Saturday 28 October 2017

INTERVIEW: Greekbastard discusses positive endings with Phoenix, AZ’s sludgiest band Horse Head

Don’t you just hate it when you’re just starting to dig a band and then they call it a day?  This year it’s Horse Head for me, one of the sludgiest bands to rise up from the heavy music hotbed of Phoenix, Arizona.  THE SLUDGELORD had questions for Horse Head vocalist Chris Gisriel and he left nothing on the table as Horse Head rides off into the proverbial sunset…    

“Terminal” is what I like to refer to as a posthumous release.  This is pretty unfortunate since Horse Head is adored by many.  What lead to the decision to disband and more importantly, how did “Terminal” survive? 

Chris Gisriel: I feel like I should say that one of us has some kind of terminal illness and is spending the rest of their remaining days travelling the world or something but the honest truth is that we all got really busy with our personal lives. Wilson and I are both heavily invested in higher education, Jonathan has another band (Sorxe) that is really taking off, and Drew has a family and career. As much fun as we’ve had over the years, we all felt like it was time to close the door on Horse Head.

We had some music that we knew was some of the best we’d ever made, and we wanted to leave our fans with something more. We’re happy to call it a day by releasing an EP that we’re proud of.

In 2015, you released your previous EP, “Missionary” and it received plenty of positive reviews.  Can you fill in gaps on what Horse Head was up to between the “Missionary” release and up to your final show this past August? 

Chris Gisriel: Wilson (Hensleigh) wrote the majority of the music we’ve made and while I blame him for writing slower than most, I also credit him for being an incredible musician. After releasing “Missionary” we wanted to avoid playing larger venues and focus on smaller, more intimate shows. There wasn’t much of a method to that madness – we just like playing smaller shows. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we’d rather play a loud house show where a donation can is passed for the touring band than a big venue where we have to sell tickets. We’re not knocking the latter. It’s just not our thing. In the last couple of years I think we’ve focused on what we’re comfortable with rather than selling our souls to be a big name. Maybe that just means we’re stubborn old fucks, though.

The last show we played was awesome. The touring band cancelled and we were worried that the show would take a hit on attendance but it turned out that a ton of people showed up just to see Horse Head’s last show. I think we played a great set and everyone was really supportive. We accepted pocket change for the last of our merch.

Did you shop any labels to release “Terminal” or for that matter, “Missionary”? 

Chris Gisriel: Nope. We never even had the conversation. One of my favorite things about Horse Head is that it’s always been unadulterated by a need for big promotion or fame. We play heavy metal and we do it well. That is our only aim.

In the late 80’s, Arizona put its stamp on the heavy metal world with bands such as Flotsam and Jetsam, Sacred Reich and Atrophy.  Is it me, or is it happening again with bands like Gatecreeper, Spirit Adrift and North? 

Chris Gisriel: I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison because in the late 80’s popular music was a little more in line with metal. Even now, Flotsam and Jetsam can tour and the old metal-heads still come out to party. Doom has a much more underground following and I think that its fans will look back at some of the popular AZ bands now and admire what they did for underground music. They’ll never be quite as popular, though. But that’s what is so great about doom and sludge: its lack of popularity is intrinsic. It’s counter culture. It’s anti-pop. That’s why it’s so awesome.

So now that Horse Head is no more, are there any new bands/projects in the works for the respective members? 

Chris Gisriel: I keep buying gear and basically filling a room for the day that special guitarist walks into my life. Seriously, I will definitely continue playing music. I play a few instruments and don’t feel comfortable unless I’m screaming my head off periodically. I can’t speak for Wilson or Andrew but I know that Jonathan has big things in the works for Sorxe. We love those dudes and wholeheartedly support them.

Horse Head has recorded both of their EPs at Audioconfusion Studio in Mesa, Arizona.  Why did you choose Audioconfusion for both of the recordings? 

Chris Gisriel: Jalipaz at Audioconfusion is a nationally renowned audio engineer and here he is, in our own back yard; of course, we’re going to take advantage of that. Much of Arizona’s best metal has come from his recording. He’s a friend and he knows how to record the Horse Head sound.

Any last words for your fans?

Chris Gisriel: We hope folks take a few minutes to check out some of the music we’ve made, especially “Terminal”. We put our heart and soul into it from the riffs and lyrics to the money and gear. Our only hope was to put our brick into the wall that consists of the music we love. We mostly want people to head bang to our music when they’re alone in their car. That would be ideal.

Band info: bandcamp || facebook