So today, I’m talking with Erik and Adrian from the band Canyon Of The Skull. If you dig instrumental doom metal, then you need to check these up and coming rockers out. With some songs coming in at almost 20 minutes, the band brings a layered slow build and burning kind of feel to their music. They bring a unique kind of Southwest feel to their thunderous and droning sounds, Check out my interview with them as they talk about their new album and more.
XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Adrian Voorhies: “Well, we’ve got this record coming out in August- The Desert Winter. It’s a concept piece and definitely our most ambitious effort yet. The fact that we got the basic tracks laid down and were out of the studio in less than two weeks is still pretty mind boggling to me. We tried to take the building blocks of our principal sound and really drive them home to a full sonic palette. It’s an expansion of the ideas that our first release presented. We’re really proud of it. We’ve been doing some local shows to keep sharp here in Austin and Houston, where Erik currently resides, and we’re slowly building an itinerary of festival dates for later this year and 2018. It’s been busy!”
XS ROCK: How long has the band been together?
Erik Ogershok: I started the band in 2006, but it went on hiatus due to career demands. I started working as a one man project for awhile, but found the lack of collaboration unfulfilling. In 2014, Corey from Krigsgrav asked why I wasn’t doing more with my project and I mentioned the absence of drummer interested in playing the entire range of music that I wanted to write. Corey recommended Adrian on drums. While I don’t think Adrian and I were a natural fit, we had some common ground outside of metal which I felt was important for the concept I had in mind. We challenge each other both as players and as writers and I think our differences are just as important as our similarities. We embraced a bit of early discomfort because we saw the potential and we have been playing together ever since. We had a brief run as a three piece but we have settled in, despite my initial reluctance, as a duo.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
Erik Ogershok: Like many others, music has had a profound effect on my life and the more I listened, the more I was inspired to play and write. Black Sabbath, Yes, Rush, Judas Priest, Rainbow, and Uli Roth era Scorpions were my gateway to the guitar, but I was always more interested in composition than just playing an instrument so I was writing stuff almost out the gate.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Erik Ogershok: I had a handful of electric guitar lessons and a period with classical guitar, but I am essentially self taught. I am undoubtedly a metalhead, but I love all kinds of music. I’m a huge fan of symphonic music from Mozart to Stravinsky.
Adrian Voorhies: -“For a while it was mostly rock and metal, a little funk, a little blues. It took me time, but after Humut Tabal started taking off, I had an epiphany of sorts. I thought about music and I just went full on nuts trying to play anything I happened to like listening to. That went from the standards of my forebears to more outside stuff. I started falling in love with jazz and the art of improvising. The sound of Tony Williams’s ride cymbal just shook me and before I knew it, I was playing all of these Lifetime tunes, working in a way that was different but immensely attractive. Eventually that sort of seeped into HT’s music and from there it was a slingshot into the world of melding ideas and being adventurous for the sake of it. I started working a lot more, playing with all sorts of ensembles, and now, as we speak, my background has sort of molded into a multi-colored beast. It’s been a great ride.”
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Erik Ogershok: The most basic imagery is that of the landscape and climate of the deserts of the American Southwest. Otherwise our philosophy is to try not to impose too much on the listener. Being instrumental helps with that. This approach allows each listener to experience their own journey through every piece of music. On a personal note, and this might sound funny, but I’m not entirely sure if the beautiful desolation truly gets conveyed. When we are playing I think it is so heavy and hopeless, but then I hear Triptykon and our music seems cheerful in comparison.
Adrian Voorhies: I think what it conveys to us and what it conveys to casual listeners are very different. For me at least, when working through these songs, or any songs for that matter, the only thing I’m worried about conveying is whether my ideas and parts are on a coherent level. Y’know, like, ‘Does this 16th note triplet roll outside the bar, or catch the 4 at the end of Erik’s minor resolution?’ That’s the main stuff I’m worried about conveying- how to serve that composition the best I can. I’d to think that we’ve been able to express some of the more visually present ideas through the music. Gritty, sun bathed rock formations, a high noon sun beating down on a white washed plain, the feeling of sand escaping between your fingers. These are images that come to my mind, but as a player firmly rooted in the concept, I might be biased.
XS ROCK: What are your immediate music career goals? (Next 1 to 3 years.)
Adrian Voorhies: We are constantly working on new ideas and Erik is a relentless composer so I imagine we’ll have a steady release schedule for the next few years. While I would like to guarantee that fact, it is somewhat dependent on our finding a true label partner to collaborate with, as we are an independently run organization to the core. Besides that- hit the road!
Erik Ogershok: I am hoping to finish writing the next two records in the very near future. The next one is almost done, but I have already begun the fourth. I will keep writing music and hopefully we will partner with a label that gets what we are doing. Other than that I hope to play with some really awesome bands and perhaps get invited to one of the festivals that I have had fun attending.
XS ROCK: What are your long-term career goals?
Adrian Voorhies: The “experience” gap between the two of us is relatively extreme (laughs) so as of right now our goals are a little different. This band is one of those- and I, of course, am hopeful that I’ll always be recording and touring no matter what I’m doing. I’d love to get into Erik’s field of work somewhere down the line. As far as I’ve been able to tell, brewing is a bit like making music. There’s a lot of creativity and intuitive action involved and I think that’s great. I know- don’t give my hopes up, right? (Laughs).
Erik Ogershok: I am in the process of trying to open a brewery, so I would like to get that done. I mentioned this before, but I am hoping to develop a partnership with a like minded label. Maybe after I get this brewery open, I will be forced to start my own. I would also like to do some more work with film soundtracks. I’ve done a little of that in the past and it was a challenge that I would certainly welcome again.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Erik Ogershok: I’d say a slight nod to the writing and recording because I’m not bound by the limitations of being a two piece while in the studio. That said, I enjoy the visceral nature of live performing. The rawness and energy of our live show since we became a two piece is something new to me and I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves.
Adrian Voorhies: I think that sort of thing changes as you move around in your career. Myself, I’m still at a pretty rapid rate of learning so the immediate satisfaction of playing out and touring is very appealing. The studio is satisfying in a different way, getting to try an array of instruments and arrangements to see what really works in a controlled environment and having that finished product at the end.
XS ROCK: What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Adrian Voorhies: I think, as with most popular music generally speaking, it all boils down to several main factors: History, culture, and, especially in our case, geography. Which in turn all influence one another. This being instrumental music, really it’s all in the eye of the beholder. But I do think that we generally embrace a macrocosm to these themes as opposed to a microcosm.
Erik Ogershok: I’ll be a little more specific, but not by much as we want people to be able to listen to our music without being browbeaten by message. Don’t get me wrong, the message, and the aesthetic we use to impart it, are of utmost importance, but that message will resonate more if not spoon fed or forced upon the individual. It is more about the journey and then the discovery. Most of our music has a duality. Each piece means something personal to me and that stays with me. Forward facing, I am Apache and I write music depicting the environments and experiences of Native Americans both past and present.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road? If so, please fill us in.
Adrian Voorhies: Erik insists we almost got abducted in Tennessee one time. This wasn’t with Canyon of the Skull, but I was in Canada last summer, in Ottawa. The tour rig that year was an RV. We shot a spark plug and broke down around the university, basically waiting for our show the next day and wandering around. I went to grab some food, came back and saw a very drunk homeless guy straight up pissing all over the RV in broad daylight in the middle of the street. Chasing him off gave some much needed stress relief (laughs).
Erik Ogershok: I’m sure our tour stories are boring compared to most bands. I consider being asked to pay the club in Murfreesboro or being paid in PBR in Kansas City outrageous, but that’s probably not the kind of outrageous you were looking for. And for the record, the situation on Tennessee was sketchy and I’m talking David Lynch sketchy.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Adrian Voorhies: I’m not sure, have we signed anything yet? I think that would be strange enough (laughs).
Erik Ogershok: Believe it or not, there have been so many. For our purposes here I’ll go with this since it has happened more than once. People have asked to jump up on stage to sing with us. I’m glad our music can inspire that kind of enthusiasm, but the answer is emphatically no.
XS ROCK: Were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Erik Ogershok: Hell no. They wanted me to be a doctor or anything other than what I do.
Adrian Voorhies: Absolutely, I lucked the hell out on that one. My father is a musician and my old lady, as hard working and diligent as she is, has encouraged and facilitated my musical growth beyond most reasonable expectations.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Erik Ogershok: That is pretty easy since we only have four songs due to the lengths of our compositions. The as of yet unrecorded The Ghost Dance and our namesake, Canyon of the Skull are my two current favorites.
Adrian Voorhies: For me personally, “The Path of Bear & Wolf” from our first record has a solo section for drums over 4 bars of 8 in the middle of the tune- it’s at just the right tempo to add some really fun 1/4 note triplet centered fills and go full “Quaalude Thunder” right at the end back into doom half notes. Another very fun moment is in our new record, The Desert Winter, where the drums essentially build, capitulate, climax and descend on a theme that stretches over a very wide amount of bars, I think it might be 16 or so, and at the tempos we usually work at that’s a pretty big space. It was a great creative challenge to orchestrate at first and it’s still incredibly involving and fun to play live. That piece also features some of my favorite melodies Erik has ever written.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Erik Ogershok: There are so many I could name, but the number one would be Black Sabbath. They conveyed a mood the first time I heard them that I can remember to this day. I still feel that way when listening to them. If we are talking strictly as a guitarist, my two biggest influences are Richie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth.
Adrian Voorhies: Countless really, as a whole. Not just drummers but players of all sorts from many different bands. Those inspirations converge more or less and create a continuity. I think my current sound, as far as main influences are concerned, is rooted somewhere in that Tony Williams- Vinnie Colaiuta vein, with a little Flo Mounier (Crypstopsy), a little Dobber Beverly (Oceans of Slumber, Insect Warfare) and a little South African Zulu drumming.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Erik Ogershok: Damn, so many great bands that I would want to play with, but a tour with Enslaved, Triptykon, and Oranssi Pazuzu would probably be the be all end all. A tour with Neurosis and Bell Witch would be amazing as well.
Adrian Voorhies: Oranssi Pazuzu, Bell Witch & ourselves.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Erik Ogershok: Recording and releasing the Desert Winter. It has raised the bar for what we must accomplish composition-ally and in the studio.
Adrian Voorhies: I think at this point it’s been this new record. The composition seemed overwhelming at first. It was only after really diving into all of the varied elements that The Desert Winter presents that I was comfortable and began to understand it as a whole. Once that happened, and the parts started coming together, I knew it would be our proudest accomplishment thus far. I have to admit, it was a really cool feeling seeing the incredibly positive response that the majority of publications had put out there about our first record and I knew that we would have our work cut out for us to top it and I think we have achieved our goal.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Erik Ogershok: I have had a great career as a brewer and I look to continue that with this new brewery.
Adrian Voorhies: I’m honestly not sure. I don’t think I’ve found something else that gives me the level of spiritual fulfillment so to speak that music does. But, hey, that’s what living is about.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Erik Ogershok: For guitars, I only play Fender Strats. Some people think that is odd for metal, but I feel that a Strat really allows your personality to come through. I just transitioned my live rig. I used to use a Mesa Tremoverb in combination with a Marshall JMP or Mesa Stiletto Deuce. I now use a Black Star Series One 200. I actually, much to my own surprise, used it to record the new album. My Tremoverb had been a constant since I got it, but now it sits in my place in quasi retirement. I use Lone Wolf Audio effects with the Black Mesa being the main unit. Joe is mainly known for his version of the HM2, the Left Hand Wrath, but his other distortions are awesome. The Black Mesa is a cornerstone of my sound.
Adrian Voorhies: Since our live shows are pretty much entirely organic, we stick to the traditional guitar-drums combo. I play the workhorse I use for the majority of my projects- a 2007 Sonor Force series, 6 ply German Birch wood outfitted with fibered Evans batter heads and a Evans E-Mad on the kick. I’m playing a variety of cymbals right now, including a very bright set of Wuhans, but I love both the A & K series from Zildjian. I’m also a big proponent of Ayotte Drums based in Bedford in Canada and hope to have a kit made by them soon.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Erik Ogershok: So much vinyl, so little time (and money!) Seriously though, it is a great time to experience new bands, great albums from established ones, and to experience old favorites.
Adrian Voorhies: There is definitely a lot of excellent music being made, and of course some not so excellent at the same time but with access becoming more and more available, I think it’s making it easier to develop a refined taste as a listener, which is a good thing. As far as output, generally, I would say that I think that being original is much less of a goal today. The thing you see with a lot of younger players is an incredible range, ability and vocabulary without much of a story of their own to tell. I feel like a shade of fundamentalism is present in a lot of scenes, when ironically that’s a big cut from tradition.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Erik Ogershok: I spend way too much time playing Destiny and Mass Effect and obsessing over Manchester City Football Club. I’m also obsessed with Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson.
Adrian Voorhies: Erik likes 80’s Yes and I’m a huge Zappa fan.
XS ROCK: If someone had never heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
Erik Ogershok: We’re an unorthodox doom band. We have some of the aspects that you would expect from music of this type, big melodic riffs, drone, dark ambience, but we incorporate elements, especially with rhythm that are uncommon not only in doom, but in metal really. When I think of our sound, The Desert Winter says it all.
Adrian Voorhies: Well, at this point in our career that is really the majority of people, so I’ve gotten decently good at doing just that. The sound is centered around bleak, punishing instrumental doom metal that encompasses influences from a wide variety of musical genres. A friend of mine once said, after a show in Indianapolis, that the drums almost played the role traditionally filled by the guitar and vice versa, which I always thought was interesting.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Erik Ogershok: Our new record is coming out August 19 and we hope that you enjoy it as much as it was rewarding for us to make. We hope to see you at one of our upcoming live rituals.
Adrian Voorhies: We’re with Austin based label Red River Family Records to make our releases available on a tape format this summer so keep an eye out for that.