Meet Judd Madden: Melbourne’s Most Prolific One-Man Band
~Interview by Shawn Gibson~Art by Jeff Smith
How are you doing?
Pretty good! As good as we can in these strange times.
When you are not doing music you are doing web design. How busy does that keep you?
There’s not much work on at the moment honestly, so personal projects have filled the void. And video games.
You live in Melbourne Australia right? Tell me a little about Melbourne and where you live.
Melbourne is home to 5 million people. It’s a wonderful city with vibrant live music, restaurants, parks – anything you’re into, you can find. I’ve lived here for 16 years and I absolutely love it.
How have the wildfires affected you?
We had smoke here in Melbourne for weeks, though Sydney was much worse. The bushfires (as we call them) were hell on earth for those nearby.
How are you holding up with the Corona virus affecting everything?
My wife is working from home now, with me, so that’s nice. My friends and family are healthy and safe, but I miss seeing them in person – video chats and phone calls are just not the same.
I miss live music and being in a crowd, the physical space and sharing in the moment. Australia is doing well comparatively, we’re a spacious country with a low population, and we’re good at following rules like “stay home.”
What places do you go to in Melbourne to see heavy music?
The Tote, The Bendigo, Max Watts (HiFi), The Forum. I can’t fucking wait to get to a gig when all this is over.
What are some Australian bands you love and we should check out?
In the doom/metal scene there are so many. Droid, Dr Colossus, Pod People, Thaw, Holy Serpent, Lucifungus are some I’ve enjoyed live recently.
My first introduction to Judd Madden was Glacial. I loved it and checked the other albums on your Bandcamp page.
Oh, cool! That album featured my one and only music video; Mountain Slayer, which received great exposure.
Is there an album that was removed from your Bandcamp page? There was a song on an album that almost had a hardcore tempo, great bass line! I want to say something like against set. I wish I remembered!
Before Waterfall (the first album) was released I made dozens of rough songs, to see if I could do it all by myself, and to experiment. Most of them were bad. “Against Set” and some of the less bad songs are on the Old Doom & Demos album. Listening now, it’s not that fast – maybe you’re thinking of something else? There are not a lot of fast songs in my catalogue, perhaps “Mouth” from Waterfall or Waterfall II?
Please tell me about 528hz (DNA repair). I have heard many frequencies in that range, higher and lower but never in a doom song!
It’s from “Everything In Waves” which is about reality, energy, perception, matter, cosmos. In my research about wave-forms of all types, I stumbled across the “healing tones” genre, with its wild claims about specific frequencies.
The song is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but leaves the question open. Can listening to certain tones have healing/meditative benefits? Well, we don’t know everything, right?
What prompted Dead End Thoughts?
The desire to create even heavier music, with vocals. It’s a separate project, as my main catalogue doesn’t have vocals – Dead End Thoughts is a different beast. I wanted a space to explore complex ideas, the edges of my mind and darkness. The songs are thematically and musically extremely heavy.
It doesn’t come from a place of depression or anger, as some people have suggested, but a need to explore and create something original. If it’s original I’m happy. Musically the songs are totally organic, it’s a stream of consciousness in the jam, with vocals and instrument layers added after.
Dead End Thoughts recently released ‘Feel No Pain’ (2020). Please tell me about the spark that started the fire for this album.
Feel No Pain is created directly from live jams between myself on guitar and Dan on drums. It’s an evolution from the first album, which I created recording guitar first and drums second (which was difficult).
When you jam with one melodic instrument and one rhythmic instrument, both are free (within reason) to do what they like. Adding a second melodic instrument like a bass usually requires more planning and results in more structured songs.
We enjoy seeing where things go. These five tracks were chosen from around 20 that we recorded throughout the year. I realised mid-year that this could be the next album; the riffs were of similar tone, and I wouldn’t have to drum over them!
Once I added a second/third guitar, bass, and vocals, they no longer sounded like jams and became real songs – but you can still feel the live energy. It’s also not perfect, which I think makes it more interesting.
We surprise ourselves when we’re jamming, there is no staleness from playing a rehearsed song over and over. Most of the riffs on the album were new to us as we played them. It’s so much fun.
On 'Feel No Pain,’ Dan Jolly plays drums and did the album artwork. Please tell me about him and his role in Dead End Thoughts.
Dan has been one of my best mates for many years. We’ve played a lot together, he’s a fantastic drummer who’s even more into doom metal than I am! He played on half of these tracks unaware that they would become an album, sorry Dan. (laughs)
Our drumming styles are actually pretty similar, but he’s younger and more energetic. I asked him to do the album art, as I was doing all the production and extra instruments, so he could share ownership of the project. It’s an awesome painting, we had it before the lyrics so I was able to connect with “By Burning Heat.”
Tell me about Colour High and how that is different from the music you make most of the time.
Colour High is an electronic doom project, similar to the music in Stranger Things. It was made over two months very late at night, in headphones when I couldn’t make noise.
I’ve always dabbled in electronic music, once I even 'played live’ in 1999 with my brick of a computer and CRT monitor. I just sat behind it and pretended to be doing things – I wasn’t.
Colour High is all about exploring sounds, compositions, just having fun and enjoying a different process. Having the entire score and all instruments available when composing is very different to the track-by-track approach required for solo instrumental music.
What makes Judd Madden laugh?
Most things. My friends, my wife, my cat. I love TV shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Always Sunny, South Park, The Office. Love stand-up comedy – hard to name just a few, but Dave Chappelle, Brian Regan, Bill Burr, Iliza Shlesinger, Joey Diaz, Dylan Moran and all the greats like Carlin, Seinfeld, Prior, etcetera!
Which bands have influenced you and the music you make?
My parents like Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Beatles, Metallica. 90’s bands like Tool, RATM, Chili Peppers, Prodigy. Then I started getting into Kyuss, Sleep, Yob, and the amazing stoner rock/doom metal scene. It resonated strongly with me and I immediately wanted to make music in that genre.
Now I listen to anything good: jazz, classical, electro, darksynth, math, weird stuff like Scott Walker or doom bands like Conan, Bongripper, Aleph Null. Completely obsessed with an electronic artist called 2814, the album Birth of a New Day is a real trip.
Name some good books that you have read.
The Gap Cycle, Stephen Donaldson. The Nights Dawn Trilogy, Peter Hamilton. Enders Game Series, Orson Scott Card.I like big space operas, currently getting through The Culture series, but honestly I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading – I usually listen to music in headphones in bed.
How is the weed in Australia? Good?
It’s illegal mate. But good, yes. I never touched it until I was 30 – now it’s fun occasionally. I find it can help creativity, particularly with music. It can lower your ego, allow a more natural flow.
Is there anything you want to plug or promote?
Aside from the new album and the other projects we’ve discussed, my wife and I made Duel 52, a card game that you can play with a standard deck of cards. It’s free and fun, if you’re bored in lockdown check it out!
What is in the future for Judd Madden and Dead End Thoughts?
Once Dan and I can jam again we’ll keep making music, and another heavy album. For my main project I have the beginnings of a lighter album similar to Float, spacey and guitar-heavy. Calm, meditative music to balance all this darkness.
Judd, thank you very much for your time! Stay safe and sane through these tough times!
Judd Madden’s Everything In Waves is a magnificent stoner-rock album of grand proportions, utilising amazing guitar tones, unexpected structures, classic stoner-rock tempo fuckery, and melodramatic drum work.