[EDITOR’S NOTE: Last Sunday, our favorite NCS writer from the UK (okay, yes, he’s the only NCS writer from the UK) killed three birds with one stone. Actually, he didn’t kill anything (at least so far as he can remember), so let me change that: Andy Synn did a lot of multi-tasking last Sunday night, to whit:
He and his band Bloodguard opened a show in Nottingham headlined by the almighty Skeletonwitch; he interviewed Chance Garnette, the frontman for Skeletonwitch — on video no less; and he filmed Skeletonwitch playing a new song (“Reduced To the Failure of Prayer”) when they took the stage. And he probably did some other things that night, which are better left private. Not too fucking shabby for one night, huh? So, here we have both the interview video, a transcript of the interview (which Andy did, too), that live video, and one more Skeletonwitch video just for good measure. UPDATE: We’ve now also got the song that will appear on a flexi-disc in the next issue of DECIBEL mag.]
Sunday evening I had the chance to interview Skeletonwitch singer Chance Garnette just prior to their show at Nottingham Rock City. It was also the first time I’ve attempted to video an interview… and I think it turned out ok!
I edited the original footage down from 25+ minutes, simply to remove some of the more conversational and rambling stuff that Chance and I got into, so don’t worry, there’s been no editing trickery to alter the content of the interview as presented – just some to make me look better as an interviewer!
After the jump there’s a transcript for those of you who, like me, don’t always want to watch/listen to an interview and prefer to read it at their own pace!
So how’s the tour been? How have the festivals and the all the off-dates you’ve been doing been?
CG: Well this is our first time doing the whole festival deal here in Europe and it’s been really killer. Playing for big crowds and people seem to get into it, I think people are starting to… to remember our name, finally! This is probably our fourth time here, so they seem to be feeling it and we’re meeting a lot of people, taking a lot of pictures, so I couldn’t complain if I had to man! Almost too much beer, so I mean, it could be worse…
CG: Mostly, until it runs out! Then we’ve only done a few off dates… let me take a look… like I said, a lot of beers makes it hard to remember (laughing)…. 1, 2, 3… we did some off-dates with Aborted and that was, that was kinda cool. I was kinda wondering if it was just gonna be a, like a, death-metal blast-beat crowd, but it was killer! Those guys are really cool, it was the first time I’ve met them and they were really nice…
How was Bloodstock yesterday?
CG: Bloodstock… yeah, it was killer…
CG: Yeah, obviously! (laughing)… It was hard to get to, we had come from Party San which was like 14 or 15 hours man, we had to take a ferry and we showed up about ten minutes before we were supposed to play. We didn’t even think we were going to make it then, we were like, “ohhh, fuck… we’re gonna make it!”, “No we’re not!”, “Yes we are!”, “No we’re not!”, so just the anxiety and the stress-level of the… you know you don’t wanna fucking not show up OR show up too late to play! I mean I’m not over [here], I’m not 3000 miles from home to not fucking play! But we did make it, and we played the full set – at fucking 11am – so needless to say after the set my throat hurt fucking bad dude, because you know, you just wake up at 10 and you’re screaming at 11…
No warm ups, nothing…
CG: Not at all, not at all… But I was probably drunk by 1 so you know, it was good, it was a long day. We got to see Immortal, that set must have been an hour and a half, maybe even 2 hours, it was soooo long. They played all of it and it was killer.
Yeah, I saw them last year at Hellfest.
CG: Oh cool. We also saw them in Pittsburgh… you know they hardly come to the States and when they do a lot of times it’s New York, Chicago, L.A., but not like the little shit like where we live. But they did, like, a lot of other states… Pittsburgh which is 4 hours from home, so we went there, and there was fucking about three feet of snow… exactly what I needed! So yeah, Bloodstock was killer man, absolutely.
How’s the UK been for you? I saw you, I can’t remember if it was this year or last year, with Goatwhore and Toxic Holocaust when you came round. How is the UK going for you?
CG: I’m always stoked to come to the UK.
It’s ok, you can be negative on this! If we’re not giving you enough…
CG: (laughing) Well, if it sucked I’d tell you that it sucked, but it’s always good, we always seem to actually do better here actually than like, the far East, like say… Slovenia, for example. A lot of people don’t even know who we are over there, but it seems like in the UK more people are receptive and willing to give it a chance. To at least give it a shot. So yeah, we’re always stoked to see how many UK dates there are. Like, I’m sure you guys have played Ivory Black’s and shit like that, I mean we always seem to do really well in… Scotland I think. But yeah, the UK is one of my favourite places to come when we leave the United States.
Good, I’m glad. I know it would suck to come all the way over here and get no attention.
CG: Well that’s what happens the first couple of times. You’ll make the trip, you’ll pay the money, you’ll get on the plane aaaaand (mimes big chord)… everyone’s out smoking cigarettes. One time we started playing and everyone was playing kicker / foosball? Yeah, everyone was playing fucking foosball! But at least we’re past that now!
Maybe just go over, take the ball, and go “you can have it back WHEN we’re done!”
What have you got, tour-wise, lined up for the future? I know you’ve got a big one with Arch Enemy in the States.
CG: Right! It’s Chthonic… and then us, Devildriver and Arch Enemy and that’s gonna be quite a long one, and then we’ll do some headlining dates right after it’s over, cos the album comes out then and I definitely wanna be on the road when the album comes out…
Well the blog this is for is American-based, so if you wanted to mention the dates or anything…?
CG: If I could remember them… (laughing)… I know it’s pretty much September/October and I’m really stoked on that. I like playing the big theatre tours, it’s a good change from playing the clubs, headlining the clubs to 200-300 people. I mean, that shit is AWESOME, just to be that close and be that tight with everyone, but just like with anything if you do one thing too much you kinda get stuck in a rut.
It’s really good you got that recognition though.
CG: And it makes you feel good that they wanted you on it. And this time we don’t have to open. Yes!
As I was saying, I’ve seen you with Goatwhore before, but who have been your best touring partners?
CG: Well Goatwhore are probably our best friends, band friends, metal friends. We’ve done a lot of tours with them as well as Soilent Green, which Ben (Falgoust) sings for. Like, I was following their blogs and their tweets when they were over here last. So we’ve done a lot of touring with Ben, and we love fucking Sammy (Duet). I mean, Nate (Garnett) and Sammy are like brothers man. It’s like big brother and little brother (laughing). But also I would say we’ve probably done more dates with Toxic Holocaust than any other band ever. I men we did a Hate Eternal tour in the US… and then the Goatwhore/Toxic here. We’ve toured with them in the States a couple of times, so we’ve probably spent more time on the road with those guys and that’s always a blast. I mean Joel is a madman, is a crazy dude and it’s fun to get drunk with him! Sometimes just sit back and watch what he does, you know? It’s cool yeah. So those guys, for sure!
So how are things going with Dustin (Boltjes) your new drummer? How did you end up hooking up with him?
CG: We knew him, we had toured with his other band Demiricous, who are on Metal Blade, and we did a Demiricous/Skeletonwitch/Dying Fetus tour of the States, way back in the day, a long time ago… 6 years, maybe 7 years even… so we had met him then, and our drummer “Mullet” Chad decided he wanted to go back to art school and so he dropped out on us at the beginning of the year. I think the funniest thing about that is initially he had quit art school to be in the band, and then about 5 years later he quit the band to go back to art school! I was like, “make up your mind brother!”… I think he’s got his mind made up now though, I mean, touring’s not for everyone and Skeletonwitch tours our ass off, so you have to be able to be in the band and be able to eat shit food, and not worry about what’s going on at home to be able to do it to the extent that we like to do it…
But yeah, Dustin gave us a call and we were immediately interested, cos I remember from that Dying Fetus tour that we did that he’s a wild man, I mean just like… crazy! We even had to tone him DOWN for Skeletonwitch, we’re like “dude, that’s crazy shit! Just… bring it back a little bit!” (laughing)… But no, it’s awesome, and as I said, being that wild, and just how his style of playing is, has kind of brought a little more excitement to the show, a little more energy I guess, and … it’s just that he’s so stoked about it, he wants to be here and he’s wanted to be a career musician like, forever, so it’s awesome for him to tell us, you know, “I see this as an opportunity and thank you guys,” and we’re all, “you’re welcome brother and fucking thank YOU!”, because what are we gonna do, get a drum machine? I don’t think we’re gonna do that… You know, he’s a road-warrior, he’ll be in the band, he’s 100% into it and it’s great to have him.
So what can you tell us about the first song from the new album that’s been released, “The Infernal Resurrection”?
CG: Well it definitely… instead of just parts, you know,” blast-part, thrash-part, black metal part, death metal part,” I think it’s definitely a song and it weaves in and out. It breathes and it has its own identity.
It seemed a lot more… “epic” without being long…?
CH: Yeah, well it’s kinda like… we haven’t done a song like that in a long time, other than when it kicks in at a certain part, and you’re like “oh yeah, that’s definitely classic Skeletonwitch”, but it’s a little different without being like… “what the fuck did they do?”, I mean, we didn’t want to put out “Breathing The Fire Part 2”, just like we didn’t want to put out “Beyond The Permafrost Part 2” when we put out “Breathing The Fire”. But we also didn’t want to change so much that everyone was like “ergh… I don’t like it anymore!”. You know, you want to progress.
So you didn’t want to write an acoustic record for Skeletonwitch or something like that?
CG: Well you know what, there might be a surprise for you on that new one! But it’s definitely all Skeletonwitch. I think it’s the best one we’ve ever done. I don’t think it’s too much of a departure. It’s my favourite one. When I listen to them, it’s the one that makes me want to bang my head the most.
So you will still go back and listen to your own stuff?
CG: Well you know, on occasion, especially like when we’re getting ready to go on tour and we’ll make a set-list and, if we haven’t played a certain song in a long time, I need to fucking hear it. So I will make a set-list on my ipod, and I’ll put it in the car, and I’ll fucking roll a joint dude and I’ll go drive around the country where we live and absorb that set-list. Get used to the order. And maybe I’ll be like, “Oh, what the fuck are those words?”, and then, when I put it in, I’m like “ohhh, that’s what it was!”…
Now I think as an artist listening to your stuff, or watching you do your thing, you’ll never LOVE it. I think that… you’ll never be satisfied as an artist. Because when you’re satisfied and you think you can’t get any better, where is there to go? You know, there is always room to improve, always. In everything. And once you get to the point where you’re like, “I can’t do any better,” then you might as well fucking quit. That’s the way I feel about it.
I wanted to ask about the artwork for the new one, who did the artwork?
Andrei Boo and he’s the same guy that did “Breathing The Fire”.
Right. I wasn’t certain because it looks similar in style, obviously, it carries on, but you know, you guys tend to change your colour palette with each album as well… you did the blue [on Beyond The Permafrost], you did the orange and red. I mean, the new one is fucking fantastic art, I can see a lot of people getting that tattooed on them. With the green as well, it’s just such a weird colour-scheme, it stands out.
CG: I kinda wanted to make a… I wanted it to look the same, without looking EXACTLY the same.
Well it’s got the same central figure.
CG: Yeah, we always have that guy. He’s our mascot. We call him Skeleton Mitch. I mean, there’s Eddie, and Alistair Fiend and you know, a lot of bands have “their guy”, like Vic Rattlehead, and we kinda come from that… I mean I’m almost 39, I’ll be 39 in a couple of days. We’re going to be at Summer Breeze, so it’s a pretty good birthday.
You’re going to be so, so wasted…
CG: Oh I know! Hopefully after we play! And then we fly home the next day. So I’m expecting a very hangover plane trip. But as far as the artwork, yeah, I like to take our guy, our mascot, our character, and just change him. As we change, he changes too. As you can see this time it’s the same guy, like he’s still got the deer antlers, but now they have thorns on them, and he’s more skeletal.
This one sees, to me, a bit more horrific than “Breathing The Fire”. I think it’s in the colours and the tones and all that.
CG: It is, It definitely is. I mean this one took a lot longer to be content with this one. We went back and forth with Andre a lot, and I think it’s real cool that he wasn’t like, “just fucking decide!”, you know? Because it’s going to live forever. Your cd or your artwork… the package, will live forever. And you need to be in love with it. And not just like, “here’s some photoshop shit, it’s good enough. It’s evil”. And I do believe the artwork completely fits the way the new album sounds.
Do you have any plans for a video for the new one?
CG: I’m sure that if we weren’t as busy as we are we would be filming one already!
You guys are pretty prolific with your videos actually.
CG: The label’s really into getting videos out. Like before “Breathing The Fire” came out, or right when it came out, there was a video. And I’m pretty sure that, like I said, if we weren’t over here now… we’re home on the 20th and we play our next show on the 27th, so there’s no time there. And Dustin lives in Indianapolis, which is 3 hours away, and Evan lives in Cleveland, which is 3 hours away, so there would be no time to do a “proper” video… I’m sure a video will be in the future when we have a big enough break, but to be honest with you, I’d rather just be on the road.
Your last video was particularly weird.
CG: Well you know, I was worried about it because that wasn’t our idea. We were approached by Adult Swim… who did a compilation CD called “Metal Swim” and they wanted a video from one of the bands on it, and they wanted it to be our video. And then they started… telling me… what they wanted… and that was just like, I was just reading it, I didn’t have any pictures to go by for what they wanted. And I was like, “I don’t know dude… this could either be really good, or fucking weak”. Then we got there, we showed up for the video, and I see all these people in these costumes and I’m really like “oh nooooo”… and then we started doing it and the zombies came out and they looked SICK! There was like a whole team of make-up artists creating these zombies out of normal people. And then they were showing us the clips and it started turning out ok. And I started getting more and more like, “ok, this is cool”, but I just didn’t want them to put me in some fucking furry outfit!
I remember when I first read about what it was going to be like, and I was just… “what???”, but it really stood out from other metal videos.
CG: Right! And the feedback has been 99.9% positive, like, “the fucking funnest metal video I’ve seen in a long time”, and I’m glad we went out and took a risk.
Ok, so looks like we’re going to have to end this one asap. Anything else you want to say about the new album coming out? Any sort of… extra bits and pieces?
CG: Erm… ok… “Forever Abomination”, in the US it’s out October 11th, in Europe October 7th, and in the UK October 10th. It’s 11 songs in the US, 12 songs [in the UK] – you guys get the bonus track! I’m not really sure how that works, but Europe and Japan get the bonus track.
I don’t understand “bonus tracks”. I mean, I love them, and I have to have them, but I don’t “get them”.
CG: Well, it’s not like it’s hidden, like… back in the day when they’d be way in the end after a load of silence, it’s just right there! But [“Forever Abomination”] is absolutely my favourite Skeletonwitch album that we have ever done, I think that not only is it my favourite, that it’s absolutely the best that we’ve done. So I hope you guys like it as much as we do. Thank all you guys for everything, we’ll see you soon!
There you go, I hope that was interesting and entertaining for you! Make sure you check out the video for “Bringers Of Death” (below) that featured prominently in our conversation, and make sure you pick up a copy of Forever Abomination when it comes out in October. I heard several of the new songs live and they were, in the words of Chance Garnett, totally “killer”.
Thanks to Chance and to Scott for sorting out the interview, and Happy Birthday to Chance if he ever gets around to reading this!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Okay, what we now have are three more items for you. First, the full-panel artwork created by Andrei Bouzikov for the new album. Then, the video Andy made of Skeletonwitch performing “Reduced To the Failure of Prayer”” from the new album. And finally, the video of “Bringers of Death” that Andy and Chance talked about in the interview.
UPDATE: Make that four items, because we’ve now added (below the two videos) a stream of a Skeletonwitch re-recording of an instrumental called “Tragedy of Days” that closed their 2004 debut, At One With the Shadows, except this time they’ve added vocals. This song will appear on a flexi-disc to be included with the next issue of DECIBEL magazine. For details, go to MetalSucks here.
Here’s the new song from the DECIBEL flexi-disc:
Skeletonwitch “Tragedy Of Days (dB010)” by Decibel Magazine
Andy, you lucky bastard! Great work.
It was indeed “killer”. I don’t use that as a mocking term either, Chance just had a very infectious enthusiasm to him!
It’s always gratifying to hear that the artists love playing as much as we love listening!