Saturday, 21 December 2013

Twenty Questions - Salt of the Chief Cornerstone

Hey everybody, as you may or may not have noticed, it's been a long time since I've posted a Twenty Questions interview, and I think it's high time I fixed that. What's that? You agree that I should rectify this situation? You want to read another e-mail interview as soon as possible? Well then today's your lucky day!

     Today's Twenty Questions were answered by the boys from Salt of the Chief Cornerstone, an instrumental guitar-and-drums duo I saw open for Protest the Hero back at the start of November. I dug their sound so much that I picked up a copy of their demo EP and subsequently singled them out as my next victims for interrogation. Read on for the results of my questioning.

- LN: Let’s start at the start: what’s your name and what band do you perform in? 
     Salt: Iven Kakoz (drums) and Brandon Blanchette (guitar) performing in Salt of the Chief Cornerstone. 

- LN: Speaking of names, I have to ask: how’d you come up with “Salt of the Chief Cornerstone”? What does it mean?
     Salt: The name is Christian influenced, from the Bible. It can be translated in a few different terms. Salt represents light. And Chief Cornerstone is CHRIST. So we are to be the light of the world, Men of God, and Salt of the Earth. 

- LN: Perhaps the most obvious aspect of your music, at first listen anyways, is that it’s lacking vocals. What made you decide to take Salt of the Chief Cornerstone in an instrumental direction?
     Salt: Instrumentally we started as a two piece, and when we tried adding vocals, it wasn't doing any justice. Singers we auditioned barely held to the power of the music. And therefore, we decided to just tour LA for a few years and everything just fell into place. 

- LN: The second most obvious aspect of your band, and that’s blatantly apparent when seeing you live, is that there are only two members in Salt of the Chief Cornerstone. How or why did this come about? 
     Salt: Brandon and I started freestyling musically in his basement in Windsor ON. For a few years we just created a musical connection. From there Brandon took off to California for a while and I performed in some other bands in town. From there, he made his way back and we played our first gig together. It was very skeptical for many people because there were tons of other acts in town, bigger in numbers trying desperately to do what we can pull off with only two people. 

- LN: Do either of you have any formal musical training or instruction, or are you both essentially self-taught? 
     Salt: Both of us are self taught with mostly ear training. We don't really know how to read music. But that never really mattered when it came to writing riffs. We both hold a substantial part of the weight and together we can riff really well

- LN: Any possibility of you adding more members or instruments in the future, or are you set on just being a two-piece? 
     Salt: This new debut album is all about using technology to our advantage. We've mostly been more organic and raw, two piece guitar and drums, but now we're using synthesizers, drum machines, and other samples in studio and live to pull off a more desired new age sound. Something the kids will go for lol. 

- LN: I became aware of you guys when I saw you open for Protest the Hero on one of the first nights of their current Volition tour. How did you land that spot? 
     Salt: We became friends with Protest when they visited Windsor for a talent scout to see which bands they'd like to open for their warm up shows. The band was just in studio for the new album and wanted to gear up for the road. A friend messaged me and so we followed through. Over all it worked out, the guys have been really cool and there's potential talk of us perhaps doing more shows in the new year.

- LN: Brandon, when I caught you guys opening for Protest the Hero a couple of weeks ago, you were playing a clear guitar with a light inside of it. Does a guitar like this play or sound differently than a more conventional guitar, or is this a purely aesthetic choice?  
     Salt: Brandon - the guitar actually plays really well, I added my custom pick ups to it and the sound is almost identical to my original Gibson. So overall, it was a better way to save my old guitar and add to Iven's lit-up drums. I've always gotta one up him lol. 

- LN: Your songs have a bit of a ‘jam band’ feel (in a good way) – energetic, organic, and fluid rather than overwrought. This leads me to wonder: do you guys improvise at all when playing live, or is everything played the way it’s recorded on your EP every time?
     Salt: The band is actually well versed in performing songs that were written specifically. Because we're only two members, improv can be very dangerous live. Again, we only have one chance at impressing new listeners so we stick to a particular agenda. That way the sound is always full and confident. 

- LN: What’s your favourite song to play live? 
     Salt: My favorite song (Iven) is 9 min song. It's a dynamic song that has a balance of strong and soft parts. Plus it has a cultural sound that infuses with the rock sound. 

 - LN: What’s your favourite city to play live? Or maybe your favourite venue?
     Salt: Favorite venue - Riverfront plaza Windsor ON, outdoor stadium. I love that venue. It's always a great show. Favorite city? Toronto, for now haha. 

- LN: What’s the scene like in your neck of the woods? Anybody local we need to know about?
     Salt: The scene in Windsor is always growing, we are like a mini Seattle. There is a huge indie scene and we love all the talent around here. Hard working people, hungry for the goal. Some people play for money, others for pleasure, others for drinks lol. But overall, this city has a plethora of talent that's gone untapped. The city has plenty of venues and if well advertised you'll prob see a good number of people show up to support the show. 

- LN: What’s next for Salt of the Chief Cornerstone? I believe you said at the Kingston show that proceeds from the sale of your demo would go towards funding the recording of your first LP, so when can we start looking forward to that?
     Salt: This new album will be ready early 2014. This will be released professionally.

- LN: Will any of the songs from your demo EP appear on said LP?
     Salt: The new album will have tracks from the original album and new songs never heard before. It's a power house of sound that will capture the listener. We've had a good 6-7 years to accumulate the right material to present on a global level.

- LN: What about more touring? I know you have a show coming up in December in Toronto, but do you have any road plans beyond that?
     Salt: We just got signed to the Agency Group, which is the biggest booking agency in Canada and 2nd in the world. They're talking with our manager about possible touring in April. This is something we feel will be a crucial process for the band considering that what we do in the next few months will reflect what happens over the next few years. It's a business, so we have to treat it that way. 

- LN: And now for a few of my old standards, starting with: If you could make everyone stop what they’re doing and listen to any one song right this minute, what song would it be?
     Salt: One song for the world to hear: GOD Gave Rock and Roll - KISS. That is by far one of my favorite songs in history. But again, this is biased. I'm sure Brandon would have a different answer, and Chris our manager lol. 

- LN: If you could ask any member of any band any question, who would it be and what would you ask?
     Salt: Ask any band member a question - Neil Peart from Rush - why don't you smile? 

- LN: Dream Tour: who would you open for, or who would open for you?
     Salt: I'd like to open up for Foo Fighter, 30 Seconds to Mars, Muse, Tool - just to name a few lol.

- LN: Almost done. What have you been listening to lately?
     Salt: Lately I've enjoyed the cacophony of sounds of Intervals, Animals as leaders, Periphery, Texas in July, but not limited to these 

- LN: Last one! What’s your favourite metal album of all time?
     Salt: Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power of course!! 

     As usual, I offer a few of my reactions to Salt's answers, for any of you that might be interested (which I'm pretending is all of you...)
- I hope 2014 does indeed see Salt of the Chief Cornerstone doing some more touring, and that said touring brings them back to my neck of the woods - I'd see 'em again.
- Intervals, Animals as Leaders, Periphery... that's a pretty stacked playlist right there.
- Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power is a pretty solid choice as favourite metal album. Well played.

     And that's about it, so go check out Salt of the Chief Cornerstone already! 

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