Best known as frontman with legendary Floridian technical death metallers Atheist, Kelly Schaefer has always been inclined to focus on multiple projects covering a huge amount of musical ground. His latest band, Stones Of Madness, are arguably the most straightforward thing he has ever been involved with, and their debut self-titled EP – available via www.stonesofmadness.com right now – looks certain to lure in anyone that worships at the altar of pure heavy metal, both ancient and modern. With a new Atheist album due in 2015 too, Kelly clearly remains one of metal's most dedicated and open-minded servants. We spoke to him about Stones Of Madness, honouring old school values and his hectic but exciting future...
Introducing... Stones Of Madness
From death metal to hard rock in one simple move
What was the original inspiration behind forming Stones Of Madness?
"A mutual interest in music, of course. It came together rather easily as Scott Thompson [ex-Dry Kill Logic guitarist] had written and recorded some music and already had the band name, plus ideas on how he wanted to present it. I just responded to the music before me and the results were really different for me, even from the melodic side of my voice in Neurotica [Kelly's late 90s stoner metal band]. This music was chunkier and brought some new sounds out of me and new voices."
This is radically different from (and much more straightforward) than Atheist and the style you're known for... what appeals to you about playing more straight-up metal like this?
"Well it allows for simplicity for me. No one should want to paint in only one colour for starters, and of course I would never be able to use these harmonies and melodies in the setting of Atheist music. I really enjoy slower sludgy shit most times, and love to not only scream but to sing and be dynamic and to find different voices where I can. It's good fun and a tremendous release of a different energy from my journeys with the music of Atheist."
Presumably you grew up listening to the greats of old school metal...what is it about that era that has made those bands so fundamental to everything else in heavy music?
"Certainly musicianship plays a roll in it. Maiden, for instance, are so very responsible for so many of us to not be afraid to have multiple sections in a song, or to use abstract type lyrical phrases or to construct solos that mean something. It was organic in the old school, pre-digital era. Now you know that if you make a mistake you can just fix it with the computer, but back then you had to really feel it and capture it and that made it more special."
What do the other members of the band bring to the SOM sound?
"Well Shawn [Bowen, guitarist] is a multi-instrumentalist/artist... In fact, to me he is a walking body of art with creativity galore. Julia Simms [bassist] and myself have been writing together acoustically for over five years, and she has a very strong voice, plays guitar very well, along with bass, and has a great sense of pitch which acts as a GPS for me vocally when we do harmonies. And no band is complete without a pounding spine of a drummer – a hard-hitting, versatile, instinctive beast! We have that in GJ [Gosman, drums]. We've known each other for years. That's something that is great with Stones - the comfort, and confidence. No egos, just music!"
How do you feel about the metal scene in the US today? Do you think it's healthy?
"It's much like the pool in National Lampoon's Vacation! All kinds of shit floating around of all shapes and sizes. Far too many sub-genres and classifications. It's just so different from the spirit of the metal fans in Europe. It sucks to say, but I am afraid it's true. That's not to say there aren't some incredible musicians and music being made in the States these days. It's just delivered far differently, I think. Festivals, metal pride in buying the records and merch, the traditions and integrity in Europe are a model of how it should be done. Rather than having travelling circus-type rock shows and packages that travel from town to town, it should be something every large market would wanna showcase each year and have people travel to their towns and festivals, rather than the opposite, but I don't see that happening here."
What are your hopes and plans from this point on? And how will Stones Of Madness work beside all your impending Atheist activities?
"I see SOM getting out and playing in Europe, and some select shows in several cities here in the US... and making some good old-fashioned American fucking metal! And then it's time for Atheist 2015! Good things times two!"
Pick up Stones Of Madness' EP here from iTunes.