Interview & Album Stream: Organ Dealer
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For the past few years, James Stivaly has been teaching guitar and bass at School of Rock Montclair, a music school based in Montclair, New Jersey. He’s strengthened students’ music theory skills and sharpened their abilities to emulate genres like hardcore punk and doom metal. When he’s not teaching at the school, James corrodes craniums with grindcore guitar work in his band Organ Dealer. Shiver-inducing breakdowns and hammer-to-face blast beats prosper on their debut LP Visceral Infection, amidst iconoclastic vocal clobbering and grizzly riffs. The album features maniacal tracks “Consumed” and “Pear of Anguish” from Organ Dealer’s 2014 demo.
Read our brutal chit-chat with James about Organ Dealer’s technique and metal education, below. Visceral Infection is out July 14 via Horror Pain Gore Death Productions. Follow Organ Dealer on Facebook.
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I just listened to Visceral Infection, and I thought it was great. The production seemed more full-bodied than other crusty, grindcore stuff I’ve heard. Why’d you decide to take that sonic route?
I’ve had a fair amount of production experience from being around my friends, like [School of Rock instructors] Mark Dollar and Phil Silverberg; learned a lot from them. I felt like [production] has become a big part of the writing process. There’s no reason to neglect that in whatever kind of music I want to play, especially when the music is so dense. Parts can get lost, or can be too hard to hear if you don’t pay attention to how you want things to sound. Also, I want the tone to fit the riffs, the riffs to sound like the lyrics, and stuff like that - so I think its important to know what you want and how to get it while recording. Of course Backroom Studios were extremely accommodating.
How’d you choose “Festering Maze” to be the album’s first single?
With that song, we felt it had a section that someone approaching from any perspective of the genre could get into. It has the blast parts, some punkier parts, a breakdown at the end, and a kind of trippy part my friend calls the “Hawaii 5.0 part.”
You have a song called “Pear of Anguish” (a kind of medieval torture device). Are you guys into middle ages phenomena?
We’d just got our lead singer [Scot Moriarty], and we wanted him to do lyrics for the demo. I was always kind of joking about writing a song about the pear of anguish, then Scot went and did, and it was really sick so we put it on as one of the demo songs.
Organ Dealer is a quintet. Did becoming a five-piece happen organically or was that type of lineup done on purpose?
I had been in doom bands for a long time, and it was standard to want as huge of a sound as humanly possible. The two guitarists thing always felt kind of necessary. But actually, me and Jeffrey Knoblauch, the other guitarist, originally were jamming just us two when the band got started so I guess it was pretty organic. Then we all agreed that accenting specific riffs with different vocals styles would give us the intensity we were looking for, plus its sick to have someone in the band be able to get in the crowd’s mutual face more consistently throughout live sets. So we threw a singer in there. And obviously we needed to get a bass player.
Do you have any doom influences?
My doom influences mostly come from a lyrical perspective. I got a lot from sludge music, just writing about the screwed up things in society that people try to ignore. Not so much the instrumentation.
I saw that you’re a chiropractor...right?
Actually my dad has the same name as me, so we just come up in each other’s web-searches sometimes, which is kind of an issue. [Laughs].
Has he given you any therapeutic pre-show exercises?
It’s funny you say that. Actually I took some Qigong healing classes and healing massage, and it taught me a lot about how my hands work and stuff like that. A lot of my warm-up exercises involve pressure-points and I show them to my students sometimes.
Yeah, I’m into Qigong too. What exercises do you do?
I do the finger rolls, hit the pressure-points in my hand to get the blood flowing. I use a lot of bee venom on the acupressure points in my hand. It really opens them up.
Do you notice if it’s affected your guitar playing in any way?
It definitely helps as far as practicing goes. If I’m trying to practice for four hours--and since death metal is ridiculously fast--it could really cramp up your hand if you approach it right. So yeah it’s really helpful as far as maintaining that practice schedule. And then going and playing guitar at work all day, and then practicing other stuff everyday--and not messing up my hands.
When you’re at School of Rock, do you try to incorporate death metal into your lessons?
All that stuff, it helps keep my hands relaxed, so I have as much stamina as I need to accomplish these things on the guitar. I definitely bring that aspect into the technique of my students, whether it be death metal or not. I have a couple students that just came and they’re like, “Hey I heard you’re the death metal dude around here so I’m gonna take lessons from you.”
Most of the song titles on the album sound gory, but then you have a song like “Small Talk.”
“Small Talk” is probably gorier than most of them. We try to stick to the psychologically-torturous type of brutality, rather than straight-forward, goregrind stuff, but if it is gory it at least has some other type of meaning as-well. “Small Talk” is about being somewhere and hearing everyone having banal, brainless conversations about like the weather or celebrities or lies they hear on the news, forcing themselves to keep up appearances for reasons they don’t even understand, or haven’t even thought about - and stabbing yourself in the eye with a pencil while that happens.
Have you ever been in that type of situation?
Yes. Anytime I’m not playing music. [Laughs].
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