We are very pleased to offer Blow The Scene readers around the world an exclusive interview with vocalist Jon Parkin of Salt Lake City’s purveyors of unrelenting grind punk and progressive crust, Gaza. With a sound that incorporates the most suffocating and emotional aspects of crust, grind, metal, and punk, Gaza are currently making waves across the extreme music landscape, evidenced by recent tours with Converge, Trap Them, Torche, Corrosion of Conformity, Rotten Sound and more. Having just set a new full-length, No Absolutes In Human Suffering, into motion via Black Market Activities, Gaza frontman Jon Parkin brings us up to speed. In this in-depth interview, Parkin discusses the making of the new record and working with Kurt Ballou (Converge) at God City Studios, lyrical motifs, tour life, album art, band history, politics, guilty pleasures and so much more in this intriguing interview. We’ve included listening samples of No Absolutes in Human Suffering and links for purchase and further investigation below the interview.
Without further ado, let’s hear from Jon..
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the world. Let’s get this beast rolling by having you introduce yourself and your musical weapon of choice with Salt Lake City’s grinding punks, GAZA.
Jon Parkin: Hello. My name is Jon and I do most of the vocal work for Gaza.
Joshua BTS: Gaza just released No Absolutes In Human Suffering on Black Market Activities. Give us the skinny on the writing process- When did you start writing the LP? And I know you’ve mentioned that this album has “darker” or “moodier” feel to it than that your previous releases. What was the catalyst behind these darker themes?- Musical, personal, or political influences?
Jon Parkin: The writing started soon after He Is Never Coming Back was finished. We trimmed down to a 4 piece and were eager to work with the new dynamic. But then we had the chance to hit the road with some pretty amazing tours (Converge US/Europe, Coalesce, Kylesa, Rotten Sound, Trap Them, The Red Chord etc.) and that spread the writing over a year or two. The darkness came from a more cohesive core with just the 4 of us. We’re a very cynical crew and I don’t think there is much hope for things between us. That made it easy to spit vitriol.
Joshua BTS: With Gaza going from a five to four-piece, this allowed your bassist Anthony to step up and add more to the writing process. How did this transition period treat the band? And why the decision not to add a second guitar back into the mix?
Jon Parkin: It didn’t take long for the writing to come together actually. Anthony had a bunch of riffs he’d been working on already. He’s a guitar player first really. Bass was out of necessity for the band at the time when he joined. We stayed a 4 because we don’t much like complication. If we can keep things simple we’re happy. Its hard enough to find like minded people. We’ve got 4 all pointed in the same direction and it seems to be working out alright.
Joshua BTS: You chose to work with renowned engineer and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou of God City Studios. How does the recording process go for Gaza at God City Studios? Did you try anything new or step outside of comfort range at God City?
Jon Parkin: The biggest change was a time limit. We only had 10 days to track / mix/ etc. We’d never had to worry about that because we recorded the previous stuff in Salt Lake and had the luxury of time. Which actually looking back probably hurt us more than helped. We had the time to pick everything apart and put it back together… The recording process at God City was very regimented. We were in studio all day and I was at Denny’s all night writing lyrics. I’d record a couple songs a day to save throat throughout the process as we kept pounding away at tracking the instruments.
Joshua BTS: Any unique or odd pieces of musical instrumentation or recording techniques that helped you capture this “darker” sound. What does your studio setup look like?
Jon Parkin: When we get to a studio to record much of the initial time is spent finding tones, amp combos, drums, etc that we like for the tone of the record. So our setup has changed with everything we’ve recorded. Understanding our live set up might not translate best in a controlled environment.
Joshua BTS: What are some of the lyrical motifs listeners will find on No Absolutes In Human Suffering?
Jon Parkin: There is so much interference and static on top of our adult routines… And we’re built and trained to consume and conquer. I see the signs of empire collapse and I’m both excited and terrified by it. I think our religion, racism, sexism, and consumerism only exist because we lie to our children. I think there will be an intellectual awakening in our culture but only after it is too late and so it will be like watching the sun go down after you’ve just lost a loved one.
Joshua BTS: How does the album’s title correlate to the art theme and who crafted this artwork?
Jon Parkin: Throughout history it hasn’t been difficult to move people to terrible violence. And it doesn’t seem like there is ever an absolute to how awful we can be. So you get the political rally and soldier carrying the flag of hate. And the child looking you in the eye saying “its your fault”.
Joshua BTS: Gaza saw some interesting tour schedules and companions. We caught up with C.O.C’s Reed Mullin, who had all good things to say about the band. Anything particularly memorable during your recent spat of touring in the US? Do you feel the COCcrowd or Torche crowd are open to your extreme sounds? I would assume the love from your tour mates translates into a significant percentage of their fanbase..
Jon Parkin: The problem with Gaza is that we sit at the crossroads of several genres. It’s hard to place a “good tour” where we “fit the bill”. BUT, we’re happy to tour with the diversity we’ve been able to because of that same “problem”. Do COC and Torche fans like us? Some seemed to and that’s more than we could hope for. We started the band assuming we’d clear rooms not fill them so when people are still standing there when we finish playing we’re still kind of surprised by it.
Joshua BTS: Who amongst you has the oddest touring habits? We’ve heard it all…from ice-t bottle collections or urine in the tour van to guerilla-tactic swimming missions in random hotels…how does Gaza rank up?
Jon Parkin: We’re all pretty quiet dudes. And honestly probably the most boring band in the world when it comes to touring hi-jinks. I freak out once or twice every tour because I get homesick real fast and then get pretty depressed. But for the most part we rarely fight. Everyone just kind of lets the others exist. We look at tour as work and not a party. And personally I don’t feel right partying on people’s generosity. Knowing we have each others backs is what keeps it all together.
Joshua BTS: When you guys are just kicking-it, what do your daily lives look like? Do you work music around a 9-to-5?
Jon Parkin: I have a 9-5, so does Mike. Anthony is starting to make money on his art craft (see a lot of our merch designs) and Casey is a thrifty scrapper and works where he can. I don’t know how he does what he does but he can stretch money for months. It’s a real talent.
Joshua BTS: Any bands out there, whether here in the US or abroad, that are really exciting you right now?
Jon Parkin: I’m a huge Elitist (Portland), Bone Dance, Fever Dreams, Water Torture, and Seas Will Rise fan at the moment to name a few.
Joshua BTS: With such a searing take and varying levels of political focus- I am curious to know if politics (or lack thereof) plays a part in your daily lives? I often find, interviewing bands of political nature, that often the politics stops with the music. Is this something that overflows into direct action on your part?
Jon Parkin: I got my degree in political science actually. Im a nerd for it. We are talking about it constantly and we stay pretty current on issues. We all tend to be very left wing on most things. We don’t often argue with each other as much as we vent to each other about a problem we see. I love election season. Its such a shitty anthropological commentary on our country. I’ll be live tweeting through the debates and generally annoying everyone around me through the election.
Joshua BTS: And along those same lines- Do you guys support or follow any current grassroots organizations committed to addressing many of the issues you discuss in your music?
Jon Parkin: Do we put our money where our mouth is in other words? You mean besides being perpetually broke and unable to advance in our personal lives because we’re in a punk band talking about this stuff? : ) Probably not as much as we should, honestly. Its hard when you’re out on the road surrounded by it every day and night, then when you’re home you’re studying and writing about it, etc. You can’t do it all the time or you get burnt out and so depressed you can’t move.
Joshua BTS: With so much tension on the Gaza strip right now- Any concerns about touring abroad and how the name will be taken by different demographics and different cultures?
Jon Parkin: I hate having to consider that with the Muslim religion in particular. You can tell a Catholic the Pope is a criminal and that the concept of virgin birth is bat-shit crazy and they’ll roll their eyes at you. Say some shit like that out loud in the wrong place about the crescent moon and you’re under death threat. By using the name Gaza we’re not taking sides. We’re using an eternal example of man’s failure along religious, political, and compassionate lines.
Joshua BTS: I’d like to switch gears into some lighter Q & A for a few moments. With so many interesting musical works under your belt, I am interested to know what other arts you follow. Any great books or art exhibits make their way into your mind’s eye recently?
Jon Parkin: A couple of us are big movie fans. A couple of us read and listen to books quite a bit. Mostly currently affairs type stuff. Not so much novels… Anthony is a visual artist, Mike crafts guitars… We catch a lot of diverse bands and solo artists that come through town. There is a DaVinci exhibit in Salt Lake this weekend. I’ll be checking that out. We just got a new Natural History museum as well. Pretty stoked about that.
Joshua BTS: What other creative outputs do you engage in that we may not suspect?
Jon Parkin: I’m a bit of a jock so I’m running, golfing, biking all the time. I picked up archery again this year and can’t seem to put it down. I’m getting pretty deadly with it. (I don’t hunt.) I write sad love songs with Chris from Bird Eater sometimes. Who knows if that will ever see the light of day.
Joshua BTS: Guilty pleasure time. Guiltiest food pleasure? And favorite spot to eat on tour? Any vegans in the band?
Jon Parkin: No Vegans in the band. We always stop at this joint in Lawrence KS… Cant remember the name… Gourmet burgers. Shitty shout out there. Guilty foods… Well, It might stem from my happy place as a kid or something but give me a PBJ, an Orange Crush, and a Fruit Rollup and I’m stoked.
Joshua BTS: What does Gaza have on deck for the rest of 2012?
Jon Parkin: We’re headlining a US tour with Code Orange Kids and Full Of Hell, Nov-Dec. this year. Next year will bring Europe and more US stuff. We’ll be writing in between.
Joshua BTS: We really appreciate you taking this time with Blow The Scene and our readers around the world! Any final thoughts or shout-outs?
Jon Parkin: A new Bone Dance record just came out. Check into it. Otherwise, thanks to Blow The Scene for the continued support and interest in us. We very much appreciate that.
Interview by Joshua T. Cohen
Live pics courtesy of Fred Pessaro of BBG
Gaza on Facebook
Gaza Merch at Black Market Activities webstore.