Sludge Scene Rising in San Diego

“We wrote a sludge opera and called it Blind Dead,” says guitarist-drummer Sam Lopez. “Mandy sings.” She also plays bass. “Esteban sings. It’s got six acts. We recorded it, but we don’t know what we’ll do with it.”

Although Lopez reveals that when he plays guitar he uses a human skull he bought off eBay instead of a pick, there is little to suggest that his Mission Valley condo is a stronghold for dark and disturbing metal music. There’s a homey vibe about the place. Mandy, Lopez’s wife, is somewhere in a back bedroom tending to their teething baby, and while a pot of spaghetti boils on the stove (“Meatless, just so you know,” says Lopez), he and Esteban Flores talk doom and sludge.

“We actually got together through the noise scene,” says Flores, a guitarist-composer who lives in Chula Vista and works at Sears.

Lopez, a mortgage lender by day, breaks it down: “There’s stoner doom, stoner rock, doom, sludge, and then noise.” What makes it doom? “It can be a musical thing or it can be an aesthetic thing. Traditionally, doom bands would use down-tuned guitars, like, anything lower than D,” or a full step below standard E tuning.

“You get down to B and A [tuning],” says Flores, “and that’s doom right there. In sludge, we don’t care about tuning.” They both laugh.

“How does it feel to play doom guitar? Pretty bad-ass,” says Flores. “If you tune to open C and play [a power chord], it sounds so awesome and it’s so simple to do. It sounds so much better than, like, an augmented E chord.”

Does one even need to know how to play guitar in the traditional sense, then, to make passable doom/sludge/noise rock?

Lopez says yes, that an understanding of timing is crucial. “Chords are very important, too,” Flores says. “But they don’t have to be standard chords. They can be...just...whatever.”

He says that doom is gaining popularity. Flores talks about Murderfest, held last year at the Los Angeles Knitting Factory, now closed. “There were a lot of doom bands there.... I have a feeling that San Diego is going to start getting more doom bands.”

How many local doomsters are there at present? “About three or four [bands] that I know of,” says Lopez. “Archons, Author and Punisher, and Monochromacy are pretty much the local doom and sludge bands...and there’s a band from Chula Vista called Mortar. But they’re stoner, more of the traditional, like, doom.”

Within such a limited playing field he admits that “a lot of us noise musicians borrow each other for our own projects.” Monochromacy this month played Ché Café at UCSD, and Lopez has plans to host a noise-guitar festival at the Soda Bar next year.

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More from SDReader


Lopez is best known to Reader readers as San Diego Noise Crew artist Zsa Zsa Gabor - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/bands/zsa-zsa-gabor

He talked to Blurt about his Blind Dead "sludge opera" here - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2009/jun/17/blurt2

Full length interview at http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2006/jul/27/fabulously-grotesque

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