Thursday 24 September 2015

Interview with Chris Rizzanski from ENOS

It's been about 18 months since I last caught up with today's guest when his band toured the UK. I travelled to Leeds, UK to see ENOS in concert along with French Stoner Rock Riffsters – Abrahma and UK Stoners – Mother Corona. All 3 bands put in stunning performances but it was ENOS who impressed me the most, with their Psych/Space/Stoner Riffs telling an intriguing story about ENOS. A Time Travelling/Astronaut/Cosmic-Dwelling Simian whose limit out-reaches time and space itself.

Crazy, I know. But no-one said Psych/Stoner Rock had to be easy to understand.

During my time on The Sludgelord, I reviewed almost everything these guys released. Their first two albums – Chapter One and All Too Human plus their Live DVD – Live At The East Slope.

ENOS have a great reputation within the UK Stoner Rock scene for their inventive style of music mixed with sci-fi storytelling. Chris Rizzanski (Lead Singer/Guitars) contacted me recently to catch up and I was only glad to agree. So let's see what Chris has to say to us about ENOS in the Past, Present and Future.

Photo by Falk-Hagen Bernshausen

Hi. Chris. It’s been an interesting few years for ENOS. 2nd album – All Too Human - released. Vinyl release of All Too Human. Gigs and a live DVD. How do you feel about your achievements over the last few years. 

Looking back at it it’s crazy to think it’s been that long since All Too Human came out. I pretty proud of that album, although I don’t listen to it much anymore (I tend not to listen to anything I record very often, especially not when I’m working on a new record). Getting the test pressing of that album and finally seeing it on vinyl was great. The DVD was a big challenge, I’m really glad we did it. I think that was quite an ambitious thing to attempt, hats off to Damian at Rapture Films (there were something like sixteen cameras) he did a great job, as did everyone involved with that night. 

Chris at Innerstrings Psychedelic Lightshow always pulls out all the stops. I don’t think we’ve done a single hometown show without him since.

The version of Collisions on Live at The East Slope is probably one of my favourite things we’ve done (that tune is, for me, right up there as one of the best things we’ve ever done) and it was the only time we’ve ever played it live, unfortunately we don’t have Sigrid with us very often. I’m really glad that we caught that one on video. I’d like to do another DVD at some point, the lightshow has come on a lot since we filmed Live at The East Slope and we’ve got a lot of new material. That might be one for next year!

Was that the busiest period you’ve had with ENOS.

Absolutely! The time seems to have gone in a flash. As you mentioned we’ve released the DVD, live EP and the split 7” with Mangoo since All Too Human came out. I’ve lost count of how many shows we’ve done in that time too. We’re having a bit of time to take stock and look at options at the moment. So much has happened and we’ve met so many people that it’s been difficult to keep up with what’s going on. That’s why we’ve gone to ground a little bit.

If we didn’t just stop and take some time out the next record would never get done! There’s a lot to look at and we don’t like just letting things happen as and when so making sure everything is done properly is pretty important to us. Believe it or not we’re actually quite organised when we have to be! I’d like to think that we’ll have another busy period once the new album is out but there were a lot of lessons learnt over the past couple of years and we’d be daft not to act on them.

What have been your main highlights with ENOS since it started and did you ever think that it would last that long.

Personally it’s pretty hard for me to pick out any one thing, so much has happened since All Too Human came out. Our tour with Mangoo and Rescue Rangers was great fun. We saw a lot of Europe and met a lot of really cool people. For me one of the best things that happened was our first headliner in Paris with Stoned Gatherings. It came as a bit of a surprise. Originally we were meant to be playing with Blues Pills and Black Mountain but Blues Pills pulled out, I can’t remember why, I think someone was ill. The show was rescheduled with a new line-up. Planet of Zeus and Odyssey got put on the bill. We thought we were going to opening right up until we saw the poster! Paris is always a great show, the Stoned Gathering/Dead Pig/Glad Stone guys have really got it together.

Last time we played there was actually on my birthday, that was pretty amazing too. France is such a cool place and the guys over there have been so supportive of Enos. Wherever we go we always get a great response, it’s amazing to see how into it the French crowds are. 

To be honest I’ve never really given much thought to how long we’ve been together until you just mentioned it! We did our first gig as Enos on Halloween in 2008 opening for Zodiac Mindwarp and The Love Reaction, so yeah, that’s a while. I’m pretty sure that this is the longest relationship any of us have ever had. One of these days they’ll put a ring on my finger. I don’t think anyone goes into a band expecting it to have a specific life-span, you just go with the flow and if it keeps going then you just go with it. 

We’re a surprisingly stable band in that respect. We’ve all known each other a very long time and me and Sean are practically married but I think we’re all pretty good and staying out of each other’s hair and having some breathing space. Personally I think that’s important. I think it also helps that we do genuinely get on as well. 

Photo by Andrea Shamlou

All Too Human saw a dynamic music shift from Chapter 1 with ENOS moving away from the harder Sludge/Stoner Metal sound to a more refined Psychedelic Stoner Rock sound. Do you miss your early heavier sound or is just ENOS progressing onto the next stage of their musical career.

It’s a progression. I think there’s a risk of repeating yourself in you try and stick with genre expectations. Plus it would get pretty boring for us pretty quickly. We’ve all got different tastes in music with a few cross over bands and I think that comes across in the music. Chapter 1 is a good album, Back To Earth is another of my favourites, but it was our first release. It’s natural for a band to develop and change as time goes on and they get used to the other musicians in the band. There was a pretty hefty gap between Chapter 1 and All Too Human (we seem to have long gestations) and we played a lot of shows in that time so it seems normal to me that there would be a pretty sizable shiftetween the too.

Back To Earth and In Space nod towards what we went on to so with All Too Human, that’s why you hear snippets of them in the intro to the album so I think we saw it coming. If you play both albums back to back you can hear that they are actually designed to flow into each other, something we’re doing with the new album to. The only stand-alone track we’ve done is Son Of A Gun on the split with Mangoo. I think that’s got a pretty hefty nod to the stuff on Chapter 1. We like to push ourselves as musicians and with production, we can get pretty ambitious with ideas, so we’re always trying new things. Wait until you see the list of instruments on the new album!

Looking back at All Too Human. Are you happy with the final result. If you could change anything about it what would it be and why.

Yeah I’m happy with it. There’s nothing I would really change, I’d like a few more synths and keyboards on it but I always do. I think that at the time we recorded All Too Human we recorded the best album we were capable of producing at the time. If we were to record those tunes now they would be pretty different but that’s only because we’ve played them hundreds of times and we’ve learnt new things since then.

I listened to All Too Human recently to make sure the new stuff flowed with it and there weren’t any “what the fuck was that” or “what was I thinking” moments. So I consider that a success. The only regret that I have regarding All Too Human has nothing to do with the record itself. I feel that it never got the push it should have had so never reached as many people as it could have. We put in a lot of work to promote that album, that’s one of the reasons it’s taken us so long to do another, but we could have done with a little more help than we got.

You last did a major UK tour back in March 2014 with Abrahma and Mother Corona which I saw in Leeds. Great show that all 3 bands put on. How was that tour for you as a band. Was that your first major UK Tour.

Thanks, I enjoyed that Leeds show. I don’t think I’ve ever played inside a clock before but it seemed right (I am thinking of the right gig aren’t I?) That tour was a lot of fun Abrahma are a fantastic band, Seb is a good friend and the rest of them are really cool guys. Mother Corona are always good fun to be on the road with. There were some really good nights on that tour, Edinburgh is one I’ll always remember but more for the party afterwards!

An ambulance had to be called after one show but I can’t remember which one, it might have been Birmingham or possibly even the Leeds show. Never a dull moment. We’ve got a fair few miles under our belt so we were revisiting quite a few venues. We did a tour with Dopefight and Funeral Hag (who are now three quarters of Sea Bastard) just after Chapter 1 came out. That was a cool tour. We played in Cambridge, where I grew up, which was nice but a little odd. We were playing the same venue I played my first ever gig at and a lot of the same faces were in the crowd. The singer from a band I was in when I was 17 was in the front row and I got a bit thrown expecting him to start singing and forgot to sing the first line of the song we were playing. It was fine though, we just went a bit jazz. 

Are there plans do other tours such as that or does it come down to time and money.

We will definitely be touring again once the new album is out, there doesn’t seem much point until then. We have a couple of shows in France this weekend (26th/27th Sept) but that’s as much as we have booked in for now. If something comes up we’ll do it. We’ve been talking to a couple of bands about doing a European tour next year, there will be a few UK dates in that. Money is an issue, it always is, but that’s true of everything. We love touring, it’s what it’s all about but, as I mentioned before we want to make sure we’ve done the best album possible and everything is sorted before we commit to hitting the road. Personally I’d like people to be familiar with the new stuff and be excited about hearing it played live, we always do things differently live.

What are your thoughts on the UK Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene in general. Some people are saying it will continue to thrive for some time to come.. Whilst some are saying it’s reached its peak and it’s now going to worse for bands in the years to come.

That’s a very good question. There’s a lot of bands around in the UK at the moment, there’s no denying that and hardly a week goes past when I don’t see another all dayer being advertised. I think the scene is definitely hitting a peak at the moment. In my opinion it will only really start to decline if we start getting bands who are trying to conform to a set of genre rules, as long as bands keep trying new things and pushing themselves it won’t get stale.

I think it’s great that so many people are taking an interest in these sort of bands, when we started out there was already a pretty decent scene but it seems to have exploded in the past couple of years. Will it get worse for bands? Well, I think that depends on a lot of different factors. Obviously, if there’s loads of bands playing all the time then there’s a risk of spreading the audience too thin, that’s why we try not to play the same places too often, its important people don’t take you for granted. It could get competitive but, in all honesty I don’t see that happening. Everyone I know on the scene seems to be in it for the love of it rather than because it’s the current “thing”.

Photo by Andrea Shamlou

If you do think the scene is coming a bit stale or to a standstill. How can we improve things.

The guys in France have it absolutely sorted. They have got together and are pooling their resources and are all working together to put on some amazing shows. It’s great for the bands as it makes booking tours that much easier and it’s great for the fans because they get loads of great shows that aren’t clashing. The biggest scene killers are rivalry and politics, we’ve all seen it. At the moment things in the UK seem to be working pretty well, at least I’m not aware of any bands or promoters with the daggers out for anyone, long may it last! It’s kind of tricky for me to comment too much as I don’t really think we’re a part of the scene over here, do you? I don’t think we’re a comfortable fit.

You’re busy recording your new album. How is the recording going.

Busy! It’s taken us a while to get to this stage because of all the reasons we’ve spoken about. There’s also been some personal issues that delayed things. I got pretty ill earlier this year that meant things had to be put on hold. Now we’re into it it’s great. We’re really happy with the tunes and I’m looking forward to another stint in the studio when we get back from France. We’re producing this one ourselves so there’s going to be a pretty different sound, I think it will still be recognisable as us, I hope so anyway! I blew out a vocal cord on tour a while ago so my voice has changed quite a bit, for the better I think, so I’ve had to basically re-teach myself how to sing. There’s still a lot to do but all good things take time.

What is the album about. Is it still about our favourite Intergalactic Simian character.

It certainly is. One day I’ll get around to doing more with the comic, I wrote three graphic novels worth! This album has a similar feel to All Too Human, this is a continuation of that part of the story. This album isn’t quite as violent in tone as All Too Human (there were lots of references to knives and nasty things in All Too Human but that’s in keeping with the story and I got stabbed a month before we started recording), this one is a bit more about what’s going on inside the head rather than the observational style of All Too Human. Obviously our personal experiences spill over into what we’re writing about, that’s only natural, but we use the Enos as a way to frame that. I never like to say too much about what the album is about because I think it’s important to let people put their own meaning onto it. I’d also like to see if people can marry up the albums to the story if I get around to finishing the comic! 

Will this album have a different sound to your earlier releases. I’ve heard a rumour that the album is way more psychedelic.

You can play them in sequence, that’s what they’re designed for. If you play all three back to back you’ll get a journey that makes sense so although there is a difference and a development in the albums they are all parts of the same whole. This album is a lot more psychedelic than the previous albums, you can still hear that it’s us though.

We’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with different instruments and ways of creating sound and that is definitely coming across. After the fantastic experiences we’ve had working with Sigrid and Sam on the last couple of releases we’re very open to bring other musicians into the mix. That’s our next step. I’ve pretty much tracked down all the instruments and people that we need so now it’s just a case of putting it all together. Drums, bass and guitar are great but there even better when you throw in a little extra cello, saxophone, flute, cuatro or gamelan.

When will the album be released upon to the world.

We don’t have a label at the moment so it’s pretty hard to say. We split from Star Gun at the start of the year as those guys decided to call it a day. We need to find a label who would be interested in putting it out and then it’ll be their timeline. We’re expecting early next year. We’d like to make sure everything is in place and organised properly so we can hit the ground running with this one, like I said we learned our lessons with All Too Human. The label is now the final piece of the puzzle, once that’s in place it’s ready to roll. I think we would be doing ourselves and you lot a disservice if we rushed it out as a self-release. In an ideal world we’d like to find someone who would be interested in re-issuing All Too Human and putting Chapter 1 out on vinyl (it’s never had a vinyl release).

Which bands and artists are you all currently digging at the moment. Or bands and artists that you’re not enjoying at all.

When I was taken out of action earlier this year I spent a lot of time buying and listening to records so this list could get very long if I’m not careful. Abrahma’s latest album is superb, if you’ve not heard it I would strongly recommend checking that out. As for other current bands it’s all about Gnod, Carlton Melton, The Cosmic Dead, Goat, White Hills, Pontiak, Ufomammut and I’m currently obsessed with The Budos Band.

I’m really happy to see Baroness are back too. Recently we had a band outing to see King Crimson, that was something else and I’ve been listening to Red a lot since then. The old favourites like Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Randy Pie, Yes, Rory Gallagher are all still getting regular spins. One of my latest favourites is Shipwrecked by Sandy Dillon. I’m lucky enough to have become friendly with her and her husband Ray Majors (who, by the way, is one of my all-time guitar heroes. If you don’t know it check out Up The Hard Way by his band Hackensack. It’s one of the albums that made me want to pick up a guitar in the first place) and they have given me so many ideas that I want to try on our new album. I also intend to borrow at least one member of their band!

Photo by Falk-Hagen Bernshausen

Well Chris thanks for doing this interview. Been great catching up. Best of luck with the recording of the new album. You know where I am if you need a review for it. Do you have anything to say to your fans before you go.

Thanks, it’s been a pleasure doing it. It’s been a while since I’ve done an interview so it’s been great to have a chance to give people a catch up of where we’re at. I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll be getting a copy, Steve. As for the fans I’d really just like to say thanks for all the support and also thanks for being patient.

It’s been a really good couple of years since All Too Human came out and even before that people have been great supporters (such as Ed Barnard from Doommantia, he was one of our earliest supports and, if memory serves me right, did the very first review of Chapter 1). We’re looking forward to getting this new album out to you, we’re sure you’ll like it as it’s a definite continuation of the story. Other than that we look forward to seeing you at the gigs!

Thanks to Chris for taking the time out to talking to me.

Words by Steve Howe and Chris Rizzanski