The Band: Blues Funeral
Answers by: Jan Kimmel (guitar, vocals, organ)
Take good note of this name: BLUES FUNERAL, because if there is a Metal God above us (apart of Rob Halford among us) you will hear about these guys very often in the future, at least in the underground scene, which is our basic goal in Metalbrothers. These guys deliver a heavy metal approach with a classic core but seasoned with several metal styles. They are hard workers and moreover they have a natural leader in the figure of Jan Kimmel. They are the kind of band that love whta they do, and you feel it. “The Search” is their brilliant debut and if you have not listened to it yet this interview is a great first step to get into the Blues Funeral’s world. Thanks to Jan for his kind attention to Metalbrothers.es’ call (what else!).
Hello Jan and congratulations to the band for your fantactic debut album
Thank you! Hails to you as well!
For Metalbrothers.es it was a huge surprise to listen to your first album “The Search”, so we wanted no know more about your story, please enlighten us
Well firstly, we really appreciate you checking us out and giving us an opportunity to spread the gospel about our first album. We want the whole world to hear this thing!
In November 2014, the band that me, Maurice, and Cory were in, Sanctus Bellum, went on a hiatus due to personal commitments. Almost immediately, Maurice and I started talking about an idea we had kicked around for some time: a project that was much more heavily influenced by the music we loved from the 60's and 70's, with both of us singing, and with me adding some Hammond organ into the mix.
We recruited Cory soon thereafter and he was in with no questions, lucky for us. He then recruited Gabe, who studied with Cory at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University. So we got ourselves a classically-trained, master's degree rhythm section and started working on songs and Deep Purple covers.
We could say that Blues Funeral is the direct heir of Sanctus Bellum project, as three of the four members in the line up were in that band before?
We are eternally grateful for Sanctus Bellum founder Ben Yaker, who brought me and Maurice together (Cory and I had played with Ben when we were in college almost 15 years ago). Although we bring certain elements of Bellum with us, such as the twin-guitar attack which is heavy on leads and harmonies, this band is mine and Maurice's chance to show our own creative visions. So, no, I would not say that we are an heir of Bellum, because the whole idea behind this project is different.
Aha, right. The songs in “The Search” are completely brand new or you have rescued some material from your old band?
There were some licks and riffs, including most of Autumn Dream, which Maurice or I had come up with in Sanctus Bellum but were never able to use there. So, nothing was directly lifted from Bellum. I did lift a few things from previous bands and projects of mine that were not nearly as popular as Sanctus Bellum, but those are long defunct and I wrote the music.
Related to that, though...I should mention that Bellum is not officially done with; that band plays the occasional show here and there. But we are heavily prioritizing Blues Funeral.
And I understand why, because if you visit Blues Funeral’s Facebook you will check that there is a continuous flow of positive reviews from web sites all around the world. Did you guys expect a so warm and positive welcome to your album?
Of course! We're the best! Haha. The philosophy of the band was fairly simple, as I mentioned above. We wanted to, first and foremost, be true to our ideas and concepts. This includes spending hours and hours refining the songs, the harmonies, the melodies, the solos, and all the little details. I think that the positive reaction and the commentary that I've heard comes from an appreciation that we have spent so much time and energy crafting these songs, and then finding the right instruments and amplifiers to channel them through. You don't want to know how many "final" mixes we listened to before we sent the damn thing off to get mastered!
A hard work that has delivered its reward. So, how long did you work on “The Search”?
We wrote the songs from November 2014 to probably the beginning of 2016. Then, in around February of 2016, after we opened for Marty Friedman, we took a break from playing live and started recording home demos so we wouldn't spend any more time than we needed to in the studio figuring out effects, how many tracks to use, etc. We did 98% of the tracking in one weekend, then did miscellaneous tracking and mixing during another one. We had a few more sessions here and there and lots of discussion before we were happy with it. All in, from demos to mastering, it took several months.
Well there are definitely some big riffs in there because Maurice and I, who write most of the music, are huge fans of Cream, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, (the list goes on...) and of course Black Sabbath, who were the originators of heavy music using "the riff" as a songwriting device. You won't really find us doing too many ballads haha.
But...if you were to ask me what my personal favorite thing about The Search is, if I had to pick just one thing, it would be how much musical ground we cover on this album. We've got prog rock, hard rock, blues, and jazz going on, and some hints and echoes of folk and classical. Also, we aren't shy about song length so we love developing these themes and sometimes going from one to the other and back, like we do on the title track.
That’s true! The album sounds very classical to me, a lesson in elegance and atmosphere, the taste of the saventies, the touch of the 80s and a good portion of occult metal, it’s like a mix of past and present...
I think you're on point there. We basically take the ethos of the 60's and 70's and sprinkle in some guitar techniques from the 80's. There really isn't much of anything trendy in our music.
What has more weight in your approach: heavy, doom, rock...?
This is why I love the band so much - I really couldn't say it's just one thing. I'm a sucker for big rock songs with hooks. Cory loves groove (think bands like Clutch). Gabe comes from a more jam band background. And Maurice gets down to all sorts of satanic black and death metal. So there's your answer!
The song that gives name to this great album is one of my favorite, 9 minutes of superb composition that starts with a breathtaking solo...
Well, now you're making me blush. That was our first song actually because the licks themselves aren't as complicated, so it was something we could put together and then riff on. It was also called that because it's about my personal search for a lot of things, but also the band's search for a sound. Hell, that's why we called the album that too.
But yes that's probably my favorite track of the album too, and it's gotten a lot of positive feedback. I get to go off and solo on the keys, which I always enjoy. Somehow, miraculously, I was able to play the keyboard parts in that song in one take. And it's got a big rock chorus and a long intro and guitar and keyboard leads. It has a very special place for me.
Another trademark in the album is Palmdale, with a collection of so dark riffs that you will believe the judgment day is now...
I wrote Palmdale as an angry reaction to a very personal situation, so I'm glad it got the point across haha. This was meant to be a balls-out rocker and one of our heavier ones, but as you could probably tell, it was done in a more NWOBHM / early 80's style. We usually end our shows with it so we figured we'd do the same for the album.
How do you share out the composition tasks inside the band?
So far it's been me or Maurice who figure out most of a song on our own and then bring it to the band. From that point on, we put our touch on it: orchestrations, harmonies, drum and bass parts, etc. Everyone's got input and there's always some discussion.
Another strong point are the lyrics, they do have a meaning, what do you talk about?
The lyrics usually relate to personal experiences that we've had, with the exception of Autumn Dream, which was a story that Maurice put together, and Planet Void, which is more of a statement on the state of society and the world. They stem from personal experience or are in some ways dark tales that veil other reflections we have about the way we view the world we live in.
With this great work is unbelievable that you still have not been signed by a label. I suppose you are currently recieving tons of calls from labels around the world, right?
We've definitely had some interest but more couldn't hurt. Let everyone know!
It’s all said, if you have eyes, just read. When you put a work like this on the desk you make people greedy and begging for more. What can we expect from Blues Funeral in the future?
Our plans are to record around the same time again in 2017. We already have material for at least half of an album and are working on more as we speak!
Yeah! That was the answer I wanted! Blues Funeral is a band from Houston (Texas), how do you live Metal over there?
Houston has always been criticized for not having a good scene and not really having much live music to speak of. It's a sprawling (40 mile) city with like 5 million inhabitants. But the scene has always been there and especially in the last five years or so we've seen an explosion of new clubs and venues and more small- to mid-size bands coming through. There's a ton of death metal here and a very vibrant doom/stoner community that we're a part of.
We're good friends with bands such as Doomstress, the Dirty Seeds, Black Hole Caravan, and Funeral Horse, and we've played with those guys a ton on bills with Mothership, Deguello, Las Cruces, Helstar, Deadhorse, etc. Also, bands like Venomous Maximus and Oceans of Slumber are buddies of ours too and they tour and open for awesome bands like Ghost and Enslaved (respectively).
Finally, there are some badass online shows and podcasts like The Texas Metal Show and MSRCast, who have helped us get the word out about our scene to the rest of the world.
In short, we live it pretty big!
Sure, and to finish up, we would like to know what touring plans you have and if you ever will jump to Europe to burn up the continent?
We want to do a festival in Europe next year and attach a few dates around wherever that will be. Last week we got Roadburn's Album of the Day so that was pretty awesome because we would love to play that festival. We're definitely working on that because we love the European scene (South America has given us a lot of love too). Also, I'm from Poland and was born there and studied there, so I'm all about going to Europe whenever I can!
Your a box of surprises , Jan. Thank you very much for your dedication and this very interesting interview!
Thank you again for your help in spreading the Blues Funeral gospel! Tell your friends! And support your local scene - every band was at some point a local band!