Raw, Loud And Proud!

When STENEBENDER released their self-titled album in 2009, I was pleasantly surprised indeed. After the SLINK album in 2001, this has been the very first musical sign, that we have received for quite some time by Nollie and Johnny DeVol (CULPRIT/PORKFINGER). STONEBENDER simply kicks ass and the time was right to do an updated interview with these rockers from Seattle. Not only has this great new album been a good reason to get back in touch again with Nollie and Johnny, but we also heard the news, that CULPRIT is about to reform again and they are playing at Headbangers Open Air festival in Germany this summer. All the more reason to add a small CULPRIT section in this interview as well. OK, let's hear what Nollie and Johnny DeVol have to say in the following interview about STONEBENDER....

Congratulations on the new STONEBENDER album. What do you think about the final result yourself?
Johnny DeVol: “I think for the amount of effort and being a very new band, it turned out great. Guitars, drums and bass were recorded in two days. The songs were very raw and it sounds like us.”

When did you form STONENBENDER and how did you actually get in touch with Dan Hulford and Paul Higgins, respectively your bass player and drummer?
Johnny DeVol: “I originally wasn’t thinking about putting a band together. I obviously still play guitar, but first I just wanted to jam and have fun. Then different riffs and such that I had, started coming out. When I started getting serious about recording, Dan and Paul, who would have been my first choice for the band, became available at the same time. Dan and I had band together, called PORK FINGER. That was one of the most fun things that I’ve done. And Paul and I had played in different projects in the past.”

What happened to SLINK and its band members Sally Rhodes and Krisy Klein?
Nollie DeVol: “We are still friends. Sally and Krisy are currently playing in the Seattle area. I would like to clear a rumor. Johnny was never a member of SLINK. However, he was there through everything, but never played with us. That would have been interesting.”

Are you still in touch with these ladies?
Nollie DeVol: “Yes, like I mentioned earlier we are still friends and we come out to each other’s shows.”

Who came up with the name STONEBENDER for this new outfit?
Johnny DeVol: “What do you name a band these days? We threw a lot of things out there. The name sounds like the music and I feel, that it just fits.”

When did you decide, that it was time for something new and did you set out the musical direction of the band yourself? ????
Johnny DeVol: “I never really decided anything. I just had some riffs, songs lyrics, etc., that I needed to put to bed. People change. I know this is definitely different from what I’ve been known for in the past. I think, it’s a natural evolution as a musician.”

How obviously was it, that your husband Johnny (CULPRIT guitarist) became a member of the band or was this your intention right from the start?
Nollie DeVol: “If you’re talking about STONEBENDER, it was always Johnny’s project. When STONEBENDER was taking shape, SLINK had long disbanded. We rehearsed and it worked. Pretty simple.”

Did you have any line-up changes from the formation of the band until now?
Johnny DeVol: “Too many to mention. Especially drummers, but there were never any vocal auditions. That was the easiest.”

Did Dan and Paul play in other bands, before they joined STONEBENDER?
Johnny DeVol: “Obviously yes. Both are very well seasoned in the Seattle scene and they are highly respected.”

How would you like to call the music of STONEBENDER yourself?
Johnny DeVol: “I’ve always been the worst to describe what I do. I’ve heard so many different comments about our sound. This is what I think it sounds like: raw, honest and loud. Also, it’s fun. This band can do whatever we want. The new album will definitely back that up.”

How does the press react towards your self-titled debut album so far?
Johnny DeVol: “I know, there have been many reviews. I hear, they’ve been favorable, but I don’t read too many of them. It’s not going to change my approach with STONEBENDER. One I did read was yours, however. (laughs) But if all anyone can knock is the length of the album, I can smile. The next disc is definitely going to change that critique.”

Why did you decide to release your album on an independent base? Did it have anything to do with the fact that you possibly want this album to sound like you want it to sound, without the interference of a record label?
Johnny DeVol: “I recorded this with the budget I had. Not with the intention of releasing the recording. It was just a demo. After the final mix with what Nollie laid down, I figured, why not? This project didn’t have a label budget, but even if it did, it was going to sound like what I wanted. It definitely sounds like us.”

What's your favourite STONEBENDER song and why?
Johnny DeVol: “That’s a hard one. I have fun playing all of them. Live they’re all my favorite. I like to see the reaction of playing some of these songs without a pick. That’s always fun.”

Which bands can we see as the musical influences for STONEBENDER and maybe you can mention the biggest influences of each band member individually here too, please?
Johnny DeVol: “I can’t speak for every member of the band, but I know we all came from the same school. Personally, I love where rock came from. From ELVIS on up. But when I was a kid, I’d listen to all music. I can’t say I’m a big fan of all the modern stuff. It just sounds so generic. I’m not hearing a lot of originality. Bands used to have personality. Now, you can’t tell them apart.”

Who writes the lyrics for STONEBENDER and what are they about?
Nollie DeVol: “There’s no set way for lyrics. Sometimes I bring in finished lyrics or I have an idea and Johnny does the same. As far as what they’re about… From telling someone to go screw themselves like any good blues to Johnny’s favorite basketball team (Seattle Sonics) getting sold in “Bushwack”.

How do you get to work on new songs? Do you start with the music first and then write the lyrics or vice versa? Please explain how a new STONEBENDER song comes together?
Nollie DeVol: “It’s gone both ways, but mostly Johnny’s guitar riffs.”

Who created the beautiful artwork for the front cover of the album?
Johnny DeVol: “That would be my son Sean. We had a few ideas and just went with snakes and a jackhammer. We were kind of laughing about it and I told him to give it a shot. I think, that he did an amazing job. It looks like STONEBENDER.”

Let's take a look at your live shows, if we may. How often do you play live and what's been your biggest gig so far?
Johnny DeVol: “We’ve done nothing to the extent of Wacken and what CULPRIT does with reunions and such. It is a new band. We’ve done many large venues and now some of the bigger promoters are coming on board. We’re still new and we’re trying to put a tour together in the near future. I can’t wait.”

With which other bands did you share the stage already?
Johnny DeVol: “Just about anybody you can name in Seattle. Too many to mention.”

Do you use any show elements (pyrotechnics, etc.) during your live shows?
Johnny DeVol: “Never really. That was always a big part of the CULPRIT shows, but not so much with STONEBENDER. I think, it’s more fun just to get up and crank it.”

What can people expect, when they come to see a STONEBENDER live show?
Johnny DeVol: “Raw, loud and proud. I don’t know, if there’s any other way to say it. Every night you won’t know what to expect. We don’t know what to expect.”

Do you also play covers during your live shows or do you stick to your own penned material alone? (If yes, please tell us which covers you play live)
Johnny DeVol: “There have been evenings with a rehearsal or two prior to the show, we’ll slam something together. We do a pretty sick version of “Rollin’ & Tumblin’ “, but you never know.”

What's the most difficult STONEBENDER song to play live and why is that?
Johnny DeVol: “Nothing, if you write it. It’s just second nature.”

I can imagine, that you have witnessed some strange, funny or hilarious situations, while being on the road. Maybe you want to share some of these situations with our readers here?
Johnny DeVol: “Oh Yeah, but nothing I really want to talk about. There’s the usual stuff we smashed a hundred pumpkins on stage at a Halloween show and we slid on our ass, but that’s about as far as I’ll go.”

If you could go on tour with any band of your choice, with which band would you like to tour?
Nollie DeVol: “JUDAS PRIEST.”
Johnny DeVol: “What would fit for the fans! JUDAS PRIEST, BLACK SABBATH, SCORPIONS. Obviously, there are a lot of new bands that we could work with too. LAMB OF GOD, GODSMACK and some others, that I appreciate. That’s why it’s hard for me to place our sound. What would we compliment? Probably many things.”

Are there any important gigs on the agenda for STONEBENDER?
Johnny DeVol: “At present, we’re working on the new album. There may be an interim show or two, but this needs to be finished.”

What's the metal scene like in the Washington part of America? Are there many clubs where you can play live shows or what?
Johnny DeVol: “Metal in Seattle is great. There are so many genres and so many bands just crushing. Clubs have come and gone. Good and bad and there are some amazing new ones, that have a better vibe even than in the ‘hay day’, you just got to know where to go.”

Which other bands come from this area and are there any particular bands you get along with very well?
Johnny DeVol: “ I think, that list should be pretty obvious. We know just about everybody and they’re all fun. Seattle doesn’t have a lot of egos.”

Where can people buy your album, when they’re interested? Please advertise here for free!!!!!!
Johnny DeVol: “At present, you can buy it directly though our website at: http://www.stonebenderband.com, but it looks like that may change soon.”

Are you working on new material already and if yes, how does it sound comparing to the songs on your debut CD?
Johnny DeVol: “As I said, we’re definitely working on the new album. Does it sound like our debut? It may not be as raw, having more time and budget will change that, but it will definitely have more thought in the arrangements. With the debut, we went in with some riffs I’d been working on and knocked them out. It was the first time the band had been together in a studio.”

I would rather shoot myself than not taking the opportunity to ask Johnny a few questions about the ‘much talked about’ CULPRIT reunion and European tour. So I hope you don't mind taking a short time out here. I promise to return to the STONEBENDER interview really soon again. Johnny, please give us an update about the plans for the CULPRIT reunion, who is in the band and where will you be playing in Europe next year (next to the already announced Headbangers Open Air gig)?
Johnny DeVol: “I knew this was coming. I know there are lots of rumors floating around about the final line-up. All four of us have talked. What will happen will happen. But there may be a surprise or two. We’re coming to kick some ass. This will be the best CULPRIT project in years. As far as tour dates, that’s not final yet. Definitely some, hopefully many.”

I read on the CULPRIT My Space site, that you will also be planning to record a live DVD for CULPRIT. Haven't you got enough 'old material' to release a DVD already? I think, that there would be a lot of old school headbangers like me, that would die for a good compilation of some good live footage of CULPRIT on DVD.
Johnny DeVol: “We are in talks with Jürgen Hegewald of Hellion records about the DVD. We have talked about a DVD of the early shows. Maybe it could be a two-disc set.”

Are you also planning to work on new material with the band, or is this just wishful thinking?
Johnny DeVol: “I think, that would be wishful thinking on everyone’s part. No, I am only half messing with you. Scott and I have talked about it off and on in the past, but right now with the momentum, we’ve got going it most likely will happen. I’ve already put a couple of things away for the project.”

If you are planning to record new material, what will it sound like, if you would compare it to "Guilty As Charged"?
Johnny DeVol: “I don’t think that anything can compare to the writing and playing on “Guilty As Charged”. We were kids. But I’d like to think maybe we’ve grown up. I’m sure that’s going to reflect on the sound. I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed.”

I still have very fond memories about the show of CULPRIT at Wacken Open Air in 2001. It belongs to one of my favourite performances I've ever seen at this wonderful festival, and I can tell you that I've seen a lot of bands there, but your performance there was absolutely mind blowing!! What's your memory about this gig, and maybe you want to share some funny or nice memories with our readers here about your stay in Europe in 2001?
Johnny DeVol: “First off, thank you very much. That was the first time I’d ever been to Europe and again I’m so thankful for the way it was received. Everybody I met and talked to were great, had an absolute blast. It was a lot of work putting the original band together to do that. Honestly, we only had a handful of rehearsals and two shows in Seattle and then off we went. Lots of good food and beer. I’ve been wanting to come back ever since. Running into Rita in the parking lot was funny as hell.”

Why did the band actually call its quit after the Wacken shows, because I can imagine that this show must’ve been very successful?! Wasn’t it possible to continues with the band back then?
Johnny DeVol: “So many reasons, but honest reasons. There are reasons why we broke up and reasons why we came back together for Wacken. That was a reunion show. We’ve done a few of those. But that’s all it was, a reunion. People change you have to understand I wrote a lot of that material with Scott when we were kids sitting on the porch with an unplugged guitar and bass. Most of our amps didn’t work. Trying to recreate it? I will never try to do that. Something new is in the works though. Momentum is everything.”

What can we expect from the CULPRIT live show at Headbangers Open Air in 2010 and will Nollie be coming over this year, too?
Johnny DeVol: “If you liked Wacken, this will definitely not disappoint. As far as Nollie coming over, she has many people she would like to meet and people that want to meet her. She will absolutely be there.”

Isn't it difficult to match both bands, CULPRIT and STONEBENDER, and which band has the highest priority?
Johnny DeVol: “There’s no way to compare the bands. They are so completely different. Highest priority? What day is this?”

I would love to do a longer interview about the past, present and future of CULPRIT with you and maybe some of the other band members as well, if this would be OK by you, so we don't have to bother the STONEBENDER fans with this information. What do you think about this idea, the interview will be used for my new website http://www.truemetalfan.org?! I hope, that this short chat can be continued on another place on the world wide web!!
Johnny DeVol: “I don’t see why that would be a problem at all. Let me know.”

Thank you very much for this small time and space. CULPRIT is too special for me to not take the chance and ask Johnny some questions about these cult metal heroes! Okay, let's get back to STONEBENDER again…. I would like to ask, if you still think that women need the special attention that Metal Maidens is giving them? In the SLINK interview we did in 2002 you mentioned that it was a very welcome help, because there weren't so many bands that dominated the charts / scene. We now (seven years later) witness a definite growth of female-fronted metal bands, that have a leading role like NIGHTWISH and DORO. What's your vision about this matter in 2009?
Nollie DeVol: “There are definitely more female fronted metal and hard rock bands coming on to the scene. It will always be more male-dominated. But it’s sure fun to kick the guys’ asses. Metal Maidens and other magazine spotlighting women in rock are always a great resource to find out about up and coming talented female artists.”

Does your website http://www.girlplayer.com, in which you also play an important role in connecting female musicians with each other, still exist?
Nollie DeVol: “Girlplayer.com no longer exists. I may resurrect it, but not at this time. Far too much work now that the album has been released.”

Nollie, do you also play any instruments or do you only use the human voice as your instrument?
Nollie DeVol: “Yes, I play a lot of guitar. SLINK was a very heavy band. Johnny set me up with an evil rig and it used to irritate all of the guys. We’re talking about electric guitar in this band. Maybe there are a couple of songs, there’s not much room. Right now, I’m playing acoustic guitar and writing stuff for the band.”

What are the future plans for STONEBENDER, short and long term, please?
Johnny DeVol: “A new album. Again, I’m having so much fun. I’ve got Dan, Paul, and Nollie and the future holds what it holds. Hopefully, a European tour soon!”

Metal Maidens is based in The Netherlands. What else do you know about our country, besides the fact that we have beautiful windmills and colourful tulips?
Johnny DeVol: “Lutefisk, wooden shoes, and a huge metal army.”

Do you have any personal messages for our readers maybe?
Johnny DeVol: “Know where it came from.”

Do you have any other hobbies or interests besides playing rock and roll music in a band? Please tell us about it.
Johnny DeVol: “I love fishing and I grill & barbeque like a motherf*cker and I love the Seattle Mariners. Safeco field is my favorite place in Seattle. It’s sacred ground.”

Do you want to add something to this interview. Maybe there is something we forgot to talk about that is essential for the story of STONEBENDER so far?
Johnny DeVol; “No, I think you’ve done a great job with your questions.”

The world famous last words in this interview are for STONEBENDER....
Johnny DeVol: “What I’m going to do with this project is put many things to bed and with how we are writing right now, I feel this is the best stuff I’ve ever done. Again, just know where it came from.”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Toine van Poorten, Metal Maidens 'zine / March 2010.

Visit their official website at: www.stonebenderband.com
or go to their My Space site at: www.myspace.com/stonebenderband