Sometimes I don’t think people realize how lucky we are to live in the state of Wisconsin. Sure we have some of the worst winter weather in the world, but we also have the Packers, the Badgers, tons of recreational sports, and probably some of the nicest people in the world that live in our great state. But there’s also a diamond in the rough that Wisconsin is also known for, that not many people hear about or ever talk about. That diamond is our local music. I’ve heard music from all over the world, and everything from the worst to the best and it never fails to amaze me that time and time again, local bands from Wisconsin are some of the most musically sound and talented bands in the world.
This was no different when I came across a band out of Sheboygan called Carbellion. Founded in late 2004, this band has enjoyed increasing popularity and exposure in the rock scene ever since. And all it takes is one listen to their music to know why. They aren’t one of those commercial bands with the backing of millions of dollars and a major record label. Simply, they just know how to play real, 110% American rock n’ roll. To sit here and try and describe their music to you or compare it to another band just wouldn’t be right. Their music is coined “American heavy rock,” but there are elements of funk and groove laced throughout each song. One song you’ll be sitting there just jamming and grooving along and the next, you’ll be banging your head. Their music is very eclectic but always hangs onto that Carbellion sound.
Carbellion is Jamie Damrow on drums, Steve Richgruber on Bass, Peter Ruesch on lead guitar, Brandon Bauer on rhythm guitar and Cameron Kellenberger on vocals. Maximum Ink’s Aaron Manogue had the pleasure of speaking with the guys to talk about their music, what sets them apart and the highlight of their careers so far.
Maximum Ink: Describe your music to me as if I’m someone who has never seen or heard you perform before:
Cameron: Carbellion plays American Heavy Rock! Heavy on the riffs and rhythms and heavy on the lyrical subject matter. No one likes to put their art in a box but I’d say Carbellion up to this point is a good sized spoonful of hard rock with a twist of classic rock throwback and dash of grunge.
MI: What is it that you’re trying to portray through your music? Is there a message or does it just go on a song by song basis?
Cameron: The message and accompanying image portrayed do vary song to song. Morality, honesty, justice, loss, revenge, and a “step up or shut up” approach to topics ranging from relationships and politics to drag racing and bar fights are covered in Carbellion’s catalog of songs.
MI: Have you had the chance to share the stage with any national acts yet? If not, what are some of the bands that you would love to work with down the road?
Jamie: We have played with a lot of National acts sharing the stage with bands like Motorhead, Clutch, Corrosion of Conformity, Fu Manchu, Powerman 5000, Sevendust, and so on. In my opinion the touring acts that are down to earth in the way that we are is who I want to work. For the most the bigger the band’s ego the less likely they are to hang out and have a good time with the people of whatever city they are playing in. Don’t get me wrong some hang out and those are the shows everyone remembers fondly but most do not.
MI: Where did the sound for your band come from? Are there any major influences of yours that is really heard in your music?
Brandon: The musical tastes from the guys in this band span such a huge range of styles from all areas of music. Each guy has one or two things they listen to that most everyone else in the band hates! We are all big fans of Clutch, Corrosion of Conformity, Alice in Chains, and Seemless, just to name a few, so we have this common bond when it comes to heavy ass grooves that inspire this band to write. I think you can hear many influences of ours when you listen to a Carbellion record or see us live. One moment we might be touching on that heavy driving groove that we all dig about stoner rock and the next we’re cranking the hell out of a simple chord while our lead guitar is whaling which is more in line with ACDC. Every guy in this band loves music and it shows in our sound and our stage performance. We have heard it all though when it comes to comparisons. Anything from Blue Cheer to Clutch to Soundgarden to Metallica, so you can put your own tag on the band.
MI: With thousands of local bands out there, what sets you apart from the others?
Brandon: I think the professionalism of this band really gives us an edge over some of the others. We’ve never really wanted to think of ourselves as a local band. Carbellion has always strived to present itself as a regional/national/global band that is always ready for anything. Whether it’s how it’s presented through recording, media and packaging or the attitude we take into every live show we play no matter how big or small. This band has always had a mindset to give the absolute best that we have to offer every time. We have had a lot of great opportunities to play with great bands and have learned a ton from those experiences. It’s amazing what you can learn from talking to or just watching the guys in bands who have been making music their living for years. We also realize that with the style of music we choose to play, cracking the top 40 in today’s watered down sad state of “popular” music is nearly impossible so it’s real easy to stick to our guns and play music we love and put a ton of heart into. And when you have five guys that all have that same goal it makes it a hell of a lot easier to stick to it.
MI: What about your music makes it Carbellion and sets it apart from other bands?
Jamie: I think what sets us apart from other bands is our “never say die” attitude and that we will play anywhere any time for the people. Additionally our writing has really developed as we are all seasoned veterans who have cut our teeth in the local scenes.
MI: What is the hardest thing about getting bigger and bigger in today’s industry?
Cameron: We are so flooded with media in all forms on a minute by minute basis that we’ve gotten to a point of artistic appreciation ADD! People just don’t have or take the time to really dig into the full scope of most artists work. This has driven a large part of the industry to a new low in search of the cheapest, easiest, and most immediately marketable profit turning artists available despite longevity potential. Now add the fact that the internet music revolution has been a two sided coin. On one hand it put a great deal of talented musicians on a closer to even playing field with big label backed artists. On the other hand it enabled every basement band with internet access to over saturate the online audience with music that should have stayed in the basement a bit longer. Now consider that the music buying public is suffering from a global economy crisis and that the once all powerful music industry is deep in its own demise and you see how it’s hard for to sell a CD or T-shirt to someone who is struggling to pay the bills and doesn’t have the time or focus to check out what Carbellion’s latest record is all about.
MI: Where do you see your band going in the next five years?
Cameron: Every so often opportunity finds itself in our lap so it is really hard to say exactly what we’ll be up to specifically. Making new music without limitations and playing live will always be a priority no matter what the landscape is. We are never fully satisfied with what we create and I’d imagine in five years we won’t feel any differently.
MI: What has been the highlight of your musical career to this point?
Peter: If I had to pick one thing it would be The Passage West Tour we did in the beginning of 2009. We played out first show in Memphis and ten dates later played our last one in L.A. on our way to the NAMM convention. It was amazing for me personally to cover that much ground in a matter of days with gig after gig. We have had dozens of things that you could point out as a highlight, but that tour always stands out to me.
MI: Do you have any new music on the way?
Steve: As a matter of fact we do have some new music on the way, some real hard hitting American heavy rock! We will be in the studio sometime in mid February to start our new album, We’ll shop it around to see who wants to release it and hope to have it out in fall 2012.
MI: What are some upcoming gigs you guys have lined up?
Cameron: We’ve got a rowdy little show for St. Patrick’s day at JD’s in Green Bay on March 17th with our friends Silence the Freak coming up. There’s also a huge show at the House of Blues Sunset Strip in Hollywood on March 24th as the December winner and a final contestant in Live Nation’s international battle of the bands that we are totally stoked about. Cap that off with a brief US tour being put together with our Dead Tree Record’s label mates Outshine from Sweden and 2012 is looking really good for Carbellion!
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