Black Hole Zion

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Stan, We Love You



I don’t have good news. We’ve known about this for a few months now. I’ve been in denial for much of that. Stan’s cancer came back and it’s a type that does not respond to radiation or chemotherapy. He’s not feeling well enough to type, so he told me that it’s probably best that I let everyone know. We played a pretty last minute show at 123 Pleasant Street on 9/4. We did it because we knew it was going to be Stan’s last show. It’s starting to impact his vision and he is in a good bit of pain. We aren’t sure how much time he has left, but he is still with us now. We played with our friends in Swamp Drag and Raven Mocker because Stan also has a deep connection with folks from both of those groups. Our very good friend, and former guitarist, Ryan, drove down to be there and surprised Stan by sitting in on a few songs. We wanted it to be special, and it was. Stan played so well that you wouldn’t have even known he was in pain or having trouble seeing. Truly a god among us ants. We love you, Stan. Sincere thanks to Swamp Drag, Raven Mocker, Ryan P., Adam P., 123 Pleasant Street, and every one of you that came out to make it such a nice way to say a musical goodbye to our dear Stan. Love.


I’ve been trying to write all of the above and what comes next for days and days. I keep stopping because I’m having trouble finding the right words, or I think something will change. I know Stan hesitated to tell folks because he doesn’t want to make anyone sad, and he doesn’t want pity. That’s also why we didn’t broadcast the fact that 9/4 was his last show. He wanted it to be a happy thing. That tells you a lot about his character. The fella with terminal cancer doesn’t want to bring anyone’s mood down or have them pity him. He is truly an amazing person.


With that in mind, I’ve been trying to see the good in this bad situation. I’ve been trying to be grateful we got a chance to have a last show with Stan and have it mean something. I’m grateful he is still with us now, and I can still visit. I’m grateful we get to say goodbye a little bit at a time. I’m grateful I got to record some of Stan’s synth work for an upcoming Black Hole Zion release. I’m grateful that Stan recorded a solo album under the name Stannous Fluoride that’s out now. Michael did the album art, I’ve made a couple of videos for it, and have sent it for release on streaming soon. It’s available on Bandcamp now. Stan is asking donations be made to the animal charity/rescue of your choice in his honor if you go there to get it. I am grateful I get to listen to this fantastic thing he created. I’ve cried while listening to it so many times. I’m not going to let myself dwell on the negatives and what I’ll miss or didn’t get to do with Stan. He’s here now, and we have a chance to do some things to show him how much he means to us.


I can be grateful that I get to tell Stan (and anyone reading this) what he means to me.  Let me explain how our relationship started. I’ve known him for a few years as a musician.  Just seeing him around in other bands, I always admired his talent.  He had a cool collection of vintage synths, basses, and rack gear that he got such awesome and unique sounds from.  Actually, the very first Black Hole Zion show was with Stan’s band, Beloved Dead (Jeff from Raven Mocker on guitar) and also Swamp Drag (who we would all become great friends with).  A couple years back, we both sat in with a different band for a couple of shows.  That’s when I got to know Stan a lot more.  He’s kind, highly intelligent (PhD in Pharmacology, a neuroscientist, and….an electrician!), and he’s a fantastic musician.  We had so many great talks about art, science, politics, our love of animals, and music.  I’ll always remember the first long trip I made with Stan and his then wife, now good friend, Kaelee.  Very kind and interesting people.  I knew that night that they were folks I could spend time with and be better for it.  After those couple shows with that other band, we didn’t play together for a while because I was doing more with Black Hole Zion.  That changed when we started having drummer issues.  Our drummer at that time became difficult to communicate with, and canceled on us for a few shows we had booked.  Instead of canceling the shows, we made the decision to not worry about our current drummer and keep going with electronic drums until we found the right person.  Stan was the first person I contacted after we made that decision.  I wanted someone that could operate the electronics and also add their own style to the sound as a keyboard/synth player.  Stan went above and beyond.  He played his first show with us (also with our friends in Swamp Drag), and didn’t even get a full practice with the band.  He added so many cool sounds and synth lines in addition to being able to keep the drum tracks/electronics running that we asked if he wanted to join full time even if we found a human drummer later.  Stan wrote so many cool synth lines for our existing music.  He put his stamp on them without changing the songs into something else.  Stan, I am so grateful that you played with us and brought some of your own magic to our sound.  I am grateful that we got a live recording back in August of 2019 with all those awesome synth parts you added.  You made Black Hole Zion a better band just by being you.  It will be hard for me to play some of these songs when I no longer hear the parts you were playing and can’t steal quick glances at you on stage.  We aren’t rushing to fill your spot in Black Hole Zion.  Frankly, it’s going to take the right person, a special person, to do that.  We will be a four piece for now.  You fit in with us so well just by being yourself.  Traveling to play odd shows at meaderies with cool bands and “psychics” that may or may not have been legit.  Listening to me talk about two versions of planet earth existing simultaneously as part of a dimensional shift and indulging me with the scientific possibilities.  Having discussions about the potential science of energy work, alternate timelines, and so many other wacky things I wanted to talk about.  Coming to my house for practice and eating baked goods.  I was so nervous that you wouldn’t like the sweet cranberry rye bread I made, but was so happy when you did!  Coming over to help me and Natalie with electrical work while we ate Mediterranean food and played with our dogs, Rudy and Luna.  Seeing you lightly chuckle with every Jar Jar and Reba reference at practice, but not too much because you also wanted to show Michael love.  Sugar cookies with Swamp Drag for Christmas!  Inviting us into your home to practice and record your synth parts, and just to hang out.  Eating Thai food in your backyard on a beautiful summer day.  I will treasure the pie dough lifter you gave me last week! It meant so much that you remembered me talking months and months ago that I wasn’t great at rolling out pie crusts and getting them into a pan, so you gave me that tool to help.  I could go on about what a fantastic person you are.  It’s taken me days to get myself together to write this much.  I love you, Stan, and I am so thankful that I got to be your friend and make music with you.  Again, I love you.  Thank you for being you.  


To anyone else reading this.  Don’t say “sorry for your loss” or “sending prayers”.  He wouldn’t want that.  I’m grateful I got to spend time with him as a friend, and make music with him.  If you know Stan, let him know how much he means to you directly.  If you don’t, tell us here and I will make sure he sees it.  Stan, we love you, always.



Monday, August 31, 2020

Handless Wheels

We've got quite a few releases coming up.  The first thing is a single and a collaboration with my friend, Chris, from Humans Etcetera.  The song is called Handless Wheels and it comes out on 9/18/2020.  I've been friends with Chris from HE for years now, and he is a great human being and talented musician.  He lives in China, so the collaboration was a bit different.  We did all of our communicating through Instagram messages and WeTransfer file swapping.  All the quarantining and semi-quarantining through this pandemic put us in a spot where we were staying home constantly, so we tried to put the time to good use.  I had a blast working with Chris, and I'm excited for the song to release.  Fun fact:  Chris' other band, Fuck Your Birthday, is who we played with when the live album, 24th Century Bootleg was recorded.  I find it fitting that this single is coming out next in sequence after the live album.



Friday, June 5, 2020

Hi folks,

It's been a very difficult time for a lot of folks over the past few months.  It seems to have gotten even worse.  I wake up angry or nauseous and stay that way a lot of the days.  Everyone in this band feels similarly.  We have persons of color, LGBTQ, and other citizens being murdered by the police in this country.  Peaceful protesters are sometimes being met with even more violence by police agencies in this country.  We have folks protesting stay at home orders and cosplaying around with guns that are nowhere to be seen when true injustice takes place.  Then, we have a president that seems to throw gasoline on the fire and incite more violence against the citizens of this country.  If you're not upset or angry, you aren't paying attention or you lack empathy and common decency.  Well, what can four straight white men do about it?  It's obvious we don't have any business trying to lead some kind of movement.  Although we may try to empathize, we cannot truly understand what persons of color and LGBTQ individuals go through, but we can try and support them with our hearts and actions as allies.

Keeping all of this in mind, Bandcamp is waiving all fees for artists on 6/5/2020.  If you can, support artists of color and artists from the LGBTQ community.  We will also be donating ALL the sales from our music today and all the profits from our music for the next week on Bandcamp equally to the following organizations:
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund
The ACLU
The Okra Project

We chose these organizations because they support people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and fight against police abuse.

If you think musicians should shut up and play, that's your right, I suppose.  We've got a reality television president leading this country, so maybe you should ask him to resign if you feel that way?

Stay as healthy and sane as you can.  We might not be much, but we will try and do what we can.

Mark

Friday, March 20, 2020

24th Century Bootleg

We are releasing a live album today.  It is set to be free/pay what you want on our Bandcamp page.  It's also set to hit streaming sometime today or in the next few days.  If the title didn't of this post didn't clue you in, it is called 24th Century Bootleg.

This is a live soundboard recording from 8/3/19 at 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown, WV.  No punch-ins or replacements.  The only mixing done was what the engineer, Roger Glass, did in real-time.  Roger is an excellent sound technician.  I (Mark) mastered it and added a little bit of reverb since a direct from the sound board recording is extremely dry.  Other than that, this is as raw as it gets. 

I wanted to do a release from this particular show because I had just gotten back from a long and exhausting trip.  I was on very little sleep and had just come back from the mid-west that same morning.  The sleep I was able to get was all thanks to my friend, Eric, doing the driving on the way back.  When I arrived to meet the rest of the band on 8/3/19, I was dead tired.  They all remarked on this fact.  Haha!.  It was amazing we were able to play at all.  However, when we started, all that cosmic energy took over and even though I was exhausted, I had the energy to play.  Somehow, we sounded pretty good that night.  Hopefully the recording conveys that sense of exhausted hysteria I was feeling and the energy the rest of the band put into the performance.  Being in a group with supportive individuals and having a cool crowd that night most certainly made it possible. This was me, Michael, Tony, and Stan.  Michael also did a bang up job on the album cover!

This has a good chunk of tunes we play off of The Great Repression.  It also has two new tracks that we've been adding to our live set.  Warlocks of Jupiter and Witches of Mars.  I really dig these new songs, and I am excited to get to work on the full length album that these will also be part of.

It was also a special night because we played with my friend Chris, and his band, Fuck Your Birthday.  I've known Chris for many years now, and when he came in from China (where he teaches), he asked us to play this show with him. 

Anyway, yeah, it was a special night despite the fact that it should have been absolute garbage for me.  The power of the cosmos prevails again.  Later.


Monday, March 2, 2020

Guitar Rig Rundown with Tony and Clones of The Iron Age

Tony has played on Black Hole Zion albums before even being in the band. You might remember he did a few guitar tracks on Blood Nebula.  We've known each other for years and he is a great friend.  I've wanted to do a video about each member in the band and I was able to get Tony over to my place and record some guitars. We decided we wanted to put out an EP with a few covers to give everyone a taste of what the band's sound will be going into the next album of heavy original material. Tony is just an amazing guitarist. Like jaw dropping for me. I play a lot of guitar on demos for Black Hole Zion and like to think that I am decent. Having Tony come and record made me feel very humble. Especially because he is so relaxed and grounded about playing.  Tony is a great rock/metal guitarist, but he has this amazing jazz influence that will pop it's head in a time or two on the next release.  He nailed so many takes quickly and was able to give me tons of options.

I am a big proponent of amp modeling and Tony is a little more hesitant on just a bit of that. Our compromise was to use his live rig AND also an A/B box to do some amp modeling. It ended up working out so well. Tony uses a few really cool pedals and takes his sound seriously. We also went through several guitars between my collection and his. One guitar ended up fitting the bill for everything we recorded on this date. Here's a video recapping what we used tracking the first three songs.



Yeah, speaking of EP's. It's called Clones of the Iron Age. Like I said before, it is a collection of cover tunes. Excited to share more soon!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Synthesizer Rig Rundown with Stan

Black Hole Zion have never had a keyboard/synth player before.  Although there are tons of synthetic/electronic sounds on our albums, we've always had to rely on other means to recreate things live.  When we added Stan, it opened up a ton of possibilities.  Having a keyboard/synth player covers so much ground for us.  At times, it thickens up or adds texture to guitar or bass parts, plays counterpoint, extra melody lines, or just does some weird and cool stuff.  I wanted folks to get a chance to see all the gear Stan has, especially since we don't get to take it all out live.  Stan is a really great musician and flavor to add to this band.  This video was shot right after a recording session I did with Stan over at his place a few weeks back in January 2020.  He knocked out three songs that will be heard on an upcoming release.  Enough of me talking, here's the video.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Meditations: Volume One is Available Today

Meditations:  Volume One is available today.  If you've seen us play live, or only listened to The Great Repression, then you will probably find this to be one of the most odd things we've released.  If you've listened to all the Black Hole Zion releases, it might not be as much of a left turn.  Like the title of the album, this is music for meditation or creation.  Some people don't like to sit and count their breath to clear their mind, and I know I don't always want to do that.  This is music to help you relax, create, or think.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I used binaural beats to help things along.  If you can set aside enough time each week to listen to one track with headphones on and relax, think, or make something, I think it will be of benefit.  That was the reasoning behind the release to begin with.  Further, I would love it if you shared some of your thoughts, creations, or that you simply were able to find time to relax because of this.  Please do so, and let us know if it is OK to pass some of these things on to others.
Best,
Mark