Students of Roman history will usually begin with a vague awareness of some of the Greats of republic and empire. Cicero, Augustus, Caesar. Obviously they will also know of the great beasts – Nero,Caligula, perhaps Commodus. As one delves deeper into history, however, one realizes that there are myriads of other magnificent personalities, some of whom rival the well-known, over-publicized names that made it into high school history books. Once you get the basics down, you may come to find that the discipline and cunning of the brutal soldier emperor Caracalla, or the undisputed virtue of Antoninus Pius, are at least as interesting as Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon. Beyond the historical figures who have almost become cliches, there is an untold cache of men just as great, or even greater. Which brings us to the subject of today’s interview.
Tommy Stewart has spent several decades perfecting different types of brutal, yet rocking metal. Moving from his beginnings with Warrior and Hallow’s Eve, he is now mainly active in the doom band Bludy Gyres and two-man doom metal project Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf. We’re talking an awesome guy, doing awesome music, yet so far awakening mainly the interest of specialists, much like excellent yet lesser known Roman emperors of yore. Hopefully, this will begin to change as people come to understand that the power generated by this guy’s projects may in fact help solve any upcoming global energy crisis, and that this is music that must be heard. So, without further ado, we offer you this towering, hulking interview with the Caracalla of bluesy doom metal: Mr. Tommy Stewart!
Since I believe that many of our readers are unfairly unaware of your exploits in the underground music industry, perhaps you should begin by briefly introducing yourself and your many projects. A daunting task, but one that will set us on the right path immediately.
Hello! I’ll tell you what Tommy Stewart has been up to the past year, and that much may tell a story of the past. I am the bassist and founding member of Hallows Eve, true, but also have a power slash doom group called Bludy Gyres, whose album came out in February of 2017. In the meantime I was recording my own album which is under the name Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf, that is a solo project. Both of these were produced by me at my studio known as Blue Ogre Noise Lab. I also produce other bands there including Dead Rites, Tombstone, and Malviant, for example. All in all, I have about 48 album credits listed in my bio. I’ve been busy! TSDW is a 2 piece doom metal band. In other words, only me and a drummer. I’m also starting a label which I call Black Doomba Records that will concentrate on releases I have had something to do with in production or probably leans toward doom or mid tempo metal. Nothing is in stone though.
Your main band, at least up until recently, has been Hallow’s Eve. That seems to have been a pretty bumpy 34 years. Among other things you’ve been through quite a lot of drummers (one bio speaks of “to Spinal Tap proportions”), some of which left the band under quite tragic circumstances. Tell us a little about Hallow’s Eve, and how things stand with this band today?
Hallows Eve’s last show was at the Rocklahoma Festival so it’s been about 7 years since any real activity. The past line-up did release The Never-ending Sleep, but it was under a lot of tension and the line-up’s members weren’t very cooperative with each other, nothing got done in the way of touring, and since I saw it wasn’t fruitful I just stopped it. However, if I can ever get Mr. Stacy Anderson to tour, there are quite a few people people I can grab to go play some Hallows Eve and then it can happen. Stacy and I are friends, it’s just a matter of him saying okay then.
You’ve also been involved with a few other bands. Me being an old death/black metal buff, I’d like to know a little about your time with Lestregus Nosferatus. Good times? Terror and misery?
It was a good time! Skully, also from Hallows Eve, had Lestregus Nosferatus going and I spent a couple of years doing it with him. He’s now touring with Wormreich and Khaotika (in Wormreich) and I’m a huge fan of both. Khaotika had me up onstage to guest on a song in April and that was an honor! Lestregus and Hallows Eve shared several members so there was a definitive tie between the two bands.
And then there’s Warrior, a band about which there is very little information to be found (though a track is included on the 2006 History of Terror). What was this all about?
Remember when that band was something else before it became that band? That’s what Warrior was for Stacy and I. We started in 1980 and were quite literally the only metal band around. I heard Stacy sing in another band and got him to take my place as lead vocalist is the short story. Then we dismissed 3 guys and changed the name and got heavier. So some of the early Hallows Eve was actually Warrior songs that were about to happen. Warrior actually did play The Mansion. In a sense, Hallows Eve started in 1980 as something else and transmogrified into Hallows Eve by 1983.
A tid-bit from the internet: you manage, or have managed, Atlanta’s very own Homicidal. Tell us about this venture.
It still says that in Encyclopedia Metallic, but that was very short lived. They asked me to, and I took a stab at it, but they really didn’t need me and managing is all business. So I let that go quickly for more creative outlets.
In the past few years, you seem to have gotten heavily into doom metal. First Bludy Gyres, and now Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf. What prompted this interest? How did Bludy Gyers get going?
They call it doom metal so I might as well. I couldn’t do everything in Hallows Eve because it seemed it was only thrash. So a good part of me had no release. And by the way Hallows Eve tended to lean towards mid-tempo songs, you can tell there is something else there not happening. So, for me, Bludy Gyres was a way to stretch, experiment, and get those other ideas and feelings out there. You know, Chris Abbamonte of Bludy gyres was also in Hallows Eve for many years. So Bludy Gyres is, in a way, a continuation. Now Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf is me loosing my mind and throwing all caution to the wind!
With Bludy Gyres you recently released Echoes from a Distant Scream. Are you satisfied with this album, and has it received the proper attention so far?
I love the album and feel it is some of my best work. It’s a complicated album from a somewhat complicated band. The songs are odd, the production is good but weirdly good. I went for a very old sound on it with much of it washed with as much reverb as possible. In contrast I produced another album for someone recently that there was almost no effects at all. But for Bludy Gyres there were a lot of tracks on some songs. 63 tracks on one in particular. 164 hours of recording and editing. More like an old Pink Floyd album than spontaneous. I think a lot of the signature sound for Bludy Gyres is the dual guitars of Ozzie Herman and Chris Abbamonte. It’s been well received, so that’s good. I hope it gets more attention and think it’s one of those albums that will be more known in time instead of instantly. Some are like that, and it seems to be that way for my works.
Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf is a slightly different beast from both Hallows Eve and Bludy Gyres – beast being the operative word. The sound is truly astonishingly heavy and violent, considering the minimal number of instruments involved. How did you come up with this concept? Do people get it?
You know, I really appreciate you recognizing those things, First, thank you very much. That’s one reason I did it, to hear someone say that one day. It came down to a couple of things. Sometimes I just can’t get people to play certain songs I write and this album is a collection of those. Also, my theory of a song is that you simply have a beat and then there’s a tunnel of stuff going on for the music, and then somebody hollering. When you strip it down, all you really need is the drums, an instrument, and something to say. I like the rest, but it’s just decorations. This album is me stripped down to just the root of what I’m doing. Plus, I’d like to point out, usually autobiographical in inspiration. So it’s me expressing myself all the way. And Eric Vogt was just the drummer to do it. In his other band, Armed Chaos, he’s a thrashing maniac, but in Dyerwulf I told him just keep it simple. Down to the root. It’s about the song and the atmosphere, not the noodling. Please all hail Mr. Eric Vogt! He has been a badass perfect partner in this endeavor.
Will Dyerwulf be a one off (sure hope not), or do you have ideas and material to keep this project going?
I do for now. We’re working on new material right now! The drums are set and miked, we are ready to record some of it and in fact are recording a third and fourth song right now. It’ll be ready for 2018. It will be somewhat dark and melodic at the same time. I may have a guest drummer for a song or two, Dennis Reid from Bludy Gyres, schedules pending. He did do a show with us and that night used a circle of toms and even kick drums turned up on side for a massive tribal effect! So we had two drummers and me. How long will I keep Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf going? I don’t know. I’ve wondered myself. We’ll see what crazy wind blows, won’t we?
An interesting thing about many of your projects is the fact that you go for an unusually raw production. A track like “Porpoise Song” could have been an easy listening track, what with the catchy melody and all, but it gets unreasonable amounts of authenticity and bad-assery simply by the old-school, no-nonsense production. Is this intentional? What’s your philosophy when it comes to mixing and production?
I say learn all the rules, then do it your way. I’ve produced other albums for other bands that sound relatively normal, but if it’s my bands it’s probably going to be completely abnormal. On dyerwulf I wanted it to be as real as possible. So I did stuff that other studios would have said oh my god that’s not how you do it if you’re professional. It’s about the whole thing, not the tool. I had Eric in one live room, me in the deadened room. All my amps are GK. I had a 4 x 10, 2 x 12, 1 x 15 with 2,400 watts plowed through them. Yes, I broke things doing this. Then I spent maybe 3 days experimenting with placement. I ended up with about 6 mics around the room in various places for bass. Then I recorded bass, by my decibel meter, at about 106 to 108 db. We knew ahead and, in one day, played through each song together and live 3 times. Then took the best take, mistakes and all, and slapped some reverb on it. However, the vocals were done similarly, but with me alone to feel it. Plus there were some extensive back ups added that I refer to as my chant wulves. There are plenty of questionable notes and whatnot but I think that made it heartfelt and have soul. Some of it was written as we had the session.
Doom metal has become a rather wide and inclusive tent, with everything from ultra slow death metal with growling vocals, over psychedelic and experimental music that almost isn’t metal any more, to the Black Sabbathesque style which of course is the genre’s roots, and to which I believe your projects (broadly speaking) belong. What is your opinion on doom metal – the scene(s), the bands, etc. Anything extra important to check out?
It seems a catch-all phrase that means anything that isn’t these other things. I think at this point it’s arguable that Black Sabbath may have ultimately and unintentionally been the most influential band on the planet, not the Beatles. Sabbath has certainly influenced me. You’re right that some doom metal is not really doom metal at all, but early seventies inspired rock really. Some doom has a bluesy side, some doesn’t. I’m open minded and have been influenced by different forms from Electric Wizard to Solitude Aeturnus style. Here where I live we have doom of note, especially Order of the Owl.
You’ve been playing the bass in extreme metal bands for almost as long as I have been alive. How does growing, let’s say less young, affect your perspective? On playing music, on listening to music, on life in general? On copious drinking?
That made me laugh. I make my own beer sometimes and that’s summing my perspective up as I see styles and phases come and go through the years. I’ve found I’m happier making music, and doing just as well, if I do what I want to do. I’m an artist so I’m going to express myself. Me. And it might not fit in for now. That’s okay because releasing music that doesn’t express yourself is almost like lying. And what’s more metal than not fitting in and being proud of yourself anyway? We’re metal. This is for bands too. We’re going to an island and rowing the same way to get there. If you don’t want to row the way I’m going, then I’ll push you off the boat. Who needs you? Not me. Me and the ones rowing the same, we’ll be fine without you.
What are your plans, immediate and long-term, for Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf, Bludy Gyres, Hallow’s Eve and everything else?
I think I’ll have to see how everything goes as it happens. I know I’m in the planning of having a label, Black Doomba Records. In fact, this is the first place I’ve said that out loud. We’ll see. The will include a compilation that I’m thinking about, but I want to do it differently than the usual. I want to keep it dark and interesting. Not so many bands so I can spend careful concentration on what is there. Also more producing at my studio, Blue Ogre noise Lab. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens. I just know i’ve got a lot of irons in the fire and something will come out of it. As for Hallows Eve, I don’t see anything happening, but it may someday. In the meantime, it’s good to have been in close participation of the pioneering of early metal. No I can’t tell the great tour stories, but I should. Or not. I can’t write the book till some people go to dust.
We may have taken up too much of your time already, so we’ll leave the final word to you. Cheers!
Thank you for the interview! Such great questions! I would like to say that I truly appreciate the people who have expressed enjoying the albums of both Bludy Gyres and Tommy Stewart’s Dyerwulf. Your messages meant a lot to me.