It had been a Saturday night well spent. American Sharks were a nice surprise; the band commanded quite the tone and even tried to engage us stand-offish Seattlites in some stage banter. When Gypsyhawk took the stage, the realization that they were new to most of those in attendance was pretty immediate. The clientele at Nuemos was instantaneously mesmerized with the infectious rhythms of yet unfamiliar songs, increasingly boogying and bobbing their heads. Though it’s hard not to be thankful for an up close performance like the one we received at a local waterhole in Seattle’s U District two months prior, it was great to see them finally playing to an ample crowd, one worthy of the righteous rock n roll tunnage before them.
Last time Gypsyhawk came through Seattle we caught up with them at the Rat and Raven, which isn’t what you’d call a glamorous place. Bassist/vocalist Eric Harris and drummer Ian Brown gave us a peek at their lyrical approach and the rhythm section’s contribution to the songwriting process. This time around, guitarists Erik Kluiber and Andrew “Ron” Packer gave us the view from behind the axe. The state of metal, rock, retro movements, tech death, touring, hecklers, Reno….it was all on the table for this one.
Maz: Alright cool, well that set was awesome, so you guys are just about a week out from being done with the tour.
Maz: American Sharks, Eagle Claw, that was awesome.
Erik: It’s been fucking amazing man. Definitely the greatest tour of our lives. Certainly of Gypsyhawk‘s career. The Sword, when we were talking about who it would be rad to go on tour with, who’s a big band, and we always talked about the Sword. We thought it’d be a good fit, with their audience and shit. And sure enough, when we got the offer, we did a little dance around the room.
Ron: Well it wasn’t sure enough, it was like out of nowhere. How the hell does that happen. We still don’t know how we got on this tour to be quite honest. We heard a couple things, like, “someone liked you,” “this guy liked you,” and no one will really let us know. We heard that the Sword asked their booking agent to book us, and whenever we talk to the guys in The Sword, and we’re like, “which one of you guys did it,” and they’re like, “we’ve never heard you before…”
It’s like this weird scooby doo mystery. It’s cool because the thing about touring with The Sword, there’s a good crossover in the crowds. Fans just like the show from start to finish. And that’s what I like about going to see shows; I’d go see a show and there’d be three bands and they’d mesh together, so it was a great event, rather than like a big festival. Or bands are mismatched, and you only go for one, and it’s like a forty dollar ticket and you only wanna see one of the bands, and that to me, that’s just not a good time.
Maz: It seems like, it’s hard to find a band that plays your guys’, you know, brand of amped up rock and roll.
Ron: There’s very few bands that have straight up songs, that are still heavy, but not Pantera-style heavy. Rock and roll heavy, man.
Erik: It is really hard. We’re on Metalblade, and we’ve done a few things that they’ve hoooked up for us, like their SXSW thing, and then we did their scion thing. We also did their 30th anniversary at the house of blues in hollywood last week, and that was the best bit they set up, and even then it was with Armored Saint, and Sacred Reich. It wasn’t as good as this but before, they put us on with like, Job for a Cowboy, and Six Feet Under and stuff like that.
Ron: And their fans are like, “What is this.”
Maz: No fun allowed (Laughs)
Erik: Yeah, like, “We wanna see some sweep picking.”
Maz: I’ve heard some European bands that are kind of doing what you’re doing, but not quite as heavy as what you do.
Ron: Well that’s the thing, are you talking about maybe Graveyard?
Maz: I’m thinking of, Vanderbuyst. It’s a dutch band that does the same kind of amped up rock and roll. Not quite the same tone. In fact, the last time we talked to you guys, we talked to Eric and he was saying like, he wanted to play an old school formula of rock and roll, but specifically with a metal tone.
Ron: Right; a metal attitude. A little more aggression.
Erik: It’s four metal guys, playing rock and roll. They can’t eschew the fuckin’ influences we have from the metal world. We wanna play groovin’ rock and funtime shit. And I guess that’s how our sound developed.
Ron: Well it is, and also the thing about it is our love of classic rock –bands like KISS and Skynyrd and Thin Lizzy— isn’t contrived. It’s not like an actor that’s reading a part and tries to be in a band a looks like a tool. The most rock n roll roots they have is maybe Pantera. It’s not in their equation or their DNA. We truly have metal influences and classic rock influences and can make something new out of that.
Erik: We’ve been accused of just trying to jump on a bandwagon because bands like Graveyard, Witchcraft, and Red Fang are getting but not only do we not sound like any of those bands but they weren’t even worth a shit for so long and I mean that kindly.
Maz: Yeah, is it even a train? Graveyard and Witchcraft have been doing their thing for a while, often with little attention.
Ron: If you’re gonna get on a train…
Erik: We should be playing deathcore type shit (laughs)
Maz: “Where are the breakdowns?” (laughs)
Erik: Right? You’re not gonna hear ‘em. Not yet, anyway.
Maz: So, this tour is a bit bigger than the last one you guys were doing.
WUXTRY: Quite a change, it would seem.
Erik: This is our seventh tour. The first six were all booked on our own, struggling super hard, did a little better each time but still coming home in the red. It was a drag but we were going to do it anyway because doing the work is what gets you recognition and that rcogniction is what got us here. This tour is fuckin sick, we’re making more money and two having to spend less money because we don’t have to buy our own bottles of alcohol, it’s now in our rider.
Erik: They give a little extra money for food and shit like that..
Ron: I wouldn’t say we’re making money
Erik: By making money I mean not losing money.
Ron: I wanna be very clear about that, this isn’t Guns N Roses or anything.
Erik: Yeah, that was filmed at our buddy Josh’s house who lives is South Lake Tahoe. He booked our show down there and has booked other shows of ours in Reno. Reno is one of our favorite cities, we go there every time. We always play to a click, which is the same BPM that we play too when recording the shit. So, Ian (drums) had the click in his ear and we were able to sync up the actual stud recording to what we were doing that day. So, we just got pretty fucked up that day cause I guys that’s what you do in Nevada. And, yeah, I dunno we just wanna hold it down and keep the party going to make sure people are having a good time cause we are.
Ron: It was a super DIY video. Our friend Jordan from Metalblade Records just came along with us for four days and captured some random footage. That footage at the house party was just our friend’s place out there. There’s some great stuff in there though.
Erik: Oh yeah, there’s some stupid fucked up shot of me smoking weed and exhaling out of…
Ron: …a bicycle handlebar.
Erik: Yeah, I barely even remember that.
Ron: But we played a show in Reno that night.
Erik: But everyone in Reno is always so fucked up…
Ron: And you play so late so you actually have time to sober up. That’s how Reno rolls. You have to go if you haven’t experienced.
Maz: I’ve only been there for a bachelor party or two.
Ron: Well, but to mix it up with some of the hardcore locals is a quite an experience.
Maz: Are there any plans for the next record? Are you guys writing songs?
Ron: Yeah, Erik and I wrote a song called “maker” and that’s demo’d pretty solidly but when we’re on tour there’s absolutely no time to write but when we’re not touring we will be writing.
Erik: I have three or four songs which I want to take and sit down with this guy and make them good and polish them. I’m sure Eric has a few ideas too but, yeah, the plan is to write when the tour is over. The difference is that the last ablum was such a process because we were more or less changing our approach from the first album and he (Ron) was new and our drummer was new and took time to work everything in but I think we have figured out what we want to be doing.
Ron: I actually think it was quick, though. What slowed it down is we had tours in between. We got signed over the summer after playing this party after a tour. Then we started booking the next tour. Then they’re like, “we want to record an album”. So, we had to do this tour which was a month away, so we had a block of writing time. Then we do that tour, come back and then write the remainder of the album but then it was the holidays which fucks everything up. I was gone, Ian was gone for a month, Eric was gone, so it came down to the wire. I remember the last week, you, me and Ian were hanging out and we got the drum parts down for “Galaxy Rise”, which was just two days before the studio.
Erik: Yeah, we were determined to get it done within a certain amount of time to keep the momentum we had from touring but it still took like 6 months or 8 months.
Ron: When you actually look at the whole overhaul, yeah, but when you look at the actually writing time it wasn’t very long.
Erik: Yeah, it was a weird year. We finished writing the album and recorded it in February and didn’t do jack shit for six months.
Ron: Yeah, it was terrible. I was so fuckin bored I had to join another band and go on two tours.
Maz: Which was?
Ron: Scattered Hamlet. Eric was off with Huntress so I did that.
Erik: So, we did this tour and it really helped get everybody back on track.
Maz: Right, so Eric was telling me that being in Gypsyhawk is a breath of fresh air because the heckling he gets isn’t only minimum but it’s usually “oh I don’t like that cover you did but I don’t really have anything on you”. Whereas with Huntress he got quite a bit of flack.
Ron: Did he?
Erik: I’ve read some Huntress reviews and many people feel like there is something not genuine and contrived about it, for whatever reason. Erik was just playing bass, he wasn’t writing songs and I’m pretty sure they didn’t like his ideas because they were too rock n roll. So, I’m just like, “the guy lives and breathes metal, he was in Skeletonwitch”. That was that and in Gypsyhawk he just gets to be more open with is ideas and the frontman of the band instead of just the bass player. He also loves hanging out with us and we love hanging out with each other so Gypsyhawk is more of a brotherhood.
Even the bad reviews are good. They usually say something annoying like, our “sound isn’t original” or “You’re not going to hear anything new on it but it’s totally kickass and you’re gonna like every track on it”
It’s like” fuck you! Thanks for liking the album. Sorry you don’t think it’s original. We’re not playing 8 string guitars, with tap sweeping and jazz-influences on it, which is not original either. Atheist nailed it in the early 90s and it should have been finished then. The new shit coming out is boring.
Maz: This is true.
I love death metal; I love technical death metal and the only good bands that are out there like Obscura or Decrepit Birth and Spawn of Possession because they write great songs but a lot of this other shit is boring and too over the top without being fun to listen to.
Maz: It strikes me as a little but self-serving. A lot of these guys are writing songs that are fun to play for them without always being original or fun to listen to.
Erik: That’s the shit people want to claim is new and innovative.
Ron: And that’s the only thing. There’s no issue with them being super techy, more power to them, for what it’s worth for them in their fans but don’t try to claim that as super innovative, fresh or new because it’s been around forever. In fact, that style of metal has been the most popular style of metal for a very long time. One of my problems with a lot bloggers these days; there isn’t a lot of credibility. They claim to be experts.
Maz: A lack of context…
Ron: Well, I don’t know if they can back it up. They can claim all day what’s new and not new and what’s good and what’s bad but back in the day I feel like writers had a longer resume and credibility and shit like that. So, that seems to be a lot of the dudes’ favorite form of music, this kind of flash in the pan, smoke and mirrors, “watch me doodle” kind of stuff. They love that shit and it doesn’t do it for me.
Erik: What happened to songs with balls?
Ron: …and soul! That’s one of my biggest problems with that type of music, there’s no soul to it. It’s drum machine or a human that sounds like one, lack of dynamics and, well, lack of soul, which is not part of that musical genre. Period. It’s not fuckin’ there.
A lot of those guys couldn’t name one CCR song. They would be like, “what’s that shit?”. I’m like, “dude, this CCR song is heavier then what you’re playing now”
I’m sorry but “Born on the Bayou” is way heavier than what you’re playing right now.
Maz: It seems like that’s part of this sort of blacklash that’s created other movements, like the revival of traditional heavy metal, which sort of ties into what you’re doing. So, I guess, is there going to be anything “progressive” things on it?
Ron: Yeah, we haven’t totally lost that.
Erik: Oh, sure. Our first album had some progressive stuff on it but that stuff hasn’t turned out to be as well thought out in the long run as what I had envisioned. He and I have talked about it and we don’t ever song to be a three and a half minute sugar coated type thing. We want some longer songs that are more “progressive”, I suppose, but they have to make sense and work. We’re totally capable of doing that.
Ron: You basically work on ideas and work on ideas. The ones that pan out become songs but you don’t throw ideas away.
Erik: Totally. Ideally, I would like to come out with an EP that was just one 25-minute song. We’ll probably have a hard time convincing everyone that’s the thing to do…
Ron: I personally would not like to do that.
Erik: I think it would be fuckin rad! Because I love Floyd and King Crimson and bands like that. We’re hearkening back to that era of rock so why not that part? Even Led Zeppelin had some crazy stuff, especially live. They had like 50 minute drum solos and they were the biggest band in the fuckin world cause it was awesome.
WUXTRY: I would love to hear you guys do a 25 minute EP
Erik: Yeah, Agalloch just did it and, though they’re completely different than us, it rules. It’s not boring.
Maz: That is a good EP. Anything you guys want to add? Any reflections on the tour, being on metalblade and getting bigger?
Ron: We’re just doing the same thing we’ve always been doing. It’s neat to see people taking notice. We don’t want to be the band playing to five people every night. We’ve been there and done that. It’s cool to be taking off a little bit. So, come to the show, judge for yourself and we think you’ll have a god time. Let’s just keep this train rolling and see where it takes us.
Erik: We’ve been rocking and we’re dedicated to the old school fans while still being excited to meet new fans. We hope everyone is going to have as good of a time as we are rocking out. It seems like people fucking are having fun watching us and we’re really happy about that.
WUXTRY: This crowd seemed really receptive to it, certainly.
Erik: There were some people in there that knew the song but for the most part it was Sword fans that were hearing us for the first time.
WUXTRY: Everyone in Seattle’s pretty jaded.
Ron: Yeah, LA is well worse.
Maz: By the way, you dealt with that one heckler—the one guy there was—very well. If you didn’t see the guy, he got chastised pretty hard, he got a lot of like dirty looks.
Erik: We just don’t care. I didn’t hear the guy but just heard Eric’s remarks.
Ron: Eric handled it well by quelling him down and just being like, “dude shut up” with out even saying that outright. The thing about this band is that it’s not super serious. We’re not gonna get butthurt if someone says, “you’re not that great!” Well, we don’t fucking care so whatever. Also, I think the crowd isn’t at the concert to deal with that. They’re like, “dude, we’re here to have a good time so shut your fuckin mouth”. So, we’re pretty fortunate with that.
Erik: They’re not metalheads with their arms crossed staring at every note on the fretboard.
Erik: I had that feeling the other night when we were in Kansas City and there was this dude with long hair so I was like, “Sweet, he’s totally gonna rock out” but the whole time he was just bored.
Ron: I love that shit.
Erik: I think there are people stuck in the metal world that are offended that our band is touring with The Sword and they’re probably some shredding guitar player that’s like I can do so much better. Why isn’t my band up there?” It’s like because you’re not fun.
Maz: Because nobody cares.
Erik: Yeah, no one cares about you.
Ron: God, that’s so well put.
Maz: Well, thanks guys. Thanks so much for taking the time.
Ron: Fuck yeah.
Erik: You’re welcome. Thank you. That was a fun interview.
Ron: You guys want some more whiskey?
These vibrant photos courtesy of Jaymz K Photography. Check out his stuff!