Interview with Hallowed Engine
Written by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
Metal Babe Mayhem (MBM): First of all, tell me a little bit about your background and what got you where you are today:
Laurie Es: I’ve been playing in bands since I was a teenager. Most of my bands were New York based. In a scene that small, the influences generate from your own backyard. Not only was I playing music, but I also did a weekly radio show on WFMU, and wrote for the “Village Voice” and a fanzine called “Flesh & Bones.”
In order to get my bands on better bills, I started promoting my own gigs at CBGB, Coney Island High and Continental. Moving to Los Angeles was such a culture shock because it was really hard to hook up with other musicians that wanted to play heavy music. For the most part, it was very male dominated. I had to settle for a hard edged pop band to keep my chops up.
Tom Oz: I grew up in New Orleans and started in my first band, a Sabbath tribute called Snowblind, when I was 14. Since then, I played with a hardcore punk band that toured with Black Flag in the late 70′s/early 80′s called The Sluts. It was great because they were all Straight Edge, so we got to drink all their beer and eat all their food on tour. After I recorded with a band called The Red Rockers I moved to Los Angeles in 1986. I’ve been playing in rock bands ever since, including Volume and Sasquatch. Currently I am playing with Hallowed Engine and Arctic in the Tropics.
Grant Masson: I’d been playing in some jam/funk bands in Kansas (of all places) and Florida. It was time for a change, and I was ready to get back to my rock n’ roll roots, so I moved to Los Angeles in the Spring of 2002.
AAM: How did the three of you unite and how long have you been together?
Grant: I first started playing with Laurie in the Fall of 2005. I had been playing with a few bands in Los Angeles and had met Laurie at a few shows. She auditioned for one of the bands I was in, but didn’t feel it was her thing. A year or so later, I ran into her at an Alice Cooper show and told her I wasn’t doing anything. She called me shortly after, and I started playing with her in a band called Dirty Red.
Laurie: The two other members of Dirty Red hailed from San Pedro. Everyone always said that there were two Dirty Reds because it was so obvious that the two factions were coming from different mindsets. Rehearsing and playing gigs were problematic because of the long distances that separated us.
Grant: We stuck it out with Dirty Red for a couple of years. It started going kind of South and some of the riffs we were coming up with weren’t fitting.
Laurie: Grant was writing some killer riffs and we knew that they would never become the songs we envisioned unless we were able to develop them outside that circle. I had met Tom Oz at shows and I knew he had great taste in music because of his posts on stonerrock.com. Even though he was already in two bands, I asked if he wanted to jam on some of our new songs. At first we were goofing around with some ZZ Top covers, but it started to sound so good, we just kept writing more stuff.
Grant: After playing with Tom for a while, Laurie and I looked at each other one day and decided to get out of Dirty Red and do this full-time. So here we are today.
AAM: You were a four piece for a while, with both Grant Masson and Corey Dean Little on guitar. What happened to Corey and do you plan on getting another 2nd guitar player?
Tom: UFO abduction… or so I was told. (laughs)
Laurie: Corey was only in the band from April 2009 to December 2009. Being a four piece gave us a perspective about what we could do with dynamics. He’s a great musician and we were able to develop the songs and realize certain possibilities with our music. After he left, we noticed how tight we sounded as a three piece. I’m not opposed to the idea of adding another guitar player if the right one came along, but we’re not about to post an ad on Craigslist. We’re all pretty much on the same page about our musical influences. There are certain bands we all agree upon (Sabbath, Skynyrd, Kyuss, Masters of Reality) and it surfaces in the music without sounding derivative. I think if we were to add another member, they would need to have that same understanding. Right now, we’re fine as a three piece. At our last gig, no one seemed to notice that we were back to a three piece.
AAM: Tell me about your songwriting process. How do your songs usually come about?
Laurie: Grant is such a “riffmeister.” He comes up with these chord progressions that are so fun to play. I always feel tough playing his songs. Whenever I’ve brought my song ideas in, Grant always puts a twist on it that makes it better than I ever imagined. Then 99.9% of the time, Tom Oz instinctively plays a beat that I had imagined for the song and he makes it as heavy as humanly possible.
Grant: It takes a while; it’s a very collaborative effort. We piece stuff together and see how it works. We keep working on the songs, seeing what fits and what doesn’t, and eventually they are presentable. Sometimes we keep working on them after they’ve been played live or even recorded.
AAM: What about your lyrics?
Laurie: Lyrically, Grant and I are about half and half. I love the words he wrote for “Dustbowl” and “Your World.” It’s easy for me to sing them because they have lots of attitude.
Tom: We have a group of scientists working 24/7 behind us. When they are not available, we just jam.
AAM: That’s funny. Now, Grant, in addition to “Dustbowl” and “Your World,” you also wrote and sing lead on “Knucklebuster.” How did that come about?
Grant: That riff actually makes my hands hurt so much that it named itself “Knucklebuster,” and it kind of forced me to write the words around the idea. Since the song was so close to home, I just had to sing it myself.
AAM: How would you describe Hallowed Engine to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?
Laurie: Southern Fried Stoner Rock
Tom: Big Dumb Rock!
Grant: 70’s Style Groove-Laden Rock
AAM: What’s next for Hallowed Engine?
Laurie: We’re back to writing. I’m really excited about this new song we’re cooking up. We haven’t officially titled it yet, but we’re hoping to unveil it at the Relax show on March 12th. Our last demo was recorded in 2008 and we have evolved tenfold since then. I’m hoping that 2010 will see us back in the studio.
AAM: Laurie, I have a question just for you. I’ve seen your show fliers, necklaces and t-shirts. You do some amazing work. Can you tell me more about this and if you have/are interested in making these items for other bands?
Laurie: I’ve always felt that music should not just be an auditory experience. There is a certain aesthetic that goes along with every musical collaboration. Hallowed Engine has so many different influences, coming up with relevant iconography is easy for me. I’ve been sitting on this awesome artwork for a Hallowed Engine t-shirt. I’d like to see some of our friends and fans rocking an Engine shirt.
Some bands have hired me to do posters or CD packaging for them, but most of the musicians I know are broke. I feel bad taking their money. A friend taught me to do plastic resin casting and I started making the bubble necklaces. People love them because they look just like jewelry from the seventies. They’re like mood rings with images inside them.
A few years ago, I started doing bootleg t-shirts out of necessity. I didn’t have a job and I needed to generate an income. I know not everyone has an artist in their fold to generate merch, so I’ve done a few t-shirt designs for other bands. Even if a musician has zero artistic talent, there is always a vision lurking there somewhere. It always feels good when another band gets excited about artwork I’ve made for them. (Laurie’s posters can be viewed at the link below.)
AAM: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming musicians?
Grant: The bottom line is to make sure that you’re having fun.
Laurie: You have to really love what you do and always keep that perspective. The only expectation I have ever had about playing is that it makes me feel great. Playing bass is my therapy. It keeps me sane. If other people dig what we’re doing, that’s gravy. Not that we wouldn’t want to take it to the next level, but at the end of the day, the satisfaction is in the riff.
AAM: Do you have any final words for our readers?
Tom: Tell the alien abductors to tell Corey I said hi.
Laurie: We’re road ready, so I’m working on booking some out of town gigs. Hope to see you on the road.
Grant: Stay true to the rock. Keep checking out our Myspace page (below) and check out one of our shows if you get the chance.
If you’re in the Los Angeles area, make sure to check out Hallowed Engine at the Relax Bar March 12th. Also, keep a lookout for dates in your area as well. Hallowed Engine is ready to hit the road and may be in your town sooner than you think. Find them at:
Laurie Es – Vocals/Bass
Grant Masson – Lead Guitar
Tom Oz – Drums
*Guitarist Grant Masson and Drummer Tom Oz are currently playing in Cooter Brown. Please visit them on ReverbNation and FaceBook at the links below: