Big Catholic Guilt – Damned – Interview

Big Catholic Guilt

Damned (Mark of the Beast Music)
An interview with singer Sam Jordan
by Scott Hefflon

Big Catholic Guilt need no introduction.

They are Boston’s heaviest industrial/electronic band. Hands down, no contest. Their shows are consistently the most amazing power productions of energy, music, and lighting that you could ever expect of any band. Especially a local band. Imagine growing up seeing that Trent guy a couple dozen times at your local clubs. The “blown-away” novelty wears off and it’s just another great performance given by someone you expect greatness from. BCG have reached that level in Boston. I’ve seen them so many times, I go mainly to watch the new bag of tricks emptied.

Frontman extraordinaire, Sam Jordan, is notorious for his stage antics and larger-than-life presence. While some might interpret his stage persona as an Aren’t-I-Scary act, anyone who knows diddly-dick about anger understands that it feeds off itself as well as off both positive and negative response, and keeps building and building… It’s the nature of the beast. Sam is merely the vocalization of the rage within himself, magnified by the “urging” of the audience. We all expect him to rip out his guts, screaming and laughing, as we cheer him on. If you’ve never seen BCG live (are there still people who haven’t? Really?) you may have no idea of what an “electric” room feels like. Many bands have large followings, some might even be called devoted whether it’s deep-down true or not; very few bands can build themselves into a necessary outlet for an emotion. For many of us, seeing BCG is a ritual. You didn’t realize you had so much anger you needed to sweat out until you got there. You didn’t realize how sissy all those other angsty bands were until you faced the monster. Big Catholic Guilt is the biggest, loudest, most aggressive band in the New England area. If you haven’t heard or seen them yet, for God’s sake, do it!

Rather than froth more, I’ll let Sam do it.

Your new release, Damned, is on Mark of the Beast Music?
That’s our publishing company. We didn’t put a label on it because we’re not on a label, nor are we a label. We are, however, a publishing company.

Where and how was the CD produced?
We used a somewhat unorthodox method of recording. Half of it was recorded at New Alliance, the other half was done in a finished studio in a guy’s house in Natick. Twenty-four track, all digital. Then we did the final mix at Blue Jay, dumping onto 24 track 2″ analog tape, giving it that warm, tape saturation sound. This way we got to pore over each sound in the computer without blowing exorbitant amounts of cash. We were able to really focus on the mix when it came time to mix, without just having our noses buried in the computer. It’s much warmer and cleaner than what we’ve done in the past, but it’s still got the balls.

Clean well-scrubbed balls.
Yeah! Very bright, very clear, and more musical. I’m glad we’ve achieved a cleaner sound without being sterile, and a more listenable sound without losing the aggression. It’s still very aggressive.

How would you ratio-out the techno/industrial/metal style?
It’s still got all the tech stuff it’s always had, it’s more a matter of what you call what. There’s still the piledrivers, phone sounds, big, monster Gothic pads, biting, crunching guitars, aggro vocals… does that make it techno, industrial, metal? Answer is: I don’t know, I just make it. You can call it whatever you want.

You sing on this one.
It’s still singing the way I sing, it’s pretty gruff, but yeah, I actually sing. Melodies and stuff. “Descent” is slower, but that’s about as close as we’ll ever get to doing a ballad.

So no unplugged ballads in the works?
I wouldn’t hold my breath.

I noticed the samples aren’t as quotable voice-clippy as “Remember I’m the boss, and I give all the orders” from “Tom.”
The tech is definitely more subtle on this one. We used many more beat-oriented clips, and far fewer voice samples. The monks in “Darkness” really came out well. Everything in those Gregorian chants is so low, it’s more of a rumble than a vocal. But, with a little bit of processing, we were able to turn it into a hook. We wanted to use more beat-oriented clips because voice samples have just been played out, and we just didn’t want to wade through a million documentaries to find that one brilliant line. These songs just didn’t need it.

Your voice carries Damned instead of samples doing the talking for you. By the way, what’s with the single word titles?
I don’t want to over-emphasize a certain aspect of the song. I like people to read their own meaning into the songs. Each album we’ve done has gotten progressively darker and more personal in the lyrical content. This album also leaves the most room for interpretation, so people can find something in it that relates to them. I like that. I write in the objective third person, so I’m detached from it, and then go back and change it to the first person when I’m done. I realized, then, that I’d written about what was really on my mind without having to confront it directly and getting all bogged down. To get that personal, and admit that much about myself, I have to disassociate from the words. That’s why I like thinly-veiled imagery. You think it’s about this, and to you, that’s what it’s about. Why I wrote it has meaning only to me. And that meaning can change over time. When I’m singing the words, the emotion is still the same, but the target of that emotion may be different.

That’s what gives the songs a universal theme. It’s not the obvious or the next level down, it’s a guttural understanding.
Exactly. Our songs take an ungodly amount of time to write. It’s mostly because of the lyrics. I go for months without writing a word. Then when I finally get it out, it’s like a dam bursting. By the editing process, I’ve changed the original idea of what the song was about, but now it’s understandable on a guttural level.

This is a new line-up from when you recorded Judgement.
Only slightly. Tim (Osbourne, programming), Crazz (bass), and Perry (James, drums) are from last time. Guitarists Dan (Bongiorno) and Jay (Tullio) have been in the band so long, you wouldn’t consider them “new” members. The whole band is so professional and so tight, the tracking of the CD was done in one day. The computer tracking was done at the private studio in Natick. We had all the time in the world for treatment of the tracks. Then we did the master mix on the big board at Blue Jay.

As a guitar-heavy tech band, how do you assign guitar riffs?
They have total room to go with what they feel is good. We don’t lock them into anything specific. I’ve always thought the guitar to be the most dynamic, if not the most diverse, of instruments. There’s nothing more powerful than a big Marshal with a big Les Paul sound. The variation of attack and tremolo, sustain… it’s endless. I’m a total freak for electronics, but when you’re looking for big bull’s balls, there’s nothing like a couple of guitars. To directly answer the question: I’d be a fool to have players as good, as distinctive, as the guys we’re working with and not give them the room to express themselves.