Gabe Stallman (Ampevene) -Interview By: Rob Smittix
Written by Staff on April 10, 2022
RRX: So, I became familiar with your band Ampevene because of your bassist Mack Hogan. I knew Mack when he was still a long-haired, high school metal guitarist sharing a jam space with my band Smittix. Now it seems as though he has matured and gotten himself a haircut. I always saw the talent that he possessed as a young man, and I was very happy to see that he has joined a group of musicians with extreme talent and skill. So, I’m familiar with Mack and you Gabe, tell us about the rest of the band and feel free to tell us more about yourself as well.
GS: I remember Mack talking about Smittix in high school! Mack is such a technician, and an incredible metal guitarist. He can learn songs fast no matter how complicated they are, and I think his improvisational skill really helps our sound when we’re jamming reach a higher level. The current lineup, as a four piece, includes Brian Mckinney-Fahey and Ava Smith as well. Ava has been with us pretty much since the beginning, I think she played our third ever show with us. Ava is one of the best musicians I’ve ever played with, I write most of the music for the band and have the other musicians flesh out their parts for the most part. But the ideas that Ava has after I give her the skeleton of what I’m going for blow my mind because in one way they’re exactly what I want her to do, and in another way, she plays those ideas in a way I would never think of. It’s really cool to watch the gears turn and have her come up with the perfect counter melody or something. Brian is an incredible drummer and has been with us since 2017, I originally found him because of a post about math rock on Facebook, I think he was only 21 at the time and I reached out to him saying we were looking to audition a new drummer because our previous one moved to California and he showed up and just killed it. He’s really passionate about a lot of music I love, so he understands where the motivation of the music comes from and he’s also got a different frame of reference for some sounds than I do, so like Ava it’s pretty fun to watch the things that he comes up with to fit a part as we’re jamming on it. Over the years he’s been in the band he’s become a great friend to all of us too, which is a beautiful thing to come out of playing music with together. Live, lately, we have been using a percussionist, Bob Morris who actually used to drum for us back in 2015/2016, I love getting him out when possible, to add a Latin style flair to our rhythm section. We also have been using saxophone more frequently when we can. Most recently Adam Siegel who is incredible as well, and who I recently recorded for a single we’re dropping soon.
RRX: Ampevene has been described as progressive rock and has even been referred to as experimental and psychedelic. How would you describe what you do?
GS: I think that’s the best way to classify it, I’m a huge fan of so much music, I love everything from experimental grindcore like The Locust, to pop music like Lady Gaga. There’s so many cool melodies and rhythms in any music you listen to, and I love to combine everything I hear into a functioning song. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Ethiopian jazz, but I also love music like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Led Zeppelin. I think some people consider our music experimental, and to a degree it is, because it’s exciting to experiment with sounds in the studio and connect riffs until something works, but I think that’s how everyone does it. I don’t think there’s anything too out there of what we’re doing, I just love music and want to put all the sounds I love in the same song, if that comes out too much for some people I can understand it, but I think for music fans it’s just getting cool exciting sounds together. I also love the 70’s Miles Davis albums, “Bitches Brew”, “Live Evil”, “Jack Johnson,” etc. I like to throw that type of improvisation into the shows as well.
RRX: I know it’s been quite a few years now. How long has the band been together? Any interesting back story on how the band came to be?
GS: We just hit our eight year anniversary a week ago. The big story of how it came to be is that in high school I was playing in a band that broke up the same weekend I was in a really bad snowboard accident. I was left in bed after surgery for a few weeks with an iPod and an acoustic guitar and I decided I wanted to reinvent myself musically, and spend that time listening to music figuring out what sounds I wanted to combine in a new band, I think most of what we’ve done over the last decade has been working towards that goal. I think the new music we’re working on, some of which we’ve been playing live, is the first time I’ve really felt like we’re reaching what I had envisioned back then. But it’s possible five years from now I’ll be saying the same thing and thinking what we have now was never quite it. I like to always push things and see how I can challenge myself in ways to surprise my own ears and I’m always trying to figure out new ways to do that either live or in the studio.
RRX: How many albums or EPs have you released? What is your latest?
GS: We put out EPs in 2013, 2015, and 2016, and an album in 2018. 2013 I put out a self-titled EP of three songs I had written the year before in my attempt to find a sound to start pursuing. I used a drummer and bassist I was friends with at the time and played guitar and keys myself. The next one was a song I wrote the following year that I wanted to make sound a little more jammy, but looking back it was a sound that I was a fan of listening to but not what I wanted to continue pursuing. In 2016 we put out “Rometheu” which was the first song that I think captured what I wanted Ampevene to really sound like. Our album, “Ephemegoria” was an album we recorded live with no overdubs. I listened to it for the first time in a while recently and I think it has a really classic sound to it. We got one review when we put it out that compared it to “Piper and the Gates of Dawn”, the first Pink Floyd album and I totally see it. I’ve always been really into production, and I’ve been buckling down in the studio working on some new things lately that I think are getting closer to the ultimate vision I’m really proud of the new stuff. Oh, we also released a live EP on Bandcamp of David Bowie covers we did at The Linda in 2019. We were asked to make our own arrangements of Bowie songs and we had fun coming up with our own interpretations of them.