Passenger by Black Monolith is an inspired piece of epic sounds from the heavier end of the music spectrum. The one-man band from Oakland, CA had previously put out a digital demo release on Bandcamp in 2011, but hadn't released anything else until recently when Passenger came out on Derek Prine & George Clarke's (of Deafheaven) new record label All Black Recording Company. In my opinion, the label struck gold when they decided to put out Passenger - I can listen to Passenger when I run, drive to work, clean my guinea pig's cage, or really do anything.
The songs range from a blackened d-beat sound to black metal to post-rock. Gary, rather effortlessly, melds many styles of music together into one cohesive collection. This feat of songwriting, coupled with the single-handed nature of being in a one-man band, makes for something staggeringly impressive, which seems to only emphasize the pairing of the name "Black Monolith" with the music.
This album will surely make my year-end list and is well worth the price of admission. You can pick up the album and a beautiful t-shirt from the band's bandcamp page. The band has not yet planned any sort of tour or live date, so purchasing the album or a t-shirt is the best way to support great music!
Jordan: The name Black Monolith makes me think of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is actually my all-time favorite movie. How did you decide on the name? Did Stanley Kubrick have anything to do with it?
Gary: Absolutely. I love Kubrick’s work and Space Odyssey is one of my favorite films as well. The black monolith, or TMA, in the film was always really interesting to me; as far as what it stood for and it’s role in the movie. When deciding on what to call my project, it was the only name that made sense. I never considered anything else.
J: Your music is a great amalgamation of punk, hardcore, black metal, post-rock, and more. How did you arrive at your sound?
G: I never set out to create a new sound. I have always gravitated more towards heavier music but have been greatly influenced by all sorts of genres. It has been satisfying for me to incorporate most of what I like into my music. If done well I think that many different genres can work together and often share similar characteristics even when they do not share the same family tree. It’s really a balancing act of putting my favorite parts together and it just comes out this way.
J: Similarly, how do you write your songs? Do you have to write out all the parts before you go into recording?
G: It usually starts with a riff or some chord progression. Over time I’ll build on the skeleton; adding drums, doubling guitar tracks, bass and vocals last. There is a lot of improvisation. Everything is recorded at my home,by myself. So I have a lot of freedom to lay things down on the spot and I’m able to work on my songs all at once. The lyrics start with words, phrases, or just a rhythm of vocal sounds that unconsciously pop into my head. They are almost never written beforehand. After hearing the song an exhausting amount of time, I start the mixing process.
J: Do you play live at all? How would you play a show as a one-man band?
G: Not currently. If I ever decided to take Black Monolith on the road I would prefer to have a full live band as opposed to a computer.
J: Before Passenger came out, you had released a 3-song EP in 2011. Did you put it out as a physical release at some point or was it just a digital release?
G: It was only released as a free digital download on Bandcamp. Never had any plans for a physical release.
J: The song "Dead Hand" appears on your demo as well as Passenger. Did many of the songs on Passenger come from that time?
G: Half of the album was written between 2011-2012 and the other half was written in 2013.
G: I can't thank them enough for trusting my work and putting the time and effort into releasing the record.
J: Are there any projects you have been listening to lately that you'd recommend to people reading this?
G: WTF with Marc Maron is all i’ve been listening to lately.
J: What all is in the future for Black Monolith?
G: There’s a 7” in the works that will hopefully be released this winter.
J: Anything else you'd like to say?
G: Thank you to everyone who has supported Black Monolith.