The Man Behind the Metal 

If it's heavy and it was recorded in Chicago, there's a good chance Sanford Parker was at the mixing board.

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Being an instrumental band was the smartest thing they could've ever done, because it allowed them to cross over to a lot of people who wouldn't give the time of day to metal bands. And the incestuous indie-rock community that makes up the whole Chicago scene—people that would frequent the Empty Bottle and go to Tortoise and June of 44 and Joan of Arc shows—instantly fell in love with them. They started having this mass appeal outside of the metal community. Then Hydra Head took notice. The funny thing is, the EP was originally a demo. It was never meant to be released. Hydra Head was like, "We want to put it out, but exactly how it is."

Lair of the Minotaur.

I just finished a new record with Lair of the Minotaur. Again, another really good band. Steve [Rathbone] used to be in a band called 7000 Dying Rats; they still kind of do it from time to time. They would play the Fireside Bowl all the time. The shows were pretty legendary, just chaos, people going crazy. They were a pretty notorious party band. Steve wanted to do something a little more metal, so he ended up getting D.J. [Barraca] on bass and Larry [Herweg] on drums. When they started playing, the more indie-rock type of kids were really digging it. It was this old-school metal sound, but it had some sort of crossover appeal to it. And same thing: They came in, recorded a demo. Next thing you know, Southern Lord's putting it out. We even tried to remix it. We sent it to Greg [Anderson, label head, also of Sunn 0)))], and he denied it. He was like, "No, I want to put out the original." We're like, "Dude, that was a demo." He was like, "I don't care. I love it, I want to put it out." And that was that [laughs].

Yakuza.

Yakuza is definitely one of those bands that have become a staple of Chicago. They've always had sort of a crossover. They're an interesting band because they're all from the south side. When you go to their shows, it's a really strange mix because you get these diehard south-siders that only come up for Yakuza. You never see them except for Yakuza shows. Bruce is also heavy into the local jazz and experimental scenes, so you get a lot of those people, plus you get the north-side people coming out. Yakuza shows are very cool. . . . We just finished a new record with them back in December, so that's coming out sometime in the spring.

Finally, Nachtmystium.

Nachtmystium is a little different. Blake grew up in the 'burbs. He definitely had a strong foothold in the metal scene, but only recently has he gained a foothold in the local indie-rock scene as well. He also took up part-time shifts at the Empty Bottle, working there. He has a lot of people come and go, so there's always this element of a new person involved, which is kind of cool. This time around, the lineup is completely different from Doomsday Derelicts, which was completely different from Assassins, which was completely different from Instinct: Decay. So you always have this different vibe going on with each album. I would this say this one more so than any of the others [laughs]. We threw any concept of what a metal record should sound like out the window and went with what we wanted to do. People are going to be very shocked when they hear this album [laughs].

What up-and-coming Chicago bands deserve notice?

Raise the Red Lantern. Three of the guys in the band do this guitar-cabinet company called Emperor. They've gained a lot of popularity all over the world. They're definitely a band that I would highly recommend checking out.

This band Indian—they've been around for a while. They started shortly after Buried at Sea got going. They were highly influenced by what I did, but they have definitely taken it in their own direction now. Will Lindsay, who played in Middian and Wolves in the Throne Room—he moved to Chicago and joined Indian. He's added a whole new element to the band. Their sound is light years beyond what it originally was. Those guys are going to be doing some really cool stuff this year.

This band Sweet Cobra—they've got a new record coming out on Blackmarket Activities. They've been a staple of Chicago for years.

There are a lot of bands. It's hard to keep track. It seems like every time I go out to a show, I hear about some new band.

Does Kuma's have any concrete place in Chicago's scene, or is it just a tourist destination?

No, it definitely has become an institution. Unfortunately now it's so popular that you can't go there without at least an hour and a half wait, sometimes three hours. . . . If you go on a Monday at, like, three in the afternoon, you might be able to get a spot at the bar [laughs].

I interviewed [northwest suburban deathcore band] Oceano, and they're very young. I asked the singer about Kuma's, and he didn't know what it was. It astounded me that someone associated with metal in Chicago wouldn't know what Kuma's was. Is there a separate youth-metal scene in Chicago?

There is. The whole suburban metal scene has nothing to do with the city. There are so many young metalcore type of bands that come and go from the 'burbs on a weekly basis that never get picked up on the radar of the city because they just play VFW halls out there.

I can definitely see why [Oceano's singer didn't know about Kuma's]. Kuma's is not really a place for a family trip. Your mom wouldn't be like, "Hey kids, let's go to Kuma's tonight." Although you do see it—it's kind of funny when I do go in there and see an old lady order a Darkthrone burger. It makes me laugh every time.   

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