Skeletonwitch interview (10/2011)
|With:||Nate "N8 Feet Under" Garnette, Scott "Scunty D." Hedrick|
|Conducted by:||Doc Godin (in person)|
Doc: So hows the tour going so far?
Scott: Excellent. We got back from Europe, we had three days off, so we immediately bussed our asses out west to meet up with Devildriver. Had a few dates with them before Arch Enemy. As a whole the shows have been killer, it's awesome.
Doc: I've noticed you guys really switch between playing the small, sweaty clubs and playing bigger venues like today, opening for Arch Enemy, which do you prefer?
Scott: I like both, and we still do both. There's something to be said when there's no barricade and the kids are right in your face. There's more intensity & energy. It's also cool though when you're on a bigger stage, you can hit a chord on your guitar - it's just so fucking loud through that huge P.A., having that much power behind you is also pretty awesome. I don't really have a preference. Do you?
Nate: Stages like this, when you don't get a sound check, when you just do an on-the-fly type check, it can be pretty bad. There's not really that problem in small clubs, some don't even have a P.A. I like both; I like being able to play in front of a lot of people, but I also like being able to smell everyone.
Scott: Haha, yeah. Like in France...Jesus.
Doc: What happened in France?
Scott: This was one show we played. It was a great show, but the club itself was stinky enough as it was, but once it was filled with people...
Nate: It smelled like a baby took a shit. It was a great show though, I'd do it again.
Scott: I'd do it right now! It was awesome.
Doc: I'm used to seeing you guys on bills with younger bands, closer to your age. Does the tour shenanigans get toned down at all when you're touring with older bands like Arch Enemy?
Nate: We're going to act the way we are no matter what. I'm going to get drunk and say dumb shit to whoever.
Scott: The younger bands just have more tolerance for it. The other guys are like "oh, Jesus, Skeletonwitch again? Fuck." Everyone on this tour has been really cool, though.
Nate: We hang out with Sharlee, the bass player for Arch Enemy nearly every day. We give him a ten minute Q&A...
Scott: Where we ask him about Witchery...
Nate: Then we also hang out with Devildriver.
Scott: Yeah, they're friggin' great. Because we're not in a bus, we have to make these long drives ourselves. Dez offered for us to come on the bus for a beer or a smoke or whatever.
Nate: ...and to sleep.
Scott: Yeah, he also said "if you guys had a long drive and have time to kill before you get to the venue, tired as shit, let me know. Come on the bus and sleep in a bunk bed where it's quiet for a while." The camaraderie is there no matter what. Big or small tours. Everyone's super fucking cool on this one.
Doc: Any noteworthy Spinal Tap shit this tour?
Nate: Not yet.
Scott: So far, I've been able to successfully get out of my pod every night.
Nate: I haven't gotten lost in the green room...
Scott: There was one place where we couldn't find the right way to go, it was like "goddamn, this is just like Spinal Tap."
Nate: Shit, just getting in here was like Spinal Tap. There's no roads, and where you're supposed to drive where it says you can't.
*[Calgary University Campus - venue location]
Scott: You just have to illegally drive over a bunch of stuff.
Nate: I turned into the wrong spot, I was trying to back up. There was two fucking kids, just looking at me and laughing. I was this close to kicking their hacky-sack up their ass.
Scott: Just run them over...
Nate: I kept my composure.
Doc: You're also on tour with Chthonic, is it it difficult touring with a band from such a drastically different background?
Nate: Nah, we just blast them out of the water with the same shit we always do. They do speak English really well. Today [Sep 19th] was actually their bass player Doris' birthday, so we got her a birthday cake and a bunch of shit from Walmart.
Scott: This little hamster...
Nate: You push it's nose and it makes a noise...And a tiara. Then we put it in a princess bag.
Scott: It's always like that, though. We rarely have a problem, and if we do...
Nate: It's my fault.
Scott: It's Nates fault.
Doc: So the big news is you've got a new album coming out in a few weeks, how does it compare to Breathing The Fire?
Nate: Production has stepped up a little bit. Quite a bit. Breathing The Fire was really raw and pummelling. Although this one still has some real raging parts, we did some other stuff too. It's a little more musical. It's written better since we've been working on it for so long.
Scott: I would say it's darker. Even though Breathing The Fire was more of a steamroller, this is like a steamroller that someone has brakes on or something...It's a little more dark, a little more evil, maybe a little more atmospheric...I shouldn't say "atmospheric", we don't do any ambient pieces on it. It's a got little more open black metal parts.
Nate: Something like black metal rock.
Scott: Then again, the last song on it is probably one of the most steamrolling songs we've ever done.
Doc: So far I've only heard two songs from the new album; "The Infernal Resurrection" and "Reduced To The Failure Of Prayer", one is really really aggressive, while the other one is a lot weirder than anything you've done before this. Is this extreme variation something that's going to be really pronounced on the album?
Scott: Even with some of our older stuff like At One With The Shadows, which is out of print, there's some acoustic intros and stuff. That one is a little more varied, too, not just a punch in the face. We've done stuff like that in the past, so it's not entirely new that we pulled back a little bit or have some more open parts. This time around we definitely had a lot longer to write the album. Nate's the main song writer, I throw my riff ideas at him he's sort of the foundation. He might be able to speak more to this, but writing Breathing The Fire; 1) We had less time, 2) the place we were writing at the time was more just straight-forward kick-ass.
Nate: With writing Breathing The Fire, I figured if I was going to write thrashy stuff, it was going to be the best thrash I could come up with. If it was going to be black metal, it was going to be the best black metal I could come up with. With this one, it wasn't like we were trying to do anything, it was all just pretty natural. It's not too, too varied. With 'Infernal Resurrection', we have another 2 years of influences under our belts, so there's a lot of shit we sort of stumble upon that make their way into the songs.
Scott: We chose to put that one out first because we knew a lot of people that liked the band were either going like it or be like "I don't know...What the fuck is this?" We knew we were going to follow up with that second song, so it was sort of a one-two punch.
Nate: The intro and the outro are kind of weird, but the guts are still what it's supposed to be.
Scott: I think it's a better mix and a better overall album. It just flows better - because like we said - Breathing The Fire is just such a fucking steamroller, this one has a few more peaks & values, if you will. It doesn't get boring. As you know, we don't have many songs that are extremely long - that's also not the case with this one either. There's no 9 minute wank-off fest. It's still pretty driving all the way through, but this one just flows a little better because it's more dynamic.
Doc: With all the Skeletonwitch that's come out so far, there's definitely been a pretty big emphasis on a whole minimalist sound. Is it hard to continue writing within those parameters?
Nate: It's all pretty natural. Sometimes there's shit that's pretty technical - there's two guitars doing opposite things, sometimes we just do the exact same thing. I never plan to do a certain type of style, it's just sort of...Whatever the fuck happens that day.
Scott: I understand where you're coming from, but there really aren't parameters. Some of the riffs Nate come up with for this record he was like "I don't know...Is it too this or that?" - I can't remember the words he used, but I said "if you love it then don't think twice." So there really aren't parameters. There's definitely a certain aesthetic - we're always going to play in standard tuning, we're always going to rip Marshalls, but as far as the stuff that me or Nate write - anything goes as long as we're into it and we like it. It could be very thrash metal sounding, very black metal sounding or very death metal sounding - as long as we dig it, it doesn't matter. The sound is always going to be there just because of how we play - again, the standard tuning, we always want pretty organic production. That sets up the parameters I guess you're talking about, but as far as the melody or style of riffs - that doesn't matter at all.
Nate: If it kicks our ass, hopefully it will kick somebody else'.
Doc: The last album hit #151 on the billboard charts - a pretty sizable feat for an extreme metal band, the same year that Demi Lovato (Disney child star), made a tweet about listening to Skeletonwitch, are those two events linked, or is it just an odd coincidence?
Nate: I think - even though she's a Disney star - she just likes heavy metal...She likes Job For A Cowboy as well. So however she stumbled across us, I'm glad she did.
Scott: I still don't know who turned her on to us or how she heard about Skeletonwitch.
Nate: Hopefully she has the internet.
Scott: It's funny because she's so wholesome...
Nate: ...And we have a t-shirt that says "Eat Some Fucking Pussy" on the back. I doubt she's wearing that one.
Doc: I was reading an interview with her, and was impressed by the fact that she could distinguish the difference between metal and hardcore.
Nate: Maybe she has a cool brother...
Scott: Or a cool uncle who listens to 'Sabbath records and smokes pot with her. After she mentioned us, I started following her to see if she'd mention anything more about us. She made a tweet like "My new album is up for pre-sale!", there was like a million re-tweets about it, I was going to respond with "Ours is too!" to see if she would re-tweet it. If she did, everyone would just be horrified by it, it wouldn't help.
Doc: Is she going to be receiving a free copy of Forever Abomination?
Nate: If she wants it, sure.
Scott: Yeah, if she wants one, I'll send one to her for sure.
Nate: Actually, I'll give it to her over lunch.
Scott: You guys could go on a date.
Nate: I'd be into that.
Scott: Maybe she likes burly metal guys.
Nate: Maybe she doesn't.
Doc: On a more serious note, are you guys feeling any pressure with this album, consider the last album made it onto the Billboard charts?
Scott: I hope that it does better, but I don't feel pressure necessarily.
Nate: Well, we've only made fans over the past few years, the shows haven't gotten worse. We know the album sounds good to us, so whatever happens, happens.
Scott: I hope and I think that it will do better because it's already selling way more than the last one did in the pre-sale. It also depends on what comes out that week. If there's a really dead week, if you sell X amount of copies one week, that could put you in the top 50.
Nate: For example, selling 4300 could put you in the top 100 one week, or the top 200 another week depending on what comes out that week.
Scott: It really doesn't mean that much anyways, honestly. What it really means more to is booking agents, managers, promoters & the label who want to parade that number around like "check it out! Our guys got this number!" To us, who cares? That number doesn't help us in any way. It doesn't put any more gas in our tank and it doesn't get us any more stoked. We just do what we do and hope for the best. I think this one is going to eclipse the last one anyways, so I'm not worried. If it doesn't - fuck it. I'm not going to cry about it.
Nate: I might.
Forever Abomination full art
Doc: So the album title - is there an origin to it or are you guys pulling a Dimmu Borgir and just throwing random words together in the hopes of coming up with an evil sounding title?
Nate: That's more of a question you'd have to ask Chance, but I don't see it as so random.
Scott: I'm with Nate on that. Chance came up with the title and we really liked it. It's the same thing with his lyrics - they're usually pretty broad. You can't nail down a specific thing. People can interpret the lyrics in different ways. We intentionally keep it kind of broad. You can look at it like - is it kind of like Judas Priest's Defenders Of The Faith? Because we're always going to be doing what we do, just flying the flag for gnarly American metal. There's a million different ways you can view it. We talked about it a lot and we all liked it. So it's not really about a certain thing or situation. On one level, it's a badass heavy metal title, on another, it means something to us each individually. Not to get too fucking deep. We're always going to be an abomination.
Nate: That and we couldn't use the title Forever In Blue Jeans.
Scott: Which is also a great title.
Doc: So over the past year or two you had been using two drummers - Tony Laureano and Dustin Boltjes. Which one is on the recording of this album?
Scott: Dustin. Tony just did 2 or 3 weeks of touring with us, and that was it. It just didn't work out. We were looking for a permanent replacement, and we were hoping that would be the case with Tony, but it wasn't. One thing that's important for us is someone we get along with - it's not that we didn't get along with Tony, but he's a lot older and on a different wave-length. Dustin is from Indiana, we're from Ohio - we've known him for years. He's played drums in Demiricous and The Dream Is Dead and a bunch of other bands we've known. It was kind of like getting...I wouldn't say old friend, but we were buddies, we knew him, it was just a perfect fit.
Nate: He's just another drunk redneck.
Scott: Yeah! It just worked out great!
Doc: So this is your first album without Derrick, right?
Doc: Is it weird changing drummers after all these years?
Nate: Studio wise it was ok. Live it was a little different because we were used to Derrick's tempo changes and quirks I guess you could say. Dustin doesn't have the same quirks. In Europe it was pretty weird, but we're all on the same page now. I'm very comfortable on stage with Dustin.
Scott: Derrick was - and I don't mean this as a slight - but he was inconsistent depending on the parts (when we played live). He would speed up and slow down at certain parts like Nate was saying, but we knew when they were coming, so we all just did it together. Dustin came in, and he's like a fucking metronome - so when we're ready to speed up it's like "Oh shit! He's staying the same tempo."
Nate: We've been speeding up for eight years...
Scott: So yeah, that took a minute to figure out. But we got everything ironed out and I feel real comfortable on stage with Dustin. He also plays a lot louder, so if the monitors are shitty I can usually hear him a lot better than I could with Derrick. That's a plus.
Doc: So what songs from the new album are going to be played tonight?
Nate: With Arch Enemy we've only got a 30 minute set, so we're just playing 2 new ones; "Infernal Resurrection" & "Reduced To The Failure Of Prayer". When Devildriver headlines, we add another new one called "Choke Upon Betrayal".
Scott: Ha! So you get to hear the two you've already heard!
Nate: Once the album comes out we'll probably play four or five of them.
Doc: So what song is really going to sell this album?
Nate: I don't know yet. I like them all, but I think the lead track off the album is going to be pretty good. Jesus...I don't even know the names...
Scott: That one is called "This Horrifying Force".
Nate: There's a later one...I don't know what it's called, but I fucking love it.
Scott: Which one is that?
Nate: The cool one...
Scott: Me and Nate are always talking like "You know that one with the neoclassical part that goes into the rock n roll part?"
Nate: They're all pretty good. I'm not sure if there's one that kicks the ass of all the others.
Scott: They all have different elements. There's some that are more steamrollers, some that are more open black metal-ish. We didn't just write on great song and write a bunch of other shit around it.
Nate: One hit and a bunch of filler...
Scott: I like them all for different reasons. So I don't know if I could give you one in particular. I'm sure when it comes out there's going to be those people that are like "you have to play this one!" then other people who will say "No! Fuck that one, play the other one!"
Nate: "The one with the weird part!"
Doc: Is there going to be that one song that becomes your "Ace Of Spades"? The one you get sick of but are obligated to play it live at every single show?
Scott: I'm not sure if it will have any of those, but I also doubt we'll get sick of it. Even now, we close every single show with "Within My Blood", and we don't get tired of it. It's a different crowd, a different sound, a whole different energy every night. I'm never really like "Oh goddammit, we have to play this one again?" We're not going to write 5 million songs just so we can play new ones every night. It's fun to play what you've written and see the different responses every night. I don't get tired of a particular track, but that being said, if people really latch on to one I really don't mind...
Nate: If everyone loves it we could just do what everyone else is doing, and have "An Evening With Skeletonwitch" - play the new album front to back, then a few hits off the other shit. Earn some bucks.
Scott: Then we'll play that one song twice. We did that once. Nate and I did a Motörhead cover band back home, and we played "Ace Of Spades" twice.
Nate: Beginning and end.
Doc: That wraps shit up, and last words?
Nate: Thanks for everything; fan wise, interviewer wise...photo wise. We'll keep kicking ass if you keep coming out.
Photos courtesy of Emily Harris
||Posted on 08.10.2011 by Former EIC. Now just a reviewer guy.|
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