Space In Time's Javram Ciel-Tilton on the greatness of Uriah Heap and 1970s hard rock
Space In Time was started by some friends from the local punk and metal scenes who had rediscovered their love of early '70s hard rock. In 2007, guitarist Javram Ciel-Tilton and drummer Yancy Green tapped some other friends to start a band in that vein, and for the next six years, Space In Time developed into a powerful live act with songs that didn't just sound like some lost band from the '70s.
Listening to Space In Time, if felt like you were getting a window into another era, especially with the addition of singer Mike Atencio, as well as the keyboard work of Vaughn McPherson. Tonight at the Hi-Dive, the band is releasing its second full-length album, one that very much lives up to its name, Rock and Roll. We recently spoke with Ciel-Tilton about his punk roots and the hard rock forefathers of Space In Time whose music seeps into the subconscious of the band's guitarist as he writes his memorable and catchy riffs.
Westword: Did you get started playing guitar at a young age?
Javram Ciel-Tilton: I got started at eleven. It was an Epiphone Strat. It was a shitter, and now I've got a '69 SG that I play, and that thing is as sweet as it gets. I picked that up when I was probably fifteen or sixteen for four hundred bucks. That's my baby.
What inspired you to play guitar?
My dad's a jazz drummer, but I can't play a beat. But I think that's what got me inspired to play, though I was never that interested in jazz. I grew up playing in punk bands and hardcore bands. One of my friends put Bad Religion on when I was twelve years old, and before that, I listened to classic rock, stuff like the Doors, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. When I heard Bad Religion, that was it, so I just listened to punk, emo and hardcore for the next ten years. Then it came full circle back to classic rock. I think the first song I learned to play on guitar was "Back in Black" by AC/DC. The first punk song I learned was a Descendents song -- "Get The Time."
What was your first band?
It was just horrible pop punk. It was called Cloister Boy. We played with Pinhead Circus, Four, Eleventh Hour, Qualm, a little later on, and, of course, Crestfallen. When I got a little older, late teens and early twenties, I got into more heavy stuff like hardcore and metal. Me and Yancy Green played in Arrow Points North. That was our hardcore band for a couple of years. I was in Aberrant with Yancy, as well, for a little while. Then I got into metal.
Is there a particular type of metal that drew you in?
Within Space In Time, Yancy is in Roskopp. Mike Atencio -- "Metal Mike" -- is kind of into classic metal of various genres and subgenres. Charlie Miller is a metalhead, too. I like the early heavy metal, stuff like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. We've been talking about it to find a tag for what Space In Time is, and we settled on "70s influenced heavy rock." But really heavy metal in the '70s, the first metal bands like Black Sabbath and Sir Lord Baltimore -- we've just worked out a cover.
What started Space In Time was Yancy and I listening to a lot of Pentagram and Captain Beyond and, of course, Sabbath. Then Witchcraft came out, and we heard a new band that had a very authentic '70s sound, especially their self-titled first album and their second album. Between those two albums and all the Pentagram and the Captain Beyond -- those were the three bands we listened to a lot and decided to start a really authentic-sounding heavy rock bands.
Except for Pentagram, those bands have kind of a psychedelic sound. Pentagram is just good, heavy rock. And you guys aren't as psychedelic these days either.
What we try to do, and what I think sets us apart, is to not be a stoner rock band or even a metal band, but just trying to have a very authentically early '70s hard rock. Then we brought the organ element into it and Vaughn McPherson joined the band. Uriah Heep is one of my personal favorites, if not my favorite and, of course, Deep Purple and many other bands.
What is it about Uriah Heep specifically do you appreciate most?
They have every element. The musicianship is there, technically and perfectly crafted songwriting, with really catchy and memorable songs. And they also write some of the heaviest riffs and have an incredibly wide range of sounds. Their songs encompass so much. Their singing? The vocal harmonies...I can't think of another band that had the singing down like they did.
Plus with the original line-up, or at least with David Byron on vocals, Ken Hensley on keyboard, vocals and guitars and Mick Box on guitar -- with different drummers and bass players the whole time -- but that main line-up did nine studio albums, and I think all of them are awesome.
Of all the bands that influenced us I would say that the first three albums influenced us most. That's true for Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple -- I guess they had Rod Evans, the singer for Captain Beyond, was their first singer, and I love everything they did with Rod Evans, and the first three albums they did with Ian Gillan, of course, are unbeatable. I like the first six Uriah Heep albums. Start to finish, there's not one dud on all six of those albums.
As I've delved further into the depths of '70s rock, it's endless. I've collected vinyl my whole life, and I haven't even scratched the surface, and you go more obscure from every country. For every British band and American band, there are just as many from Norway or Italy or France or Japan.
Our friend Jefe is a real music buff, and he turns me on to new '70s bands, and as soon as I think I have a handle on it, I learn about twenty more bands that were as good as Zep or Sabbath, but they never got the record deals, just two records or so. Bow Wow is a Japanese band he turned me on to. Flower Travellin' Band is a big influence on us. I could go on and on.
When you got Mike as the singer, he really brought something to the music. How did you find him?
He's been in the Denver seen for forever, too. The band he was in when he joined Space In Time was Steel Blades of Vengeance. So we just know him from the scene and that band. What we all have in common is everything from Sam Cooke to Slayer. But we all collectively love early '70s heavy music, and they call Mike "Metal Mike," and if you want to talk to someone about metal, he could go on for days. He's like an encyclopedia of metal. It was new for him, in terms of singing, because in Steel Blades of Vengeance, it's not the same type of vocals.
Your music is very catchy, especially for a heavy band.
I don't think we consciously write catchy songs; we just try to write the best riffs we can, so that probably just naturally comes out.
As a guitarist, who do you find most inspirational on what you do?
I'll tell you the secret -- I shouldn't, probably. What we'll do -- at least Charlie and I, because we all write -- is get hooked on a band or two and listen to it obsessively and then subconsciously a song will come out as we're practicing, writing or playing, so the theme of a band or an album or a couple of different songs from a couple of different artists will permeate our subconscious, and then just come out in what we hope is a unique song.
Honestly, I'll find a new band or a song, and I just can't stop listening to it. Then a new song will come out for Space In Time, and I don't think anyone would ever know. But we have so many different influences we draw from to create our own sound. We've worked hard on creating not only a unique sound but also a huge variety from song to song. So that's something else we're always conscious of in our songwriting -- to not have all our riffs and songs sound the same. We try to keep it nice and varied and keep it interesting.
That's something we've tried to do from the beginning, as in not pigeonholing ourselves into one sound or riff. You hear that a lot with some bands. They take one super killer riff that most likely Sabbath wrote and then they speed it up a bit, and that's kind of the basis for their entire sound. We're trying not to fall into that trap. Also, Mike is a fantastic lyricist so we're really proud of our lyrics.