HORNSS interview with Mike “Desert” Moracha, Nick Nava and Bil Bowman

June 23, 2014

HORNSS interview with Mike “Desert” Moracha, Nick Nava and Bil Bowman

Stoner and desert psych fed through the pinhole of punk
rock, HORNSS is bred from a hybrid of influences and years of experience that
can only be gained firsthand.  Two
members, guitarist Mick Moracha and bassist Nick Nava were immersed in the
early desert rock scene, and even had a band Solarfeast which featured ex-Kyuss
member Chris Cockrell at one point. 
There’s so much desert and stoner stuff going on right now sometimes
though it’s hard to cut through all the bullshit that’s out there, but HORNSS
are gonna be the last one’s standing after the brawl, if you know what I
mean.  Blistering metal riffage a la
Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus and Hawkwind are imbued with a new life under the
masterfully chaotic, psychedelic punk framework which HORNSS implement to craft
their patented brand of psychedelic, stoner, desert-punk metal; or as drummer
Bil Bowman calls it, “heavy rock for fellow dirtbags”.  The face melting guitar work batters your
eardrums, monstrous riffs of Sabbath-esque doom and Vitus like aggression
implode your skull driving the fragments of what’s left into the bloody stump,
while the bass and drums take turns passing your body back and forth like
demons toying with a tormented lost soul in hell.  There are also moments of contemplation and
reflection throughout the album as well, the dark ominous tunes building to a
fuzzed out detonation of Pompeii-an proportions, showcasing a seemingly more
serious and psychedelic side of the band blended perfectly with their stoner
desert rock roots.  HORNSS are built like
a snake, completely capable of doubling back on their own tails and
transforming a seemingly slow and droning progression into a full-blown scene
of utter riffage and devastation, a scorched landscape of charred bones and
blistered skin.  If I were to assign the
band a motto, it would be “no man left behind” as HORNSS’ music seems to be
designed from the ground up to leave nothing standing in their way, completely
obliterating the competition and shattering expectations of how or what they
should sound like.  It’s brilliant
shit!  So come brothers and sisters,
stand on the thunder cliffs with me and throw a middle-finger up to the sky
with HORNSS’ debut album No Blood, No Sympathy on Riding Easy (Easy Rider
Records) which is sure to sell out in a quickness; stream it below and let the
desert course through your veins!
What’s the lineup
in Hornss?  I know you’ve only been
around for a few years at this point but have you all gone through any lineup
changes to this point or is this the original crew?
Bil:  Mike plays
guitar, Nick plays bass, I play drumset. 
Original lineup!
Do any of you have
any other bands right now or are you involved in any side projects at this
point?  I know several of you grew up in
the seriously killer desert rock scene. 
Have you released any material with anyone in the past?  If so, can you tell us a little bit about
Mike:  I occasionally
play mandolin in a thirteen-piece jug band called The Poontang Wranglers with
folks from Crime, the Phantom Surfers, the Bananas, The Okmoniks, Psychotic
Pineapple, and others.  Before he died,
legendary filmmaker Bruce Conner played harmonica and did some vocals too.  It’s a really fun, but not at all serious
Nick:  I’m not
involved with any side projects at the moment. 
Mike and I both grew up in the desert and have been in quite a few bands
together since 1992, Solarfeast and the Jack Saints are the only ones who put
out any records though.  Solarfeast self-released
one 7″ called Acid and Gasoline and Brant Bjork produced and released our
CD on his then label, called El Camino records. 
The Jack Saints self-released three 7″s, two full-lengths and a
split 10″ on Man’s Ruin.
Bil:  I’ve been in a
lot of bands in the past.  I have a side
thing called Shock Diamond, but it’s kinda on hiatus now…  It’s probably dead, actually; weird technical
metal stuff.
How old are you
all and where are you originally from?
Mike:  Born in Los
Angeles but moved to Palm Springs when I was five and grew up there.  Turning 42 May 26th.
Nick:  I’m just about
to turn 45 in June and I hail from Indio California.
What was the local
music scene like where you grew up?  Did
you attend a lot of shows when you were a kid? 
Do you feel like the scene there played a large role in shaping your
musical tastes or forming the way that you perform at this point?
Bil:  I grew up in
Tampa Bay, during the first wave of death metal, so I got to see all of the
great Florida metal bands growing up… 
Death, Massacre, Obituary, Atheist, Nasty Savage…  I think I was at the first Morbid Angel
show…  My old band Scrog used to practice
next door to them at this storage place. 
Tampa was a cool and scary place to see shows back in the mid 80’s.  The hardcore/punk scene was pretty rad,
too…  Roach Motel, Rat Cafeteria, Blemish
On Society, Jehovah’s Sicknesses, Pagan Faith… 
Lots of skinheads and violence.
Nick:  There was a
healthy underground music scene in the desert. 
Back in the early 80’s there were no clubs and really no need for
them.  House parties and generator
parties out in the middle of the desert were the way to play and see
bands.  Later on, and nowadays, there are
a few clubs.  There’s always been a
healthy amount of original music happening down there in the dirt.    
Mike:  Local bands and
skate videos had a big impact on me.  Our
friend Mario from Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man/Across the River brought in a lot of
bands to play the desert.  Nick saw
Wino’s first show with Vitus down there. 
SST Records always seemed to be the label everyone was listening to, and
their bands were playing all the time and were always on skate videos as well,
so I got into a variety of music through them. 
Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, St. Vitus, Mintuemen, Overkill, Saccharine
Trust, Zoogz Rift, Husker Du, Black Flag, Wurm, Dinosaur Jr, Tar Babies,
Opal…  You can’t get much more diverse
than that.
© Justin at Blood Wizard skateboards
What was your home
like when you were a child?  Were either
your parents or any of your relatives extremely interested/involved in music?
Nick:  I listened to
my older brother’s and my mom’s records before I started buying my own.  Music has always been very important to me
and I knew very early on that I wanted to do more than just listen to it, I
wanted more.
Mike:  My family were
all artists, but none musical.  My older
cousin introduced me to Kid Congo from the Cramps and Gun Club when I was a kid
and she made me mixtapes of punk rock, and turned me on to New Wave Theater, so
that really influenced me.
What do you
consider your first real exposure to music?
Mike:  My older friend
John down the street used to bring over records, and our public library had
Cheap Trick, ELO, and the Ramones Rocket to Russia and I used to sit at the
library with headphones and listen to record after record.  Movies like Rock and Roll High School, Urgh!
A Music War, and the Decline of Western Civilization
had a big impact.
Nick:  I remember
having a bad fever very young and my brother playing KISS in his room down the
hall.  I started to hallucinate and went
into a weird dream state.  I’ve never
come back!
Bil:  My home was
kinda weird.  When I was really young, my
dad used to listen to a lot of Pink Floyd. 
I used to get rock records from the library and I got a couple of records
from my Dad’s “Columbia House” membership. 
My uncle used to play guitar in a garage band that played heavy rock
stuff…  He was/still is a big influence.  Then my parents became “born again”
Christians and actually burned all of their records!  They used to go to church and speak in
tongues and shit…  Crazy, scary stuff to
witness as a child!  I remember I had to
sneak to a friend’s to watch Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park when it
premiered on TV.  I used to have to
literally run to the record store and buy records and get home before I got
caught by my parents…  KISS’ Dynasty
comes to mind.
If you were to
pick a single moment, a moment of music that seemed to change everything for
you and opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities that it presents, what
would it be?
Bil:  Black Flag
Mike:  I remember
watching Times Square in fourth grade, and the scene of Robin Johnson sitting
in a hospital bed with a boombox blasting “I Wanna Be Sedated”, and I thought
that it was greatest thing ever and that I wanted to be in a band.  Leslie West, Dave Chandler, Paul Learly,
Woody Weatherman and J Mascis changed the way I played guitar, so I gotta
mention them.
When did you
decide that you were going to start writing and performing your own music?  What brought that decision about for you?
Mike:  My friends and
I wrote a song in fifth grade music class, and around then I was writing lyrics
all the time for whatever reason, and had just started learning guitar.  My mom still has all my old lyrics and
they’re pretty hilarious.  I was writing
about cocaine and the Bronx without having experienced either!  It was just fun…  And it came easier to me than trying to learn
and memorize other people’s songs.
What was your
first instrument?  When and how did you
get it?
Mike:  Cheap acoustic
guitar from my grandpa in fourth grade, then a cheap electric from my mom in
How and when did
you all originally meet?
Mike:  I met Nick in
the early 90’s in Palm Springs in my mom’s garage.  Bil I knew from shows and parties in San
Francisco, then he started playing in Black Queen with our friend Pete Jay.
Bil:  Yeah, something
like that!  Mike was putting out a Skate
Rock compilation at the time…  Black
Queen recorded a Septic Death song for it!
What led to the
formation of Hornss and when exactly was that?
Mike:  We like all the
same stuff, and we all wanted to get back to playing heavy music.
Bil:  It was about
four years ago, I think.
What does the name
Hornss mean or refer to?  Is there any
significance to the extra s?  Who came up
with it and how did you go about choosing it?
Mike:  It’s fucking
hard to come up with a name nowadays, with the internet telling you someone
already has it.  Nick had a name but I
didn’t think it fit, Bil had a name we agreed on, then we changed our
minds.  Horns we agreed on, but we found
a Horns on Encyclopedia Metallum, so we said fuck it and changed the spelling.
Nick:  Yeah we went
back and forth with names, then I threw HORNS out there and Mike and Bil liked
Is there any sort
of shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?
Mike:  I’m the band’s
vegan, so that’s my personal code/ideal I guess.  I don’t know that we’ve ever vocalized one,
but it seems like we’re always on the same page.  Maybe there is one and those back-stabbing
assholes didn’t tell me!
Bil:  My code is to do
the opposite of anything Mike does, even if it’s wrong.
Where’s Hornss
located at right now?  How would you
describe the local music scene?
Mike:  San Francisco,
California.  Bil lives in Oakland though.
Bil:  The local music
scene is great, lots of amazing bands and cool people.
Are you very
involved in the local scene?  Do you book
or attend a lot of local shows?
Mike:  There are shows
here all the time!  It seems like I’m
always going out, but at the same time I’m always missing stuff too.
Bil:  We play pretty
often around here, but we’re trying to concentrate on writing and getting ready
to do some touring in Europe, so less local shows lately.
Has the local
scene played a large role in the formation of Hornss sound or in the history of
the band?  Or do you feel like you could
be doing what you are and sound like you do regardless of your location or
Mike:  We could do it
anywhere, but since we’re surrounded by awesome friends here, it makes it
easier for sure.  But who knows, maybe if
we moved into the woods we’d get all funeral doom on you.
How would you
describe Hornss sound to our readers who might not have heard of you before?
Mike:  We just try to
write good songs – or at least songs that we think are good.  It’s in the stoner rock sub-genre I guess,
but it’s a lot of stuff we like.
Bil:  Heavy rock for
fellow dirtbags.
You guys have a
seriously killer sound that’s an awesome combination of a ton of different
influences, a lot of which are kind of lurking beneath the surface.  Who are some of your major musical
influences?  What about influences on the
band as a whole rather than just individually?
Nick:  I think our
music is just very organic and honest. 
It comes from who we are, not just what we listen to or what we want to
sound like.
Mike:  There are
probably elements of Vitus, old C.O.C., Trouble, Hawkwind, Alice Cooper, Grand
Funk, ZZ Top, and Sabbath in there, but we don’t really try to sound like
anything.  Other people who influence me
personally are Leslie West, Paul Leary, J Mascis, Woody Weatherman, Dee Dee
Ramone, Butterfly McQueen, Moebius, Michelangelo Antonioni, Lloyd Kaufman,
Paolo Pasolini, Hardy Fox and Homer Flynn, Kurt Vonnegut, Ida Lupino…  A ton of others too.  I’m inspired by stuff all the time; my list
would probably change tomorrow.  Right
now I’ve been watching a lot of videos of Mike Bowers, Johnny Lott, Doug Furry,
Johnny Horton, and Todd Loffredo.
Bil:  Biggest
influences on me, musically…  Captain
Beefheart, Sabbath, Molly Hatchet, Trouble, Deep Purple…  Crap, too many to think of!  As a whole, probably Saint Vitus, Blue Oyster
Cult, Hawkwind, Grand Funk and SST bands.
What’s the
songwriting process like with Hornss? 
Does one of you come into practice with a riff or a more finished idea
to work out with the rest of you or do you all get together and kind of jam and
kick ideas back and forth until you kind of distill a song from it all?
Mike:  The songs are
usually mostly one person’s song, but even then we all sort of fine tune it and
arrange it differently if we need to. 
Nick’s got parts in songs I sing and vice versa.  We share songwriting credits because we all
contribute to the final sound, whether it’s Bil coming up with all the drums,
me writing lead riffs or Nick adding bass lines.
What about
recording for Hornss?  I’m a musician
myself and I think that most of us can appreciate the end result of all the
hard work, time and effort that goes into making an album when you’re holding
that final product in your hands. 
Getting to that point however, getting stuff recorded and sounding the
way that you want it to, especially as a band can be extremely difficult to say
the least!  How is it recording for
Mike:  We’ve only gone
into the studio the one time so far, and it’s fun but stressful.  Time is always an issue too.  We were going to have our friend Billy
Anderson help produce it, but he was in the middle of moving to Portland and I
think he’d have helped a bit.  Whether it
would have been getting the bass volume up a bit, or having me redo some guitar
I played sloppy, but we did it quick and thought we’d be putting it out
ourselves, so…  I’m really happy with it,
but I think we’ve learned a lot and we’ll nail the recording on our next
one.  I thought Greg from Brainoil who
recorded it, did a great job though. 
We’ve already got about eight songs written for the next one.
Nick:  This recording
was very difficult for me as far as getting the bass tracks down.  It’s such a different thing than playing
Do you all head
into a studio environment and let someone else handle the recording side of
things so you can concentrate on performing or you do you all prefer to take a
more DIY approach to thinks and handle it all on your own terms?
Mike:  Our demo
process is all DIY in our practice space using a Firepod and Audition.  When we go in to a studio we listen to the
people who know better, but are always making suggestions.
Is there a lot of
time and preparation that goes into figuring out every change and part of a
song and getting things to sound just so-so before you have a session?  Or do you all get a good skeletal idea of
what a song should sound like and then give it some room to change and evolve a
bit during the recording process?
Mike:  We don’t really
have the kind of loot to write in the studio or take extra time off work even,
but there is some stuff we came up with in the studio, like the organ Bil
played on “the Red Death”, and we also added some audio generator and effects
stuff.  Nick and I rewrote some lyrics in
there too.
I know you all
have released several digital only “demo” versions of stuff from the upcoming
No Blood, No Sympathy album but looking back over the posts I thought I saw a
couple of songs that didn’t make their way onto the album.  Can you tell us about the recording of that
early demo material?  Are there any plans
to release the demos in a collected version digitally or physically any time in
the future?
Mike:  I recorded all
that in our practice space.  I think the
only song not on the LP is “Frozen Eyes”, because we thought the raw recording
of that was better than a studio version would be.  As far as releasing demo stuff, I don’t
know.  We’re going to be doing a lot more
demoing soon for the next record.  If
people really want it pressed we would do it. 
I’d rather make a cassette or just upload a link to free mp3s though.
You all are just
getting ready to release your debut album on Easy Rider (Riding Easy) Records
at the end of the month (May 2014), which is entitled No Blood, No
Sympathy.  Can you tell us a little bit
about the recording of No Blood, No Sympathy? Was that a fun pleasurable
experience for you all?  When and where
was that material recorded at?  Who
recorded No Blood, No Sympathy?  What
kind of equipment was used?
Mike:  I used my
normal live setup except for a couple leads where I used a cheap tiny Vox amp
and a Little Big Muff.  Everything else
was vintage Acoustic Control, Marshall and a Creepy Fingers pedal; a couple
other pedals for effects.
I know that Easy
Rider (Riding Easy) is releasing the album in a super-limited run of 100 copies
on clear vinyl but they’ve also gotten involved in releasing CDs as well.  Is No Blood, No Sympathy going to be released
on CD or is it going to be a vinyl only release and if it’s being released on
CD, do you know when that’s going to be as I haven’t seen it announced via Easy
Rider despite the fact the LP comes out at the end of this month (May 2014)?
Mike:  Pretty sure any
day now, we sent Riding Easy the CD layout last week.
Does Hornss have
any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a single or a song on a
compilation that I might not know about?
Mike:  We have a song
on the Monsters of Mission rock comp called “Debreeding” but it’s just an unmastered
version of what’s on our Riding easy LP. 
We’re about eight songs in to our next record though…  Can’t wait to start demoing those.
With the release
or No Blood, No Sympathy still coming up, does Hornss have any other releases
in the works or on the horizon right now?
Mike:  Just writing
for our next record, maybe we’ll do a single between then and now. 
Where’s the best
place for our US readers to pick up copies of your stuff?
Mike:  At our shows or
at the Riding Easy web store.  It also
has distribution, but you’d have to ask your local record store.
With the
completely insane international postage rate increases that have taken place
over the past few years I try and provide our readers with as many possible
options for picking up import releases as I can.  Where’s the best place for our international
and overseas readers to score your tunes?
Mike:  iTunes store is
up now and a CD is on the way.  Yeah tell
me about shipping prices, I sometimes order LPs off eBay from places like
Greece and it sucks!
Are there any
major goals or plans that Hornss is looking to accomplish in 2014?
Mike:  I’d like to
record our next record in 2014…
Do you all spend a
lot of time out on the road touring?  Do
you enjoy touring?  What’s life like on
the road for Hornss?
Mike:  We all have
jobs and live in the most expensive city in the U.S., so taking a lot of time
off work is pretty hard.  We’re doing 3
weeks in Europe in September, then hopefully a few short trips up and down the
West coast after. Maybe the whole U.S. next year.
Do you remember
what the first song that Hornss ever played live was?  When and where would that have been?
Mike:  I’m guessing it
was either “Vine Priest” or “War Gods of the Deep”…
Do you all have
anything planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?
Mike:  Our three week
European tour that’s about half booked at this point.  Hope to get up to the Pacific North West soon
after that.
Who are some of
your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to share a bill with so
Mike:  Fatso Jetson,
Yob, the Well, Windhand.  We’ve played
with some great bands and made some great friends, lots of great local bands
In your dreams,
who are you on tour with?
Mike:  The Plasmatics,
Christian Death, the Boredoms, Sir Lord Baltimore, and Skip Bifferty.  Throw Biz Markie in there too, that would be
Bil:  Good ones, Mike!
Mike:  Maybe Phil Ochs
and Billy Bragg could do some in-between band acoustic numbers.  Keven Ayers too since I’m raising the dead in
my dreams…
Do you have any
funny or interesting stories from the live shows or performances that you’d
like to share here with our readers?

Mike:  Plenty of old
stories from old bands I’ve been in, but HORNSS are just getting going so I
can’t think of any.  Come to our shows
and make it happen!
Do you all give a
lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band like flyers,
posters, shirt designs, covers and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of meaning or message that
you’re trying to convey with your artwork? 
Is there anyone you usually turn to when it comes to your times of need
for that kind of thing?  If you do have
someone, who is that and how did you originally get hooked up with them?
Mike:  We’re all
pretty creative people.  I do art for a
living, but I haven’t really invested any time in the visual aspect of our band
other than sketching loose ideas for the cover art, or editing our music video
and the visuals we project behind us when we play.  I’m usually too burnt from work, but I’ve
been trying to get more motivated.  We
have a lot of talented friends who have contributed art though.
With all of the
various methods of release that are available to artists today I’m always
curious why people choose and prefer the mediums that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for
your own music?  What about when you’re
listening to and or purchasing music?  If
so, can you tell us what it is and talk a little bit about why you prefer it?
Mike:  My preferred
medium is vinyl with a digital download for iTunes listening at work.  I do buy a lot of CDs too, but that’s mostly
old stuff I find for a few bucks, or nicely packaged CD reissues of 60’s and
70’s stuff.
I grew up around a
pretty massive collection of old school garage, vintage psych and classic blues
and I was really encouraged by my dad to listen to anything that might float my
boat.  There’s always something magical
about sticking any album in, kicking back with a set of headphones, reading the
liner notes, staring at the cover artwork and letting the whole experience
transport me off to another place. 
Having something to hold in my hands and experience physically along
with the music always made for a more complete listening experience, at least
for me.  Do you have any such connection
with physically released music?
Absolutely.  I’m always buying
stuff that I already have MP3s of.  When
I’m at home I rarely play a CD, it’s so much nicer to hold, play, and flip over
a record.  I’ve always been fascinated by
album art, especially stuff like Queen’s News of the World or Meat Loaf’s Bat
out of Hell
.  I loved the Boston and ELO
art as a kid too.  So yeah, it’s
important.  Plus if I’m buying a CD reissue
of a band like The Fleur de Lys or something, I love reading the CD booklet
learning about the history of the band and seeing reprinted photos of early
singles and whatnot.
As much as I love
my music collection I have to admit that I try and keep as much of a complete
digital backup of my collection as I can. 
Being able to really take my collection on the go with me for the first
time has not only changed the way that I listen to my music but when you team
digital music with the internet you have something really crazy on your
hands.  Together they’ve exposed people
to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by and overnight it’s
eliminated a lot of problems associated with making music in remote or isolated
locations as well as facilitating unparalleled communication between bands and
their fan bases for the first time in history. 
On the other hand though illegal downloading is running rampant right
now and with everyone being given a somewhat equal voice with the internet,
it’s harder and harder to get noticed in the chocked digital jungle out there
right now.  As an artist during the reign
of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Mike:  I used to do an
MP3 blog called Blog the Jerk!  It’s
still up, but most of the links are now dead. 
I don’t care if someone illegally downloads our record, but it’s pretty
lame to be posting mp3s of a new release the band is trying to sell to save up
money for touring and recouping some recording expenses.  I was also always bothered when Blogspot
people would just post links to free RAR files with no review, no explanation,
no love of the music.  Just, “Here’s free
shit!”  I always tried to make sure the
stuff I posted was out of print and wrote about why the album was great.  I listen to vinyl at home, CDs on the road,
phone MP3s while walking, and iTunes at work; music going on all the time
unless baseball is on.
I try to keep up
with as much good music as I possibly can but there’s not enough time in the
day to keep up with half a percent of the awesome stuff that’s going on right
now.  Is there anyone from your local
scene or area that I should be listening to that I might not have heard of
Mike:  Depends what
you like, but check out Hazzard’s Cure, Buffalo Tooth, Lecherous Gaze, Golden
Void, Glitter Wizard, Hot Lunch (Interview here), Wild Eyes (Interview here),
Moses, Vastum, Cardinal Wyrm, Amber Asylum, Swamp Witch, Augers, Kowloon Walled
City, Sutekh Hexen, Ovvl, Worm Ouroboros, Winter Teeth, Dispirit, Walken,
Serpent Crown, Ghoul, Lycus, Vhol, Apocryphon, Deafheaven and Brainoil.
Bil:  Kicker, Moira
Scar, Carlton Melton, Phil Manley Life Coach and Black Cobra.

What about nationally and internationally?
Mike:  Some bands I’ve
been liking are Windhand, Loss, Aldebaran, Zig Zags, Electric Citizen, Son of
Huns, Danava, Bell Witch, Foxygen, Dirty Fences, Old Man’s Will, Lord Dying and
Bil:  Satan’s Satyrs,
Salem’s Pot and Adult.
(2014)  Hornss No
Blood, No Sympathy – digital, CD, 12” – Easy Rider (Riding Easy) Records (12”
limited to 100 copies on Clear Vinyl)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
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