Experimental artist Bruce Lamont has every right to be angry.
In 1646, about 200 members of his family were brutally slaughtered during the Dunoon massacre in Scotland, a bloody battle that stemmed from Clan Lamont’s longstanding feud with Clan Campbell. Hundreds of years later, Corliss Lamont, a socialist and director of the ACLU in the 1930s, among several other injustices, was falsely accused by Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1953 of being a Communist.
So yeah, his family’s had a pretty extreme run of bad luck, but it’s only a coincidence that the towering slabs of avant-metal noise and tortured sax notes he creates suggest a pained soul. Lamont is actually a pretty chill, gentle guy, albeit who likes to keep busy (and he did admit "I did imagine that battle when working on some of the [album's] harsher passages. Brutal!"). When he’s not working on one of his many music projects—Yakuza, Brain Tentacles, Corrections House, Bloodiest and others—he fills up the rest of his scant free time shredding as “Bobby Plant II” in a Led Zeppelin cover band.
“I can’t say no to someone that asks to get involved in projects, that’s why I play a bunch," he says. "I don’t do downtime very well. And also, too, I just don’t know when to quit, I guess!"
A month after his solo debut solo, Feral Songs For the Epic Decline, was released in 2011, something happened that slowed him down. His mother died, and the circumstances led him to downshift and take stock of his life. “I just started to reflect on family and those things that mattered,” he says.
While learning about his family tree, Lamont uncovered both that centuries-old Scottish family feud and strong roots in philosophy. Using some of that history as a backdrop, he began to piece together Broken Limbs Excite No Pity, a project that spanned five years. Lamont takes care of the vocals, sax, percussion, guitars and electronics on Broken Limbs, while creative partner Sanford Parker aids in the studio.
Out March 23 on Lamont’s War Crime Recordings label, Broken Limbs is nuanced and dark, touching upon peaceful moments at one end and flying into a manic rage at the other. Take the opening 10-minute salvo, “Excite No Pity.” A single sax note slowly fills the empty space, then layers of tortured and tangled saxophone gradually replace the ambient haze. Lamont howls across the parched landscape as broken waves of radio static slowly swallow him whole. On the flip side, the mellow, hypnotic chants of “MacLean,” which Lamont titled in honor of his mother (her maiden name was MacLean) may be about as calm and even-keeled as the multi-instrumentalist's work gets.
I called him up last week to talk about those gnarled family ties, the new album, and how this different musical territory on Broken Limbs Excite No Pity has enhanced his solo stage setup (preorder the album here).
Noisey: What’s your favorite track on Broken Limbs Excite No Pity ?
Bruce Lamont: I’m particularly fond of “Goodbye Electric Sunday.” I got out of my comfort zone with that one. A little more sing-song-y, it has some pop elements to it that I don’t really gravitate towards normally, especially with this solo stuff. And I just started incorporating electric guitar into my solo set because of that song. It changed the whole live setup because of that. So I’m excited to bust that one out in the coming months.
Since it took several years for the album to be completed, did the album’s scope change over time?
Yes it did, though not a ton. I wanted the entire recording to ebb and flow in a particular way, so I would tinker with an idea here and there to get the end result.
What instruments do you bring on tour?
For the solo thing I usually have a couple saxophones, an acoustic guitar, now an electric guitar. I’ll have separate stations now. I’ll utilize the acoustic guitar, the shell of it, to create some percussive rhythms if need be. I have a couple of loop pedals that I use, depending on what I have with me. And then I have some effects pedals.
Does anyone else join you on stage?
95 percent of the time it’s just me. Occasionally, I will bring out a friend to help out. (Friends include Eric Chaleff and Tony Lazzara from Bloodiest, and Skyler Rowe of Anatomy of Habit and Rash.) (Lazzara is) a fantastic drummer, he’s a fantastic guitar player.
When it’s just you, do you feel pressure to be in control of everything?
No pressure. Maybe early on when I started to do it, it was a little nerve-wracking ‘cause there’s no one else to rely on but yourself out there. But now I find comfort in that too because I’m all into working on the fly. That’s how I created the Brain Tentacles saxophone sound. I was playing baritone sax and I guess I hit this chorus pedal, an octave pedal, and just this big wall of sound came out and I was like ‘whoa, what the hell was that?’ and I just kept messing around with it.
Do you feel that some of the best music happens by accident?
Oh yeah, totally. I’m a firm believer of that. Happy accidents happen all the time. You can’t make Black Sabbath not tune their guitars properly when they double-track to get that amazing, that classic, Sabbath-like guitar bends and stuff. On Paranoid, those guitars are out of tune [with each other]. It sounds amazing. I’m 90 percent sure that was a happy accident. So glad that happened [laughs].
I read that you’re a fan of author George Orwell. Is any of Orwell’s dystopian landscape heard in the new record?
Was it the foremost thing on the mind when working on this? I wasn’t really thinking about any sort of post-apocalyptic landscape. That’s gonna happen no matter what [laughs].
So what was the foremost thing in your mind?
I was focusing inward. I was thinking about family. I started to do some research on the history of the Lamonts and my mother’s family, the Macleans. I don’t know if it’s just getting sentimental in my older age or something. I keep up with what’s going on with the fam.
What else did you discover?
I studied philosophy for a while when I was younger, and I came across a humanist philosopher named Corliss Lamont. He was also involved in the American Civil Liberties Union. I asked my uncle Robert (the Lamont family historian) about him. And I tried to reach out. He had passed away, unfortunately. He was a pretty fascinating Lamont. He wrote a book called “Freedom Is As Freedom Does.” He got ousted during the time of Joe McCarthy, Senator Joe, who was going after people… and got him booted from the ACLU.
Besides Corliss’ philosophy background, do you feel you embody some of his other characteristics, like his Socialist/unionist leanings, or can you relate to that time when Corliss was at Harvard and he denounced the clubs as snobby?
Hmm. I don’t subscribe to any one particular political/social/spiritual ideology, so I wouldn’t say that I embody any of his characteristics, although I do appreciate some. As far as him denouncing his school clubs as being snobby, now I do get a kick out of that! Get over yourselves people!
Led Zeppelin 2 Live, your cover band, seems so different from your other noise and metal projects.
It is. I think of it as a musical acting gig. We played Israel earlier this year. We always keep it going. It’s kind of my other day job.
Why did you play in Israel?
We’ll go wherever we’re asked to play. It was totally worth it. It was amazing; really well attended shows. I love to travel, especially to lands far and wide.
Do you take requests from the crowd or do you have a specific set list?
We pretty much work out a set list ahead of time. Normally we roll on tour with like seven guitars that are tuned differently and have different sounds to recreate the Zeppelin sounds. We’d rather play stuff that we feel comfortable with.
Do you have to play the songs everybody knows?
We did this for our fun first, and we skipped "Stairway to Heaven," and "Kashmir" and "Black Dog," and then realized that first off, they’re pretty great songs, and secondly, people really want to hear ‘em. So we do ‘em. We focus on the live aspect of the whole Zeppelin experience as opposed to regurgitating the album versions. So we’re doing “Stairway” the way they would play it live, so it gives us a little more room to maybe improvise a little bit. In my head, some spontaneous improvisation may occur. We might do a little blues jam in the middle of “Dazed and Confused,” or extend “No Quarter” and “Whole Lotta Love.”
What would your version of “Dazed and Confused” sound like?
There is an extended bowed guitar solo along with some vocal /guitar interplay that is improvised for the most part. We also extend the song for up to and sometimes over 20 minutes. "Moby Dick" is a next-level total showstopper. Our Bonham, Greg Fundis, is just a powerhouse and is big-time schooled. He has the ability to incorporate these Bonham-style drum patterns with his own skills in jazz and world beats. Takes the whole song to a place that is totally unexpected and exciting.
Do you consider yourself a workaholic?
[Laughs] I don’t know if I consider myself a workaholic, but people tell me all the time that I am. I can’t sit still.
Do you ever force yourself to take downtime, or to step back for a minute?
I really wish I could say that I do, but I don’t. I might be real busy for a couple of months, and the whole time I’m thinking “Man, I really need to take some time off.” And then I’ll be off for about a week and then I start panicking and start asking myself, “What the hell am I doing; I gotta be doing something.” We only have X amount of minutes on this planet so I’m trying to use as many as I can when I can.
Catch Bruce Lamont on tour:
5/17/2018 Cellerman’s - Hazel Park, MI w/ Fotocrime
5/22/2018 Empty Bottle - Chicago, IL Record Release Show w/ Quintron’s Weather Warlock Band
5/26/2018 Virtue Cider House - Fennville, MI w/Riley Walker
w/ Inter Arma:
6/04/2018 Grog Shop - Cleveland, OH
6/05/2018 Brillobox - Pittsburgh, PA
6/06/2018 Ruby Tuesday - Columbus, OH
6/07/2018 The End - Nashville, TN
6/08/2018 Drunken Unicorn - Atlanta, GA
Emily Reily is dazed and confused on Twitter.