It’s hard to believe that after 12 years as an independent band, The Black Clouds have put out their third on their own Capacitor Records. Most do-it-yourself acts don’t last a third of that time, and if they do, rarely top their best work. But not The Black Clouds, whose career thankfully defies their name.
Like the Jersey Shore hard rock band’s 2008 debut, Wishing Well, the latest After All was mixed and mastered by Seattle legend Jack Endino, who produced several albums for Sub Pop, including Nirvana’s 1989 debut LP, Bleach, as well as Mudhoney and Soundgarden. But this time out, Endino also produced The Black Clouds with founding vocalist-guitarist Dan Matthews at Foo Fighters’ Los Angeles-based Studio 606, home of the Neve 8078 recording console made famous in Dave Grohl’s 2013 documentary, Sound City.
Grohl was unable to attend the sessions. But Matthews and his mates—drummer Cory King and bassist Gary “Mo” Moses, who have been with The Black Clouds since the Wishing Well tour, and newer guitarist Neil Hayes—said they were thrilled to record at 606 with Endino at the controls of that fabled Neve.
Needing only five of the seven days booked in the studio, The Black Clouds then continued to work with Endino at his Soundhouse studio in Seattle. While Endino mixed the record, founding Mudhoney guitarist-vocalist Mark Arm added lead vocal to the chaotic edge of “Vice.” Endino also plays lead guitar on the track, along with two others, “Going, Going, Gone” and the closing “Days Are So Long.”
After All blends Matthews’ disparate songwriting influences into a cohesive mix of Seattle grunge and the pop-adelic harmonies of Syd Barrett, such as on the album’s first single, “Photograph.” You can check it out at Asbury Park’s legendary Stone Pony when Capacitor Records showcase The Black Clouds, as well as label mates Yorkshire Tenth and scene chums GayGuy/StraightGuy and Experiment 34.
Then the grunge-inspired band will jet to Seattle to play an April 1 release party for “Basement Sessions Vol. 3-4” at Substation with The Stuntmen, The Derelicts and members of “Basement Sessions,” a super group with rotating members who record weekly in Seattle. Capacitor has just released the second “Basement Sessions” collection that features Matthews, Endino, sought-after Seattle drummer Johnny “G” Graziadei, Matt Pike (High on Fire, Sleep), Bubba Dupree (Void) and others.
While The Black Clouds are in Seattle, they will be recording a new record, as well as Shut Up, Matthews’ new band featuring Sex Zombies bassist-vocalist Scarlet Fever and GayGuy/StraightGuy drummer Bob Paulos. Upon their return home, The Black Clouds again will take the stage with Yorkshire Tenth and Experiment 34, as well as The Vaughns and Wicked Hollow, for Makin Waves’ celebration of the 50th birthday of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on April 29 at The Saint in Asbury Park.
Great as your first two albums are, I think the singing and the songwriting on AfterAll are the best yet. You seem to be scratching that harmonic, pop-delic Syd Barrett itch a little bit more.
I think the first record had a touch of it. I’ve been into that for a long time. The second record (Better Days) went a little more rock because it was a little quicker and little more shotgun. And there was a lot of stuff happening at that point, so it got heavier with a lot less harmony.
I think we did a better version of the first record with this one. It’s what I wanted to do.
I particularly like “Falling,” which was inspired by your younger brother. Do you want to comment on why that is an especially meaningful song?
He was a really good dude. He was one of those guys that walks into a room and lights up the whole place. Everybody says that about somebody when they die, which makes it sound kinda stupid what I’m saying right now. But it was like putting a really bright light out. He was 25. It was four years ago. It was a very sad thing.
How did Mark Arm end up on the album and what do you think of him being on it?
It was awesome. A buddy of mine (Eric Nutting), who plays ukulele on the last song, is surfing buddies with Mark. He heard “Vice,” and he was like, ‘This sounds like Mark.’ I was like, ‘It would be crazy if he sang it.’ And he was like, ‘Want me to ask him?’ Sure enough he thought it was a great song. I was like ‘What?!’
This was in Seattle when we were doing the mixing. I did vocals for it when we were out there, but we erased those right away once Mark Arm came on. He sings the lead, and I do backups. But he sings my words, which is a trip. We opened for (Mudhoney) in Brooklyn last summer (2015).
Jack Endino has worked with you on your first and forthcoming albums. Comment on the specific roles he played in both.
It’s not every day that you get to record at Dave Grohl’s place, Studio 606, the Foo Fighters’ place in L.A. We only had three songs written a month before we got the offer, so we wrote the majority of the record within a month of knowing that we were going there.
It felt like we were at Abbey Road. We had seven days, and we only used five of them. We were that well-rehearsed. Jack took a day to do some extra work. And of the guys, Scott (Parker), that runs the studio, took me surfing. It was awesome. We should have recorded more songs, but we got it done quick, Jack had more work to do, and I love surfing.
I was so spent mentally. We recorded the whole record here before we left. We recorded just to know what we were doing, and I was doing vocals up until the minute we left to get in the car to go to the airplane. I recorded the vocals for “Sayonara” and did a rough mix, and five minutes later, we left in a van and went to the airport. So we have a full-length pre-recorded album because we wanted to go there prepared. We didn’t do more than two or three takes of everything. It was all done live. The only thing we overdubbed was vocals and some leads, so it was pretty straight forward. Then we mixed in Seattle.
How did you develop a relationship with Endino?
We did our first record with Jack. And then the Sex Zombies, my band that I play drums in, we did that record there. And I recorded other bands that I sent Jack to mix, so I’ve had a relationship with Jack for a very long time.
I just wrote him about the first record … and he wrote me back. He said, ‘I like ‘Hang Me Upside Down.’ It reminds me of Meat Puppets.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’ll mix ya’. Do you want to send me tracks?’ And I said, ‘I’d like to fly out.’ And he was like, ‘Oh great!’ And he let me crash at his house. We did it over four or five days in 2006. And then I had to raise the money to put it out because it’s hard when you’re doing it yourself.
So we were doing the first record, and he said, ‘You know, Danno, this record reminds me a lot of Failure.’ At that point, I didn’t know of the band Failure, so I just thought he had a really dark sense of humor. He was like, ‘No, no, the band.’
So I’ve been friends with him for a while. He’s just a really good dude. And I’ve made a bunch of mutual friends with him out there.
Why do “Basement Sessions” and what impact do you hope it has?
That was founded by Jack’s drummer and my buddy, Johnny ‘G’ Graziadei, who was always recording a bunch of bigger heads from Seattle coming together on Sundays and having barbecues and drinking tequila. The goal is that by the end of (each) Sunday, to go into the studio and record and finish a song. The first one was put out by a label out there. We’re putting out the second one. The song we did with Jack and Johnny G is opening the record.
We’re putting it out on vinyl, translucent green. I’m on it with “She Don’t Have One.” I sing on it. Jack plays lead guitar, bass, and does a little bit of backups. Johnny G and I do lead vocals. He played drums on everything.
I really dug the first release. Somewhere along the lines, the label that put out the first record ended up closing down. Being that they were close friends, I had recorded a tune with them, and I dug the project a lot, it seemed like a no-brainer. What’s really cool is how off-the-cuff it is. Every tune is written and recorded in a day with whoever is at the barbecue and gets inspired to be in the studio. The whole thing has a really cool vibe and there are some great musicians and songwriters involved. Everyone involved is lucky to be a part of it.
How do you feel about getting to play Seattle again in support of it?
We’re psyched that our buddy Johnny G asked us to be a part of it. Initially, I was gonna fly out with a couple guys from the label to help run the release show. Johnny asked The Black Clouds to be a part of it. Fortunately, the guys were able to get away from work. It’s going to be a ton of fun.
We love playing in Seattle. It’s a great city, and we have a lot of friends out there that we don’t often get the chance to see. It’s always fun to get together and play loud music with friends. Why showcase at The Stone Pony and what impact do you hope that has?
The Stone Pony has been good to us for a long time. They do a great job with production, and we really like the staff there. We got asked if we’d like to put together a show before we left for Seattle and it sounded like a fun idea.
One of my partners in the label is Chris Marino. His band, The Yorkshire Tenth, we put out their EP. They’re a pretty good band. My partner is the lead guitarist.
And my other partner is Brian Kelly, an IT guy who has been a friend and helped the band out for a long time. He’s basically the fifth member of our band. And he, Chris, and I are partners in the label.
Why are you looking forward to the 4/29 Cobain / Pepper bash at The Saint?
This is gonna be a really fun night. I’m looking forward to hearing what tunes people choose to add to their sets. I’ve always thought that The Beatles and Nirvana were a good mix. They have a lot of similarities melody/catchiness-wise to me. Great bands. What’s not to like?