The following is an interview with Kyle Shaw, vocalist for Indianapolis sludge metalers, Tunguska. The band released a 3-song demo in 2008 and have been slaying live since.
1. Who are the members of Tunguska and when (and under what circumstances) did the band form?
Tunguska are myself on vox, Justin Rea on guitar, Roy Hayes on bass, and Eric Unger on drums. It looks like we will be adding this dude, Damon, on second guitar now.
Tunguska was actually birthed from tragedy. Unger had been doing vox for a death/grind band called Means of Terrorism. It was basically Blokhed with a more grindcore approach/aesthetic and a better name. Anyways, their guitarist/main songwriter Shane Barnett had passed away due to a heat stroke in the summer of '07, thus disbanding the band.
I had met Roy just by going to shows. I remember booking a show for Merciless Death at Rippy's house, he thought it was pretty rad, and wanted to help get the word out. Which, I thought was cool. Justin is a good friend of Roy's, and was kinda just hanging out with the guy. Eric and I have been friends for roughly 8-9 years now, and I had always wanted to do something with him. Eric had people over one night at his house, and Roy and Justin were there. Which was funny to me, because at the time, I had no idea they even knew each other. This was all when Shane was still alive, and MOT were working on material. By late winter of '07/early '08, Justin, Roy, and Eric were all working on doing something doomy/sludgy. I always wanted to do vocals for some sort of band, usually in the sludge/grind/HC realm, and figured this was as good as an opportunity as any. So I asked if I could at least try out, and I've been with the band ever since.
2. Although the similarities to such sludge greats as Eyehategod and Iron Monkey are obvious in your songs there's a fresh quality to the writing and execution. Sometimes I hear it as an undercurrent of "darkness" in addition to the usual "turn it up, get fucked up" ethos of the genre. Do you agree and could you talk a bit about how you guys honed your sound, as well as the musical and non-musical elements that shaped it?
Yeah, it's good to call a spade a spade. We are all fans of bands like EHG, Iron Monkey, Sleep, Dystopia, and honestly, we have a lot of similarities to these bands. When we recorded the demo we were only a band for a few months and were generally excited, enthused, and confident about recording and playing shows.
The "darkness" that you speak of is by no means accidental. We all love a lot of death/black metal, and want to incorporate some of those influences in our sound. On the demo, I think there are hints of it, but it's more pronounced on some of the newer material we are working on. I also like a lot of hc/punk and try to convey some of that in our work. Since I'm not really a musician, explaining some things can be difficult, but luckily Justin is a great guitarist and understands stuff like Minor Threat, Discharge, and Misfits.
A lot of compliments we hear is Justin's tone. He can tell you a bit more about it, but he doesn't use pedals. I tried to talk him into using a Boss HM-2 for the buzzsaw tone, but was only into it for a few practices and a show. The distortion is coming straight from the guitar amp! He just used a Hughes and Ketner head, and was using a Sunn beta lead as well. I don't think he's using the Sunn anymore, but using a Laney instead. Roy just uses a big muff pedal, and if I remember right, turns the treble on the amp off, and the bass all the way up. Not sure what he does with the mids.
3. Since the demo didn't include a lyric sheet, what is the nature of the lyrical content? I know you pay attention to politics, both domestically and globally. What role do the vocals take in the band (are your lyrics specific to any particular ideas throughout your songs, ala a unifying theme)?
Well, the main reason why there isn't a lyric sheet is because we didn't want to pay extra money, haha. On the demo, I wrote 2 out of 3 songs. Eric wrote All That is Wrong With This World. All That is Wrong has a strong conspiratorial vibe, whereas mine was more politically charged. Almost everything I have written has had some sort of political undercurrent. Some of it is painfully obvious, some more subtle.
Lately, I've been wanting to go into a more interpretive style. I feel art should be up to whomever is digesting said piece, and can come up with their own conclusions. More and more, I get really bored when listening to a band with an "agenda" be it political, satanic, sXe/vegan, gore, drug/alcohol abuse issues. I'm more interested in lyricists/songwriters with more esoteric ideas. I love films from directors like Lynch, Cronenberg, Park Chan-wook, Miike, where contents aren't so obvious, and the audience is challenged to do some critical thinking. So, while there may be a politcal undercurrent regarding newer material, I don't want to preach, I want people to think.
4. Expanding on the topic of lyrical content, I was wondering if you could give an explanation of each song on the demo?
Sure. With newer material, I probably won't explain what each song's lyrical theme is or will be. Since there is no lyric sheet with the demo, and there's been a bit of a shift in this department regarding content, I feel like it's owed.
Psychocivilized Society-I got this idea from a Spanish physiology professor in the 50's, who more or less introduced the idea of neuroelectronics and brain chips. He called this the idea of a "psychocivilized society". Since then we have seen this idea evolve into RFID chips and ubiquitous camera surveillance which I think is a very scary thing.
All That is Wrong With This World-Again, this is Eric's baby, and my favorite song on the demo. Which is funny, because it used to be my least favorite. We've been talking about scrapping all the '08 demos from our setlists, but I still want this to be a part of it. Here's to fighting, ha! Anyways, it's basically a lot of conspiratoral ideas, and how, well, it's all that is wrong with the world. Everything from masonic rites to illuminati dealings are included in this. It's really a fun song to perform.
Arm Thy Adversary-This is really about how western governments, most notably the US, has no problem arming dictatorships, guerilla factions, only to go to war with the very same people who were propped up with US tax dollars in the first place.
5. What plans do you have for future releases?
We plan on recording for another demo this year. Might be as soon as this month when we start recording. We also plan on doing a split with Coffinworm. It's been talked about for almost a year, but it will happen eventually. After we get those two out of the way, we want to record a full-length, hoping a decent respectable label will put it out.
6. You guys have been rather quiet lately on the live front. Awhile ago there was mention of Tunguska possibly adding a second guitar player to the lineup. Any truth to this, and if so why the decision to add another guitar in the mix?
The reason why we haven't been playing live a lot lately is just to concentrate on newer material. Eric is getting married in the fall, and that has been occupying a lot of time and energy on his end as well. I think we're adding Damon on second guitar. He lives with Justin, and has been friends for a long time. I really wasn't asked about including the guy in the band, I don't even know his last name. It just kinda..happened? We'll see where it goes. He's written some riffs, come up with some ideas that work pretty well, imo. I think the reason to add another guitarist was for more wattage, more ideas, and another rifffinder general.
7. Finally, how can someone outside of Indianapolis get a copy of your demo?
We have a few demos left, like less than 10. If someone would feel so inclined, they can just get in contact with us. We don't have a paypal account made yet for the band, but someone wants to send me/any of the other dudes, a check, money order, or even paypal, to just send us a message via myspace or an email.
Tunguska can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through Myspace at http://www.myspace.com/tunguska317. With the band's permission I've posted a link to download their demo. Enjoy!
Tunguska - Demo 2008: http://www.mediafire.com/?nziqmojmiym