Jay from Teeth of the Divine Interviews Contra
Jay: Contra ain’t nothing to fool around with, you hear me? This is the very definition of a POWER trio. There’s no soft stuff or any singer getting in the way, just three men bashing their way through riff after riff of runaway heavy groove with a rhythm section tighter than a noose primed for a good sunrise hangin’. These fellas aren’t strangers to the heavy. Chris honed his guitar chops in the much missed Sofa King Killer, Aaron’s pummeling battery was an integral part of Fistula and several other infamous Ohio sludgers and Adam’s background is a bit of a mystery to me (though I’ll find out!)
Jay: In fact what I understand Adam actually isn’t so much the bassist as he’s a guitarist crafting a special tone that’s lower than low…so more on that later! The past is fondly remembered that’s for sure but the right now yields a plentiful cornucopia of conversation topics about some must hear heavy, metallic rock high to the nines on potent blues. Contra’s flagship EP Son of Beast is hotter than the surface of the sun and they have been engaged in frequent gigs with some of the best of the best. The entire band sat down and went at it on this interview, so load up on grandma’s stuffing and let’s carve this big bird!
Jay: First off, thanks so much for agreeing to be grilled. It’s an honor for me to be able to bring this one to the table. How about introducing yourselves and your musical weapons of choice to the readers?
Adam Horwatt: Thanks Jay. I’m Adam Horwatt. I cover the lower frequencies.
Chris Chiera: I’m Chris Chiera on guitar (lead and rhythm).
Aaron Brittain: Drums
Jay: What were the particulars behind Contra’s formation and how did the idea for the band come together in the first place? I’m sure everybody knew each other or played shows together in the tightly knit Ohio scene. Sofa King Killer, Fistula, Rue, King Travolta…man, I love all of the former bands and the work each of you did in them. Still close to my heart!
Chris: Aaron and I were jamming in another band together The Rats Are Coming the Werewolves are Here. Once the band split up we got together and started jamming. After that, we wanted to look for another member to jam with us. When that happened we lucked out and found Adam. I had talked to him before about selling one of my amps because he is a Sunn freak. Sometimes it’s hard to find people who are actually into the same music and a sound that everyone else is into.
Aaron: Chris and I were jamming in The Rats are Coming the Werewolves are Here with Jeff Schrilla, whom Chris played with in Abdullah. We were playing Jeff’s songs which were different then the heavy style Chris and I are known for. When that project fell through, Chris and I began writing the first Contra songs. About 9 months later, I ran into Adam at a local show. Adam and I had jammed a couple times when The Unclean was first getting started. From the first practice we knew we were onto something
Jay: Right on fellas! No kidding there, I could tell from the first song Chris linked me up to that you guys totally found “the zone.” Hey Adam, I’m not familiar with your old project So Long Albatross, so I’m curious as to what it sounds like. Tell us a little bit about that band and anything we might have missed in the path that led you to Contra.
Adam: So Long, Albatross is a band that my two buddies and I put together after our old band, The Slow Blade dissolved in 2010. SLA is a riffy mix of punk, rock, and stoner rock with some poppy elements. The combination of our playing style and gear gives us a very distinct, thick tone. It is alive and well and we gig whenever our schedules line up. Keith (vocals/guitar) and Eric (drums) are great musicians and we always have a lot of fun.
Jay: As far as what led me to Contra, I’ve always been a huge fan of Rue and Sofa King Killer. I met Aaron sometime around 2005 at a Rue show and I would run into him here and there over the next 9 years. I was at a show in Cleveland in early 2014 and Aaron asked if I would be interested in jamming with him and Chris. Shit yeah. Both of their bands had been (and still are) a huge influence for me so I gladly accepted.
Jay: Kick ass man, shit!!! The Slow Blade…I love that stuff and didn’t know you were in it. I have a three song demo that my man Gary from Shifty sent me. Correct me if I’m wrong but did the idea for the project’s name (Contra) come from the greatest video game of all time? Seriously, forget all of those modern war games…Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, etc., the Contra series is the ultimate in video game warfare! The new shoot ‘em up games are like Sesame Street compared to the difficulty of something like original Contra and Super C. It seems like there’s a fondness for classic gaming going on which I’m all about.
Chris: I’m really into video games. I love side 2D and side-scrollers. The Contra NES classic is probably one of my favorite video games from that era. I’m really into Street Fighter and Super Mario. Remember that game Road Rash? I had a 3DS when it came out and played that game day and night. Anyone have one of those for sale? They should bring that game back.
Jay: You bet I remember Road Rash! That’s a game series that needs to come back and I think they could do something pretty cool with it given all of the new technology that’s available. The three of you work so well together in this band. I’ve been hooked from the very first note that hit my ears. The playing is unique and instantly recognizable, though it feels like you all have reached a whole new plateau of killer jamming. What was the first jam session like and did the magic start happening immediately?
Chris: That’s a great question. We wrote “Humanoid Therapy” on the first practice, so I guess that’s what you get when you play the music you are supposed to be playing. It was quite a release and a blessing in disguise. The last time I wrote riffs like that was in Sofa King Killer and I was really into it. It’s been years since I was in a heavy band and I knew Aaron was going to be into that idea as well.
Aaron: The first practice Adam played through a bass rig. Chris and I were really excited after the first full session. We knew right away Adam was going to be a great fit. We all listen to the same bands and wanted to write songs with heavy riffs that I can bash along too. Eventually, Adam set up the rig he plays through now, splitting his signal to play through both a bass and guitar amp. It sounds amazing live with the 3 guitar tones.
Jay: That’s cool as hell. Adam’s tone is definitely right on point and exactly what’s needed to combat with Chris’ BIG guitar sound and glad to hear you bashing again Aaron, not that you ever quit! The debut EP Son of Beast is a fantastic piece of work, props for a job more than well-done. I haven’t been able to stop playing it since I got it for review. So heavy, so weighty but with this bluesy, classic swing happening that’d make ZZ Top proud… The production lives up to the EP title…BEASTLY! Where did you record and what type of gear was utilized to achieve such a meaty, raw sound in every instrument? It’s raw though not lacking anything in terms of tone or clarity!
Adam: We actually recorded the EP in my basement. Keith Vance (So Long, Albatross) basically ran the show. Keith has recorded many albums with much success. Both Slow Blade albums and the first So Long, Albatross album were recorded by Keith. He knows what he’s doing.
Chris: After Keith recorded Aaron and Adam, he passed the files off to me. I started to record with an old friend of mine and it wasn’t really getting anywhere because it was in winter of 2014 which was brutal in northeastern Ohio. I guess we were lucky compared to some parts of the East Coast. Anyways, I decided to buy my own shit and I recorded all the guitars in my house. After that was done I passed it off to Keith. He really made it sound awesome.
Jay: Keith did a stellar job. Those songs shake my walls and practically blow out my headphones without even cranking the volume to full blast. Everything is thick and defined…just how I like it. Man, Adam…we’re gonna have to talk. I didn’t know The Slow Blade had full albums and I definitely need those. To start digging into the tunes a little more in depth, “Bottom Feeder” was the first song I heard and it opens the set. This jam literally sucked me into the sound like a black hole vortex…I needed to hear more immediately after. I love that massive riffing, the bass is warm and fuzzy and Aaron’s hitting with all his might and tricking out the fills…amazing stuff! How was this tune written and how did it evolve from its creative birth to its final form on the EP?
Chris: I’m pretty sure “Bottom Feeder” was the second song we recorded and that was right when Adam joined the band, which was great timing. After that we tweaked the song a little bit and we were finished. It was great. At that point I knew we were going to come up with a bunch of cool shit.
Aaron: “Bottom Feeder” was written the way most of our songs are. Chris comes up with a couple riffs and I play along until we lock onto something. Then we talk about the direction of the song and come up with parts to fit the sound we want. Then it’s a matter of setting the pattern and getting the song tight. That song was tricky to record the ending, because I have difficulty counting past four.
Jay: Ha ha, I can relate to that…if anyone counts to four it throws me off even as a singer. Three is the magic number! Chris you’re using some really cool, vintage feedback to connect the songs together on the album. The way you let it ring out (and use it to kick the songs off for that matter) takes us directly into “100 Hand Slap” and unifies the entirety of the recording. What inspired you to do that and how is the effect achieved? Is Adam applying something similar on the bass? There’s a lot of bottom to the way it’s done and it feels like I’m listening to a very old hard rock, proto-metal masterpiece teleported in from the early 70s! This isn’t what everyone and their brother is doing, that’s for sure.
Chris: Adam has a really interesting rig going on the low end. I think the only people that know are the ones who have seen us live and I think I’ll leave it at that. As for the feedback, I kind of wanted to capture the same feel as Eyehategod’s Take as Needed for Pain and I think I pulled it off pretty well.
Jay: Eyehategod really did set the tone in terms of using feedback as a weapon and instrument. You really did pull it off. I’ll have to find out Adam’s secret recipe whenever I finally get my ass to a show! “100 Hand Slap” really dig that title! I’m guessing someone spent as many quarters as I used to on Street Fighter II! That move is a son of a bitch…and that’s putting it lightly! What’s each member’s favorite old game? Fact: I like fighting as ol’ Eddie Honda but I sure hate fighting against anyone that’s playing as him!
Aaron: Street Fighter II is a classic.
Adam: Man, just one?? Well, Contra is obviously way up there for me. I could go on for days. If I had to pick just one I’d say Jackal, or Punch Out. Or 1942. Or Mario 3…
Chris: For me, it’s definitely the Street Fighter series. Who wants to fight? I’ll take anyone on, in Street Fighter that is, lol.
Jay: A challenge has been issued! You’re on next time I’m in Ohio. Those answers are a trip down memory lane. I’m obsessed with Punch Out…every single one from the NES to Wii. Chris, the leads in this song (and every tune on the album) are so damn good. Always into your style! Who or what are some of your biggest inspirations for throwing down like that? What is the importance of a good lead in a heavy rock song? It’s like that extra special signature to me that gives a very unique “spirit” to a tune and the person playing it. Do the leads come to you before or after the song is mostly structured, or sometimes is it sort of an “on the fly” kind of thing?
Chris: I’d say my inspiration would be Tony Iommi. The bands that really inspire me are from the late 1960’s and 70’s. I’m not really into playing stuff that is past that, but I definitely love to listen to all types of music, or at least anything rock or metal related. I’ve always been into leads and solos though. I don’t play anything too complicated, but the stuff I do seems to add to the riffs I write and people seem to like it.
Jay: You got a fan right here man. You always perfectly compliment the groove with the licks you conjure up. The doom-y, fireball blues of “Snake Goat” is so heavy it’d uproot an entire forest. That is seriously some of the heaviest rock n’ roll I’ve ever heard. Adam, I’m heartily digging that fatter than Santa’s sack bass tone on this track. How the hell are you wringing that sound out of your bass? Give some insight on that if you don’t mind without ruining the original recipe!
Adam: Believe it or not, there is no bass guitar on that recording or when we play live. I play my guitar like a bass guitar and then split the signal with my tuner pedal into two different amps. One amp uses the straight guitar signal, the other uses a signal that goes through an octave pedal set to output one octave lower. Together it sounds cool.
Jay: Ah, I get it now. Think I misunderstood that at first. As Lemmy once said about himself, you’re like a deep guitarist. Honestly, this song is so doom-y yet so filled with classic rock goodness in terms of the tightness of the jam, the way the leads dab melody onto those punishing riffs and how agile the rhythmic twists are… What was the composition of this one like and was there a moment where everybody was like, “Jesus Christ, this is righteously heavy!”
Adam: Heh. There’s usually not a whole ton of expression when we know something is a keeper. Mostly just a “yep” or “sweet” or “yep, that’s a good one”. Chris is always churning out monumental riffs. On “Snake Goat,” we just glued a few of them back to back to back.
Chris: At first it was kind of tough to actually say, “Ok this song is done.” I think once we actually got a full band with Adam we were able to say, “This song is finished. What’s next?”
Aaron: I think that all the time with Chris’s riffs.
Jay: I dig that attitude…some silent approval and then right onto the next smasher! And then there’s the 7+ minutes of “Humanoid Therapy…” Goddamn…it’s an absolute behemoth and a song that I think everyone into rock n’ roll should hear as a blueprint for how to do it right! The swing…the groove…the heaviest downturns you’ll hear… How on Earth did you guys put this together, what conjured all of the badass shifts in its groove out of everybody’s performance and also could you give some insight on the song title?
Chris: It’s interesting because the song doesn’t seem like it’s that long, but it is! Whenever we jam on it I lose track of time. There isn’t really improv, so it’s very structured. I think when this kind of thing happens you really know it’s a good song and fun to play.
Jay: The ending is insane, a crazy deconstruction of instruments into feedback and then is that a sample of Summer of Sam? Great choice if that’s the scene I’m thinking of! Ha ha ha! I think the chaos was a good way to draw the curtain. Whose idea was all of that?
Chris: Yep, you got it! My girlfriend kept on talking about the dog in that movie and I always thought it was kind of funny how they made him talk. I was on YouTube and found the clip and threw it in at the end. For an ending of a song and EP, I thought it fit pretty well.
Jay: I’m in total agreement on that; talk about picking a sample that’s fitting… You guys have been gigging as much as you can with some great bands! How have the shows been going and what’s the response been like from the audience? Which shows have been the most fun so far?
Chris: We have been getting good reactions from people who come out to the shows. I think one of my favorite shows was with UFOMAMMUT at Now that’s Class, in Cleveland. It was one of those shows where we didn’t bother getting on stage, so we just played on the floor. I like doing that because you aren’t so far away from the audience. People are always struggling to get a glance at who is playing, so they tend to get pretty close, which to me makes the show more intense.
Aaron: Playing out the last 10 months has been awesome reconnecting with old friends and meeting new bands/musicians. Shows have been well attended for the most part with a ton of positive feedback. We played with Ufomammut in May and they are incredible
Jay: I’m all about jamming live on the floor right in front of people. That’s always how I do it! I would have fuckin’ loved to be that show. I go back with Ufomammut to Snail King…that album plowed my skull into the dust. Do the tunes take any twists and off-the-cuff jam turns in the live-setting? I can imagine with the way Contra does it up, you guys can probably build some killer freestyle like arrangements onto these cuts!
Chris: We have a set structure to all of our songs but when we play live that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes we forget to count or someone drinks too much, so we keep it going. It’s fun when that happens because it always has me wondering when we will actually end the song.
Jay: Nice, that’s the thing about these tunes to me; they have such a groove that you could stick to format and it’d be perfect but if they happen to veer off the path, you certainly can just break it into a jam and come right back to where it goes. Damn…while doing the final interview edits here, I can guarantee I’ll be jamming the music later on tonight. There’s plenty more material already in the pipeline besides this EP. I know that for a fact! How many other songs do you have completely worked out and when do you think we’ll see a full-length release? This stuff screams for vinyl and I hope for physical copies someday! This EP would make a killer 7”…might have to go 10” though, “Humanoid Therapy’s” quantum mass could throw off the 7” inch idea! Can you tell us a little bit about some of the tunes we haven’t heard yet without giving too many secrets away?
Aaron: We rerecorded the 4 songs on the EP plus 6 more with Dave “Big Metal” Johnson at Bad Back Studios in Cleveland. All ten songs will be on a full release in the future.
Chris: Right now we have a total of 10 songs and I am finishing up the solos now. We really want to press some vinyl for our upcoming release. As for Son of Beast, we don’t have any plans for vinyl because we rerecorded all of those songs. The new recording is going to sound great. I’m excited!
Jay: I share the excitement guys, I can’t fuckin’ wait to hear the rest! What type of gear does everyone in the band use for all of the equipment hounds that read these interviews and what would you consider each member’s “secret sauce” in their respective set-ups? The more I get into doing my own production, the more I love to get the deep dirt on that!
Adam: My “bass” rig is comprised of my Eastwood Stormbird, an Electro-Harmonix Micro POG pedal, a Sunn Beta lead head for the guitar side, a Sunn Beta Bass head for the sub octave side and 2 Peavey 2X15D cabs. I recently switched to using a higher-powered Sunn Coliseum lead for the sub octave side to avoid speaker damage.
Chris: I normally play out of a Gibson SG with Super Distortion pickups. I always use a Morley Wah and sometimes a Small Clone for leads and solos. As far as amps go, I normally play out of a Mesa Boogie Stiletto with an old Hiwatt from the 80’s and an Orange cab from 2010’s. However, on the recording I used an Orange TH30 with two little 1X12 Orange speakers.
Jay: Damn, those are some mean specs. Even as a yeller, I know that’s not fuckin’ around. I myself have a pretty huge fascination with learning about gear, because I’m really interested in how my favorite bands create the tones that they do. I’m all about tone and you fellas got it in spades! Finally, if each of you had to choose one or two albums that inspired you to pick up and start rocking, what would they be?
Adam: That’s going way back. Maybe ZZ Top or something from the Grunge era; I honestly couldn’t narrow my influences down to an album or two. One thing I can say for sure is that if it had big riffs, I was trying to play it.
Chris: For me, Black Sabbath Vol 4, hands down.
Jay: There’s no doubt that Vol. 4 is a huge influence on me personally. Thanks a ton for doing this interview with me brothers! I really appreciate it and it was a blast thinking up these questions. If there is anything I didn’t cover, please feel free to use this final space to fill us in. I’m totally into and behind you guys and this music. Can’t wait to hear what happens next!
Chris: Thanks Jay! It’s always great talking to you and go to contracleveland.com for latest Twitter feeds, Instagram pics and upcoming shows.
Teeth of the Divine click here
Nine Circles Interviews Contra
How did you first get into playing music and have you achieved the level of success that you always hoped to achieve?
Larry: I first started playing music in 1989/1990 while I was in high school. I started a hardcore punk band with some friends and continued from there – I’ve been in a succession of bands since. I’m a lifer and have no concerns regarding success in the traditional sense. As long as the band is self-sufficient in a way that allows us to continue to play shows and make records, I’m happy.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, debased and praised? If you don’t have a story please tell us any embarrassing story.
Larry: I’ve never debased myself to get on any shows or through promotion, but I’ve played some pretty ridiculous gigs. I almost died at one of my earlier band’s final shows. During the last song, I somersaulted off a stage monitor, fell through the crowd and landed on the back of my head. They club called the paramedics and I was carried out on a stretcher. I don’t remember anything after landing until I came to in the hospital the next day. I had massive cerebral hemorrhaging and was in the hospital for a week. After that I was on strict bed rest for a month. The adult in me says, “that was the dumbest thing you’ve ever done”, but the 15 year old in me says, “that was my band’s last show and I almost died – you can’t top that”.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
Larry: It’s hard to say, I really don’t have my ear to the street like the other guys do. I haven’t heard any new metal bands that I care for all that much – but then again, I don’t listen to many new bands. I do like Wrong and Hollow Leg a lot though. Ruby the Hatchet is pretty great. Locally, I like Deathcrawl, Supercorrupter, gOOsed and a few others.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music? (This question is especially appropriate for you since your music is quite an outlet for your physical and emotional pains).
Larry: I teach special education at an elementary school, so most of my time and energy goes into work. I don’t approach it as a “cause”. Those kids are my family, so I don’t think about it in those terms. But, I don’t inject any of my political leanings in the lyrics and I’m not one for talking about the meaning in them. Politically I lean pretty hard to the left. If you want to label it, I’d say my politics are pretty “progressive”, but it is not relevant and not relevant to the band.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
Larry: 14 or 15? I spent most of childhood listening to my dad’s blues records. But, Sabbath was the first band to rule my life. After that it was hardcore bands like Negative Approach, SS Decontrol, Necros and Die Kreuzen. But, as far as metal goes – Sabbath and Voivod. Voivod is the greatest - ever. I got into all that music through my cousin’s record collection. She always had the best stuff.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
Larry: Just be honest. We are all adults (well, some of us are) and should be able to take some constructive criticism. I’m probably getting this quote wrong, but “we come into the arena uncalled to seek our fortune, but risk disgrace”. Basically, wear your big-boy pants – nobody asked anyone to start a band so get over it.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
Larry: My only goal is to keep playing gigs and continue to put out music I enjoy.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
Larry: Voivod “Killing Technology”, Negative Approach “Tied Down”, Laughing Hyenas “You Can’t Pray a Lie”, Howlin’ Wolf “The Chess Box Set”, Ruby the Hatchet “Valley of the Snake”.
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication.)
9 Circles https://ninecircles.co/
The Pest Interviews Contra
1. Please tell us about the history of your band and its members.
Aaron Brittain - Drummer. He's played in bands such as Rue, Fistula and The Unclean.
Adam Horwatt - Guitarist. He's played in bands such as So Long Albatross and Slow Blade.
Larry Brent - Vocalist. He's been in bands such as Splinter, The Unholy Three and Don Austin.
Chris Chiera - Guitarist. I've been in bands such as Sofa King Killer and Abdullah
2. How would you describe your style? Which bands influenced your music?
Chris: I would describe our band as amplified rock or just plain heavy metal. My influences - Captain Beyond, Black Sabbath, Atomic Rooster, Sir Lord Baltimore, Cactus, Pentagram, Iggy Pop.
3. Why should a metalhead buy your demos/albums?
Chris: We offer a different take on metal. I am influenced mainly by rock described above. Aaron and Adam are into bands like Whores, Floor, Goatsnake, Thou. Larry is more into stuff like Black Flag, Minor Threat, early hardcore. We all like different things but at the same time we all listen to bands like Goatsnake or Floor.
4. What have you released so far and how were your releases received by the public/media?
Chris: We released a demo in 2015 on bandcamp just for download. Larry wasn't in the band yet so it was just instrumental. In 2016 we released 3 songs from Deny Everything just to get them out there. We have had some good responses and have had some songs featured on different websites just from us posting on youtube and facebook. When the new album comes out I think people will be into it. The recording came out really well and the work RobustFellow is doing for us is amazing.
5. Do you play live as well? How's your live activity so far?
Chris: We have only played in the Cleveland / Akron, Ohio area so far. Getting on some bigger shows like festivals around the country would be ideal.
6. What should labels/zines/promoters know about your band? Why should they be interested in it?
Chris: Since we have a mix of styles going on in our music some would consider doom, stoner rock, punk or metal. We are a band that really offers a unique take on rock and metal itself. Check us out: http://www.contracleveland.com
7. What plans do you have for the near future as a band?
Chris: We are currenty writing some new songs and want to release a split album. We want to play some bigger shows out of Ohio and if we get invided to Europe, we would love to do that.
8. Where can we listen to your band and where can we buy your stuff?
Chris: You can listen to our music and find links to buy our merch at: http://www.contracleveland.com
Pest Webzine: http://pestwebzine.com/
Dark Underground Interviews Contra
Can you give us an update on what is going on with the band these days?
Chris: We are having our debut release "Deny Everything" on RobustFellow Productions. At the same time, we are playing some shows in the Cleveland / Akron area and writing some new tunes.
How would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recordings?
Chris: Metal. To add some color to that we have a lot of different influences such as rock, punk, sludge, doom, hardcore.
Larry: Yeah, definitely metal. I think the rock influences are more evident than one might hear during the first or second listen. I’d like to start drawing on some more blues influences in the future.
In the beginning the music was all instrumental, what was the decision behind finally using vocals?
Chris: Thanks for asking that. We were playing as an instrumental for about a year or two when we decided we wanted to add another element to the band. We asked Larry because he great at what he does, it's different and we have all known him forever now.
What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the music?
Chris: I'll leave that to Larry. However, all the song titles on Deny Everything are completely random since they were all made before Larry joined the band.
Larry: The only real question I consider when I am writing lyrics is whether or not they fit with the overall aesthetic of the music. Which can be difficult because a lot of people will just listen briefly, think we sound like a stoner/doom/sludge band and expect lyrics about wizards, warlords, dope and other bullshit. Which is fine - other people have covered that ground - I’m just not interested in that sort of thing. The lyrics are all personal. I guess you could say that they are angry, but there are a variety of themes that run throughout. I’m not that concerned with communicating specific ideas with listeners - I’d leave it up to them to interpret them how they see fit.
What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Contra'?
Chris: One day we were all talking about what we should name the band. It took us a few months until one day we were talking about playing video games. We started talking about old school NES games and thought it would be cool to name our band after CONTRA.
Larry: Contra also means “against” or “opposite” in Latin. Which is why I thought “Deny Everything” was an appropriate title for the record - it’s also the name of my favorite Circle Jerks song...
What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and also how would you describe your stage performance?
Chris: There were two shows and they were both in Cleveland. One was with Acid King and the other was with Ufomammut. We
have a couple more coming up that could possibly be even better than those. One is with CONAN and another RELAXER. The guitarist owns Earthquaker Devices in Akron, Ohio. I also used to play in a band (Sofa King Killer) with the drummer from RELAXER.
Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?
Chris: We want to do something. We all really want to get on a big show, a festival type of thing. Then we were thinking
about doing a short tour to and from wherever that would be. We would also like to do some weekend warrior shows around the Midwest or East Coast.
The new album is going to be released as a joint effort between 'Robustfellow productions' and 'Shifty Records', can you tell us a little bit more about those labels?
Chris: RobustFellow Productions is from Kiev Ukraine. Filipp the guy who runs it is awesome. We are fortunate to be working with him. He goes beyond everything I was expecting. The artwork they do is really cool as well. Shifty Records from Akron, Ohio is joining the project as well to help us out with some distribution and other things relating to the release.
Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
Chris: We like to mix it up. I have a ton of riffs saved on my phone so we can go in many different directions. It's just a matter of us getting the time to write new songs. I foresee a lot of more riffs influenced by Budgie, some Sabbath, maybe some Motorhead.
Larry: I’ve been listening to a lot of Budgie as well and Motorhead is alway in heavy rotation. But, I’d like to see more blues creep into what we’re doing as well.
On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of stoner and doom metal?
Chris: It's been mixed but overall I think it has been positive.
Larry: It’s early, so it is hard to say. I agree with Chris. It’s probably mixed. But, part of that is because a lot of folks put us into a stoner/doom category. I’m not really into those types of labels or sub-genres. I think “metal” is probably the most appropriate description for us in spite of the variety of influences in our music.
What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Chris: I mainly listen to Rock and Metal. I also listen to some sludge and doom as well. Lately it's been Dust, Cactus, Floor, Church of Misery and Witch Mountain.
Larry: Primarily the blues and a lot of hardcore punk. I go from listening to Leadbelly, Taj Mahal or Howlin’ Wolf to Negative Approach and SS Decontrol daily. There are a few other outliers as well like The Birthday Party, Morphine and Tom Waits.
What are some of your non musical interests?
Chris: I've been playing a lot of PS4 lately. I'm a big fan of gory zombie games. For a while I was playing a lot of 8 bit old school NES games like Contra, Street Fighter, Bad Dudes. I also create websites for a living.
Larry: I read a lot. Novels as well as comics. Jim Thompson is a favorite of mine. I watch a lot of the old Hammer Films from the 60’s and 70’s as well.
Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Chris: Thanks for giving us some time on here. Visit our website. It's a portal with links to our Facebook, Bandcamp, Merch
and all other things.
Dark Underground website/
Interview with CONTRA
1. Who are you and how did the band get started?
Aaron: (forwarded Bio written by Larry Brent)
CONTRA was formed as an instrumental 3-piece by former SOFA KING KILLER guitarist, Chris Chiera, and ex-RUE/Fistula drummer, Aaron Brittain. After briefly playing together in another local outfit, they sought to start their own band and enlisted the aid of SO LONG ALBATROSS bassist, Adam Horwatt. Except rather than just having a bassist, the band decided on a different approach and adopted a two guitarist format, albeit with Adam playing 4-string baritone guitar.
CONTRA quickly wrote and recorded the "Son of Beast" demo and began a steady schedule of playing to great acclaim locally. However, CONTRA wanted to add another layer to their potent mix of metal, blues, rock, and sludge by asking vocalist Larry Brent to join their ranks. Larry had previously contributed vocals to local hardcore stalwarts DON AUSTIN, THE UNHOLY THREE, and SPLINTER, in addition to the Laughing Hyenas-influenced HATCHET JOB. After only three shows, Larry began recording vocals to eight of the ten tracks of what will be CONTRA's debut album.
2. Why did you choose Doom, and how would you describe your style?
We like to play heavy music with lots of tone. We are riff driven with elements of metal, rock, sludge, and doom.
3. What would you consider to be the high point of your career so far?
We have played shows with Ufomammut, Acid King, Jucifer, Karma to Burn, and Black Tusk.
4. Which three bands most influenced you?
Black Sabbath, Buzzoven, Melvins.
5. What are your plans for the near future?
Contra’s first full length is coming out spring 2017 through Robust Fellow. It contains 10 tracks and is titled Deny Everything. We are currently playing live shows.
6. If there is anything you would like to add, the last words are yours.
Robust Fellow included the Contra track Bottom feeder on the Electric Funeral Cafe vol III in January 2017. Three songs from the upcoming record are available on our Bandcamp page.
Interview with CONTRA by The Sludgelord
For starters, give us a brief history of Contra.
Aaron- Idea came about after Chris and I split ways with another project that
wasn’t going the direction we had hoped. Chris and I jammed for 6 months
before I ran into Adam, with whom I had previously jammed with a couple times.
Larry I’ve known since my first band when he was in the Unholy Three and
Splinter. When Hatchet Job split Larry was able to commit. Pieces fell into place
and it’s been fun.
Chris- I’ve known everyone in the band for quite a while. I first met Aaron back
when he was in Fistula in the early 2000’s. He also played in Rue which was cool.
Larry was in a band Don Austin around the same time who was more of a
hardcore band. They had songs that were like 10 seconds to a minute long. They
were fun to play shows with. My old band Sofa King Killer played shows with both
Don Austin and Fistula. Larry used to work at a record store and Kinkos. He’d
always hook us up with some prints. I think I first met him at a party and he was
making fun of my new black jeans or something like that. I talked to Adam a few
times back then about selling one of my Sunn amps. He used to come out to SKK
shows as well.
Your cover artwork for your upcoming release, “Deny Everything,” is pretty
badass. Explain the shenanigans that are taking place on said cover please.
Chris- When Filipp (Robustfellow Productions) and I were talking about art I had
an idea to make it reflect the video game theme from the 80s. We were working
with Viktor Absurd and he created some great sketches for us. At first they were
just regular humans. We thought about what we could do with it and wanted to
bring another idea in the mix. For a while we were real into gorillas with machine
guns so we thought we would ask him to morph the humans into gorillas. I was
talking to Larry and we were coming up with different ideas. We thought let’s
make them all beasts. Gorillas and monsters. I suggested that to Filipp and he sent
the ideas off to Viktor and he nailed it. It looks awesome. The thing is – you need
to buy the CD to see what else is going on with the art. I guess I will keep that a
secret. I’ll will say it’s pretty explosive.
Aaron- I really dig the artwork. Viktor created some killer artwork.
Larry- It’s Gorilla-- men slaughtering werewolves, Cthulu-like creatures, shark-men
etc. We really weren’t sure what to go with. Viktor sent us a sample and we
suggested the changes to have a bunch of monsters fighting Gorilla-men. Why?
Well, why not?
You guys are based in Cleveland, my condolences… Are any of you fans of the
Browns and if so, which member/s has/have enough sack to sport Browns gear
Chris- I like Cleveland. Home of the CAVS, INDIANS and yes the BROWNS. I
honestly don’t care about sports. I play music, program websites and play video
games. I’m a fuckin’ nerd. Although you can’t ignore how good our boys are at
basketball and baseball. When the CAVS won the finals last year shit went off the
hook. Downtown shut down. The freeways near Cleveland shut down. It was like
the apocalypse. Luckily there wasn’t any kind of fucked up violence. I don’t care
about sports though. I just see this shit in the news, on the streets and at work. I
live in Akron and I work in Cleveland. Akron is more like Cleveland’s little brother
so you had the same sort of thing going on here but on a smaller scale.
Aaron- I was raised watching the Browns so that would be me.
I’m from Akron, which is ostensibly “Browns Country”, but I hate football, so you
won’t catch me wearing any of their gear.
In all seriousness, Cleveland being home to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, gets
some respect from music lovers around the world. What is your take on the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Chris- The rock hall hasn’t always been around but it’s a cool building with lots of
different stuff to see. Sometimes they even host metal shows which is cool. The
building itself is treated more like an art museum than anything else. I think I’ve
been there once or twice. Whenever I think of rock in Cleveland I think of places
like Now That’s Class, The Grog Shop, The Beachland, The Euclid Tavern. Those
are all places you would see bands like High on Fire, The Melvins, Acid King,
Eyehategod – stuff like that.
Aaron- There’s a few cool pieces of memorabilia in there. I guess depending on
who you’re into. The exhibitions change and they do put local bands on their
shows. I work for the Cleveland schools and the Rock Hall has excellent programs
for the kids.
Larry- I guess it’s alright. Not my sort of thing, but I don’t have an opinion one
way or another.
The song, “Shrimp Cocktail”, has a Melvins feel to it. Are you guys fans?
Chris- I’m a Melvins fan but not as much as Aaron and Adam. I like their earlier
stuff. Houdini and Stoner Witch are the ones I usually listen to. In Shrimp Cocktail
I was thinking Melvins riff … here … They are kind of almost like Black Sabbath
legendary status in this area so we musicians look up to them for inspiration.
Aaron- Huge Melvins fan. See them every chance I get.
Do you guys have any plans to tour in support of “Deny Everything”, and if so,
please fill us in the details.
Aaron- Looking to play some festivals and do shows on the East Coast. Also
support any friends bands that roll through when possible.
Chris- We want to get on some bigger shows. We are relatively a new band so
doing that would be a great opportunity for us especially now that we have our
debut release. Larry and I went to the Maryland Doom fest last year and had a
great time. We met a bunch of cool people and saw some old friends. Aaron went
to Psycho Las Vegas last year with Shifty. He saw some old friends who were
playing out there. Shows like that we would be interested in.
What would you like to tell the world about Contra in addition to buy a copy of
Aaron- Thanks to Chris, Adam, and Larry for making music with me. Also, thanks
to Phil and Robust Fellow, Shifty records, Dewar PR, and Sludgelord.
Larry- That we are all incredibly intelligent and articulate as well as devastatingly
Chris- Buy a copy. Killer tunes and quality artwork. Songs written and recorded in
Cleveland, OH. Produced in the Kiev, Ukraine by RobustFellow Records. Check
them out. They have a lot of awesome music. We will also be selling the records
from our website USA: Contra Official Website in Europe
RobustFellow Bandcamp and
We have links to bandcamp, facebook and other social media on our website.
The Sludgelord: http://thesludgelord.blogspot.com/