Through playing in Helm, Tension and Scalene, Queensland local, Lucas Stone, has been in the Australian music industry for over 25 years now, and he’s seen many trends, bands, and individuals come and go over the years. But he himself is still here, through the rough thick and breezy thin of it all, and he’s carrying onwards with his new solo project.
“I am 41 this year and I’ve been involved in heavy music in Australia for a long time, and I’ve had a decent run at creating something for myself. I’ve been in this industry for so long now, that I’ve had to modernise as things change”, Stone tells me over the phone in early May.
Since moving on from his previous bands, he has now set down the path of writing dark, heavy music for his own solo heavy project, armed with a head full of knowledge and experience about the ever-changing industry that he still exists within. With his self-titled musical endeavour up and running now with debut single ‘Carry The Black‘, Stone has full agency over his art’s creation and also in how it’s released. In this case, one song will be dropped at a time and with each new song’s release, accompanied with it will be a chapter (in digital booklet form) about his life experiences, the song’s performers, as well as the song’s themes and lyrics.
“It’s a different strategy”, says Stone, explaining where he’s up to currently with his new material. “It’s all ready to go. I’ve got a few more vocal parts to record but the guts of it are all done. This project will be a six-song extended EP and it will be a full release that people can buy eventually. But I wanted to string out each song’s release so that people can fully absorb what’s really happening with the songs as well as the chapters to the book that’s coming out.”
Considering how fickle some audiences can be towards their consumption of bands – even for artists they like – I find this a noble approach. It’s also one that has the benefit of almost reintroducing Stone to rock and metal fans across Australia who may be unaware of his past works. What will help him achieve this is all down to this stretched out release method; releasing music bit by bit so as to not blow his load all at once, for lack of a less graphic description. Stone agrees with my sentiment, extrapolating his overall goal, saying, “What I really wanted to do here is try to bring that old-school nostalgia back to music.”
“These days, in 2017, music can be so disposable and people don’t connect with things in the ways that I used to connect with art and life, in general. I’d like to think this is a different approach; that it’s more engaging for the listeners. When I was a grommet, you would do tape trading and stuff, but these days, it’s a totally different feeling. When we were kids, getting a new album from your favourite band meant everything. Now, you just can pick and choose the tracks you like and people don’t fall in love with bands, they just fall in love with songs. So I’m trying to allow each new release to be fully digested by the listeners.”
And I sincerely hope that such a delivery system pays off for! For what will help him here is his drive, his passion and time, as he’s in this for the long haul… even though Stone isn’t exactly sure when this project will come to an end.
“I don’t really know when I’ll stop”, he states. “I’ve got this six song EP and there’s a basis for the next instalment brewing already. Not many metal guys branch out into the solo heavy world. Of course, there are big guys like Devin Townsend who’ve made a really good career out of it, but not many do it. I didn’t know what I’d call this other than just running with my own name. Having it opened ended is also so that it’ll go on until I’m sick of it.”
“Well, that, or until I fucking die”, he chuckles.
So far, the singer has released one single – the dark, bleak and riffy ‘Carry The Black‘ – which also features guest spots from bassist Simon Reys, vocalist Leigh ‘Fish’ Dowling and Colin Jeffs from Tongues/ex-Aversions Crown. (Stone also performed guitar, vocals and drums for the track). This means that five more tracks are on their way in the future, and that also means that five more digital chapters from this larger book will come to the light (no physical releases just yet). It’s here in our phone call that we touch upon the book part of his solo project.
“As far as the book and chapters go, I’ll write them until I’m done. They’ll be connected with these songs and the new material that comes. As for how many chapters… who knows? I may even jam two chapters into one or push it all out at once. As people cotton onto the book and the releases, more writing may even come too. There’s no real plan for the direction to it; it’s been a very natural process and is me just going by feel. Whatever comes out of me on the day, you know? The songs really help inspire me to write and the music and the writing really are conjoined pieces. It’s a very cathartic process to go through, and there’s plenty of heavy stuff I’m digging up for the writing with the many things I’ve witnessed or gone through. I don’t know how far down the rabbit hole I’m going to go down. Putting a goal post for when I should release something isn’t the way I want to go.”
Which is fair enough! However, I ask Stone whether or not he’s worried about being too forthcoming in the music and the written chapters about his many life experiences, or if that is maybe the goal – complete honesty?
“Well, I attempted to write this kind of stuff over the years, but I’ve always tapped out of it, deciding that it wasn’t the best thing at the time. To be completely honest with you, I’m holding a lot back. There’s a lot that won’t be included. As I want to make it a fun process and make it an enjoyable read; with all the humour and the drama that comes with living a life. I don’t want to write about my life and pretend that too much didn’t happen; this will be as honest an account as I can make it. And while there won’t be any lies, some things will be omitted, as I just can’t let them out. It’s a hard path to take.”
While it can be difficult to talk about past demons, this is something I feel that I feel Stone has definitely nailed. For in Chapter 1 – fittingly titled “Get Born” – he talks about his less than easy childhood and his young adult years; his relationship with his mother, his run-ins with the law, allusions to hood-life, drug addiction, his love for martial arts, an early yet deep appreciation of music, his spirituality and his “conversations with ‘God’“. All of this makes me anticipate that the following chapters that delve deeper into his later teen years and early twenties and onwards will be quite the heavy yet interesting reads.
“Oh, that’s all coming”, says Stone. “That’s all part of the read, and hopefully that’s part of the charm to this. My friends and family know that I’m an expressive dude, even though I do keep something’s very close to my chest. To any fans and listeners over the years, I have been a little cryptic in my past music, but this project is the total opposite of that. In the past, it was all shrouded in secrecy and indirect lyrics. Now, I can say to those people, “Here I Am!””
“For the first time in 30 years of writing music, this is the first time I’m actually thinking about my lyrics and how people will take them.”
Now, perhaps quite selfishly, in my time I’ve never actually spoken with someone that has died and then been brought back from the abyss mere minutes later. However, this was my chance as in a scary turn of events, when Stone was 22, he died while “on the gear” (as he puts it in the book) while at his old dealer’s house. The way he presents this very heavy story in his life in the book’s first chapter is almost nonchalant (well, at least to me) and I just had to talk to him about it. For surely such an experience would affect one’s emotional state and beliefs greatly, no?
“Definitely now more than it did then”, he admits. “It’s pretty confrontational stuff. At the time in my life when that happened, that was just a regular thing in my life with my family and my mates. There’s actually no nonchalance there; just the fact that there’s only one way to say it. I was dead for 10-12 minutes and I was very lucky to come back from that last breath with no brain damage.”
Very, very fucking lucky indeed! If someone is revived from the brink after 20 minutes since first being pronounced dead, the risk of them suffering from high brain damage severely increases once you go past that 20-minute mark. Yet while as a young man, his “death” didn’t affect him, as he’s matured, become wiser and grown into his later years, this particular experience has altered his life outlook significantly.
“It wasn’t a pivotal event for me then, but now, after all these years it is. It was a heavy time for me in my life then, and at the time I didn’t even really care. Now, I live like I’m dying every day; I do as much as I can. I’m always active now and I keep my body moving. I believe that if your body is idle, your mind is dead. I have a very healthy respect for living life to the fullest now. Every day that I get up and put my feet on the ground, then I’m contributing to what I’m leaving behind as a person in my own little world.”
Stone also mentions to me the cold reality he faced after he had his last breath.
“Experiencing absolutely nothing when I died… I couldn’t come back and tell a lie. There was no white light, there was no conversation with God. I was alive, then I was fucking dead, and then I was alive again; next to an ambulance guy and the daughter of the guy whose house I was it. That was it…” trails off Stone, before continuing.
“But like any trait developing in an animal, humans are born into this world with a set of situations, and it’s the decisions you make after those events, that dictate what your life is going to be and what kind of person you’ll become. Not everyone has the same tools, though. As for myself, I was stripped of a lot of comforts and advantages that other kids had. I look back on that now, and while it’s a negative in a way, I needed it for whatever reason. It’s not really a bleak outlook; just the one I needed to live.”
I don’t think that anyone could ever seriously begrudge Lucas for that. We all need our own ways and paths in order to get by, and this is his; his “affliction with the dark” as he puts it in this first chapter. For a life like his wasn’t necessarily an easy one to grasp and take control of, and it’s been a long road for this Aussie muso.
“I’ve been diagnosed with all kinds of things”, he recalls. “I’ve been on all kinds of medication, but I live in a comfortable state now and I now have control on my thinking. I’ve had to create rituals for myself and patterns of thinking to help understand what I’ve dealt with. If there’s anything that I’m proud of myself for, it’s been able to digest and forgive straight away. Everything that has happened in my life, whenever something bad has happened, a voice has told me “It’s okay, just deal with it.” For me, if I’m scared of something, then I know it’s the thing I need to do the most. It’s all about me conquering me.”
Despite the heavy subject matter of this first chapter, there is some tongue-in-cheek charm to be found here. This is found in his discussion of his tough yet loving ‘Old Girl’. At one point, he very cheekily states how he could call his own mother a cunt and receive both a hug and a smack
“That’s just the kind of lady she is”, he tells me. “She can tell it how it is; she’s a hard ass. As I’ve gotten older and she’s become the old girl, and through all the shit we’ve been through together, we have a very healthy respect for each other. And also due to the fact that we’re both still alive.” After a quick pause, Stone laughingly adds, “Oh, and I do not endorse kids calling their mother a cunt; that’s total disrespect!”
Yes, that’s a very fast way to get in trouble, kiddies! But despite the once-rocky-now-healthy relationship Stone has with his mother, it is she who he has to forever thank for his musical addiction, as it was her LP collection that had a truly massive impact on him as a child.
“I’ve ben addicted to music for as long as I can remember. My mum bought me my first ever two records, one of which I still own. One was KISS’s ‘Dynasty’ album and the other was The Wizard Of Oz Soundtrack, as I fucking loved that movie. At age four, she showed me how to put records on, how to clean the needle, she just let me run wild with her LP collection. I’d listen to everything from The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Steeley Dan, Supertramp. I loved the old-school punk rock and the heavy, classic rock records. I even remembered getting the original War Of The Worlds Soundtrack from decades ago – it used to scare the shit out of me as a kid. That’s also something that’s been a bit of an inspiration for this project. I’ve always been into concept albums and themed music, where you can bury your senses into the whole art and not just one song. That had a big effect on me.”
“But… I’ve always been a sucker for heavy guitars. Anything that my mum had that had a bitchin guitar tone and good groove was for me!”
Now, for those of you maybe wondering, Stone will not be touring this material, for as he bluntly puts it, “I’m simply done with touring”.
“I have no love for it anymore”, he declares. “I’ve done over 1,500 shows in Australia in my life. I had a very good slog at it and it’s tiring. I don’t need it and I don’t want it in my life. The climate for it these days is very different to what I knew when I was younger. If there was a calling for this release over time that it needed to happen, then I’d be faced with the near-impossible problem of authentically replicating something live that just I couldn’t do. As there are so many guests on these songs, it’d be very difficult to get them all together in the same spot. And I don’t want to use a makeshift lineup; this is more a studio project than anything else.”
And I really do appreciate his honesty there – as there’s no bullshit there, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with Lucas Stone’s music. Until he packs it all in or breathes his proper final breath, this solo project will become Stone’s musical legacy; to his friends, to his family, to his friends in the industry, and to anyone else that will listen.
Purchase ‘Carry The Black’ here. Keep an eye out for Lucas Stone’s new material as we move deeper into 2017!