Interview: Butchers of Sky Valley
Tue, 08 Oct 2013 13:09:50
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"There was a picture in my head and I tried to get it out," says Butchers of Sky Valley frontman Mike Mokotow. "I love it when music does that."
That's precisely what Butchers of Sky Valley do on their self-titled debut—out November 5, 2013. It's a thought-provoking and cinematic journey through an entire range of emotions, evoked via impressive guitar playing and vivid lyricism. Butchers of Sky Valley may conjure images of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, but they come to life as their own wild and wonderful beast here. It's one of the most powerful, poetic, and potent debuts of 2013.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Mike Mokotow of Butchers of Sky Valley talks the band's debut album, movies, and so much more.
Was there a thread that tied the record together for you?
I was hoping there would be a thread that would tie it together. I wanted it to be eclectic enough so I could go anywhere I wanted with the next thing, but at the same time it's like an old school record you want to play from beginning to end. The obvious thing that ties everything together is the vocals. In terms of the lyrics, if you took some of them out, they fit in a strange way. Actually, we isolate a bunch of the lyrics and put them in the order of a storyline. Thread-wise, some of the music takes you left and right. The vibe flows up and down.
What were those lyrical commonalities?
As you go through life, you have your stages. Everyone has that bulk of years where you go from A to Z. It's weird. I had to make lyrics sheets, and I was looking at it all. That's when I began remembering when I wrote each part and what I was thinking and feeling at the time. You look at the larger picture and see, even though some things may be a year apart, there's a common theme. There's vulnerability there, but I also wanted to push through whatever was going on. I guess I'm obsessed with the human condition, and you're writing a song so you don't want it to be too wordy. Some of the songs ended up being more wordy than others. Some of them are more general and straight through. You listen to the songs and people can apply them more realistically to their own lives. They could be about heartbreak or whatever. There's a lot of growing as a person there. Maybe it's even being fed up with certain things and people's lack of imagination. It ran the gamut, but it's definitely a big part of my life. It spans six years or so. I feel like it definitely closed a certain period, and now I'm moving on to the next thing. It's exciting because now I can listen to it all in one place.
It catalogs that time for you.
Absolutely! That's a great way to put it. When you're treading through, there are ups and downs and times I wondered, "Is this ever going to get finished?" Life happens. Looking back, you say to yourself, "It was worth it!" Some of the lyrics and mood swings, you can see it there. There are moments of vulnerability and frustration. It all made the record interesting.
What's the story behind "What The Devil Don't Say"?
I wanted to do something that was basically instrumental. You didn't have to hear the lyrics. At the end, it builds up and culminates in that folk rock sort of moment. It's almost a Led Zeppelin-style folklore part. There's one part singing in the back in the mix. I wanted to do something that swells in the emotion. It has that tension and release. No one has to say anything. There's no history behind it. You can interpret lyrics. Someone can play it, whatever they're feeling they can possibly connect it to the song. If they connect to it, they can push through feeling. When the song culminates, you want to hear it from the beginning again. I wanted to make it more theatrical and cinematic. The title is like, "What the hell is this?" You've got to go back and listen to it again.
Where did "It's Not the Pale Moon that Excites Me" come from?
It's definitely about letting go. It's about having a good time and understanding the moment. Shit's not going that well, but let go, have a blast, and party. You just go for it. It's one of the more fun parts of the record.
If you were to compare the album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's crazy! I like that. I love the soundtrack elements of something like The Assassination of Jesse James By Robert Ford. However, it's such a great question I have to think more!
What artists or records shaped you?
I remember the first time I heard The Prodigy's Music for the Jilted Generation. It was so different for the time I remember. It wasn't even the style of the music. It was the energy that was there. It was manic. As a kid, you're like, "Holy shit! This is awesome! I don't understand it, but it's crazy". It made me want to explore more aggressive, controlled weird music. I started getting into trip hop and weird instrumental music. I haven't listened to the album in so long. It has nothing to do with this record stylistically though [Laughs]. It's funny because I ignored The Doors when I was 13- or 14-years-old. Then, I gave them a try in college. It's like Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. As a teen, you think it's cool because of the violence and this and that. When you watch it in your twenties or thirties, it's a different experience. It's like you watch it ten years later, and it's a more fulfilling experience. You have to be at a certain mindset to appreciate it. The older you get, you try to dig as deep as you can.
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