Hey there, folks! I hope your week is going well. If it’s not, I guess you can be glad that it’s almost over! Personally, I’m just about totally recovered from last weekend’s Winter’s Wake festival, and sometime soon I’ll probably even start writing again.
In the meantime, please enjoy this BRAND NEW feature which will be running periodically here on Valley of Steel — courtesy of the lovely and wonderful person to whom I am fortunate enough to be married!
Six Questions with Slaves BC Bassist Jason Cantu
by Mrs. Valley of Steel
Greetings and salutations! Many of you know me, or have met me, or at least know of me. My name is “Mrs. Valley of Steel.” I’ve been married to “Mr. Valley of Steel” for about five years now — tomorrow [01 March] is our five-year anniversary, in fact.
I’m sure most of you have seen his many posts about shows that are occurring in the Pittsburgh area. Well, he doesn’t just post about them; he actually attends — we both do, actually. [Editor’s note: at least, as frequently as physically possible!] Well, through the course of attending these shows, we’ve met some great people and it occurred to me that you (the general public) might like to hear a little bit more about these interesting people, the bands that they are currently in, and what brought them to the musical path that they are traveling down.
I will be doing these on occasion: they will always be six questions, just enough to give you a sense of the person and their tastes (as opposed to the same old stale band questions you’re always reading). So I hope that you will join me on this new journey in getting to know these wonderful and unique people, and — who knows — maybe you’ll find a new band that may change your life, too!
My first “Person or Persons Unknown” interview is with Jason Cantu, the bassist for Slaves BC, whom we have already seen three times this year. Jason, while just one part of this great band, has an infectious enthusiasm that really enhances their live show. His love and support of music in general is also infectious, and it has inspired me to do these interviews.
Everyone should have a friend like this: someone who’s always posting about records you’ve forgotten about, or wearing t-shirts you would kill for (specifically, I am referring to the Ten Years After shirt he sometimes wears), and someone who is supportive of not only his own band but all local and non-local bands. He is the type of fan that makes you want to be a better fan, too.
Mrs. VOS: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Jason, and be my first subject for the series of interviews I’ll be doing for Valley of Steel. I know you are currently the bassist for Slaves BC; I’ve seen you play three times now, and Saturday will be my fourth. You are quite animated, and your enthusiasm is very infectious. Can you describe who or what inspired you to play bass, and do you have any particular bassist(s) that you feel have inspired your musical style and direction?
Jason: Huge thanks to you guys for always coming out to our shows! We really appreciate both of you guys and your dedicated support of the Pittsburgh local scene.
Honestly, I never really wanted to play bass, haha. I’ve been friends with Josh [Thieler], Slaves BC vocalist, for years and found myself always wanting to hang out at their practices. They were going to record a demo and asked if I wanted to play bass on the recordings. I agreed, and learned the songs in the studio that day. I’ve only done vocals in my past bands and never played bass.
It’s been a lot of fun writing and crafting songs, a joy that I’ve never experienced before. I’m like a kid with a new toy. The first time I was ever impressed by a bass player was the first time I experienced the brutality of Liquified Guts. I was blown away. Their bass player Justin Gizzi has been a constant inspiration. He’s currently in a million bands and seems to have an infinite amount of creativity. I now have the honor of playing his bass! I think he comes to our shows just to make sure I’m not gonna smash it.
Mrs. VOS: It seems to me like most people who are really passionate about music can pinpoint a particular moment of discovery that was just such a revelation that it became a life-altering experience. What was one album or piece of music that was a pivotal turning point for you, either as a music fan or as a musician? Can you explain what age you were when you experienced this, and how it has affected the person you are today — again, either as a fan or as a musician?
Jason: This sounds pretty lame, but it was Metallica‘s S/T black album. I was in third grade and had moved to a new neighborhood. I made friends with a kid on my street. His uncle gave him the cassette tape and the rest was history. We took a portable stereo or walkman and jammed to that tape every damn day.
While playing Mortal Kombat and Streets of Rage 2, while throwing knives and ninja stars at random shit, while shooting arrows in a nearby elementary school playground… it was a good time to be a kid. He’d let me borrow his acoustic guitar and tell me my “homework” was to learn a different song every week or so, and I would! I’d show him how to play “Sad But True” and we’d take turns playing with the album. When I moved away, he gave me the tape as a parting gift. I still have it in a box somewhere. I never saw him again, and wonder if music had had the same impact on his life as it did mine. I always wanted to be a musician since that point. Nothing else mattered (pun intended).
Mrs. VOS: Can you name a particular album or artist that you feel is especially underrated, and that more people should know about? Why do you feel that way?
Jason: I find it difficult to have a favorite band or recognize a particular underrated band. There’s just too many that are so good. I’m on a constant search for new music. There’s plenty of current, awesome underground bands but I like to explore music history and really try to dig into its roots. You’ll be amazed what you find.
I feel that a lot of musicians today are inspired by classics like Cream, The Beatles, Bob Dylan… Who was a huge inspiration to Clapton, Harrison, and Dylan? B.B. King and Muddy Waters. Who inspired B.B. King and Muddy Waters? T-Bone Walker, Blind Willie McTell, Robert Johnson and Son House.
I feel that music history is important and full of lost under-appreciated gems. My favorite era of gems are usually in the 60’s or 70’s. I urge all real music lovers to keep on searching.
Mrs. VOS: You currently work for Get Hip Recordings, a record label and distribution company. What is the coolest rare gem that you’ve happened to come across, either at work or in a record store?
Jason: We have a lot of sweet re-issues that come through but I’m all about the original pressings. My boss, Gregg Kostelich (guitarist of garage/psych band The Cynics) has an insane personal collection! You name it, he probably has it, and I’ve probably drooled on it. From obscure compilations to autographed holy grails. Get Hip sells new stuff, so we put cool original, old stuff on our Feed Your Head eBay store.
Two personal favorites from my own collection are a Sunn O))) Candlewolf of the Golden Chalice Peel Session test pressing and a Sunn O))) Rehearsal Demo from Nov 11 2011 test pressing.
Mrs. VOS: I know that Slaves BC has done quite a few shows, but what band or bands would you like to be able to do a show with that you haven’t been able to yet?
Jason: We’ve been lucky. We’ve had the privilege of playing with Nachtmystium, Lord Mantis, The Atlas Moth, Atriarch, Vattnet Viskar, Sadgiqacea, and Hivelords, just to name a few. We almost had shows with The Devil’s Blood and Eyehategod.
I’d really like to play with Eyehategod, Sleep, Trouble, and Converge with my local favorites Vulture, Complete Failure, and Liquified Guts to open the show with us. Or any band on Innervenus, a great local label that puts out solid, heavy releases year after year that never disappoint.
Mrs. VOS: Can you describe your musical style in six words or less?
Jason: “Blackened Crust D-Beat with Sludge Doom.” Not every song, I guess. Maybe, “Musical equivalent of fried, burnt hair?” I don’t know. “Dudes playing music that they like.” Yeah, that’s better.
Mrs. VOS: Thank you, Jason, for being my first interview. It was fun and I am looking forward to the show on Saturday!
Don’t forget to check out Slaves BC on Facebook and on Bandcamp:
…and above all, don’t forget to come out to Kopec’s on Saturday!