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Album Review: Sietch Ramshackle "U.R.//Nctrl"

By: Amy Foxworthy (foxy at indyintune dot com)
Saturday, December 28, 2019 7:00:00 PM


Sietch Ramshackle's new album "U.R.//Nctrl" picks up where 2018's "May I Rise" left off. In a sense, they could be considered two albums as one unit. Like its predecessor, this compelling and intense album contains 10 tracks of enthralling guitar-driven musical art that whisks the listener away on an audio adventure not soon to be forgotten.

Each track on the album in some way tells a story, or represents a time, feeling, or experience in the artist's own life.  Continue reading for a (somewhat) brief overview, track-by-captivating-track, followed by intriguing excerpts of the exclusive one-on-one interview with the architect responsible for it all.

  1. "Tree" – 2 minutes and 47 seconds of power-packed, guitar-centric Rock and Roll. This song recounts the tale of some nefarious characters who were adversarial toward Sietch and thus burned down a willow tree in his yard.  "I saw a tree burning down as a message sent for me.  Well I watched it burn; it was like they were burning me.  Well I sure hope it was worth the price they paid." The tree is a metaphor for him; they damaged his tree, and the tree was him.  The damage was very real, but in the end, ultimately, he was in control.  This song perfectly sets the tone for the saga and theme of the album.  Bonus: Not to be outdone by Sietch's master guitar wizardry is the thunderous and extraordinarily delivered bass prowess of one Rin Greywolf. Don't take my word for it.  She is a glorious majesty to be beheld and lauded.

  2. "Johnny Likes to See the Big Bomb Go Boom"- This is a song that was written previously, yet fit the vibe and was thus redone and included on the new album. This hard rocking track picks up after the less-than-savory/nefarious characters, and society, "sent their message," to him that he cannot be out of control.  It depicts a love affair between a thermonuclear device and the ground; an allusion to old times overseas and violence.  After "Tree" occurred, it reawakened a part of him that he decided to no longer accommodate.

  3. "Stopped My Bleeding"- This is the "ballad" of the album, featuring Megan Hopkins on backing vocals. It picks up from where "Tree" and "Johnny Likes to See the Big Bomb go Boom" leave off.  Sietch, when asked about this track said, "You stopped my bleeding, after the bomb went boom, because you see, a good bomb can't go ‘boom' without blowing itself to pieces.  This is about all those people who loved me after my bad years and them accepting me and helping me after the ‘bad me' came back out. They stopped my bleeding; in my real life, and in my heart, I was bleeding.  This is a tribute to them for allowing me to be in control of the situation and what had to occur, and by default, kind of validating my life because I always sort of regretted my past and I always thought that it was not valid or did not have value, and I learned that it did have value because it kept me alive and kept me breathing and it allowed me to become somebody different, whereas if I hadn't been that person, I wouldn't even be here.  I'd be gone."  Fun fact: the author of this article may or may not have begun to uncontrollably sob and bawl upon first listening of this track, full blast in her car, partially due to the astounding, soulfully gut-wrenching enhancement Megan's vocals provide. We should all be eternally grateful that these two artists ever crossed paths and made the decision to collaborate on such a breathtakingly stunning work of musical art. Fun Fact #2: Rumor has it that Sietch wrote this song in only 5 minutes.

  4. "Garlic Malt" -This stand-alone piece is a love song about being incapable of loving someone and how that is out of anyone's control. Utilizing the notion of an untied shoelace and being hog tied as an excuse for being so damaged that you cannot express genuine love, even when it is all you want to do. The origin of the phrase "garlic malt" describes when someone comes at you with great passion or force, i.e., "She was as strong as a garlic malt."   It was recorded on a lo-fi, $50 pawn shop guitar to place emphasis on the notion that cheap things in life have value that few acknowledge.  Sietch: "Garlic Malt is on one level, the ground responding to the big bomb's love detonation from ‘Johnny's.'  ‘Johnny's is a love song between a thermonuclear device and the ground, so the line, ‘When you touch me, I've been touched by a God,' is basically the ground orgasming from the Big Bomb…hence why the solos in each song are similar in approach, tone, effect, and mood. And the big bomb comes on sexually as ‘strong as a garlic malt', so there you go."
    The subsequent 3 tracks form a block– "Hell of a Ride," "Rodger Dodger Space Ranger," and "U.R.//Nctrl," tackle the topic and all-too real problems associated with police/law enforcement and/or political corruption.

  5. "Hell of a Ride" – Sietch: "'Hell of a Ride' is me-a law abiding citizen-but I got caught up, and the police started coming after me, so it's about how ‘they' don't care if you are a good person or a bad person; they just want their fucking money-and so they don't care why and they don't care how--they just want you to let them in. Because once they are in, they have you; they got you death by dimes; death by fucking minutes. It is about the hell of a ride the State will put you on once you get put into their system." (One of the many ingenious, noteworthy qualities of this track is that it is written/delivered in the voice of the oppressor. Think back to Pink Floyd's epic album, "The Wall," in the song, "The Trial," where Roger Waters sings in satirical voices of the judge, the mother, the wife, etc. This song does something reminiscent of that, in that a voice other than the "regular" voice of the writer is used to illustrate others involved in the saga; in this case, the voice of the oppressors.)

  6. "Rodger Dodger Space Ranger"-Now we arrive at the (mostly) instrumental (and longest) track on the album. Sietch: "It is sandwiched in the middle of the album because I was sandwiched in between society and the need to just survive and not lose my soul and become a fucking twat."   Not entirely instrumental; because although it contains the least amount of words, the words it DOES contain are arguably the most significant on the entire album. Again, don't take my word for it.  (You actually thought I was going to tell you what those words were?! Ha! Do the work.  This isn't a handout. Check it out.)

  7. "U.R.//NCtrl" – The album's title track alas presents itself in all its glorious splendor. "Oh, please check in with OSM; you are not in control… Ten seconds and still no word; what the hell is up with that, man?"  "Topaz armadillo," "tomato dodo;" these represent phrases he was at one point in time forced to speak into a video/recording/device so that the monitoring oppressive powers that be could tell where he was and what he was doing at any time they deemed fit.  Sietch: "U.R. // Nctrl is…they had me.  I was in their system, being monitored and tracked and told what I could and could not do.  It's about how I found my way of getting out of their clutches; about the decision you have to make in life, and the decision of the album, which is, ‘Are you going to be in control of your life, or are you going to make those compromises to just ride along and do what they tell you and be a good boy?'  Lyrically, sonically, and instrumentally, this song is tremendously powerful, deep, melodic, emotional, meaningful, and thought provoking, making it ultimately my favorite track on the album.  The vocal layering alone makes it profoundly noteworthy and soul-stirring.  To me, this is the defining track of the album.  It is about being oppressed, held down, and tracked by "the man."  Fun fact: The alien sound at the end that says, "Please provide the proof of purchase," is the same sound featured on the final track of "May I Rise," titled "Fuk Ur Damage."

  8. "Faces and Names" – This song represents a tribute to music as his saving grace and was also played on the "$50 shitty pawn shop guitar." Sietch: "It's a song about how all you really need in life is somebody that doesn't give up on you even if you are cheap and you sound funny." Like track 4, the sound also makes me/the listener feel as if being secluded in some sort of eerie, esoteric Egyptian space cave—and is also one of the tracks that was written years ago.

  9. "Up to My Chin"-This song is straight-forward, Rock and Roll guitar madness. Sietch: "In AA they always said that you can only control yourself-not other people or anything else-and so it is my alcoholism song about the one thing I can't control –notice a trend here…? All this, ‘Oh Sietch, he's such a pirate …and all that shit… but HOOOOLY SHIT, you put a bottle of Jack Daniels in front of me and give me one fucking sip of it and you will see somebody so far out of control ….(laugh) so it's called ‘Up to My Chin,' and it's about how if I am drinking, you know what? You might as well fucking kill me, because I don't even WANT to wake up and see what I fucking did…."
    This track is a guitar lover's wet dream.  The entire song sounds like one badass guitar solo and is Rock and Roll to the fucking core while simultaneously discussing addiction and how a normally sound and sane human being, after ingesting alcohol, can become a complete helpless monster who is NOT "Ncntrl" of their situation.  The guitar in this track is absolutely maddening and genius.  Again, don't take my word for it. This is one of the tracks of the album I'd thoroughly enjoy watching performed live, just so I could witness what chaotic madness his fingers were executing throughout.

  10. "Doesn't Hurt to Ask" – Sietch: "It's about what I want for my kids. I don't want them to have hard times and I don't want them to live life like I did. It's a single acoustic guitar concerto, and it's some of the hardest music I've ever written, and the vocals are meant to mimic a choir at a cathedral in Europe.   I wanted to end the album with the one thing I can't control, and that would damage me the most, which would be my kids being hurt or my kids having hard times, etc. So I ended the first album with ‘Fuk Ur Damage,' which was, ‘Oh I'm so proud, look at me,' and I'm ending this one with, ‘Yeah, I'm in control, but at the end of the day, Jesus Christ, don't fucking hurt my kids, please, life? Thank you, that's it, Ok, bye;' a vulnerability.

The Interview

AF: You are releasing a new album!  Give me the lowdown.

Sietch: The new album is a sequel to "May I Rise," which was a series of stories based on how existence in the modern era can damage you, and "U.R. //Nctrl" represents what you can do about it; how you can seize  possession of your individual –none of this commie fuckin shit—but how you as an individual can seize back control, and it's basically by saying ‘no.'  And we've forgotten how to say ‘no', and how to say ‘fuckall,' and how to say, ‘you don't own me,' and, ‘fuck you, government, po-po, and politicians and corporations and shit.' This is about how back in the day a lot of people used to say ‘fuck you' and then stand up and die because principles mattered more than existence and slushies and beef jerky pods and shit, and we've all become pussies because we bitch, and we piss and moan and whine about all of the damage that is foisted and thrust into our faces on a daily fucking basis—'eat this, you can't fuckin' have food, you gotta watch this entertainment, you gotta be controlled by this fucking medium and this fucking pathway and these fucking roads,' and either shut up, or pick up a fucking rifle.  That's what U.R.//Nctrl is about.  Be a pussy and stop bitching and fucking take your little fucking troth of pig slop from the fuckin' Man and be a good fuckin' piece of shit, or die, or at least take a few, or at least stand up and go, ‘you're gonna have to come at me.'  You're gonna have to fuckin' Ruby Ridge me and you're gonna have to send fuckin SWAT teams through the God damn fuckin' windows and you're gonna HAVE to tell me that my life is less important than the whole. Cause it's not.  The whole is not more important.

I guess it's kind of a double whammy, because it's like, this is just me--I don't submit--and so it's this revolving, tail-eating snake kind of thing.  Am I writing this because I WAS damaged, and I found…or because I ‘was the way I was' and so life was like, ‘I cannot accept you, damage this fucker;' so it's just basically a theme in me; so like any little good fuckin' artist I take ‘me' and put it in a little fucking pastry shell and I serve it up on the little cafeteria tray and I say, ‘this one's for $9.99 today.'

AF: Would you consider it a concept album, or no? 

Sietch:  No.  this isn't a concept album; this is a statement album-- and I hate making statements --because I just do ‘me,' and ‘fuck everybody,' with love-I mean, you do you, and I'll enjoy meeting people and all that-but I have literally NO expectation or desire for people to like me, or accept me, or anything like that, and so this is –--'May I Rise' was a series of personal stories about damage that I experienced personally.  And ‘U.R.//Nctrl' is sort of my gift to the world (smile). It's like a Jehovah's witness pamphlet –I'm probably the most damaged person in Central Indiana, and so like, If I can, rise, ya know, then nobody else can bitch.

AF:  When you say "rise," what's that entail?

Sietch:  Well the whole last album was kind of based on its title track, "May I Rise."  It was about being invited to a dinner party by society-and by society-I mean those who wish to control, or those who do not wish to accept things that are abrasive to the normal.  And so rising from the dinner table has multiple meanings in the album.  In that song, if you're at a fancy dinner table you have to be like, "May I please be excused?" or, "May I rise to go to the restroom?" and all sorts of these little decorums and etiquettes for fancy dining and shit.  But rising also means "fuck the Man." It means, "burn down the system." It means revolutions.  (Interrupts to reprehend his perfect and adorable Bulldog, Smudge). So, "May I Rise" to me, is like, all society expects of you is to do the little perfunctory etiquettes, and if you do that, you can be ‘kind of' on the fringe, or you can be ‘kind of' abnormal, but as long as you pay your taxes and you got your car insurance and as long as you understand you are supposed to bow down to the fuckin' po-po and the fuckin' judges and shit and the system, you can get fed and you can have a nice little time where everybody is fucking gossiping and being scheisters and shitbags and all the things that go along with the dinner table--but if you "rise," and you don't go to the party, you get damaged, so it's all this sort of compromise you have to make between allowing yourself to be the fuckin' shitbag at the party that's half-you, because you have to put on this face-- this mask--and this, "Oh, thank you for the fuckin' lobster," or some shit, or do you just say, "Fuck that party," and go kill your own food?  While simultaneously being the people that look up at the manor house up on the hill and saying, "Man, I'd love to fuckin' burn that shit down; put all those people on the fuckin' spikes."  So yeah, "rising" does not mean revolution--because again, fuck everybody. "Rising" means ya' make the choice to either leave the party or never go at all.  Individualism, Ayn Rand-ism, self-interest, self-worth; because the whole theme of my life is that if you have everybody simultaneously working in their own self-interest—--to be me, and to be an anarchist, and a twitchy Irish pirate fuck, you have to have a faith in humanity and I believe that we're all terrible people and we're all combative because society has intentionally done that to us and we don't have anything going back 4,000 years because of all the controlling factors like the Vatican and the Romans and every petty dictator and tyrant to base the fact of "oh wait, there is no overlord?!  Hi! I'm Sietch.  You wanna build a farm?" Or, (New character voice) "I have a problem with you." (New character voice) "Well, I have a problem with YOU," or (New character voice) "Oh hey, I'm over HERE, I'm going to mediate between you two so we can have a civilized—" (Regular Sietch voice) I have faith in humanity and an anarchist has to.  All y'all on the other side who believe in government and laws, all you are really saying is, "I don't trust my fellows." I always love it when government people or liberals or Republicans or whoever, preach to anarchists about how negative--or how it's gonna be war, or all this, and it's like, well you guys have a LONG history of war and racism and destruction and fucking killing Indians, so it's like—yeah. So that's what ‘rising' is.  It's like, this whole construct that all of you are thrusting down my throat, I think that I could get along better with my fellow human beings without you all, so may I be excused? May I rise, if I'm able to? Meaning, if I have the strength to pass on the fucking lobster.

AF:  So, with "May I Rise" being the title track of the last album, and how it represented kind of a theme for the entire album; is it the same way with "U.R.//Nctrl" and its title track?

Sietch:  Yeah.  The title track on this one (track 7) was originally called "O.S.M" for a long time, but I renamed it to "U.R.//Nctrl." So, ‘Cntrl,' is, KIND OF a concept I guess, because really a lot of it is about modern day monitoring and tracking and oppression and like, "Hey, we want to know what's in your shopping cart and your porn bookmark." All these little social engineering devices and the architecture of modern life that denies you the ability –bzZzT--your social security number was originally supposed to be how you got Social Security, and now it's this universal identifier. You know, they might as well fucking tattoo it like a Jew in Nazi Germany on your arm. So….I was very fortunate that I had a lot of really serious men and women in my life that prepared me for this.  If you said this stuff back then, you were some sort of right-wing, bomb-throwing, fucking white supremacist or some shit, and if you say it now you're "overreacting" and, (Mocking voice) "Oh, I don't care if they check my emails because I don't have anything to hide," which basically makes you a fucking slave, and the men and women that raised me said, "It's comin', boy. They may call me crazy but they're gonna want to have universal health care, they're gonna take your guns; they're gonna want to have you on a database or a list for your health so they can see who has AIDS/insert disease here, or who has Measles or who takes Viagra."  All those precious cherished freedoms that I grew up saying that I would fight to the death for are gone now.  The only reason I'm not dead is because I wasn't gonna be a fuckin' loser and do it on principle because I like my kids; I like my life.  So, I live my life in the underground, and I do my own little rebellions and I have my felonies; what are ya gonna do?  But they still haven't squashed me.  So yeah.  ‘Cntrl' is about monitoring and the oppression and more importantly the fact that we've GIVEN all of that over voluntarily; they didn't even have to kill us.  They didn't have to have a Boston Tea Party, or a failed rebellion like in Cuba or something.  We wanted fuckin' Nikes and a Pet Smart on every corner.  Transcribe this whole thing.  I'm preaching. (Laughs)

AF:  As far as writing this new album, I remember talking "May I Rise," -we talked about this months ago--you said it was kind of like, things you had been writing your whole life over time…(me rambling, trailing off, and going on a tangent) With this one, did you set out to write a ‘new' album, or were these things that you already had in your arsenal?  Basically, when you did "May I Rise," did you have this one already in mind?

Sietch:  Half of them were complete when I released "May I Rise."  The other half were nuggets that didn't have lyrics or song structure, but I had the general vibe.  This album is a lot more consistent on mood, whereas ‘Rise' was all over the map.  This one is kind of a more Floydian, Zappa-type—not Zappa in like the craziness-but in the mood. There is a lot more "in your face" on this one.  It's not just telling the story; it's kind of saying "This is what's happening, and now as a result, this is what has to happen."  I don't like preachy music, so it' not like (mocking voice) "You must go to the government"-- A lot of it is in the voice of those who are doing the controlling.  ‘Rise' was more in the voice of those who had been damaged.  Through the voice of the damaged people in ‘Rise,' you could relate to all the damage that society does…" but then what do I do about it?  Well, here are these fuckers, why are you listening to them?"  It's kind of flipping it and saying "ok, you think these guys are so great, but literally, if you don't pay your taxes you're going to jail."

(He goes on to explain that 70% of this album was written at the time of ‘Rise' and that he wrote additional songs in more recent months. We got off on a gargantuan tangent here. It happens. I cherish the tape this interview was recorded on and will most likely be buried with it; highly entertaining.)

Sietch (continued): There's a song called "Garlic Malt," and one called, "Johnny Likes to See the Big Bomb Go Boom," that are from back in those days.  They related to this album's topic, so they worked, but we redid them.

AF:  Tell me about the actual recording process on this album. Feel free to get into the weeds as much as you'd like.

Sietch: It was recorded at Uptown Studios by Kris Fricks.  I bought a flat rate to be able to record whenever, and that offered a flexibility that unfortunately only money can give you, which, HA! is a form of control, which is funny, because here I am, recording it and going back to an old way of doing it, which you can't really do anymore.  I composed every song on an acoustic guitar and could play every song live.  I find the studio is a sacred place for the experimentation with sound and tone and delivery.  So, when I offer a song as a studio version I like to offer as interesting version as I can, but I've played all of them live.  Just not locally.  The goal was to play them all live before Adler left, but haven't gotten the time.

AF:  Differences in recording the first album and this one?

Sietch: "Rise" was really hard to record because the songs weren't normal….and so, it was hard to figure out what tonality, or how much EQ'ing to do, or, do we keep this reverb-y, or is this one acoustic or dirty, etc?  And on this one I am stacking 2 dirt guitars on top of a drive, --I have much more of a vision of tone on this one.  On "Rise" there was bass, clean sound, acoustic, jazz--whatever—and on this one, there's kind of a pizza crust: 2 dirt guitars stacked for a thickness, a drive for kind of like, highlights; maybe some clean sound…so it's layering.  This album is more consistent throughout, tonal-wise, but it's super thick.  Not super busy, but almost like puttin' your hand into like….a boob…. (laughter on both sides) *He makes an amusing hand-gesture that made me think of more like, attempting to penetrate a thick Jell-O mold. (* I burst into uncontrollable cackling, like a 12-year old.)

Sietch: My main goal musically has always been to do something no one has ever heard before, and if I can do that, I will feel like my soul has fulfilled its mission, and everything else is just eating. There are so many bands out there that are like, "Oh this is trendy, so let's do OUR version of that." I fucking detest that.

My music is kind of like a Rottweiler on a chain; everybody knows I CAN go there--I CAN do all the hyper technical shit-like with mOOnMen-I am doing this hyper-technical jazz stuff. Someone said something to me yesterday, they said, ‘Your restraint is impressive.' Letting loose is actually amateurish; it's all about the song structure.  I like writing songs that without having any lead work are still confusing and interesting.  On this album we wanted to make moments where the audience was like "What the fuck?" but at the same time, it's not chaos.  A lot of the tracks are ‘riff-oriented' and standard song structure, but not structured. In the live environment they are like, ‘Wtf?' I wanted to do something that was "normal," in my way, but watch audiences like, fall apart; fucking slaughter them.

AF:  Talk about recording/studio experience vs live performing experience…

Sietch: I like to bring ME to wherever I am playing.  Community and old tavern environment to me-- hoist the fucking flag and get a blowjob in the bathroom, but laugh, and giggle and do something self-destructive and when the cop comes in, punch him.  The live shows are probably my favorite.  I hate recording, but I like the finished product. I love playing live, but I wish we could do it better. But unless we have a 5 or 6-piece band, we can never really pull it off live, as they are recorded.  And some people are purists in that.

I don't want to come across as a dick; there's a lot to improv and live music. At the end of the day, it's like, "Ok, that was great! That was a hyper technical/free-jammy thing that was amazing, but I don't remember it anymore. I experienced it, and now it's gone, and there was no "gem."  There was no moment where I was like, ‘I am gonna take that home with me;' there was nothing catchy. It was like the wind just ruffled my hair for a second and it smelled like lavender, and now I don't have it in my lungs anymore.  I breathed it in, and I breathed it out.  Whereas you, Foxy, are over here screaming "Gavel Slam" lyrics in the Po-Po house… (*me cackling hysterically-inside joke*) For me, it is about the song. I want to craft a song that really hits people. Like, I don't give a SHIT about a guitar solo. I don't give a SHIT about being an "impressive guitar player." I GIVE A SHIT ABOUT HAVING A SONG THAT IS MEANINGFUL."  There's your quote, Foxy…. I want to do a song that is meaningful and that no one can compare to another song. If you have small goals, you are a pussy.  Alexander the Great didn't have small goals… (*More cackling from me*).

Sietch: At the end of it all, I will say it is affirming and it is a validation for me that even though I am still doing my crazy ‘Sietch music' that people have actually come to appreciate me.  There was a period in my life when nobody did. There was a lot to that "May I Rise" album that brought me a lot of joy and it was the first time---there was no help--and there is no help for an original musician.  I just directed every ounce of energy I had to the music and the promotion, etc…It was nice to finally reach a place where people were like, "Oh, Sietch is an original musician, " and that was cool.

Author's Final Thoughts:

In summary, this statement-piece album is ten tracks and 40 minutes of sheer, raw talent and sonic perfection, and you are losing out on joy and life if you do not listen to it RIGHT NOW.  A genuine work of art that fits perfectly as a sequel to "May I Rise" -- this follow-up is what you can do about it after being disenfranchised and downtrodden, without being preachy. It epitomizes the personal hardships and plight of an individual thrown into the oppressive mix of the legal system, and how it was overcome.  It is a "Fuck the Man; you don't own me; I have risen, and fuckall" piece.  Beautifully written, played, and recorded, simple as that.  It begins as a fucking ravenous, roaring, lionous beast, and ends on a thoughtful, angelic and vulnerable note--an ode to the artist's children--wishing a better life for them than what he has experienced after a long, hard-fought war, resulting in prevalent and earned battle scars and wounds over which he has successfully and triumphantly recovered over time.

From start to finish this album is a sonic masterpiece; a work of true art.  Take 40 minutes out of your chaotic day to hear, feel, and absorb it. Not only is this album worthy of your full attention, it deserves it.


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