Gizmachi – A Second ComingTuesday, 23rd March 2021
A band that had a lot of steam behind them in the mid-00s, Gizmachi released their debut album, The Imbuing, and hit the road hard. A run on Ozzfest among other things, but the band seemed to vanish after that. Re-emerging with a Kickstarter campaign for their second album in 2012, but they had an uphill battle to get the album completed. In fact, that album is Omega Kaleid, which just recently was released to the world. Featuring a new singer in Bjorn Strid, Gizmachi is finally back and firing on all cylinders. We spoke with guitarist Jay Hannon to get all the details about the band’s history from The Imbuing onwards to Omega Kaleid, as well as what is still to come.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s been 16 years since The Imbuing. Is there anything that stands out to you about that time period for you still?
Jay Hannon: I was 27 when we recorded the album. I started playing guitar at 15, and the other guys started around the same time as I did too. From my standpoint, I wanted to play so I could be in a band. Everybody has their favorite rock stars on the wall – Eddie Van Halen, Metallica – that was always my inspiration, along with Larry Mitchell, who is on the new album. It was never about being a rock star, it was about playing music and enjoying it. When we were recording that album, trying to get signed, playing all the local shows, and doing all of that stuff – that was what you worked for and what you wanted to happen. It was super cool to have it start happening. It was almost a surreal thing. I don’t have the best long term memory, so a lot of it is a blur, a ‘wow, this is happening’ type of thing. Even though we never really achieved the amount of success we thought we would, we still got to play music for a living for a while and that was all that mattered to me.
The one big thing that sticks out to me, was on Easter Sunday in 2004. Maybe a week before that, we got a call. Our old singer Sean [Kane] was always hounding Clown from Slipknot to listen to us. For a few years, he would go to Slipknot shows and find Clown, and would make him listen to our music. Finally we got a phone call around a week before Easter of 2004. Clown said he would be in NYC on Easter. He told us to book SIR Studios and do a showcase. He was going to bring some guys down from Sanctuary Records to listen to us. He said that if we started playing and they didn’t like what we were doing, they would walk right out, but if they liked it, we would talk. It was like, “No added pressure, thanks!” It was all business at that point.
So we called SIR and since it was Easter, they were closed, so we had to pay to have someone there to open the studio, but also we had to pay extra to have an engineer come in and set up. But it was one of those cool things. When you play live music, people say that when you are playing in front of a large crowd that it has to be nerve-racking. But it’s the opposite. When you play a show with a few thousand people, it feeds you. It gives you energy and you give it right back. When there is a couple people watching you and analyzing everything you are doing – I was nervous as shit! Of course at the end, they wanted us to play a few more songs, which was cool. That was the moment that they said that with a little more fine-tuning, we were ready. That was one of the most nerve-racking and coolest things at the same time.
Dead Rhetoric: You released the album and started to go on the road. What happened that took everything apart for the band?
Hannon: Our drummer, Jimmie [Hatcher], who is now my brother in law and one of my closest friends, he had de Quervain’s Syndrome in his left wrist. When he would hit the snare drum, it would feel like electricity was going through his hand and wrist. So he needed to have surgery. While that was going on, we got another drummer and he ended up leaving. Then we got another drummer and that ended up not working out. So we couldn’t find another drummer. This was late 2007. Anyone who has heard our band knows that the drumming is one of the focal points. It’s not easy to play what Jimmie plays, so it was hard finding someone who could 1) play that stuff and 2) go on the road and leave home and all that. We didn’t know what we should do, and it sort of fell apart. It was heartbreaking. You work your whole teenage life to get a band together and write songs, and release an album. Then it’s like, ‘what the hell is going on?’ It was a crazy thing.
Dead Rhetoric: You did the Kickstarter in 2012, what has been some of the difficulties along the road of finally getting Omega Kaleid to come out?
Hannon: Oh my God [laughs]! We have felt really bad. We kind of had some visions of grandeur, if that’s the term. We were going to finish the album, record it, and all this stuff was going to happen. We would put it out in 8 months. But things kept prolonging it and prolonging it. There were some health issues with a few guys in the band that put it on the backburner and a few things like that. Some things just didn’t get finished. As far as the vocals on the album, it got to the point where the stars weren’t lining up, and we had to go in a different direction as far as who would be singing on the album.
We didn’t know what we were going to do. We had the Kickstarter and money that people had donated since they were fans of the band, and here we were, five years later, and still hadn’t given them an album. The music was done and everything else was done. The opportunity to work with Bjorn [Strid] came about – he did Ozzfest with Soilwork in ’05 so we kind of met those guys and forged a bit of a friendship – so we reached out and he was like, ‘fuck yeah, I’m in!’ That was the final piece to getting the album finished.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you know that Bjorn was the right guy to do what you needed?
Hannon: He is everyone in the band’s favorite metal singer, hands down. When the opportunity came up, I mentioned it to the rest of the guys and they were like, “Really? Holy shit! Could you imagine Bjorn’s vocals on our music?” I remember the day he sent back “Look What I’ve Become,” which was the first song he sent back to us. I was sitting in the living room and I put it on. My wife and I sat there and it was like, “Holy shit!” We just knew that, to us, it would be something very special musically and vocally.
Dead Rhetoric: I’ve seen the press release stuff where he had said it was a challenge to do the vocals for the album. Is that a sort of pat on the back for you guys?
Hannon: Yeah it was. Someone that you look up to, vocally, even though I’m not a singer. I just do the harmonies when we play live, but when he says something like that, and I look at him as being one of the best metal singers on the planet, it was kind of cool. It’s better than him saying “Well, the music sucked but I did what I could [laughs]!” No, it was very cool to have him say that. I have heard from friends and people who have heard the new album already, and not to take anything away from anybody else, but they seem to say that it’s like Gizmachi on steroids with Bjorn on the mic.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned the live piece. Are you looking to do any live performances when it’s a possibility in the future? Who are you going to have fill the vocal position?
Hannon: I’m not going to say no, but it might be pretty tricky. Bjorn has Soilwork and The Night Flight Orchestra so he has a ton of shit going on. But I’m not saying no to anything at this point. It would be super cool to maybe next summer, if there is a European festival that one of his bands is on, to jump on that and have him pull double-duty or something [laughs]. But anything is an option. We haven’t really discussed it too much but we will let the album come out and see what happens. If there is a good buzz when the record gets released, anything is possible. The name of the album, Omega Kaleid, the Omega is the end – this was going to be the last thing we ever put out. It was going to be the end of the band. But now, with what has been going on, there’s been a bit of a fire set under each of our asses. We have already started talking about doing a couple of covers within the next year or something. Maybe even one long, epic song in the vein of like Dream Theater’s “A Change of Seasons” or Meshuggah’s “I” and doing something like that. We are already getting the itch again.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel Omega Kaleid has to offer for fans who have stuck around since the time of The Imbuing?
Hannon: I would say it’s more refined. We all love The Imbuing. But we were all very raw, and while I woudn’t say it’s hard to listen to, there are a lot of things for me that in looking back I would do differently. I think we came into our own towards the end of writing songs for The Imbuing, and we found our sweet spot for what we do well and what we don’t do well. Now I listen to Omega Kaleid and it’s like, ‘this is us.’ I will show anybody this record and be proud of it. I love it!
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve had this whole extended period of time. It’s your follow-up, but it’s 16 years later. It’s like a whole teenager away!
Hannon: You are right, and you know the old saying – these bands that put out great debuts because they have their whole lives to write it, but only a year for the second one. That’s why a lot of bands fall off the cliff, because they don’t have the time to work on the follow-up. You have the label down your throat and you are touring so there’s not as much time to spend on the songs. For us, a lot of these songs were written when we came off the road and had drummer issues – many songs were written then, but like you said, we had all this time to refine things and almost like produce it again. I think it really helped.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned Larry Mitchell and that experience earlier, what was it like to have him play on the album?
Hannon: He is the reason that I asked my parents for a guitar for my 15th birthday. My older brother was a huge hard rock fan and got me into Rush, Van Halen, and all that stuff, and I wanted to play guitar. But Larry’s first record, the self-titled debut that came out in 1990, that was the springboard for me. I still remember I was in the back seat and we were driving to my grandmother’s house in New Jersey and I had that album on in my Walkman or whatever. At one point, I took off my headphones and asked my mom for a guitar for my birthday. She of course said she had to talk to my father and all that, but if it wasn’t for that record, I don’t know if I would have gotten a guitar. Maybe I would have gotten one later, but Larry Mitchell was the springboard for me wanting to play guitar. He has been a huge influence ever since.
To have him on this record, if you would have told my 15 year old self that he would be friends with Larry and he would play on your record, I would have been like, ‘get out of here, there’s no way!’ It’s one of those bucket list things that isn’t on your bucket list because you don’t think it can happen.
Dead Rhetoric: Looking back at releasing The Imbuing, versus Omega Kaleid now, what do you think was different about trying to release an album out in those two time periods?
Hannon: Well, when you have a label working with you, all you are doing is saying “okay” when they tell you what they are doing. We aren’t signed, so we are doing most of this on our own this time. We do have a great PR team working with us and a great radio team working with us, so there are definitely people with us in that sense, as well as a distribution team. So it’s more hands on, and I don’t know if it’s a good thing, from a personal stand point. Back then, I was just riding the rollercoaster of the whole thing happening and letting the people who knew what to do, do their job. Now it’s more like, I need to know every detail of what’s happening. That’s the main thing. Older and wiser too – not that I know how the record industry works, but I do mixing, producing, and engineering as well, but the label-side and business stuff, I don’t really enjoy it so much.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you stayed in contact with Shawn from Slipknot over the years?
Hannon: For a while, after the first record, we did. There’s no bad blood or anything. Jimmie went to a Slipknot show whenever their last tour was and went backstage and saw Clown and everything was cool. They were goofing off and stuff. He produced the first record and played a major role in that record, and we thank him for that. As far as the second record goes, we have done everything ourselves.
Dead Rhetoric: Are you ever surprised by the amount of support you have gotten from the long-term fans?
Hannon: You know, I Have the artist app for Spotify and the 28-34 age group is our biggest group and 35-44 is our second biggest audience. So our main listeners are people that were with us for that first record and touring cycle, which is super cool. I don’t know that I’d stick with anybody for that long of a time. Especially when you are like 15 years old when the album came out. Now you are in your 30s with a family and a career – people’s tastes change too. So it’s cool to see, even if I would also like to get that younger audience.
Dead Rhetoric: That’s the trick – getting a more modern appeal without losing your sound.
Hannon: Yeah, that’s a good point too. How many times does a band come out with a record, and you fall in love with that sound/style, and then maybe the next record and it’s not exactly that and you aren’t sure if you like it as much. With this record, I haven’t really heard anything negative, except a few people pissed off about the Kickstarter thing, which I totally understand. But we are going to make it up to them. We are going to send them extra shit, and they aren’t just going to get what they helped us out with. They are going to get some extra goodies. But it’s very cool to see all the positive things, like the ‘Gizmachi on steroids’ thing we talked about.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your plans going forward at this point?
Hannon: To try to get as much content on social media as possible. No one in the band really likes posting stuff, so they kind of stuck me with it, which is tough with two kids in the house and my wife working. It’s like an extra job [laughs], but it is what it is. I’m just excited to finally have people hear our new music, if they are new fans or older fans. If there is enough of a buzz and people want to see it, I can’t just sit home. We have to make it happen in some way.