16 interview (09/2018)

With: Bobby Ferry
Conducted by: RaduP (in person)
Published: 09.09.2018

More often than not, interviews are events that are carefully planned, scheduled and timed. Last night though, I was attending a Primitive Man gig in which the opening bands were VVVLV and 16, the former a local band and the later an US band that I later found out are surprisingly early originators, releasing their debut album in 1993. I was so impressed by their performance that, during the headliner's set, I approached one of the band members and asked him for an interview, after having written the few questions I could come up with in 15 minutes. I was pointed to Bobby, founder and guitarist of the band, as the person most suitable for it, so after the show we went outside for a small chat.

The said concert

R: So what's the story behind the name 16? What does it mean?

B: We were called 15 and then there was a band from Berkley called 15, so we did the labels on our 7" to be called 16. There's no deep meaning to it. We thought 15 was a cool name, but it was taken by a Lookout Records punk band so when we went to a record store to give them out 7" and they were like "There's already a band called 15" and we were like "Shit". So we went home, called it 16, and it stuck ever since.

R: Ok, so why did you choose 15 before then?

B: It was really just a cool, kinda ambiguous, kinda open to interpretation, numerology.

R: So what's so special about the number 15?

B: It's a good year in America. You get your driver's license permit, you usually lose your virginity at 15.

R: Some are not that lucky.

B: You know, I wouldn't call it luck. *laughs*

R: But 16 is a pretty important year too, back in the day it was when you became an adult, kings could inherit.

B: Yeah.

R: So that's a pretty good name too.

B: Yeah, we were very young when we started the band.

R: Ok, so which of the two origins of sludge metal are you closer to? Hardcore punk or doom metal?

B: Umm… probably hardcore, the slower parts of hardcore influenced us. You know, we toured and did split 7" with Grief. Also Eyehategod, we were around the same age as those guys, in 1992. We were into the metal bands and into the slower parts of hardcore. I was a big fan of Bad Brains and Agnostic Front and The Melvins and early Soundgarden.

The band during their performance
R: The lineup of 16 is still relatively constant. How did you manage to keep it going after so many years?

B: I think we wrote good songs. So people keep showing up. And I also like to think that I'm easy to deal with. I don't really like to tell people what to play, I want them to bring their own when we write a song.

R: So the way to stop you is to stop showing up.

B: Start showing up.

R: Ah, I get it.

B: You know, it's not about being a leader. It's a collective. A collaboration. So even if I'm writing the songs and the riffs, everybody brings more to the sound. It's greater than the sound, because if it was just me, it would be me and my influences and that's it. But when it's everybody, the sound develops.

R: I guess you already answered this, but since you were such an early originator of the sludge metal genre, what were some of your influences when you started, besides the ones that you already mentioned?

B: Well, seeing Amphetamine Reptile bands, noise bands from the Midwest, I was a teenager going to shows, seeing Unsane, Hammerhead, Tar. Seeing Helmet, Carcass, all those death metal bands. We were all friends when we were teenagers and we went to shows together, so that's kinda how it coalesced together.

R: I recently listened to a hardcore band from the 80s that seemed to be very sludgy, do you know the band Siege?

B: Siege, yeah yeah.

R: Were you familiar with them when you started?

B: Uhh no.

R: Ok, because I figured they would be an important influence for sludge.

B: I mean, people say we sound like them and we listen to them, but Siege is from Boston, right?

R: Yeah, from that area. And they only released like one demo in 1984.

B: Yeah, that's about as much as I know about 'em.

R: Why is sludge still a relevant and fresh genre today? For example, me and a few people I know that are also into sludge, are more likely to check out a new band that just released its debut album if it's sludge rather than death metal or power metal or whatever. What do you think is the appeal of sludge?

B: I really think it boils down to tempo. And drumming. A lot of say Bolt Thrower could be sludge with different drumming. A lot of those Bolt Thrower riffs are just amazing. If they didn't have the double bass and had a 4/4 it would be a sludge song, it totally would. So why does it have a good staying power? Sound-wise there's much more room to work within a slower tempo. There's more room for originality. If you're playing fast, of course, the originality is there but you have to screw with time signatures. With sludge it's nothing like that. Like the mosh parts in hardcore or the breakdowns in death metal, I think sludge draws a lot from that. And there's a lot of 70's rock influence too, you know. KISS was a big influence on all of us. Nothing's more that 110 bpm.

R: A lot of people really hate on KISS because of things they associate with them but I've seen a lot of bands really be influenced by them.

B: KISS' Destroyer and songs like "Parasite", that's sludge, I mean, "Black Diamond", total sludge song.

R: The ones from the 80s, like Creatures Of The Night?

B: Not so much.

R: Ok ok, I just said it because that's my favorite KISS album.

B: Yeah, that's a pretty awesome album, man.

R: Do you think that because of the recording technology we have today, sludge conveys the feelings of danger and despair better or does a rawer production fit it better.

B: I think you can still do rawer production with modern technology. With death metal and a lot of faster metalcore, they record everything more direct, but with sludge you wanna feel the amps, the weight of the bass in the amps, it's more of a feeling and not a clicktrack. With slower tempos, there's more room to work, to take your time and pull back, so I'm a fan of all the Pro Tools and Cubase and all the plugins and all that production-wise, but we record live, we track everyone live, so I think it boils down to preference.

R: If you could open for or collaborate with any non-metal artist who would it be?

B: Uhh, well David Bowie passed away.

R: Sadly. I don't think you can open for his ghost.

B: That's funny though. I don't know. Maybe Nick Cave?

R: That could work.

B: Yeah, that would be really cool. Something like that, kind of gothy, sludgy would be super cool.

R: What's your favorite Nick Cave album?

B: I really like his book King Ink. I'm a fan of his writing. Then there's Murder Ballads.

R: "Stagger Lee".

B: Of course. But I saw Nick Cave speak a couple of times in a guitar shop when I was a kid. Nick Cave, Henry Rollins, Jim Carrell, I was a fan.

R: Ok, another one of your influences, what is your favorite Melvins album?

B: That's a controversial one, but I like Stoner Witch. It's my favorite, absolutely. I like the production of that guy GGGarth. He did other things too like Rage Against The Machine, he's fabulous. It's a perfect album.

R: What do you think is missing from today's music scene right now?

B: Sincerity. Sincerity in general. I think in our time the question is sincerity. Processing vocals upmost, you're recording the chorus once and then you're pasting it all over the song, that lacks sincerity.

R: Do you think it is because they need to sell albums that bands that are more popular for example get signed to bigger labels and they don't really get to be that passionate about music anymore?

B: I think that's up to them, they don't have to do that. I think people can see through something that's insincere. No one can capture lightning. Like of what's gonna sell and what not. I've heard all kinds of record executives in my whole life tell me fucking ridiculous things, that we need a DJ or some bullshit, you know, like fuck off. I'm doing what I gotta do and I think any good artist that rises above that in any genre has that ultimate independence. You have to be uncompromising in your vision but really easy going in the details, the rest is just bullshit, so let's just get there.

R: A sludge band with a DJ is something I'd yet to see.

B: That'd be fucking ridiculous. And that person no longer has that job, thank God.

R: But it would still be something interesting to hear.

B: Possibly, yes.

R: And the last big question that we have for today. What other arts besides music are you interested in?

B: You know, literature, writing, Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Bukowski, Nick Cave, Henry Rollins. There would also be paintings and things like that.

R: What movements of painting are you most interested in?

B: I really like this guy called Manuel Ocampo, Filipino artist that started doing catholic forgeries that he does really harsh catholic forgeries, so they look like anti-catholic art. Check it out. It's really interesting in its shock value.

R: Ok, movies maybe?

B: Umm, I'm probably not the best guy for movies. I got a 10 years old son, so I watch whatever's on TV. 80s action movies I can get him to watch. Charles Bronson bullshit.

R: If you could get any living visual artist to make a cover art for one of your records, who would it be?

B: That's already happened to us, Pushead did a cover for us, you know, legendary Metallica artist, for our debut, and then Florian Bertmer did the cover for the Bridges To Burn album and then Orion Landau did our other stuff. We've had a lot of choices so far and I don't know who I wanna do next. That's literally the best part about making vinyl, working with an artist and making something that's sometimes better than the music.

R: Yeah, cover art can really sell an album, like make it or break it.

B: Yeah, and a cool cover art, it's like I said about capturing lightning, you never know, really, until you throw it out there. You can think that something is really great and it just … "Who cares?". So it has to be somewhat confrontational in its own right. Whatever solicits emotions.

R: So is there something else you'd like to say to your potential new fans?

B: Thanks for coming. Check us out. We don't stop. I think our albums keep getting better. And my advice to other musicians: "succeed or fail" is just irrelevant. You just continue. You just continue. If you have that sincerity, you're gonna do it regardless of whether anyone cares.

R: Like a fly that keep hitting a window.

B: Exactly. Or the myth of Sisyphus, just push that fucking rock up the hill.

R: Running up that hill. If you could recommend us an album to listen to right now?

B: I like the new The Secret album, it's on Southern Lord. Black metal hardcore, it's really good. I like the Cult Leader, it's on Deathwish.

R: That band that stems from Gaza, right?

B: Yeah, that album's really pissed. That's the recent stuff that's kinda touched me.

R: Glad to hear that. And thanks for having us, I really enjoyed your show, hope to see you again soon, hopefully with a new album.

B: We're working on it now.

R: Glad to hear that and thanks.


Posted on 09.09.2018 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments: 5   Visited by: 43 users
09.09.2018 - 18:49
Account deleted
Great interview. I absolutely love when an interview has a lot about what the musician is listening to, what artists they like, what kinds of art they like, what it was like for them growing up with art, rather than them just talking about the history and future of their band.
09.09.2018 - 19:28
Written by Guest on 09.09.2018 at 18:49

Great interview. I absolutely love when an interview has a lot about what the musician is listening to, what artists they like, what kinds of art they like, what it was like for them growing up with art, rather than them just talking about the history and future of their band.

Well considering I could only do about 15 minutes of research while another band, which was the band I actually came for, was playing, I had to go for more general questions but also ones that aren't as boring and overused.
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.

2020 goodies
11.09.2018 - 10:45
Cool interview man. I had no idea this band existed but I'll check them out because of this interview.
11.09.2018 - 16:27
Written by nikarg on 11.09.2018 at 10:45

Cool interview man. I had no idea this band existed but I'll check them out because of this interview.

That's encouraging.
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.

2020 goodies
14.09.2018 - 22:57
Written by nikarg on 11.09.2018 at 10:45

Cool interview man. I had no idea this band existed but I'll check them out because of this interview.

Same here! Sounds like some really cool dudes.

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