Back in the 80s, when artists like Kenny G and Dave Koz dominated the watery world of smooth jazz, Bruce Lamont was looking for a sax player in rock that he could actually look up to. Lamont, a self-taught jazz saxophonist who fronts the noise-metal trio Brain Tentacles, instead prefers Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, and lesser-known avant-garde players like Peter Brotzmann, Mats Gustafsson and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
"I just like noisier [sounds], kind of little more off the beaten path than, say, some straight bop players," Lamont says. Reflecting his no-BS style, his new project Brain Tentacles' self-titled debut is a gritty fusion of grindcore-jazz weirdness and crunchy noise—a chaotic tangle of blast beats and riffs that frantically try to keep pace with a constantly evolving mutation of jazz blips and slurs. On "The Sadist," Lamont's sax chops up Dave Witte's rapid beats while Aaron Dallison's ripped vocals crackle with distortion. The frantic, speed-metal roller coaster "Kingda Ka" takes on improvised jazz horns, jumping percussion and manic drums, and "Cosmic Warriors Girth Curse" mixes pounding metal with unsettling silence.
Ahead of the album's September 30 release, we spoke to Lamont and Witte separately about the band's unlikely beginnings. While Lamont spoke with an infectious rapidity and enthusiasm that rivals his sax playing, Dave Witte was a bit more mellow—but definitely had the weirder stories.
Noisey: How did Brain Tentacles get together?
Dave Witte: Municipal Waste was playing the Scion convention down in Memphis, and we were all hanging out. We've always wanted to do something together, and I was like "What do you think about doing drums and a sax duet and driving my car around and eating food and writing about it and playing some music?' It came together quickly and weirdly. We also had a guest sit in each night, and when we rolled around to Cleveland, Aaron sat in and Bruce said, 'OK we should keep him,' so that's how Aaron got in the band.
Bruce Lamont: Dave Witte and myself have been friends for a very long time. Scion car company wanted him to write a food and drink blog on tour, because he's known for being a hardcore beer enthusiast. We have mutual friends in a band called Melt-Banana. They were coming to the States, and he's like, "I think I can get us on like 15 shows." I had been messing around with some octave pedals and stuff for the horn. I was thinking about something new in kind of a heavier vein with the sax. So he flew to Chicago and we just hunkered down in our practice space, just him and I, and we wrote a half-hour's worth of music. Most of it is on the new record. And we just went out kind of blind. No recordings. No nothing. It went great.
I love hearing weird stories like that, explaining how bands come together.
Bruce: We'd all been friends for a super long time. Keelhaul, Aaron's band, is like one of my all-time favorite heavy bands ever. I think I had one of their logos tattooed on my arm, which I never do for any band under the sun. We played some shows together, and I'm just like 'I just love this band so much.' It's there for all time—totally worth it. He's a dear friend and a killer musician. Dave—same thing.
Dave, your status as a heavy metal foodie is pretty legendary at this point.
Dave: I have an interesting palette. There's a taste for everything in my mind. From foie gras to White Castle, I like it all.
What's been one of your strangest food encounters?
Fermented shark in Iceland, where they let it hang in a shed for months. It was probably the grossest thing I've ever eaten in my life but I did it. I took the tiniest piece and it was borderline revolting. I ate live squid in Japan years ago where it was crawling on my face. I'll never do that again either.
Bruce, what made you want to incorporate jazz into heavier music in the first place?
Bruce: When I was growing up I was very much into underground metal. This was like late 80s. Towards the later 90s, I started rediscovering some heavy bands that I thought were really interesting -- Neurosis being one of them, and Meshuggah as well, but I was also into the whole improv world. They were actually two separate worlds for myself until I started playing with Yakuza in 2000.
What sound are you aiming for with Brain Tentacles?
Bruce: I know a lot of people reference Painkiller and John Zorn. You can hear elements of that for sure. We're a riff-based band. There is some room at certain points to be experimental but other times, they're just kind of heavy and brutal and quick and to the point. But we don't like to keep ourselves in some sort of box or some sort of concrete idealism.
Clearly Brain Tentacles doesn't take itself too seriously. On "Gassed," someone in the background says 'fuck rock and roll sax.' What was that about?
Bruce: That's Dave's friend. He was talking about Clarence Clemons from Bruce Springsteen, and I was like, "I like Clarence Clemons." When I was a kid, playing saxophone, there was nobody there that was like, 'oh yeah, blah blah blah plays the sax, he's cool.' This is like 1981. And Clarence Clemons was the only rock and roll sax person, besides the unknown sax player with Duran Duran. I was way more into Joe Elliott, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue than caring about some saxophone player.
There often seemed to be random elements of sax in 80s music—that Tina Turner song "We Don't Need Another Hero," for example.
Bruce: It was overdone; it was processed weird. Guys like Dave Koz ruined it—terrible.
I'm not familiar with him…..
Bruce: Don't even look him up, it'll just make you angry. He's an American smooth jazz saxophonist. Right then and there, that should be putting red flags up all over the place. David Sanborn, he's no help to that whole 80s jazz movement. There's people yelling, calling me 'Kenny G motherfucker' for like 20 years, I'm like, 'Yeah of course I know Kenny G sucks, OK, you don't have to tell me.'
Sometimes I get Kenny G mixed up with Michael Bolton.
Bruce: Michael Bolton gets a little bit of credit though, because he was in a band called Blackjack back in the day with Bruce Kulick, the guitar player from KISS. He actually had kind of a rock 'n roll-y, metal band. It wasn't great but it wasn't terrible. Kenny G gets credit for holding out the longest note on a saxophone ever in the Guinness Book of World Records, which is not true. One of my favorite saxophone players of all time, Rahsaan Roland Kirk—he was blind, he played three saxophones at once, plus he could whistle through his nose and all kinds of other shit, he was fucking amazing. There's been two documented cases where Rahsaan Roland Kirk went way beyond anything Kenny G ever did. This Kenny G guy knows it. And I'm calling him out right here.
BRAIN TENTACLES w/ Gorguts, Intronaut:
10/03/2016 Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA
10/04/2016 Les Foufounes Electriques – Montreal, QC
10/05/2016 Maverick's – Ottawa, ON
10/06/2016 Hard Luck – Toronto, ON
10/07/2016 Agora Ballroom – Cleveland, OH
10/08/2016 Subterranean – Chicago, IL
10/09/2016 Cabooze – Minneapolis, MN
10/10/2016 The Park Theatre – Winnipeg, MB
10/11/2016 The Exchange – Regina, SK
10/12/2016 The Starlite Room – Edmonton, AB
10/14/2016 Rickshaw Theatre – Vancouver, BC
10/15/2016 Studio 7 – Seattle, WA
10/16/2016 Panic Room – Portland, OR
10/19/2016 DNA Lounge – San Francisco, CA
10/20/2016 The Roxy – Los Angeles, CA
10/21/2016 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
10/22/2016 Club Club Red – Mesa, AZ
10/24/2016 Rail Club – Fort Worth, TX
10/25/2016 Dirty Dog Bar – Austin, TX
10/27/2016 Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
10/28/2016 Metro Gallery – Baltimore, MD
10/29/2016 Voltage Lounge – Philadelphia, PA
10/30/2016 Le Poisson Rouge – New York, NY Emily Reily is tangled up on Twitter.