Exclusive Interview – Thadeus Gonzalez

Thadeus Gonzalez

Thadeus Gonzalez is a Bay Area musician who plays a range of venues from dive bars to arenas. This Oakland rocker, known for his big raw energy, launched his solo career in 2014 after making a splash with Electric Sister. Newly signed to Ripple Music imprint, Rebel Waves Records, he’s got a string of singles and videos coming out leading up to an album release in the summer of 2021. I caught up with Thadeus to talk about his new music and how he’s bridging the concert gap during the pandemic.


Mojo: Hey Thadeus! I just heard your new single Still in Your Mind, it sounds great! What can you tell me about the meaning behind it and also about the recording process?

TG: Thanks for the interview and putting your ears on my new non-album track, “Still In Your Mind.”

Like some of my songs, this one is lyrically ambiguous. Many of the phrases held some significance to me when I was strumming early versions of it on my acoustic guitar. The line, ‘so we fought out in the fog cause we knew what was the cause’, gave me the thought of standing up for what you believe in even when you don’t see what you are up against. There are a lot of phrases like that in this song, and all the words seemed very dreamy to me.

The recording of this song was easy. Instead of power chords for the chorus my producer, Tim Narducci, came up with some great alternative chords. I like the way it came out. The outro melody was spot on and I think it gave the song a great lift.

I was going to ask, I did see that you’ve been working with producer Tim Narducci of the Watchers. What was it like working with Tim?

He is a fantastic musician and a great dude. I called him out of the blue, not really knowing him, and said, I want to record a double album. He was like, ok. Haha. Nothing better than a buoyant producer. I needed Tim to play a lot of guitar on my music. All of my songs started out on an acoustic guitar, so we had to build on those ideas. It’s very different from a band situation. We had some tough pitfalls throughout the process though. We started recording in the fall of 2019, then I went out on tour in December. When we started working again in early 2020, COVID hit. After a few months we started working again, then his brother Greg passed. With all of these sad things going all, Tim championed this project and really shined. He made these tunes of mine fantastic. We still have about 10-12 more songs to finish up, so we will be recording again this summer.

Another new single is coming, and I understand it’s from your upcoming album. Tell me a bit about the album and the theme behind it.

“The Death Of A Good Hustle” is the first single off of my new album, “Opposite Faces.” It came together exactly the way I heard it in my head when I wrote the song. It is about the end of behaviors that were causing way more pain to other people than the pleasure I gained, getting rid of old ideas and thoughts. That single and video comes out on April 2nd through Rebel Waves Records.

“Opposite Faces” comes out on July 16th, and it is a deliberate departure from my last album “Silver Inside.” I really wanted to slow down and create more of a mood in these songs. I was listening to Roger Waters’ newest album “Is This The Life We Really Want?”, and PJ Harvey’s “Uh Huh Her.” I can’t completely get away from hard rock in my songwriting, but these albums made me want to chase a different rabbit. “Opposite Faces” is really about perspectives and I tried to write from every side of the relationships I had going on at the time.

I hear you’ve just signed to Rebel Wave Records, what does that mean for you going forward?

Man, I’m happy to be involved with Rebel Waves Records. Ripple Music and Rebel Waves Records are a very hip label for hard rock/doom/stoner artists. They are giving me a higher platform to put my music out on, it’s awesome, and I’m very grateful. I hope it means more exposure down the road.

You have one of the most dynamic stage presences and I know you love playing out. How has it been for you during the pandemic with most live music at a standstill?

Thanks, I appreciate that. Playing live is fantastic.

I was in LA rehearsing for SXSW 2020 with my band when COVID hit. That tour was canceled, and it was a huge shock for me. I was also deep into recording my new album before I left for that tour. After a few months went by, and once things opened up the first time, I started trying to finish all the music I had been working on. Fortunately, I still get a kick out of playing acoustic guitar in my living room, by myself, for ‘Thursdays With Thadeus’ on Facebook Live. I can’t remember the last live show I saw. That’s crazy.

How have your weekly Facebook “Thursdays with Thadeus” acoustic concerts been?

‘Thursdays with Thadeus’ was a big pivot for me. I talked with a friend I work with about options around not touring and this was the most logical opportunity. I like playing guitar, but it gets in my way onstage. I always have a real guitar player on the road with me or at hometown gigs. With ‘Thursdays with Thadeus’, nothing is perfect; my playing or singing. I have a week to learn 5 cover tunes and since I started this show, I’ve learned more chords than when I started playing guitar. Songs like ‘The Stray Cat Strut’ are challenging but super fun to figure out. Covering songs by Christopher Cross, Thrice or doing Depeche Mode nights has been pretty rad for me. So many artists and so many songs, it’s been amazing. Every week I put together a 40-45 minute setlist that is exciting for me to play which include 5 cover tunes and 4 of my originals.

What do you think about the state of live music and all the venues that have closed over the last year?

I think it will be a year or more before things really start to get straight but live music will come back soon enough. It’s sad to hear about so many clubs closing their doors, there is a lot of history in some of those clubs. I think that new venues will spring up and there will be a need for live music once things calm down.

What’s your take on the Bay Area music scene, and how do you feel you fit into it?

The Bay Area is a thriving place for music, it always has been. I’ve been around long enough to feel a small part of the Bay Area’s appeal. It’s quiet these days, but I think that soon enough shows will start up, new venues will open their doors, and new bands, musicians, and artists will enjoy the spotlight again.

What do you look forward to most as things start to open back up?

I’m looking forward to seeing a massive, huge stadium show with lights, pyro, the whole deal; and a super small intimate rock show. The whole spectrum of live music! I’m also looking forward to my first itinerary book for the Opposite Faces tour!

Me too! Thanks so much for your time, Thadeus!


New single and video out everywhere April 2, “The Death of a Good Hustle”

Find Thadeus on the web:

https://www.thadeusgonzalez.com/
https://www.instagram.com/thadeusgonzalezmusic/
https://www.facebook.com/thadeusgonzalez
https://open.spotify.com/artist/2ROAUqxIEiww6o2VX4lo7D

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Mojo’s Pick of the Week – Virginia Rhapsody by Seedpicker

This was a delightful find, the debut album from a Twitter follower from Virginia. He was taking part in our weekly DIY Music Chat and I happened to follow his profile links to find this really amazing soulful blues album and listened to it the rest of the day while I worked.

Elements of funk, soul, blues, jazz, and reggae fuel this really heartfelt album full of great songs with emotional vocals. It was just a treat to stumble across this album and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and I look forward to more from Seedpicker and his collaborators.

Standout tracks: Low Down Musician’s Blues, Lineman’s Dub, Bottle of Red

Find Seedpicker on the web:

Seedpicker on Spotify
Seedpicker on Facebook
Seedpicker on Twitter

 

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Exclusive Interview – Mariana Fiel of High Priestess

Mariana Fiel by Jusu Lahti

Mariana Fiel (photo: Jusu Lahti)

Mariana Fiel is the founding member of Los Angeles doom band High Priestess. She provides the band’s pulsing bass groove and shares lead vocal duties with guitarist Katie Gilchrest, while Megan “Whiplash” Mullins rounds out the trio with her thundering drums. Together they weave the hypnotic fuzz doom magic of one of LA’s great up and coming heavy bands. I was lucky enough to get Mariana to answer some questions for me ahead of the release of their sophomore album Casting the Circle, due out on Ripple Music in April 2020.


Mojo: Hi Mariana! Thanks for taking the time. Tell us a little about how you put the band together and what your hopes were for your project.

MF: The original concept for the band was to be a bass and drum duo. An ad was placed with some of the influences of the sound I was interested in developing and what I was looking for in a drummer. I believe there’s a tendency to think that playing drums in a doom band is super easy, but there’s so much to be said about filling in those slow tempos, keeping the time and making them interesting, that I find that it might be actually harder. Luckily, Megan saw the ad (by chance!) and filled up all those check marks and then some!

Meanwhile — even before I got the email from Megan — Katie was visiting Los Angeles and wondering what the music scene was about, so she was also searching band ads and saw mine. She responded with something along the lines of “I know you’re not looking for a guitar player but this sounds like my dream project” and sent along a couple of links to Arcane Lore (the band she was in back on the east coast) showing her guitar skills that everyone is now not only aware of, but that has grown to know and love, and I just couldn’t pass on that sort of powerhouse.

I feel extremely lucky that the Universe brought these two exceptional human beings into my life to make music with, because they strongly elevate and add so much more to the sound I was originally trying to achieve.

High Priestess Purple by C Jones

High Priestess (credit: C Jones)

I totally agree! Your debut album received a lot of well-deserved praise. What may be surprising to some is that you got noticed and signed on the basis of your self-produced demo, how did that come about?

Well, our songs were somewhat ready, so we decided to just go ahead and record the instrumental portion of the tracks at our practice space with Katie’s mobile recording studio. We originally intended it to be just a lo-fi recording, and were planning on professionally record the songs again in the future.

Katie has a masters in music technology, so she used her expertise to capture our sound, and just recording in our practice space turned out much better than we had anticipated.
The song Mother Forgive Me got a complete change on the vocal arrangements on the day we were recording vocals. I was singing the original arrangement and it just didn’t feel completely right, so i turned to Katie and asked “do you mind if i try something different really quick? Just to see if it fits?” and thankfully it fit and finally felt complete and finished.

Nice. It sounds like you recorded the new album Casting the Circle in record time, tell us a little about that.

We wrote a majority of the new songs before going on the European tour with Cities of Mars. While on tour, we incorporated those news songs in some of our shows, so we wanted to record them as soon as we got back, to have that “fresh off the tour” energy. Upon our return back to the US, we started fleshing out the Side B tracks, and before you knew it, we were ready! The basic guitar, bass, and drums instrumental was recorded in two back to back takes of each song and my vocals were split in two separate sessions (Side A – one session; Side B – second session). We also had a separate session for percussion textures overdubs, and from there, Katie locked herself in a dungeon for a month and a half working on guitar and keyboard overdubs, her vocals, mixing and mastering.

That sounds intense! How would you say the sound of High Priestess has evolved since your self-titled 2018 debut?

Hmmm… that’s a great question. It feels darker than the debut album. I feel like maybe on the first album there was a sense of impending doom creeping around the corner that could come in at any moment, while this one just has that constant veil of darkness draped all over the songs.

I can’t wait to hear it. Has being on the Ripple Music label helped your journey as a band?

Absolutely! They’re extremely supportive of our band and are constantly looking out for us. I had originally posted our demo on a Facebook group and Christine from Tridroid Records gave it a listen and tipped us off to Ripple!

We have some favorite bands in common, from Judas Priest and Sleep to the lesser known Messa, who are amazing. Who are some of your other favorites and influences?

OM… Al Cisneros just makes such beautiful trance inducing music with no frills. Every single note and every single tempo is just perfect. King Crimson (Late 60’s / early 70’s era). The Talking Drum will forever be on my top 10 of songs that I could listen to over and over again and never get tired of it. The constant crescendo on that track is just mind blowing.
Sepultura (Max Cavalera era) and it’s funny because I was telling Megan how much I love them, specially for Igor Cavalera’s balance between thrash and complex tribal grooves to it, and I really think Megan kind of channeled that vibe on this album but in her own way.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Emma Ruth Rundle, Tom Waits, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Harvey Milk, KARP, Ravi Shankar, PJ Harvey, Alice In Chains, Unsane, Soundgarden and Earth lately. Oh and of course, Kate Bush. I love her and some people don’t seem to understand that. The woman is absolutely brilliant.

That is an impressive list! Now, you mentioned that last year you did a European tour with Cities of Mars, I know you also played Desertfest in London, were there any highlights from that tour?

Desertfest London was absolutely a highlight! I got to see so many friends I haven’t seen since I moved to the US! I was extremely confused when I stepped up on stage and realized the room was completely packed for us. I had noticed a line outside but I honestly thought it was to the bathroom. That whole experience was absolutely the highlight of the tour. Another highlight was sitting at a green room in Chemnitz (Karl-Marx-Stadt), Germany, eating pasta and listening to Enya with Cities of Mars.

That sounds perfect! Speaking of tours, I love that you do slightly unusual and unique merch to sell at your booth — I have a High Priestess prayer candle for instance — and you offered your last album on cassette. Are you doing anything like that with your new album?

We’ll definitely have some more elaborate candles that I’ll be adding some magick to for the new album. We’ll also have cassettes again, done by the awesome Tridroid Records. We’ll have some more mugs, because contrary to what Marie Kondo might say, you can’t have too many.

Speaking of not having too many, you guys even came out with your own High Priestess Fuzz Pedal in conjunction with Gremlin Machines, any chance we’ll see more pedals in the future or was this a one-time thing?

Paul at Gremlin Noise Machines is amazing. We’ve had the pedal for a while and I’m still blown away by it. We’re not currently planning on collaborating on another pedal, but who knows what the future might bring?

High Priestess Graveyard by Jusu Lahti

High Priestess (photo: Jusu Lahti)

I feel like you are part of a Golden Age, both of heavy music and women in heavy music. How do you feel about the state of heavy music right now?

It’s pretty spectacular, isn’t it? It’s refreshing to see all these women / woman identifying heavy bands nowadays. It was so scarce before. You had Acid King, Subarachnoid Space and Bottom from the Bay Area, Grey from Seattle and a couple more bands around, but that was about it. Nowadays you have a stunning abundance of powerful, talented and creative women in the spotlight and as headliners of the stoner / psych / doom scene and it’s beautiful! Now we just need to drop the “female fronted” thing, because women musicians are not a musical gender.

Hear hear! Okay, last question – favorite LA restaurant?

This is probably the hardest question! There are so many great places in LA. It’s like asking what my favorite bar is… it depends on what you’re in the mood for!

I’ll say this though: my favorite place to eat is at home. I live with this fantastic woman (and her ok husband) that comes home from work every night and cooks a whole elaborate meal for us. I don’t know how she does it, because when I get home from work all I want to do is lay down for a second and center myself and leave the stress from the job behind, but she just slips into some comfy clothes and cooks us these amazing and delicious meals that are infused with love, and absolutely no restaurant beats that.

That’s awesome! Thank you Mariana for taking the time and I can’t wait to see you all on tour!

Casting the Circle releases on Ripple Music on April 10, 2020


Find High Priestess on the web:

https://www.highpriestessmusic.com/
https://www.facebook.com/highpriestessmusic
https://www.instagram.com/highpriestessmusic/

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