Tuesday 13 May 2014

Interview with The Great Sabatini

I have been a huge fan of today's guests for the last few years. I have featured them a couple of times now as they always release killer tunes with their superb EP's and albums.

That is no different with their latest and possibly greatest album so far- DOG YEARS. A stunning mix of Sludge, Hardcore, Grind, Noise Rock and a whole truckload of attitude thrown in for good measure.

I am talking about Canadian Noise Rock Riffsters – THE GREAT SABATINI.

I described their new album as: The Great Sabatini return with their 3rd eagerly anticipated album – Dog Years. A noise rock driven sludge metal avalanche of angry moods and riffs to spoil your day. These noise loving Canadians are still angry as ever since their last album though still with a wicked sense of humour. Look at the album cover folks. Imagine if these guys ever made it to Sesame Street. Your kids would be scarred for life!!!

Dog Years is an album driven by noise and emotion that you will find very hard to ignore. It’s superbly produced from start to finish. This is another album of the year contender for me. It’s seriously that good. Ignore this at your peril!!!”

So I have been given the chance to speak to one of Canada's dangerous rock bands and I am going to take it. Wish me luck as this could get ugly!!!

Q1 – Hi guys. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you all today.

We are well. The test pressings for Dog Years just came in and we're all quite happy with the sum of our efforts for the last year and a half winding up on these great plastic circle things called records. It feels nice.

Q2 – Can you tell our readers a brief history on how the band started and where it is today.

We started this band in 2007 in Montreal. Our goals have been to make music together as much as possible, both on record and live, for as long as it stays fun, I suppose. We've been touring, and letting the very meek spoils of those tours fund our recordings. It's been a fun cycle that works out nicely for us at this point. Dog Years was made with a grant to help us out, so that was a bit different. We'll be hitting the road again pretty soon and trying to get the songs into people's ears one way or another.

Q3 – How would you describe your sound as you pack a lot of different noises into the mix.

I generally describe us as a sludge band but that becomes less of a useful blanket term to employ with every new release... I think we try to wrap up all of our influences in one cohesive, sludgy package. Of late, there seems to be some punkier bits rising to to the surface, but it's a giant mish-mash of doomy noise rock with sprinklings of some atmospheric shoe-gaze vibes here and there. We like weird time signatures and fun little musical devices a la King Crimson but we don't really try to inject that kind of stuff... it just kinda happens when we work on stuff together. None of us are too schooled at music or anything.

Q4 – How did you all get involved with music.

I've known Rob (guitars/vocals) since we were 11 or 12. Music was really what made us close friends. We knew Joey (bass/vocals) as teenagers, and, this is just MY perspective, but Black Sabbath was really the common thing for all of us back then. Rob introduced me to Sabbath, and right about that time, I heard a shitty jam tape of Joey's band at the time playing "Paranoid" in someone's basement, and it blew me away. It left an impression on my young mind, in any case. We all met Steve (drums/vocals) years later.

He grew up in Ontario... I know he got into music young, like us. I'm not sure how much of his corruption could be blamed on Black Sabbath, but we all love Sabbath at this point and I'm sure that whatever little Steve was doing or hearing that got him into music back then, Satan had a part in it like He did with us, via Tony Iommi's awesome riffs.

Q5 – So you're back to destroy the rock world with DOG YEARS. Awesome record. You pleased with the final version that is being released upon to the world. Would you change anything about it.

Thanks, man. I think we're all really happy with the record. I know I wouldn't change a thing. We've been making records for a while in and out of this band, so we've thankfully passed through the awkward years when the learning curve is pretty steep. There are ALWAYS going to be small things that displease me about any given album, but I try to keep those things in mind , moving forward.

We've learned to be really, really prepared for studio time and to be honest to ourselves about the results. At this point in our lives, we will only give our dozens of fans a record that we're truly proud of. If there was anything about it that made any one of us seriously unhappy, it'd be a full stop til the problem gets fixed.

Q6 – Was it a hard or easy album to write and record for.

Writing is easy. Because Steve lives in another province, when we get together once a month (for 3 or 4 days at a time), it's right down to business. We all have a lot of time to work on things at our own pace, and bring them into the jam room when Steve is in town. When we get together, it's usually like an explosion of creativity, and we get very productive. There's almost another entire album written from the Dog Years jam sessions. As for recording, we work endlessly to refine the songs and prepare them for recording.

To answer your question, it was very hard work that we found easy to do. By the time we hit the studio, we were more prepared than we'd ever been, I think. We tracked the entire album in 3 quick days. Sean Pearson helped a lot too though... he is probably the quickest guy I've ever worked with. He is thorough, and has a great ear... insanely efficient in that studio. It was nice to work with someone who was as prepared as we were.

Q7 – What is the album about? Is there a concept behind it or do you want people to discover this for themselves.

There wasn't an overall concept in mind when we began writing, but ultimately, our personal history with the dark musical arts was something that kept coming up when I was writing the lyrics. Stuff we've put ourselves through in order to chase our dreams. Munera is, on the surface, about a bull fighter. Pitchfork Pete was a guy Rob and I knew when we were younger. A really weird guy. All of the songs are about some aspect of our Rock Fury, that thing inside us that makes us sleep in a van in some god-forsaken walmart parking lot after playing a 25 minute set in someone's basement in Nebraska, or a squat in Austria.

There is a common thread between all of these songs but we didn't set out to put it there. I also tend to encrypt my lyrics in a way that might not make a theme super obvious. I'd much rather have a listener project his or her own feelings and impressions onto the music after hearing it and/or reading the words, cos that's exactly what I do when I listen to my favourite records... those albums all have their own colours and shapes to me. So, it seems cool to me if people want to draw their own conclusions about the words... I also believe firmly in nurturing some kind of mystique to the songs, if at all possible. I've probably said too much, haha.

Q8 – Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians. Any particular band or album that stand out.

All of us listen to a pretty wide variety of music. But the bands that seem to cross over the best, the ones we all love, would be Helmet, old Sepultura, KEN mode... Slayer's Reign In Blood comes on in the van and we ALL sing along and headbang together. King Crimson is big with us, and for the last couple years, the Laughing Stock album by Talk Talk has been on all of our ipods. But, as I said, I think we all have pretty varied tastes and influences. Sabbath and The Beatles are the primordial ones, and that leads to Melvins and the amrep stuff and classic metal like Slayer and Maiden and then Mr. Bungle and scary Miles Davis stuff like Bitches Brew or Herbie Hancock's Sextant record. But I think the mos important record of all time for The Great Sabatini has been My Daughter The Broad by The Frogs. I think we all agree that it is the greatest thing to ever be recorded.

The Great Sabatini Detail 'Dog Years,' Announce Canada/U.S. Tour

Q9 – We have to talk about that crazy, insane and fantastic album cover. Who came up with that design. Looks like a demonic character from Sesame Street.

Thank you. That's what we were going for. I had this idea and pitched it to the guys. I wanted a demented looking muppet thing on the cover, but maybe just a tiny bit more dangerous looking. We wanted a 70's or 80's kind of vibe for the photography. We wanted it to seem like he was pulled out of some faded memory from your childhood. Everyone was fully behind the concept so I built him, from scratch. The only part I didn't make myself was his eyes. A friend got them for me from a taxidermist, so they look more real than any other part of him.

Q10 – The new album is being released by Solar Flared Records. Great label. How did you hook up with them.

We heard about them from Lee, who runs No List Records out of Winnipeg (he released or last record, Matterhorn). He hooked us up with Sofy Major, when they were in North America making a record and touring. Later on, we played with them in France and got to know them and the Solar Flare operation a bit better. They are wonderful people, true grit type of people... they've been through a lot for the music and we trust them. The fact that they are behind us with Dog Years means a lot to us.

Q11 – What is the song-writing process in the band. Is it down to one individual or is it a group collective.

Rob and I usually write the riffs, on our own time, and bring them in to the jam room when we all are together. Everyone has a hand in piecing it all together, and with handling his own parts. Almost never will someone be told what to play. It's very collective. I write most of the words, though Joey wrote the words to Nursing Home and, from time to time, everyone has pitched in words here and there, and we all handle vocals.

Q12 – How big of a help has BandCamp and the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community been in promoting your music.

Bandcamp rules. It is quite efficient. Thanks to great blogs like yours and Shiny Grey Monotone and a slew of others, word has spread nicely about us among folks who enjoy grimy unlistenable screaming and atonal guitars. We can't thank you enough. When folks actually post about us online it still blows our minds. We never take it for granted... the fact that bandcamp has made it easy for folks to share our music and even for us to make a few bucks here and there, is beyond cool.

Q13 – What is your musical set-up when playing live or recording your music. Any hints and tips would you like to give to the budding musicians out there.

Rob and I play baritone guitars mostly, through full stacks. So, 2 guitars, bass and drums, and we all do vocals. It's a constantly evolving setup, in terms of gear and tweaks to our sound. We just wanna be a crushing band that sounds good. So, kids, take your time with your gear and focus on getting YOUR sound going before you start turning up real loud. We've gotten louder over the years, but I dont feel like we ever compromised our tone, to be lame about it. Rob and I have been playing music together since we were 15, so we've had the benefit of time to completely gel our sounds together.

Q14 – We are massive Vinyl Heads here at Sludgelord. Are you vinyl fans yourselves.

Yes. All of us. Joey and I are probably the biggest collectors but we all enjoy our vinyl. What a wonderful format.

Q15 – Canada has a rich musical scene encompassing so many different genres. What is the Sludge/Noise/Doom/Stoner Rock scene like in Canada. Is it well known or is it still based in the underground.

Canada has a ton of amazing bands in those genres, and it is all still very, very underground. In early 2008, when we did our fist tour, it felt like there weren't a lot of bands of our ilk to play with but soon enough, we were aware of a great many bands in all corners who are killing it in their respective styles. It's still very underground but Canada, for such a huge country, is a very tight knit community when it comes to sludge, doom, stoner, noise etc.

Q16 – Do you guys play a lot of gigs or do you have to travel further afield.

We play as much as we can get away with. Relatively speaking, I think we tour a lot. We've played around North America quite a bit in the last few years and hit 11 countries in Europe last year.

Q17 – What is your verdict on the whole crowd-funding scene. Where bands ask fans to fund their next album. Are you a fan of that platform. Would yourselves ever go down that route.

I'm not a fan, in regards to using it as a tool for my own band. I don't see it as looking for a handout necessarily. If you're getting something real back in exchange for your contribution, then I don't see a moral issue with it. But for us, we developed a kind of system for making records: work fucking hard. There's no pitch and no dependency on anyone other than ourselves in order to do what we do. We hit the road, sell shirts and records, try to get guarantees, save EVERY PENNY and somehow manage to make enough to get our asses into a studio.

Not only have we made it work, but if feels great. Dog Years was made with money we received from the Ontario Government, but we still had the money in our coffers left over from tour to be able to track it, if the grant never came through. The grant has enabled us to do a lot, and fast, but I never felt like we compromised our working methods or personal work ethic in order to get shit done. If we weren't a touring band, yet somehow had a substantial audience, maybe we'd consider crowd funding but the way we've done it has worked out just fine so far.

Q18 – Why did you choose the name The Great Sabatini. Any particular reason for this.

It's a secret code. If you do enough diggin on youtube, you may find an explanation that is accurate.

Q19 – If you could give any advice to someone wanting to start a band. What would it be.

"Turn down for what"

Q20 – The last thing before you go, Do you have anything else to say to your fans.

Thank you. When musicians say shit like "I make the music for me, and me alone", I don't buy into it. We make music for us. And even though we don't expect anyone else to like it, I can't lie... it's a great feeling when someone says they are a fan of our band. It's as much for you as it is for us too. Thanks for sharing this with us, it means everything.

Well guys, Thanks to talking to us here at Sludgelord HQ. All the best with the album release. This will definitely end on my best albums of 2014 list. That's how highly I rate it.

Thanks to Mathieu at Solar Flare Records for arranging this interview. Dog Years will be available to buy on DD/Vinyl from June 2nd 2014.

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