Cody Vaillant is someone who lives and breathes riff laden rock music, so much so that against the odds he has recorded a great, raw hard rock album full of great guitar work and memorable songs. Lovelorn Leviathan is in fact Cody's second album and Sea of Tranquility staff writer Steven Reid recently caught up with Cody to ask some questions about it.
SoT: Hey Cody, thanks for taking the time to answers some question. Can you give us a bit of background about your musical history? Have you played in many bands before going it alone?
Cody: No. Not many bands at all. Nothing that ever got very far that is. Call it bad luck or the wrong bunch of guys but the collective drive never seemed to be there. I am usually up for anything when in comes to playing. Sure I have my own idea of what I want to play but if I walk into a situation and I find myself in a room with a bunch of talented musicians and they all want to play country or something…if I feel it I will jump head first into that. I have yet to feel that. I hope one day I have that. I hope soon.
My musical history is short and sweet. Always loved music as a kid. Did not matter what kind I just loved it. But it wasn't until I was in my first year of high school that I fell in love with the electric guitar. All the kids were taking guitar lessons and classes at school but it was all acoustic. I was set on the electric so I never found myself in these instructional settings…I got a hold of an old beat up super cheap guitar and taught myself to play by ear. To this day I could not play you a specific chord…but you play a progression and I will rip over it with a good lead and write some lyrics for it.
SoT: Who would you site as your main influences guitar wise and vocally?
Cody: Guitar wise…the list is so long. And the funny thing about most of them is the fact that they are all amazingly phenomenal, technical, geniuses that in all reality you would really have to dig into my material to find the slightest audible evidence that they influenced me. Perhaps a better question would be "who inspires me guitar wise?" And to that I would have to spout of this list: Beck, Vai, Gallagher, Satriani, MAB, John5, May, Buckethead…and so on. The only direct guitar influence I can think of would be Chuck Berry. He was slick, sloppy a straight forward with his playing. Lots of my music is closer to the older rock than it is to any of todays stuff.
Vocally I have always admired and wanted to sing like, Axl, Baz, Mark Slaughter, …Recently I have acquired Jim Gillette's vocal training DVD. We will see how that helps me.
SoT: How did your first album "Dross Coven" come about and who was involved on it?
Cody: Oh geesh yeah that thing. Wow well I do not know what to say. That was an experiment to say the least. It was my excuse to experiment and discover myself, my methods, I was treating it as a trial run for something bigger. I started using loops and protools and sound myself with a collection of strange electronically tinged instrumentals. The sound was like Jeff Beck, Yes & NIN all rolled into a strange monster that was neither rock nor techno. All in all it taught me that I would much rather have a real drummer…I hate programming loops.
SoT: I noticed that it sold out, how many copies did you make to start with?
Cody: 500. Each and every copy was burned on my computer one at a time. I printed and cut out all the covers. And sold them at school and at shows. To my surprise…some people did not hate it. That made me want to do it again. But better.
SoT: Tell us a little about the journey that resulted in the recording of Lovelorn Leviathan. I believe it was recorded in places such as your front room and your parent's house?
Cody: I started recording the first few demos while living with a friend in an apartment in Winnipeg Manitoba. I was going through a ruff emotional time coming out of a 4 year relationship and it was an outlet. My Winnipeg stay was a temporary school related thing.
I soon moved back home to my parents place in Murillo (just outside Thunder Bay) Ontario and continued to work on the tracks. Mainly just the guitar parts an lyric writing. I met a lovely lady and began to date her. She influenced lots of the lighter sexy material interspersed in the doom and gloom.
My parents moved into the city and I tagged along lugging all my gear with me. The bulk of the record was recorded in the basement of my Mom & Pop's new home while everyone was at work. Still it was very bare bones, guitar, bass, vocals…no drums yet. That would come later.
I eventually got my own home with then fiancé Rae-Ann. I finished up the record in my living room and surly pissed off my neighbours in the process.
SoT: What are the biggest challenges to putting an album together this way?
Cody: Consistency. You try recording 13 tracks in 4 places and make it flow. Room and equipment changes make for an environment of variable tone and over all feel. I would love to make a record in one spot with good gear.
SoT: How hard has it been and how have you financed it?
Cody: Financially it was like pulling teeth. Working part time and trying to keep my house made me feel bad every time I spent another chunk on the record. Artistically it was effortless. The material flowed out of me. Between gear, studio fees, postage and everything else I spent roughly $6000 of my own money and another $2500 was granted to me by the Ontario Arts Council. That extra grant covered the production fees. So all in all not a bad sounding record for $6000.
SoT: Slik Toxic drummer Neal Busby makes a superb appearance on Lovelorn Leviathan, how did you get him involved in the project?
Cody: I asked. HAHA plain and simple I just asked him.
I found a slick toxic tape at a second hand store many years ago. Loved the record and wanted to learn more about them. I have been in contact with everyone in the band with the exception of bassist Pat Howarth who seems to have disappeared entirely. They are all great guys and when the topic of working with Neal came up I had to go after that. To work with someone from a band who's tape has not left my car since I bout it was a bloody dream come true. And he pounded out those beats like a badass. I sent him the songs and he did his thing…not once did I have to make him change anything. The guy has an ear like no other.
SoT: Was having a live drummer a big thing for you?
Cody: YES! If it aint a real live drummer it aint Rock& Roll. I could have just selected a bed of beats from some drum tool and went with it…but this man brought something to these songs that only a true human artist could.
SoT: When I first read about the album I was impressed to see that JK Northrup was involved in the mastering and mixing of the album and that he also played the guitar solo on "Crematorium". Having someone of his pedigree (King Kobra, XYZ, Paul Shortino, and some excellent solo albums) involved is quite a coup. How did that happen and did you get a chance to meet him?
Cody: I have not had the pleasure of meeting him yet. He is on the other coast and well…I will get over there to shake his hand when my bank account sees some growth.
I got in contact with him after talking to a friend in the graphic design field. My bud Rory did some work for him so I thought awesome here in my angle. So I email Jeff and sweet talk and name drop all buddy buddy like…and the damn guy agreed to work with me. He put his mark on it with that killer solo and mixed it like a pro record. The man does wonderful work and I hope to work with him in the future.
SoT: What do you think JK's involvement brought to the album?
Cody: Credibility. Having Jeff and Neal on this project has caused people to le their guard down long enough to give my music a chance that it otherwise would not have gotten. I am not one for riding coat tails but at this point in my life a lil metal street cred via some name drop'n could really help me break out.
SoT: You basically handle all the guitars, bass and vocals on the album, except for that track "Crematorium", where JK solos and your friend Ryan Benninghaus handles bass duties. Was there a reason that this song was collaborated on?
Cody: I wanted all the songs to be collaborative works. With my schedule the way it was it just never worked out that way. I play everything out of necessity.
SoT: Do you see yourself moving into a band situation for any of your future work, or do you see yourself as a "rock loner"?
Cody: There is no doubt that I am the loneliest loner haha the album title reveals that. But I am aching to take this on the road and I will try my best to put some guys together. At some point I will have my own or be part of a band. Might not be CodyV material but I will be rock'n
SoT: Are there any plans to play any live shows?
Cody: Would I have built a 6 foot tall coffin amp if I had not planned to melt some faces live?
SoT: Considering you financed and released the CD yourself I was very impressed with the digi-pack the disc came in and the print on the disc itself is really cool and very professional, how important was this sort of detail to you?
Cody: Very important. I come from a marketing and design background so I know how to make a product pop. I designed the cover and the CD graphic to be as eye catching as possible and it had to let you know what to expect when you popped it in the boom box. Nickleback or Simple Plan wont have a snake wrapped around a flaming heart on any of there records any time soon haha. I do freelance if any of you rockers out there want something killer for your next cover.
SoT: Do you see independent releases in this way as the only way to get your music "out there" or are you looking for a label to help you make album three?
Cody: At this point it was and is my only option…but I will not turn down the suits if they want to back a project. Heart, soul and hard work make good songs. Money makes good sounding records. Not to mention the tours that cash can finance.
SoT: Rock and Metal do seem to be making a bit of a comeback right now, what are your thoughts on the music scene?
Cody: I will not be happy until acts like Crashdiet, Dynazty and Edguy start getting some exposure this side of the ocean. Still way to much garbage floating around in my opinion.
SoT: So what do you have planned next and what do you hope for the future?
Cody: World domination…but first I gotta get to sleep so I can get up for work, wear an apron, stock shelves and save up some cash to make another independent album that no one will buy.
Never stop Rock'n !
(Click here to read our review of Lovelorn Leviathan