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Bionic Cavemen interview with Andy Morgen and Jose Bernal

February 26, 2014

Bionic Cavemen interview with Andy Morgen and Jose Bernal

Bionic Cavemen might sound like they come from some far off
place in the future, but they sound more like a band that travelled forward in
time from the late 60’s or early 70’s than anything else.  Hardcore rock is the name of the game
here.  It’s as though Black Sabbath,
Muddy Waters and Canned Heat all teamed up for an album.  And it didn’t suck.  Andy Morgen’s sickeningly sweet and gravelly
voice shows off a personality that most front men would kill for and the music
is filled with awesome no-holds-barred guitar riffs and solos, but it has
plenty of room to breathe which lets the vocals really take on a life of their
own.  I think that’s something most bands
are afraid of these days, burying their vocals and adding so much reverb and
echo you can hardly make out the garble. 
For all of the bands out there talking about the rock revival these
days, I’ve not heard a band that’s as sincere as Bionic Cavemen really are
about the proposition in a long time, so it’s no surprise they don’t talk about
it.  Allow me to do so now on their
behalf.  This blues infused rock is some
of the wickedest hard riffing teamed with a myriad of classic rock influences
that’s sure to impress even the most skeptical of the “dad rock” classic rock
crowd, as much as it will intoxicate anyone riding the revival wave feeding on
the added energy and learned lessons from the past.  Bionic Cavemen truly are the best of both
worlds, inhabiting the future and the past simultaneously, a band at once out
of time and completely at home in the here and now.  My descriptions might sound mysterious and
eclectic but I implore you to simply click on the link below, listen to the
music and draw your own conclusions from their Predator album.  It will be time well spent I assure you.  Not without further ado I present to you,
Bionic Cavemen; hey it is Psychedelic Baby!
Listen
while you read: http://bioniccavemen.bandcamp.com/
What is Bionic
Cavemen’s lineup?  Is this the original
lineup or have you all made any changes since the band began?
Andy:  The lineup is
Roland Morgen, Larry Drennan, Jose Bernal and myself Andy Morgen.  The band began with Jose, Larry and
Roland. 
Jose:  Roland, Larry,
and I were jamming for about a year or so. 
Our friend Bart played percussion as well at one point.  Andy is Roland’s older bro, so he showed up
at our studio one night and we played some Zeppelin tunes.  He had a raw voice and a credit card, so we
let him stick around.
The more people I
talk to the more I realize musicians are usually in more than one band these
days, either trying to make ends meet or just doing what they love.  Are any of you in any other active bands at
this point?  Have you released any music
with anyone else?  If so can you tell us
a little about it?
Andy:  Jose is now
drumming for Dead Feathers, they’re like a younger, better looking, gentler and
less angry version of ourselves.  We’ve
played a bunch of shows with them.  Larry
has been in Foz the Hook for a couple of years now.  They’re like if the drunk professor at the
end of the bar suddenly got up and taught you through song for an hour.  I’m still working on and off with Murder
Proof Vest.  I also have some other
projects that only exist as ideas right now, such as a rapper named Slizz
Monteco.  I’m not sure if Roland has
formed anything official yet.  I’ve got
his Twin Reverb in my basement though, joke’s on him!
Jose:  Aside from my
involvement in Dead Feathers, I’m currently starting a psychedelic delta blues
project called Evil Snake.  I’m still
looking for the reincarnation of Fred Mississippi McDowell somewhere.  It might take a while.
Where are you
originally from?
Andy:  Larry is a
Mainer, he drifted down a river here at some point in the 90’s.  Jose, Roland and I are all from Chicago.
How would you
describe the local music scene where you grew up?  Did it play a large or pivotal role in your
childhood?  Do you think the music scene
there made an impact on your musical tastes or the way you play?
Andy:  I grew up with
everyone wanting to be in a punk band.  I
never liked punk music.  If anything, the
scene drove me further into “classic” rock.
Jose:  I don’t know
what the local music scene was like when I grew up.  I didn’t pay any attention to it.  The minute I discovered Canned Heat with
these dudes, I never looked back.
Was your home very
musical growing up?  Were either your
parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely involved/interested in
music?
Andy:  The only
cassette my father owned was Dark Side of the Moon and he would replace it
whenever the heat warped it or it just became worn out.  He played harmonica and accordion at bars for
fun.  My mother was always really into
the Stones and Santana, and she always had The Loop on.
Jose:  My dad exposed
me to James Brown and soul music.  That
led to me dig deeper and eventually discover blues from the Delta.  That’s where I stayed.
What was your
first real exposure to music?
Andy:  Bing Crosby and
the Andrews Sisters, every Christmas.
Jose:  My grandfather
would blast old school Mexican romantics at his barbershop.  It made the women go crazy.
If you had to pick
one defining moment of music in your life, a moment that opened up all the
wondrous doors and possibilities to you and changed the way you perceived
music, what would it be?
Andy:  Jimi Hendrix’s
Ultimate Experience.  It was a best of,
which is lame.
Jose:  Coltrane’s A
Love Supreme.  Elvin Jones on the drums
was my first lesson in music.  I tried to
imitate everything he did.
When did you decide
to start writing and performing your own music and what brought that decision
about?
Andy:  I had always
tried on my own, but it didn’t start making sense until I was doing it with the
Cavemen.
Jose:  I don’t write
songs, just drum solos.  And that came
about from watching Ginger Baker with Cream.
Where is the band
at these days?
Andy:  Finishing our
second album and trying to figure out the next step.
Jose:  Three-quarters
of the band is in Chicago right now. 
Roland’s in Seattle playing blues and staying at random women’s
houses.  He’ll be back.  Hopefully.
How would you
describe the local music scene there?
Andy:  There are a
bunch of great arty and metal bands here.
Jose:  The scene here
in Chicago has grown a lot in the last five years.  Shit is getting heavier and heavier.  It’s like all these young kids dusted off
their dad’s Sabbath records and started bands. 
It’s a great time right now to grow a beard and be loud.
Are you very
involved in the local scene?  Do you book
or attend a lot of shows or help record and or release any local music?
Andy:  I’m not really
that involved.  I’m a lazy asshole. 
Jose:  Yeah, Andy is a
bit of a procrastinator.  I do most of
the booking for our shows but I don’t mind. 
I keep most of the money anyway. 
Ha-ha!  I’m pretty involved in the
local scene and help promote other bands. 
It’s one big happy family out here. 
There’s no sense of rivalry.  Only
camaraderie.
Do you think that
the scene there has had a large impact on Bionic Cavemen or do you feel like
you all could be doing what you are and sound like you do regardless of
location or surroundings?  Has the music
scene there impacted the way that Bionic Cavemen sounds or played a large part
in the history or evolution of the band?
Andy:  I feel like we
could have done this in any dirty city. 
I suppose the scene in general has affected us, but not the music scene;
at least not until we met Thee Arthur Layne. 
We did get to work with some awesome dudes on the album, though.  That couldn’t have happened elsewhere.
When and how did
you all originally meet?
Andy:  This is
probably a better question for Jose.  I
met Roland a couple of days after he was born. 
He introduced me to the other guys.
Jose:  Roland and
Larry met in high school.  Roland started
working at a deli where he met me.  We
used to drink Modelo’s and listen to jams on our breaks.  One day I maxed out my credit card on a set
of drums for no reason.  After screwing
with it for a month or so, I invited Roland to jam.  He brought Larry. After that, our weekends
filled up with whiskey inspired jams in smoke-filled garages.
What led to the
formation of Bionic Cavemen and when exactly was that?
Andy:  I like to think
that it was when Roland gave me some demos and I sent them back with vocals.
Jose:  I like to think
it was the first time Andy jammed with us. 
He came in and asked us if we knew “The Lemon Song”.  So, we jammed on that for an hour.  This slick put a smile on all of our
faces.  After that, Bionic Cavemen was
born. 
What does the name
Bionic Cavemen mean or refer to?  It
conjures an awesomely hilarious image for me! 
Who came up with it and how did you go about choosing it?
Andy:  I came up with
it.  A friend said that Roland and Larry
looked like cavemen, which got us talking about the Cavemen Olympics.  ‘Cavemen’ made a lot of sense.  ‘Bionic’ helped it make less sense.  We all kinda decided on it.  I don’t remember any of the other ideas.  Jose?
Jose:  I think so
man.  I remember coming in to practice
one day and Roland and Bart were wasted while playing Zelda.  Andy laid the name on the table and we all
just went for it.  It was better than
Larry’s drunken response of naming the band Ketchup Popsicle.
Is there any
shared ideal or mantra that Bionic Cavemen live by as a band?
Andy:  Be fucking
loud.
I am absolutely
terrible when it comes to describing bands! 
I love listening to them and I love talking about them, but every time I
try to describe how a band sounds it just gets weird and awkward.  Rather than me making some bizarre attempt
and describing your sound to our readers who might now have heard you before,
how would you describe Bionic Cavemen in your own words?
Andy:  Heavy Stoner
Blues.
While we’re
talking so much about the band’s back story and influences I’m curious who you
cite as your major musical influences? 
You have some really interesting stuff bubbling up from underneath the
surface of your music!  Who would you
cite as major influences on the band as a whole rather than individually?
Andy:  Zeppelin,
Sabbath, Canned Heat…
Can you tell us a
little bit about Bionic Cavemen’s songwriting process?  Is there a lot of jamming and free exchange
of ideas when you all get together to play and practice?  Or is it more of a situation where someone
will bring a riff or more finished idea to the rest of the band to work out and
compose with you all of you?
Andy:  It goes both
ways.  I would say it always starts with
Roland, though.  Jose and Larry jump
right in, the three of them are very good together.  I’m the one that gums things up.
Do you all enjoy
recording?  I know for most bands getting
the end result is always amazing, there’s not a whole lot in the world that
beats holding an album in your hands knowing that it’s yours and you made
it!  Getting into the studio, or even
recording the material yourself, that can be a totally other matter altogether
though, especially when it comes to having to record as part of a band.  How is it in the studio for you all?

Andy:  We record
everything live.  It’s like playing a
show for two days.  
Does Bionic
Cavemen do a lot of prep work before you record hammering our arrangements,
compositions, transitions and the like or is it more of a natural kind of
process where things have room to change and evolve somewhat during the recording
process?
Andy:  Yeah, we don’t
have the money to figure things out on their time. 
How do you all
handle recording?  Do you use studios or
is it more of a DIY, on your own time and turf prospect for you all?
Andy:  The DIY stuff
never seemed to come out with an even sound. 
It was definitely important during the writing process though.
You released
your debut album Predator back in November (2013).  Was the recording of that album a fun,
pleasurable experience for you all?  Can
you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for Predator?  Where and when was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?
Andy:  We recorded at
Electrical Audio with Grégoire Yeche and had it mastered at Chicago Mastering
by Bob Weston.
Jose:  When you’re
recording at Electrical Audio, it’s nice to not have to worry about shit other
than playing.  Everything was taken care
of.  The guys picked out some old tube
amps that they had and I picked out the biggest Bonham sized drum set they had
in the room.  Andy had his chilled bottle
of Jager for his vocals.  Each song was pretty
much done in one take.
Is Predator
self-released?  If not who released
it?  I know that the 12” is a split color
limited edition run of only 200 copies. 
The album has been flying off the shelves out at Permanent Records
Chicago and selling extremely well at shows as well.  When the LP sells out are there any plans to
repress it or do you have your eyes set on the future in those regards?
Andy: 
Self-released.  Jose fronted the
money for the pressing.
Jose:  There are still
plenty of vinyl records for sale. 
They’re on translucent lemon-lime vinyl. 
People can get them at Permanent’s store and website, as well as our
shows.  Hopefully, we’ll get the second
album pressed on wax as well.  We’ll
see.  It’s expensive.
Does Bionic
Cavemen have any music that we haven’t talked about, any compilation
appearances or anything like that I might have missed?
Andy:  Not yet.
With the release
of Predator only a little while ago, are there any releases in the works or
planned for the future?
Andy:  Yup.  I don’t know when, though. 
Where’s the best
place for our US readers to pick up your album from?
Andy:  Bandcamp for
digital, Permanent Records for vinyl.
With these
completely insane international postage rate increases this last year I try to
provide out international readers with as many purchasing possibilities as I
can.  Where’s the best place for our
international and overseas readers to purchase your album?
Jose:  The good folks
at Permanent are really reasonable with the shipping rates.  Tons of people from overseas have bought the
record from their website.  We’re
currently working out a deal with Ozium Records in Sweden to market and
distribute the records soon for our overseas fans though.
Do you remember
what the first song that Bionic Cavemen ever played live was?  If so, where and when was that?
Jose:  I don’t
remember.  We were all hammered, but I do
remember it was in the basement of some Mexican restaurant on Clark Street in
Chicago. 
Do you all spend a
lot of time on the road?  Do you all
enjoy touring?  What’s life on the road
like for Bionic Cavemen?  Now that sounds
strange…
Andy:  We haven’t made
it out on tour.  Day jobs, setbacks,
can’t legally leave the state, etcetera.
Jose:  When we finally
do hit the road, I picture me driving most of the way, Andy controlling the
radio, Roland in the front seat with a bucket of fried chicken and Larry passed
out with a 12-pack.
What, if anything,
do you have planned as far as touring goes for 2014 so far?
Andy:  Nothing
official yet.
You guys have
played with some seriously sweet bands lately! 
Who are some of your personal favorites that you’ve had a chance to
share a bill with?
Andy:  Thee Arthur
Layne are where it’s at.  Crobot taught
us all a lesson.  I used to like Dead
Feathers a lot, but I hear they have a shitty drummer now…
Jose:  Funny guy…  I also dug The Dirty Streets, they’re heavy
and greasy as hell.  Bunch of
sweethearts.
Do you have any
funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to
share here with our readers?
Andy:  We all ate at
Harold’s Chicken Shack right before a show. 
It was a poor choice.
In your dreams,
who are you on tour with?
Andy:  Thee Arthur
Layne, and we all have go-karts.
Do you have a
preferred medium of release for your music, and if so why?  With all of the various options available to
artists today I’m always curios why they choose the certain mediums that they
do.  What about when you are listening to
and or purchasing music?
Andy:  I was the only
one of us pushing for digital.
Do you have a
music collection at all?  If so can you
tell us about it?
Andy:  I do.  If I like an artist, I own their entire
catalog.  There are equal portions of
both delta blues and doom/stoner metal in there.  And a whole lot in between.
Jose:  I collect
vinyl.  Most of my collection consists of
delta blues, Chicago Chess Records stuff and heavy bands from ’68 to ‘73.
I grew up around
what I would consider a pretty sizable collection of music and I learned to
appreciate physical music from a very young age.  There was always something magical about
being able to go over to the shelf and grab something completely at random I
had never heard of and pop it into the tape deck or CD player, read the liner
notes and just stare at the artwork and let it transport me into this whole
other world.  There’s something
indispensable about physical music to me, having something to hold and
experience along with the music makes for a more complete listening experience;
at least for me.  Do you have any such
connection with physically released music?
Andy:  Not
anymore.  I listen to ninety-five percent
of it with my phone.  I miss liner notes,
though
Jose:  Most
definitely.  That’s why I decided to
press the album on vinyl.  Scott Miller,
our friend who did the cover art, did a phenomenal job making sure our 12”
grabbed attention at the record shop.
As much as I love
my music collection there’s always been a few problems with it, namely moving
it ha-ha!  Seriously though I could never
take my collection on the go with me, even with CDs it was always a total pain
and I was all freaked out about tearing them up when I had them out in the car
and it was like a million degrees in the shade. 
Digital music has solved that problem to a large extent, I can carry
more music on my phone that I could have in a duffle bag, even with tapes and
CDs.  And when you team digital music
with the internet you have a whole new ball-game!  Its exposed people to a whole universe of
music that they otherwise would never have heard or been exposed to.  But with the good comes the bad as there’s
always an upside and a downside to things. 
Digital music is rapidly changing the face of the music industry to say
the least these days.  As a musician
during the reign of the digital era what’s your opinion on digital music and
distribution?
Andy:  I’m all for
it.  My only issue is that it’s too easy
to find some new-to-you, awesome band every other day.  I am not putting in the quality time with
bands like I used to. 
I try to keep up
with as much good music as I possibly can but there just aren’t enough hours in
a day.  I spend more time than I would
like to admit looking around online and I basically drive by the local shop on
the way home from work so I’m constantly pouring over their stuff as well.  A lot of the best tips that I get come from
musicians like you though!  Is there
anyone from your local scene or area that I might not have heard of yet?
Andy:  I don’t know if
I mentioned Thee Arthur Layne yet.
Jose:  I love those
dudes, huge fan of what they’re doing. 
Every fucking element in that group is raw.  I can’t help but think of Jamul’s “Tobacco Road”
when I hear them play.  Definitely check
them out.  I can’t wait for their
release!
What about
nationally and internationally?
Andy:  Pretty much any
stoner rock from Sweden.  Seriously. 
Jose:  Amen to
that.  Those dudes have shit going.
 © Marty Perez
Thanks so much for
taking the time to make it through this monster.  What can I say?  I’m a curious boy!  Is there anything that I might have missed or
that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk about?
Andy:  Thanks for
asking.  Please excuse our typos.
Jose:  Stay
tuned.  We’re not through destroying the
future.
© Marty Perez
DISCOGRAPHY
(2013)  Bionic Cavemen – Predator – digital, CD, 12” – Self-Released (Vinyl limited to 200 copies on Translucent Lemon-Lime Vinyl)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
2 Comments
  1. Anonymous

    One of the greatest bands of all time. So rich and powerful in their sound. Jammed with them a few times and it was some of the most fun I have ever had in my life. Love these guys. Can't wait for more!!! Hurry up!

  2. Thee Arthur Layne

    Thanks for the sugar boys! We love you too! xoxoxoxo
    Thee Arthur Layne!

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