Today, we're honored to have the chance to speak with Billy Konkel, guitarist and vocalist for HOT RAM, Atlanta's finest power trio. Their 2018 release, Where Light Goes To Die, remains one of the greatest recommendations the illustrious Fuzzy Cracklins has passed on from his swamp. Beyond that, we recommended it ourselves in our 4/20 deluge o' reviews: "HOT RAM fire on all cylinders with marked consistency...this mix of high energy riffage, pounding drums, and bass with ‘tude on one hand, and psychedelic meanderings on the other, is pretty damn potent." Still holds true.
In what I can only imagine is the spirit of HOT RAM, we Sleepy Villagers are gonna git ourselves outside on this fine Saturday, enjoy some sun, some bbq, and some beers, if luck has it. We hope you're able to do the same, dear reader! In the meantime, enjoy this interview.
Thanks for allowing yourselves to be interrogated! Firstly, how are things in the ATL? Summer been treating you well?
Slow and Hot...We've all been mostly working...I've taken a couple of family vacations to see family in Florida, and keep my 14 year old occupied while school is out.
I have myself have not tried the Mrs. Cracklins' signature HOT RAM... but it certainly looks like it packs a punch. How's it feel to have a cocktail named after you?
Sadly, I have not had a HOT RAM either... Mrs. C has quite the selection at Swamp Headquarters.... But she didn't nail a good quality in is as a band... we' do pack a punch!!.... if anything we need to have a beer and a sativa strain named after us, that would be more appropriate.
You've opened for a pretty impressive roster of bands. Who were you most excited and/or proud to play with?
Thanks, Its been an honor and good learning experience... We loved Heavy Temple, just amazing. We've played with Toke a few times, I dare you to try and not sway to their rhythm, when they are playing. Atomic Bitchwax was sick, such great players and yet they play so effortlessly. Space Coke is like frying acid with Captain Beefheart at Iommi's house and our last show with Greenbeard and Ladykiller was awesome!!!
What are the most rewarding and most challenges aspects of the power trio life?
I've always have for the most part in three piece bands, so less having to get people to practice is one bonus. A musical one would be, that's there's more room to stretch out and get weird as a guitar player. And really the same for drums and bass, it gives you more ways to be creative. When you have a keyboard or percussion or sampler or second guitar etc, it fills up all the space. I love a wall of sound, but for me personally, I like a little air between instruments... it keeps it raw and intimate.
The consistency in quality across Where Light Goes to Die continues to impress, and, as I wrote in our review, I genuinely can't pick a favorite track. But what about you all? From your perspective, which of these bangers take the crown?
Thanks.. We really try hard on not repeating ourselves and painting ourselves into a corner musically.... We try and keep the structure tight. And then add some areas for improvisation, to keep the bands energy and creativity hitting all cylinders.
For me, I would say "Ciudad de Diablo" and "Novo Caesaria"..."Ciudad," when I came up with the riff, I knew it was different and the rest of the song came easy. Those type of songs are the best. And "Novo" was a song we came up with, right before we went into the studio. So its the new song...the new song is always a band's favorite song.
And for the band, I would say Dee's favorite is "Songs in the Storm." Who doesn't love a bass solo?? and Gordon I would say, "Ciudad" and "Snake River." The parts that came up with for both those songs are sick and bring such great energy. While recording "Snake River," I could tell he was just about done for the day and we we're getting a little frustrated getting a take. And that motherfucker gave it all for that take, practically fell off the drum throne at the end, exhausted.
Walk me through your songwriting process. Does it all begin with the almightly riff, or is the process a little more fluid?
First, some sativa. Secondly, turn on a recorder (iPhone or Tascam portable) and just jam. Sometime's I'll bring in a riff, or I'll say to Gordon, give me a beat. And then we'll just have epic 20-25 minute jams. Then I'll go back and chop up the jams in Pro Tools and make it into a coherent structure and send it off to the guys. I usually leave in mistakes or fuck ups, cuz sometimes I be on my bike or washing dishes and I'll go, fuck...if I play that mistake on the third measure, that will make that riff event better. Or ill just hear one bar of drums and bass playing something, and say to the guys, that's it! that's what you need to play on the bridge. And I also take notes when I'm listening to other bands, and say.. the way they drop out on that beat or the way someone sings, i'll write to look at, so if I'm having a part I can't just get I'll look at the notes and go...oh, that idea from Boris, maybe we can do it in a HOT RAM way...
HOT RAM are all obviously devotees of the riff. That said, what non-metal or rock musicians do you enjoy from time to time?
Lately, I've been listening to Rush's Caress of Steel, Hendrix...all day!!!. (Nine to the Universe!!), Can, Rose Tattoo, Country singer Roger Miller, and Link Wray)
The Atlanta metal scene seems to be absolutely booming at the moment. What are three (or more!) Bands in your area we Sleeping Villagers should be on the lookout for?
Order of the Owl, Paladin, Canopy...also check out Moonshield, Gnomonaut, Sadistic Ritual, Gunpowder Grey, Buzzards of Fuzz, Day Glo Mourning, John Denver Deth Plane and Toro.
What's next on the agenda for HOT RAM? Is there, pretty please, another album in the works?
Well, you're in luck. We've been busy writing and recording new songs as we speak. We recently put out a single on Fuzzy Cracklins' The Heavy South compilation called "Trans Am." We are putting that up on our bandcamp soon, that should hold you over. And since we recorded that at our space, we've decided to start recording our new stuff there instead of waiting for money and getting a record together. I'm an impatient bastard, so wanted to cut down on the production time of song idea to final product. We are currently recording a bunch of new songs, some covers, along with some of our long jams. I'm gonna shop the songs around for a deal. But the plan is to put out a couple of EP's before the years is out, those EP's will be a mix of new songs, cover, and jams.
Thanks again for taking the time! Anything else you'd care to add?
We thank for your support. We really appreciate the hard work you and your guys put into putting out reviews and interviews.
It seems that most people we interact with in the metal scene, all have another job that pays the bills. We are doing this for the love of music and the satisfaction of seeing other/friends living ours/their rock and roll dreams.... So get out and support local and touring music, get out and buy some new music, read killer reviews of new music, buy band merchandise, this is what all helps us do what we love!! Never Give Up!!!