THE DEMO CORNER
Laurie Sue Shanaman: vocals
Christy Cather: guitar & vocals
John Cobbett: guitar
Ross Sewage: bass
Aesop Dekker: drums
Formed: 1999: - Oakland, CA USA
Label: Profound Lore Records
Genre: Black Metal
Jesse: First of all, thanks for taking the time to conduct this interview. This is Metal Psalter's very first published interview, so it's much appreciated.
Aesop: That's not a question, but if I am the first interview you have nowhere to go but up from here. Nice strategy.
Jesse: The core elements that make up Ludicra's sound have stayed pretty consistent from Hollow Psalms up to the newest album, yet the band has progressed significantly since the early days. With the release of Fex Urbis Lex Orbis, is this the direction you saw the band going in from the very beginning? What were your initial goals for the band?
Aesop: One of the reasons Ludicra works is that we don't really put much forethought into our development. Originally when John and I started playing together it was our goal to make one album of quality Black Metal in the vein of the second wave Scandinavian bands. Once that goal was attained we just continued to work. We have made conscience decisions to experiment with different ideas, but at the core it's still Ludicra. As for the progression, that is just something that comes from playing together, getting older, spending more time with our instruments. I have always thought that Ludicra was akin to VoiVod in the way their albums got better but still remained VoiVod albums. However I'm not suggesting in any way that anything Ludicra has done compares to VoiVod. "Hollow Psalms" sort of served as our introduction to the public. To my ears it sounds spotty, full of promise, but a bit short of the mark. With "Love Song" we were so overjoyed to be doing a second album that we went a little overboard, but I still think it has some of our best songs. The ep came from those same sessions. "Fex" was almost a reaction to "Love Song." We just wanted to plug in and play like we do in the studio or live. I think it was the best approach for that group of songs. Ludicra has always been a band that is more effective live than in the studio, we're still working out the best way to record. Even now as we write new material I am not exactly sure of what the next record will be like.
Jesse: So you'd say that there's a pretty high level of spontaneity during the writing process? I would imagine that that might incite you guys to butt heads every once in a while or are you all generally on the same page? Is there a certain band or album that you listen to that inspires you to write?
Aesop: Spontaneity? A bit. A really good song will almost write itself, it will tell you what it needs, where it wants to go. However there is alot of trial and error and yes, bickering is a part of it. You've probably heard the analogy about bands being like marriages, and it's true. The songs and albums are like your children. It's natural to argue, we've come to expect a bit of pain. I know that some of us try to stay away from music, particularly metal, while writing so as not to subliminally influence the writing. I listen to music all day long. If something is great enough to influence my playing then I probably heard it years ago and it already has. There are very few new bands that excite me enough to change the way I think about my personal approach. I'm sort of old and set in my ways. As of late I have been listening to alot of the old hardcore I grew up on in the '80s, Negative Approach, Die Kreuzen, GISM, Anti-Cimex...Nothing really having to do much with what Ludicra does.
Jesse: You touched on this in your previous answer, so to elaborate, Fex Urbis Lex Orbis sounds like the natural progression from Another Great Love Song, but to me, the 3 song EP has a much different vibe to it. It comes across as very post-rock and progressive even, while the two aforementioned albums seem darker and heavier. I've generally viewed EPs as a sort of appetizer of things to come on the next album, but that doesn't seem to be the case with your self-titled EP. Was it a conscious decision or am I just hearing things?
Aesop: The EP was recorded when we did "Love Song" they were songs that seemed out of place in sequencing of "Love Song." Wooden Wheels felt more like a song from "Hollow Psalms", "Path of Ash" was like nothing we ever did before or since, and the instrumental "Empty Throne" was a piece we were still developing when we went in. It was going nowhere until Jackie and Kris of Amber Asylum added their amazing strings to it. When we started writing for "Fex" we just started over, so the EP has nothing to do with "Fex" it's more of an appendix to "Love Song"
Jesse: Metal is a culture dominated by males and as trivial as it can sound, having a woman front your band can be a gutsy move simply because of the amount of unwanted chauvinistic attention you’re bound to receive, especially for the style of metal you play. Her screams have an amazing amount of passion in them. Explain how Laurie Sue became the singer and what was it about her that convinced you to hand her the reins.
Aesop: Well, Laurie wasn't chosen because she was a woman, she happened to have the best voice for Ludicra. I met Laurie back in '94 when I saw her old band Tallow play. They were like this crushing Melvins/Harvey Milk type band with this weird nervous woman who just demurely waited until it was her turn to sing and then it was like an explosion. Afterwards I approached her in total fanboy mode and she did the weirdest thing yet, she invited me and my friends over for Christmas dinner. We've been friends ever since. Something alot of people don't know about Ludicra is that we started out as a four piece with John, Christy, myself and a woman named Jesika Christ on bass and vocals. Jesika left after we played about 4 or 5 shows to focus more on her band Sangre Amado. We had planned on recording Hollow Psalms soon and we needed someone to do just that. I asked Laurie and first she declined, she was in a strange place mentally and seldom left her house. She hadn't heard a whole lot of Black Metal and wasn't sure of her ability. I remember leaving a rehearsal tape in her mailbox and calling her a bunch, eventually she caved in. Funny, sometimes her voice reminds me of John Tardy, sometimes she sounds like Akhenaten from Judas Iscariot, but then unlike them she has a very unique and natural clean singing voice that is like no one I have ever heard before. I don't know that there are any men or women that could do what she does quite like she does.
Ross joined around the same time. Having women in the band has probably brought us some undue attention both negative and positive but for the most part the metal scene is very open-minded these days. I think people are floored by these women's abilities so any gender stereotypes are laid aside pretty quick. I imagine if anyone actually said to Christy "You're pretty good for a chick" they'd most likely find themselves spitting teeth on the sidewalk, she's tough. Laurie is more the type to expect that kind of stupidity and then be pleasantly surprised when it doesn't come up. Really the only difference with having women in Ludicra is that sometimes we have to watch for sleazy fans that might go too far and make them uncomfortable, but it's rare. The advantage is that I see Ludicra as a female entity, a vengeful Medea-like entity, and Laurie writes from her perspective and it fits the overall concept well. Ludicra is drama, hysteria, revenge, and scorn. I might rankle some folks but I believe that nobody can do those things quite like a woman. Laurie and Christy definitely set the aesthetic of Ludicra.
Jesse: What kind of musical projects, metal or otherwise, were you involved in before John and yourself founded Ludicra?
Aesop: Most notable was the band Hickey. We were a locally well-known punk band. We had a history of muckraking, inciting riots at shows, pissing people off....it was like performance art. We just tried to get banned from places. In turn we also found new warehouses and places to play. We set up alot of the shows in SF at the time. We released a slew of 7"s and a full length LP. Hickey existed from 1994-1997. After Hickey broke up I wanted to start a Black Metal band, John was among 7 people I knew in SF that were aware of it. He was a fan of Hickey and I was a fan of his work in Osgood Slaughter, Thunderchimp, and Unholy Cadaver. Chewy the drummer of Hammers of Misfortune released some Hickey stuff on his old label. San Francisco has a pretty tight-knit group of musicians doing all sorts of things musically.
Jesse: Who first put the sticks in your hands? Were the drums your first choice?
Aesop: Well, I became interested in playing music through listening to Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and AC/DC, but I wanted to play guitar. When I was in the 4th grade I convinced my mom to sign me up to take lessons. My teacher was the bassist of Miami Sound Machine and he was an asshole. At some point he told my mom that I wasn't going to ever be good because of my stubby fingers and my shitty attitude. I remember him saying to her mockingly "He might be a drummer." My mom knew it was a dig but I thought "Yeah." After that I paid more attention to the drums on my records, mainly Bill Ward and John Bonham, they made it seem really heavy, and expressive.
Sadly, my mom wasn't about to have me beating on drums in her house. Years later when I was in the 7th grade I had discovered punk, and wasn't all that interested in playing, because punks weren't rock stars so it seemed like I didn't have to play to be part of it. The only other guy in my neighborhood who listened to punk wanted me in his band but I didn't play anything. He tried me out on bass and I sucked. I suggested drums, but he had someone who was pretty good. I ended up the singer for SLA (We constantly changed what it stood for.) At our first show I said some disparaging things about the USA and spit on a flag (I was 13) and a skinhead who didn't like my style shot me in the face with a fire extinguisher.
I didn't want to sing for a punk band after that. Eventually our drummer left for college and I took his place. I learned a basic 4/4 from listening to AC/DC and soon realized that when played fast it was The Ramones. It was enough to get me through.
Ludicra's Aesop Dekker
November 14, 2008
Ludicra Demo (2001)
Hollow Psalms (2002)
Another Great Love Song (2004)
3-Song EP (2006)
Fex Urbis Lex Orbis (2006)
The Tenant (2010)
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