Translation Loss Artist- Gnaw interview is up
1. 1. Gnaw has some new members Dana being one of them from amazing
Bee and flower and Insect ark. How are the new voices in the band making Gnaw a stronger band?
CT: Dana certainly expands the palette and gives us an extra set of strings to work with. She also brings a wide range of new textures to Gnaw in the way she approaches and uses her effects. She fell in with us when this album was almost finished and we’re hoping that we can give her ideas some increasingly equal weight in future writing. I think that what she’s doing on the lap steel is pretty unique, especially in the metal realm. If we widen the scope a little there are some great lap/pedal steel players doing really interesting things these days – Heather Leigh Murray and Susan Alcorn, who also happen to be women, are at the top of the list. It’s the new female wave of groundbreaking horizontally oriented string playing. We could also include Wu Fei in there now that it’s suddenly a genre.
AD: Gnaw has always been an entity that embraces change. It's interesting and also fun to see how new sound elements can contrast and also complement each other. Dana's contribution to Cutting Pieces has given many of the songs a ghostly presence as well as adding even more noise. You can never have enough ghosts or noise. We're starting to move forward writing new matieral and having a new virtuoso in the collective will hopefully yield some unique songs. Dana also plays bass among other instruments so we have 3 multi-instrumentalists in the band now to perhaps “switch it up” a bit. We're also working in a new drummer into the fold and it's going fantastic so far.
1. 2. Cutting Pieces seems the most diverse of the other Gnaw releases were
did the more grinding avant doom meets noise rock come from with this album there are more song structures. I don't know maybe I'm the only one that hears this.
AD: The album, as a whole, does “seemingly” have more noise rock moments compared to the last two. For the most part, we create and finish each song one at a time until we feel that we have a magical combination for an album. We had no pre- conceived notions before creating Cutting Pieces other than our adventurist spirit and wanting to experiment. Manipulating sound, noise, metal, doom, industrial, etc is our thing and I'm psyched we ended up with such a ferocious album.
CT: There have always been set structures and frameworks, the skeletons might just be more perceptible in these most recent compositions. There are some more repetitive and through composed pieces and I think that we’ve also gotten more into seeing what we can build on top of very simple motives, especially in the bass. Trying to create interesting developments using only minimal variations in simple patterns is challenging, but it can be a heavy space to get into. Especially live. The pieces are open enough that live you can approach the same material gig after gig in
a novel way each time. They’re like doors you can step into as opposed to static compositions. At least that’s my experience.
1. 3. You were working with Seventh Rule and now with Translation Loss;
how did the change in label come to be?
CT: We would have been happy to work with Seventh Rule again, but I think he had a lot going on during the window in which we were looking to release this. Plus, we’ve changed labels each record so why stop now? Translation Loss has been great, and we enjoyed out time with Conspiracy, who we single handedly put out of business.
1. 4. Why a 4-yr gap between albums if I may ask?
CT: This stuff takes a long time and a lot of energy and focus to write. If we had the budget of 1970s Fleetwood Mac none of us would have to work and we’d make albums much faster. We lose money on this project, even though we mostly use our workplaces and home studios for the production. Almost every musician I know loses money on their projects, even if they tour a lot. If people don’t buy music and musicians aren’t compensated in a way that will pay any of their bills we can’t expect to have dedicated artists anymore. We also all have lives where we’re involved in a lot of different domains, so there are periods where Gnaw isn’t working as a unit very regularly. But one or two of us are still generating Gnaw ideas and material during those times.
1. 5. How has the live show changed now with a larger unit and more
expansive sounds on an album like Cutting Pieces?
CT: Well, Jun isn’t with us these days and he was a complete wild card in terms of live performance. You could never predict if he was going to erupt some noise you’d never heard before, mix up the sounds from different songs, grab the mic and espouse something off the wall, or scream in some audience member’s face. Or he’d just sit there with his headphones on, turn knobs, and behave himself. Dana is more, uh, with the compositional program, so the dynamic has shifted a lot.
AD: While the core instrumentation has mostly been the same...guitar, bass, drums, etc, we tend to change/add new sound elements to keep it interesting. As mentioned, the unique sounds that Dana makes with her lap steel guitar adds an otherworldly vibe to the whole shebang. We also have some interesting instruments, multiple samplers, oscillators, homemade stringboards and the like that we like to make use of.
1. 6. If you will make a proper video for any track on new Gnaw album which
would you want and how would you want the visuals?
AD: We have an animated video for Fire that recently premiered. A multi-media artist from Montreal named Roman Urodovskikh did all the visuals. I saw some of his stuff online and since we have some of the same friends, I was able to contact him immediately. It was fantastic working with him. He's a dark one, that Mr Urodovskikh! Fire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv4R8QfiFKk We also have a video in production for Prowling Mary. There is one more shoot day and then editing begins. It's going to be ultra creepy. We're hoping it'll be done some time in March.
Still from the Prowled Mary video shoot:
1. 7. The artwork for for Cutting Pieces much play a role in the over all theme
how does it do this?
AD: Our one concern, given the album title, was for it not to come off as some silly death metal kind of cover since Gnaw has nothing to do with that. We asked for a somewhat abstract tie-in and suggested a more industrial approach that would perhaps play to the viewer’s imagination. The artist Sebastian Hayez has done all of our albums up to now and he definitely knows what's up.
CT: We gave him rough forms of the songs as they developed. He drafted a number of concepts and we provided a lot of feedback as he developed the ideas. So it went in parallel.
1. 8. 2017 what is the NYC underground scene like I grew up there with
CBGB, ABC NO RIo, Coney Island High, Continental Divide and brownies . Where are the spots today and what bands are making the most out of it ?
CT: Through hard work and divine intervention ABC Rio is still there, though I think their roof is still caving in. I cannot count the number of clubs and band spaces that have closed in Manhattan. There are almost none left, other than larger corporate venues. It’s a disaster and nearly impossible to function as a band there. There are tons of places in Brooklyn, and new ones are always popping up, so that’s usually where we end up playing. St. Vitus, Trans Pecos, Paper Box, Union Pool are all regular spots for shows. I don’t know that any of them are really “underground”. There are a lot of smaller and underground spaces used for indie rock/avant-garde etc., but underground metal shows are increasingly rare, especially because of stricter noise regulations as of late. New York’s being slowly choked off by rich people and their self-centered quality of life concerns. There’s this continually perplexing dynamic of people moving to NYC because they think they want to be around art and culture and then they kill off everything that doesn’t exist in a sterile curated environment. One part of this is clubs needing to maximize revenue in order to pay the astronomical rent. So almost every venue kicks you out as soon as the show is done so rich assholes can come in and have a dance party. The DJ begins the minute the live music ends. You have to load out your gear through a packed crowd of martini drinking fiscal minded fraternity drones wearing blazers. It’s terrible and it’s in almost every club.
1. 9. I know the members of Gnaw have other projects. Tell us a bit about
them; if each member has the time for my readers to see what makes Gnaw tick.
CT: I do a good deal of solo guitar stuff and solo recording under my own name. I was also in a band called Enos Slaughter for a long while that was a combination of bombastic abstract psych and folk instrumentation. And I’ve done a lot of collaborative things under the name Zashiki-Warashi. I also do visual art.
AD: I'm involved in a few other projects that are currently happening. Right now I'm working on an album with an occult ambient band from the west coast called Deathstench. I also just finished a raging, ultra-ultra-ultra-ultra speed, noisy grind/free-
form album with Balazs Pandi, Jamie Saft and special guest Merzbow. Details on that hopefully sooner than later. I did guest vocals on a track on the upcoming Nightmarer album which is coming out in March on Seasons Of Mist. I also have some other special things going on. Dana has a heavy, haunting-psych instrumental band called Insect Ark who just had their new album Marrow Hymns released today via Profound Lore.
1. 10. Can an underground band in 2017 make a living anymore or are those days over unless you tour endlessly and get lucky and get music in movies or video games?
AD: Unfortunately, at this level, it's impossible to make a real living solely creating music unless you are a working musician, who constantly tours and is lucky enough to command a high draw and sell A LOT of merch. It can happen but it's becoming increasingly rare and whoever is lucky enough to actually experience that will be living the nightmare of that Bob Seger “Turn The Page” song. Soooooo...we pay and pay and pay and bleed for art.
1. 11. In just 4 words how would you explain Gnaw to someone about to listen
for the 1st time?
CT: Ugly, loud, slow, disorienting. AD: Noisy, ferocious, experimental, dismal
1. 12. With 3 albums out now how do they all tie into each other and did Cutting
Pieces turn out the way you expected or was it a beast that run away and a happy accident?
CT: Nothing about it was an accident, but it did have its own evolution. I wouldn’t have been able to predict at all what it would sound like four years ago. Hopefully the next release will work the same way.
AD: All three albums share a bleak, harsh, fuzzy and industrial aura so there is a tie in with regards to that. Cutting Pieces is the album we wanted to make without knowing it beforehand...if that makes any kind of sense. I can't call it a progression but Carter is right calling it an evolution of sorts. CP is the best sounding of the three and even though the songs vary widely with regards to structure, it's somehow the most coherent. Gnaw is ever evolving. The one thing that probably won't change is the noisy, fuzz aspect to it all.
1. 13. What bands and books are drawing the members of Gnaw to them
AD: I'm back on my Bukowski kick again which I revisit every few years. I'm also
re-reading the first Uplift Series Trilogy by David Brin who is one of my favorite authors. I've been a sci fi and fantasy fan since I was a kid. Gollum! Since I listen to so many different kinds of music across the board, I'll just tell you that this weekend I listened to the brand new Jamie Saft-“Solo A Jenova” LP at least ten times. I also listened to the brand new Miracle-“The Strife of Love In A Dream” album which just arrived in the mail. It sounds like a mixture of Depeche Mode and Joy Division who I totally loathe mixed with some really rad John Carpenter synth action. Somehow, this combination works for me and I dig it a lot! I probably listened to the LP five times today alone. I also listened to a lot of early Accept on Friday during the day at work because later on I saw Udo Dirkshneider perform Accept tunes at The Gramercy Theater in NY. His voice is as sick as ever.
CT: I’ve been on a Cormac McCarthy kick as of late. I teach a class in borderline personality disorder, so I’ve been going back to Melanie Klein, Wilfred Bion and Donald Winnicott. I’m also in the middle of a Chinese S.F. book called Three Body Problem. And the poems of Frank Stanford are on my table too, they’re unbelievable. As far as music I just got a ton of stuff from the Chocolate Monk and New Atlantis labels, so that’s been on rotation. So have the first three Queen LPs (other members of Gnaw just forced me to dive into these) and a couple of Fela Kuti records. I don’t listen to that much recent rock stuff, but the newest Oh Seehs (Orc) is pretty great.
1. 14. Does Image have anything to play a role in a band like Gnaw or is it more
about the Visuals ?
AD: I suppose we let the music convey whatever pre-conceived notion of an image of the Gnaw collective is. I like to think that most of our songs have this “visual” quality to them which triggers the imagination of the listener to paint pictures of what's going on in whatever world the song takes place in. We don't wear makeup or any kind of costumes but we do have a few lights, a giant Gnaw banner and Brian stole (borrowed forever) a fog machine from his old workplace that emits a fog made out of secret ingredients. No audience deaths yet but I've seen some people turn green.
1. 15. If the members stopped making music would you still be friends and hang
out or is music and soundscapes what ties the bind to gnaw?
CT: We actually like hanging out together, though wouldn’t do it as often if we didn’t have music we needed to work on. I like and respect everyone who’s been involved in Gnaw.
AD: I would say we're all really close and I consider all members as some of my closest friends. I hang out with members separately more than the others do because I'm just so damned lovable!
1. 16. I really hear a kinship to bands like Swans, MZ412, Brutal Truth and The
Accused for were Gnaw comes from would I be off base?
AD: There's definitely a kinship with those bands for me. I've been into the early Swans forever (because I'm ancient) and Blaine from The Accused is one of my favorite vocalists of all time.
CT: Those are all bands I like. There’s certainly more kinship to those than the Clancy Brothers.
17.Any closing thoughts here:
AD: Thank you so much for the interview Clint! Thanks everyone for reading. We have some touring coming up so please be on the lookout for dates. Our album is out now on Translation Loss Records and the label will have full Euro distribution soon for those Europeans who are waiting for the import prices to decrease. Also, our new video for Prowled Mary should be out there shortly. Cheers!