3 questions with metal musician James Donald Stuart III |
Santa Fe metal fans will no doubt recognize bassist and guitarist James Donald Stuart III, a local mainstay who has played with everyone from Savage Wizdom and Sex Headaches to Night Soil. What they may not know is that Stuart’s metal journey began in the church camp, continued through years at Warehouse 21 metal shows and, at the Currently, more projects than seem possible for a single musician. It just goes to show that if you play bass well in Santa Fe, the bands will eventually hit. And though the lion’s share of Stuart’s work finds him writing and collaborating with some of Santa Fe’s most notable rockers, this week he’s donning his tribute hat for a performance in Sabbatha tribute to Black Sabbath that is sure to respect the roots of metal itself (7 p.m. Friday, June 3. $10. Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, 2791 Agua Fría St., (505) 395-5135). You’ll also find the band Guided paying homage to none other than that guitar god himself, Jimi Hendrix. This all sounded pretty cool and pretty shredded to us, so we found Stuart and tricked him into answering these three questions.
Of all the metal tributes you could possibly pay tribute to, why Black Sabbath?
Well, I mean, Black Sabbath is, you know, the godfathers of metal. [Guitarist] Tony Iommi is the godfather of riff metal, and he is considered as such by many people. Besides, it seemed like a good idea. It all started because there was this Candyman 50th anniversary celebration. [music store], and they themed it with bands from the Woodstock festival. I made this joke to [manager] Francesca Jozette about having metal bands, just for fun, and she asked me if I would be ok with doing a Black Sabbath tribute band. They were kind of in the same timeline as a lot of those Woodstock bands, and she thought that would be cool. So I met metal musician Chris Riggins, who is also a huge metalhead, and he wanted to do guitar and said he would be interested in singing. We asked our friend Jesse Otero to play drums and our friend Tom Valencia on the other guitar, and that was it. Everything we do comes from the first four albums, and we didn’t get past that because the last four albums kinda sucked.
What about your Night Soil project? Will you soon be shredding new materials our way?
We’re trying to write right now, and I think we have some tentative shows in July. And we hope to have polished some of our new songs that we’ve been working on, but we really hope to hit it hard by the end of the year. [When it comes to writing] it really depends. Chris [Riggins] and Mark [Pennington] I do a lot of the writing of the riffs and the structure, and I’m kind of the glue that helps hold it all together. It takes a bit of time to get it going. We’ll jam one riff, and if we like it, we’ll go over the basic structure with drummer Dominic Martinez, and then we’ll just take it one beat at a time, really. We’ll try to sketch out a skeleton of what we think is an entire song. I don’t read or write music, but Chris is undeniably schooled and highly educated. He has a background in sound and engineering, and he helps a lot with song relationships, so if there’s a note off, he’ll be like, “Oh, well, let’s try that?” We have our Night Soil demo, which you can find on our Bandcamp page. We did five songs that we recorded and mixed entirely ourselves, and we did it all in our jam space, which is really Mark Pennington’s hangar. Chris Riggins recorded it, so it’s pretty much self-produced.
Why do you think Santa Fe has always had this intense love for all things metal?
Man, I’ve wondered this ever since I went to shows. There’s just something about this town, I think – it’s a very old town, very historic, and there’s a lot of really violent and bloody history, a lot of dark and seductive things about this place who just have that vibe. A lot of people called it high desert metal, high desert rock – I think it’s just something about the atmosphere. It brings out a certain angst and beauty, and that’s a really strange phenomenon to me. From my teenage years until today, there have always been these metal bands.
And all of us who play music are just stealing little pieces from other musicians and trying to make it into something that’s more like what we like, more unique. I listen to metal, but I listen to a lot of basic pop music, and just hearing what they can do with very little while they’re making these songs, people are very interested, see what other bands can do like Yes, with great technique playing and hooks and pop… everything that pop music has, but with life in it – I just want to take things that sound good and have that feel that’s accessible.