Skeletonwitch Interview at GodCity Studios
Enjoy a new exclusive interview with Skeletonwitch bassist Evan Linger and guitarist Scott Hedrick direct from GodCity Studios as the band recently wrapped up recording sessions with renowned engineer and producer Kurt Ballou (Converge). Evan and Scott were kind enough to go in-depth on the writing and record processes behing their forthcoming LP for Prosthetic Records. Evan and Scott also touch on the band’s touring philosophy, how these current recording sessions compare to prior releases, upcoming plans, and much more in this exclusive interview.
Without further ado, let’s hear from Scott and Evan.
Joshua BTS: First and foremost, thank you very much for taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the world. Let’s get this interview rolling by having you introduce yourselves and your weapon of choice with Athens, OH’s sons of shred, Skeletonwitch.
Scott: Hey, I’m Scott- I play the left-handed guitar in Skeletonwitch.
Evan: I’m Evan- I play the bass guitar in Skeletonwitch.
Joshua BTS: Skeletonwitch is currently at GodCity Studios recording your highly anticipated new album with renowned engineer Kurt Ballou. How has the experience of working with Kurt at GodCity been thus far?
Evan: It’s been pretty good. We’ve had him on the radar for a long time and a lot of the recordings that he’s done- We’re fans of the bands, stuff like that. It’s definitely a learning curve for the band anytime you work with a new producer. We worked with Matt Hyde last time in Los Angeles- He’s really clean and has like this really great production and you assume every producer is like that. Then you go to another guy and it’s completely different.
I think Kurt is of the same philosophy as we are, he plays in a band and gets the van and tours around the United States, so he know where we are coming from with the music. And personally I think it’s awesome. I’m a huge fan of his work and I’m excited to be here and excited for people to hear it.
Scott: Ya, I totally agree with him getting in the van and touring. A lot of the guys we’ve worked with haven’t done that in a while, so Kurt knows what it’s like to be in our shows more than a lot of producers.
Joshua BTS: How does the actual recording process compare to that of Matt Hyde? Are you doing anything drastically different? Like using a metronome as opposed to not using a metronome? I know you mentioned during our last interview that Matt pretty much has you leave the gear at home. Same deal with Kurt?
Scott: This time- We brought stuff with us but we ended up using more of Kurt‘s stuff. It’s a mix of both- Last time with Matt we used all Matt‘s stuff. This time with Kurt, we used some of our stuff and some of his stuff. Matt has a more formulated idea of how a metal record should be produced and the sound he wants to do, where as Kurt was ‘What do you guys want to sound like? What do you want to do?’ Either way can work out really well and produce a great result. Kurt is more organic as where Matt has more of an idea of the sound before you step inside.
Evan: As far as the metronome- We’ve always done that. Live things get a little wild and kids throwing beer on you and you play fast as hell. On the record, you want to hold yourself back a little bit because you want people to be able to hear the riffs. If you’re playing a mile-a-minute, maybe the impression you are trying to make could get lost. We always use the metronome but we really challenged ourselves this time. Stepped up the bpms on some songs so they do really kick ass and sound like we do live.
As far as gear and stuff like that- It depends on the person. You could have a bass made of pure gold, but you put a mic in front of it and might not sound right. It’s whatever we think sounds right, sounds like us, and is going to convey the riffs right. For example, for some of the bass tracks I was always using the same distortion pedal for bass. Kurt pulled out these 30-dollar Boss pedals that I starting scoffing at. So he plugged them in- I was like, ‘Oh , Jesus. This actually sounds a lot better than what I use.’ So we ended up using it. You run into into things like that- A collaboration of things he knows and gear he has with some stuff we brought into the studio. Just finding the right mixture and applying them.
As far as the tracking, we pretty much following the same process every time, which we are comfortable and happy with. We do drums first with guitarists playing along while the drums are being recorded. Once the drums are done, we record the guitars, bass, and vocals. At that’s actually where we are now with all of the music recorded and Chance is going to go in tomorrow and start tracking vocals. That’s what’s happening at the moment.
Joshua BTS: So how many days total have you been in the studio thus far?
Scott: We’ve bee here about two weeks and Kurt likes to take 1 day off a week, so we’ve had about 12 days in the studio.
Joshua BTS: Before you guys headed into the studio with Kurt– How long have you been prepping this round of material? Is this something you’ve nurtured on the road or did you sit down and craft a formulated approach?
Evan: We don’t write a lot on the road so we tend to not play a lot of new songs live before we go in to record. While we are writing, if we play songs live, people will hear them then the album will come out 8 months later- It’s almost old news at that point. So we play it pretty close to the vest as far as people hearing the new material. We took a significant amount of time off from our last tour. We did a really long headlining tour with the intention of having things go silent for a while when we got into the writing process. Most of (80 or 90 percent) of the record was written during a five month break that we had before going into the studio. We decided to sit down and create this record and then go into the studio and knock it out. We didn’t have songs sitting around for long time before we headed into GodCity.
Joshua BTS: Have you set forth the thematic elements for the album? Do you know what Chase‘s lyrical premises are? Have you figured out the art? How far into the release process are you?
Scott: We are pretty sure we know what the title is- I won’t get myself in trouble, or give you the wrong one [laughs] if we decide to change it. We’re already talking to a couple artists and are pretty sure we know where we want to go with it. We’re pretty damn sure what it’s going to sound like. Even thematically, while we were writing the songs we thought about ‘Oh, this would be a good one to potentially start the record’, or ‘This one might be a good closer’- Even some ideas to make the album flow. We come up with some of the more thematic type things as we are writing. As more songs are written and the body of work gets there, we take a step back and analyse it, how it all might fit together, and what it’s about too. We develop that as we go.
Joshua BTS: Do you guys have any perspective release dates in mind? Any timeline as to when fans might actually start to see things surface?
Scott: The tentative plan is September/October- We don’t know an exact date. There’s always a bunch of dumbass industry stuff that comes into it too where, ‘We better do it on this week!’ as opposed to this week. The part of the band that you don’t give a shit about [laughs]- The part that’s not creating music. I’m sure it’s some asshole sitting in an office, ‘No no no, not this day- Let’s do it this day!’- But it’s definitely going to be in the Fall.
Joshua BTS: One of the things Skeletonwitch is known for is the touring cycles. You guys keep up an almost relentless tour schedule. With this forthcoming release- Do you see the tour schedule being just as intense? How are you going to approach this tour cycle given how much you’ve already accomplished on the road?
Evan: We’ll just do em’ as they come. You can’t tour the US and then tour the US again a month later or something like that, people will get sick of seeing you as fun as that sounds. We do have some stuff lined up that we also can’t talk about, so another secret we can’t share [laughs].
Same as last time I think. We’re not some studio band that records a bunch of weird releases and puts em’ out, it’s really about the live show when it comes to this band. That’s a big part of it. I can see us doing what we have done, chugging along, doing some support tours with some other bands and definitely doing some headlining again.
Evan: Like Scott said, we just did a huge US tour, like a 60-day thing before we wrote this record and I can see us doing that again on this record cycle for sure.
Scott: The only thing I could see as possibly different.. The amount of touring we do isn’t going to change, that’s our bread and butter and what we like to do, we’re a live band. I can see us playing just as much and touring just as heavily, but not as much in the same areas. For example, we haven’t been to Japan yet or Australia, or South America. We may be playing as much as we have in the past, but we may not be in the same areas as much. So if we’re in you’re town and you’re thinking about seeing us, it may not be the case this time around ‘Oh if I don’t catch em now- They’ll be back to Iowa in 3 months, they never stop touring.’
But as our touring expands and grows we may not be hitting the same areas as much. You could stay in the van forever and just drive around the US and play a show every night somewhere, but at some point you also don’t want to overplay. So I think the best case is- We’ll play as much as we always have if not more, but we’re going to get to some places we haven’t been to yet. So if we’re coming to your town, come out, cause we might not be back for a little bit cause we’ll be in Japan or God-knows-where [laughs] in the meantime.
Joshua BTS: With so much time on the road, usually touring is the stress that eats up and spits out a lot of bands. Now I know there’s a whole myriad of reasons why bands breaks up, but often a recurring one, you hear it a lot, ‘Oh they were on the road forever and they just got burnt out.’ What’s unique about Skeletonwitch that allows you guys to keep up such a tour schedule? Even of the touring bands, you guys are on road a lot. I’ve seen you guys in Philly over the past couple of years at least 3 or 4 times.
Scott: We’re sort of like a shark- If we stop moving, we die. [laughs] It’s never been ‘Oh we tour too much guys, geez.’
Evan: If you’re touring too much and it’s breaking up the band, you should rethink you’re career choice maybe or enroll back in community college.[laughs] For us, I think it’s what keeps us going and tightly knit, that’s the fun part of being in a band. It’s not sitting in a studio gong ‘Let me get this fucking part right’, it’s the opposite, it’s going to the show and fucking drinking some beer with people and playing a live show and that live intensity. So it’s probably the opposite for us, it kind of keeps me going. Seeing new places, playing in front of new people, just trying to do your best in front of people when you do play live.
Joshua BTS: Once you guys wrap up at GodCity here in the next week or so- What’s the next immediate thing on your plate?
Evan: Late May into most of June we’re going to tour in Canada. We’re doing a headlining tour in Canada with band on Season of Mist called Anciients, a pretty rad band. Those dates are currently on our website and facebook and all that. And then I think the plan with the release happening in the Fall is we’ll be doing some kind of touring, whether it’s headlining or support is yet to be seen. And then we just go from there basically, Canadian dates on the books and Fall we’ll be on the road quite a bit and probably Winter as well in the US. After that our sites will be set elsewhere, maybe Europe and then Japan for first time or something else. We’ll be touring heavily around the record in the Fall for sure.
Joshua BTS: Very cool. I just want to thank you guys for taking a few minutes again with Blow The Scene readers from around the world, we really enjoy coming out when you play live and definitely looking forward to this forthcoming release. Any final thoughts as we say goodbye?
Scott: We took a look at your site again before the interview and saw it says you guys do “Underground music, art, occasionally food, and even sexuality,” so I thought maybe this was going to be a sex interview, so I’m glad it was about the music [laughs].
The other thing I would say is thanks to anyone who has supported the band in any way, come to show, whatever. We feel very fortunate to be able to do what we do and we don’t take that lightly, so we do truly appreciate anyone who takes time to read this and cares about our band, it really does mean a lot to us.
Interview by BTS’s Joshua T. Cohen
Photos by BTS’s Dante Torrieri from our Exclusive Philly special.
More info at Official Skeletonwitch website