In the most redeeming sense of the term “typical,” Stone Machine Electric is truly atypical. The Arlington metal duo of drummer Mark Kitchens, an architect and the father of two young children, and guitarist/singer William “Dub” Irvin couldn’t care less about “typical” or what’s expected. From Kitchens and Irvins’ live-recorded 2010 debut, Awash in Feedback, to their 2013 studio-recorded self-titled album to 2013.02.07 (recorded live at The Grotto) to their new album, the forthcoming Garage Tape, there’s a distinctly jazzy, DIY vibe at play. All of the songs on Garage Tape are improvisations. Not out of character for a jazz band, but for a metal band that specializes in walls of churning, thunderous sound, it’s pretty groundbreaking.
“I’m always open to anything,” Kitchens said. “I like crossing genres … playing with things to make them different.”
Kitchens and Irvin have been fine-tuning SME’s particular brand of stoner-doom since forming about five years ago. The two have been playing together, in one capacity or another, for nearly 20 years. The guys met at a random jam at a house party one New Year’s Eve. Their first band, Rustic Dog, became their second band, Dead Rustic Dog, which became Stone Machine Electric.
Clearly, those years of playing and feeding off each other make Garage Tape work as well as it does. Split into two 20-minute tracks, the whole thing is an improvised live set at Kitchens’ Arlington home. With stacked and broken cymbals, a semi-hollow Schecter guitar, an army of pedals, a bit of riff-looping, and a theremin, Stone Machine Electric is able to make this garage sound like the pit of a well-oiled doom-psych orchestra that’s commemorating the apocalypse. It combines long bouts of slowly churning sludge –– like some sinister force making its way through an unsuspecting suburban neighborhood –– with moments when that force stops to light a house or two on fire. At that point the loop pedal is switched off, Irvin’s guitar freaks the fuck out, and Kitchens begins hitting his drums as if he’s beating out flames. It’s a dramatic session that alternately grooves and wails, and it feels comfortable and confident in every direction.
The “studio” is also SME’s practice space. For the recording session, Kitchens and Irvin set up microphones everywhere to “try to capture everything,” Kitchens said. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Erik Carson, who runs Tin Can Records, a Fort Worth studio, and who also produced SME’s 2010 single, “Walking Among the Blind,” Garage Tape is as raw as anything Yells at Eels or even Paul Bley with Jaco have ever done. “We played for 10 minutes to get set up,” Kitchens said, “and then [Carson] hit record.”
The guys haven’t thrown songwriting completely out the door.
“Here in the past four or five months, we’ll pick two or three songs we’re going to play, then we’ll start the show off and improvise it, and then we’ll go into a song, and then back into improvising,” Kitchens said. “That’s sort of how the sets go. … There’s no downtime.”
The album, which is available only digitally and via cassette, includes a 20-minute remix by Fort Worth composer Terry Horn of The Owl and The Octopus and Hentai Improvising Orchestra. It’s a stark contrast to the raw nature of the source material, but it still feels like a natural progression. Think: Brian Eno possessed by Stephen King.
After opening for major metalists Jucifer on Thursday at Lola’s Saloon, Stone Machine Electric will celebrate the official release of Garage Tape at The Grotto on Friday, Jan. 16, where producer/musician Kent Stump, who produced SME’s 2013 album and who fronts Dallas stoner-rockers Wo Fat, will join Kitchens and Irvin onstage.
“We call it the Whoa! Fat Machine,” Kitchens said. “It’s going to be us and Wo Fat playing, sort of a jam session at the end of the night, reminiscent of what we did on Garage Tape.”
Stone Machine Electric
Thu w/Jucifer at Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, FW. 817-877-0666.