Interview with Sonus
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My Dad played me Led Zeppelin in the womb, and every other classic rock and early heavy metal band when I was out of it. This sealed my musical tastes forever; I was born to rock, haha. Eventually as I got older I branched out and got into NWOBHM, Punk, Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock, etc, etc.
I would probably be doing the same thing today if I hadn’t decided to start making music, I’d just be less happy (maybe a bit less broke too). Maybe I would’ve pursued Archaeology full time (after all, it’s what I studied in college and did for a good chunk of my 20s). Maybe I would’ve gone on to get my Doctorate or something, but I’d always be living with “what would’ve happened if” in the back of my mind.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I’m a big reader, I also love to draw and game, go on walks, travel when I can. Reading and drawing are definitely big influences as I’m a very visual person; everytime I write a song, I imagine something that it becomes the soundtrack to, and this shapes my lyrics.Also, books give me ideas and introduce me to new words, phrases, ideas, etc. If you're going to write lyrics, it helps to be a reader.
How long has your band been around?
It’s just been me since around the time of the Covid outbreak. I released the first two albums as a one man band (with help from some friends on the second album in the form of Eddie Salazar on Drums and Tyler Hovestadt on Synths, drums, and co-production). Since the release of that second album, “Usurper of the Universe” this past February, I have assembled a full band currently consisting of my long-time friend Colin Jaramillo on Drums, Dave Reno on Bass, Noah Guntharp and Mike Gorman on guitar, with me (David Wachsman) playing guitar leads, synth parts, and of course singing. We just started playing shows a month ago!
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We are based out of the Bay Area in California; from San Jose to San Francisco. It’s a great place to be for all of the cool venues big and small where every level of artist can come and play. I’ve been able to see some of the most legendary rock and metal acts of all time as well as support my favorite bands in the stoner/doom/psych genres. Some of my favorite bands, and whole musical scenes were born in this area, and there’s definitely a widespread appreciation for live music.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Well, after throwing around various different options (that were mostly already taken) and over-thinking it to the point of total frustration, I settled on Sönus Stellarum after reading an interview with legendary sci-fi/fantasy author (and collaborator with the likes of Hawkwind and Blue Oyster Cult, and friend of Lemmy, creator of Elric of Melnibone) Michael Moorcock. He edited a fanzine as a young man called “Vox Stellarum” (voice of the stars). Well, I thought that might be a bit of an overreach as far as my vocal abilities were concerned at the time, so I went with sound (Sonus) instead. Eventually I just shortened it to Sönus after my mother couldn’t remember the full name. Sonus is also a word in Middle Irish which means “good fortune, prosperity, happiness, lucky” and I thought that was a good omen. I put the umlaut as a tribute to Motörhead, and because it looks damn cool and it’s phonetically accurate.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
I gave myself whiplash and a minor concussion moshing and headbanging to Nik Turner’s Hawkwind with Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys (who later jumped onstage to play several songs with them). I’m just glad my memory of that show eventually came back in full. Be careful out there you young headbangers! Also Just being able to see the reformed Ozzy-era Black Sabbath multiple times was incredible (even with the unfortunate exclusion of Bill Ward).
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
We’ve only just started playing shows recently, but so far The Partisan in Merced is beautiful and the sound guy is great. We’re greatly looking forward to playing The Golden Bull in Oakland on November 17th! My dream is to one day play at The Warfield in San Francisco; the place I’ve seen the greatest number of my favorite bands. I have so many great memories there, it would be really sentimental for me.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Monster Magnet, Orange Goblin, Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Dio and Dio-era Rainbow, The Stooges, MC5, Motörhead (with all members back from the dead). It’s my fantasy, reality and logistics have nothing to do with it! More realistically though? I think opening for Monster Magnet and/or Orange Goblin would be a great show!
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
In both cases; go for it. Expect nothing, be grateful for whatever happens; you live once and you die, as far as we know, and you can either try or live to regret not trying.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Don’t waste your time on things that don’t fulfill you or people that don’t respect you or bring constant negativity into your life. Believe in yourself.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
“Rock n’ Roll Necromancy” is a tribute to all of my musical heroes who have died and the inevitability that they all will someday. Of course, it’s a banger of a song, especially live, and it’s also very fun and tongue in cheek, though it is my tribute to my idols. Amaranthine is another one, an instrumental, it’s very soothing and inspiring to me and it just came out of me; I wrote and recorded the whole thing (aside from the drums) in a couple hours one night while editing other songs on the second album.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
The whole setlist we have now is a blast to play; what can I say, I’m biased, but I love all my songs (as well as our covers of The Stooges’ “Raw Power” and Hawkwind’s “Master of the Universe”). Nuclear God is always fun, I intro the band during the opening bass line, and get to sing in a choir of “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOOOUUUU” with Dave and Noah at the climax. This always gets a good reaction from the crowd. “Rock N’ Roll Necromancy” is also always a blast; I don’t play leads on that one when we play live, so I get to focus on being a frontman.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
So far, being that it’s just me writing the first 2 albums, I’ll generally have some riff or melody come t me out of nowhere, sometimes, as was the case for “Tanelorn” the entire song will just come to me in sections, blaring in my skull and I have o record it or get it down somehow before I lose it to the void of unwritten songs. After I get a rough structure I let the music inspire a story or visuals in my mind, then I write the lyrics accordingly based on the vibe.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
It’s whatever I’m feeling or whatever the music makes me feel or inspires in me; sometimes it’s total disgust with humanity, sometimes it’s hope for us, it vacillates pretty often, especially these days.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Sure, but nothing major yet. It’s important to treat everyone with respect and make sure the band are communicating amongst themselves in the same manner. I’m pretty open to trying new ideas and new takes on things; I believe even after a recording, a song can still evolve live, and I’m a big fan of jamming and not playing the same solo the exact same way twice in most instances. If a bandmate has an idea to change something up, I’m down to at least try it; sometimes it doesn’t work, but oftentimes it’s great to have that other perspective. I lucked out with having some damn cool people in my band, that helps greatly; egos to a minimum!
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We are currently booking shows and looking to build up a local following and play, play, play! We also have a few irons in the fire for our next album, which are coming together nicely! I’m looking forward to being able to record the next one with a full band, not just me layering every track to a click.