One of the bands I was eager to see again at Heavy Montréal this year was Mountain Dust. Often described as “stoner soul,” “blues metal,” or even “western doom,” Mountain Dust’s sound is rooted in the rock styles that emerged in the late 1960s/early 1970s; heavy guitar and drum grooves with a slathering of organ throughout every song. The Montréal four-piece have received worldwide attention and support for their previous releases, Nine Years (2016) and Seven Storms (2018), both released on the German boutique label Kozmik Artifactz.
The aforementioned label helped secure their place as regulars of the international hard rock festival circuit with appearances at the 2018 editions of Germany’s Freak Valley and Sweden’s Muskelrock during an extensive tour of Europe, and a performance at this year’s Heavy Montréal 2019. Patrick Bennett, Mountain Dust’s keyboardist, took a bit of time in the media tent to field a few interviews, and we managed to get a few minutes with him to chat.
The audio for this interview is included here via SoundCloud. There is a fair bit of background noise. Anyone considering interviewing bands is an interviewer and interviewee sitting in a quiet area to talk for ten or fifteen minutes need only listen to this audio-nugget for a genuine peek into the glamours of on-site interviewing. An alarm from an adjacent building kept going off incessantly, adding into the melange of overbearing audio from surrounding five Heavy Montréal stages. So this interview was indeed recorded at the Heavy Montréal Festival amidst a melee of music; scurrying festival workers, and press types. It’s decent enough audio that we deemed it worthy of a listen and included it for listeners who’d like to hear Patrick Bennett’s voice answering questions in the real.
I was actually at the Bovine when you played there recently. That was with WoodHawk and Hawkeyes.
Patrick Bennett: “Yeah. Last year. That was great. And those are all good friends of ours. That was a great night.”
You’ll get up to some “Evil Deeds” after watching this music video from 2016’s Nine Years:
And you teased that you were going to release an album at the end of the year. Did that actually come together or are you still working on it?
Bennett: “Yeah. That record came out in May last year. Yeah, it’s been a year that it’s been out and we’ve been touring and playing.”
Can you talk a little bit about the label that it’s on if it’s on a label? Or did you completely self release it?
Bennett: “It’s self-produced, and it’s printed on vinyl via a label in Germany called Kozmik Artifactz. And released digitally by us. We own the master of it and everything like that. But we do a license with this label in Germany that is like a niche label in stoner rock. And they approached us on the first record. So we’ve done two records with them. They’re great. Very nice people.”
Do you tour over in Germany then?
Bennett: “Yes. We went to Germany last year and did some festivals there. We did the Freak Valley festival. We did the Muskelrock festival in Sweden. Some other dates all around Europe. Yeah, it’s fantastic.”
That’s got to feel pretty cool; getting popular in a foreign country.
Bennett: “Oh yeah. Especially the first gig we played in Germany just by virtue of the routing was the festival. It was the biggest show of the tour by a mile. So it’s pretty cool.”
Awesome. How often are you able to tour? Is that something that you could just jump out and do if you were offered three weeks or a month of touring?
Bennett: “We would do it. We do Canada locally like pretty much in a circuit. We’re always kind of doing that. It’s like putting out a record. You get around, and you do it. Yeah, we’re very always in the markets to get out there and do it. I mean this year we’re not doing a ton because last year we did a bunch. We’re focusing on writing a new record right now. Which is going very well, but we would do more during for this record because it’s still reasonably fresh. But we did half of Canada in a circuit, and then Europe and stuff already. So rather than go and do that again we were just doing a new record.”
Mountain Dust’s latest record Seven Storms was released on May 18th, 2018:
And when you’re writing music is that something that you do independently or do you prefer to get into a room and create music together?
Bennett: “We can jam. A lot. We can get together and improvise 20 minutes of music. It’s often how we warm up. And we can all play each other’s instruments. Everybody’s been in bands for a long time so we can be pretty creative as a unit. And then also we do the modern band thing of everybody sending each other shared stuff in a drive. Which is a Godsend. You know, if people have kids or are running around or whatever. You’re checked into that central thing every day. You can look in on and what anybody is doing or whatever. Half the time it’s us talking about bullshit, but I mean half the time we talk about some riffs that people have. So it’s a bit of both. I mean Brandon (Mainville) writes all the lyrics. All the concept stuff is all Brandon, the singer. But everybody’s a writer otherwise.”
I’m assuming that you all have jobs as well.
Would that be a tough thing for you? To say, “I’m going to go out for a month?”
Bennett: “I’ve never had to say no to a tour in my life, and I’ve done a lot of them. I think so many musicians that I know and the number of them that have day jobs is almost to the highest level. I think you just find your way in the world. You find the job that accommodates it. And you find the band that accommodates it, and you mix those two things together. Obvious,ly the people that live full time off of it, and even when you’re younger (or not) maybe you live full -ime on it. Eating a can of beans or whatever.” (laughs)
Do you track your sales (regionally)? Or look at the number of people who are streaming your material online?
Bennett: “Streaming, we keep an eye on for sure. Sales; no way. I don’t know. I will say this. I’ve been putting out records now for a while; about fifteen years. Long enough to see the transition, and I get paid way more by Bandcamp than I did by HMV. Everybody always complains about the digital thing, and I’m sure it’s been bad for a variety of people, but Bandcamp sends you six dollars every time anything happens. Like your HMV, that was a whole deluded thing. And when I say HMV, I mean the whole physical sales process in general. We made out ok. But in terms of now; if you’re marketing yourself to anybody, they’re more interested in your streaming than they are in anything else.”
Images of Patrick Bennett at Heavy Montréal (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, Quebec) on July 28, 2019, by Mike Bax:
When you are recording your material do you tend to just do it one song at a time? Or do you like to get a bunch of demos together, book studio time, and do like two, three, or five songs at a time?
Bennett: “We write a record and go record a record. It’s the most conceptually easy way to do it and also financially, it is just the way you’ve got to do it. Get in there and bang it out.”
Can you talk about maybe a gateway band or a gateway concert that you went to when you were younger that inspired you to become a musician and perform live?
Bennett: “Yeah, I think that was like a combination of seeing classic rock bands with my dad when I was very young. And then starting to go to DIY hardcore and punk shows. Like the crossover of those two things. Like seeing Eric Clapton and then seeing like just local people lose their minds. I think that all that kind of stuff melted together into ‘anybody can do it. And that guy is ‘anybody’ who’s just doing it!’”
Is there a show that your dad took you to where you were just like “this is gonna stink,” and you were super impressed with after you saw it?
Bennett: “Yeah, I saw Foreigner with my father a couple of years ago, and it blew my freakin’ mind. Everybody knows every track they’ve ever fucking made. But like seeing them do it live? It was amazing. The dude from Dokken playing with them and stuff? It’s fantastic.”
This is your first Heavy Montréal as a performer. Have you been on the grounds before?
Bennett: “I’ve been here almost all of my life. I’ve played Osheaga with other bands, I’ve played Vans Warped Tour here with other bands that I’ve played with in the past. But I’ve also, as an attendee, been to Heavy Montréal millions of times.”
Is there a vibe off of this island, and the type of people, and the feeling that comes off of this type of concert that you could describe?
Bennett: “Well, Montréal has a reputation for being a party town. And we designated an entire island to party on. Which I think is a really cool thing. You know, let everybody act like a maniac, and it’s just over there on the site. It’s great. I love it.”
Watch the music video for “White Bluffs,” off of Seven Storms:
I like that this town is so musical. I don’t think Toronto could sustain a festival like Heavy Montréal. They tried for two years to do Heavy Toronto, and it just didn’t really fly. People will just come back here and do this. People fly from all over the place to do this festival, and I really like that about it.
Bennett: “Yeah. I mean, I’ve played a lot of festivals in Europe. I’ve done some of the music conferences in America. I’ve never done too many of the festivals there. But they’re (Evenko) in it for the long haul. The promoters here are doing it ‘til it catches. And it has. I don’t think there was a short term vision on that. It’s paid off for them.”
Did you follow PledgeMusic at all? Do you know that they have gone Chapter 11?
Bennett: “No. I dont know what PledgeMusic is.”
It’s a crowdfunding site. So you could go to PledgeMusic and say, “I want to make some music,” and people will put money into your pockets through them. And they (Pledge) will take care of your physical product distribution.
Bennett: “The vinyl thing? Is that the final pressing site?”
Well they would get you to sign things and then ship it out. They went Chapter 11. So they’ve taken all the patrons money, and they haven’t paid the bands anything. And what you’ve got is a bunch of bands saying we can’t fulfill now. We can’t record because the money that we’re supposed to get to do that didn’t show up. And you got a bunch of fans who are like, “where’s our product?” It’s messed up.
Bennett: “I’ve never had to crowdfund anything, but I’ve certainly had to self-fund a lot of things. And I’ve had other people to fund some things. I mean, fair enough. It seems like you can kind of more direct-route it. I bet everybody ticked some box that had a huge long list of caveats that they didn’t realize they were signing up for. Which is a shame? I mean it seems like it’s bad for people who want to make music and for people who want to hear it. But I don’t know much about it.”
Watch the live music video for “Seven Storms” from Casa Del Popolo, Montreal last year:
That’s kind of what happened. What brought you guys together as a band originally. Can you recall? Is there a story behind that?
Bennett: “A little bit. I used to play in a band called Barn Burner. It was on Metal Blade. We toured quite a bit. And a lot of bands in Montréal. I was also in a band called Trigger Effect. The same sort of group of people and musicians and we kind of coalesced out of that scene of people, more or less. That band broke up. We got dropped by Metal Blade. One of the guys moved back home. We sort of threw together out of that. It was everybody’s first time in a band that sounds like this. Big time. I certainly never played the organ in a band before. The singer had been playing in hardcore bands. The drummer had been playing metal bands the bass player was playing... God knows what. It’s kind of a ragtag group of dudes, but everybody has been in bands for a long time. When you get to be about 30, anybody that still wants to do it is probably a cool dude. Because everybody who didn’t want to do it was uptight and whatever, they’re not going to do it anymore.”
You know when you’re a lifer and when you’re not a lifer. People will just say, “Ah, I’m going to do something else.” Or “I’m going to quit the band and start a family or whatever.”
Bennett: “Yeah. It coalesced out of that. So it’s been a great thing, and we’re all great friends. Out of that, I don't think you were great friends prior, but it coalesced very well.”
How long has Mountain Dust been together?
Bennett: “Six years.”
Is there a favourite piece of band merchandise that you own back when you were a kid that you still miss or would like to buy again?
Bennett: “I’ve gotten tattoos of merch that I love so much. There is this local band called Suburban Trash. It was like the first hardcore band I ever saw. And I had their t-shirt, and I got the logo from that tattooed. I don’t know where the t-shirt is, but I’ve got a tattoo. I mean all the time I see photos of myself playing some show from ten years ago, and I go, ‘Where’s that shirt?’ But I probably left it in a hotel somewhere.”
Did you use that FaceApp thing to make yourself look older?
Bennett: “Somebody did that for me. I didn’t do it. But yeah, somebody did it up.”
I can’t believe how many people have done that. In the three or five days that it became a blitz. Everybody was doing it.
Bennett: “Everybody looked like their uncle.”
Did you post it online? Did you share it out so that other people could see it?
Bennett: “No, I sent it to all of the groups of musicians that I play with saying like, ‘Hey, you guys got a gig I can play?’ As if I was some old haggard dude still looking for a gig, which I am sure I will be.”
Listen to “Witness Marks,” off of Seven Storms:
What do you think is the best show that you’ve ever played? It doesn’t have to be with Mountain Dust, but I’m thinking it’s probably going to be.
Bennett: “I mean I’ve played the sort of, the one-percenters show, that all sort of goes in there as your best shows. Mountain Dust did Freak Valley last year, and I had so much adrenaline after we played I could feel my hands were shaking. That was a hell of a gig. My old band Trigger Effect did a ton of stuff that was pretty mind-blowing. Barn Burner even did some reunion gigs last year. I’m very encouraged that actually every year of my life I feel like I get to replay the best gig of my life. It kind of gets supplicated. It kind of keeps going up. When I was very young. I got to play direct support for the Scorpions and Twisted Sister. And in that touring cycle that I did. We played to some tens of thousands of seater sort of things. Those are some pretty crazy things. And I was like 19. So that totally ruined my perspective on what anything can be. But it was pretty amazing. I kind of can’t believe I’ve had those experiences sometimes.”
Would it be easy for you to step into another band? Like if they had that hole, and they had to tour, and it was like, “Hey rehearse up. We need to take you out on the road for three weeks.” Is that something that you’ve done before and would be able to do?
Bennett: “Yeah, I’ve done it for friends. Certainly. That’s how I’ve joined bands actually, sometimes. You know I’ve even been in a situation where you’re touring with a band. Your band gets off the road then somebody quits, and you continue with that band.”
Can you describe how you personally like to write material?
Bennett: “Listening to a lot of music and noodling. And trying to relax I guess a bit. I don’t know. Putting your cell phone away and playing a lot. I feel like any time I play for more than 15 minutes at a time I’ll end up writing something. But it’s like having the discipline to make yourself not just practice, but to write. If I get free form, I’ll write on my own.”
How many hours per day are you spending on your phone? And do you feel like it’s a good or bad use of your time?
Bennett: “It’s a terrible use of my time except for the parts when I’m promoting music or talking to other musicians and getting that kind of shit together. I don’t know. Probably three hours a day. Probably. If I’m on tour, I’ve seen that number get WAY higher because I’m in a van bored out of my mind and it’s disgusting.”