I recently got the opportunity to do a phone interview with Damon Fox, singer and keyboardist of progressive rock band Bigelf. Damon was a very cool guy who was eloquent and intelligent and gave some great responses that were not only well thought out, but also very intimate and personal. Read on to see how Damon responds to questions about a new Bigelf album, how the band survives the rigors of the road as well as his thoughts on the current state of music and a few of his favorite horror movies!
Bigelf’s last album, ‘Cheat The Gallows’ came out in 2008. Check inside for the video to their latest single ‘The Evil’s of Rock and Roll’!
First off, thanks a lot for the interview! I actually got a chance to check you guys out when you opened up for Porcupine Tree in Detroit and it was a very fun show! I really enjoyed it!
Oh thanks! That was a cool day. I actually went to a Tigers game that day.
Yeah, I squeezed it in. Just a couple of innings but it was fun to just do something different.
I know it rained a bit that day. Hopefully you stayed dry.
Yeah, I was about to do an interview and we pulled up to the club and you have to load in and all that and I saw Tigers Stadium and ran over and said, ‘’What’s your cheapest ticket?’’ and I just went in for a couple of innings, walked around the stadium and just left.
I used to go to a lot of baseball games in the 70’s, y’know? When I was a kid in L.A.
Very cool! So, basic question: Even though we can find all the information on Wikipedia and on the Internet, I’d rather hear it from you a little bit about the history of Bigelf.
The history is sordid. It’s a long tumultuous task. It started a while ago. I started the band in the early 90’s and had some releases in the 90’s and nothing really took off from that and we ended up sort of relocating to Scandinavia. Picked up a couple of Finnish members along the way. That would be around the ‘Hex’ era, around 2002. Then some things started to take off for us a little bit. Recently we released ‘Cheat the Gallows’ and that’s really been sort of the juggernaut that’s got us some popularity because we’ve been doing this for what seems to be an eternity, with not very good results unfortunately [laughs]. It’s just one of those things, a timing thing. But luck has so much to do with success. We’ve been pounding away at it for a while but it’s finally coming around.
It’s definitely a labor of love then?
Yeah, I’m ready for it. I mean, you play music because love to play it. And you hope to…I mean, I guess there is a window where you have to give it up at some point because you have to be able to survive. But we’ve been able to keep it going and certainly a lot of fans out there. I’m indebted to them for the inspiration. I’ve touched their lives and it makes me want to continue. Y’know, in those dark days.
‘Cheat the Gallows’ came out in 2008 and it seems like Bigelf takes their time putting out albums. Can you give us any word about a new Bigelf album?
Yeah, I mean, everybody always says that because of the distance…and like I said, there’s been a sordid past with Bigelf. There’s a lot that has happened and, in a sense, hasn’t happened. The space between ‘Cheat the Gallows’ and ‘Hex’ was incredibly long: Mostly because no one wanted to put out any of our music. That’s the honest truth. Certainly you and I could put it out, but that doesn’t do shit. I could release records on the Internet all day but you’re just wasting songs. So, with ‘Cheat the Gallows’ once we lined it up correctly with the labels and the agents and everything that goes with it…the ball really starts to roll and there’s no…when something’s good you want to be able to let the wheel come to a squeaking halt.
And certainly a lot of fans don’t realize that it’s not like Coldplay or U2 or something where you release a record and it’s worldwide. ‘Cheat the Gallows’ came out in the United States for us in 2008. It didn’t hit the shores of the U.K. or Europe until September 2009 and it’s only hitting Asia and some other markets, like, last month. So for us, it’s a regional sort of battle, when you’re on the indie kind of level. So hopefully next time it will be more of a world release and we can hit those areas back to back touring and whatnot. But it’s certainly not for the sake of having material or wanting to do it. ‘Closer to Doom’ was recorded in ’95 and then we recorded ‘Money Machine’ in ’97 and nobody wanted to put it out [laughs]! It didn’t see the light of day until 2000. It’s one of those things where I’m constantly looking for, you know, good energy. I don’t want to waste the energy or the efforts.
But no, we got something good coming. Like I said, now that the wheels are spinning and the machine’s turning, I would imagine we’ll be recording at the end of the year. We’ve got to hit it up now, now that there’s a fan base and global awareness about us, now it’s a lot easier to everyone included to strike the iron.
So a lot of [the wait] is due to politics.
You know, in a way, yeah. It’s business. You know, lining up the planets, it just didn’t come together. And as heartbreaking as it is for even us, we, you know, [sighs] lot of wasted time. It costs money to tour and to do promotion. You know how it is, making websites and being a journalist: it’s tough man. It’s not as easy as people think it is. A lot of bands, when you break out of nowhere, like Wolfmother: they’re just incredibly lucky. It all kind of happens at once.
Speaking of touring, last year and this year as well was completely packed. You toured with Dream Theater, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Zappa Plays Zappa and you’ve got several upcoming festivals throughout Europe and also in Japan. How does Bigelf survive the rigors of the road?
[thinking] You just do it. It’s a bit of a Twilight Zone kind of lifestyle and I don’t know if everyone is kinda cut out for it. As I say to some people because a lot of people ask about the road and the ‘glamorous’ lifestyle, there’s real high, high peaks and there’s real low valleys on the road. So it’s a chaotic and very strange existence when you’re a touring band, especially when you’re not Steven Tyler from Aerosmith or something. You’re experiencing things in a very odd way and most of it’s amazing, but some of it is fatiguing. I mean, I don’t party, so that’s my thing because I’m a singer. But I just try to maintain a, well honestly, the honest answer is just try to keep your shit straight [laughs]. You can lose your life on the road. You can laugh about it but a lot of people, up and coming musicians, well, the road can be treacherous actually.
It’s very tempting in a lot of dangerous aspects.
Oh no, no doubt about it. Let’s not make light of it, but just, keep you shit together [laughs]. Come back alive!
Next year is the 20 year anniversary of Bigelf. Are there any special plans in the works?
Uh, to maintain being a band [laughs].
[laughs] That’s a good goal!
Make it to the 20th anniversary! We’ll probably do something. I actually realized that a couple of months ago I was thinking, ‘Man, we’re coming up on the big two zero’. So, it’s been a while! That’s the hard part: You look at the effect of how long we’ve been a band and at least we’re still doing it. At the end of the day, I’ve seen a lot of my friends who’ve been in bands and signed with labels who climbed up the ladder and came back down and aren’t in bands anymore. So, at least at the end of the day my star is still rising. Which is really all you can ask for. So, I’m content with that for now.
So, the sound of Bigelf has been compared to Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and I personally hear a lot of King Crimson, Brand X, Camel, Yes and considering that Bigelf is so heavily inspired by music of the past, what are your thoughts on the current state of music?
The current state of music, from my perspective, is pathetic. Hence the twist on how we’re doing things. I don’t think anybody in Bigelf has any kind of affinity for anything that’s going on now. That doesn’t mean I don’t like any music from todaybut we’re just trying to recreate and make music the way we feel it inside and certainly a lot of that is the music that touched us, which is, you know, a lot of those bands that you just mentioned. I think a lot of the bands today don’t, there’s a lot of factors missing for myself. That’s just my personal opinion. The theatrics, bands having a real band is almost non-existent to me.
Everything can now be done with ProTools.
Yeah but ProTools isn’t the enemy. It’s really people. People are the enemy. Certainly if you took away ProTools, that would help. In the old days, if your drummer sucked you’d get another one. You wouldn’t fix his drums. When the bass player couldn’t hook up with the kick drum you didn’t move [laughs] the bass to the kick drum. You just get a new guy because that guy sucked! But it’s simply people abusing the tools of digital technology.
There’s a lot going on. Digital media and how it’s sold today, you know technology is spiraling out of control. It’s a fantastic world and it’s also a bit of a scary prospect because you just don’t know where it’s going to land. It’s all just so fascinating. But the business of music is totally screwy right now. Nobody buys records anymore. So it’s a trickling effect, it affects every part of it. So we’re just trying to be natural and have a real strong vibe at the shows and make good music that has integrity and is passionateand it’s vital. It has that rock and roll spirit to it without having that party down attitude like Poison or something. You know, real rock and roll where it’s like Led Zeppelin where you could go see it and listen to it and think, ‘Yeah, that’s cool’.
But that doesn’t mean it can only exist in the past: I love Rage Against The Machine. I think that’s rock and roll. It’s just something about today: Everything is so homogenized and packaged and it might just be getting worse and worse every year too. We’ll see. There’s a lot of new talent coming up. Kids are getting a lot more educated now with the advantages of the Internet. Maybe we’ll see a new flock of musical geniuses that have reshaped the [business] in the way the music is now without some cheesy radio-friendly thing constantly going on.
That’s the main problem I have: Why does the radio have to be cheesy? That’s the part that hurts me inside being a music fan, a rock and roll fan, a metal fan. I mean, I’m a pop fan. I’m a fan of all kinds of music. Why does the radio have to play consistently cheesy music? Queen used to be on the radio. Where did it go wrong? Why can’t metal and rock and roll have the genetic codes to get on the radio? Why has it been locked out? That’s kind of one of the major problems.
I’m right there with you [laughs].
So, we’re working on it [laughs]. One step at a time [laughing].
So on the topic of current music, what are you listening to these days?
Funny enough I’ve been listening to a lot of Japan, which is not a new band. But since we just got off the tour with Porcupine Tree, Richard Barbieri, their keyboard player who was also in Japan, a band from the late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s, kind of art-rock, pioneers of the New-Romantic era. I was quite a big fan when I was younger and just a little bit of the resonance of that sound and a lot of the things evolving out of Britain at that time. So, got be kind of chummy with Richard. He’s such a great guy. Just been strolling down memory lane with that for a bit. And I have been listening to some Rage [Against the Machine] lately.
For the musicians who check out our site, have you gotten any new or cool instruments?
Ummm, what’s new [thinking]? I have so much, well, Bigelf is kind of a little bit of an Indiana Jones [laughs] situation with vintage gear. I acquired a ton of amazing stuff. I’m not really looking to add to the pyramid, which is the ever-changing gear game. Mostly right now all money is focused and directed on vintage gear working on tour. Anything that we’re dealing with is always about, well, I mean even five or six years ago I was looking for this or looking for that. But now it’s making sure that the Mellotrons and the Hammonds and the Orange amplifiers, the stuff that we’ve been using for 15 years, stays working all the time. That costs money and, you know, gotta keep an eye out on that stuff. It’s a vintage mentality.
So what is your favorite instrument to just jam out on?
Well, mainly I play keys but I’m a guitarist originally as well, so I’ve been playing a lot of acoustic lately working on new songs for the record. I have a lot of songs that have been written for the new record. I have a couple that are kind of in a formation: A bunch of skeletons in the closet, a bunch of monsters that are growing and they’ve been kind of growing in these areas in my head and it’s about time to start letting them out and grow. And sometimes they grow into each other and make new songs. You know, make a song longer with three different songs. So, I’ve just been trying to do a bit of organizing of all these tracks and material that the band needs to work on for the upcoming album. And you know the piano thing, I’m always playing piano.
So last question, I know that Bigelf is going to submit a band Top 10 horror list, but is there one or two that you’d like to throw out?
Yeah, you know I was thinking about that when I got the e-mail about horror. I really started to have the same, well, I started to analyze the word ‘horror’ the same way people analyze the word ‘prog’. Because ‘horror’ is such a wide range of what it means. So I guess in the sense of what does horror mean to you? Is it everything under the horror sub genres? Like is ‘Alien’ horror? Or would that be more of a sci-fi horror?
I mean, some of my favorite stuff, I’m a child of the late ‘70’s cinema so I loved ‘Carrie’. Yeah, I love Stephen King stuff. Of course, ‘Jaws’ and ‘Alien’ from the blockbuster horror era are some of my favorites for sure.
I’m a fan of the older stuff, which is so iconic. The Vincent Price stuff, Dracula and Frankenstein and all that black and white stuff is just so mind-boggling. The imagery is just so iconic.
I guess I never really got into the slasher era of horror stuff. That was sort of the ‘Friday the 13th’ and on. I guess the stuff that I really know would be more like ‘The Omen’ and ‘The Shining’ and then stuff in the ‘70’s I guess.
Yeah, a lot of the more ‘cerebral’ horror films.
Yeah, it’s almost like a demonic horror. I also love ‘Christine’, that’s another one, more I guess from the ‘80’s but, I guess, what do you categorize as, because that’s like the thing with prog rock: Everyone says, ‘Oh, that’s not prog’ or ‘That’s progressive’ or ‘That’s prog rock’. Do you think people are less strict about what they consider to be in horror? Or do they do more sub genre because the word prog is so touchy. Is it touchy like that or not so touchy.
It really depends on person to person: You’ve got some people who really get into the sub genres of horror whether it’s torture porn or slasher or sci-fi or this or that and some people just really don’t necessarily care. They just love the ever-encompassing idea of horror.
Right. Because there’s like monster horror like ‘The Wolfman’ and ‘The Mummy’ and ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’, that stuff. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, you know what I mean? I guess there is so many different eras of [horror] and within that there are so many genres. But, I’ll make a Top 10 list of the Bigelf and I guess that ‘Christine’ will be the only one that is post 1980. There’s nothing that I really follow to much. I mean, I like ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and that’s kinda horror.
It’s psych-horror, right?
[laughs] Fucking sub genres make me crazy! Because, like, people will say ‘Bigelf is not prog rock! It’s glam rock!’ and I’m, like, ‘Whatever.’
Bigelf is Bigelf.
Yeah, Bigelf is like twenty different genres. I think that’s the good part, you know? It’s a lot of different styles going on. What are some of your favorite horror films?
I’m a big fan of a lot of the more psychological horrors like ‘The Shining’ or there was a movie called ‘Session 9’ which I absolutely love. Then, a recent one that I really got into was ‘Trick ‘R Treat’ because I’m a big, big fan of the Halloween season and, for me, this movie just hit the atmosphere with the dialogue, the set pieces and everything just permeated ‘Halloween’.
Are you a big John Carpenter fan?
Oh absolutely. And even some of his stuff that isn’t necessarily categorized as horror like ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ for instance. It’s horror, it’s comedy, it’s a martial arts film, it’s action, it’s almost everything under the sun and it’s a great time.
Right, right. I’m not really an aficionado of the horror genre. I’m more of a ‘from the past’ person and those are things that I saw a lot and will always watch. Something about ‘Carrie’, something about it being shot sort of present day in the ‘70’s just reminds me of being a kid so that’s kind of cool.
So nostalgia plays a big part in your enjoyment of horror?
Yeah, it’s nostalgia. I mean, there was a lot of really big boomers like ‘The Amityville Horror’. I remember there were so many back then. What an era!
Well, I don’t want to hold you any longer because I know you’re a busy guy so thank you very much for taking the time to chat with Bloody-Disgusting!
Oh, it was my pleasure! Thanks and have a great weekend!