All about that Sub-Bass: The vod Interview
The mysterious M. recently gave us access to a Case File regarding the baffling vod. As fate would have it, I was able to track down Dave Tremblay, the mad genius behind that sub-bass horror. Join me as we delve into the eldritch world of vod.
W.: Can you give us a little background on yourself? How long have you been playing bass? How did you get into metal?
DT: The two came at the same time. I was in high school, about 15 or 16 years old when some of my friends introduced me to Dream Theater. This was the first time that I noticed music took skills to play, and I was in admiration in front of them. I went for playing guitars, as every teenager does, but I have big fingers and I would really struggle to make clean sounding chords, so I switched to bass, where the space between the strings is wider. Now I play both, but I really prefer playing bass. Dream Theater was my door to both metal and prog. Later, I went to look for more and more obscure heavy metal, as well as more wild, crazy prog music. Nowadays I’d say I’m more of a prog guy than a metal guy, in a sense that I will more likely like a prog band without metal than a metal band without prog.
Interesting. For the gear heads out there, what equipment do you use? You describe your music as sub-bass. How do you get such a heavy sound?
For the bass, I mainly use my good old Ibanez BTB556; it’s not a Premium or anything, but it plays like a charm. I also have a few places where I used my Epiphone Thunderbird custom fretless; it’s my first bass, and I made it fretless when I bought my Ibanez 6-string. Now I’ve bought myself a Conklin GTBD-7 7-string bass, and I’ll be moving on to use it instead of the Ibanez. In fact, I’ve used it to record the ᛃᚢᛚ (Jul) mini-album. All that goes through my Gallien-Krueger 1001RB MkII and into a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface. As for distortion, I use those found on the EZmix plugin, and they sound surprisingly good!
As for the sub-bass sound, that was actually the premise of the project; it’s the reason it all started out. With all the bands down-tuning and all, I figured I’d go to the extreme and so I down-tuned my Ibanez’ low B string an octave plus a tone (14 semi-tones down). The string’s fundamental is inaudible to the average human ear, but it’s still in the sound waves, and if you listen to deciduus with a powerful subwoofer, you’ll feel it go through your body, it’s pretty insane. Also, the rattling sound on this album is just the string hitting the fretboard, and the distortion picking it up. It gives a pretty creepy sound. In the end, the album was an experiment in down-tuning. It was fun, but the incredibly low tension on the string made it so impractical that I decided to change that afterwards. Now, the low B string is in drop A (not an octave lower), and the bass track is doubled on the DAW, and one of them is pitched down an octave with a pitch modification plugin. So, you get the really low, sub-bass, register, all the while retaining the playability on the string.
It definitely seems that you’re taking the music of bands like Meshuggah to the logical conclusion. To me, deciduus sounds a lot like Catch 33. How would you say Meshuggah and other bands have influenced you artistically (beyond the Dream Theater inspiration)?
I listen to Meshuggah, not as much as I used to, and I’ve never taken them as idols, but I think their role in my music is of second degree. Let me explain. Meshuggah have influenced a tsunami of musicians (and would-be musicians) into making music. In some cases, they were the main influence or inspiration, and I’m pretty sure in some other cases they were the only one. And this tidal wave of bedroom guitarists went on the quest for the ultimate heavy by down-tuning their guitars to insane degrees, and later on added strings to it so it could go lower still. I’m flattered that deciduus makes you think of Catch 33, because that’s one epic album (song), but this was in no way my intention. The recording of deciduus went on during two days and my goal was to make use of the impractically down-tuned string, and the eerie sound it gave off. Of course, what I listened to and my musical experience played a big role in what it ended up sounding like, but it wasn’t intentional, it was more or less subconscious.
Ah, that makes sense. I guess that leads me to the aesthetic of vod. Where does the name come from? Would you say there’s a theme to deciduus or Tuurngait? Is the language used on Tuurngait Cree?
It’s always quite a difficult task to find a name for a band. I wanted a name that sounded dark because of what I was about to make, musically. I ran through a bunch of words, trying to mess them up a bit, but I ended up taking the “i” out of “void”, and that gave “vod”. Heh, if I knew about Video On Demand (VOD) or the streaming website vodlocker at the time, I might’ve continued my search for a name instead of stopping there.
There’s definitely a theme to each of my albums. On deciduus, it was horror, or at least creepy stuff. When I recorded the demo “he”, what came to mind for lyrics was just horror stuff; the music just emanated that, and I continued this on deciduus. deciduus was supposed to be a one-time kind of thing, a down-tuning experiment and just stop it there, hence the last song’s title being “the end”. However, in the following months, I’ve had other ideas I wanted to explore with a super-heavy bass-only project, so I “revived” it, if I can say.
For ᑑᕐᖓᐃᑦ, I went for a more post-metal sound. At the time, I really just was introduced to the genre by Snailking‘s new release, I’m pretty sure you can find some parallels in the music. I didn’t even know of ISIS back then; I listened to them after some people compared my music to theirs. For this album, I wanted to make music about winter. I think it’s a great season, with the cold, the snow, and all, and so I’ve recorded/improvised the songs with a certain theme in mind, be it isolation, cold, the night, etc. In the end, it made for a big 50+ minute concept album with songs that flow into each other, telling a story. The alphabet used for the song titles is Inuktitut, the Inuit people really are the masters of winter. However, my knowledge of their language being quite limited, all the lyrics are in English.
I think that feeling of cold and isolation definitely shines through. There’s quite a bit of tension there between the full-riff rampages and the gentler passages. Could you tell me a little bit about the writing/recording process? Did you say you improvise on some of the recordings? If so, how do you ensure that that overall theme or goal is maintained?
Oh yes, I improvised it all. That’s how I roll for vod, I think it gives something more… personal, perhaps. What I do is just plug into my computer, think about the theme of the song that I want to cover, and just start recording. Some parts are bad, but most of them are good enough ideas that they stay for the record. After the base riff/chord progression is laid down, I layer it and build over it, then moves on to another one. The only song I recorded for vod that was already written is my cover of Richard Wagner‘s prelude to “Rheingold”, on deciduus. It’s quite difficult to ensure that an overall theme or goal is maintained with that method, but I forced myself to work quickly so my mind wouldn’t stray too much from the goal set in the first place. That’s why deciduus was made under two days, and Tuurngait in under 5 days.
That’s amazing. What sort of creative headspace do you enter when you write? For example, since Tuurngait is themed on winter and isolation, do you have a method for entering a lonely/cold place emotionally, or is there some other art that gets you there? Does that even apply, haha?
Hmm, we have pretty harsh winters here, so I guess it was easy for me to just think about it and feel it. But I just need to let my mind free for a while, imagination is a strong tool! It really is just that, I don’t need any physical proximity with the stuff I think about, as long as I can have a pretty strong metal image of it!
I’m very impressed. How often do you play live? I imagine the sub-bass feel of Tuurngait would be amazing in a live venue.
Well, vod is still a virgin band, concerning playing live shows. I’m trying to build a stable live band for the stuff that I create, but it’s quite difficult to find talented and available people that share the same musical mindset as me. As of now, I have a live band on paper, but we haven’t jammed even once because of schedule issues, and I’m losing faith right now. Maybe the time’s not ripe for a live vod lineup yet. And yes, pushing the subs all the way up on a scene is a really interesting plan, and I’ve wanted to do that since deciduus. Surely the sub frequencies will make the building shake and crumble down in a terrible metal show tragedy. That sounds awesome.
That would be a very fitting way to go out, aside from dying alone on the ice I suppose. Do you play with any other bands, or do you keep your building crumbling talents isolated to vod?
Haha, the building-destroying frequencies are reserved for vod, but I do play bass in a few bands, and also have other musical projects.
Care to share about any of those projects?
Of course! First of all, last year I wrote and recorded a progressive metalcore album with a silly-named band: Dinosaurs Are Not Gone! We released an EP and played some live shows, the latest of which we opened for Black Crown Initiate. It was awesome and they are such great guys.
At this time, I’ve begun recording the second album of another band called Awaken The Ghosts. It’s more or less a post-hardcore/metalcore kind of thing, and I only write and play fretless bass in that band.
As for other musical endeavours, I teamed up with Ben Norton (check out his project Peculate, crazy stuff), to bring life to old compositions under the moniker XYAX. It was written as electronic music with a metal mindset (or the other way around), and the EP is entirely recorded with software instruments, except the voice. If I had to categorize that I’d say it’s some sort of progressive/experimental tech-death with ambient passages.
I’m also working on another, even more weird project with Ben, and it’s called Melopœia. It’s basically putting texts into music by assigning each letter of the alphabet to a note in the octave. That means I had to construct a 26 notes per octave tuning system, and it’s freaking bizarre. The album will take the text from Tolkien’s Ainulindalë, and put it into music of various genres. If you want an idea of what 26-EDO black metal sounds like, listen to this very (very very) early demo.
And finally, I’m working on bringing life to way old progressive metal compositions of mine, but in a chiptune manner. If you want to keep in tune with that one, like Omega Cluster on facebook. Right now there’s a 15- and a 35-minute song, as well as some other shorter songs, but all tied together by a concept story.
That pretty much makes it! I’ve also programmed drums for a guy’s project called Jahka, and I’ll be playing bass in a few other projects as well. You can say I’m pretty busy, and I like that.
Wow! You must stay really busy. Do you do something else to stay afloat while recording all that music? Metal isn’t exactly a money-making genre, and prog metal even less so, haha.
Haha yes obviously I’m not in there for the money. Right now I’m finishing a bachelor in Biology, and working in a restaurant as well as in the University I study at as research assistant. I also had a short-lived career as theory and practice teacher for bass guitar, but there is just so many people who are willing to pay a nobody for things that they can easily find on Youtube, but I understand them all, that’s how I learned.
I know you just sent a massive ripple through our blog by namedropping Tolkien. Any other writers that crop up in your music?
For the Melopœia project you mean? At the moment, no. There’s still a long road to walk in order to complete this album, and I haven’t checked for other authors we might cover, but we’ll be looking in different directions, that’s for sure! Also, the process of turning text into music is really time-consuming and I’d like to automate the process with some sort of program. I don’t know programming at all, but if one of you readers is a programmer and knows how to work with MIDI, be sure to send us a message! And for the different projects, there’s not really any book influencing them, except Melopœia.
As for myself, I’ve read a lot of Bernard Werber, Ken Follet, Dan Brown, Isaac Asimov, JK Rowling, Brian Greene, Larry Niven, Daniel Hofstadter and, of course, JRR Tolkien.
Excellent! I look forward to digging more into your other projects. Care to share a little about the blog you write for?
Of course! I started Can This Even Be Called Music (CTEBCM) back in 2012 because back then I had too much free time and I just wanted to share my love of weird, obscure, underground bands to other like-minded people. It was also my way of helping small bands that I liked get a handful of new fans because, like you said we’re not in there for the cash, but what’s important is that your music reaches the ears of people, and I try to lend a helping hand in that process. Since 2012, the blog hasn’t evolved much; I still write 99.9% of all the posts in there, but I do have a few collaborators that write once in a blue moon, when their schedule allows and when they have something they want to write about.
Well man, I think that about wraps it up. Have any last thoughts to share with our readers?
In fact, yes. Unfortunately, it’s bad news. Tuurngait was scheduled to be released on April 9th, but since that time, I haven’t got any news from my audio engineer, who’s got ALL the files for the album. I am terribly sorry for all of you who are interested in the album, but all I can do is to delay it indefinitely for now. I hope that my partner is fine and that nothing has happened to him, but since I have no news from him, I’m beginning to worry. So… Hang in there, guys! The album will definitely come out someday, I’d prefer it be rather sooner than later, but at this point I really cannot tell.
Thanks a lot for the article, which was amazing by the way, and thanks again for the interview! It was my pleasure, and I hope I’ll be able to release the album soon! Stay vod \m/
Thanks again to Dave Tremblay for sharing his music with us. You can find vod on Facebook here and Omega Cluster here. Also, all of vod’s albums are free or name your price on Bandcamp, so be sure to check them out!