"When I write and record a song or whatever, and people are stoked on it, that's all I need." - Bill Kielty, guitarist, vocals, O Zorn!
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ABOUT BILL KIELTY:
The riff reigns supreme. Guitarist and vocalist Bill Kielty joins the podcast to talk about the beginning of O Zorn! and how all the members are stage hardened veterans of the Long Beach music scene. Plus, hear details on the newest album and what is next for the band.
Jeff: Like I've been saying on a lot of these episodes, one of the greatest things that keeps us all together and keeps us sane, is music.
Bill Kielty: Oh, that's for sure.
Jeff: Not only being able to enjoy music with each other over long distances and being able to listen to our favorite music on whatever devices we have, but the wonderful, wonderful stuff of new music. And thankfully, you guys just graced us with some
Bill Kielty: Oh yeah, thanks, yeah. I know, man. One thing for sure, we've been listening to a lot of music around here. Literally the other day just listened to nothing but reggae all day long, just filling the house, and it was super rad. But yeah, super stoked to have... I mean, yeah, there's... Ultimately, trying to find some kind of silver lining in all this, but I think people are listening to more music because of this. And I think that our album is getting listened to a lot more because everybody's at home and they have time to explore. And I've certainly been looking into more music. Last week or so, it's been checking out new bands and kind of searching, and I think it's been kind of cool. Hopefully it kind of changes everybody's approach a little more.
Bill Kielty: I think everybody's approach in general, to all kinds of things, are going to be... People that are used to going to bars, people who are used to going out to eat all the time. Well now they're either doing all that at home.
Jeff: Yeah, no one of the things I've been saying, which is so funny is, is I am totally guilty of this, like many of us. I'll be at my house and I'll see a flyer online or something like that, for a band that I've either seen before, maybe never seen, they're coming to the area or maybe in driving distance or whatever. And 50% of the time, maybe even more than that, I'll go, "I'll catch them next time." You know, "I'm busy that night." Or, "I feel like staying in or whatever." And I keep laughing. I'm like, "When this is all over, I'm going to go to every single fucking show there ever is." I miss live music so much. But I'm really excited that you guys just dropped Your Killer. What an incredible record. And I want to talk a little bit about the process going into that, writing this record and recording it.
Jeff: First of all, for any of my listeners who just might be meeting you guys for the first time, O ZORN!, you guys are a three piece, two guitars and a drum. What's the reason behind that? Was it just necessity, or did you set out to start a band with that instrumentation?
Bill Kielty: Oh, as far as no bass and whatnot?
Jeff: No bass. Yeah.
Bill Kielty: Yeah, when we first started out, we had tried out a couple of bass players. They were just flaking out pretty hard and nothing was really sticking. And then I just had the idea of, let me install a bass pickup in the neck position, and run heavier gauge strings. So, kind of started that way. And then I started tweaking it from there.
Bill Kielty: So now, so we run a P Bass pickup in the neck. Okay, I run 80 gauge strings on our guitars and they're set up for that. So very heavy gauge strings. The bottom strings are almost like a high bass string. And, so if you look at our guitars, they have two volumes and two jacks out. So we have the guitar humbucker pickup on on the bridge position.
Bill Kielty: And then we have a P Bass pickup in the neck position. And then the P Bass pickup has its own out. And then it goes into an octave pedal, which drops it down a base octave. And then we run those through bass rigs. And then the guitar... Then the humbucker goes out and runs through a full stack. So it's pretty amazing that, most people that come... Our live shows, especially, there's something about it, there's a fullness and just a super heaviness to it that some people have said that, in some regard, it sounds heavier than if there was an actual bass player in there.
Bill Kielty: Both of us run that set up and Billy does it through a baritone, I do it through a standard neck. We've been doing it now for almost 10 years. So, you know.
Jeff: It's definitely working. The little bit that I've gotten to see of you guys perform on the internet, it's just like you said, you're not missing a beat. It sounds like it's heavier than anything. And it's very cool because sometimes, unfortunately, you deal with random sound guys or random rooms, and that bass can be angled in a way where it just gets lost in a live performance, because it's not getting mixed into that mix right. Or it's just like I said, that the amps might be angled into the corner or something. If you're in that crowd, you're not catching it, but you guys, I think you broke the mold with it and it's definitely-
Bill Kielty: Oh, thanks, man, yeah, yeah. I'm not going to lie. I stole the idea from... There was a band called Local H. Do you know the band Local H? They're a two piece. And he runs that kind of... I don't think he runs his through an octave pedal, but when I researched it back in the day, I was like, "Oh shit, I could probably do something like that." And so, gave it hell, and here we are.
Jeff: That's awesome. You guys are so much about the riff, the groove, the epic ness of what you're going into it. And this record embodies all of that through every single fricking track.
Bill Kielty: Thanks.
Jeff: When you guys were writing this record, did you have a idea in mind, a theme in mind, or was it just a bunch of riffs that you basically were coalescing into this record?
Bill Kielty: Yeah. It's all riff based, you know what I mean? So, I pretty much write the majority of the songs, or bring the tracks in. Vocals and whatnot, totally come in after. But, most of the riffs that we write are pretty easy to sing to. But no, it got written pretty quickly, probably a little over about a year or so.
Jeff: You can tell that in some of these songs, especially the title track, is that riff as you guys have so eloquently put it, "reigns supreme constantly". And, I didn't know if maybe there was a little bit more secret sauce in there, if it's just like that riff hits you and you're like, "Yup, this is where we're going with this."
Bill Kielty: Yeah, no, man, I think it just comes natural, man. Once I... I've been in bands for years, and I've always had this certain kind of... I don't know, man, I just write riffs very well. I don't know. You know what I mean? Not saying that they're very good, but I can come up with hooks pretty easily. I think it's probably...
Bill Kielty: I kind of have a background in hardcore, and then kind of post hardcore music, but with an unfortunate kind of an emo feel to it. Listening to bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, and growing up with stuff like that. And real melodic less, you know what I mean, but then getting real violent with it too. And just trying to expand on all the emotions, the best you can, you know what I mean? So it's kind of like, "All right, if I'm going to write a hardcore song, fucking goddamn, it's going to be gnarly." You know what I mean? Or if I'm going to write something beautiful, let's make it very beautiful and lush sounding and atmospheric. I think it's just kind of exploring the best of every type of approach, you know,
Jeff: Totally, totally. It says on, actually your Facebook page, that you guys, the three of you, were veterans of the scene, and you've mentioned you were in bands for forever before that, did you start out, like you mentioned in hardcore bands?
Bill Kielty: Yeah, just kind of punk bands. My first band sounded like Jimmy Eat World, literally, when we were younger. And was kind of wrapped up in that scene for a long time. Funny, I was just talking to the singer from Sam I Am, does that ring a bell?
Jeff: Oh yeah.
Bill Kielty: The San Francisco band, but kind of pioneers in that sound. And we'd basically just kind of gotten to... How we've drifted from our initial sound. I wouldn't say that I graduated into this heavy, heavy sound. I think I'm just kind of taking this sound and putting my own twist into it.
Bill Kielty: I think a lot of doom bands, if you want to call us that, and we had called all kinds of things, we get called sludge, we get called post hardcore, we get called doom, or a mix of everything. And honestly, I think we're just a heavy rock band at the end of the day. I'm not sure the label even really works for us. But we get called sludge all the time, and I'm just kind of like, "Are we really, though?"
Jeff: I love music labels like that, because if you really talk to someone who's labeling you and then you say, "Okay, define sludge for me, define the genre of sludge." And you'll get nine different answers if you ask nine different people.
Bill Kielty: Yeah, well someone will say, "Oh, well I hate God or whatever." Fuck, we don't sound anything like that. I hate God, but we get compared to them a lot. And it's kind of weird to me, but hey, whatever. I guess they got to put us somewhere.
Jeff: You put out what you're going to put out, and you become your own genre. I think that's the best part about music.
Bill Kielty: No, exactly. I like that.
Jeff: As a fan of what you're doing, and this new record, I hear bits and pieces, I don't hear, I hate God, but I hear... You guys got that Deftones groove to you. You've got that highly suspect kind of driving force. You've got a little bit of early Foo Fighters in you guys.
Jeff: But none of that, none of their genres are your genre. You guys are riff for the sake of riff. And that is what's so epic about what you're doing. And actually, mentioning the Foos, I was reading that you guys recorded this record at 606, right?
Bill Kielty: Yes.
Jeff: How was that experience?
Bill Kielty: That was great. I used to be in a band called Who Rides the Tiger, which is another Southern California band. And back when that studio first opened, we were somewhat being managed by the studio manager and had an opportunity to go in there and track some demos and whatnot. We were one of the first bands to actually go in there and track. So that would have been like around 2006 or so, maybe a little bit earlier. But they didn't have that Neve board in there yet, the Sound City board. And I have basically remained friends with the studio engineer, the house engineer for years, we've been good friends for years.
Bill Kielty: And when it came time for us to start tracking this record, we had initially scheduled time with the guy that mixed our first album, and have that all set up. And then I just get a random text message from my buddy, Lou, who's the house engineer at 606. He was like, "Hey man, I hear you guys are getting ready to... There's rumblings that you guys are going to track a new record." I said, "Yes." "How would you like to do it at 606?" "Fuck, yes."
Jeff: Fuck, yes.
Bill Kielty: "When? " And, it took a while to nail down some dates, but eventually we were actually able to get a week booked in there, and that's kind of about it. And then just went in and made it happen.
Bill Kielty: But, the studio itself, it's pretty amazing. Giant tracking room, basically a fucking basketball arena for a tracking room. Or I'm sorry, just a big like, I would say it's almost like a... Every time I walk in there I feel like I'm walking into a junior high assembly, because it's so big, it's so boomy and so rad and so great sounding. Just tons of gear, tons of guitars, any amp you want, any pedal you want, all the while, Foo Fighter guys are walking in and out too, because it was kind of their little clubhouse when they're not on the road. So a lot of kind of interesting meet ups with those guys throughout our time there.
Jeff: Now I have to ask too, from especially a heavy musician, playing in a recording studio, that's just run of the mill studio, or even tracking in your home studio or whatever it is, and then going and tracking on that Sound City board, do you immediately notice the difference?
Bill Kielty: Yes, absolutely. But I've actually been pretty fortunate to have recorded in a bunch of studios in Los Angeles where there are big Neve boards or big SSL consoles or whatnot. But that board, man, fucking I'll tell you. And especially the Neve boards, those old 70s Neve boards. I forgot, I think it's an 8081, or I can't remember the actual model number of that one. When I record on that board, I get the same... There's another studio in Hollywood called the Steakhouse and it's owned by this guy, Steve Lukather who played in Big Country.
Jeff: [crosstalk 00:00:13:05].
Bill Kielty: But he owns a studio called The Steakhouse and he's got one of those old Neve boards. And I initially, I had recorded on that for years as well, like in the early 2000s. But as soon as I got in to record on this new Neve board at 606, there's something about that Neve board, there's something about that Neve model that, fuck, man. And with the right monitors and whatnot, you start tracking, and the EQs on it, the EQs crackle and the faders crack too, and you're sliding them up and down. But, man, once you get it dialed in, it just takes a little bit of finesse, but man, it just sounds fantastic.
Bill Kielty: When you listen to the stuff back throughout your recording time, and you're stoked on it, it just makes... I think the answer to your question is to record in a studio like that, it just keeps the hype up through the whole thing. Because you're sitting there, you're tracking, you're playing back, you're listening through the mains, through that board, through those EQs, and it just makes you even more stoked as your tracking it because you know what's coming. You're like, "Holy shit, that sounds great." You know, man. And it just makes takes go, you know what I mean? One, two takes, tops. It just makes it easier to play I think in general. You know what I mean?
Jeff: Oh, totally, totally. And it permeates your new record. It really does. You can tell that that energy in that room was recorded on that record. And I got to ask too, and this might be a dumb question, but when you're recording, now these tracks, are you splitting everything into two? Because when you're playing live, you've got both pickups going, and both everything.
Bill Kielty: Oh, I see you're saying. Am I running bass and guitar at the same time?
Jeff: Yeah, are you doing multiple tracks of guitar, multiple tracks of bass, that kind of thing?
Bill Kielty: Yeah, so the answer to that question is, yeah. So we set up guitar rigs in the main tracking room, and then set up a bass rig off in a hallway, and both of them are miked at the same time. And we basically track the same time. But we do do overdubs. I'll go through and do single notes on the bass end, just to punch it up. And one thing about the setup that we do run, live wise, it sounds phenomenal. And I don't know if it's just the frequencies or just the, it's super heavy, but to capture it in a studio, it tastes a little more finagling. We got to run DI boxes, just to get the tone that we would get live, into the recording. But, for the most part, to answer your question, yeah. we split it, but we also run them in tandem at the same time.
Jeff: That's awesome. That is awesome. It's so powerful. It's so, so fricking rad.
Bill Kielty: Thanks, man.
Jeff: I want to go all the way back, because I'm always curious talking to musicians about this. Did you start playing guitar at an early age? And if so, did you have a catalyst moment for you to pick up the guitar?
Bill Kielty: Yeah, we had an old fucking long hair that lived up the street from me when I was a kid. I was totally into Maiden [inaudible 00:16:31] Judas Priest guy, I was a little younger, but just [inaudible 00:16:36] lived up the road. I was friends with his kid brother. So, they always had guitars up there. So that's kind of where I started playing, but I fell in love with it right out of the gate.
Bill Kielty: Grew up an artist, grew up drawing and more on that end, but then switched gears to music when I was about 12, 13.
Bill Kielty: And for the most part, I always wrote my own songs. So I never really got into learning covers and whatnot. Of course you learned Crazy Train and all that stuff, that's a given. But for the most part, just kind of always started out writing, writing my own little songs. And then didn't start really getting really into until I was probably 18 or 19 years old. Kind of started a little late. My first band, I didn't even start until I was, geez, 23, 24 years old.
Jeff: Wow. I got to ask, what was the name of the first band?
Bill Kielty: It was Happy to Be Here.
Bill Kielty: Hey, we're happy to be here.
Jeff: I love it, that's so great.
Bill Kielty: There was also a band called Kenochamp after that.
Jeff: Oh, Wow.
Bill Kielty: I really stepped it up.
Jeff: Stepped it way up. So that leads me to ask then. O ZORN!, that is directly taken from Watership Down.
Bill Kielty: Yeah, yeah.
Jeff: Is that just because, like a favorite piece of literature?
Bill Kielty: Well, first of all, I do love the book, but full disclosure, my first drummer is the one that kind of coined it. And, I remember him saying it, and immediately, I was like, "Wait a minute, I know that." And he was like, "Yeah, yeah, it's from Watership Down, O ZORN." And it's just stuck with us ever since.
Bill Kielty: It's got a lot of... In regard to... IT basically just means the wrath. In reference to the book, O ZORN just means, oh, shit's hitting the fan.
Jeff: No, it's such a rad band name because it works. If you know nothing about it, it just works, because it's O ZORN!, oh yeah, that's a band, of course. But that extra layer is just it's it... And for anybody who doesn't know it, Watership Down is a metal as fuck book. It's dark as shit. And there's a hell of a lot of crap in that book. Like it's awesome.
Bill Kielty: I've got enough [inaudible 00:19:18] man, that book gave me nightmares, or the animation gave them nightmares.
Bill Kielty: Yeah, it's a crazy book, man.
Jeff: Yeah, for sure. So that leads me into the theme of this show. You know, we are all fueled by the same thing, every single one of us as humans, we're all fueled by death. This one finish line that we're getting to. But we want to try and leave this world a little different before we leave it for good. And I just have to ask what fuels you to keep creating music and to keep getting out there and doing what you do?
Bill Kielty: Dude, it's what I do. And I'm going to continue doing it. All just simply to... Dude, when I write and record a song or whatever, and people are stoked on it, that's all I need. None of us making any money doing this, and obviously, none of us are touring right now. So hopefully, that'll come at some point.
Bill Kielty: I always said, it's just what I do. My day job can go fuck off and everything else, at the end of the day, I'm a songwriter, or we're song writers, and that's not going to change. And I identify as that, I want to be identified as that, Oh, that's Bill, he's a song smith, that's what they do. And I try not to pigeonhole myself into one genre either. I write folk music and do stuff on piano. This just happens to be what I'm doing right now. And, I'm going to do it. As long as I can drag an amp or guitar on stage, when I'm 80 years old, I'm going to do it.
Jeff: That's so rad. And that's the whole reason to do it, for sure, for sure. Why not be creative if you don't love it?
Bill Kielty: Dude, it's such a great outlet. I feel bad for people that don't have something like that in their lives. Some people have sports, some people have tennis. I don't know. That's great, if that's something you can do forever and it brings you great joy, then awesome. But for people that don't have something like that in their lives, I feel for them, because whatever, you're a skater, you're a surfer, whatever, at least have something.
Jeff: I know we're in this terrible, strange time in the world. Were you guys planning a tour at all for the new record?
Bill Kielty: Who knows, I don't even know. The album just released. Getting a booking agent right now has been harder than ever. I'm sure we could book our own tour and figure that out. Our biggest problem has been trying to find a booking agent that has room on his roster for one.Because let's face it, bands are just touring. That's how bands make money now.
Bill Kielty: And it's not even like we've even been shopping booking agents, we're hoping that this album... We're already actually starting to write our third record. Because this album was done, we finished writing this record... We were recorded almost last spring. So we've been sitting on it for almost a year, which is par for the course, but, these songs are already kind of old for me.
Bill Kielty: But, more than anything, we were just waiting to release the damn thing, and see if it stuck, and people seem to be super receptive and seem to really dig it, and the reviews seem to be really good.
Jeff: Yeah, well, I can't say enough good things about it. I'm excited that you guys are already thinking about the next one, because that's awesome. And I hope when all this blows over, that you do get on tour and maybe you'll come out my way, or maybe I can come out of your way. Because I definitely got to catch a show live. You guys look like it's-
Bill Kielty: Yeah, yeah, man, for sure. Yeah, it sucks we had to cancel it. We had a record release show all set up out here in Costa Mesa, and that was going to be a party. And then it got shut down, literally. I think basically, the day, the fucking... Almost the day that Mayor Garcetti, shut it down, was the day, literally, we had just pulled stakes on the whole thing, the day before or so. Posters were made up, artists out of Columbus had made this amazing poster art for us, for the show, we went and printed them out, had a bunch of shirts done up, and we were ready to go and then it just got pulled.
Jeff: Well, at least the record's out, and we all get to enjoy it. That's what I'm saying, music is the thing that's keeping us all together, keeping us sane. And you guys are at the forefront of doing that. For finally, for all of my listeners, I just want to know, what's the best way to follow your journey? Do you use social media at all, or is it just through the band itself?
Bill Kielty: Oh yeah, Instagram for sure. That's probably our most active, platform's the word. But yeah, Facebook, but mainly Instagram. We're always posting on that. And go look up the old record, our self titled album. You can download it for free on Bandcamp. Have you heard of that first record?
Jeff: I just started to download it, actually.
Bill Kielty: Okay, cool.
Jeff: Right before this, yeah.
Bill Kielty: Yeah, check that out. It's always nice to go back and listen, but the first record has got some... It's interesting as well. Check it out if you have time.
Jeff: Definitely. I'll put links to that in the liner notes of this show too. Bill, I can't thank you enough for taking time and talking with me today. It was great learning about the band. And I'm so excited for the future of O ZORN! You guys are killer, you really are.