Updated: Aug 6
In this interview, he talks about the humble beginnings of SRA [Stoner Rock Army], finding inspiration in unlikely places, and not taking yourself too seriously.
An Article by Alexandra Chartrand
Through Montreal’s musical landscape, where night time neons and cracked sidewalks promptly meet; around the bend and into the underground scene is where we will naturally find him most.Where the riffs are heavy enough to melt your eyelids and make you feel alive.That is where the General and his trademark cowboy hat calls home.The man, Eric Varasifsky, however, is tucked away in a homey little Verdun apartment in the same neighborhood he grew up in.Full of life, music and family
It’s a sunny Friday afternoon, just winding down from the workday hustle when I find myself on the phone with this eccentric man.At 5:30 sharp we get to catching up on things as we would pre-quarantine and excitedly ask each other, as friends do, what we’ve been up to.For him, it has been a mixture of quiet family life and working hard on bringing Stoner Rock Army into the future.The bustle of balancing home life and endless creative projects can be heard in the background, a pleasant change of pace from when this [pandemic] first hit us. There’s some casual conversation afoot before digging into the questions I have hand-selected to get to encounter the man behind the persona of the General..
A character conceptualized around the time Stoner Rock Army got its wings. It started as a friendly joke among friends and sprouted into the character he is today.I absolutely had to know where it [the character] came from. So I humbly asked.Eric starts with a soft chuckle“ Originally, Marcus [Graybeard] from Fuzzheavy radio gave me that nickname.He asked me if I would do a podcast for him and I said yes because I had never done a podcast before. He mentored me through the process. I didn’t have a name for it.So, since we are Stoner Rock Army, he suggested the General. It stuck.” Every good army needs a General, and I think they found the perfect one.
So, after 8 long years in the making and 4 attempts (and a three year old nickname) to get off the ground, Stoner Rock Army has its feet rooted here in Montreal and a general to usher them into heavy metal history.
Doom Service: How did Stoner Rock Army take shape? What inspired you to start a music collective?
The General: Basically, Stoner Rock Army started 8 years ago when stoner rock wasn’t as popular as it is today. We started as Stoner Rock Montreal and from there it took on many forms before we settled on the name [Stoner Rock Army]. I was inspired by the Kiss army; they have such a tight-knit community. I thought [SRA] could do the same, promote a sense of unity among fans and musicians alike.
Did you expect it to grow as much as it has in the last little while?
The General: Never! I knew my first goal was to put underground stoner rock on the map. To give people exposure and bind as a family. You know, like [Trekkies] or horror fans, just one big family of likeminded individuals.
Your platform is Facebook-based. Do you think that as much as the internet remains an essential tool, it has shifted the way the music industry operates for better or worse?
The General: It’s a good thing, now more than ever. It gives people a wider range of opportunities.We work a lot with Bandcamp as a tool to expose artists better. But of course, it has its drawbacks. If there was no pandemic, I would say it helps a lot more to go see bands live and buy their merch directly from them.
It’s safe to say that by now you’ve discovered a lot of music. Which artist(s) is a big inspiration to you? Why have they remained a mainstay in your repertoire?
The General: It’s tricky to say. I’ve never been asked that before. I want to say all of them, each and every artist is bringing something unique to the table. Every band has something special about them. But if I absolutely had to specify, I love obscure 70s bands, Black Sabbath and Uncle Acid.
To follow up, how has music influenced you. Do you feel you’re achieving the same impact?
The General: Every time I hear something I like, I get goosebumps.I
t’s like a body language to me. I grew up around musicians all my life so music has become second nature. I have no idea if I’m making an impact of that magnitude but I hope what I do brings people that feeling.
I have to ask, how does it feel being the General? What do you think he represents?
The General: It sucks, I’m always wearing a hat. For one, I block everyone’s view at shows (sorry everyone) and secondly, now I can’t leave my house without it. But really, I love it, it’s fun! It’s a 24/7 job 365 days a year. The General is a personification of rock’n’roll attitude. Almost like a mascot, in a way, of rocking out. That’s what I like best about him.
The General is a bit of a well-known character in the local scene. Have you ever had any strange interactions with people?
The General: Really strange, no. But it has happened that someone has asked me for an autograph or a picture in the past.I’m actually really shy so it’s surreal to me whenever someone does.
You and I know this but for those at home, what are some of your favourite hobbies right now?
The General: Drinking beer.I’m mostly kidding. Actually, I’m a big spaghetti western fan. I watch [the] movies and read [spaghetti] western novels. I also watch a lot of horror movies but, my number one hobby is listening to music.
What’s your weirdest hobby?
The General: I like looking for technical mistakes in movies. Like when a shot looks slightly off or when the soundtrack doesn’t add up for a split second.I’m obsessive about it.
Let’s get silly for a moment, what’s the most useless skill you’ve discovered you have?
The General: I can wiggle my nose like a rabbit but please don’t ask me to do it. Unless we’re having a few beers, then maybe I can show you.
If you could only have one beer for the rest of your life, which would it be?
The General: Only one type of beer? I can’t pick just one! Any kind of beer is fine as long as it’s drinkable.
And lastly, what advice would you give to any emerging artist or band?
The General: Be yourself, rock hard, believe in yourself and have fun with it. Don’t ever make music for other people, do it for yourself first. You know, don’t take yourself too seriously. We’re all in it together. It’s [music] a vibe, a feeling.Eventually, someone is going to catch on. Now more than ever, because of [the pandemic] I think artists need to hear that we’re all a big family and that in music we unite.
I kindly thank The General, one last time for being such a good sport and for being such a great interviewee before we hang up. He has left me with a much better perspective on what Stoner Rock Army stands for, and what kind of journey it underwent to become what it is today. An ever-growing family of like-minded rockers. Working together to unite us across the globe and bring heavy music back to the forefront of the underground as a true mainstay. A big feat to be completed but an honourable one indeed.