Tag Archive: “Hiram-Maxim”

HIRAM-MAXIM is expecting the worst, and who can blame them. Politically and socially things are getting dark and when the lights go out, that might just be when the nightmare begins. Ghosts, the second LP from the Cleveland band, is a torrent of punishing noise, dark textures, and bleak visions of pain that come in the wake of this darkness.

These veterans of the Cleveland music scene, Fred Gunn, Lisa Miralia, John Panza and Dave Taha came together through the Lottery League, a citywide festival of ad-hoc collaboration. Taking its name from the inventor of a machine gun that helped turn Europe into an open air slaughterhouse during World War I, the band combined doom, noise, psych and shoegaze elements, a testament to that anarchic spirit and the members’ disparate backgrounds.

HIRAM-MAXIM recorded GHOSTS with Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Helmet, John Zorn, Unsane) in Brooklyn, with some portions captured at John Delzoppo’s Cleveland studio, Negative Space. Guest guitaristist Oliver Ackermann, of A Place to Bury Strangers, adds sonic broken glass to the opener, “Behind the Blindfold” and the title track, “Ghosts.”

On “Burn,” which Ghettoblaster has the pleasure of sharing today (below), Panza’s thudding rhythms march in step with Taha’s fuzzed out stoner riffs until the whole is subsumed by a distorted swell of Miralia’s electronics and ambient noise.

We recently caught up with Gunn to discuss the effort, as well as some of Cleveland’s finest features and exports. This is what he told us.

Are the Indians looking good this year?

I think this is best team the Tribe has had since the ‘90s. If we can stay healthy, my prediction is 96-66 and winning the World Series over the Cubs in 6.

Your start was as four strangers in a band lottery, but it stuck. Are you friends now?

Actually, Dave and I were pretty good friends prior to Lottery League. But to answer your question, yes we are friends. However at this point I think we have moved more into “Band Family” territory. When things go wrong in our personal lives, we share and support one another. There is a lot of trust and I’m not sure there are many secrets within the group. It’s pretty cool.

What were the catalysts that inspired this record as you were writing it?

Lyrically, Ghosts is a very angry record. I have channeled a lot of my frustrations with the current political and social climates in the country into this album.

It’s odd because living in my social circle, surrounding myself with good people and even seeing the way society is portrayed in entertainment, you start to believe things are finally starting to turn around. You think we are growing and evolving as a society. Then you see things like the passing of HB2, the murders of too many black males by the police, and the empowerment of the white supremacist community by the Trump campaign/administration and so on. I felt like we were past all this shit. It’s something I believed was behind us. There has been so much regression within the last year or so. It is like ghosts of our past have come back to haunt us.


Martin Bisi was involved in this creation. What did he bring to the table that transformed your ideas?

Martin is very hands off when it comes to the production of the songs. There was never a “Hey, why don’t you try playing it like this?” or “Sing it like this.” Martin is very well versed and experienced in experimental/louder music. He also knows his space very well and how to achieve the best recordings from it. He was able to dial in Lisa’s rig, which can be a challenge.

Where Martin really transformed this record was in the mixing process. The record sounds huge. I also highly recommend listening to it through headphones. Some of the panning he did on the album gives a whole different experience through headphones.

What role did Oliver Ackerman play in this album?

Oliver plays guitar on both “Behind the Blindfold” and “Ghosts.” We were very lucky to have him play on this record. So, Oliver comes in, sets up, gives “Blindfold” a listen, and then goes downstairs to record. No run thru, just jumps right in. He starts off on guitar and he is on the ground, hitting pedals with his knees, just ripping right through it. So the song gets to slow part, right before it comes back in super heavy again, and he unplugs his guitar, pops in a contact mic, that he applies to his neck, and just starts howling through his pedals. It was unbelievable. He nailed his parts for both songs on the first takes, weaving in and out, and finding his own space. What he added was perfect, even Martin was blown away. He is an amazing talent and probably one of the nicest dudes you will ever meet.

Who are the Cleveland bands that you see as the forebears of this album/endeavor?

I’m not sure I would really say any Cleveland bands were the “forefathers of this album”. Lisa and John are big fans of the band Craw and I can definitely see connections between us and that band. Another band – and I know, technically Akron but hey! We’re basically one big family – I could see is Devo. Over the summer we were invited to play at MOCA-Cleveland as part of the Mark Motherbaugh: Myopia exhibit. That night we performed a deconstructed cover of “Gates of Steel” at about half the speed. It was super gloomy and almost ballad-y. No one recognized what it was until we got to the chorus.

Speaking of Akron, do you guys use Earthquaker Devices pedals at all?

Three fourths of the band are currently using EQD pedals. Oddly enough, our guitarist Dave is not one of them, yet. Lisa uses the Disaster Transport Sr, John is using the Arpanoid on his drum machine, and I sing though the regular Disaster Transport.

Will there be a book companion to Ghosts? If so, what is the concept?

There is a book. It was designed by Aqualamb label co-owner, Eric Palmerlee. This one is broken into sections or chapters, if you will. It includes photographs from photographers Byron Miller and Lauren Voss, as well as some photos from myself and others. There are also some live and studio shots. This one also includes the lyrics, for which Eric came up with a really cool idea to use a redacted text technique, which looks so fucking cool. Eric did an amazing job, I’m very excited for everyone to get a chance to check it out.

hm book

Will there be a support tour to accompany this album?

We have a few things in the works, nothing concrete right now. We will be hitting New York for sure, sometime this summer. Probably some weekend regional dates, as well.

So I have to ask, we are getting a Melt (Cleveland-based sandwich shop) in Dayton. What should we order?

Well, a few years ago when Melt only had the one location in Lakewood, I was eating there fairly regularly; once every two weeks, sometimes more. Eight years and 20 lbs later, my advice is you should probably just get a salad. But, if you can show a little more restraint than I did, the Chorizo and Potato was always my favorite.

(Visit HIRAM-MAXIM and Aqualamb here: http://aqualamb.org/

Catch HIRAM-MAXIM live:

4/14 Hiram-Maxim — Cleveland, OH — at Now That’s Class w/ Ex-Astronaut

4/24 Hiram-Maxim — Cleveland Ohio — Beachland Ballroom w/ A Place to Bury Strangers)

As Aqualamb Records readies the March 3 release of Hiram-Maxim’s self-titled debut, Steel for Brains has premiered the album’s sprawling, 11-minute lament, “One.” Stream Hiram-Maxim’s “One,” here.

From Cleveland, Ohio, new quartet Hiram-Maxim plumbs the darkest depths of psych, conjuring an experimental, improvisational death-blues that has some critics saying Pink Floyd, others, Oxbow, others, punk rock.

Steel for Brains editor Jonathan Dick calls it “a murky psychedelic venture into a darkness that immediately seems familiar to the Ummagumma days of Pink Floyd… The album’s congruence of spacious ambience and hissing electronics makes for the kind of pulsing abrasion that’s immediately and infectiously rewarding.”

Equally cool is Aqualamb Records, a Brooklyn label owned by graphic designers Eric Palmerlee and Johnathan Swafford, whose releases take the form of 100-page, bound, printed books – essentially, each album’s art and liner notes, traditionally confined to an LP gatefold, a CD booklet, or the screen of some music-playing device, are reconfigured into book form. It is a glorious new approach that might well set a trend.

Pre-order Hiram-Maxim from Aqualamb Records, here.

Hiram-Maxim, live:

Feb 21 – Cleveland, OH  @ Superelectric w/ Goldmines

May 6 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland w/ Six Organs of Admittance

Hiram-Maxim (photo by Lauren Voss)
Hiram-Maxim (photo by Lauren Voss)

From Cleveland, Ohio, new quartet Hiram-Maxim plumbs the darkest depths of psych rock, conjuring an experimental, improvisational death-blues in line with Pink Floyd’s early jams or the creepiest crawlings of Oxbow.

Hiram-Maxim is set for a March 3 release on , a new label with a new approach to releasing music. Masterminded by graphic designers Eric Palmerlee and Johnathan Swafford, Aqualamb’s releases take the form of 100-page, bound, printed books – essentially, each album’s art and liner notes, traditionally confined to an LP gatefold, a CD booklet, or the screen of some music-playing device, are reconfigured into book form. Each book also includes a download code for the music.  Pre-order Hiram-Maxim from Aqualamb Records, here.

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Hiram-Maxim’s Fred Gunn to talk about “The Mistake on the Lake,” the man, the myth, the phenomenon, Tony Erba, coffee, baseball and getting kicked out of the Beachland basement by Cheetah Chrome. This is what he told us.

What’s your town’s nickname?

The Mistake on the Lake.

What’s your nickname for your town?


Why do you live there?

I always say, Cleveland is what you make it but it can be a miserable place to live, if you let it be. Luckily, I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of awesome, active, creative people who try to make it better and a fun place to live.

Did you grow up there? If not, what brought you there?

With the exception of a year and half in Columbus, I’ve been here my whole life.

What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you there?

Not sure if this counts because technically it happened in Columbus. My best friend Carolina and I drove down to Columbus to see Muse play. We met up with some friends from Columbus before the show, went with them and had a good time. When the show ended, we were leaving the venue and there was a guy standing outside the door, handing out fliers. When he got to us, he looks up and says “You’re so Cleveland, it’s disgusting!” Never seen the dude before and it’s not like we were in head to toe Browns gear or anything. But it took us both by surprise and we didn’t really have a retort because what do you say that? Thanks? I’m sure he meant it as an insult but I took it as a compliment.

What is your favorite local attraction (monument, park, etc)?

Lakeview Cemetery.

What is your favorite local event or festival?

My favorite Cleveland event is called Lottery League and is actually how HIRAM-MAXIM started. Lottery League has been held in 2008, 2010 and 2013 and was created by Jae Kristoff, Michael Pultz and Ed Sotolo. The idea came about by the conversation of “How do bands start?,” with the answer being either by friends or like minded musicians coming together. The goal of the project was to eliminate that. The guidelines of Lottery League is to invite a selected group of local musicians, pool everyones names into a bingo hopper and randomly draft bands out of the pool, with the only rules being that musicians must have performed out live previously and that they couldn’t be drafted into a band with someone THEY have already been in a band with before. Bands are then given two months to create a band name and write a 10 minute set of music to preform at “The Big Show.” The goal is to force people out of their element, their “comfort zone,” and create something new.

What is the best time of year to be there?

Summer, for two reasons. One, I’m a big baseball nerd and die-hard Tribe fan. Two, Cleveland Softball. Falls back to what I said about “Cleveland is what you make it…” Cleveland Softball aka Punk Rock Softball, is a league started by Matt Jauch and Jae Kristoff. The league consists of musicians, artists, bicycle enthusiasts, drunks and the indie crowd. Basically, the people who didn’t play sports in high school. The team sponsors range from record stores (Music Saves, My Minds Eye) to music venues (The Grog Shop, Now That’s Class, The Happy Dog) to the record pressing plant (Gotta Groove) to a college radio station (WCSB), to name a few. Anyway, it’s a lot of fun and has brought the scene closer together. I’ve made a whole bunch of friends with people who I would see around town but never had an excuse to talk to.

Who is your favorite local celebrity?

Tony Erba of H-100’s, 9 Shocks Terror, and most recently, Fuck You Pay Me. Tony is a maniac on and off the stage. He recently performed a Christmas show at The Grog Shop, wrapped head to toe in battery powered Christmas lights. Dude puts on a great show, his onstage banter is right on par with his high energy musical performance. There is a reason the man is a punk rock legend around the world. In Cleveland, that is recognized and felt but he’s also just one of us. Which is cool.

Where is the best place to drink and what’s their specialty or happy hour?

I don’t drink, so I’ll go with my favorite coffee shop which is Loop in Tremont. Part coffee shop, part record store, part art gallery. First thing you see when you walk in the door is a “Caution: Hot” sign on a roaster. Loop is pretty chill and is hip without being pretentious or uncomfortable. Baristas are well versed in both coffee and music while being very approachable and friendly. Fuck, I feel like I’m writing a Yelp review. Go to Loop, it rules and Adam is chill, tip him.

Who has the best jukebox (and what’s in it)?

The Beachland has old one that is full of 45’s. Kinda rules. My Uncle Wally’s band, The Baloney Heads’, single “I’m a Drunk” is in there which always makes me smile.

Do you play music there? If so, where is your favorite place to play?

One of my favorite places to play is The Happy Dog (we’re playing our Cleveland Early Record Release show at their new location at The Euclid Tavern with Murderedman and Goldmines on Friday, February 13). The Happy Dog is a favorite venue for local and touring bands alike. Bands play for the entire door and are generally treated very well. Door prices are usually pretty low and people like hanging out there, so turnouts are usually pretty good. And they have tater tots, win-win.

Does where you live influence your music?

That’s inevitable. So yes, it does. There is a gorgeous bleakness about this area that inspires great music.

What is your favorite place to see live music and what was your favorite show there?

I always have fun at The Beachland. The show that stands out in my mind was seeing a reunited Dead Boys in 2004. Cheetah Chrome and Jimmy Zero split vocal duties. A large photo of Stiv Bators hung as a backdrop while his leather jacket hung on a mic stand in the center of the stage. The whole thing was pretty surreal and Stiv’s parents were there too. Pretty rad. Then the next year, they played at the Beachland again on Halloween for their 30th Anniversary and my band at the time, The Sex Crimes, got to play the show. After we finished, Johnny Blitz’s wife came up to us and told how much she enjoyed our set. Then asked if we wanted to come downstairs and hang out with the Dead Boys. Cool! So we go downstairs with her and we’re not down there for more than two minutes when we hear Cheetah go, “Thin it out.” And we were quickly escorted out of the basement, ha! Anyway, it was still really cool.

What is your favorite local band?

This is a rough one. Especially right now in Cleveland, I’m really, really proud of our local music scene. I can’t remember a time in this city when there were so many super fucking good local bands at one time. However, gun to my head, pick one, I’d have to say Goldmines (although I really fucking love Murderedman as well!). Goldmines is Mandy Aramouni, Heather Gmucs, and Roseanna Safos (all formally of Hot Cha Cha) and if they weren’t bad ass enough already, they have recently added Jeanna Lax (who is in another amazing band called Shale Satans). They’re one of those bands that you can tell are just really comfortable playing with and off each other. Mandy’s guitar work is fantastic and unique. When you hear her play, you know it’s her. Ro is one of my favorite drummers and people in Cleveland, she also plays drums with Obnox. Heather rules as well and actually pressed our record at her job at Gotta Groove. Anyway, their album Drag is available for download at https://goldmines.bandcamp.com/album/drag – you’ll want to listen to it 3 times in a row, like I did on my last road trip.

(Shout outs to Filmstrip, Blaka Watra, Shitbox Jimmy, Obnox, Uno Lady, Nowhere, Herzog, All Dinosaurs and New Planet Trampoline as well!)

What is your favorite diner or restaurant and what is their best dish?

The Beachland has brunch every Sunday and after you get over the fact that you’re sitting down to eat in the same room you just saw A Place to Bury Strangers play in the night before. It’s really awesome. Each week features a different guest DJ, food is as locally sourced as possible, vegan and vegetarian options and a bloody mary menu. The biscuits and sausage gravy is my usual go to but Eggs Beachland are pretty kick ass as well.

What is your favorite record store and what was your best find there?

Music Saves, it is down the street from Beachland, celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year and is owned by my good friend Melanie. I’ve helped out at the store for Record Store Day there for the past 3 years and fill in from time to time when needed. The store focuses mostly on newer Indie Rock, but branches out beyond that. Melanie does work with the Waterloo Alley Cat Project, does a series of in-stores called Alley Cat Fridays in the summer, and is generally an awesome person even though she doesn’t eat meat. As far as best find, it was more of a tip off. Melanie was ill so I offered to fill in at the store. She had me pick out a record as a thank you. I picked up The Soft Moon’s Zeroes based solely on the cover art and asked then co-owner Kevin, who was taking over for me, if he had heard this. He was surprised I hadn’t already heard of them already because it was right up my alley. He knows me too well.

What is your favorite local publication (alternative weekly, zine, website or blog)?

Lawrence Daniel Caswell’s Facebook feed, it’s where I get my news.

What is your favorite local shop?

Blue Arrow Records (another record store, ha!). Blue Arrow is also on Waterloo and focuses mainly on used records.

If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?

I don’t know, Akron? Maybe I could just move from the east side of Cleveland to the west side. People swear they’re different cities.

(Hiram-Maxim’s self-titled debut is out March 3 on Aqualamb Records in “book” form… Aqualamb Records is a new Brooklyn label whose releases take the form of 100-page, bound, printed books.



Hiram-Maxim, live:

Feb 13 – Cleveland, OH @ Euclid Tavern w/ Murderedman

Feb 21 – Cleveland, OH  @ Superelectric w/ Goldmines

May 6 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland w/ Six Organs of Admittance)