During my process of contacting bands for the Aussie Metal project I had the fortune of coming across the droning and elaborate tunes of Judd Madden. A prolific solo project from Melbourne. I’m used to one man bands in black metal but it feels less common in doom, a genre often demanding the thickest of sounds. Judd Madden not only manages to do this alone, but also often erring on the side of wistful post-metal. He also has exceptional art across his discography so I knew I had to delve deeper into what he had to offer as an individual musician. As it turns out, there’s a lot to explore – even more than the initial Bandcamp page lets on. I’m most familiar with Cosmic Black Wizard Demon Horse Lord (Top left) which should become a quick favorite for many long form doom metal fans. There’s a decade worth of content, all accessible for free.
How did you decide to be a solo project? Was a band considered initially?
I have been in several bands, as a drummer and a bass player. It’s great fun, and I still have regular jams with different people. The trouble with bands is that your time isn’t very efficient – you rehearse the same songs, drag your gear around to pubs, and the creative process is pretty slow generally. Doing a solo project allows you to spend most of your time actually writing and recording. It’s very fast and rewarding – I view it more like writing or painting; it’s a personal artistic exploration.
I’ve no real desire to play in front of a crowd, the writing and creation of new music is what I value. If people find it and enjoy that’s amazing.
With solo projects, there’s always a danger of being too isolated, of not getting outside influences, which is why jams are so important!
It definitely seems like a pain to tour as a band, do you go to see shows often where you are?
Absolutely! Here in Melbourne we get an amazing selection of touring artists, as well as local bands. I try and see as much as I can, though I’m a bit of a hermit too, so there’s a fine balance! Last gig I went to was Bongzilla at The Bendigo which was really inspiring. I’m looking forward to Crowbar later this year too.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Growing up it was my dad’s collection; Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Iron Maiden, Metallica.
As a teenager I was into RATM, Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Tool, Prodigy, Silverchair… all super mainstream stuff.
In my early 20s I really started exploring and got into Kyuss, Orange Goblin, Yob, Isis, Meshuggah, Electric Wizard, Goatsnake, Sleep, Boris, Sunn O))) etc.
I fell in love with doom and stoner metal. Since then I’ve continued exploring all kinds of genres, anything new I’ll listen to.
Modern heavy stuff I’m digging at the moment would be Conan, Bongripper, Khanate, Sumac, Thou.
You have a lot of releases to explore, do you often change styles or creative process across releases?
My main catalogue is all instrumental, mostly heavy doom/stoner metal. Float is intentionally light, and both Waterfall albums have long post-metal builds.
Each album is it’s own beast, with it’s own story and process. Generally I record lots of ideas until I feel I have enough to make an album. It usually takes about a year and about 50 small musical ideas.
I play and record all the instruments one by one, usually drums first. Often I leave room for improv and solos, so sometimes what’s on the album is the first time I’ve ever played it. That adds a nice spontaneity which you don’t get if you plan everything.
The last album under the Dead End Thoughts pseudonym was actually completely improvised; starting with a single guitar track and building around it.
That album was also my first attempt at doomy vocals, which was really fun. I made it separate to my other music as the vocals make it quite different.
I’ve also dabbled in electronic music with Colour High.
So to play all of these instruments you must have a pretty involved setup, do you use a home studio?
Yes, but it’s pretty basic really. I have an 8 track M-Audio FastTrack for recording, with 8 instrument mics (a couple of good ones and a lot of budget ones). That’s mostly for the drums, which are the hardest to get right. All other instruments are usually just a single mic in front of an amp, or two if it’s acoustic / cello.
I avoid direct inputs generally, I like the sound of amps and air.
A lot of your stuff has insanely high quality album art, do you have specific artists you use or do you commission and permission from around the place?
For the first five albums (Waterfall, Float, Drown, Doomgroove, Artesian) I did the art myself.
For Glacial I found an amazing photographer Andre Ermolaev, whose photos I used not only for the cover but for a video clip.
For the last three (Everything In Waves, Waterfall II, Cosmic Black Wizard Demon Horse Lord), I’ve collaborated with the extremely talented Jeff Smith, who has just taken the art to the next level. Jeff is brilliant, his album art has certainly attracted attention!
That’s awesome that you did the art yourself, adding to the DIY element. I’m also familiar with Jeff Smith. How important is the art for instrumental music?
The art is critical for instrumental music. With no lyrics, the theme of the album is completely carried by the art and the song titles. Some albums I have the theme concept before the music, sometimes it comes after.
Having a central theme solidifies the album, there’s real power in pairing visuals with music.
Do you only release the music online? A lot of this stuff would make great cassettes and vinyls.
Yes, at this stage everything is online. There’s been some interest in physical copies, I’m just not sure there’s enough interest to justify doing it!
Certainly it would be awesome to do a couple of vinyls with huge art.
Anything coming up I should keep my eye out for?
Check out the Dead End Thoughts album definitely, though it’s pretty weird.
Outside music – I’m doing a podcast and a card game, will be out soon!
Definitely keen on that podcast, make sure to check out his work on Bandcamp which is all available for free and to follow his social media to keep up with the latest. A lot creativity on this corner of the internet.
Judd Madden has also been featured on the compilation Doomed and Stoned in Australia 2019