post over the past few years that they can't handle any notion contrary to their own. People have become massively polarized and radicalized and it's only getting worse. The internet could have led to a new age of enlightenment and progress, but instead people decided to use it to soapbox and oppress others. I want to go back to not having to see such cruelty to others on a constant basis. 

HMT: As much has technology has improved our way of life, I feel like post Internet society really lacks the depth of people who knew the pain of blowing into a NES cartridge hoping the game wouldn't stall at the start menu. How directly do the things you were into as a kid (comics, movies, toys..etc) influence the person and artist you are today? Do you feel musicians rely too much on technology and production to cover the lack of polish that comes with time and practice? 

JS: I would be remissed to mention that it took until 2015 for me to find out that NES games actually had a save function as long as you never took the cartridge out. If i had known that when I was a poor kid playing my lawn sale find obsessively, it would have been a game changer. [dat dat chhhhh] As a person, like all generations before us since the dawn of humanity, we are influenced by the world around us and the things we do to pass our time. Our world has changed drastically in the past century and now we have a far more customizable world than ever before. We have televisions, cell phones, laptops, tablets, ect in which we can play and see only what we want. More stores to buy content that speaks to us on a personal level. For me comics and cartoons were huge. Captain America, Spider-man, Ghost Rider, the X-Men, Superman, ect. These were the people I wanted to be. I saw heroes standing up for others and protecting others who were unable to do so for themselves. It's a value I hold close. I don't have super powers, but im 6'2" and not a waif so the reality is that I physically as well as mentally can stand up for others. I may back down from fights if someone is just stirring the pot, but I haven't backed down from a bully since I was a skinny 3rd grader getting beat up on the playground. That isn't going to change. As an artist both with music as well as painting and graphic design, like anyone else, i incorporate the color schemes and soundscapes I grew up with because they are things that brought me joy as a child. Big bold colors over the 90s. Melodies and scales that we all grew up with in video game and show tunes all seep their way into the pallet in which people create with. As for the technology: I see a lot of people making blanket statements saying that protools ruined this, beat detective destroyed that, blah blah, but the reality is that these are all tools. They can be helpful. Sometimes you can play something great but you are not having a great day and its the ONLY day you have in a studio and if someone has the abiity to do something but lacks the money to sit around and run up bills then it can be great. Those things also breed On the other hand we also have a rash of metal bands and country singers putting out records they cant perform ever... under any circumstances, yet they pretend its real and then run a backing track and mime to it. A lot of fans don't see it and are not familiar with using the tech or get used to the sound of a severely pitch corrected and quantized performance and the digital artifacting that you can hear in a mix, but they believe what dishonest people say and then it creates an unrealistic expectation for other artists. "Why can't so and so play this when blah blah can!? They suck" Well Blah blah can't play it either nor can he even play the music of so and so nor would he ever be able to because he actually cant really play at all. It's a crapshoot. There is even a level of expectation now to have super autotuned vocals and overlay quantized and edited guitars and it kind of sucks. I personally would rather listen to what people can actually play or at least someone who is using the technology in an honest and creative away.

 HMT: Speaking of pop culture, you've gotten to meet some of your favorite comic book artists. List your top five favorite comics, artists and toys you currently own. 

JS: One good thing about the majority of comic artists is that they are genuinely nice and appreciative people and they are mega fans of the industry themselves so more times than not, its refreshing. If we are talking about collectible type things or just mementos the one i favor most is a book that isn't even valuable: Marvel's Heroes For Hope issue that was done for charity to provide food for impoverished areas of the world. The cause was good and it had the best of the best of the late 80s artists. Ive carried around to cons for years and now have about 30
signatures on it and in it from people that I always looked up to and are now considered legends. Other than that, I'll stick to comics. In no particular order and not based on value would be Grizzly Shark Vs Sea Bear One shot from Image. Toxic Crusaders #2 Signed by Sam Keith, Lloyd Kaufman, and Joe Staton. Howard the Duck [1st series from the 70s] signed by ever single person that worked on the book right down the letterer and colorist, and House of Secrets #92 [1st appearance of Swamp Thing] signed by Berni Wrightson. Uncanny X-men # 9 signed by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. It was gifted to me with the Kirby signature and its 100% authentic. I generally do not have stuff that I wasn't there to meet the person, but its Kirby. Around 2008 right after my grandfather died, I came back to where I grew up and wrote Stan Lee a letter which he actually wrote back then after I sent him that issue along with 2 others, sent them back to me signed. So that one holds a pretty dear place to my heart.

HMT: You're not only an incredible musician but you also customize instruments. When did you start really getting into modifying and building instruments? Were any of the latest instruments you've worked on used on your latest recording? 

Customized Guitar by Joseph Spiller
JS: Long long ago, I wanted more strings on guitars than were readily available so I had to have 8 strings, 9 strings, and 10 strings custom made. Luckily those have started to get mass manufactured but few of them really come out of the gate awesome. Even before getting into ERG stuff, I wanted instruments to do things that they didn't come equipped for in order to make the sounds I wanted so it was out of necessity. Then i started getting bored with the look of things so i started painting and refinishing them as well. At the heart of it is that most of my life, I have been pretty poor, so the only way to ever get nice things was to make them or fix broken things myself. When you are poor you figure out how to make things work, so I did. I eventually got into building guitars from the ground up along with help from Tom Drinkwater of Oakland Axe Factory and Drinkwater Guitars. So it goes all the way to raw slabs of wood to something like my main guitar "The Parmcaster" which is a glow in the dark 8 string, 30 fret guitar with a customized hipshot trilogy bridge, graphics of my cat Parmesan, and custom pickups that Ethan over at Instrumental Pickups made for me. This was the main guitar on Unborn. Before that was my customized Ghostbusters themed Oakland Axe Factory SS8 with all single coils which also made an appearance on this as well as being the sole guitar on Stampede and Shadows. 

HMT: You have a new Caricature album slated for this year. Tell me about the line up for this latest release? Is this like Prince (r.i.p.) situation where you play all the instruments to get the recording pretty much set and then put together the pieces of the band to compliment the final product?

JS: The next one is just an EP, and though i play everything else. I cannot take credit for the amazing guitar solos on "Spark" and the title track which my friend Ray Suhy [Six Feet Under, Nels Klien, East Of the Wall] was gracious enough to contribute and are probably my favorite part of the whole thing. On the production side, Gerard Vachon [plays the sweet solo on stampede] did the final mix. I engineered everything and produced and James Murphy [legendary guitarist of Death, Testament, Cancer, Obituary fame] did the mastering. It sounds awesome. Some things like guitar noises and vocals were not over edited and kept real but still powerful and I'm not sure how people will react to that, but its an honest recording that I am really proud of and it's made even better because I got to complete it with my friends. It's sort of a Prince situation I guess. There is also a full length that will come out sometime next year though. That has Evan on drums. I wrote some drum parts which I'm sure he listened to and used some elements of but I just told him to do whatever he wanted and it's awesome. Like with everything else, I try to keep this to a collection of my friends so its fun. Evan is the main drummer. Unless someone absolutely cannot make it, then that is who you will be seeing live as it has been for the past 2 years. 

HMT: I really enjoyed the single "eat shit and die". I noticed some similarities between the art/font to that of the band Every Time I Die. Are my eyes deceiving me? Is that track on the new release? 

Custom Guitar by Spiller
JS: Thank you, sir! The Big Dirty is one of my all time favorite records, so it's hard to get away from. A lot of Dillinger Escape Plan in there as well. "Eat Shit & Die" is pretty stand alone though. If people ever want it to be a physical thing, it might end up as a bonus track somewhere down the road. With the other sort of one offs I've released in 2016, minus Unborn, as well as 2015, they were all put together to sort of push the boundaries of the sound rather than be part of a record. I still feel like albums should be a complete body of work that fits together and has purpose, but as a music fan, I have always enjoyed bonus tracks so I'm not against including them as such. Unborn though, is a complete work. Even though its only 4 tracks it is almost 20 minutes so it feels very much it's own beast.

HMT: You recently played in my neck of the woods and was subject to the theft of your head phones while you were on stage. Michale Graves this week reported his entire trailer being stolen at a hotel he was staying at before a gig. Is it me or is theft becoming an increasingly larger problem than it used to be? Do you feel venues and organizers should take greater steps to prevent access to bands belongings? It's happening so much and such a large scale, do you feel any of this is organized? 

Spiller in Studio
 JS: The sad reality of playing gigs, especially in metal is that things will get stolen. It's a very frustrating part of the scene, but it exists. Over the past few years, more shows than not, we've had gear stolen. It adds up REALLY quickly and to whomever felt it appropriate to take things, choke on a dumpster full of rotted cocks. Theft is definitely on the rise, but it's not just for bands. It's a nationwide problem we have. Not to get political, but a lot of politicians like to tout these fake unemployment rates and addiction rates, but its far worse than those numbers let on and it feeds this problem. Yeah there are some organized rings of this. There was one that got busted down in texas last year and another one working near Nevada, but for the most part, I would doubt that it's organized. It's just a biproduct of the state of our country. I think that venues and promoters sort of need to get it together in terms of anti-theft. I understand that times are tight, but bands, at some point, need to be onstage, load in, and if you are not a dick, actually be available to socialize and as a courtesy to the bands they should make it a point to find a more secure place to park and if its not an ideal parking situation, work something out to have some security. Some venues [sadly not in New England] have actually started adding on and getting permits to use their alleyways to have secured parking and I would love to see this catch on everywhere. 

HMT: While we are on the subject of touring, do you see Caricature touring to support the Unborn EP? 

JS: With winter coming up pretty much now it's a crapshoot this time of year. There is a small tour and some one offs in the work that should be announced shortly to support the EP, but there will be a much more elaborate touring schedule for the full length that hopefully will be out for summer. Knock on wood. 

HMT: I'm pretty excited to hear that James Murphy is helmed to master the album. How did you guys hook up with Murphy and what has the experience been like? 

James Murphy (Death, Obituary, Testament)
JS: I've known James for years now, ever since working with System Divide. He's a fantastic guy and I grew up listening to his records. Testament's LOW and The Gathering were in heavy rotation for years. And though Death's Spiritual Healing was a staple in my early years, James's solo records, most notably Feeding The Machine were an absolute obsession. He is amazingly talented and has a great ear. More than anything I love his attitude and that though he is known a top tier metal shredder, his musical tastes and abilities go far beyond metal so he hears things that guys who generally only listen to and work with metal tend to miss. 

 HMT: I've spoken about bandcamp with a lot with our past guests. I recall you posting about having some issues with the way they handled paying out to artists and several website glitches. Have things within the site gotten better since we last talked about this earlier in the year?
JS: So far, the past issues were not resolved. I in no way think it's intentional, but the customer service leaves a bit to be desired. On the upside, for the past few months, transactions have been going somewhat smoothly so I hope that things can remain that way. It would be great if they could make good on their guidelines on how much their fee's should have been, because it added up pretty quickly and for some reason the site relisted items and allowed them to be purchased that were long out of stock which I ended up refunding in full and losing money when two of them had actually been deleted off the site entirely, twice while another had zero stock listed. Things happen and no system is perfect.

Unborn is now available! For More Info Follow Links Below

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