Friday 1 January 2021

An Interview With MISS LAVA

Portugal's Premier Stoner Rock/Metal Band - MISS LAVA - will be releasing their stunning new album DOOM MACHINE on January 15th via Small Stone Recordings and Kozmik Artifactz.

This will be the bands 4th album and sees the band playing a more personal style of music compared to their previous records. The band went through some tough times before making this album and you can feel that when listening to the album.  You can read my review here

I wanted to interview MISS LAVA for a very long time and I finally had the chance to speak to Johnny (Vocals) and Raffah (Guitars) about the making of the album and the evolution of the band itself.

Read on for a cool interview from a truly great band.

Hi Miss Lava. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.

Johnny - We’re doing fine amidst all of this, thanks. Everyone’s healthy and still has their jobs.

For people not in the know. Can you give a brief history of how the band came together and where it is today.

Johnny - I guess you can call us a heavy rock stoner outfit from Lisbon, Portugal. We started in 2005, just jamming and making songs. Then, from 2007 onwards we just played as many shows as we could. Since then, we’ve been at festivals like Desert Fest London, Stoned From The Underground, Ressurrection Fest, Stonefest, Moledo, Super Bock Super Rock, Rock In Rio Lisboa, Reverence Valada, Vagos Open Air, Barroselas Metal Fest and Faro Bike Meeting. 

In addition to having travelled to play an exclusive one-off at the legendary Whisky a Go-Go in Los Angeles, we have shared stages with Queens Of The Stone Age, Graveyard, Ufomammut, Greenleaf, W.A.S.P., Kyuss Lives!, Fu Manchu, Valient Thorr, Entombed, Truckfighters, and many more.

Right now, we’re set to release our new record Doom Machine on January 15th 2021. It is the successor to Dominant Rush EP (2017), Sonic Debris (2016), Red Supergiant (2013), and Blues For The Dangerous Miles (2009), as well as a limited edition self-titled blood red vinyl EP (2008).

The band have gone slightly heavier for this record especially compared to the last record. Was that the original idea and intent for this record
Raffah - It’s funny you mention that, I have many friends who say we did the opposite! But what I can say is that it was not intended. Before we start making this record, we talked about doing things in a different manner. We were promoting our previous record and each one of us had babies coming up in different times, so we were always on and off rehearsals in periods of time. So, Ricardo came up with idea of just going in rehearsal and start jamming whatever we felt like. We recorded lots of jams. Nothing was subject to “we need to do this type of thing” or that… it was just what our hearts needed to put out.

I guess the jams that we liked the most turned to be the music that is on the record. It was like a natural selection of sorts – some stuff evolved into songs, some did not. And when it came to lay it down in the studio, we decided to record it live. We had never done this before. And it was great. We used our own gear and just banged it out like we do in a rehearsal or a show. I guess all of this creates the overall vibe for the record.

The PR blurb that I received for the album advised that “The record is loosely focused on the tragic death of guitarist K. Raffah’s baby son and the other members’ children born during the creative process.” Rafa – Firstly, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your son. I hope you and your family are doing well. How was the overall experience for you when recording the album for yourself personally. Was this the hardest record you’ve ever been involved with.

Raffah - Thanks for your words Steve. We must say that we are doing very well. I am fortunate to have the strongest woman by my side and three awesome girls, Antonio’s sisters. It is very difficult to talk about it, of course, but very therapeutic as well. The experience of recording the album was actually gratifying and very light. I guess that, for me, it was a homage to my son. And when I feel him, I feel warmth and love. I channelled him as much as I could during the process. And now, when I hear the record I honestly can hear and feel him each time. And this feels so good to me. But this was the experience of recording the album.

Making the album was different. Garcia had been a dad again right after Sonic Debris came out (my beautiful god-daughter Carolina). Besides the shows, his time was more limited during that period. Johnny started travelling more and more to Africa for his creative work. So whenever we could get together, we would jam and jam but with no specific goal in mind. Then Antonio was born and he was in the hospital for a month and a half. In the next month, Ricardo’s second baby girl was born in the same hospital as Antonio.

It was great and awkward at the same time being in the hospital at 11pm with Antonio and Ricardo going in with his girlfriend to have a beautiful healthy baby girl. We texted and got together for a coffee at the hospital while he waited. And then I went back to my kid. Two days after they were out of the hospital. And we were still there. Anyway, when he died, as anyone can imagine, it was shocking to everyone around us. Me and my family… we just had to take our time, center on ourselves and forget the world. Then, there was a time, I can’t recall exactly when, when I felt the need to be with them in the rehearsal room and create music together. It all felt natural. 

We got back to some of the jams we had developed earlier, we invented new stuff and then sometime in the beginning of 2019 we felt it was time to record. Going to back to the process of recording the album – we went for something new, recording the instrumental parts live, we me, Garcia and Ricardo in the same room.

What a vibe. Just like when we jammed at rehearsals and when we jam live. I believe that, in the production of this record, I have the best memories from any of our records. As for the other guys, I can’t imagine the impact it all had and still has on their relation with the record.

They were all there in his last days at the hospital with me. They were all there when we buried him. These experiences are so complex and so intense that I can’t even understand them still or make any sense on how it reflects on our relationship or their relationship with me and the band.

For the other members – Your experience was perhaps quite different to Rafa’s. What did you all experience from this making his album.

Johnny - It’s not easy for me to talk about it, but looking back, for me it was the ultimate proof that love is the most important thing in life and it is what makes us Human. The way Raffah’s family carry Antonio on their hearts humbles me everyday, and still makes me try to value the good things in life. And with that in mind, the lyrics on Doom Machine are in a way to remind us what we’re doing with our lives.

The new album – DOOM MACHINE – is perhaps you best album to date. Well in my humble opinion. Why did you call the album DOOM MACHINE and what can people expect from the record compared to your previous releases.

Johnny – Wow, thanks! We decided to call it Doom Machine because I think we’re all part of a big machine of self-destruction, where hate, ego, greed and profit are the main fuel for that engine. I know it’s a cliché but I think we all know where we’re heading. We’re still making the same choices and the same mistakes and our planet and our humanity are threatened like never before. We’re out of control, we’re driving ourselves at full speed to our doomsday or to end life as we know it.

Comparing this record with the previous releases, I think is a more mature album, with more diversity. All songs are very different.

We explore new song structures, we add some interludes, that allows us to breathe and relax between some intense songs and because we recorded it live, it has a different vibe and reflects more accurately what we are as a Live band.

I ultimately enjoyed the new aspects of music you’ve written for this album. It’s heavier which I’ve said earlier but it’s more soulful and quite progressive in places. Did you want to try something different for your 4th album.

Raffah - We always set out to try something different in each record. This time around it was the jamming process for the creation of the songs. In that type of approach, we try not to have any borders or to pre-conceive any structure. I guess we were able to channel a more raw and dense emotional realm this time. Not only because of everything that happened in our lives but also because of the jamming process. That’s where I think the “more soulful and quite progressive” comes from. The music naturally developed that way in the jams.

Has it surprised you the amount of praise your music has received from the Doom/Stoner Rock community. Or do you not take much notice of things like that.

Raffah - It is great to feel like we’re part of the community in the first place. Then, it is obviously very rewarding when we release an album, read a review and think “wow, this journalist really understood what we’re doing here”. But it really really feels great when we play a live show and people come to talk to us, drink a beer and talk about music or life in general. We have made many friends on the road. And this is the best thing in being part of the community.

What comes first for you when recording new music. Lyrics or Music.

Johnny - Usually Music. But there are songs in which the opposite happened, such as “I’m the asteroid” on Sonic Debris.

You’ve signed to Small Stone Recordings for this album again. How did you hook-up with that great label.

Johnny - I believe they’re always with their antennas on wherever you are in the world. We released our first record and sent it them. I believe they started following us at that time. When we put out “Red Supergiant” (it came out first through Raging Planet Records in Portugal) they wrote to us saying they’d like to put it out with a new mix and master. And we started our relationship there.

Now you have KOZMIK ARTIFACTZ handling Vinyl Duties. Same question again. How did this collaboration came about.

Johnny - The collaboration came together between labels. They seem to make a good team and it will be great to have an European support from a label that is very into the stoner scene and that values the record as a work of art.

The album cover for the upcoming new album is excellent. Who designed the cover and how much input did you have into the overall design of the cover.

Raffah - has designed our cover art since the first EP! He’s a very dear friend and I believe he is like our fifth element when we finish our recording process. We talk about the concept of the album, what our creative process was like and he interprets everything through his unique approach. I won’t get into specifics, but I can see the rise of a doom machine and its’ overwhelming transformation when I look at the cover. His first inspiration came from the French artist Philippe Caza. And then I think that all those colours and overall movement really represent the energy of the record. 

You guys are from Lisbon, Portugal. Before COVID-19 hit. What was the local scene like for you guys. Was it easy to get gigs and on a regular basis.

Raffah - There are some clubs around Lisbon where we can play on a more regular basis. But many of the clubs that welcome our style had been closing even before COVID. In the last years, we have been playing mainly small local festivals around the country. Let’s see how we all come back after this. Right now, the club owners are some of the people who have been hit the most hard. Many won’t open their establishments again.

Can you advise any other great bands to checkout from your home-town that our readers may not be aware of.

Johnny - You must check out The Quartet of Woah!, Dollar Llama and Earth Drive from Lisbon. And Black Bombaim and The Black Wizards from the north of Portugal.

COVID-19 has pretty much put a stop to all life as we know it for the time being. How big of an impact has it affected Miss Lava. And how are you surviving in this stressful time.

Johnny - When COVID hit, we were in the process of mixing and mastering the album. We had a few festival dates lined up and that was it. Everything was postponed or cancelled. Right now, we can’t plan a tour to support the record, for instance. The record was supposed to come out in 2020 but it was pushed forward to 2021… we haven’t been rehearsing as there are more bands that use our space.

After everything is back to some sort of normality. What does the future hold for the band Will you be touring the record in the future.

Raffah - We sure hope so! There are no plans for it right now. We have been getting solicitations to play at different festivals, so let’s see how it goes. We love playing live and these songs will take our shows to the next level.

The band has shared stages with Queens Of The Stone Age, Graveyard, Ufomammut, Greenleaf, W.A.S.P., Kyuss Lives!, Fu Manchu, Valient Thorr, Entombed, Truckfighters, and many more. What have been your favourite bands/artists to share the stages with and the reasons why.

Raffah - To me, the most surprising was definitely Slash. When we opened up for his solo band, he talked to us and let us be on stage while they were sound checking. A legend. Opposite to WASP, whose guitarist thinks he rules the world and kicks out bands from their own backstage. Or maybe he thinks he’s still in the 80’s or something.

Johnny - For me the favourite was when we share the stage with Queens Of The Stone Age. It was such an important gig for us and Josh was surprisingly friendly, a true giant of modesty.

What have been your favourite records that you’ve heard this year. Regardless of genre.

Raffah - I like the recent King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Loved discovering Murcielago’s “Casualties”. And the new AC/DC has been playing a lot in my car. Outside from rock, I recommend “Night Dreamer Direct-To-Disc Sessions” by Seu Jorge and Rogê, Brazillian artists from my home-town Rio de Janeiro. The best thing I heard this year. (Rafa)

Johnny - I’ve been listening to the new albums of thrash bands like Death Angel, Acid Reign, Armoured Saint (I love John Bush singing style); Dool; Katatonia; All Them Witches, the new Zeal and Ardor EP and still listening a lot Voivod’s Last Masterpiece “the Wake”. Listening also a lot of kid’s music with my baby girl .

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom that you want to say to your fans.

Raffah - If you like a band, support them on BandCamp and write them. Get in touch. As there are no shows, we really feel the need to be connected with people again.

Words by Steve Howe and MISS LAVA

Thanks to MISS LAVA for doing this interview. Much appreciated guys.

Doom Machine will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via Small Stone Recordings and Kozmik Artifactz from January 15th 2021. 


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