Categories
Interview

Talking S.H.I.T.

S.H.I.T. is a raging hardcore band from Toronto, Ontario. In 2014 they put out three ripping 7”s for three estimable labels: Iron Lung, Lengua Armada and the UK’s own Static Shock. Greg (guitar) and Ryan (voice) were good enough to do an interview with us, and their answers are far better than my stupid, glib questions, so many thanks to them for their time, effort and intelligent responses. You can listen to the band’s music here and keep up to date with their goings-on here.

Tell us a bit about S.H.I.T. What brought you together, and what kind of a racket were you initially aiming for?

Ryan: The band started as a bad joke or some kind of challenge. Greg and I were sitting around drinking one night, probably reminiscing about the corny hardcore bands we were playing in around the early 2000s. Greg expressed his desire to play drums in a band, having no previous experience playing the drums. I told him that it was a terrible idea and he said that I should sing in the band. I joked that the band should be called SHIT, because that is most likely what we’d sound like. We decided it would be a great idea to recruit other friends that had little or no previous experience playing in bands and it was a fucking disaster. Our first couple jam sessions we had zero direction, Greg could barely keep a beat and we all lost interest pretty quickly. I think we sounded kind of like a bad Germs cover band. After a few weeks we decided we’d take another shot at it. This is basically how the current line-up formed. We took a simpler approach this time as a hardcore band and wrote the demo in about three jam sessions. We had all known each other and were friends through hardcore for about a decade. I think we created what we did as a result of this sense of familiarity but also the diverse music tastes/experiences of everyone involved. I don’t think any of us had a real idea of what the end result would sound like until we recorded the demo.

Ok. Much as I dislike asking the ‘band name’ question, what the fuck is going on with S.H.I.T? What’s the rationale? Did you want people not to buy your t-shirts? Were you just hoping to compete with GISM and the various PISSes in the bodily fluids stakes? 

Ryan: It can all mostly boil down to “the joke that went too far”. I think a lot of people hate the name and think it is incredibly stupid (a few of them are in the band). While I don’t disagree, I think that this reaction means that it was successful at provoking people to some degree. I think it was ridiculous to name the band SHIT and maybe that played some part in people’s curiosity with it. Making the name an acronym but never explicitly explaining it just furthered the provocation. From the beginning people seemed to love making up their own acronyms for the band, ranging from funny to not funny to completely absurd.

I think the name works and is appropriate as far as modern hardcore punk is concerned. To me, S.H.I.T. represents a place and time where absurdity and sensationalism meet the illusion of greater meaning. Mass media control, celebrated ignorance, self-obsession, a culture of violence and sexual exploitation all play into the illusion. This is life in the 21st century… it’s all just SHIT at the end of the day.

The ever-reliable internet informs us that S.H.I.T. occasionally stands for ‘Sexual Humans In Turmoil’. Ok then. Considering 94% of all music ever is about making the beast with two backs, hardcore, despite the connotations its name might imply, has been a curiously sexless genre. The last few years, however, have seen all manner of bands muttering about man muck and going on about bonking. Oftentimes these depictions are not ‘sexy’ but at least ‘sexual’. What do you think gives? Has hardcore finally hit a delayed pubescent hormone rush? 

Greg: See, I’d argue that. There’s been a long history of punk bands that at the very least questioned gender and gender roles. Without diving too far into it, I’d point at Limp Wrist. Martin’s lyrics in that band are incredibly smart and not just for their content but in what that band would do to a seemingly average hardcore audience. Case in point, in what social setting is it normal and widely accepted for people to get that close to each other, to jump and climb on each other, other than hardcore punk? Repressed sexuality abounds!

I have to admit, while I love the 7”s I thought the demo was merely ‘ok’. How do you think the band has grown and developed over time, was there any sort of ‘step change’ for the band and how has the writing/recording process changed for you

Ryan: When we wrote and recorded the demo I don’t think any one of us expected to have much of a positive response or even an intention to tour, we just wanted to do it – to make something. Since then we’ve tried to play as much as we possibly can, anywhere we can. Last year we did a West Coast tour and even got to play the UK. This year we’re doing a Texas tour with Power Trip and playing a festival in Mexico City. I can definitely say that travelling as a band and meeting like-minded individuals abroad has grown my perception and understanding of hardcore punk, DIY culture and how it all fits into the modern social/political/technological landscape. With respect to the writing and recording process, it has been an uphill battle. In 2014, we finally released all the material we had written and recorded the year prior. We have written and recorded ONE new song since. Currently, I think we might be the most unproductive band in existence considering how much we play.

What can you tell us about the three 7”s and the songs on them? Titles like ‘Collective Unconscious’ and ‘Feeding Time’ are weirdly, quietly sinister, so it’d be good to hear what’s going into it all…

Ryan: As I had mentioned before, all the material on the 7″s was written and recorded in 2013 as one session. We had originally toyed with the idea of putting it all out at once as an LP, but ended up breaking it up into three 7″s released on different labels throughout 2014. Regarding the lyrical content of the songs, I tried to take more of an abstract or existential approach to writing I guess. I feel like the human psyche serves as a modern battleground and I’ve always had a fascination with the subconscious, perception and our notions of reality. My intention was to focus on how systems of control affect our bodies and minds as well as how we perceive our environment, ourselves, and other people. I wanted to explore the metaphysical war that is waged on a society that is increasingly self-obsessed, yet lacking in real awareness and real action. We live in an age where the human experience is continually being assaulted and distorted, reality and fantasy becoming more and more indistinguishable to the masses. Nowadays, people seem to value their delusions more than real interaction or experience. I wanted to write lyrics that are relevant to existence in this day and age.

Let’s talk about those vocals. They’re horrible, and make me feel like a paint scraper is being used on the inside of my skull. What are you trying to do to people, and why use all that reverb?

Ryan: The vocal delay effect was added by Jonah when we recorded the demo. I think he decided to utilize it to fill out the spaces in the vocal patterns and create a kind of rhythmic, cerebral chaos. I think it has this kind of psychedelic element to it, which I think is cool.

While I love hardcore, a lot of it sounds the same. And that’s boring. S.H.I.T. doesn’t sound the same. And that’s good. Were you intentionally tried to sound a bit whacked out and ‘out there’, or is that just the way you roll?

Ryan: I think it has more to do with us trying to avoid emulation as a starting point. We never set out to sound exactly like any particular band from the get-go.

I read the interview you did with Suspect Device/Zonked and was really taken with you saying how averse you are to peoples’ fragmenting hardcore down into various micro-genres, as this is something that’s been seriously bugging me over the past few years. Much as I love many bands who effectively define/distil genres (Crossed Out, Discharge, Blitz, whoever…) I’m generally peeved by bands who slavishly try to ape a specific sound, style or point in time. After all, it seems almost silly to start at a band’s end point at the exclusion of all else, and when you slave away at emulating something you often lose some of your own energy along the way. At first I didn’t really know where I was going with this question, but I guess the nub of it is this: how do you go about making straightahead hardcore music which is distinct and different, considering the genre’s parameters and also all the music you’ve consumed yourselves? 

Greg: I’d simply say this – be creative. It’s a bit silly to give any more input than that. When you make something, people will like it or they will not. Some people are keen to like things that cohesively merge things they like. Others are keen to like things that sound exactly like something else that they like. There is no true answer. All I can say is that fragmentation of individuals with seemingly like minded concerns is dumb as shit to me. 

Toronto seems to have a brilliant and rather incestuous punk rock scene. It’s pretty great. How do you think that such a comparatively small city is capable of generating so much good punk?

Greg: We’re not exactly a small city by North American standards. We’re actually fourth largest. With that being the case, I’d say we produce a comparatively small number of good bands. That said, Toronto is on an upswing and I think, if not this year, within the next few, there will be a remarkable surge of meaningful punk music from here. The number of punk spaces is slowly multiplying. The scene is young and growing. It’s just a matter of keeping it moving forward now.

What can you tell us about S.H.I.B.G.B’s? Where’s the project at, and what was the motivation for it? 

Greg: S.H.I.B.G.B’s is essentially a concrete bunker under an industrial strip, in what was once a dejected but is now deemed “up and coming” part of town. If you didn’t know it was there, you probably wouldn’t be able to find it. With the rapid gentrification / condo-ification that’s gone on in the city over the last decade, not to mention the fact that “everyone’s a DJ”, most live venues that would host punk events have been shuttered. In that, we opened our own space. I do not know how long it will last. I do not know what it looks like even a year from now. For now, we’ve hosted a great number of shows and they are getting better and better. We’ll see what the future brings.

I realise this is old news, but I was enormously upset when my Canuck other half told me that Hits & Misses was no more. Where’s your top tip for TO punk vinyl these days? Rotate This?

Ryan: Hits was a great place to buy records and hang out and Pete is a legendary dude. It being gone leaves a pretty big hole as there are no real dedicated punk record stores in Toronto at the moment. Greg operates a small distro at SHIBGB’s and we have plans to hopefully expand that into a shop later this year.

Greg: Rotate This, absolutely. Incredible shop, incredible staff. Soundscapes is great for books. June Records has a nice staff. Other than that, there’s a couple decent used spots that I’ll keep to myself. Every other record store blows.

While many tr00 pvnx have long since turned their back on Fucked Up, I imagine they were a pretty important band for TO’s punk scene. Would you say their success/above-ground popularity has had an impact on people coming to gigs, getting involved, starting bands and all the rest of it? 

Greg: 10 years ago, absolutely. When they were coming up within hardcore, people would travel from all over just to see them. As they’ve changed, hardcore has also changed. First, people don’t seem to travel as much these days. And second, here, Fucked Up haven’t been a “hardcore” band for about 5 years now. That’s not to say that they are not involved any more, because some of them very much are. I just don’t think at this point people find their way to a gig at S.H.I.B.G.B’s say, because they just got into Fucked Up.

As well as the standard hardcore document that is the 7” single, you have a few tapes out. Why bother when you can whack shit (S.H.I.T?) up on bandcamp or whatever? Do these tapes represent some kind of totemic, time-and-a-place kind of thing or are they just a throwaway item that can be chucked out quickly and cheaply? 

Greg: I don’t know if they are totemic, but absolutely, when this world is a burnt up pile of garbage and aliens are digging through the rubble, we want them to find S.H.I.T. recordings. That’ll never happen with a bandcamp. And really, a band’s physical recordings are very much part of what forms their identity long term. That’s why it should be done. They are testament to effort, time and place. So, maybe they are totemic?

Also, in terms of format, is there any likelihood that there’ll be a S.H.I.T LP, or do you think the band works best in short, terse blasts? 

Ryan: I think the likelihood of an LP relies more on our productivity (or lack thereof) rather than a preference to any particular format.

Greg: Personally, I like the fact that the “industry” and dorks look down on you for not having a full length like it’s some sort of important goal to reach. People who are interested in what we do will find us.

What’s next for the band? What are your short-term goals and what, if anything, would you  ultimately like to achieve? 

Ryan: We have a Texas tour planned with Power Trip at the end of the month, we are playing a fest in Mexico city and have a gig in NYC just before New York’s Alright. We also have a new track being released as a part of a comp put together by Beach Impediment Records. Beyond that, we are going to focus on writing new material this year which will hopefully result in a new release of some sort.

http://whatwedoissecrete.bandcamp.com

Categories
Interview

An interview with Lions Of Tsavo

Despite the band being around for a while, ‘Traverser’ was the first album I heard from Lions Of Tsavo and it fair near exploded my skull. The band play a crushing mix of metal that offers up blackened shrieks, momentous sludge-outs, math-rock dynamics, progressive tendencies and a canny knack for seamlessly weaving all this disparate stuff together.  They are, to be frank, pretty ruddy impressive. Even though it took me ages to get my act together Ryan and Daine were good enough to answer some questions for the CZ…

Ok, so can we please start with the simple stuff: how, when, where and why did Lions Of Tsavo get started?

Ryan (vocals/guitar): Well, basically around 2003, Josh [Dawkins, drums], I and our original bass player Matt moved down to Austin, TX from Ohio to give Lions Of Tsavo a fresh start in a new city. I had been to Austin quite a few times by then, and thought it would be a great place to live and play music. We had all been in bands together previously, so we knew it could work, and I pretty much had the band name as well as the concept along with four or five songs written by that time to convince them. It took us about a year to get things rolling, but by 2005 we were recording our first record with Billy Anderson and playing shows pretty regularly. In 2008, Daine joined on bass while Matt switched to second guitar – that was around the time we recorded the ‘Swarm Of All Unholy’ EP, but that lineup only lasted about a year before Matt departed and we reverted back to a three piece again.

What was the initial plan for the band, and how do you think you’ve kept to (or strayed from) it?

Ryan: The initial concept tying into the band name itself was the idea of ‘nature versus humanity’, Mother Nature taking back and righting the wrongs of mankind’s tampering. We’re exploring the possible consequences of hundreds of years of environmental destruction caused by our hands, as well as pointing out the reality of already occurring events. We’ve kept that going as a common thread throughout our work, even as we grow and try new things musically and lyrically.

How would you say the band has grown and developed over time?

Ryan: I think mainly we have grown in our attention to detail/composition and the ability to execute our ideas better, especially when looking back at the almost blind fury and unchecked rage of our early material. ‘Traverser’ was a huge leap forward for us, as far as having a defined storyline/theme for the record, as well as the amount of time spent hammering out the song structures and the way everything flowed together.  Basically I see ‘Tsaunamicron’ as the record of a young band trying to find its feet and identity, ‘Firelung’ as the next logical step showcasing both the path forward as well as some dead ends, the ‘Swarm Of All The Unholy’ EP as an experiment in adding more progressive elements and seeing how much ‘heavier’ we could get, and ‘Traverser’ as the culmination of everything taken to a new dynamic level.

Daine (bass):  When I moved to Austin in 2007, ‘Tsunamicron’ was the only recording at that time, and I thought it was a very fresh take on heavy music. It was pummeling, but it wasn’t boring in that typical ‘metal band’ kind of way.  The writing was strong; you could hear some different influences but it was unique – that’s what personally drew me to the band, and I’d like to think we have continued building on those ideas.

What can you tell us about ‘Traverser’? What went into it and led it to be the way it is? Are there any specific themes or ideas running through the record?

Ryan: Long story short, the whole concept for the first half of the album is Mother Nature wiping the earth clean through various plagues and natural disasters save for one individual referred to as the “Traverser”. They are then reborn at the point where life began and forced to walk across the earthen landscapes, whilst seeing the horrors of humanity through the eyes of every creature in existence.  It is also kind of an ongoing story that I don’t necessarily see ending with these particular songs. I guess we embraced our inner prog leanings with this one, but the whole concept was a great inspiration to us finishing the songs and giving them purpose.

Daine:  The writing process for this record took a couple of years to complete, which helped to give diversity to the songs.  We were able to take time to grow as a band, and in turn to craft the best possible compositions while following a certain concept.  ‘Chemotrophs’ and ‘Sea Of Crises’ were the first to emerge, and then ‘Bestial Heavens’, which were all steps in different directions.  I think we all had the same idea, but wanted to experiment in how to convey the central storyline while still challenging ourselves in how we write music together.

To me, it’s a very ‘complete’ album: it’s not something you can necessarily dip into – you have to experience it as a whole piece of work. Was it conceived and written as such, or is this just a happy accident?

Ryan: It was very much conceived as such, and I intentionally sequenced the songs in a way that made the entire album flow together as a journey…something you had to experience as a whole rather than just a collection of individual moments. We also had the song order for the album pretty much set before recording even commenced, rehearsing the material in different combinations until we thought it worked best. We thought of the record being in two distinct halves, and that is actually how we ended up recording it.

Daine:  I hesitate to use the term ‘concept album’, but that’s basically what it is.  Every song progresses the storyline to its ultimate conclusion.  The idea was that on vinyl, the A side and B side would be quite different.

It also seems incredibly taut and well-regimented. Are these songs mapped out carefully and precisely, or is the process looser and more organic than that?

Ryan: A little of both. We spent a lot of time working on every aspect of every song, but a few of them came about pretty organically, through the process of improvising and exploring things that just ‘happened’ at rehearsals. Everybody put their input into the process as we structured the songs, and we were all very happy with the outcome as a result.

It’s obviously been a while since the album came out, so what have you been up to since then?

Ryan: We did some touring throughout 2014 as well as steadily playing shows in and around Austin, TX. We’ve also been working on new song ideas since ‘Traverser’ was finished.

Are you working on new material already? If so, how would you say it compares to the ‘Traverser’ stuff, and what did you learn from the writing/recording process?

Ryan: We are getting pretty deep into the writing process for the next record. So far everything is sounding massive and in many ways both more progressive and focused than ‘Traverser’. I personally see ‘Traverser’ as being shrouded in a melancholic and hazy atmosphere, and in a way I wanted to break out of that for the next one. Not just to have the songs be more ‘forceful’, but also to not repeat ourselves. The self-production on ‘Traverser’ was highly rewarding and beneficial towards making the album we wanted to make, but it was also very much a learning curve and certainly took its toll on my sanity in a way. At this point, I’m not sure whether we will be self-producing again or going into a studio and having someone else take control of the recording process, but I’m looking forward to getting it done regardless.

Daine:  We are always working on new things.  Even before ‘Traverser’ came out, we were already hammering out potential riffs for new songs.  We all love writing.  It’s my favorite part of playing music.

To me, the band lobs in a whole load of different influences from right across the metal spectrum. While there are plenty of bands doing this, Lions Of Tsavo do it in a way where it’s almost impossible to see where the joins are: there’s no sense that ‘this is the black metal bit’ and ‘this is the mathy bit’. Do you have to work hard to get the flow of things right, or is it an easy process and I’m just making too much of it?

Ryan: Honestly, we just write songs we want to hear. We don’t focus that much on incorporating too many obvious or direct influences into the material.  Sometimes the process is natural and sometimes it involves a lot of work to get to where we need the song to be. Also, there is a pretty wide range of influences between the three of us, so sometimes it might be that individually we are approaching certain parts from different angles, and that’s what makes it unique, hopefully.

Of all the genres you splice together, where would you say your hearts truly lie? 

Ryan: There are certainly common thread bands the three of us share, from the Melvins, Neurosis, Unsane, and Deathspell Omega to Pink Floyd, Rush, King Crimson and Black Sabbath, and even a lot of heavy 90s stuff like Kyuss, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Ministry, Godflesh, Tool, etc. I personally tend to gravitate towards the old Dischord (especially Hoover and Lungfish), Touch & Go, Amphetamine Reptile, and Gravity Records type of bands I grew up listening to, as well as post-punk stuff like Killing Joke and The Cure, but things like Failure, God Machine and 16 Horsepower/Wovenhand go hand in hand with listening to Voivod, Today Is The Day and His Hero is Gone…so I’m pretty much all over the place.

Daine:  There’s something about the songwriting in newer black metal that is extremely interesting to me; it’s basically taking all the previous unsaid rules of writing metal and throwing them out the window.  The freedom that you have with song structure, time signatures, chord progressions – it draws a lot from prog and even jazz to some degree, and I really tend to gravitate towards that.  But obviously nothing is better than the first five Sabbath records.

I have to admit, it was seeing one of you wearing a Kerosene 454 t-shirt in a promo pic that piqued my interest in the band. This is lame, I know. Some e-research (aka cyber stalking) then led me to discover that at least one of you had been in Ambassador 990, a band I really like. What was the journey like from that band to this one? Were A990 closet metalheads or has the metamorphosis been a gradual one?

Ryan: Haha, no man, that’s not lame at all! I love Kerosene 454, and I’m always stoked to talk to somebody who even remembers them. As far as A990 goes, at least Mike and I were pretty into metal at the time, and the stuff we were writing for the second record (which sadly never happened) was sounding a lot more Karp-ish and heavy. After we broke up, I ended up exploring some more ‘spacy’ sounds in bands and solo works before going back to heavy music. Also, Mike ended up forming Early Man which was full on heavy metal, so there you go.

What did your time in a DIY punk band ‘teach’ you, and have you brought any of those experiences to bear on what you do with Lions Of Tsavo? How would you say tastes, behavior and audiences have changed over time and between genres?

Ryan: It certainly gave me a foundation in the DIY ethic, that’s for sure. Knowing that touring and getting your music exposed is rarely a ‘luxurious’ experience, but it’s also one that toughens you up and makes any gains you happen to achieve highly rewarding. I don’t make this kind of music expecting to be sitting on a pile of money anytime soon or anything, I know these songs are a tough sell to certain people… but to me that makes it all the more rewarding when somebody actually ‘gets it’ and has the music affect them in some way.

What’s Austin like as a place to play music in? It obviously has an awesome history (Dicks, The Big Boys, Scratch Acid, Cherubs…), a bunch of great new punk bands and also Chaos In Tejas, but at the same time it has the whole SXSW rigmarole blowing through it which I Imagine must have altered things quite a bit as it’s such a big deal these days…

Daine:  I wasn’t here in the early days of the Austin music scene; in fact, the area where I grew up was the complete polar opposite of Austin.  So the opportunities this city provides are sometimes overwhelming – which is fantastic for young and underground bands – but can come as a bit of a shock to those who have yet to experience this sort of saturation.   Most folks are definitely aware of the cultural and musical history here, and it’s not uncommon to run into some serious musical legends (David Yow, Roky Erickson, even Robert Plant) while walking down the street.  It’s a crucible though, for local bands.  Even if you’re good by most standards, you have to stand out above the crowd – most of which have come from all over the world to be in a place that holds music in such high regard.  Austin is a town where working hard isn’t enough – you have to have something that people haven’t seen before, and even that doesn’t always guarantee success.  And yeah, South By Southwest is insane.  I can’t even begin to describe it.

What have been the best, worst and weirdest things about being in Lions Of Tsavo?

Ryan: The best and weirdest things would have to be that this music we’ve created has reached people around the world and allowed us to travel and meet so many other awesome bands and individuals. The worst thing would maybe be that we’ve yet to find a home at a record label with which we can build a lasting relationship with, and that could get our music out into the world even more.

Daine:  Josh and Ryan are two of the most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing music with, which really makes being part of this band an incredible experience.  But when you play a style of music that isn’t easily defined or fit into some sort of predefined genre, you’re really at an automatic disadvantage.  Music in the 21st century is unlike it has ever been in the past; instruments are cheap and easily obtained, so being in a band is easy – but it’s extremely difficult to sell your songs and recoup the costs of the process.  So I’d say the worst thing is dealing with finances and trying to make enough money to be self-sustaining.  The weirdest would definitely be some of the DIY shows we’ve played on tour.  Very strange things happen in small towns.

What’s next for the band? What are your short-term goals and what, if anything, would you ultimately like to achieve?

Ryan: Next things are to get the songs completed for the next album, do some touring to road test them a bit, and then hopefully get them recorded before the year is out. I can only hope that each record we make is better than the last one, and that we can convert more and more people to our particular brand of noise.

Daine:  Oh man, I’d love to see ‘Traverser’ get the vinyl treatment.  I think the artwork would look incredible in the bigger format.  Ideally we’d like to do a bigger tour, and actually have a booking agent instead of booking everything ourselves!  That would be nice.  Oh, and a split release with our friends in Inter Arma.  We’ve talked about it and I’d love to see that happen.

http://lionsoftsavo.bandcamp.com/

Categories
Interview

An interview with Miserable Failure

My first experience of French grind act Miserable Failure was their ultra-short ‘Hope‘ EP, which impressed me thanks to its deft mix of songwriting nous and utter savagery. Their guitarist Romain was kind enough to answer some questions via email about the band, their releases and their outlook.

Ok. Please start by telling us how, when and why Miserable Failure got together…

Romain (guitar): The project was born something like two years ago. Bleu [vocals] and I have known each other almost since childhood. I started playing in bands when I was a kid, and Bleu started an underground label at approximately the same time. Over the years, he released some of the records I played on and used to tour a lot with one of my previous bands. Eventually, we ended up working together at our regular day job. We were talking about a project for years, something different from the usual stuff (i.e. me as the musician, him as the label guy / touring buddy).

One day, at the cigarette break, we finally decided to set this up. I went back to my home at the end of the day, tried a few riffs with the guitar plugged into the computer and the day after, when he listened to the stuff I did, he said : “perfect, that’s what I was expected.” That’s how Miserable Failure was born.

What had you all done before this band? How do you think this impacted or influenced what you do with Miserable Failure?

Romain: I’ve played in various with my friends bands since my childhood. I had a hardcore band that offered me the opportunity to tour a lot all over Europe for eight years. Beside Miserable Failure, I still play in three other bands with my friends (all those bands are basically the same crew since I was 15) and I’m doing some black metal with one of my best friends when we both have a moment for that. I think all those experiences led me to do something very different with Miserable Failure. All of my bands are something quite hard in their own genre, but none is as uncompromising and extreme as Miserable Failure. MF is basically a distillation of everything I do with my other bands combined with my experiences in life in this strange world.

Grindcore, to me, should be one of the most ferocious forms of music around yet it’s one that I’m frequently disappointed by because of the lack of bile. Why do you think so few grind bands sound genuinely angry?

Romain: This is a very interesting question and I’m glad to talk to someone seeing grindcore the way I see it.

Basically the answer is, in my opinion, in the question. Because YOU HAVE TO be angry, you have to carry a burden and hold a grudge against something to play that music. That’s also one of the reasons we did Miserable Failure: because we did not find the grindcore we loved anymore – nothing was angry enough, nothing was dark and hateful enough to satisfy our needs.

Of course there are some exceptions, I instantly think of Pig Destroyer or Thousandswilldie but generally speaking, I agree with you, it lacks this anger and madness we grindcore fans are looking for. To me, grindcore is not metal, and that’s why it doesn’t appeal to most metalheads. Grindcore is a kind of music made by the depressive/angry/sad/despairing/mad etc. (make your choice…) for the depressive/angry/sad/despairing/mad etc. Not everyone is prompted to like it. We all have our limits of what is acceptable/likable and what is not, and I understand why most metalheads don’t like it. To me, you can’t make such extreme music for no reason and I see it in my daily life. Not just grindcore, but all the guys I know who are doing such extreme and uncompromising stuff cannot be considered 100% sane, including myself.

On the flipside, Miserable Failure sound incredibly pissed off. What would you say are your biggest grievances when it comes to modern life, and how would you say you address them as a band?

Romain: You know, we did not choose this name at random, we chose it because that’s the way we see ourselves: miserable failures at modern life. You’re talking about grievance; it’s exactly what it’s about. To name a few, I’d say living in a world where you can’t find your place, where the only choices you get are “eat or be eaten”, “suffer or make them suffer”, “plague or cholera” (even if things tend more toward ebola those days…).  Living a life where everything is conflict, where every human relationship is, in the end, completely blank and senseless, where each time you show an ounce of kindness toward your siblings, you are instantly punished… Like we say in France “trop bon, trop con.”

In terms of grindcore – or, indeed, any fast, aggressive music – what would be your five ‘go-to’ records when you need a quick blast of negativity? If you could explain your choices a bit that would be great.

Romain : Ahah, the hatelist ! lets go for it. Hard to pick up five of them nonetheless.

Teitanblood – ‘Purging Tongues’

That’s just pure HELL: an endless fall into a bottomless pit. It’s so ridiculously violent and completely mesmerizing at the same time that this record is some kind of mystery to me. It’s not just music, it’s an experience. Their music is technically very simple if you look at the guitar work for example, but they play it in a way that’s very interesting and the song writing is perfect. Writing a 15-minute track of such pure death metal stench the way they did is very impressive to me. Their latest release, ‘Death’ is a masterpiece too, but considering it’s a full length, it doesn’t fit into the “quick blast” category.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed / Insect Warfare – split

Seven minutes of pure hate. ANb takes the lead, four songs in five minutes, Insect Warfare closes with six or seven songs in two minutes. Everything is pure savagery, and so well done. If you like this kind of release, try Thousandswilldie if you do not already know them.

Integrity – ‘To Die For’

This is a full length, but things go pretty fast. This is Cleveland style at its best (even if Blind To Faith comes close second to me). They have done a lot of other releases that are great but I have a special love for this one. This is angry, the sound is tight, everything is harsh and hits you like a ton of rocks.

Regurgitate / Dead infection – split

The Regurgitate part of this split is vicious as fuck. The vocals are so harsh they tear out the speakers. It’s violent and at the same time, the sound has that mesmerizing vibe that make you dive into the atmosphere instantly and almost puts you into a trance. The punk/hardcore side of their music is especially apparent on this release and they combine it with their death metal side perfectly.

“The infamous” Gehenna – ‘Land Of Sodom

This is dirty; a kind of hardcore made in the depths of hell. Everything is raw and sounds like it’s recorded in a cave by the most angry guys on the planet with the devil himself behind the mic. I like the simplicity of their music, it’s straight forward and thought to be an like an insult to the listener but it flows incredibly well despite the dirty nature of their music.

To me you play a very stripped-down form of grind, yet there’s still a lot going on and some quite complex passages. Is it a conscious decision to balance these different elements? Do you find it challenging to be raging and interesting within grindcore’s limited time constraints?

Romain:  Once again, ; its so rare in here to find someone with such a deep understanding of grindcore, I feel that you have the same conception of extreme music as us. Come and do a track with us on the next one, you’re welcome.

Yeah it’s a complex thing for us. Everyone thinks grind is “stupid”, that it’s just random open strings played over repetitive blast beats. But it’s actually far more complex than that in most cases.

I’m trying to do a mix of everything I love in those short songs and my main goal is to balance things between the simple and the complex, so yeah, it’s a totally conscious decision. For example, we say “ok, now it was straight forward blast of hate for the last 30 seconds, we’re starting to lose grip and the thing will fall apart if we do four more steps of this riff, so now, let’s try do throw some dissonant stuff to regain the listeners interest.”

And, like you said it’s very challenging for us. Grindcore has short songs, it’s very fast and straight to the point. Adding different elements can easily be tricky, or even dangerous; and I can’t say we are 100% comfortable with it. But since that’s what we want to do, it’s all “trial and error.” We are taking the time to experiment and see what’s working and what’s not; and like a lot of things in life, finding the right balance is difficult.

Can you talk us through your releases? How do you think the band has developed or changed over time? 

Romain: Well, actually, our first release, the split with Infected Society and F Stands For Fuck You is the first songs we ever wrote. I’m satisfied with those because they represent our stuff pretty well. There is the brutal side, there is the punk hardcore side but it just lacks a little blackness for me.

Then we released a split with Total Fucking Destruction and four other bands that are our labelmates. It has the same pros and cons as the first one to me. I especially love ‘Martyr‘ on this record.

Then, once again, to me, I think things start becoming interesting with our EP ‘HOPE’. Its short, but the sound is very tight, and it’s the first release where we finally achieve the violence and aggression I was aiming for. This EP bears something special for us, as we wrote it, recorded it and finally released it in period of time that was bad for us in our personal lives. I think that’s something that can be heard on the record. The opener says it all regarding what you’ll find along the other tracks.

Then we released a split with Atara. And that’s the record I’m the most satisfied with. The overall violence and anger is really high, the darkness is here, and despite and the noise and blast and everything, the despair is here too.

As I mentioned in my review of the split with Atara, the guy you sample on ‘May You All Be Cursed Forever’ is a bit of an arse. How did you find that sample, and what’s your view of it now you’re more aware of the man behind the words?

Romain: Thanks for this review man.

I saw this guy on the news on French TV.

To me, music and what we want to illustrate goes first. I’m not saying that the “who’s the guy?” question is not important but only his words on the record count. You’re listening to a record and you’re listening to what’s happening, you dive into the atmosphere created by the band and, if some spoken words are thrown in, it’s just to reinforce the immersion. I know what you’re thinking right now: “But, if it was Hitler or someone like that?”  Answer: Yeah, but he is not Hitler. I mean, that’s not because we are talking about someone or something that we agree with what is/she is doing.

I mean, look at Slayer that we all love. Are they Nazis ? No. Do they fuck dead bodies? No. Do they actually kill people in excess of rage ? No.

I think the comment you did in the review is a bit judgemental toward us, but no prob, really. We are not kids, we know what we are doing and we know what we want to illustrate. This record had a theme, a theme illustrated in the title, and we built our song structure and general overall structure on this record according to that theme. If you understand the point of the record, then you’ll understand that there could not be better words to close this last track.

I’m not going to check everyone’s life or go back to fucking Jesus Christ each time I want to quote someone. In the next record, there will be quotes from ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by  Charles Dickens because I love this story, period. I’m not going to check if Dickens was left wing or right wing or if he cheated on his wife or if some of his descendants were in the Waffen-SS. Because that’s simply not the point, I’m just here to make music and make the few people who appreciate it dive into something different than this shitty world for five minutes. If your question was aiming at knowing my political opinions, here’s the answer:  I don’t care about politics, I don’t care about the world. This world can burn, all of those motherfuckers can burn with it, and me with them, I don’t give two shits.

One thing that the sample made me think of was the fact that both the UK and France (along with other parts of Europe) have seen far-right politics gain a thin veneer of respectability/acceptability over the last few years. Do you have any comment on this, or have you noticed how things have changed? If not, please feel free to skip this question!

Romain: You know, besides the fact that what you are saying is true, I will talk about France, because that the only placed I lived in all my life. This sample was here because of one major thing; Because I think that, nowadays, aside from the rise of the extremes, France lacks what I like to call “The 1789 spirit.” During this time that we call “The Terror,” the people was so fed up, hungry and desperate that they murdered their leaders in public places. We, 21st century French people, lack that revolutionary attitude our ancestors had. And I sincerely not understand how such things can happen nowadays without leading to a revolution. Because the words in this sample are true: “we, the people, are scammed, robbed, etc… all of this in the most disgraceful manner… by our leaders.” A month or two ago, a French politician was sued and charged for not paying his taxes. The reason was: “I forgot to pay my taxes, I have some kind of tax phobia.”

Seriously ? What kind of joke is this? Aren’t those people supposed to act as example for their citizens?

So now, MY question is: Why are we waiting to drag this fucker out of his golden nest and make him an example not to follow? My words may sound paradoxical to my general everyday attitude and everyone know that the extremes are not the best solutions, but, as simple people with no power except numbers, what solution do we have? The elections ? The suffrage? Like I said earlier, it’s choosing between plague and cholera. I guess that the human spirit is, at times, very simple and straight forward and that extreme conditions demands extreme responses.

What would you say are the biggest challenges of playing in a band like Miserable Failure?

Romain : I’d say that the biggest challenge is to find the balance we were discussing earlier. Keeping things interesting. I’d like to keep Miserable Failure like it is in the future, adding elements to the mix without denaturing it. That will be, to me, the biggest challenge.

What are your future plans for the band? Do you have any more releases in the pipeline?

Romain: We have just finished recording the new one. All the instruments are done. We are now working on the lyrics. It will be something… ”special”; still extremely violent, but going beyond pure grindcore this time. This EP will be a kind of appendix to our usual style, because we wanted to explore something else and I’m very satisfied with the result; I really can’t wait to release this stuff, hopefully next summer.

We have another split CD in the works and I’m also working on the full length… but this will take a little while.

msrblflr.bandcamp.com

facebook.com/msrblflr

Categories
Interview

An interview with Cowards

Cowards’ brand of heavy, gnarled, misanthropic hardcore fair near knocked my socks off when I first heard their ‘Shooting Blanks & Pills’ record for Throatruiner. Sludgy without being in hock to sludge ‘tradition’, metallic in the most caustic way and possessed of that numinous sense of believability that’s so hard to come by.

I meant to knock a review and interview together when the LP originally came out. Typically, life got in the way and time passed. Handily, though, Canadian label Secret Handshake have since reissued it, thus making my review and this interview a bit more timely.

Questions answered by the band as a hive mind.

Ok, let’s get the basics out the way first: tell us a bit about Cowards. How, when and why did the band get together?

Cowards: We all got together at the end of 2011 when some of us were completely out of the game and wanted to start something new. What started out initially as an instrumental doom/sludge project turned into what we are now.

There is a real sense of hostility and sickness running through the music. What kind of feelings are you channelling, and why is Cowards’ music so mired in negativity?

Cowards: Channelling might not be the appropriate word, it conveys too much of an esoteric weight. We just write and play the music that best reflects our feelings about the lives we have, what we see, hear and understand.

How does the music you make reflect the people who make it? If we hung out with you, would we find happy, well-adjusted young Frenchmen or are you as unhinged and hostile as your music?

Cowards: The best answer would be both. We’re all pretty much from a middle-class/upper middle-class background, we all have pretty decent education and manners, but in the end, it all comes down to what we have and who we have in front of us. There’s a lot of judging going on on our part, we’ll admit to that, and some of us take great pride in being scary judges of character.

Most of the time it all goes very smoothly, as you might already know, most people invested (really invested that is) in this trade turn out to be honest, passionate and down to earth folks. Really quite a lovely crowd.

But then, then you have the others, who are louder, more visible, full of themselves and ultimately full of shit. Those, we have a hard time making it work with. It happened before, once or twice, but really, not that much. Although when it goes south, it usually goes all the way there.

We’ve stated this before and we’ll gladly state it again as much as needed, we’re no more violent or hostile than anybody else, but we definitely are on the top tier of blunt honesty and this will not make friends with just anybody so easily.

What can you tell us about the LP? What were the circumstances around its creation and what does the title mean to you?

Cowards: The ‘Shooting Blanks & Pills’ LP is an exact photograph of what we were at that time, musically and personally, it is a reflection of the music we had, both created for that purpose and lying around from previous bands as well as some very old ideas.

In retrospect, it does sound a bit odd at times; that collection of songs with different moods, although the vocals make it whole in the end. But if we had to do it again that way, we would.

As for the title, I’m not going to dwell on the meaning although I’m willing to say it is as much a self-depiction as it is a tongue-in-cheek, below-the-belt jab at people we know, their lifestyles and their loud-mouthed, half-assed opinions on everything.

How did things change for Cowards between ‘Shooting Blanks & Pills’ and the ‘Hoarder’ EP? Do you think the band has evolved at all?

Cowards: The one thing that changed is, in the most unglamorous way, we became a band, for real. Previous to recording ‘SB&P’ we had never played together, not even spend real quality time, the five of us, and apart from the one guy who set it up, most guys didn’t really know each other that well. It almost led to our demise after our very first show, some of us realising they couldn’t stand the others.

That quickly changed after our first mini tour alongside ELIZABETH when we quickly rose to becoming probably the funniest pack of hyenas ever to hit the road.

Musically, we tried to do things different with ‘Hoarder’, as far as process go, other than that, business as usual. The only thing we try to achieve is not to be too redundant with ourselves and play the music we’d like to listen to.

Was it a conscious decision to merge the various sounds you have running through your music (hardcore, sludge, black metal etc.)?

Cowards: Others have said it before and as it turns out, it’s true, for us at least, we just wanted to play the music we like and would like to listen to. It just so happens that we like a whole lot of things including but not limited to those genres of heavy music and that’s just the way it all came down on us.

Of course it became obvious and conscious once we were done recording but we’re fine with that.

The defining bond being that it had to be very, very angry.

For some reason I think Cowards have a very urban sound: it’s very much ‘city music’. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Paris, what goes on there and how you think it influences you as people and musicians?

Cowards: For some reason nobody ever told us that before and for some reason it is a shame because if we ever did something consciously as far as the music goes, it was, and still is, to try and keep it very urban, so thank you. We are from the city after all and have always found it funny/depressing those bands who try and sound from the swamp of Louisiana, as if their best friends were alligators when in fact their best friends are the concrete pavements they work day in day out…

Having said that, we don’t have a particular relationship with Paris, we just live there. Some of us love this city, others hate it but we all share a sense of belonging, whether we like it or not, to The City, not particularly Paris, it probably could be any city, it is the urban atmosphere that appeals to us.

Considering you’re our closest neighbours I find it weird that we over here in the UK don’t seem to have a clear picture as to what’s happening in the underground scene over there in France. I’m aware of individual bands and labels (Throatruiner, Ratbone, Solar Flare etc.) but have no idea how cohesive it all is. What’s your view, and how do you think Cowards fit in?

Cowards: First off, don’t feel bad, apart from the very handsome guys at Oblivionized and their friends we shared the stage with when they had us over, we had no idea of what was going on in the UK, except for a strange feeling, that proved to be true, that British bands have a very professional feeling and extraordinary talent and skills, more so than most French bands, including us of course.

As far as cohesion, we couldn’t tell you. We do have some friends here and there, but we’re not feeling much love and/or interest for us, except for the indefectible support of Matthias (Throatruiner Records) and Alex (Deadlight Entertainment). That’s fine because we do have good allies outside France, be it only Pedro and Vitor from RVINS records in Portugal.

Whatever the reason, we’re not part of the scene so to speak. The funny thing is that we know people know us, because we hear them blabbing away, it most recently appeared that we are racists, violent, arrogant and destructive posers, how would anyone want us to be part of their scene? Haha. You’ve got to love when people talk, and who knows what we’ll be in a couple months, we’re anxious to hear it.

How – if at all – has France’s punk rock history (be it Kickback, the Stonehenge Records stuff of the 90s or whatever…) affected your outlook and the way you do things as a band?

Cowards: Except for Kickback (who we ripped off everything good we have apparently), and French black metal (Deathspell Omega to name one) we don’t have much interest for it all.

You toured over here earlier in the year – how did it go? Any strange or weird tales to recount?

Cowards: It all went very smoothly. People in France told us it would be hard: no audience, no money, no selling merch, no place to sleep, no food. They were oh so wrong. Zac (Oblivionized) set it all up perfectly, people showed up at every show and we ended up coming home with some extra cash, which is always good. Like we said before, lots of very good bands, very talented and so young it’s sickening. Plus Wetherspoon’s. Can’t go wrong with Wetherspoon’s every day.

Weird tales… Let’s see… We were invited over by a girl and her boyfriends, plural, to score some (which turned out to be cheap garbage) and she ended up fucking very loudly in her toilets with one of the dudes, while the other stayed with us, helpless. She claimed she was a Super Mario Champion and that she probably could make us all come under five minutes. Needless to say we were not interested. That’s the weirdest tale from our UK trek, so you see, it all went very smoothly.

What do you all do outside of Cowards?

Cowards: We try and make an honest living. One of us feeds people, another is a craftsman, the other teaches stuff…

What plans do you have for the band’s future? What’s happening next and how do you think Cowards will evolve over time?

Cowards: It just so happens that we’re going to hit the studio for five weeks beginning of October, to record the follow up to ‘SB&P’ and as soon as that’s done we’re going to set up a Euro tour with our friends in Oblivionized. We’ll try to go back to Portugal, maybe hit Spain, we wish we can come back in the UK sometime this year too.

‘SB&P’ has been reissued by Secret Handshake records up in Canada for North America and we also hope we can go all the way there and make new friends. Or foes.

As for us evolving, let’s pray we can get more and more people talking shit about us, because, let’s face it, there’s no such thing as bad press.

http://cowardsparis.bandcamp.com

Categories
Interview

The talking DEAD

DEAD @ Black Wire, Sydney 17/12/10

I recently reviewed DEAD’s brilliant ‘Idiots’ LP. Like most of bands on Eolian Empire they play horrible, heavy music but in a way that’s skewed and artful. Thinking man’s bludgeon, if you like. I was intrigued enough to ask them some questions, and they were kind enough to answer them.

Jem plays drums and Jace plays bass. Both have some thoughtful things to say.

 So, tell us about DEAD. How, when and why did the band get started?

Jem: We started in late 2010. We both played together in “Fangs Of…” and wanted a band that could tour more often. We thought about who else we could do this with and then realised if we operated as a two-piece then we wouldn’t have to rely on anyone else. I think we originally intended to try having a floating third member that could just make noise over the top of our songs. But we seemed to fill the sonic space ourselves pretty quickly without that.

Touring was a priority from the start. I booked our first tour before we’d even written a song. So the band very much was formed on the stage.

Jace: Basically we knew we were very compatible bandmates. I wanted to be in a band that could be creatively fluid and basically do MORE of everything, Jem was definitely on the same page about that. We both enjoy pushing ourselves artistically and we’re always trying to get more done than is physically possible. We’ve been great mates for ages, so working and touring together is a lot of fun.

What was the original idea behind the band? Did you set out to do or sound like anything in particular?

Jace: Volume! No. I write a lot of material and it’s rarely if ever planned and at the risk of sounding like a wanker, artistic freedom is way too important to me to set boundaries for myself. I listen to a lot of different music and I’d say it all influences me to varying degrees. There are definitely bands that I’d say we relate to sound wise in certain ways but I think that’s more due to an aesthetic rather than copying a style. I definitely look up to a lot of bands and musicians, and visual artists. I’m regularly blown away by what people have created which always pushes me to work harder.

Jem: The only idea was to have fun and make music together. We didn’t set out to make a particular sound but we definitely had ideas of things we wanted to avoid – mainly things that a lot of other two pieces use like excessive effects, delays, loops etc. I know I pushed that idea a lot. I wanted to exploit the rawness of the two piece format rather than try to compensate for it with gadgets.

I think Jace probably had to consider his sound and playing a lot more than myself being that he often is playing the role of a bass and of a lead guitar at once.

The idea of aiming for a particular sound has never appealed to me and I don’t think we’d be much good at it. I’m not claiming that we have an entirely unique sound of course, our influences are not hidden. But we never set out to make a particular kind of music.

Now that we’ve doing it a few years I would say we have honed our sound to a degree. But if we’re making a particular genre of music it’s news and I’d love to know which demographic we can sell it to!

There’s only two of you. Clearly. Was this a self-imposed limitation, or was it just too difficult to find other people who wanted to make music like this?

Jem: A bit of both. We wanted to be more active musically than we had been in our previous bands and not have to compromise on that based on other peoples’ availability or lack thereof. A lot of people seem to focus on the limitations of a two-piece format but I think every format has its strengths and weaknesses. The dynamic of a two piece is unique, it’s very intimate. It probably means we both have to work harder (both playing wise and as far as running the band) but we’re not afraid of hard work.

It still surprises a lot of people; the idea of a heavy two piece band. But for us, by the time we started this band, the precedent had long been set and I’d played in two other drum/bass bands already.

Finding other members wouldn’t be difficult but I don’t have any reason to believe it would improve the band.

We have plans for some recordings as a three-piece with an artist called BJ Morriszonkle but the idea is that the he won’t be locked into any long term commitments. This project is sort of an offshoot I guess.

Jace: We definitely floated the idea of having other band members but from pretty much the first rehearsal it felt exciting just having the two of us. We also quickly realised that there was no gaping sonic hole that needed plugging so why complicate things? It took a while for me to figure out my sound and a technique that I was happy with but the challenge was too good to pass up.

There’s a ton of people we’re both interested in collaborating with but at the moment I can’t imagine including anyone else permanently.

What can you tell us about ‘Idiots’? Despite the deceptively simple set-up there’s a lot going into it…

Jace: Compositionally the album is fairly unconventional a lot of the time so despite not being overly complicated I think it’s a relatively challenging listen.

Jem: Recording-wise most of those songs are tracked live on the first take. There is very little in the way of overdubs. We took this approach because we didn’t have the money to spend long in the studio (not in a decent studio anyway) and decided we’d rather highlight the rawness of the band than try and smooth it all over. Overdubbing can fill out the sound but can also squash the instruments. We go for a pretty big sound most of the time so leaving those sounds room to breathe in a lot of cases made it sound heavier, and more confronting than if we layered the sounds.

I made mistakes all over that recording but I think it still sounds good – it’s an honest account of where we were at there and then. Making a recording that, for the most part, honours our live sound made sense too since we were and are predominantly a live band.

Of course if we had more budget to work with we would love to make a more studio based album too – many of our favourite records are like that. That’s something that we have always wanted to do and hopefully we will do one day when we have the budget to do it properly.

What kind of themes or ideas do you explore on the album?

Jem: Jace writes most of the lyrics. For the most part I don’t quiz him too much about it because I trust him and it’s a personal thing. Jace doesn’t spell things out in his lyrics anyway. That’s one thing we both like to avoid for the most part. Being around a lot of punk bands we get very tired of singers lecturing us like we’re idiots. For us the voice is more about being an extra instrument at our disposal than trying to tell the audience something specific. I generally find that kind of approach condescending to the listener.

Any lyrics I write seem to be about racism or anxiety and I guess that’s because they’re close to me.  But we’ve never been concerned with pigeon holing our themes or spelling them out. That seems far too limiting to me.

Most of the music I have made in my life has been instrumental. For me I often find lyrics a distraction from the mood of the music, or at least they can limit the possibilities that music could have had. At the same time vocals can also be the most primal instrument of all so I guess we generally try and approach it with that in mind.

Jace: For the most part my lyrics are open to interpretation. It’s more important to me to create a mood rather than to directly describe something, that’s not to say they’re meaningless, I just like giving the listener space to engage in a non-linear way. Sometimes my lyrics are more like short stories that are probably easier to get a sense of but I still like them to be a bit of a riddle. Some of the singing is probably indecipherable which becomes more instrumental or textural which I also enjoy. I don’t mean to be evasive on this question, the lyrics can be found on our bandcamp page with every track so they’re there to be pulled apart if anyone has the energy.

The spoken word vocals on ‘Murder Hollow’ are great. Who is Linda Dacio and how did you get her involved?

Jace: The lyrics for this track are a short story so we wanted them to be very audible. I was Jem’s idea to get Linda involved, her voice really suited the track she did a killer job.

Jem: Linda J is a national treasure. I first saw her play when I was in High School and she sang ‘RX7’ with “Legends of Motorsport.” It’s well worth looking up the recording of that, it’s a great Australian performance in my opinion.

I originally asked Bliss Blood (Pain Teens) if she would do some vocals on that track but she declined. Which turned out to be a blessing ‘cos then we got Linda. Linda is an amazing singer. But I have always had a real thing for people who can sing well and choose not to over sing. Like Shannon from Cows or Bliss Blood – they were both great at blurring the line between singing and speaking. So I felt kind of bad when we got her in and I kept asking her to sing less and talk more. She is a great singer with a belter of a scream and a natural distortion. But she did a great job, a total professional in a very punk rock kind of way – her performance gives me goosebumps. I was really happy with it how it came out. The fact we all three sang on that song gave it a different dynamic, one that you just can’t get with only male singers.

Since the LP came out you’ve had a couple of split 7”s. How would you say your sound / songwriting has evolved?

Jace: This question is HARD! I’m constantly writing songs so I hope it’s evolving. I set challenges for myself when writing. I’ve been trying to incorporate more melody into our material whether it’s done vocally or instrumentally. I just try to write songs that will push our playing in some way so that they remain interesting and exciting to play.

Jem: The split with No Anchor was recorded before Idiots, during the demo sessions for Idiots actually. The Split with Vaz was recorded in Japan at the end of a tour there. Sound-wise I think we’ve honed it a fair bit since the beginning but I have no idea how different it sounds to the outsider. I know we started doing a bit more metal stuff. Metal in the traditional sense.

It’s funny we talk a lot about the kinds of songs we want to write but It doesn’t mean that what comes out the other end is closely related to what we discuss. It’s more of a starting point I guess. I just try and find our strengths and work on exploiting those.

How did these split releases come about? Also, have to say it – Vaz kinda seem like a perfect band for you to share a record with…

Jace: I’ll let Jem handle the first part of this question.

Jem: No Anchor are friends from long before we started DEAD. Got a lot of respect for the way those guys operate. They’ve managed to do everything on their own terms and despite making music that isn’t especially accessible they’ve developed a cult following.

Working with them seemed logical to me. I honestly can’t remember if it was their idea or ours though. I think it was theirs. Which just proves even more what good blokes they are; clearly not driven by popularity.

Vaz are just one of our favourite bands around right now. I love how every album evolves form the last. We played with them on our first US tour and they moved us a great deal. We invited them to Australia and they came over. The only bummer was the tour we did with them was really hard work. Everything that could go wrong did. It bummed me out ‘cos they are such a great band and deserved better.

Jace: We saw and played with Vaz on our first US tour. We both thought they were incredible. They were great to tour with, very experienced and professional and they didn’t whinge about the long drives. Seeing them night after night was a real treat, they’re all great musicians who have a unique take on their instruments.

Australia seems to have a funny old scene: loads of great bands who it’s relatively hard to discover, even today in this Glorious Internet Age. I guess it’s partly because overseas tours are scarce and it costs a shitting fortune to send records or t-shirts anywhere. Do you think this imposes a kind of insularity on Australian bands/musicians?

Jace: It probably does but I really don’t know what other bands think. I think that could probably be said about most countries in a way whether it’s geographically or self-imposed. Even ‘scenes’ within ‘scenes’ adopt insularity so I don’t think it’s special to Australia. I certainly don’t feel limited by living here, it’s just a different set of challenges.

Jem: It might. Probably less so than in the past as people have more and more access to overseas travel and the net. Most of the great bands down here you’ll never hear about because they won’t tour overseas and/or they won’t get support from an overseas label.

But I think yes a lot of people down here do exist in a bubble to an extent. Big fish in a little pond kind of thing. People acting like rock stars ‘cos their band is big in one or two towns. I’d like to think it also fosters a unique sound, and for some bands it does which is great. But it seems most bands are just mimicking the bands sold to us from the US and the UK.

How do you view your homeland, and how do you think you fit in with what’s going on over there musically?

Jem: I try not to waste too much time on this and I say that because I probably have wasted too much time on it. I think there is some fucking great bands down here. We lack a good touring culture here though so most of them rarely get out of their hometowns and don’t get to improve to the level they could if they could tour. The heavy music scenes are predominantly limited to the major cities here which is also a shame; it’s seems the regional centres struggle to sustain much of a scene.

I think for the most part the underground scenes here are very conservative, even if they would like to think otherwise. Even within more extreme forms of music it feels very segregated. Most of the bands I see getting celebrated are not especially original. And there is an obsession with nostalgia which is at the expense of embracing new and creative music that is happening right now.

We’ve always felt like outsiders from any of the specific scenes and that’s okay with me. I’ve always liked a broad range of music and I have no interest in subscribing to a particular sub culture. It doesn’t feel honest to me. I’ve been playing music long enough now to see how stupid people look jumping from one style to another. It’s nice to have somewhere to belong but not if it means limiting yourself.

As to where we fit in… well basically there are bands, promoters and venues all over the country we get along with. We don’t care what genre of music they make as long as they are passionate about it. And that’s how we like it. We’ve never aimed to find other bands who sound like us. We think of it as more of an extended family than scene.

Jace: I would say that to a large extent we don’t fit in, which isn’t something we seek or are bothered by. Obviously some kind of scene is helpful but we don’t really have a home that we fit neatly into. We realise we’re a relatively ‘difficult’ band sound wise so it’s just part of the territory. Also I’m old and who wants to hang out with an old dude right??!!?? I do find it funny that people who consider themselves cultural outsiders often fall over themselves to try to fit in but hey live and let live, the last thing I want to do is worry about other people.

Kinda related to the above: is there any sense that you’re continuing some sort of foul Aussie tradition, following the likes of Feedtime, Venom P. Stinger and X? In many ways it’s a peculiarly Australian sound: arty and considered, but also yobbish, aggressive and in-your-face…

Jem: Well I think you’ve described our sound better than maybe anyone else ever has. It’s exactly what we go for. I’d add to that list bands like Nunchukka Superfly, Dad They Broke Me, Pure Evil Trio, Warped and especially Midnight Oil.

I see so many bands who would fall into the “arty” category who are too fucking pretentious to play something primal and heavy. As if they are above that ‘cos they did an arts degree. And so many rock bands who snob anything that might be considered a bit intellectual or arty. I’ve never understood why the two can’t co-exist more. Through our label we just released a split 7” between The Hard Ons and The Necks. These are two bands who have complete respect and adoration for each other but a decent chunk of each other’s crowds would never give the other band the time of day.

For me my biggest drive in making music has always been to tap into the inner cave man/woman inside all of us. For some reason people confuse primal with limited or stupid though and that’s really far off the mark. I think one of the strongest primal urges is to discover new things and to learn. You can see that in babies all the time.

People always think AC/DC is simple but I challenge those people to try and play their songs half as well as them. You won’t find a tighter band. And they have no bullshit to hide behind. Or a band like Midnight Oil who made a lot of hard, driving music but there is so much going on it if you look under the surface.

So anyway yes our music is considered, we spend a lot of time thinking about it and trying to improve it. If we have a simple idea and we like it we will back it rather than try and cover it up with bells and whistles. And if the art wankers think it sounds like yobbos shouting then it’s their loss.

As far as continuing an Aussie tradition; well we are Australian. That’s just who we are, we would never try and be anything else. But we are not trying to emulate anything nostalgic. Those bands were great because they were innovative and that’s the main thing we’d want to take from them; an attitude more than a style.

Jace: I don’t feel like we’re deliberately continuing anything but I’d say we are somehow undeniably attached to that aesthetic. I’ve always really liked the tension between those kinds of elements. I’m a big fan of a lot of post-punk and experimental music but I also love AC/DC… have you ever studied their backing vocals?? Genius!!

I’ve never really thought about it being a uniquely Aussie thing but maybe it is. Having said that there are some current US bands like Rabbits and Drunk Dad who I think relate closely to this sound too.

What does the future – short and long-term – hold for DEAD?

Jace: Before we tour our new album in November we are doing a couple of support shows that we’re looking forward to, one with Torche the other with Windhand.

Other than that, we’re writing a ton of new tracks that keep us stoked.

Jem: We just released a new song on the Rock Is Hell 10th Anniversary 2×10” compilation………………

Right now we are writing our new record. We have a lot of material so I guess it’s a matter of picking what we like best. Or maybe we’ll record a double album if we can manage it. Sometime soon we will record the collaborative record with BJ Morriszonkle.

In November we will release our third album ‘Captains Of Industry’ and tour it in Australia. Early next year it will be released in Austria (Rock is Hell) and in the USA (Eolian Empire).

Mid-next year we will do our third US tour. And hopefully after that we can get to Europe!

www.deadsounds.com

 

Categories
Interview

An interview with Årabrot

If any band deserves to be named after a landfill site it’s Norway’s Årabrot, a demented slagheap of noise-rock that’s about as vicious as they come. Pull on yer rubber gloves, get the Toilet Duck handy and read on…
“We started out young and bored in the summer of 2001. The result was a 7” and the birth of Årabrot – basically a snotty, abrasive garage noise band with the intention of becoming the loudest Norway had ever produced.” So says frontman Kjetil Nernes, and with a string of EPs and three shattered albums in their wake you’d be hard pushed to say they hadn’t met their goal, with latest offering ‘The Brother Seed’ loaded with more boss-eyed menace, lumpen repetition and flailing grabs for the throat than you’d ever dare shake a stick at. Still, a lot has changed in the nine years since the band first attached its suckered mouth to the noise-rock underbelly, with genre titans Pissed Jeans having brought the genre back home to roost and any number of lesser acts dropping names like Rusted Shut and the Brainbombs as though their credibility depended upon it. Has Nernes, in recent times, seen more acceptance of the band’s unwelcome advances? “Not really,” is his rather blunt response, “I still see a lot of question marks and frowns in Europe, as opposed to complete understanding to where we’re coming from in the States. What I do  see though is the enormous effect Sunn O))) has had in bringing drones to the average metal crowd. All of a sudden people are actually interested when we’re playing the same riff for half an hour.” With the band’s influences (think 90s AmRep violence mingled with early industrial clanks) on display like cankerous war wounds talk turns to the band’s native Norway, perhaps most famed musically for gifting us a wealth of corpsepainted talent. Given the band’s malignant aura, has the dark spectre of black metal had any impact on Årabrot’s sound and how, if at all, does the band see itself fitting into the contemporary Norwegian music scene? “Some black metal bands, like Mayhem and Burzum, have been a great influence on us,” says Nernes on the first point before addressing the latter: “fitting into the current Norwegian scene has proved pointless and impossible. It’s not really anything we’re focusing on.” Indeed, making a safe little nest for themselves appears to be the last thing on Årabrot’s agenda, with Nernes already several steps ahead where the band’s future is concerned: “I’m already working on new material. Not for the follow-up to ‘The Brother Seed’, but the one after that. It’s gonna be heavier, with slower, longer songs. I’ve worked on this project for almost 10 years and I have a pretty clear vision on its progress – hopefully by the end we’ll be able to stand out as a great, genuine sounding alternative rock n’ roll band.”

www.myspace.com/arabrot