John Baizley recalls, “Once we clicked and could feel the energy surge and sense the connectivity in the rehearsals, then the writing took on its own flavor and we let it happen.” Photo by Jimmy Hubbard
How do you communicate honestly without offending the other members?
Adams: If you’re wondering who does the checking in this band, it’s totally me. I’m like quality control sometimes. I gotta get in there and go, “Hell no. We don’t do that. That’s not how this shit works.” And I don’t mind saying it. Because John and I both have a vision for Baroness—and even between John and I, we might have two different visions.
Was it awkward dealing with Nick’s drastically different background in jazz?
Baizley: I think one of the important things to do from time to time is to engage in a little awkwardness. How can you make a breakthrough if you don’t go outside your comfort zone? It’s through an understanding of how to do that correctly that you can discover things. Nick would not have joined the band if he had that really, really orthodox, hardheaded approach I’m sure some of his peers and companions in the jazz scene do.
Adams: When I first met Nick, the first thing he asked me was, “Could you turn me on to some new music that really influences you?” He wanted to know where we were coming from and he wanted to try to meld into it the best he could. That was pretty incredible. He really wanted to do the right thing, and Seb did too. Neither of these guys was terribly familiar with Baroness, and to top it off, neither of them comes from a hard rock background in any way. Seb went from writing dance beats on a computer to playing this. He’s an incredible drummer.
“If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain)” uses some diminished chord voicings in the intro. How did you come up with those?
Adams: That song was largely conceived by Nick. The voicings were one of Nick’s things. He was messing around with an idea that he brought into the rehearsal space, and threw it at John. John dug what he was doing, and they started to build something out of that.
The intro vaguely resembles the jazz standard “My Funny Valentine.”
Adams: There you go. Now we’ve gone from being a band that’s influenced by the same bands to four dudes in a band who are wildly influenced by everything out there.
There are also a lot of other sonorities, like fingerpicked tenths, in your music that aren’t common in metal.
Baizley: I didn’t really learn those intervals. I have no real formal training. From a very early stage in my musical career, I had a desire to push back against conventions. As we started Baroness and realized what the format was at the time—high volume, high energy, very low tuning—we wanted to try to find new things that, on paper, theoretically, shouldn’t or wouldn’t work. But because we’ve got our own sensibilities, we’ll figure out how to make certain things work. I would stumble upon these strange sounds.
Pete and I spent a lot of time developing this system of playing guitar whereby I would play a strange two-note chord—like you said, a tenth or a ninth—and Pete would find a similarly shaped chord, but with different notes. We realized that rather than have each one of us try to build these dense chords, we could kind of create them in a stereo format.
So you’d play two notes and he’d play two different notes of the same chord?
Adams: That’s exactly what we do. We always want the two guitars to have their own voice in the band. If one of us writes something on guitar—and it almost doesn’t even matter what it is—the first thing the other person is doing is looking for the piece to accompany that. When we write a riff, verse, chorus, or whatever, we’re like, “Here’s the part. Throw your two cents on it.” We have two guitars, so that’s 12 strings between two dudes. Let’s use all 12 strings.
Baizley: If you were to hear just the chord I was playing, you’d recognize it as sort of a major 7. If I were playing the rest of the notes, that’s what it would eventually be. If you listen to what he’s playing and what I’m playing, you’d hear two very dissimilar feels, but when you mesh them together, there’s a sort of forgiveness that you get for some of the contradictory notes. Through that, we’re inverting all of our chords all the time and coming up with this sonic bed on which, vocally or melodically, you could choose several different pathways.
That’s refreshing, because many bands just have two guitarists doubling the same parts.
Adams: That makes zero sense. Fire that dude, you don’t need him [laughs]. Every band’s got its own thing and that’s fine. We always liked the two guitar bands that play off of each other. Like Dickey Betts and Duane Allman—that’s my shit, man. I grew up on that sound and that feel.
Baizley: Pete and I have always been very interested in melody and harmony. We try to create different types of harmonies and melodies that work, have a familiarity to them, and pay respect to music that we like. But that also have a newness and a playfulness. Because the important thing is that sometimes we don’t understand what we’re playing. It has a sound that we like and seems to lead us in a direction.