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What is technical, aggressive, melodic rock, packaged with a high level of experience, instrumental proficiency, and a drive to succeed? This determination-driven musical force is Factor IX.
I last wrote about Factor IX last May in my "Louisville Rock Lowdown" column, following the CD release party at Tek World for their self-titled album. Since then, they have sold nearly 1000 copies, mostly at their shows, plus at local stores, including Ear X-Tacy and Showcase Music, which makes them a major success in the emaciated Louisville music scene, where most bands hope to sell 1000 copies, expect to sell 500 and generally manage to move 300 or so.
So a review, then on to Factor IX's new happenings.
Factor IX has plenty of experience in its arsenal. Andy Paul on vocals, Scott Cox and Andrew McAllister on guitars, Joey Goldsmith on bass and Dave Wathen on drums make up the Louisville super-group. Their experience in past bands includes FLAW, Mindstorm, Shapeless Matrix and more.
Factor IX has been together for about three years, a longer history than most bands in the scene can claim, especially with the same lineup. The band has been fortunate enough to find solid musicians who are dedicated to what they do, good at what they do and are just cool people to be around. The chemistry is there, and it is very evident after being with the guys for a while that they have developed deep friendships, not just professional relationships. This shows through their music, especially when it comes to writing. One of the main reasons why Factor IX is so strong musically is because everyone is involved in the writing process. Better yet, in this case, I should say the "throwing out" process, since so much of their material is tossed out after reviewing it as a band (for which the band points the finger at Dave for killing material). Each member's influence is seen and heard. One can listen to their music and hear each instrument's sound being molded by the musician behind it. It is distinct, and it is very Factor IX.
Factor IX can't be summed up by saying "They sound like so-and-so." While there are items that are similar to other bands, there is no overall summation. The combinations of sounds that are brought to the table are myriad, and the results are quite impressive. Some of the musical structures and vocals are similar to Tool, but stylistically they are very different. Each component of the songs can be thought of in different lights, but I as said before, it's just very well-written music. It's different, and different is good (thanks Arby's).
The guitar work done by Scott and Andrew is stern, commanding and most of all, compelling: it works. The two obviously have a bond and can nearly read each other's thoughts musically. The parts interact well with each other, and the fills are tight. Effects are used quite often, and it keeps the sound new. The effects that are used also are responsible for shaping the trademark sound of Factor IX. I can hear that tone of their guitars vividly in my head with little effort. It is a lasting reminder of who they are. Bends and dual harmonization are found throughout their music.
When it comes to bass, it doesn't get any better than Joey. His technique is unsurpassed by any bassist I have seen locally, and only the likes of Victor Wooten and Les Claypool have bragging rights over him nationally. He plays a 6-string and uses his fingers and slap. His speed, accuracy and innovation are worthy of his common pen name "Bass God." It must be the hair.
Last, but not least, we have Dave on drums. Dave is a prodigy in many people's eyes. His drumming is fast, even and dominating. His use of toms is a little more frequent than most drummers attempt, due to the challenges of being creative, keeping the tempo, and fatigue. He makes it look so easy, too! Dave is influenced greatly by his father (Len Wathen, Polaris recording), and wants to show his appreciation by saying "hello and thank you" to his father, Len, his mother Carolyn, and Hillary Sumner for their support of him. His music pushes the boundaries and norms of traditional playing styles and beats. Dave will blow your head off with a weird fill when you least expect it, and it works every time.
The band has received a few calls from labels expressing interest in the group. The band downplays this news, but it is very encouraging to hear that a major label has some interest in what you are doing.
Ladies can pick up their very own embroidered Factor IX baby doll shirt at the CD Warehouse inside Tek World. More merchandise will be accompanying the CD upon its completion and release. Joey says that he will get inspired to create more artwork after the CD is finished and the music tells him where to go with the designs. With no financial backing, they are doing everything themselves, which is OK, too, but just at a much smaller scale than a label would do it. The band sold 200 CDs at the CD release show itself. They hope to have as successful of a release party this time around.
The band has played several big shows in the past year, but the biggest and most notable was on December 29, when FLAW, My Own Victim, Incursion502 and Factor IX played a sold-out show at Tek World. Some estimates (about 1000) suggested that the capacity was exceeded; in any case, it was insanely crowded. When you have four terrific bands on the same bill, the turnout will be good, of course, but the show did extremely well. Dave says the lights were very hot that night, too.
And what about that message board?! I could go on all day long about that thing. If you are not familiar with the scenario already, Factor IX's message board took over the role as the "local music community bulletin board" after the fall of louisvillekore.com. The band stepped up and their board became host to tons of posts everyday by everyone who formerly listed their thoughts in the "rants and raves" section of louisvillekore.com. However, with this newfound traffic comes drama and BS. I have written about the "anonymous posts" issue before, and it remains frustrating to see so many people being immature, hateful and wasting time and space. It puts Factor IX in an awkward situation to be host to this open arena of flame-throwers, when it may or may not be their opinion at all. (Guilty by association, if you know what I mean.) The cool part about it all is the band's patience and maturity. They do not delete the posts, even if it is negative about them, and they would only take something down if it were threatening to someone else physically, or if it gave out personal information about someone else.
I asked the band if they ever felt like parents moderating the board, and their opinions were mixed. they have even considered taking it down because of the negativity that's displayed on it. On the other hand, the band realizes its importance to the scene. People need a place to advertise shows, look for musicians to play with, discuss old school bands in Louisville, to sell gear, etc... Unfortunately, all the other stuff comes with that. It is like watching the Jerry Springer show on the net. "This person said this and this person is a slut and this person said this band sucks..." Who cares? People love to wrap themselves up in that which is dramatic and interesting when they themselves lead boring, unfulfilling lives. (This is all my unsolicited opinion...)
More than half of the posts that Factor IX makes on their own board are clarifying something that someone else said, asking for people to drop the negative attitudes/comments, or defending themselves on something that someone has blown out of proportion. It is pretty ridiculous that it has to be like that. The band agrees that the overwhelming majority of the anonymous posts are not even musicians themselves, nor are they in bands locally. Joey believes approximately 80% of the smack-talkers are not involved in music themselves. The suggestion was made that if you have a beef with someone, instead of putting it for the whole world to see and join in on, e-mail him or her. Just say, "Hey, I was thinking about you the other day, and I just wanted to say that... you're a d**k!" (credit to Joey for the joke)
There is an unusual quality about Andy's voice that cuts through the music: very high pitched, yet powerful, for hard core music. His singing and screaming are completely separate from each other. The vocals compliment (but not necessarily mimic) the music, resulting in a refreshing blend of mainstream and hard core aggressiveness. Andy is in control of the audience onstage as an excellent front man.
To add to the trash talk, Dave says, "no one can whip me."
Andrew put it best when he said, "I just play, I don't even read all that stuff."
The board is beneficial, and it will continue to have its run of those who abuse it as well. See for yourself at www.factor9.net.
Other Louisville Bands
There is another side to the Louisville music scene, and the band realizes this. Some of the bands that were mentioned during a conversation about this included My Morning Jacket, brought up by Andy. ("That f*c^i*g band rules!") Those guys are incredible, without argument. The World was mentioned by Joey, in admiration of their bass player. ("Have you ever seen their bass player playing the 5-string fretless Carl Thompson bass?") He saw them at Twice Told (jamming jazz with some other musicians), and found out how humble he was upon meeting him.
These are just two examples of the talent we have here in town, outside of the hard core scene. The metal scene has more attitudes, but not necessarily more talent. People should take note of that and learn something from other people's music.
Jizzabelle The Sheep
The original Jizzabelle was kidnapped and never returned. She is MIA. Though the band did receive a few anonymous emails demanding ransom for the safe return of Jizzabelle the Sheep, her whereabouts have not yet been disclosed. Joey is currently working on putting her face on milk cartons across the globe. If you have any information leading to the return of Jizzabelle, please contact Factor IX. Whatever leads you have will be appreciated. Jizzabelle, you must come home. The band misses you very much.
Who better to fill the shoes of FLAW bassist Ryan after a wrist injury, than Joey? Goldsmith went on the road with FLAW for approximately two-and-a-half weeks to play with the band so they would not have to break their tour dates with Dope, Cold, Apex Theory, Clutch and the likes. He had to learn nine songs in one day, and says that the experience was incredible for him. He saw what is was like to be on the road on the professional level but in turn had to leave his wife and daughter. That was the hardest part for him. The record company reimbursed his income for the time he lost from work while filling in.
"Everyone on the road has a routine that they follow every time they play. When there is work to be done, they work" states Joey. He further commented on how much Scott Frazier and FLAW work hard out there and how things are different. Fewer egos, fewer arguments.
He commented on the scene in Madison, WI. They played in a small room, packed to the brim, where people are bragging about their scene. Newsletters are everywhere, no competition, no fights are taking place, and they were not treated like gods or anything special. Just appreciated. (Sweet) The music was diverse too. Later on that that night, they had an Indian (from India, not Native American) acoustic act. Did somebody take notes on that for us?
The boys are in the studio working with Gary Meeks at Distillery Commons on a three-song demo to shop to labels. The band hopes to attract attention from heavy hitters but also is keeping their thoughts in perspective. Getting signed is not their only goal. Making music is more important, and so are their families and friends. What they are recording right now is not for the new CD, but merely to have a product to sell themselves with. It is a sketch for the bigger picture. `If no record companies pick it up, we will do it on own' is the attitude of the group.
"Gary Meeks is being real cool with us, we are just trying to do things through the right steps, not take anything too fast, record these songs... we are concentrating on recording a good demo" Andy Paul says.
"If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it's OK. We are working on it at such a casual pace and no one is breathing down our necks about it, so it is OK if nothing happens from it" further explains Joey.
The band is using the music as a release. They all have other things going on in their lives, but if the opportunity arose, it would definitely be in the interest of everyone involved. The band has been developing over the past three years, and Scott credits this as the most important thing. The new material is more in depth with our music, and they are really paying attention to what they are doing musically. They want to be different like Faith No More was different when they came out, says Joey.
The demo will include the newest from Factor IX including the tracks, "The Difference," "Another Step," "Finding Silence." "As My Heart Screams Grey" may also be on the CD, even though it has already been recorded and as a little older. "Finding Silence" will probably be the single that will be heard on local radio.
The band's focus for the near future is to get this demo CD recorded, shop it to labels and hopefully develop interest from some, and continue to write music and make it as good as possible. The newer material is a little more radio-friendly, but still as edgy as it ever was. They are continuing to play shows about once a month, and are still on the lookout for Jizzabelle. You can catch them April 13 at Tek World.