An Interview With Perverse Osmosis
Baltimore based Dungeons and Dragons themed band Perverse Osmosis released their first album last year titled "Swarm, Kobold, Swarm!" The band will be playing their only live show of the year at the Baltimore Nerd Fest on Saturday, June 6th. Members Jonas and Mark spoke with me about the band's upcoming "choose your own adventure" album and shared their thoughts on music and D&D.
xFiruath: What’s your guy’s background in music and how long have you been involved in the metal scene?
Jonas: I started playing the drums after I finished my PhD dissertation. I hadn't played any instrument since I played the saxamaphone in 6th grade for a semester. I have been into metal since 1984 when I bought Twisted Sister's “Stay Hungry.”
Mark: I am classically trained pianist and have played piano and organ since the 2nd grade. I started playing in rock bands in college and have been busy ever since, with wildly-varying degrees of success. The first “metal” tapes I ever owned were Bon Jovi's “Slippery When Wet” and Europe's “The Final Countdown,” but that was when I was in the 5th grade. By high school I was into Slayer, Anthrax, and for some blasphemous reason I liked Megadeth more than Metallica. I grew up in New York and the influence of the hardcore scene was always in the margins, but at the time I was only cool enough to hear the bands that had breakthrough success like Pro Pain and Biohazard.
xFiruath: I love the name “Perverse Osmosis,” and this leads me to wonder what other names you guys kicked around before deciding on it?
Jonas: I think Kitten came up with Boysenburial first, but it sounded like a hardcore band more than the idiotic thrash.
Mark: A much earlier version of the band was tentatively titled The Christ Punchers, but we had stolen that from The Simpsons, as did some other bands.
xFiruath: So tell me a bit about “Swarm, Kobold, Swarm!” How would you describe it to someone who hadn’t heard it and where did you record it at?
Jonas: The Doors mixed with early Municipal Waste but with 1/10th the talent and 11/9th the mania
Mark: "Fast and noisy." It was recorded at home, engineered by Eddie Manoeuver, and mercifully mastered by Dave Nachodsky at Invisible Sound Studios in Baltimore. He was really slumming it.
xFiruath: Have you played any live shows under the Perverse Osmosis label up until now or are there any plans to do so in the future?
Jonas: We have played several shows: the first couple Nerdfests, a Pieds of March show in honor of Shakespeare and Pi, and America's Next Pot Model to name a few. We will continue to play out whenever possible, but with all of us living in different places it is more difficult.
Mark: For the third consecutive year we are playing Saturday June 6th at Baltimore's Nerd Fest, which we helped organize under the auspices of our production company Save Vs. Poison Productions.
xFiruath: Are there any plans to record more material?
Jonas: We are working on a choose your own adventure album called “Vale of the Basilisk” that is all AD&D songs. At the end of each ditty, you get to pick what you want to do and then skip forward to that song. Some of the material from “Swarm, Kobold, Swarm!” will be on there and about twenty new ones. Once that is done we are moving onto some Sci-Fi material tentatively titled “Interdimensional Wagon Train.”
xFiruath: You’ve got quite a few D&D references in there so I assume you guys are all players. What are your thoughts on 4th edition? My group played through the first official module from Wizards of the Coast, and while we thought it was plenty of fun, it seems like it’s no longer a role playing game and instead has become a tabletop war game like Warhammer.
Jonas: You comment is accurate. I had a pretty good time playing it, but it now seems to be a battle system with role playing elements, instead of a role playing game with a battle system. It also seemed more based on characters being superheroes than average adventurers. I get the argument that games need to change and that WOW (World of Warcraft) is dominating the field, but there is already Warhammer.
xFiruath: What’s your favorite module of all time and why?
Jonas: I am going to cheat here and give A1-A4, the Slave Lord series, as my favorite. Yes, it is four modules but they easily can work into one. These modules are a great level, 4th to7th, where your characters are good enough to live but there is still a good chance that some of the characters are going to be killed. Plus A4 strips the characters of all their goodies, so they have to play smarter. If that answer is impermissible, I will shoot for Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits. How often can characters seriously travel to the Abyss? Also, you can start a campaign with A1-A4, then go Against the Giants, then the Kuo-Toa and the Drow, and then end it by having all the PCs getting killed off by Lloth.
xFiruath: And now for the classic D&D question – “Who would win a fight?” Orcus or Demogorgon? Elminster or Vecna? Mephistopheles or Beelzebub?
Jonas: Demogorgon could take Orcus, only because Orcus is more easily distracted by shiny objects and his occasional undead minions. Demogorgon is pretty focused for chaotic evil. Elminster vs. Vecna is a toss-up. Does Vecna have his hand and eye back? Also tipping it towards Vecna is that he is already undead. Don't get me wrong, Elminster could mop the tavern floor with most anyone, but we are talking Vecna here. I say standoff, with Elminster's brilliant use of Spiritwrack and a poor saving throw keeping Vecna at bay. Mr. Meph and Beelzebub is a battle worth seeing. Meph has the cruelty, but Beelzebub has the lies and trickery. The DM in me would arrange it so Meph would defeat the forces of Beelzebub after a long battle, with Asmodeus being the real winner by having two rivals expend their energies and forces on one another. That Asmodeus is in it for the long haul.
Mark: I don't know what you guys are talking about. I play Magic: The Gathering.
xFiruath: As D&D nerds, what do you find nerdier than D&D?
Jonas: GURPS is nerdier that D&D. LARPers (Live Action Role Playing) are traditionally the bottom of the nerd totem pole, since they combine role playing with thespianism. Academically, people who study Dryden, Pope, or any other of the neo-classicists are nerdier than a D&D player.
Mark: I agree, LARP is worse than us by far.
xFiruath: Back to the music, what bands and albums are you guys digging most these days that you’d recommend to our readers?
Jonas: I saw Ghoul recently and was blown away, so they are on the list. I have also been listening Sparks' 1974 album “Propagnada,” Hawkwind's “In Search of Space,” and Cross Examination's “The Hung Jury.”
Mark: Ghoatwhore continues to impress. Melt-Banana gets better with each album. I appreciate bands that use keyboards in metal like Dragonforce, Horse the Band, and Genghis Tron. But for the most part I find myself having to say I like Classic metal. Then again, if we lived on the West Coast we could still get to see Zeke occasionally.
xFiruath: That’s all my questions, is there anything else you’d like to bring up?
Jonas: These were great interview questions. I now want to go back and get the stats for Elmister to make sure I didn't underrate him. Also, thanks for the honest review of "Swarm, Kobold, Swarm!" You may not have liked it, but you sure got it.
Mark: Two things. First, the “last song” on “Swarm, Kobold, Swarm!” is intended to be a hidden bonus track. It's actually the sound of us playing the first song for the first time during our first rehearsal, recorded on micro-cassette. Second, the genesis of this band starts with a bunch of garage bands, most notably The Mummies and some other lo-fi bands such as on the Estrus label. Specifically, Jonas and I started playing “Rock Invasion” by The 1-4-5s at 45 instead of 33. We were impressed by their direct approach and wished there was a band like them but faster. Eventually Kitten and I were playing in a space-rock band in Baltimore, and Jonas was the visualist for the band. When we noticed that a new wave of thrash bands was starting to take Jonas' long held advice to shorten of eliminate guitar solos, the three of us formed a side-project that has outlived the original rock band.
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