After years of turning heads in the subterranean metal scene, Twentynine Palms, CA-based sludge/doom metal group Atala are rising above with the release of their most confident album yet – the full-length crusher ‘Labyrinth of Ashmedai’ out January 26, 2018 via Salt of the Earth Records, the bands first release on the label. This album is a follow up to their previous album ‘Shaman’s Path of the Serpent’ which was released in May of 2016. Atala has an inspiring sound that is made up of various influences. Psychedelic desert sludge combined with crushing doom riffs and stoner rock melodies. Though the band hails from the barren desert of Twentynine Palms they aren’t anything like the standard desert rock bands you may be familiar with, Atala are breaking the mold and solidifying a new sound associated with the desert. As with their last record, ‘Shaman’s Path of the Serpent’, ‘Labyrinth of Ashmedai’ was produced by Billy Anderson, recognized for his work with colossal bands such as Sleep, Melvins and Mastodon. The album is available for pre-order as digital download, cd, and also on Limited edition black and blue splatter vinyl. Pre-order your copy here today!
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with guitarist/vocalist Kyle Stratton and drummer Jeff Tedtaotao of Atala and talk to them about the bands new album ‘Labyrinth of Ashmedai’, their recent mini-documentary, the concept of their new album, the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, playing Roadburn and much more.
Metal Nexus: So the upcoming album ‘Labyrinth of Ashmedai’ is a concept album about Asmodeus who is a king of demons. What sparked your interest in Asmodeus?
Kyle: Being a curious person, I have always been interested in anthropology. I have never related to the religion of our dominate culture. In fact, I have studied religion my whole life and have never found one religion I could think of as truth. Me being myself, I am not a fan of labels or being put into any boxes formed by dogma. I consider myself a skeptical non-believer. That being said, this recent resurgence of conservative extremism in our country, to be honest, fucking pisses me off. People using their belief in their God to create hatred and separation from other humans I personally find is sickening. So, I wanted to express my hatred like a mirror reflecting back at them. I asked myself “how could I achieve this?” So, I began to study the occult and the Christian Armageddon in its complete ridiculous nature. I decided to write everything I was feeling in reality as a metaphor, pretending I was this demon Ashmedai. He formed the 72 legions of hell to destroy the Christian existence. Flipped the tables of judgement on those fuckers. I guess it was fun.
Metal Nexus: Do you feel the level of difficulty is raised when writing lyrics for a concept album?
Kyle: Maybe, but I like to pretend. It makes it more creative. In the words of Alice Cooper,” I think this world needs villains.” It was so fun to create a villain character of myself and play the role. Well, in all honesty, I think I was born to be the villain in real life. So, it was just a blast and continues to be a blast. So, yes and no I guess.
Metal Nexus: On This album you also worked with powerhouse producer Billy Anderson, how did that come about and how do you feel Billy elevated the production?
Jeff: Well, we had worked with Billy before on our last record. In a sense, it seemed like a no-brainer that we were going to work with him again. Working with Billy is so rad, just because there’s a sense of not knowing what to expect going in to the studio. I didn’t expect how our recording process went the first time around, and it ended up being one memorable experience. So I personally went into the studio the second time around thinking it was going to be somewhat similar and there were so many unexpected surprises. The guy is a genius.
Metal Nexus: You mention that the landscape and life in Twentynine Palms is mirrored in your music. How do feel your hometown has attributed to you as a musician?
Jeff: It kind of describes our environment to some degree. It gets pretty rough living up here, especially during the summer. This past year, we had on record one of the hottest summers in quite some time. Then again, it’s hard to really think that when you just have to deal with the summers averaging over 100 daily. When winter hits, it gets to be pretty brutal too. The wind hurts and there is basically zero snow. It has snowed here before, but not often. Our music is a reflection of how we exist in the desert. Gotta be tough to hang, especially when it’s hot as fuck and you still have to go about your day.
Kyle: Socially, the inequality is very clear around here. So, that gives us a touch of that street vibe. The “we are from the wrong side of town” type thing. You know what? We like that though. Not that we are the tough bad boy stereotypes. We have older clothes and the struggle gives us an edge. We know that we can endure the things life throws at us, because we have. The music reflects this reality. Everyday is a grind for us. We work for each meal just like any other red blooded American. Wake up and fucking fight to survive! I am not going back to a 9 to 5 bullshit job. That can’t work for me, personally. So I hustle like my life depends on it, because it does.
Metal Nexus: Billy is also from Twentynine Palms, because he is a native do you think that allowed him to more clearly see your vision?
Jeff: You could say that. There was definitely another bridge gapped working with him. There’s the professional “alright, let’s get this shit done” attitude. Then there’s the time where we are all just chilling. The small town feeling never goes away. Everyone knows each other in some way shape or form. So being able to relate on different levels makes the creative connection a lot stronger.
Metal Nexus: You went to Europe last year and played the infamous Roadburn festival. How was that experience?
Kyle: It was a great experience professionally, but even better personally. Rubbing shoulders with musicians who are our peers but we also look up to was cool. To experience such an advanced culture as Holland’s was eye opening. I came back home with a new found hope in humanity. Soon after that, hope diminished, being engulfed in this culture. Roadburn was cool though. We were treated well and we got to see so many great bands we listen to already. Sub Rosa Killed so hard!
Jeff: Roadburn was such a rad experience. It’s always such a humbling experience being able to travel, and experience different types of culture. Everyone at the festival was incredibly nice and supportive. It was just an honor to be apart of it. Hoping we get to go back again.
Metal Nexus: I’m a big fan of the Desert Doom mini-doc you guys released. What you feel was the best thing that the documentary showed about the band? And why?
Kyle: I like that it showed how real we are. Not rockstars; just three dudes in a shed, working as hard as we can. You have to forgive our joking. We are all three like brothers. When you are that comfortable with people, you tend to open up a lot.
Metal Nexus: You have also mentioned that your style of music isn’t really accepted in your local area, how do you overcome that and keeping with your style?
Kyle: I think by staying true to yourself. Really, I personally don’t give a shit if people like it or not. When I turn on my guitar, I am there to rip the fucking roof off the building. You tell me to turn down, fuck that. I will turn up! My attitude has always been “I don’t make music for others I do it for me.” I am not going to impress everyone. I just do it to get sadness and anger off my chest. I am consumed by both. That’s what it is for me: just honest expression. Take it or leave it – I don’t care.
Metal Nexus: In both your professions you are constantly creating, both as a tattoo artist and as a musician. Are there any examples of music inspiring you as a tattoo artist or vice versa you could tell us about?
Kyle: I always listen to music every day. Right now, I am listening to Electric Wizard. Love them. I am super into really heavy stuff, but at work I have to chill it out a bit so I listen to a lot of hip hop too. My favorite rock bands to listen to are things like High on Fire, Eyehategod, Yob, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Acid Bath, Pilgrim, Sub Rosa, Ufomammut, monolord, Conan, and so many more. I like that modern, thick heavy stuff.
Metal Nexus: Inquiring minds also want to know. The dog who stumbled upon your door step during the Desert Doom documentary, How is the dog and where is it now? (And major props to taking care of the dog. We are animal lovers ourselves)
Kyle: She has been returned to the owner after a minor surgery to her paw. She was injured when she arrived. Thank you. I kept in touch with her owner and I’m delighted to say she’s doing great at the minute. I can’t quite remember if the owner mentioned whether she was using CBD products for her dog but she sent me a link to https://cbddoghealth.com/ in case I wanted to purchase some for my own dog. I looked into it, to be fair, as that dog was great fun. So I decided to try out some different cbd pet treat sticks and other edible treats for my own pup that she had recommended for me in her link!
Metal Nexus: What should fans expect from ‘Labyrinth of Ashmedai’?
Jeff: Drive. That was the key momentum behind our writing. We still retain the heaviness of who we are. This time around, we felt punk as fuck. We just went with it and this is what came about.
Metal Nexus: When can fans expect to see you on tour both on the west and east coast?
Kyle: We are going on tour in March with Earthride through the Southwest. We are touring to South by Southwest to play the SX Stoner Jam on March 14th then back. Not sure of dates or what is exactly going on with the East Coast, we will be there though.
Metal Nexus: Last but not least, being a California resident how do you feel about California’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana?
Kyle: It’s cool and everything, but I do what I want when I want. Rules, laws, orders that shit doesn’t work on me. If I want to buy weed from somewhere like https://theherbcentre.net/ I’m gonna do it no matter what anyone says. This animal wasn’t meant to be kept in those cages. I have smoked pot since I was 12. No fucking law some punk bitch writes is gonna make me follow. I would never force anyone to my will nor will I ever be forced to the will of another. Laws only work on weak easily controlled people. No man, woman or god will ever command me. No kings, no rulers, no presidents, no cops, no priest, no minister will ever force its will on me!