Black Fast – Thrashing out the Light

Wednesday, 19th August 2015

Ever find that one band that comes out of nowhere and just blows your mind? Many probably feel that way about St. Louis’ Black Fast. Coming out of nowhere with Starving out the Light (which was self-released on Bandcamp), it seemed that the band was already at the point where they could take on the world. Next thing you know, the band signed a contract with eOne Music, and they were recording a full length album with Erik Rutan. That album, [Terms of Surrender] is now available and they are about to embark on a national tour with Revocation.

What makes Black Fast so interesting is their approach. Razor-sharp riffing and plenty of songwriting know-how have been a force within their music, with a particular attention to detail. Not straight-up thrash by any means, but managing to take a number of extreme influences and make something that truly feels timeless. Excited about the album, we called up guitarist/vocalist Aaron Akin to discuss the early years of the band, their signing with eOne, and their writing process. Read on…

Dead Rhetoric: Just to get things rolling, could you give some insight into the early years of the band?

Aaron Akin: Somewhere around 2010 we played our first show, up until then we just wanted to be a metal band. We would just get in a room and jam together. We all have similar metal backgrounds, but different too, each in our own right. When we would get together, we kind of just put together tunes that kind of felt like thrash songs, but we never talked deliberated about what we would do or what type of band we were going to be. We were really unprofessional as far as taking things seriously for a while. We were about 19-20 when we started and then we put out an EP about a year later. Then it took about three years of really being a band before we put out Starving out the Light. By then, we all had it in the back of our heads that we really wanted to do it and be really good, but we were really laissez-faire about it. We didn’t take a lot of the social media stuff seriously and didn’t do much with it. We would do a lot of local gigs, and we took our playing seriously, but all the other shit – we kind of knew that we could do it but never actually knew anything about what we are actually doing now.

We just wanted to push ourselves in our playing – that was all we really cared about. We wanted to excite ourselves and write stuff that we had a lot of fun with. After Starving out the Light, online at least, people really started to get ahold of it. We set the Bandcamp on our own and Internet blogs and people were giving it some small attention but it had this tangible connection where I thought, “hey, people kind of like this record.” We just didn’t know – we didn’t promote it and we had no idea what we were doing.

Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned the press on Starving out the Light – were you surprised by any of it considering you just kind of put it out there on Bandcamp?

Akin: Yeah, and not even that. We had a ragtag Facebook page that maybe one of us knew the password to. We really didn’t give a shit about social media for a long time. We really had to embrace it. Logically, it’s the way to do it nowadays. You can’t just write what you think is a good record and just ignore this other thing – it’s the vehicle to get it to people. Ultimately you need to at least do that so you can keep doing this I guess. Eventually we came around and embrace it, and it’s awesome.

It’s kind of funny to look back even just 2-3 years ago, because we didn’t have a clue. But we were confident in each other. It’s been us four since the beginning. We started the band together and we get along and we are friends. But more than that, we are confident in each other and our chemistry as far as playing together, and our riffs and our songs. It’s been about cultivating our songwriting process and we’ve felt good about that all along. We have always had it in the back of our heads – I have no doubt that I can write music with these guys. I didn’t know if we would get to that point where we would get signed and be touring all over the place. That’s the dream – getting signed and do a big record that is recorded somewhere nice and then tour. Now all of that shit is happening and we are not going to take any of it for granted for sure.

Dead Rhetoric: Stepping back a little bit, where did the name Black Fast come from?

Akin: Somewhere along the lines, I don’t even know where I picked it up, but I heard of this – before a Catholic priest would perform an exorcism, they would fast. It was like a severe, obscure fasting – total abstention before an exorcism, and that fast was called the black fast. It was when I was kind of young and thought it was a cool idea, I’m always drawn towards that type of imagery. I was also just getting into heavy metal at the time – I was like 9 or 10. We played a couple of shows as a band that we didn’t even have a band name for. For the first few shows, we would just play at a couple of DIY spots and just do some songs. After 3-4 shows, we decided to get a band name so I suggested Black Fast.

Dead Rhetoric: It sounds like you guys really had that ‘don’t really care about the rest of it aspect,’ just go out there and play mentality…

Akin: We really didn’t give a fuck about anything else except writing riffs that we were pumped about in our basement. We would just get off on putting a tune together – it was so fresh. All of us were really hungry when we first met, and really hungry just to start being a metal band and to play at the caliber that we thirsted for. It took a while for everything to come along.

Dead Rhetoric: In some ways, do you feel that it helped you? Some bands focus a lot on the other junk, like Facebook and social media, more than the playing. By narrowing your focus, do you feel that it was helpful?

Akin: I don’t know, because I don’t know any other way that we would have done it. Certainly the way that we did it had it’s trying times and lulls. There would be two years when we didn’t really do anything except write an EP and another album. We didn’t do any big touring, just one-offs and some fun opening shows, but no one knew who we were outside of our friends in the city. We just didn’t know or didn’t care enough to figure out to taking it seriously.

Dead Rhetoric: So what led to you signing with eOne?

Akin: We have fantastic management. Fayz Media works tirelessly for us. But it was really establishing our relationship with them [that got us a contract]. We were working with Velda and she was here in St. Louis – Starving out the Light started to pick up some traction and she showed interest in working with us. The exposure online with no marketing investment on our behalf – people seemed turned on to it. They believed in us in a way that I still don’t totally understand. Then we started shopping labels, and eOne expressed interest early. They entertained the notion for months and months, and then they listened to it at the label and were into it, and offered us a deal. Our managers just took it from there. I give them all of the credit – I have no idea how that shit works. They would clue me in and ask our advice as a band – they worked well with us and very professional.

Dead Rhetoric: Terms of Surrender was recorded with Erik Rutan. What can you say about the overall process of the recording?

Akin: Erik is a one of a kind dude. I talked to him on the phone a bunch beforehand and I knew right away that I wanted to do the record with him. He’s so militantly optimistic and has so much energy. The dude was sick for a few days and was still 100 levels above us in terms of energy that he brought to it. He demanded great performances and got the best out of us really. He also heard the last record [Starving out the Light] that we did on our own, and saw something in it. He was really excited to do it, and we were in there for 2 weeks. We tried to be as prepared as we could and then just getting in there was like a life-changing whirlwind. That guy is the best – very professional and very good at what he does. A very good dude. We learned a lot – he loves to teach. He doesn’t do as many younger bands nowadays. He had a younger band in us, and he would be patient with us and teach us every step of the way. It’s really intimidating walking in there for your first shot, but he’s the most down to earth dude. But he will also kick you in the balls. Listen to Erik, that’s my advice [laughs].

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