Epicenter – Undermining Power Part IFriday, 2nd February 2018
Dead Rhetoric: What types of topics lyrically did you decide to tackle this time- and do you think thrash is a great outlet for a lot of the political and social commentary you guys choose to talk about?
Burke: Almost getting back to an earlier question, I think this album lyrically goes from a surface level ‘we are political’ generality to more specific instances this time around. When Steve writes about the vigorous aggression of debt collection agencies when people are unable to pay things back so the cycle of punishing people because these people aren’t affluent already – these are more niche so we can talk about them more in a socio-political sense. When we were younger- we knew things were bad, but now, we know that we are right.
Historically thrash has been very approachable to handle political and social issues – being a baby between the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and punk, you have the epic aggression of the metal thing and the raw, hey ‘I’m pissed’ about things that punk gives. You can lay things out there and know that things are screwed up for all of us. For me personally, I wanted to throw some mental health topics in there- which I found was a good thing to address because it’s something that’s affected me over the past couple of years.
King: All of the lyrical content on this album, we feel a personal connection to- it’s not like these are generalized topics.
Burke: “Fugitive” is an example to be like a metaphor of the power and balance of the oppressor versus the oppressed is inherently messed up. It’s something I feel passionate about, articulating it almost in a way kind of like a cartoon panel – a basic way of understanding why this is a problem and why this needs to be understood. That’s something I would talk about irrelevant of me in the middle of a thrash song – that’s the most honest way of approaching the lyrics.
Foley: It helps that we are not in high school anymore, so we have more life experience to be writing these things with a more personal touch. Before we were in high school, even if we knew something about it, we didn’t have real experience with it. Everything just seems to progress as a whole.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there specific aspects to the production for this record that you did differently than the first one?
Towne: As far as production, mainly with our guitars, our rigs just progressed compared to what we had. In a real world, building the rigs that we play in a live setting, happens to also help us when we hit the studio. Having to not use – the first album we used an amplifier that we had never used before- it was a trial and error.
Burke: We didn’t write with that amp, we didn’t have real world experience with that amp- it was a different way of thinking about it than using our own gear. So far as layering, we did more with layering. My buddy Matt Hajdys- he’s in an indie rock band called Mister Vertigo- he got us in contact with Daniel (Florez) who recorded the album. He let me borrow a Peavey guitar with just a couple of different pick-ups- so if we needed something with just a little bit more wallop or guitars with different frequencies as far as the mids and uppers. We could make more of a sonic wall, and that was a really cool idea that we just had not thought of before.
The first record, we wanted it to be a tight, super modern, Havok meets vacuum type of thing. We were younger and that was what was cool to us at that time.
King: And now we are super into tech-death, so that factored into the production.
Burke: We wanted to make sure that this one sounded stronger and well-made, but also sounds like we are playing. You can hear a coolness about it, a little more life.
Dead Rhetoric: I think you definitely expanded on the dynamics from that first record, which helps because the more you listen to the record, the deeper you hear those layers…
Burke: And I think that really shines through on Zach’s drum parts. He has a lot of areas where he vamps around other parts. There are little things that can get lost in some other metal records. Hits on the hi-hat, grooves, ghost notes – which is why the new Meshuggah record is so cool, and that’s something that gets lost in other records.
King: You kind of took the words right out of my mouth. Because we were talking about this the other day when you listen to Tomas (Haake) from Meshuggah, you hear dynamics which supplements it in a way that you hear a groove thing coming through. The production I feel like is a default in many metal records right now, or even in the past decade or so- when you put all that compression on things, and sampling, it takes away the dynamics and the groove. It’s kind of dishonest- we wanted to find a middle ground.
Burke: You also have to stay kind of competitive sounding- the DIY sound is cool, but even within that scene – we want to still sound like us, but sound good.
Dead Rhetoric: What was the idea behind the cover art- and who designed this?
Burke: That was our friend Casey O’Dwyer, who is a really killer artist. She’s been a friend of ours for a while – her stuff is so visually striking.
Foley: We wanted something different too. We wanted something that stands out- the color scheme we went with is something not a lot of metal bands would go with pink, blue and yellow.
Burke: Very vapor wave.
Foley: It was something we wanted to go for. Not another cover that was all black with a skull on it.
King: She did describe to us the bright colors as being sort of a vapor wave to us. We definitely chose her because her portfolio of art does have that. She loves metal.
Burke: Because we were going in a different direction than the first record, we wanted to go somewhere else with the art to reflect that. This must sound like something different – we wanted to be different visually. That’s a big pull about a record, when you see the art, how you may feel about the record when you listen to it. Having something that reflected that was a shift away from Grab the Reins II.
King: In the way that you want your art to kind of portray your life, we hang out with her a lot. Our whole group of friends values her art- and that played into our selection.
Foley: We also fought about it for months over what we wanted (laughs). Should we keep going with a comic book style, or should we do a totally different turn? We each had totally different ideas as band members.
Burke: Needless to say, Casey had her work cut out for her.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it more a question of coming up with the album title first, then deciding on the cover art?
Towne: The title was last.
Foley: That was another long debate.
Towne: It was two or three weeks of just throwing ideas out there.
Burke: We wanted to avoid it being a song title- but if it was a song title, it was going to be “Nightmare Visions” for a while- but then Power Trip put out Nightmare Logic and six other bands had the word nightmare in there, so we scrapped that. I think Jared came across the idea of the word subversion, so we looked up the idea and how it could apply- and it fit the lyrics.
Foley: The fight just stopped right there, we were like ‘oh- this works.’ We got an outline together – saw the picture for the art and said, ‘okay’.
Part II of Matt Coe’s interview with Epicenter will post Saturday, February 3, 2018.
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