Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Drowning Horse & Warthreat Interview
This is the interview I conducted with Micky of Drowning Horse/Suffer/Warthreat in mid-2011, appearing in the first issue of S4D. It still is probably my favourite interview, and despite the fact that both the bands I cover (Drowning Horse and Warthreat) have advanced in leaps and bounds since it was published, a lot of interesting information regarding influence, foundation and performance is discussed.
Hey Micky, what’s been happening over your end of town recently?
I have been quite busy of late. Each band is due to record this month or next month, so I’ve been busy either recording, writing or finalising songs with each band. On top of that, I have to make sure I spend plenty of time with my puppy Varg, as well as work, lose on scratchies and/or whatever it is that grown up people are supposed to do...
What was the last record that impressed you?
Out of the new(ish) release records I have acquired of late, the ‘Giftgasattack – Noise Hero’ LP seems to have received the most repeat listens. Also the recent Scapegoat LP is one of the more flawless hardcore records I’ve heard in recent times and would be a strong contender for hardcore record of the year!
You play in Suffer, Warthreat and Drowning Horse (that I know of). Do you have any other musical pursuits besides these?
There are other projects which I work on and plan from time to time, but a lot of these are just based around riffs and ideas; there are no other ‘serious’ bands that I am apart of at this point in time.
How much does the city of Perth influence your music?
It’s hard to say, as I have never lived anywhere else. Being in such an isolated part of the world may have an effect on making it harder to find good music, but I think the fact that Perth is such a boring ‘dullsville’ of a town, it has probably made me more proactive to go and seek good underground music and make an effort to create my own interpretation of the kind of music that I enjoy. With such a small community, it’s also a lot easier to find like minded people who are into underground music and can introduce you to bands or artists that you may not have discovered on your own.
What do you think of Australian underground music, particularly that of Perth? Are there are any new acts you would recommend?
I think Australia homes some of the best underground music in the world! Each state tends to have their own kind of style or approach to the music which they make and Perth specifically have been responsible for breeding some of the more original and interesting underground punk bands over the past few decades. Recent/newish bands who have caught my interest are The Hunt, who are probably my current favourite local band, playing a really dark metallic crust style akin to Tragedy or Wolfpack, Clenched Teeth, Foreign Aids, Frozen Oceans, Happy Families, Lie Cycle, Negative Reinforcement and the newer Javier Frisco stuff is pretty cool too. I could probably rattle off a few other friends bands who have been around for a while longer, but they’re probably decent enough on their own accord to need to be namedropped. Australia wide, awesome bands that I have heard but are yet to have releases at the moment are Last Chaos from Brisbane, Vaginors from Adelaide and The Zingers from Melbourne.
Let’s talk about Warthreat. How would you describe the band’s sound and influences?
Late last year I received a message from Luke, asking if I would be interested in playing bass/vocals in a Disclose worship d-beat band. Before that I’d told Luke that I’d been writing a few d-beaty kind of riffs and wanted to know if he’d be keen on drumming for a recording or something and he seemed keen, but at the same time he was jamming the Warthreat songs with Zaheer, so it probably seemed more appropriate to see as to whether I would be keen in completing their lineup. We’ve tried hard to stick to the Disclose worship approach, playing strictly noisy ‘D-beat Raw Punk’, but we do take influences from other punk and D-beat bands such as Anti-Cimex, Discharge (although Disclose are pretty much a Discharge worship band anyhow), Mob-47, Disorder, Bastard, Gauze and some of the more modern noisy punk bands like D-Clone, Electric Funeral, Giftgasattack, No Fucker, System Fucker and the mighty Framtid. I guess our main aim is to emulate the Japanese raw punk sound, adding as much noise as possible to create the Warthreat sound.
Recently at a Suffer gig at 208, an amp precariously placed on the mantel fell onto the drum kit during Warthreat’s set, due to what I assume was the amp vibrating so much from the noise/sound level. How do you feel about noise music in general, and how significant a role do you think it plays in hardcore?
The noise aspect of Warthreat is quite different to the specific noise genre which relies more on oscillators, contact mics, etc. The noise which we convey is probably more based around the excessive use of distortion and fuzz, making certain instruments sound more like a high frequency or white noise, rather than the instrument that it is supposed to. Zaheer has a rather noisy guitar tone as it is and when I was playing bass, I would split my signal; one amp would have a fuzzy, yet decipherable bass tone to cut through the mix and the other amp had an eq of all high, no low, full distortion, which sounded more like a messy white noise rather than a bass. I also use pedals such as phaser’s and wah pedals for a swishy effect in some sections.
The incident where the speaker fell on Luke’s kit occurred due to Brendan’s use of delay on his vocals. We have a more traditional mid-paced punk song, which does not have a d-beat(!) and there is a bass dropout/noise section where there is heavy feedback/phaser and Brendan adjusts the rate of delay on his delay pedal, creating an oscillated delay effect. When he did this at the 208 show, the oscillation created a big bassy sonic boom type noise and caused a speaker to drop due to the vibration of the frequency. The noise aspect is very important with the style of music which Warthreat play, in staying true to the sound of our influences and it is also a lot of fun too! I do also listen to quite a lot of other noise related projects/power electronics acts and have recently adapted more power electronics to Suffer and use LFO’s and heavy delay effects in Drowning Horse also.
Warthreat have put out a demo thus far, which has been spending a lot of time in my tape deck. Can you say a little something about the recording process, and perhaps the reception to the demo?
The instruments on the demo tape were recorded live in Luke’s living room on a digital 8-track. The vocals were later added a week or so later and the demo was mixed at my home not long after that. I am quite satisfied with the hugeness of the drum sound, however it is lacking a bit in punchiness form guitar and there were a few mixing issues that I probably should have paid closer attention to – which are mistakes I will not make again in the future. It may have also served better to have recorded a second guitar track, but a demo is a demo and I think it came out quite well and better than some bands who record their songs on an iphone or some shit and press the tracks to tape.
We had a first run of 50 tapes, which were pressed through Lifeshaper, which were distributed locally and around Australia through a few distros. This pressing of the tape is not too great, as the tapes were dubbed in mono and the recording relied quite heavily on a stereo mix. There was a second press of around 150 demos, which were dubbed professionally in stereo through DEX audio. These have been distributed around the world and we have received some pretty good and flattering feedback from this run of tapes. A lot of the material is a bit more dated now and some of the newer songs sound a bit different to the songs on the demo, however I am quite happy with how the demo came out as a whole (although I am my own harshest critic and I can never be completely happy with any of the projects I am a part of).
What’s on the agenda for Warthreat? Last I heard you guys were recording some new material. Is there a full length in the works?
Warthreat are currently in the middle of recording for a 7” record. The recording is around 80% complete so far and I am also taking on the recording and mixing duties for this. We’ve taken a different approach to our recording, so there’s a whole lot of different/noisy guitar tones and things like that. Three of the songs from the demo have been re-recorded and there are also 4 new songs (I think?). We have been working on new songs which we plan to record before Zaheer moves away, but we can’t really move onto until this project is completed. The new songs will more than likely be for a split release or something like that. No plans to release an LP at this point in time, but this band does seem to pump out new songs a lot quicker than any other band I have been in, so it is quite possible that an LP may be on the cards for sometime in the not too distant future.
I guess I should also shed some light on the current Warthreat lineup situation. Zaheer is planning on moving interstate around August/September and I will be taking over the role of guitarist in the group. We have enlisted Shane Hunter of The Craw fame to take over bass duties and we will be a 5 piece with two guitarists up until Zaheer’s departure.
Moving onto Drowning Horse, can you give us a bit of history behind the band? It’s hard to find any solid information on how the band started and who played in it at what stage.
I've been a part of Drowning Horse for almost two years now. To my knowledge, the band originally started with Kim on Vocals, Brendan on guitar, James on drums and Rohan (Extortion, All In Deep Shit, Collapse, etc.) on bass. This was the lineup who recorded the track 'Kings' on the split with Gore Crow Tones. Before Drowning Horse, Kim, Brendan and Rohan all played together in metallic-crust band 'Defeat' (their 7” is due out soon; they were one of my favourite Perth bands that I have ever seen live), so Drowning Horse may or may not have started out of the ashes of that band. To add another, heavier dimension to the group, Rohan asked me to join Drowning Horse on second guitar, as he knew that I had played guitar in a band in the past, had decent gear and was into sludgey, doomy kinda stuff. We jammed infrequently around 4 or 5 times until Rohan later moved over to Melbourne. Brendan, James and I jammed a few times together, working on some of the older tracks, as well as writing new songs, but decided it would be hard to further as a group without a bass player, so we then recruited Robin Mander (ex-All In Deep Shit/Hospital Beds) as he expressed interest in the music we were playing, had played bass in a band before and was keen on acquiring a huge bass rig (which may be one of the more important factors!). The five of us have been together now for over a year now and in this time we've written quite a few songs together; some of which have been scrapped, some of which have not, as well as playing around 15-20 odd gigs together.
Drowning Horse has an overwhelming stage presence, which in my opinion is very difficult to capture on record. What’s the recording process like for Drowning Horse, other than your live recordings?
I am yet to step foot in the studio with Drowning Horse. All recordings apart from 'Kings' from the split with Gore Crow Tones have been either live or rehearsal recordings. We are booked in for a 5 or 6 day recording session with Al Smith at Bergerk Studios mid-July and have been working on the same 4 songs for over a year now and have planned out a lot in regards to effects, layers and approach. I would imagine that there will also be a lot of experimentation, which is generally the case with our live shows anyhow; a lot of the structures and effects tend to rely on a bit of improvisation here and there, which is hopefully for the best.
The one band that Drowning Horse reminds me most of is Corrupted. I’ve noticed you sporting a Corrupted patch, so I assume they’re an influence. Can you talk about what inspires Drowning Horse, both musical and non-musical?
The collective influences that Drowning Horse share predominantly would be doom bands such as Burning Witch, Neurosis, Sunn O))), Corrupted, Earth, as well as some Norweigan Black Metal influences and even to a smaller degree some metallic crust bands. We all have input into the song writing process, but the majority of the riffs I have come up with would definitely be some of the more Corruptedy/Griefier kinda sounding riffs. Corrupted are hands down my personal favourite doom band of all time, as they are so versatile, powerful and extreme, so it's not really surprising that some of our music would remind listeners of a band like Corrupted. In saying that, I don't sit down to write a song and say 'this is going to be a Corrupted sounding song' or 'this is a Neurosis riff' and we don't sit down together and say 'it would sound cool to chuck in a Tragedy melody here' or whatever; we all bring in our own personal influences and approach to the music. I can't say a lot in regards to what influences Kim lyrically, however I will say that he has some excellent lyrics, which are almost short stories in a way. Drowning Horse also like to play with minimal lighting (preferably red lights) at cold temperatures.
As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, Drowning Horse are recording material for an upcoming LP. The most I’ve uncovered is that it’s to be recorded very soon and hopefully out by the end of the year. Can you tell us a little about what the record will be like, and if the creative process behind it is any different to a typical Drowning Horse performance?
The material which we will be recording spans over 60 minutes and we plan to release this as a double LP, with one song per side. Some of the material is pretty old, as there has not been a studio recording since the split 7” and most of the songs can be found on the live cassette (although some of the songs have been reworked/restructured). We are going to try and make each song flow in one way or another, so if you listen to the songs together on CD or in a digital format, they will all flow together like one atmospheric track – the way all good albums should. If you are a fan of doom, drone, ambience and black metal; there should be enough of a mix of those genres to satisfy you. We will be experimenting a lot with different amps and effects, but will keep the sound and the songs as true to how we perform them live as we can.
Do you think there’s much of an interest in sludge and doom in Perth? As far as I know, there aren’t many other bands playing this style of music.
There are little to no Doom bands in Perth. There are some bands which tread into the territory, such as Atolah and Cease, but as far as I know Drowning Horse are currently the only full fledged Doom act that are active in Western Australia. There is another band in Perth however, called BOAB who have similar influences to Drowning Horse, but they are not very active and are more a jam band if anything. We have tried to get them to play shows with us before, but they are all older guys who have other things going on their life.
There seems to be quite a lot of interest in the style of music that we play within Perth and we always seem to get great reception from a lot of different people within very different genres/subgenres of music. We play shows with hardcore bands, indie bands, garage bands and many others and a lot of people seem into it, whether they play or listen to that sort of music generally or not.
Last week Drowning Horse played at the Bakery with some ‘experimental’ acts, and I thought that in lieu of the other bands playing, you decided to ditch the traditional set and explore instrumental territory with the aid of a trombone. Turns out Miley Cyrus had something to do with it – care to elaborate?
The show in question was the Abe Sada / Sub Ordnance split LP launch and after we had committed to the gig for some months, Kim told us he was unable to play the gig due to ‘other plans’. We decided against pulling out so close to the date of the gig and decided to perform an elaborate rendition of our song which is currently titled ‘Anne’. This is a two riff song broken up into three sections; an instrumental intro, a mid section which is based around a drawn out drone and vocals and ending with a heavier riff/drum section with a few vocals also. It turns out that Kim couldn’t make it to this gig due to having tickets to Miley Cyrus, so we decided to stretch out the song Anne to around double its usual duration, as it is the one song which is probably easiest to translate in an instrumental point of view. I added the odd vocals here and there over the drone part, however instead of singing line by line as Kim usually would, I sang them in a more spaced out manner. I don’t actually know what Kim sings, however have been told what the song is about, so I tried my hardest to convey the same meaning through the improvised lyrics which I was singing during the drone. As James does not play any drums during the mid-section drone, he added trombone (which will also be included on our recording and hopefully in our live sets in the future). It was very fun and different on stage experiment. We did not really rehearse the structure for how we performed on the night, but we work together well as musicians, so I think we managed to pull it off well enough.
I’m sure no one’s asked you this question before, so I will – if you were only allowed to listen to five records for the rest of your life, what would they be?
This is a really tough question, as I listen to a LOT of different music and have a lot of favourite artists in different genres. I will try to cover all bases as best and have an answer that has remained relevant over time and would remain relevant in the future. Some of my favourite songs and releases are also of the 7” or split variety; but the more material the better, so this will be strictly long players!
Crossed Out Discography LP
Big L - Lifestylez of da Poor and Dangerous
Framtid – Under the Ashes
Corrupted – El Mundo Frio
The Organ – Grab That Gun
Cheers for answering my questions Micky, any final words?
Thank you so much for your interest and support. Hopefully my answers make sense – I have replied to the majority of your questions whilst at work, so if they don’t make a lot of sense, it’s more than likely due to me being interrupted whilst in the middle of them. New Suffer, Warthreat and Drowning Horse will be out within the next few months.