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Ilsa: Psycho Las Vegas Preview

1 July 2019

Photo: Maire O’Sullivan

Yesterday, we delivered an extensive interview with vocalist/guitarist Stephen McBean of psychedelic stalwarts Black Mountain, who headlined the first Psycho fest and are playing the event — now Psycho Las Vegas — for the third time this year.

Today, we focus on Ilsa, who are in many ways on the opposite end of the spectrum. They’re not only performing at the fest for the first time but sound like Black Mountain shoved through a wood chipper — underscoring the diversity of Psycho’s lineup this year.

It’s rather remarkable that the heralded crusty death/doom-metal outfit is making its Psycho debut in 2019. Conceived in 2008 in the D.C./Baltimore area, the squadron has released a record every year following the release of its debut, The Maggots Are Hungry, in 2009. They played Maryland Deathfest four years later and, most recently, issued their fifth studio full-length, Corpse Fortress (Relapse), in March 2018.

In anticipation of Ilsa’s August 16 performance at Psycho — taking place this year at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino — we chatted via email with the band’s drummer, Joshy, about playing in Vegas for the first time, which other bands he’s eager to see perform, and bringing more blasphemy to the already-depraved Sin City.

Why are you particularly excited to play Psycho? From your point of view, what makes the festival special — both from a performance perspective and as a personal experience?

JOSHY: I’m probably most excited about just getting out to Vegas, and seeing a new part of the country I haven’t been to before, and meeting new weirdos. Of course there’s a whole lot of bands I’m looking forward to seeing, too.

What are your expectations for the festival?

JOSHY: I’m looking forward to swimming in a pool while bands play.

Do you have any surprises planned for your Psycho set, whether they be songs you wouldn’t normally play, added stage elements, etc.?

JOSHY: We’ve got a couple of new songs we’ve been playing around with that should be ready to go for our Psycho set. We also have a third guitar player [Dylan Griffiths, brother of another Ilsa guitarist, Brendan Griffiths] that a lot of people have not seen yet, so that should be fun.

Do you prefer playing in the heat or in the cold? Indoors or outdoors? What are the advantages and disadvantages of playing at the time and on the stage where you’re scheduled to perform?

JOSHY: Being a big man, I much prefer the cold, but I’ll play anywhere, it doesn’t matter to me. 

Tell me something that happened to you in Vegas that was supposed to stay in Vegas.

JOSHY: The only time I’ve been in Vegas was for a layover in the airport, but some of my money definitely stayed in Vegas — inside a slot machine.

What other bands are you most excited to see perform at Psycho?

JOSHY: I’m very excited to see Warhorse play, I’ve loved them for years, never expected to see them play. I’m also psyched to play with Devil Master, Full of Hell and Tomb Mold.

What friends of yours are also playing at the festival? Who are you planning or hoping to hang with in your downtime?

JOSHY: I’m not sure who will be there, but it’s always fun to see friends in bands that you don’t get to see too often.

What can fans and newcomers expect from your performance(s) at the festival?

JOSHY: They can expect blasphemy, cussing and loud volume.

For previous installments of the Big Takeover’s Psycho Las Vegas preview series, check out our interviews with:

• Colin H. Van Eeckhout, vocalist of Belgian post-metal purveyors Amenra
• Jason Shi and Scott Key, singer/guitarist and drummer, respectively, for melodic hard-rock masters ASG
• “Stephen McBean“:, singer/guitarist of long-running psychedelic-rock project Black Mountain
• Greg Meleney, vocalist/guitarist for Portland psych-rock mainstays Danava
• George Clarke, vocalist for shoegaze/black-metal powerhouses Deafheaven
• Victor Vicart of Scottish progressive-metal quintet Dvne
• Zack Simmons, drummer of blackened death-metal demigods Goatwhore
• Emil Amos, drummer of experimental post-rock band Grails
• Julien Chanut, guitarist of French sludge-doom band Hangman’s Chair
• Tony Campos, guitarist and founder of thrash revivalists Hell Fire
• Nashville cosmic-riff connoisseurs Howling Giant
• Stuart Braithwaite, founding guitarist/vocalist of beloved post-rock legends Mogwai
• Thomas Eriksen, centrifugal force behind true Norwegian black-metallers Mork
• All-female Motörhead tribute band Motorbabe
• Tobias Grave, frontman of shimmering post-rock trio Soft Kill
• Derrick Vella, guitarist of death-metal arsonists Tomb Mold
• Niklas Källgren, guitarist of Swedish fuzz fanatics Truckfighters
• Los Angeles Satanic doo-wop duo Twin Temple
• Bruce Lamont, frontman of experimental heavy-jazz project Yakuza and Led Zeppelin tribute band Led Zeppelin 2
• Aaron Rieseberg, bassist of Oregon doom-metal dealers Yob

Also, don’t miss our special feature in which Deafheaven’s Clarke and Mogwai’s Braithwaite discuss their mutual affection for each other’s bands, whether Deafheaven should play their Mogwai cover at Psycho Las Vegas — and the possibility of a collaboration between the two projects.


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