Meek Is Murder Interview
Enjoy a new exclusive interview with Brooklyn’s Meek Is Murder, who just wrapped up their second full-length, Everything Is Awesome Nothing Matters with producer and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou (High On Fire, Nails). The album is set for an October 22nd vinyl release on Threshold of Pain Records and a digital release via the band.
MIM has been making waves with potent concoction of mathy metal combined with more sub-genres of punk and rock than you can shake a stick at. Meek is Murder has seen comparisons to Botch and Converge, but offer a sound that often eludes simple definition. With an emotional blend of heartfelt lyrics and intricate, yet powerful song structures, expect to see MIM popping up on more and more radar screens as this album release draws nearer.
Without further ado, lets hear from vocalist/guitarist Mike Keller and drummer Frank Godla as the pair go in-depth on recording processes behind this forthcoming release, life both in and out of MIM, gear picks, tour plans, favorite bands, and much more in this interview exclusive.
Joshua BTS: Thank you for taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the world. Let’s kick off this interview by having you introduce yourself and your musical weapon of choice with blistering Brooklyn 3-piece, Meek Is Murder.
Keller: Gibson SG and throat.
Frank: Lead Drums, of course.
Joshua BTS: One of the first pieces of media to surface from your forthcoming LP, Everything Is Awesome Nothing Matters, is a video from God City Studio with your longtime engineer Kurt Ballou (Converge, Nails, Modern Life Is War). How did you originally come to link up with Kurt?
Keller: I was familiar with Kurt‘s recordings and always thought if I ever had a band in his aesthetic wheelhouse, it would be great to work with him. I first got to know him personally from doing a Converge tour with my old band, The Red Chord. When the wheels started turning for Meek is Murder, he was the first person I asked to record us.
Joshua BTS: Having completed previous works with Ballou at God City– How has the recording process developed over the years and compared to your previous experiences? Do you step out of your comfort zone and try new things or focus on streamlining your previous approaches with Ballou?
Keller: Recording Algorithms was a little intimidating just in that it was our first album together. This time around we’ve been touring and writing together for a while and have known Kurt for a bit now so it was more just like hanging out with old friends. There was a greater understanding between everyone involved as to what we were trying to accomplish and as a result we were able to have more fun with it.
Joshua BTS: God City is known to have quite an assortment of musical toys to work with. What did your rigs look like for this recording? Anything really wild or unique that you implemented to capture the monstrous tones on Everything Is Awesome Nothing Matters?
Keller: Yep, Kurt always has lots of new toys. When we started, Kurt asked what we wanted the album to sound like and I just said “gross.”
I auditioned a lot of gear but the guitar sound I ended up with comes from my SG played through a Mesa Mark III combo out a Blackstar 2×12 (which was also a combo, but just used for the speakers). We also used a Hovercraft amp, which is a little boutique company that re-purposes old heads. That was out of an Emperor 2×12, I believe. Kurt also had me running through a “Strange Rooster” overdrive pedal that I don’t know anything about other than it made the Mark III sound broken (in a good way).
Sam played his Fender P-Bass through an Orange Thunderverb and an Ampeg fridge. The boys spent a lot of time dialing in some grossness through a Boss overdrive and a Homebrew Electronics Big D Distortion pedal.
Frank used the God City house kit which is an acrylic C&C Custom. We all loved it on Algorithms so why fix what ain’t broke?
Frank: Kurt and I nerded out pretty hard about drum construction a few months back, and he told me about this new snare drum he made himself at a metal shop. So going into the studio I was already stoked to give it a try. Sure enough, it rules! So I wound up using it on the record. Kurt also has a fiberglass Tempus set that we pair up with an 18×22 C&C kick drum. They sounded great on Algorithms so I didn’t even bother to bring my new DW kit I love.
Joshua BTS: How does the writing process work for Meek Is Murder? Do you all contribute or is there a captain of the ship that steers the prevailing direction of the songs? Do you leave room for reflection and adaptation in the studio or do you have the songs set in stone when you roll in?
Keller: I do the majority of the writing but Sam contributes a lot of riffs too. It’s definitely collaborative but I always lay out the songs in their final form by recording full instrument demos myself. When the guys learn them they always end up adding their own flavor. In particular, even though I’ll have written the basic drum parts, Frank will definitely have cool opinions about fills. He is a way more “metal” drummer than me so his influence impacts the feel a lot.
Frank: Once Keller has an idea for a song all together, we usually spend a lot of time working on changes and experimenting until we’re all satisfied. We get really crazy with examining each and every note sometimes, but it’s definitely worth the effort in the end. Before we head to God City Studio we also record a pre-production demo so we can analyze the parts some more, and make any last minute fine tuning. The idea is to have everything already figured out before the actual recording since time is limited. Of course, whenever Kurt makes a suggestion, we try it out, and usually go with it.
Joshua BTS: I caught Meek Is Murder at this year’s Punk Island Fest in NYC and I thought you were definitely a standout of the day and the crowd seemed to agree. Although you are often dubbed a “mathcore” band and compared to such mainstays as Botch and Converge, I feel like MIM has strong punk roots that come across in the live energy especially. How do you view your place amongst your musical peers? Do you qualify your own music in regards to genre? Or do you just let it happen and let the music buffs decide?
Keller: Thanks! But yea, we’re not really concerned with genre. We all come from different musical backgrounds and are just playing stuff we want to hear. I like that we can play punk fests and metal fests and be the oddball band at either.
That being said, someone called us a “whatevercore” band recently and I’m pretty into that.
Frank: Thanks man, that was a fun show. We definitely don’t think about what sub-genre people should consider us, but I also wouldn’t call someone who does a “music buff” either. Can we just agree that it’s not R&B?
Joshua BTS: Haha true. What are some of the lyrical motifs listeners will encounter on Everything Is Awesome Nothing Matters? Do you all play an active role in the development of the lyrics?
Keller: I write all the lyrics. The album is reflective on a pretty crazy year I had recently in which there was a big fire in my apartment and I lost most of my possessions. I was without a home for a little while and I got really sick too. Soon after that I got sued for something stupid, three of my family members died, and my dog had to get emergency back surgery. I also went through a breakup of a four year relationship.
It would’ve been easy to get down in the dumps after all that but the better solution for me was to appreciate the journey and create enjoyable things. Just because it will be gone one day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it anyway. Life is a paradox- it sucks and it’s amazing and it’s the only one you have.
Joshua BTS: Who crafted the cover art for Everything Is Awesome Nothing Matters? How does it correlate to the lyrical motifs found within and does the band play an active role the development of the artwork?
Keller: I made the artwork. It’s a knight and a princess riding a hippogriff and it’s all disintegrating. It’s based on an Antoine-Louis Barye sculpture, which is based on an epic poem by Ludovico Ariosto. I chose it as the centerpiece because of shared themes of overcoming impossible challenges, love, and loss.
Joshua BTS: With former members of The Red Chord and N.A.M.E., and by drummer Frank Godla known as co-owner of preeminent metal site, Metal Injection. How does this entrenched music experience on various levels influence the way you approach the inner and outer working of Meek is Murder?
Keller: I think due to our past and present experience, we’re uniquely fortunate to have quite a bit of perspective on the music industry and what it takes to be a band and not go insane. As a result, we’re all in agreement that this should be fun. Playing shows is a cathartic blast and despite being exhausting, being on tour is vacation. Writing music is one of the most gratifying things you can do, so despite all the bullshit that comes with being a band, first and foremost we’re here to make art and have a good time doing it.
Frank: At the end of the day MIM is a very DIY type of band who likes to get our hands dirty and earn our keep. So I think if my 10 years of experience working in this industry has benefited us, it’s mainly knowing how to be a better DIY band and get dirty with less bruises. It may surprise some people, but the reality is that being in this band is a bigger direct influence on what I do with Metal Injection. It allows me to understand all the things a band goes through, and in turn helps me create new ideas for the site. A lot of the topics, exclusives, documentaries, and interview questions you see on Metal Injection are often based on my experience with MIM.
Joshua BTS: Is there there an end goal in mind for the band or is it more about the road traveled?
Keller: You said it. I try to live my life for the journey not the destination. This band is no different.
Joshua BTS: Apart from the works mentioned above- How do the members of Meek Is Murder spend their time when not active in the band?
Keller: Frank works all the time but luckily he loves his job hanging out with cool bands around the world. Sam is a sound guy and works crazy hours but when he’s not he plays video games and makes music for his other band, Sunwoman.
I’m an iPhone developer and rock climbing has recently taken over since I stopped skating as much. I also like screen printing, painting, and playing with circuit boards.
Frank: Metal Injection is a huge part of my life, and running the company means I rarely find much time outside of metal. Whenever I can get away from it, I usually like to travel, fly planes, go hiking, do something crazy outdoors, or build things with my hands. Anything that reminds me life is an amazing experience worth getting involved with.
Joshua BTS: Who are some artists in NYC and abroad that are exciting you right now?
Joshua BTS: What does Meek Is Murder have on the slate for the coming months?
Keller: Playing some fun shows, writing for a split christmas EP, and touring warm places in the Winter.
Joshua BTS: We really appreciate you taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the world as we look forward to touching base soon! Any final thoughts?
Keller: Our new album comes out October 22 and we can’t wait for you to hear it. We’re playing record release shows on October 18 at The Acheron in Brooklyn and October 26 at ABC No Rio in NYC.
More info at The Official Meek Is Murder facebook