(In the third installment of Andy Synn’s week-long series of interviews, he talked with members of the Vancouver BC band Riftwalker — guitarist/vocalist Miles Morrison, bassist/vocalist Spencer Atkinson, and drummer Zan Petrovic — whose 2016 album Andy reviewed for us here.)
Progressive/Technical Death-Thrash combo Riftwalker wowed a number of people with the release of their debut album, Green & Black, in October last year – and I can only imagine that number would have been even higher if that band hadn’t flown under the radar quite so much.
But right now we have an opportunity to correct that (at least a little bit) by bringing the band another dose of well-deserved attention!
Ok, so, first and foremost… who are you, where are you from, and why should we care?
(MM) We’re just a few dorks from Canada’s west coast who want to shred. If you’re the same kind of shreddy dork as us then you might find something you like here.
(SA) A bunch of sick dudes, hailing from Vancouver, BC, Canada… you should care about us because we care about you!
(ZP) Were just a few buds who spent a lot of time listening to music together in Kitsilano. One day late in 2009 I said fuck it and bought a drumset, next thing we knew we were a band pumping out some sweet tunes.
On a more serious note, how are things in the Great Frozen North these days?
(MM) It feels like the metal scene is getting a bit more attention these days. Totally cool to see.
(SA) The frozen north isn’t so frozen right now. It’s 23 celsius and sunny as I’m writing these humdingers.
(ZP) Its great, there’s so many amazing bands popping up and lots of opportunities to push further internationally.
What have you guys been up to since the release of Green & Black?
(MM) We have our next album written, and some pre-production already happening. Shaping up to be a total banger!
(SA) Playing shows, doing pre-pro for the next album, and recording a drum play-through which will be released soon!
(ZP) Working on new tunes, new sound. Videos and photos. Many new things coming up.
Focussing in on the album (finally) – how did the writing process come together?
(MM) It was the result of years of figuring out how to be a band and write songs. Many ideas were scrapped.
(SA) It was a long process… some of the tracks on G&B are over seven years old… a lot of the writing was trial and error.
(ZP) This album was basically us practicing how to play and write music. Most of the songs were written as I was still learning drums.
And the recording process?
(MM) It was our first time in a professional studio. There was a lot to learn. Luckily our engineer was top of the line, and understood what we were going for. Kudos to Mark at Rain City Recorders in Vancouver!
(SA) The recording process was a huge eye opener for me. Being my first time recording in a professional studio with a professional engineer (Mark McKitrick) I was really taken aback by how I sounded under a microscope.
(ZP) The recording process was a pain but we got through it. Many lessons learned and we grew quite a bit during the process.
How would you – in ten words or less – describe the album’s sound/style to someone only just discovering the band?
(MM) Like a thrash metal band playing prog/death metal.
(SA) Technical progressive death metal… ya’kno… the good shit!
(ZP) Thrash Metal meets Progressive Death with a side of doom.
You (noticeably) bucked the trend when it comes to mixing the bass on Green & Black, to the extent where, shock/horror, it really takes on a leading role on quite a few tracks. What led to this crazy/unconventional/entirely welcome impulse?
(MM) Our crazy bass player Spencer.
(SA) I kinda wanted to break the mould of how most dm bands are mixed. Due to my parts being so melodic and less rhythmic than a lot of death metal bassists, it didn’t make much sense to me to be mixed so that I was less audible. Once again our boy (DATBOI) Mark is to thank for making it sound sick af.
(ZP) Our bassist is a beast and it’s part of the sound we we’re after.
Any particular favourite tracks from the album?
(MM) I’m huge on “Engineer Their Consent” and “Harlequin Ichthyosis”.
(SA) “BHO”, “Engineer Their Consent”, and “Green and Black”.
(ZP) “Intrinsic Degeneration” and “Green & Black” are really fun on the drums.
And, conversely, any that are just an absolute bastard to play?
(MM) The title track gets exhausting with all its different and intricate sections.
(SA) “G&B” is a pain in the ass to play perfectly live.
(ZP) The title track can sometimes be tough to pull off laser-tight.
Lyrically, what are some of the underlying themes you’re dealing with?
(MM) A lot of it is social themes actually. Herd mentality, advertising. But also some tripped-out metaphysical stuff as well.
(SA) Social themes, dystopian future, collapse of mankind, hypnotism, night terrors, metaphysics.
(ZP) Most of the lyrics are about social struggles, illness, and other conceptual themes.
And, switching tack slightly, the artwork… it’s phenomenal stuff, but how did it come about, what is the meaning behind it, etc?
(MM) It was based on an old piece of biblical art that a friend of ours found on the ground one day. As soon as we saw it we knew we had to do something with it.
(SA) It was based off of a line drawing… we reversed the theme to change it from the “Riftwalker” traversing from an old world into a new world so that he was going from a heaven into a hell. Arthur Suydam did a phenomenal job with this cover and is an amazing artist and a great guy to work with. He captured the concept perfectly.
What are the plans for the rest of 2017, going into 2018, for Riftwalker?
(MM) Getting a tour put together, and getting our next album going!
(SA) Planning a tour for 2018, releasing a drum play-through within a couple months, and playing shows locally.
(ZP) Planning a Canada-wide tour, hopefully be able to announce our next album.
And would you like to share anything, an announcement, a bit of poetry, a stinging diatribe against betrayers and mutineers, in closing?
(MM) If you thought this album was tripped-out and intense, then this next one is gonna getcha bud!
(SA) If ya don’t know, now ya know!!!!
(ZP) We’re about to drum a live drum play-through of the song “Engineer Their Consent” filmed by Dean Lamb of Archspire, and recorded by our friend Dylan Charles of Apprentice.