This interview is posted in the Bulgarian webzine Rawk'n'Roll. I post it here in English so it could be available to wider audience and also for the band and its managers to use it as they find proper.
When Karma To Burn got back together two years ago, we almost shitted our pants brown. And when last year they released the amazing "Appalachian Incantations" we went insane because it apeared they hadn't moved an inch and they beat again our shit out with great riff punches. And now, in the eve of their fifth album and their upcoming big tour, we are talking to their bassist and the cofounder of Karma To Burn, the nice guy Rich Mullins.
RR: Hi, Rich! Are you just waking up?
RR: How has been 2011 so far?
RM: So far so good. No horrible tragedy.
RR: Last year’s “Appalachian Incantation” was a massive statement for your comeback. How did you come up with this album? Was it written and recorded in a rush or it was all natural process?
RM: It was pretty natural. We started with… I think the third track we did was “Forty One” and that’s when we decided we should try to do another record. We just went form there. At the end I think we were little bit rushed because we wanted to do one song ‘cause we worked with Scott Reeder. We wanted to try to do one song out there that we just kind of put together with him and we didn’t have time to do it.
RR: Mentioning Scott Reeder, he has produced the album. And you have John Garcia singing in it. What is this strong Kyuss connection?
RM: I think it was during “The Sky Valley” tour. We’re from the opposite sides of the country. The guitarist for this band Hermano he was in this band called Black Cat Bone out of Kentucky. They were in the recording studio and at the same label as Kyuss when they were doing “Sky Valley”. And he had a copy of it. And when he heard us playing, he said: “Hey guys, you’ll probably like this” and he gave us a copy. And so we heard it, we thought it was cool and we did some shows with them in Ohio. This was a long time ago and at that time we became friends. We opened for the Queens Of The Stone Age on their first tour. So we’ve just known those bands forever. And then actually John came to live with me in West Virginia for a couple of months, right before they did “… And the Circus Leaves Town”.
RR: How is the album accepted by fans and the critics? And is it selling good?
RM: It went really well. Really well.
RR: What was the reason for the band split in 2002?
RM: Ah… I had a drug problem. Hah, kind of got out of the way of things. I tried to do a geographical change in my life. I thought it would help out but it didn’t really.
RR: While Karma was disbanded all of you joined various projects. Was that a good experience for you?
RM: It was good. We kept playing and trying some different things. And we all had to go, me and Rob, get ourselves clean. It gave us how to do that and get away from everything that we’ve been doing and allowed us to come back to this situation with a different perspective.
RR: How did you decide to reform Karma To Burn?
RM: Gosh! Will and I talked for the first time in 7 years and it came up right away. It was weird. It was like “Alright!”
RR: When you were back in 2009 you did a lot of touring. You played many shows in Europe which seems to be preferable scene for bands from the States. Why is that?
RM: It’s because the US doesn’t really rock anymore. The US is pretty bleak for anything that isn’t straight up commercial.
RR: But there are so many rock bands from the States!
RM: You can do okay. There are bands that are doing better here than there. We have toured with The Sword. The Sword does much better here in the US than in Europe.
RR: Well, The Sword toured with Metallica which, I think, helped them a lot.
RM: Yeah. That seems to help a little bit. But even before Metallica they were doing pretty much the same. Their first record did really well here. It’s weird – it’s hard to predict what happens in the States because you can’t get much of the media coverage if you don’t get on TV a little bit.
RR: When you returned in 2009, you played the Roadburn. And you did two shows for night.
RM: Yes, we played twice in the same day. We had to play an extra show because of that volcano we had a lot of band cancelled. It was really weird to find out that a volcano is keeping people from travelling. No one expects to hear anything like that. And there were bands that were coming over to play Roadburn and we were playing a lot, it was a part of the tour so we were going to be there for long anyhow. So we came before the volcano and we saw people that were trying to get boat tickets and they were going to travel from England to Los Angeles. It was pretty crazy. We saw people doing desperate things trying to get across the ocean.
RR: What was the highlight of the shows you did after reuniting? Which country?
RM: We got really lucky; I think we had a lot of them. We went to a lot of places we’ve never been before like Greece and Poland. I was shocked to see how the rock scene was in these places.
RR: I tried to come to Greece to see you but I couldn’t make it on time, so I hope I’ll catch you some day.
RM: We are trying to come out your way this summer. We are booking our tour now. It starts in the last week of May. And I know that we are going up in Finland for the first time. Then we will try to come down in Russia. And then we are straight in Greece. So, we’ll see.
RR: During the years you have played with such a great bands like Monster Magnet for example. Which ones were the coolest to tour with and who were your favorite ones?
RM: Motörhead! We have done like a hundred shows with them and I still watch their show every time because they are so good. Every song’s great.
RR: With which band you still haven’t played and you really wish to?
RM: There’s only one. We’ve played with them at the same festival but I don’t really count it. AC/DC.
RR: Isn’t it exhausting playing both in Karma To Burn and Year Long Disaster?
RM: Man, it’s exhausting just playing in Karma To Burn. We do so many shows, it’s crazy. I like playing music so to me it’s not exhausting. No matter what you do, if you’re doing it a lot so you become profession out of it, you are going to give it thousands and thousands of hours, so no. I wanna play music so I wanna do it as much as possible.
RR: What made you decide doing again songs with vocals?
RM: At the beginning it was just because we couldn’t get a vocalist that we could work with. We are not the easiest three guys to get along with. We have requirements for writing, for what we do in the song an sometimes it doesn’t leave a lot of room. And it’s really hard in a lot of instances for a voice to reflect this power that we can reflect. So it was really difficult. Recently we’ve got better in writing, so this record has some songs with vocals on ‘em.
RR: How did you meet Daniel Davies?
RM: I was buying booze for this party and he was buying booze at the same time and I started talking to him at the store, haha. We shared similar interests with the party at that time. We hang out that night and then it turned out that we shared similar drug interests. When you meet people like that, you usually hang up with them for a while. We were hanging up for a week when I found out that he can play guitar. When I heard him play I thought that this guy was good.
RR: How does it feel working with John Garcia? You are friends for so many years but how does it feel working with him? Because I can tell that “Two Times” is a personal favorite of mine.
RM: Ah, cool. Yeah, he’s just a natural. He steps up to the mike and it starts happening immediately. Sometimes it happens… we have experienced that with a lot of people trying to sing with us, you see some people whose vocals just don’t pick your song up and take it any place. And he instantly stepped on and took that song to a better place.
RR: Did he write the lyrics or they are yours?
RM: They are his lyrics, he writes his own. That’s part of the thing – we do the music, like the bass parts are mine and the guitar lines are Will’s. Well, basically music starts and ends with Will for Karma To Burn, to be honest. We all try to put our little expressions in there. When somebody is singing, he’s gotta bring his thoughts. If you’re doing it live, they have to go out and be able to express it every night.
RR: That sounds true. You have announced that you are working already on a new album. Which means that you are definitely here for good. Can you tell me more details on the record? What should we expect? Are you working again with John Garcia?
RM: The stuff that we did with John Garcia is gonna come out in his record, Garcia Vs. Garcia. We made a deal with him. He’s gonna give us, I don’t know exactly, but when we started working he wasn’t doing Kyuss Lives and now they are doing this thing and it’s gonna take them a lot of time. So I’m not sure exactly if we’re gonna get anything with him for our record.
RR: When should we expect it?
RM: Our record’s gonna come out at the end of May.
RR: Oh, it’s close!
RM: Yeah, we are recording it. We’re starting recording in a couple of weeks. We are going at the Dave Grohl studio which is just the greatest studio on the planet. It’s gonna be probably the biggest album we’ve ever done. Just the demos that we have, they’re giant. I am pretty excited about that. It’s the closest I’ve heard of somebody capturing our sound like live on a recording. We are going to be there for a month. Daniel’s gonna do a couple of songs with us. He’s gonna play guitar on some songs. Scott Kelly from Neurosis is gonna come down and do a song with us. And we’re always talking to Burton Bell and we are trying to get him to do a little bit stuff, so we’ll see if he’ll be able to get… It’s just heart getting people out of their schedules. It’s not just people show up for one day and then go. You’ve got to come and work with us for a week at least.
RR: Do you have any idea for the title of the album?
RM: We’re just going over things right now. If it was a rap album, we would just call it “Karmageddon”, hahaha.
RR: Are you still working with Napalm Records?
RR: How did you get in touch with them? It’s an Austrian company and you are from West Virginia.
RM: Who knows? Our agent Matthias is from Germany and has his own band called My Sleeping Karma. They originally started as a Karma To Burn tribute band. I’m just making that up, haha. He knew the guys at Napalm and asked them and their president just said “I’d love to have Karma To Burn”.
RR: Are you doing something besides the music or you can make a living of playing the bass?
RM: Right now I’m scratching a living of playing the bass. It’s rough because Los Angeles is an expensive city. When I was living in West Virginia it was much cheaper. But we got to record out here, so we are out here for right now. We are fortunately enough to do shows in US and we are okay in the US. Most bands in our genre can’t so we are fortunate enough so we can play here. The music industry is very much returning to, at least for the artists, I think, to where it all began which is the travelling musician. The guy who’s going from town to town and playing and making his existence that way. We just have to keep playing because that’s how we generate our income.
RR: In 2010 you released albums with both of your bands, so it definitely is a strong year for Rich Mullins. What do you expect from 2011?
RM: 2011 is going to be focused in just Karma To Burn.
RR: Since Karma To Burn is such a great riff machine, I am curious what music are you guys into? What bands inspire you most?
RM: We are all over the map, we listen to everything. Whatever we get our hands on, we try it. When we first started, we haven’t changed much since then. What happens after a while, after the first year we really became our own thing. When a song starts you know that it’s us. If you’ve listened to us you could probably be in the other room and somebody plays a new song and you get like: “Oh, that sounds like Karma To Burn” and then you come in and it would be us. Sometimes we go like: “You know, that song of Thin Lizzy with that crazy ending? We should do a song with a crazy ending.” This would be stuff like that. “You know that The Cure song?” or “You know that Joy Division song?” People don’t realize it but we covered one Joy Division song in our first record. And to be honest whenever we think of some of our… I think it’s probably one of the greatest bands of all time and we would imitate them in a metal kind of way in some instances.
RR: What was the last record you bought?
RM: Aaah! I just bought something. Oh, yeah, I bought “Freak-A-Zoid” by this band called Midnight Star. I also bought this band called Stillwater, they have a song called “Mind Bender”.
RR: What is Karma To Burn like while on tour? A rock and roll band with all the wild things surrounding it or a group of calm people?
RM: You think it wouldn’t be as crazy as… When we toured in the early 2000’s, it was pretty insane. It was pretty dangerous situation for everybody involved. These days it’s not nearly as much. We just try to focus on making sure that we are going to make it for the next show and we would be in the best shape so we could play well every night. But it’s still pretty weird group of guys, we are very bizarre people and we have strong personalities that are closed in a small area.
RR: Can you tell some of the craziest stories around you while on the road?
RM: People ask me about that and it’s really hard to convey the situations and emotions through your random sampling stories and what actually occurs in the evening and what is occurs on the next day but you can always point out practical joke nights and crazy situations. I never know what people want to know.
RR: What does this thing with numbers mean? Why did you decide to put numbers instead of names of the songs? Well, there are some songs with names but most of them are numbers.
RM: If one has a name, then we did vocals to it. If it’s instrumental, then we just number it.
RR: Who brought this idea?
RM: I have to say Will because he was doing that with his riffs before we started Karma To Burn. He was calling them: “This is going to be number one” because there was no singer. It just means sense to us. I have a background with math in engineering, so I like numbers. Sometimes rock is a little confused. Sometimes we’ll do two particular songs – “Thirty” and “Thirty Four” to cause the most confusion. When they are on the setlist I always have to wait to make sure I would start the right one.
RR: And which songs are your favorite songs playing live?
RM: I love playing “Twenty Eight” and “Twenty” because they are really filled with energy. Recently I really like playing “Forty One” a lot. “Forty Seven”, the opening of the new record, that song is just smash.
RR: Last year when you released albums with both of your bands, how did you decide which riffs and which melodies to put in Karma To Burn and which in Year Long Disaster?
RM: The Karma To Burn songs are written like the three of us are at a practice and we start playing.
RR: More like a jam session?
RM: Yeah. That’s how we write the Karma To Burn songs. Except for “Waiting on the Western World” – me, Will and Daniel we were living in the same house, then Will started playing that riff and then Daniel started singing so this song was written separately. Then Daniel brought it to practice and put it all together. And the Year Long record was written with the Karma To Burn contributions to it. We were having a sound check in Spain and a couple of things sounded cool, so I recorded them on my phone and then I e-mailed them to Daniel and he sang in these and we put it in the Year Long Disaster record. The Year Long record usually starts with little bass riffs I have. And that was even before Karma To Burn started to play, we had most of the “Black Magic” record already done.
RR: OK. And just to finish this interview, I would like to ask you about your favorite albums in 2010, which records impressed you most?
RM: By other bands? Aaah… Ah! I’m trying to recall what records I’ve listened to. Do you, guys, have Metalocalypse over there?
RM: The cartoon. (laughs) Season three! (bursts in laughter) And the new Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I loved the last season. I liked the new Sword record. I listened to the new Monster Magnet record a little bit. Who else put out new records?
RR: And what other bands seeing live impressed you most during the last year?
RM: Torche. We saw also a couple of really good Monster Magnet shows when we toured with them. We see also great opening bands but I forget the names because they are so many. There are a lot of good bands out there. Like this one we played with in Gernany, I can’t remember their name (probably Rich speaks of Sungrazer). It’s hard to remember all of them and I am just waking up. Maybe in an hour I’ll be like “Yeah! Them! Oh, that record was really good last year!” Haha.
RR: You’re right. Okay, I’ll leave you now. I will send you the links to the interview when we post it online in two weeks.
RM: Cool, thanks. You know, you should change the questions, to pretend like you asked me something else. I can do a couple of answers for you like: “After hiding the body and wiping the scene from all the DNA, there was nothing left to do that night.” Okay, have a good day, man! Bye!