Kevin Rutmanis | Interview | New Album, ‘unEat’
Kevin Rutmanis is the founding member of Cows, Tomahawk, the former member of the Melvins, and so much more. His latest project is called hepa.Titus with a new album out called ‘unEat’ and there’s the ‘Crackpot Whorehead’ release, a collaborative project with Trevor Dunn.
The rich tradition of delta blues meets modern oral surgical techniques in hepa. Titus’ most recent full-length release, the bewitching, beguiling ‘UNEAT’. Slithering bass lines envelop and enfold like beefy anacondas; glassy shards of guitar variously claw against the surface, or drill to the center of tender nerves; all to a thudding rhythm, variously jagged, halting, and propulsive. And the singers rant about something, sounding for all the world like street corner schizophrenics declaiming and howling end-times prophecies through a haze of Night Train and methadone. Even a cursory listen to the album’s lauded video tunes, ‘El Ray Vis’ and ‘Doe Deer’ is a first-order face-pounding that would induce screaming amidst the meek and tasteless. This, dear friends, is state-of-the-art rock ‘n ‘roll for the year 2023: Blunt, irritable, opposing.
Meet the Seals & Crofts of a new dark age. Hot on the heels of their rapturously-received and Novello Award-winning 2021 release ‘Glen Krupa World’s Great Drummer’ bassists and multi-instrumentalists Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Trevor Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant, Tomahawk, Melvins Lite) and Kevin Rutmanis (Cows, Melvins, Tomahawk) have again joined forces to create a lite-jazz tour de force, ‘Crack Pot Nhore Head’. Abetted by percussionist Lee Afentopoulos, the duo weaves a silken blend of buttery evil, rich in languid menace. The breakout single ‘Mime Om’ seems torn from the very larynx of War’s ‘Low Rider’ before being drenched in bitter schizoid drippings. Taken as a whole, ‘Crack Pot’ flays the very idea of soul-sinuous, insinuating, oozing, bleating. It’s an out-of-control bus barreling through the parade of music, backing up and doing it again and again.
“I find that if I consistently work on this stuff, I can get an awful lot done”
Kevin, you have been very busy with everything. How did you manage to record two albums in such a short span of time?
Well, it’s what I do! I work on various musical projects in one form or another most days, if not every day! I find that if I consistently work on this stuff, I can get an awful lot done! I have a good work ethic, because I enjoy it so much!
Let’s first discuss the newest LP of hepa.Titus, ‘unEat’. What was the overall vision of this album?
The overall vision was a vague idea of a “feeling” I wanted to shoot for. As the songs started to form, it became more clear where we were headed. I discovered a wonderful abstract guitarist named Davy Williams (He sadly passed away a few years ago). He was inspirational to me because although his music tends to be abstract and ‘free,” it is somehow still cheerful, or playful. I found that really inspirational. Since it’s not a direction I’ve shot for before, it was a fun and interesting direction to try to impose on our songs. I think that general feeling of free and for fun has always been there, but I brought it more to the forefront of the overall sound.
What was the process like?
It was mostly done through the internet as far as recording the different musicians, the editing and the mixing. The writing started during the pandemic, so it came together that way by necessity. I quite enjoyed the process because it enabled me to take some time and really examine song structures, parts, sounds et cetera.
I really enjoy the cover artwork by Mow Skwoz.
Me too! She has a distinct and unique vision that I think suits the general impact of our music. She’s Australian, and lives in my house with me.
Then there’s your record with Dunn. How much effort was invested in that project from your side?
Effort? Hmm…as much effort as I ever put into all projects! Do you mean how the writing and playing is split between us? We were equal partners…song writing started on either end, and then sent to the other person. We both played bass, and a mix of other instruments and samples. No rules, no bosses, so it was nice
Do you have any active side-projects going on at this point?
Gina (Mow Skwoz) and I have been recording and performing as Lords and Lady Kevin. We’ve released at least a dozen 10″ lathe cuts. David Livingstone was our third member but he recently passed away which was unexpected and shocking. A real loss both as a great friend and an amazing musician, engineer, mixer. We’ve known each other since the earliest days of the Cows and the God Bullies. We toured together many times. I’ve also been working with Jeff Mooridian Jr. and Paul Erickson from Hammerhead and Vaz. Years ago we recorded some material that was waiting for vocals that was never completed. I came across the recordings and listened and I thought they were pretty great! So I’ve been adding vocals, and making videos for songs as they are completed. I hope to release that stuff this year.
Can you share some further details how your latest album ‘Crackpot Whorehead’ was recorded?
Trevor Dunn and I both are able to record at home thanks to all the advances in recording technology. It’s so easy and sounds nice these days. We sent tracks back and forth and added whatever seemed to fit. Once in a while one of us might suggest a vague element to add. We trust each other and our visions don’t clash.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
The latest John Cale LP, ‘Mercy’ is great! In his 80s and still pumping out relevant high quality music. Derek Bailey has some recordings where he plays along with the radio that I’m nuts about!
Headline photo: Buzz Osborne