All Photos C/O Chris Klumpp

Interview: Nick Schendzielos – Job For A Cowboy “I Hope That You Will See Us This Year Playing This Material.”

For the first time, Foodinati UK for Devolution Magazine is going trans-atlantic to chat to bass player wunderkind, Nick Schendzielos AKA Nick Shinz from the legendary, Job For A Cowboy to discuss many things but the main topic of course is their long awaited new album, Moon Healer out 23rd February on Metal Blade.

So, we’re going to get the obvious question out of the way first so we can crack on with other myriad matters. Nick, after nearly nine long years between albums, and I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but why so long?

“You know, we ended up deciding that, like, we have this sort of real specific type of arithmophobia collectively as a group where we don’t like most integers. We really kind of preferred just the roundness, the evenness of 10 in a decade. And so, we decided like, oh man, so normally we’ve been doing these two years. We put a record out and we were like, it’s just not right. Like it should be 10, it should be 10. It’s better! It’s like it’s not six-minute abs. It’s seven-minute abs! So, yeah, we just decided that all right Well, that’s a way more even number, do it ten years for the record and so we’re like, well shit, what are you gonna do? One guy’s like, all right, “I’m gonna have kids,” and one guy’s like, “I’m gonna you know, go to coding school get my computer science degree.” Somebody’s like, “I’m going to move to Ireland and become a doctor.” Then one guy fell in love with the show Orange is the New Black, and he became a CO at a correctional facility. I just decided I was going to keep touring and just join other bands. I was still in Cephalic Carnage, but I ended up joining this band called Havok and did a fair bit of stuff with them. Then I got into music videos and bass lessons and really whatever I could do to make ends meet by staying a musician, and not going and doing the adult thing, which maybe I should have done.”

We noticed Nick mentioned Cephalic Carnage there. Is that band still active?

“Yeah, Cephalic is still active. It’s just one of those things, the band’s primary goal was to like make weed legal again. Well, I guess I would say again because at one point it was and so in Colorado that was kind of accomplished, so then it was like what’s the point man? But there’s a good bit of music in the computers that we’ve recorded demos for. Brian has an hour’s worth of material on his computer. Brian and Steve lived together for a very long time, and they have collectively, with two guitar parts worked out, at least 45 minutes to an hours’ worth of stuff. From that, there’s three or four songs that are pretty much demoed out. There’s even a couple that have demo vocals on them too. So, it’s just one of those things where we’ll get an offer to go do a Cavalera brothers run or something, or a festival, Maryland Death Fest, or Milwaukee Metal Fest, or Psycho Las Vegas. We always get these offers that we love, and we can’t say no to, because we’re gonna go see friends, and it’s a blast, and we love playing live. But then any of the energy that would get spent towards finishing up those songs and putting a record out, goes towards, making sure that the live show is good. So, it’s just kind of one of those things. That’s still just a bullshit excuse. I mean, I would just say its general laziness. So that’s what happens when you smoke too much pot, kid.”

With that cleared up, we’re back to the job in hand. We ask is ‘Moon Healer’ a concept album connected to ‘Sun Eater’ and how does that link up?

“Yeah, I would say Moon Healer is a concept record definitely connected to Sun Eater. It’s one of those things where we knew that this was going to be a sequel. We knew this was going to be a sister or a companion album or a continuation of the same world. It’s like season two if it was a show. We’re just following the journey of this character who was a really good friend of the band, he got really heavy heavy into psychedelics and the sort of self-alchemy of creating your own substances and using them to try to find enlightenment or to find your way closer to God or Buddha, Krishna, Allah, whatever you want to call the root of consciousness. This character is sort of on this journey to figure that stuff out via his own vices and then what he encounters is his sort of first-hand experience. It’s like it was almost like the Sun-Eater was kind of like a hypothetical first person but really third-person view of this character’s views and then Moon Healer’s like imagine yourself in first person. So, it was really cool, Johnny was saying, “I’ve really got a much better understanding of the person after really diving into all the stuff.”

Yeah, I would say Moon Healer is a concept record definitely connected to Sun Eater. It’s one of those things where we knew that this was going to be a sequel. We knew this was going to be a sister or a companion album or a continuation of the same world. It’s like season two if it was a show. We’re just following the journey of this character who was a really good friend of the band, he got really heavy heavy into psychedelics and the sort of self-alchemy of creating your own substances and using them to try to find enlightenment or to find your way closer to God or Buddha, Krishna, Allah, whatever you want to call the root of consciousness.

We mention that it does seem that it shows a darker side of that world which is unusual because we think you don’t hear about bad trips in songs too much. You generally just hear the hippie, good trip stuff. So we found this really interesting subject matter, especially for a technical death metal band.

“Yeah, I think that the record is fun because it’s not so much a, drugs are bad, mmkay thing, but it’s not a, hey, everybody go out and do this thing. It’s a, this is this crazy, amazing, fascinating, unique, terrifying, horrifying world of perceptions and experiences that you can have as a sentient being. Or a sort of a, what can happen, what you’ll encounter. And it’s not necessarily saying like, don’t do this, because maybe for some people that’s what gives them the existential wetting of the whistle that leads them on their own path towards enlightenment, whether they’re a scientific reductionist, atheist, or somebody that’s an agnostic, whatever or wherever you sit on the spectrum, it could definitely help answer some questions for you. But do you have any predispositions? Psychosis in your family?”

So it’s a cautionary tale? We ask,

“Kind of, I wouldn’t even so much say cautionary. You know I would just say like this is just one person’s tale. Maybe going too far but, maybe they didn’t go too far, maybe for them it’s like exactly where they wanted to be and they’re okay with being out of touch with grounded reality a little bit I mean, there’s no rules.”

We’ve noticed that with every album Job For A Cowboy’s music seems more experimental and we can hear almost post metal influences in there. Is that to reflect the story or is it a conscious thing?

“I think it’s part of who we are as musicians and wanting to really do something that we want to do. I think when you have a band like Job For A Cowboy, that comes up with the virility, which at that time, that stuff just didn’t exist, if your band was blowing up it was because you were doing really well on tour or you’re doing really well on terrestrial radio, maybe back in the early 2000s satellite radio. It’s still pretty new, YouTube was not what it is today, streaming didn’t exist, iTunes had barely just come out with being able to pay for digital music and download it. So, it was really like Napster and that had just gotten shut down via the lawsuit with Metallica, where if you ask me, they should have just bought it. Imagine that! Imagine if Napster instead of fighting and suing, you have them just buy it from the dude. But so, at that time there was not like going viral, it didn’t exist. And so, Myspace comes along and provides the first real opportunity for a band that nobody knows to be accessible to millions of people. I think when that happened, it’s very similar to, I’m sure, the days of old when Elvis gets discovered or something like that, and you have managers coming in and record labels and everybody coming in and telling them what they need to do, what they need to sound like. You know, “here, listen to me, kid, you’re gonna be huge.” Just, we need you, we need a hit… And I think that that energy kinda was around maybe.”

We agree those early Myspace deathcore years were a special time.

“Right, but they decided, we’re gonna make what we wanna make. Everybody was like, make Doom 2, make Doom 3, and make Doom 4. They could have just literally done that, and probably been incredibly well off, maybe retired, but they chose to make something that they wanted to make, what was inside their hearts, and I think that that’s what Moon Healer is like an ultimate continuation of that. Sun Eater, being like we don’t want to make what anybody else wanted us to make, these records are basically us deciding which directions to go and maybe with our own individual progression on our own instruments, a lot of the non-extreme parts of the records, the experimental moody stuff is just that stuff. It’s us experimenting and having fun and expressing ourselves.”

We definitely prescribe to the idea of an artist making a record for themselves and taking creative risks. We suggest that comes with the confidence gained through a longer career.

“Yeah, I definitely agree there’s a really good book called The Creative Act by Rick Rubin, right?”

We agree with that book choice entirely when it comes to the argument for total creative control.

“There you go, exactly, that’s kind of what he’s saying. He’s like, you know, the audience comes last, and fans don’t like to hear that, but we know. Wouldn’t you rather an artist makes their own art because it’s what they want to make, it’s the best piece that they can create of themselves, and then you love it and you read it rather than, oh you knew what I wanted, and you made it? That’s like, “Oh, let me craft this show for your viewing. Oh, we have lots of data on what the listeners and the users want us to sound like, so we’re going to handcraft it for you.”

We are in agreement again, that’s not how we define art either. That’s not why you get into a band in the first place.

“I definitely agree man I think that that’s kind of the essence of just being a good artist is to focus on something that’s satisfying to you that’s fulfilling and if people like it because it’s almost like your art is an extension of you and or something you feel and so if you pour yourself into your art and then people love it, it’s like that’s the full circle to be like, ah okay  we have a common ground here, and that we both like this stuff, instead of I knew that this is what you wanted and so I made that for you.”

We can see on this album there are such strong themes, especially lyrically, it seems the band are keen readers? Are there authors that have been an influence on this?

“Oh yeah, definitely. Johnny and I traded a lot of books and movies and articles and all that kind of stuff throughout the conceptualization process of this record. Ultimately, Johnny writes all the lyrics. I don’t have any hand in that, but I can suggest certain things, especially based off of this particular topic matter, which I’ve read pretty extensively on. I did the videos with my buddy Kyle Lamar from Digital Mile, we did the first two videos of this record and of course I acted in the first video and all the books that were around the character in that first video, those books, I only had to buy like one of those books, all the rest of those were mine, so it was kind of fitting. A lot of those books are, for example, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, by Rick Strassman. 2012: The Year Of Mayan Prophecy and Quetzalcoatl Returns from Daniel Pinchbeck, who’s sort of a modern-day Terrence McKenna. Terrence McKenna, True Hallucinations, Food of the Gods. You’ve got, there’s a book called The God Molecule: 5-MeO DMT and the Spiritual Path to Divine Light, The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Then we briefly touched on The Egyptian Book of the Dead. So, yeah, those are some of the starter books. I mean, any of the, obviously like Timothy Leary stuff. And Jose Arguelles, John Major Jenkins. There’s like, it goes on and on and on and on. But yeah, some of those first ones would be really cool, I think, for people to read, even just the Spirit Molecule. Just Rick Strassman’s book in and of itself, you’ve got to get past that first read, it’s kind of arduous to get past the first half of the book where he’s going through this real bureaucratic process of trying to get the government to let him do psychedelic studies, proper medical studies on psychedelics because of the strictness of the Controlled Substance Act of 71. But, you know, so it’s like, he wanted to show how difficult that was. That’s why the first half of the book almost is like, you know, look how fucking hard this was.”

And I’m gonna make it hard for you? We suggest,

“I wonder if there’s a little bit of, I had to go through this, so now you do.”

We change gears back to the studio. We know its Jason Suecof, who’s the producer again on Moon Healer, are we right in saying there’s a long-standing arrangement between the band and the producer?

“Yes, I don’t know if he did Genesis, but I know he did Ruination, Gloom, Demonocracy, Sun Eater, and shit, Moon Healer, so, yeah, five!”

So is it fair use that old cliché, he’s like the sixth member of the band. Is it like that?

“It is, yeah. It is. Especially when it comes to like riffland, You know. Structurally, I think this time around, there was less of his input that ended up making it. There were so many rounds of revisions though and restructuring the songs that I… My head spins. I have so many versions of these songs, right? It’s I can’t even organise them all, it’s been like three or four phones (laughs) Probably it’s been like six different phones worth cuz yeah, you’re gonna have to have a phone every two years… 2018. Really it was more like 16. I have all of these songs that go back to 2016, you know. Suecof, He’s such a great guitar player and his ear for melody is insane. he’s like,” no not that note, one fret down.” Like you play it and you’re like, “Oh, that is weird. But that is really cool.”  Like that, you know, no matter what happens as far as in with the band’s future and stuff, I think he’s probably always gotta be there in some shape or another.”

So you joined the band in 2011, how did it feel joining an institution like Job for a Cowboy with the deathcore legend background. Was it intimidating at all? Because they seemed to change with your energy into the band they are now.

“Sure, yeah. I mean, Gloom was the first thing that we did. There was also Tony Santacandro’s first recording with us, which was paramount into reshaping the band’s sound because he was just such an insanely talented guitarist. But, you know, I think part of the reason I was attractive to them as a bass player was, I guess they’re kind of going for that kind of grindcore death cred you know like I was in Cephalic Carnage and so absolutely I think that that played a little bit into it. Especially that golden era of Relapse when it was like fucking Dillinger and fucking Dying Fetus and Skinless.  There was such a time, that era, when Relapse was based in Philly, you know? Yeah. When Ron Jacobson lived in Philly, that’s when it was the shit, dude.

We’ve checked out Nick’s YouTube, @Nick Shinz, and you do a lot of playthrough videos. Now we once asked this question of Luke Fabian of Pupil Slicer, and we’ll ask it to you. Who are your bass playing influences? Who are on your Mount Rushmore of bass players?

“Sure, the player that catalyzed me to pick up the bass guitar and switch from guitar and vocals that I was doing primarily is Ryan Martinie from Mudvayne on LD 50 when I heard that record and heard essentially the bass guitar and the rhythm guitar swapping roles. Yeah, you know where I was like, now the bass guitar is sort of playing the main central motif of the verses, like the main melodic, the musical portion of it was coming from him as opposed to, Greg, he was playing more of a rhythmic role. And the bass was, oh wow especially hearing the timbre of what the instrument could do, just like, the slides and being way up on the neck and not sitting in the back. My band couldn’t find a bass player at the time, because nobody wants to play bass, because you’re always the guy in the back that’s getting the least amount of credit. So, he was massive in my decision, and then from there I got into like a little bit of Jaco Pistorius, first Jaco Pistorius record and then Victor Wooten. And when I found Victor Wooten, it was like, oh shit! So, it was like if I had to pick two it would be Ryan Martini and Victor Wooten.”

That comes across a lot on the new album especially. The bass production is really clear. It reminds us a little bit of Obscura at times.

“Yeah, Jeroen Paul Thiesling, great bass player. Similar tone, obviously that Bubinga Warwick, that he plays, I think he’s got an eight string, with a lot of, seven string, his basses are like 18 pounds, dude and getting a lot of those octave things in there, but he is fretless. It’s funny, because I’ve read a lot of things like, everybody loves lists these days, and it’s like, five greatest, you know, fretless death metal records and Sun Eater was on there!

That’s not fretless.

“It’s not fretless!”

Well, you can hear a difference when something’s fretless, it’s kind of elastic and fluid sounding.

“I mean, there’s ways of making a fretted bass sound fretless and a lot of it’s in the slides I think just in general having that kind of really compressed tone. Really naturally compressed woods, naturally dense woods, where you’re getting this sort of like gurgly burbling space worm kind of mid-range happening that it just like people associate that with the fretless bass. Because a lot of good fretless bass’s sound that way. They have those naturally compressed woods because people are looking for that, you know, we call it in the bass world M-W-A-H. Mwah.”

Mwah, we can definitely see where that reference comes from.

Nick sings, “Mwah, mwah, mwah.”

“It’s like, that’s in the mid-range, right? And so, I think they get associated with each other because like frequency wise, they are similar. And then you can do tricks where you slide into vibrato right away and slide out. So, it kind of sounds fretless, you know?”

We have to say Moon Healer is an exceptionally great tech death album. So, we ask, who is Nick listening to that also make tech death sounds at the moment?

“I mean there’s, the tech death thing is just so huge right now man. It really is just so huge right now. It’s really coming into its own. Rivers of Nihil, really cool stuff. I would say, I mean if you want to go like hypertech, Archspire.”

I mean there’s, the tech death thing is just so huge right now man. It really is just so huge right now. It’s really coming into its own.

We were also going to suggest Archspire.

“What have we got? Beyond Creation. I mean anything where you can tell that the songs aren’t written in a day.  Nothing against it, I love writing music and like it just flows out of you and your kind of like, I’m not gonna refine the shit out of this. I like it raw and this, all flowed in one session. I love that type of writing in fact, I prefer it, but if I’m doing technical proggy stuff, I like to be like, what the fuck is going on there? That’s actually a really handy thing because sometimes you’ll have shit that would not…we can kind of play anything we want. You can literally bring almost any song idea into there, or riff idea or genre and we can find a way to pull it off. But with Job For A Cowboy it’s very kind of specific, the sound, and very much so with Havok. You know what I mean? Havok’s kind of special in that it’s got that Suicidal Tendencies element of it. We try to have the slap bass and stuff in there. And Dave’s just been like, dude, if you want to slap the entire time, I’m cool with it. That’s like, for a thrash guy to say that is out there, you know, super fun. I generally don’t do that, I’m like, you know, 25%. But yeah, it’s nice to have the different outlets. You know, different styles.

We suggest that music is like food in that, you don’t eat one type of food every day.

“Yeah, exactly, man. Imagine, like, your favourite meal and how quickly it would not become your favourite meal. Exactly. Like, how many days in a row, not how many meals in a row, not even days, but say it’s like, alright, what’s your favourite food?”

We would say Pizza (a safe bet).

“Okay, how many, on what meal, if you had pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner, on what meal of what day would you be like, fucking no more pizza ever?”

We’d probably get to about Wednesday, maybe.

“Pizza’s kind of a cheat code though, because you could do a lot of it. That’s what I mean, you could be like, oh I’m gonna have a white pizza, oh I’m gonna have a red. I’m gonna do a barbecue chicken pizza. You can roll through the hole like you can have Chinese food pizza. You could be Lo mein and soy sauce on that shit that’s a good answer. Actually, I’m gonna steal that!”

With our Foodinati question out of the way, we look to the future, is touring in Job For A Cowboy’s future?

“I hope so. You know, really trying to get the bug instilled back in these dudes. You know, they are literal like, you know, computer science engineers and research physicians in Ireland and, you know, like in the court system. Other guys work in the court systems. So, they have like full real adult jobs. And so yeah, getting them pulled away is tough. But I’m gonna try to do it. We had a lot of fun at Blue Ridge, Rockfest. And the chemistry was instantly back. So, I think that’s one of the deals where we’re gonna be like, you know. I can tell everybody wanted to go do it more. So, I hope that you will see us this year playing this material.”

That seems like a great way to sign off what has been a fascinating look inside the thought processes of Nick Schendzielos, one of death metal’s best bass players in of one of death metal’s most imaginative, ground-breaking and inventive bands.

Interview By George Miller –

All Photos Credited To: Chris Klumpp