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An Interview with Bob Fouts (Amongst the Swarm, The Gates of Slumber)

If anyone were to sit down and compile a list of the people most vital to the development and sustenance of the metal scene in Indiana, ‘Iron’ Bob Fouts would undoubtedly be near the top of that list. Whether as a musician with bands like Burn it Down, The Gates of Slumber and Amongst the Swarm, or as a producer whose credits include Coffinworm, Apostle of Solitude, Phantom Witch, Bulletwolf, Steel Aggressor, and Thorr-Axe, he’s left an indelible mark on this music we all love. He’s currently the drummer for the excellent post-black metal band Chrome Waves, alongside fellow Nachtmystium alum Jeff Wilson (also of Wolvhammer, Abigail Williams, and the criminally underrated Liar in Wait) and The Atlas Moth vocalist/guitarist Stavros Giannopoulos, who should have a new full-length out sometime later this year.

We were fortunate to get “Iron Bob” to answer a few questions for us about his history in the Indy scene and some of the music he’s been involved with over the years, including his most recent project Enoch.

Indy Metal Vault:  I’ve always thought of you as a drummer, but as I was doing a little research in preparation for this, I see that you’ve got guitar and bass credits on your Metal Archives page as well. Which instrument did you pick up first? What do you consider your primary instrument?

Bob Fouts: Drums were for sure my first love, pulling out pots and setting up cardboard boxes as early as 5 or 6 years old. But I lived with my sick grandmother much of my youth, so i actually had a guitar and little practice amp first (drums were just too loud due to my living situation) before my first drum kit. This was at age 12 or 13, so I always “dabbled” in guitar since way back but was way better and more of a natural on the drum kit. My “cool” uncle had a kit and I would beg him to let me play going back to when I was very young. I was just fascinated by the drums from the first time I heard my dad’s old Deep Purple and Uriah Heep records, so yeah, I’ve always been a drummer that enjoyed goofing around on guitar and bass.

The Gates of Slumber

IMV: I’d expect that you’re best known around Indy for your time with The Gates of Slumber. You replaced Chuck Brown, right? How did you end up with that gig? Were you playing out regularly with anyone previous to that, or was Gates the first steady gigging band you were in?

BF: Oh yeah…WAY before TGoS! I started playing out in local punk and hardcore bands at 15, so 1990. I started doing regional touring at 17 and by my early 20’s I was in a pretty serious metal/hardcore band called Burn it Down (w/John Zeps, Ryan Downey, and a few different bass players, most notably Jason McCash RIP) which toured nationally with the likes of Zao, The Dillinger Escape Plan, In Flames (twice), ISIS, Candira, Nevermore, Earth Crisis, etc. We put out 2 EPs  in the late 90s and one full length that came out in 2000. We broke up that same year, right before signing a contract with Century Media Records. From there I started Amongst The Swam around 2002, then a year or so later About the Fire (w/ members of Harakiri, my first band Dead Dizney, and Bulletwolf and Eyes of Jade) which ran concurrent with ATS for quite a while. After that I did short stints with both Demiricous (one show in Chicago) and Harakiri (maybe 3 shows), then in 2006 i was offered to fill in for a Euro tour with TGoS (replacing my pal Chris Gordon at the time) and didn’t leave till 2010. I came back in late 2012, if I remember correctly. until the demise of the band. It’s quite a bit to remember.

IMV: When most people talk about Gates these days, they do so with a lot of love and respect. During your stints with the band, did you feel like you were a part of something special? Or is TGoS one of those bands that weren’t fully appreciated until they weren’t around anymore?

BF: That seems to always be the case. We had moderate success in the UK and parts of Europe like Germany. During my time in the band we did quite a few tours over there, maybe 5 or 6. We always did shorter US runs at first, and those could be pretty rough on some occasions. I would say once Conqueror came out, things started getting a bit better in the US for us considering it was the first release the band did that had proper US distribution. The video for “Trapped in the Web” that was played on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball could have helped a bit too, as well as getting bigger support tours and having a top 5 record of the year from Decibel magazine all in the wake of Conqueror‘s release. All that stuff really helped open some doors for us.The Conqueror era was a great time…very fond memories of that era of the band for sure.

But back too your original question, I really don’t know how we are though of these days. We always felt like we were forcing a square peg into a round hole when we where out there fighting for our place in the heavy metal universe. But at the same time, we really didn’t give a shit if we “fit” or not. We just did our thing, toured our asses off, put out the best records we could, and tried our best to take any opportunity that came our way

IMV: You did a short run as a live member of Nachtmystium. How did you end up hooking up with them? Is that where the impetus for Chrome Waves came from, or did you know Jeff Wilson before then?

Chrome Waves

BF: I had met Jeff a few times at shows and whatnot and we had quite a few mutual friends because Jeff is originally from Indiana. Sounds weird because we have been good friends forever now…but anyway, I was a fan of Nacht and he got my number somehow, called me up and said they needed a drummer for a short tour supporting Pentagram. We would be sharing a bus with them (Pentagram) and I would make a few bucks a gig. I couldn’t say no, and it just so happened TGoS was off the road and just getting ready to record the Hymns record.so it worked out. Jeff and I bonded right away, as well as my brother Jon Necromancer (Usurper/Bones/Doomsday), who was playing bass with Nacht at the time, and i ended up doing a full US tour w/ Marduk and 1 or 2 one off shows with them until tour commitments between the two bands started clashing. i had to stick with my main dudes and continue with The Gates, which was a hard decision as a life long metalhead considering the next tour Nachtmystium was doing was with Kreator and Voivod. But TGoS had a Weedeater tour we had committed to and that ended up being a great time with great turnouts every night, so I feel I won either way. I would have loved to have done both, but it just couldn’t happen. Plus Nacht was looking for a percent drummer and had tour after tour booked for most of that year. I was asked at a point to join full time, but again, I had to stick with my boys and my best friends at the time. Glad I did.

As far as the Chrome Waves story goes. Jeff and I knew we wanted to continue playing together when we could, so once both bands (Nacht and TGoS) had a bit of time off the road, Jeff would come down to Indy and we would work on the stuff in my old home studio. Once the music was done we sent it to our buddy Steve (from The Atlas Moth) and he recorded the vocals in Chicago, and one of my best friends John Wayman ended up mixing it.

John (Wayman) and I just released a project called Enoch. You can grab the debut called “Bog” on iTunes now! Hopefully there will be physical vinyl copies available in the not too distant future. It’s very different – no vocals, just real life tragic phone calls and speaking over this almost movie soundscape type music, but still incorporates heaviness in both the emotive way and the traditional musical way. It’s a trip and might not be for your run of the mill metal fan, but I think its interesting and pretty original, which is about impossible to say these days involving heavy music. I think if you’re into bands like Godflesh or Neurosis you could possibly appreciate it.
Also….big news! After what seems like 20 years, Chrome Waves just finished drum tracks for a ton of new CW stuff as well, so look for a full length and some cool splits and limited stuff coming out this year and next! Also the label Foreign Sounds just repressed the EP on 12″ vinyl. You should go order it!

IMV: In addition to being a musician, you have a fair number of recording/production credits to your name. How did you transition from musician to producer? Was producing something you always wanted to do? Are you still running Basement Rage Studios?

BF: BRS is currently at a stand still for multiple reasons. It’s no secret among the Indianapolis “scene” that not only did I go through a divorce about 4 years ago, I’ve also had some issues with substance abuse which ultimately took the life of my best friend and bandmate. Between those two things, I lost my studio space (which was run out the house my ex and I shared), and I also had to sell off most of my studio gear to live and to to get myself into a new place to live. I have recently bought some new gear to try and get it back rolling, but honestly there is so much competition these days that once it’s back together it will be more of a private workspace for basically close friends and projects I’m directly involved in. BRS did crank out quite a bit of stuff between 2007 and 2011. Some of the recordings I was a part of went on to get some national and international attention, namely Coffinworm, Phantom Witch, Steel Aggressor, Bulletwolf, Christ Beheaded and Thorr-Axe, as well as some TGoS and Apostle of Solitude B sides, cover songs, and the AoS demo that was eventually released on cassette. I had all great bands to work with so it was all a pleasure to me. Never really a passion per se, just sort of fell into it honestly.

We did recently record all the new drum tracks at BRS v2 with Niko Albanese (Lawbringer/others) engineering the session. Very talented young man and a great drummer as well.

Amongst the Swarm

IMV: What’s the status of Amongst the Swarm? I loved your set opening for Cattle Decapitation at 5Q, but from some of the stage banter I got the sense that might have been the last hurrah for AtS.

BF: Yeah man…ATS never did like a “final” show that I can remember when we called it quits back in ’06, so we just got together for the hell of it and did that Cattle Decap show. After the show we decided (most of us anyway) that if something else cool came up we would do it. The Cattle Decap show was actually our 2nd show back, as we also did the Harakiri reunion show at the Hi-Fi in June or July of 2016. Then we got offered the Crowbar/Goatwhore show and we just could not turn that down, but Ryan Green (our go-to guitar player) couldn’t commit to it so we had our buddy Scott Bronner fill in. After that gig we had talks of working up some new stuff with Scott on board. As we all know, Scott is in a million active bands and the rest of us are busy dudes too, so we will see what becomes of it, if anything. Might be 6 months or a year down the road, but I do know we all would like it to happen so who knows. I guess semi-active is ATS’s status as of now? Haha.

IMV: How’s work coming on the new Chrome Waves record? Any chance of an Indy gig when it comes out?

BF: Yeah, as I said earlier, drums are done for the new CW record, as well as a few cover tunes and extras. The members have always been spread out, but now Jeff is living out west in Washington state so it’s even worse now. But they have all the drums and plan on laying down guitar, bass and synth very, very soon. As far as an Indy show, I can really only see that happening if we come through on a tour, which is likely once a new release is out. No dates to confirm as of yet…maybe summer?

IMV: What’s your favorite album that you’ve been involved in as a musician, and why?

BF: Thats honestly an impossible question for me to narrow it down to one, but I’ll see if I can do 4 – all different bands and for different reasons that would take a novel to explain…haha. In no particular order:

TGoS – Conqueror
Burn it Down – Let The Dead Bury the Dead
Chrome Waves- Chrome Waves EP
Apostle of Solitude- Demo 2012

And as far as studio work, I’ll throw in the Coffinworm Great Bringer of Night recording, because I think that was the most satisfying production job that I can still live with, and hey, it ended up being pressed on 12″ LP and had at least a small hand in them getting their deal with Profound Lore.

IMV: You’ve been active in the Indy scene for a while now. How has it changed (for good or ill) over the years?

BF: Biggest changes I would have to say is the amount of bands, especially in the doom/sludge/stonner rock genre, some great (Drude/Void King/Thorr-Axe,Potslammer, etc.),some not so great. But hey, who am I to judge? I think the word “doom” gets thrown around a bit too freely these days, but again I can’t judge anyone for going out there and busting their ass, playing as much as possible and dumping a ton of money into gear ,a van, merch and all else that goes with being in a productive band. The shit is not easy and I’m no martyr for the scene whatsoever so I’m sure people could really care less of my opinion of their band.

Overall, I think its in a good place. Most of the shows I attend or work seem to be pretty well attended, and you have clubs like The 5th Quarter, the HI-FI, that indiana beer spot, and State Street Pub giving metal and the more extreme styles a chance to do their thing. Shit, when i started playing shows, it was all about renting out Moose Lodges and VFW halls and the young bands had no clubs to play, so things are a lot better than what people realize could be the reality. I really wish to see some of these spots working together. I understand they all need to keep their lights on, but one thing that could improve is people not looking at our scene as a competition.

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