Now You Know: BonesSaturday, 15th February 2014
Location: Chicago, IL
Style: Dirty, crusty death metal that relishes in its sloppiness…and catchiness.
Personnel: Jon Necromancer (vocals/bass); Carcass Chris (guitars); Joe Warlord (drums).
Latest release: Sons of Sleaze (Planet Metal)
Score one in the self-deprecation department for Chicago’s Bones. Upon being asked if practices were a regular occurrence, vocalist/bassist Jon Necromancer quipped, “Every Tuesday and Thursday. They say ‘practice makes perfect,’ but that obviously isn’t the case for us.”
But really, it’s part of the essence that makes the band charming, and for that matter, likeable. Their new album Sons of Sleaze is a thoroughly enjoyable slab of crusty death metal, old-school style. Where it lacks in technical proficiency, it makes up for in jostling, boisterous numbers, some of which stay firmly rooted in the rudiments of classic death metal, while others froth with an almost punk-like intensity. According to Necromancer, the secret to making a Bones song click isn’t much of a revelation.
“For a Bones song to work, we put our ideas to the test and jam them out for a few weeks at rehearsal and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t,” he begins. “If we like what we hear then we keep it. It always comes straight from our black hearts. We’re not trying to sound ‘talented.’ We want to sound heavy and pissed off. It has nothing to do with talent. In fact, I don’t think someone who is a better schooled musician can play Bones material. It’s not the kind of music that someone who sits in their room practicing scales all day would even understand.”
All three members of Bones previously did time in Usurper, a band who were able to climb out of the mid-90s American death metal morass via relentless hard work and good timing. When things started to pick up for Usurper toward the end of their career (the band fold in 2007), that’s when things got, as they say, “complicated.” Bones, though, is anything but, both musically, and in the business department.
“The last six years of Usurper we were on Earache Records,” says Necromancer. “They gave us a pretty big studio budget and we were spending as much of the label’s money as we could on tour support and whatever. But, of course they want all that money back and everything starts to be about record sales and bullshit. It got to be a shitty situation; we weren’t making the label enough money and everyone was frustrated. After we broke up, I played session/live bass for Nachtmystium and they were balls deep into Candlelight’s money at the time so it was a similar situation.”
“When it was time for Bones to form and we were establishing our goals and deciding how we wanted to go about things we decided really early on that we didn’t want to go for those larger labels and try to be “big,’ he continues. “That attitude is for the kids. Let ‘em have it. Bones is three old friends who are doing whatever the fuck we want to do and not giving a shit. But we’re a serious band in that we take what we do and how we sound seriously. We rehearse regularly and we’re always in ‘fighting shape’ musically. We’re not on the “wave to success”, and we don’t measure success by how big our advance is. We’re an underground band. There are no rock stars here.”
This approach begged the question: What would you do if given the aforementioned Usurper-like large studio budget? Necromancer’s answer is of course, full of honesty and humility.
“We just don’t believe in spending weeks in the studio for something that can be done in a few days,” he quips. “All you’re left with after all that time and money is a recording that doesn’t sound like what a band sounds like when they’re playing the songs live. We don’t want to overdub everything, and ‘fix’ all our mistakes in the studio. We recorded everything as live as possible. We even spent more money to use Sanford Parker to engineer it and we we recorded it at Steve Albini’s studio. Come to think of it, we blew a lot of dough to sound this bad!”
For a topic on the nostalgic level, Necromancer and his bandmates cut their teeth in the 80’s/90’s death metal scene alongside the likes of Master, Cianide, Cardiac Arrest, and Macabre. Being that there wasn’t exactly a precedent for any of these bands to follow, a lot of them learned the ropes by making mistakes…and getting into mischief.
“I do hold that period of time close to my heart,” says Necromancer. “ It was an amazing time. It’s true a lot of the bands you mentioned were finding our sound except Macabre who had a big head start on us. They were pretty established in the 80s. But, to me the special thing is that all of us were in the prime of our youth. We were all just figuring EVERYTHING out: How to make the band sound good, playing shows, touring and things like: getting laid, drinking too much because we didn’t know our limits, doing every drug we could get our hands on, car accidents…the good things in life!”
While on the subject of classic death metal, the current rash of DM legends going through the reformation paces seems like a prevalent topic these days. The unprecedented success of Carcass has seemingly opened the door for other reunions (At the Gates, is that you?), but also draws consternation from those who think some things are better left in the past. Our man Necromancer sounds like he’s in favor of such reunions, knowing full well of the pros…and cons.
“People always get pissed off when they see an old band reformed and they make an obscene amount of money to play festivals or what have you. “\Who cares? Take Carcass. I heard they were making a killing doing their reunion shows. Good for them! I’m not a big Carcass fan, but they did influence a ton of other bands and have lots of fans. So what if they get some money for it? As long as the band has something to offer when they reunite it shouldn’t matter if they had to take a break.
Life in an underground band is terrible sometimes,” finishes Necromancer. “Balancing time and money to invest in something you know you’re never going to get any kind of monetary return for can grind anyone down after awhile. I say, ‘Welcome back, dummy!'”