The End: James Wetzel of Melkbelly - Scaling the Two Towers | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The End: James Wetzel of Melkbelly

Scaling the Two Towers

May 08, 2020 Photography by Ariella Miller Web Exclusive
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To end out the week, we ask James Wetzel, the drummer for Melkbelly, some questions about endings and death.

The Chicago four-piece also features Miranda Winters (vocals/guitar), Bart Winters (guitar), and Liam Winters (bass). They recently released their new album, PITH, via Wax Nine/Carpark. PITH is the band’s second album, the follow up to 2017’s debut, Nothing Valley, and was recorded at Bloomington, Indiana’s Russian Recording in two short sessions six months apart with the band’s longtime collaborator Dave Vettraino. Lyrically, the album was borne of loss and mourning.

“We lost an incredible friend suddenly and nostalgia always acts as a helpful tool for me in navigating difficult times,” Winters explained in a press release announcing the album. “Revisiting emotionally challenging moments or significant social interactions helps shed light on confusing feelings for me. Lyrically, grief gave way to considering life.”

Read on as Wetzel talks about how and when he’d like to die, what songs he’d like played on his deathbed and at his funeral, his concepts of heaven and hell, and his ideal last words.

How would you like to die and what age would you like to be?

As a preface I have to say I hate talking about death, so I’m really stepping out of my comfort zone here. My wife loves to talk about death, so she’ll be proud. Okay! How would I like to die and at what age? Old age, 100+.

What song would you like to be playing at your deathbed?

Lightning Bolt: “2 Towers.” No fucking around on the deathbed. At 100+ I’ll need something loud enough to hear because I’ll likely be deaf.

What song would you like to be performed at your funeral and who would you like to sing it?

Sonny Sharrock to perform “Many Mansions”—Sonny plays with such emotion it would be perfect. But I would demand a full band production so I could get Elvin Jones on the kit to drip some sweat on my tombstone.

Backup: The song Éowyn sings for Théodred’s funeral in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. I think it might be an extended version scene, but it’s beautiful. We can get a Two Towers theme going here…

What’s your favorite ending to a movie?

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers—because the build-up is insane and we’re left with the Shelob cliffhanger. “We could let… hher do it” – Gollum. Eeek, chilling. But actually come to think of it, Fellowship of the Ring has a better ending—it made me all teary-eyed when I rewatched it last winter. R.I.P. Boromir and good luck to Sam and Frodo.

What’s your favorite series finale last ever episode of a TV show? (Or what’s your least favorite?)

On the subject of death—Six Feet Under. Wow, what a tearjerker. Everyone always wonders about the futures of their favorite characters in TV shows, and Six Feet Under closes the loop.

Second choice: The Sopranos’ black out. It gets a lot of flack, but also it’s beautiful in that you don’t really know what happens and it’s all left open to interpretation. I would expect nothing less from David Chase.

Whose passing has most affected you?

I had a close friend pass away in my early 20s. He was an amazing artist and a huge inspiration to me. He was quiet, shy, and hilarious. He passed away suddenly and mysteriously, and I still don’t have a lot of closure with it. The last thing he said to me when we parted ways was “it’s not over.” I think about him all the time.

If you were on death row, what would you like your last meal to be?

A triple cheeseburger with onion rings and a hot fudge sundae from Winsteads (KC establishment). But I think they just went bankrupt so that might not be available. I could get down with some comforting panang curry before I go.

What’s your concept of the afterlife?

Reincarnation as a cat of some kind. Cats are a little bit closer to God and God is impossible for humans to fully comprehend.

What would be your own personal version of heaven if it exists?

It’d be like one of those cheesy season finales of a TV show where you’re surrounded by all your family and friends at a picnic on the beach and everyone is happy and smiling. But then there would be a shack on the beach with drums in it and I could escape to play whenever I wanted.

What would be the worst punishment the devil could devise for you in hell, if he exists?

Constant noise complaints every time I finally get into a zone on the kit. The devil is all around me!

If reincarnation exists, who or what would you like to be reincarnated as?

A leopard? They live largely in isolation and keep to themselves. According to the Internet they only come together to mate ;) Nowadays with social distancing and quarantines, that skill-set (isolated living) would be essential.

What role or achievement would you most like to be remembered for?

Pushing forward the art-form of drumming, or at least attempting to at the best of my abilities. And leaving behind as many recordings of my music as possible. I need to kick it into gear! You look at a prolific musician like Sun Ra and he left behind days and days worth of records and practice tapes. So much evidence of his mastery and innovation. Or a living artist like Aphex Twin. Seems like almost every week I’m discovering some new Aphex release that I’d previously never heard of.

What would you like your last words to be?

Man I always joke about what to put on my tombstone any time I drop a good line. But the best thing I can think up right now… “Never give up.”

Also read our recent My Firsts interview with Miranda Winters of Melkbelly.

Plus also read our recent Self-Portrait feature with Miranda Winters of Melkbelly.

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