Thursday, February 29, 2024

Interview: Pete Adams – Metal guitarist, fly fisher

FANS of heavy rock/metal music may well be familiar with the diverse sounds of one of the genre’s latest acclaimed bands – Baroness. This American four-piece out of Savannah, Georgia, deliver a potent style of rock music that has been described as a combination of progressive metal, sludge metal and punk.

Formed in 2003, Baroness’s current line-up is John Baizley (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Allen Blickle (drums), Pete Adams (lead guitar and vocals) and Matt Maggioni (bass). The band has released several EPs and the latest in a trilogy of “colour” titled albums – Yellow & Green – a near 80-minutes long double-sider – has received rave reviews (see below for details on how to win this great album).

Baroness visited Australia twice in 2010 as part of the Soundwave festival, and again later in the same year as support to metal giants Metallica.

As well as being lead guitarist for Baroness, Pete Adams is also an experienced and passionate fly fisherman. He has fished in Australia and is apparently extremely keen to do so again – as he told Fisho recently, midway into the band’s current European tour.

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Baroness – (from left) John Baizley, Pete Adams, Matt Maggioni and Allen Blickle.

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Pete Adams in action on stage.

FW: Hi Pete, whereabouts are you right now?

PA: Ah geez, where are we right now … uh, we are in France. We’re in kind of the east side of France, kind of making tracks for Wiesbaden in Germany for other shows tomorrow night … coming from Toulouse.

FW: Are you doing headline shows or festivals over there?

PA: Yeah, we’re doing a bit of both. Headlining shows with a few festivals kind of scattered in between … doing seven weeks of it right now. We’ve been out for maybe three weeks now and another four to go. Something like that. Not that I’m counting the days too close, you know (laughs).

FW: Which other bands have you been playing with?

PA: Other than Baroness the only other band that I’ve had for the last decade has been a band with my brother [Jake], called Valkyrie. Those are the two bands that have kept me busy over the last decade. Before that it was just a … bunch of running around and nonsense.

FW: For people who don’t know Baroness’s music, how would you describe it?

PA: Wow…

FW: Yeah it’s a tough one, sorry …

PA: No, it’s always a little difficult for me to describe but I’d say it’s got a bit of everything … we have a lot of influences you know. I mean together as a band we listen to so much music that we almost cover a little of everything. For instance I was in a bluegrass band for three years so there’s a lot of that kind of stuff in me, as far as you know, a style or the way I may play something. But you know it’s kind of like psych rock you know kind of … progressive metal a lot of people call it. I don’t know…it’s like we’ve got the soft parts as you know, on the Blue Record, you know our soft parts are soft and mellow and melodic and the heavy parts are heavy. There’s a little bit of everything in there I think … for you. [People] may not like everything on our [records] but they may like one thing (laughs)!

FW: Your new record, Yellow and Green is a very diverse album. Did you set out to achieve that when you were writing it?

PA: It was an opportunity for us to get new ideas out and we really wanted to get on it and we didn’t want to say, for instance, rewrite Red [first album] or even Blue [previous album]. We didn’t want do that and to find ourselves in a spot where it was too late to say something new. This day and age we live in … where you’re in a band … everybody’s got to stick you in a genre. I don’t know why everyone feels the need to just pigeon hole bands as much as they do but that’s just the way it is. We definitely don’t want to be lumped in as any straight up metal band or rock band – we just want to be a band with the freedom to write what we want to write when we want to write it, you know what I mean?

FW: You guys toured Australia in 2010 with Metallica. How was that for you?

PA: Oh wow. I don’t think it gets much better than that. I said then if the band breaks up after this tour I guess I’ll be alright (laughs). You know… I mean, where do you go from there?

FW: You must have had plenty of highs since then.

PA: Right after that we took a year off … we’re just getting back out on the road now after a year. We’re making it happen now, yeah.

FW: You played Soundwave in Australia that year as well [2010] and I hear you may be coming out next year for that as well?

PA: Well, we’re keeping our fingers crossed. We’re trying to make it out for sure. I know I want to … if I could tour Australia two or three times as year I’d do it in a heartbeat. It’s becoming one of my favourite places to go. As a child you know, it’s like, Australia? I don’t even know if I could find it on a map you know what I mean, so for me it’s on the other side of the world from Virginia you know (laughs). It’s pretty outstanding and I feel very fortunate to be able to get over there.

FW: How did you find the Australian audiences?

PA: They were awesome. I felt like we had a really good reception … whether we were headlining or … you know, one thing about opening for a band like Metallica is that no one wants to sit through all the opening bands. People are like, “get on with it, let’s get to Metallica”, and that’s totally understandable. But certain nights the opening for Metallica was great, I mean the crowd might have been really amped and other nights not so amped up (laughs). But we headlined some shows as well and they were great turnouts and the crowds were really, really fun. Absolutely.

FW: I understand Baroness and Metallica share the same management now. How’s that working out?

PA: We do. Right off the bat they put us on tour with Metallica so (laughs) I guess you could say it’s working out pretty well. For the last eight, nine years Baroness has been without any management whatsoever. None to be speak of and the only … if you could call it management…we’ve been on Relapse Records for the last three albums and Yellow and Green is contractually our last one. We’ve had such a good relationship with all the folks at Relapse, you know they helped us out with everything They helped us with this, they helped us with that…and when it came to touring you know we had a booking agent and he’d just put us out on tour and we’d just go for it, touring in a van with a trailer. We did thousands of shows … in a van. Then one day we were approached by Cliff Burnstein from Q-Prime and he wasn’t the first manager, you know … to pitch something at us. He started telling us about his resume you know, what he’s been doing since the early seventies. This guy broke Rush, and the Scorpions and Def Lepard… I mean this guy’s resume is ridiculous….what he’s done for the world of music in the last 35 or 40 years is incredible. It’s a real pleasure to be working with a good team of people who really care about your band. The one thing about Q-Prime that I really like is that they don’t take on random bands and they don’t have a long list of them. They only work with a handful of bands that they care about, instead of having a million bands they manage. They’ve taken care of us well thus far.

FW: I’d like to get onto a subject I think you might like to talk about. I understand you’re a keen fly fisher?

PA: Yes I am. Yeah, absolutely… and that’s something I’m not getting to do right now (laughs) at all.

FW: You don’t get time when you’re touring to get out and fish, I’d imagine.

PA: I’m trying to eventually schedule tours that allow me time to fish. I figure as much as I’m travelling there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be wetting a line here and there. I’m working on it.

FW: You didn’t get to fish when you were in Australia?

PA: Yeah, actually I did when I was there. When we came over for Soundwave I found myself in Sydney with a couple of days to kind of spend some time … I was like, I’d love to do some fishing but I didn’t know where to start. So I started doing a little research and I found Sydney Flyfishing, this guy Justin Duggan.

FW: (Interrupts) Justin Duggan?

PA: You know him?

FW: Yeah, I know him.

PA: Yeah, I gave him a shout and he called me right back and said if I get an opening this afternoon I’ll get you right in, otherwise that’s all I’ve got. Didn’t work out but I figured maybe next time out…I’ve never actually been out with a guide. I’d never been on a truly guided fish. I’ve always done it myself or enjoyed the aspect of the adventure of just running out you know … you’re either good to go or you’re not, you know?

FW: Sure.

PA: So in any case, next thing you know we come back with Metallica and I give Justin a big heads up and say, listen, I’d love to go out. Show me the ropes, show me what’s going on out here. We ended up going out for a few days and we had a blast man! Ah, we got into kingfish, we got into salmon, we got into bonito and had a blast.

FW: Great.

PA: Yeah.

FW: That’s great to hear, he’s got a good reputation over here, Justin.

PA: Yeah. You know, he’s an incredible caster, he really is. He’s one of the best casters I’ve ever seen. I’VE EVER SEEN. He can throw… even in a good wind that guy can throw the hell out of a damn line. It’s a trip.

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Fly line shoots through the runners as Pete hooks up to a Sydney king. Image: Justin Duggan

FW: Any parallels between playing guitar and fly fishing?

PA: You know they’re both the two big passions I have in this life and neither of which I feel like I’ve fully… like … [I haven’t] been in this band a hundred per cent yet, I think that’s the parallel that I’m still learning in each one and there’s still room to learn in each one you know? They’re both still challenging. If I still wasn’t on that quest that we all are, to catch that fish, or figure out another way to write or play that song that is unlike any way you’ve done it before or maybe like anyone else has played or done it, coming up with your own unique style … yeah that would be the parallel.

FW: Did you take up fishing at a young age?

PA: Yeah absolutely. I was raised up in Virginia, up in the Allegheny Mountains and back of Highland County Virginia. It’s super remote and as far as the east coast of the United States is concerned it’s some of the least populated counties. There are just nothing but mountains and we’ve got some of the best smallmouth bass fishing and some really, really great trout fishing in those mountains. And you know I came up with my … my father was a hunting guide and that’s how he put food and money on the table for us kids and growing up. My father taught me how to hunt. I was shooting a bow at age five and the same with fishing, but out of four kids I was the only one who took to fishing. And I’ve loved it ever since. He and I would go off fishing together all the time. I was probably about eight or nine when I found an old leather wallet down in the basement with some flies in it and they looked like crickets, and little garsshoppers and big stoneflies. I thought I don’t even know what’s going on here, but I’ve got to figure out how to throw these because they look like fish would eat these things. I took them upstairs and Dad said ‘oh well, I’ve got this old fly rod and I haven’t used it in years’. So that was kind of that. I grabbed the fly rod and I spent most of my young life in the yard with it. Honestly I put it down for several years because I got to a spot where I was too young to understand it. You know?

FW: Yep, yep.

PA: I didn’t understand all the knots and the rigging, I didn’t understand you know … a leader, stuff like that … so I kind of hit a wall with it and then I was 18 years old I picked it back up and something clicked and I just went for it and I never looked back since. I’ve just been kinda going for it ever since.

FW: Do you tie your own flies?

PA: I sure do. Absolutely … yeah I found out real quick how quickly you lose those things! You snag on just about everything from a tree to your own neck, you know you can lose a fly just about anywhere so yeah I started tying and now I’m way into it. But I don’t like tying little dry flies – they bother me … in fact I don’t even like throwing them so I like throwing big nasty streamers, anything from three to six inches long, because I prefer saltwater fishing if I can. Even for trout and bass I’m throwing nothing lighter than a six-weight [rod] and big streamers. I’m way into big streamers.

FW: Have you got a favourite target species in the saltwater?

PA: I got a little taste of bonefishing about eight years ago … honestly, if I had the money to get to the Caribbean or saltwater flats somewhere in the world where I could chase bonefish … if I had the money and the time I’d be doing it all the time. I definitely, absolutely love that fish. It’s such a challenge to try to catch a bonefish. Even moreso of a challenge, I’ve spent a few years chasing permit with my good friend down in the [Florida] Keys. His grandmother has a house there so we’ve always have a place stay. Last year I finally caught my first Keys permit.

FW: Wow.

PA: Yeah. On the flat after you know I don’t know how many I’d thrown at … I finally got one to take. I was more surprised that I had this fish on my line than anything. I looked back at my buddy and I was like, he ate it! (Laughs) What in the world … he finally ate it!

FW: Fantastic.

PA: I enjoy that challenge of the sight casting in sallow water. I really love it.

FW: What about tarpon, have you caught tarpon?

PA: No I’ve never actually caught a tarpon but I’ve thrown at ’em and gotten refused, but I tell you that fish makes me shake man … that fish makes my blood boil in a way I haven’t had any other fish do it! I don’t know if it’s just the size of them … and I think it is … knowing that if this fish takes, it’s gonna totally crush me you know (laughs) . It’s gonna take everything I’ve got to hold onto it.

FW: Yeah, I’d love to fish for them one day.

PA: Absolutely. I’ve got a friend who’s absolutely obsessed … that’s all he does … even when he goes down there during peak migration, you know everything has to be just right. Sometimes he may only jump one you know. He’s gonna get it figured out and I’m just gonna stick a little tighter with him I think.

FW: You touched on it earlier with your permit, but any other memorable fishing experiences?

PA: One of the biggest shot in the dark fishing trips I ever did was [with] a buddy of mine down in the Bahamas. I’d never been and he asked me if I wanted to go down and do some sailing with him. I thought this sounds like a great idea while we’re down in the Bahamas we can just fish everywhere we go. We’re gonna be on a boat right, how can you go wrong? I get down there I link up with my buddy, .we get out to the boat and it turns out the captain is this older feller who taught my friend how to sail … he was a bit crazy, a bit loony and for about a week he kind of kept us confined to the boat … we only had the one dinghy and whenever we would drop anchor somewhere, even right off a flat I couldn’t get to it … he wouldn’t even let us take the dinghy [to fish] and I was starting to get a little frustrated with this guy and he was also kind of a jerk This went on for about a week and he was far from pleasant. After about a week we had a big boiling over one night when [we all] had enough to drink and we had this big argument, this thing with him and it got nasty. The next morning we had to jump ship, we had to get off that boat. At the time we were down on off the Exuma Islands right there in Elizabeth harbour off George Town and we just dropped off at the dock there at George Town, found a room just outside of town found a skiff to rent from this local marina and just went for it. We spent the next week and a half exploring all over the Exumas and … I mean getting stuck at low tide, we lost in mangroves (laughs) we were just absolutely lost in mangroves trying to find a way o1ut. We had a blast man and ended up getting into some really great fishing. I caught my first barracuda down there and it was like I don’t know … about two and a half metres you know.

FW: Wow.

PA: Yeah it was great … that was definitely one of the most memorable fishing trips I ever had. We also ended up getting into several schools of these bonefish of, you know, one to two to three pounds, kind of thing. And also saw the biggest bonefish I’ve ever seen. It was massive… I thought it was a shark when I first saw it and it the worst part about it was he didn’t just refuse my fly, he totally investigated it and I thought he was gonna take it … he came down tipped up sniffed it and did not take the fly! This fish was … I’m guessing, fifteen plus pounds. It was an absolute monster, and I was shaking you know (laughs) my palms were sweaty you know. We had a blast. It ended up saving the trip renting that little skiff and almost running out of petrol on the way back to the marina every day.

FW: Do you eat fish or is it all catch & release for you?

PA: Back home in the freshwater, I’m more of a catch & release guy these days but if I’m on the saltwater it’s hard to pass up such good table fare. Depending on what you’re catching, of course, bonefish and such they all get released. I’d say it’s probably around ninety some odd per cent of the time, but if it’s time for supper, it’s time for supper (laughs).

FW: Do you have a view on the state of fisheries in the US in terms of management and that sort of thing?

PA: For instance in the state of Virginia, our native trout fishery … every trout fishery in that region has suffered a little but from acid rain. Its hard to keep brook trout going. They still thrive in a lot of those mountain streams and rivers but they’re declining. That’s where the one fishery that was amazing has kind of dwindled. But we have simply the worst put and take system in Virginia for the trout fishery … we’ve got fish going into rivers that get too warm by May and June to even hold any sort of fish population. We just have this put and take system that honestly… people come in and they just kill everything, they just decimate it. The trout fisheries that I’ve always loved [inaudible] and there’s a few really good spots but it’s few and far between it’s like putting a band aid on something that needs more. But we’ve got a couple of really great tailwater fisheries but there’s so much dispute between land owners and the state and what you can fish and can’t fish on some of these tailwaters… I don’t know the fisheries in Virginia need a little work. So many ups and downs.

FW: Do you see similar things in happening in management of the saltwater fisheries?

PA: There in Virginia in the Chesapeake Bay the thing that was really hurting the stripers there was the harvesting of menhaden [baitfish] and the over harvesting for the oil. That’s the striper’s number one food source there and that was messing them up pretty badly. They’ve put a halt on that meanwhile there’s a specifc disease that’s also affecting the stripers there in the Bay. It’s the stronghold of stripers on the east coast [Chesapeake Bay], most of them come from the Bay. Some years with the giant stripers you wouldn’t expect there to be a shortage of them and then other years, you know, they’re hard to find.

FW: Do you target them with fly?

PA: Absolutely. It’s kind of hard to go wrong with a big old chartreuse and white Clouser or a [Lefty’s] Deceiver. You know the classics really work for stripers. I definitely don’t do as much striper fishing as I’d like but I think the record on the striper was caught on fly, on a big chartreuse and white Clouser. I think it was a around forty some odd pounds striper on the fly rod. That was out of the Bay, the Bay Bridge tunnel actually.

FW: I should let you go now Pete, thanks very much for your time. When you get out to Australia we should see if we can get you out for a fish?

PA: Absolutely, that would be a pleasure. If I can get out there for Soundwave I’ve got a plan. My plan is to stay in Australia at the end of that tour and simply stay and fish, that’s the plan …

Pete Adams features in this Sydney Fly Fishing Tours clip (from 1.30 mark…)
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WIN the latest Baroness album! – Courtesy of Relapse Records Fishing World is giving away 5 copies of Baroness’s latest double CD Yellow & Green. For your chance to win send us email to “Baroness comp” at comps@fishingworld telling us why in 25 words or less why you’d like to win. 
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