Monday, January 19, 2009

SkeletonWitch - Subzero Death

Of all the current crop of Thrash bands currently enjoying their 15 minutes of fame in the crowded underground, Athens Ohio based SkeletonWitch are, IMO the cream of the crop. Fusing the best elements of several extreme Metal styles SkeletonWitch simply fucking destroy!

Their foundation is that of Thrash Metal, no not the tinny sounding/shred happy good time Thrash-Core wannabe’s. We’re talking the real deal here! So imagine a Thrash band being thrown in a blender with a healthy pinch (or punch) of Blackened-Death and a heap of musical melody and you have a clue as to the devastating nature of this band.

I caught up with Guitarist Nate "N8 Feet Under" Garnette [the band is rounded out by Vocalist Chance Garnette, Drummer Derrick Nau, Bassist Evan Linger and Guitarist Scott Hedrick] at the House of Blues here in Chicago while the band was still on the road supporting it’s 2007 Prosthetic debut, ‘Beyond The Permafrost’.

None But My Own: Let’s get the typical stuff out of the way, your name and what is it you do for Skeletonwitch?

Nate Garnette: My name is Nate, everybody calls me ‘N8 Feet Under’ because when I was at school I liked Six Feet Under, no one else did. So it kinda stuck, I mean I have it tattooed across my stomach in gangster fashion (laughs)!

Are you from Cleveland?

Well we started in Athens, OH and then our Drummer Derrick went to the Cleveland Institute of Art and he went there for a couple of years. We sort of had our shit together at the time, but when Derrick left it was hard to keep going without a drummer. So we tried a bunch of drummers out and nothing seemed to work so we all packed up and moved to Cleveland. We all lived with Derrick while he was enrolled in school.

So we were there and wrote all the time, rehearsed all the time and by the end of his second semester we had re-gotten our shit together and by the end of the year we were in talks with Prosthetic. So we’re currently back calling Athens home.

I assume you guys, most of you seem a bit young…

We range from 21 to 35, there’s a lot of Metal eras to be found here (laughing)!

Having an older brother into Metal must have been cool, were you guys musical as kids? Your brother had to be influential to your musical preferences back then, huh?

He and I both played drums in high school and then I switched to guitar, so we always would write, but nothing ever came of these songs, we had no idea how to take them further, you know? But as far as my musical influence? Definitely a lot of that was exactly what he was listening to at the time, a lot of OverKill, Vio-Lence, Cannibal Corpse…early 90’s Death Metal and a lot of 80’s Thrash was what he was into…

So you lucked out!

Yeah! Now Scotty being younger, I think his first Metal album was like ‘Cowboys From Hell’ so when we started playing together I was able to turn him onto all the stuff my brother turned me on to. He was blown away as he probably wouldn’t have “discovered” this stuff, especially OverKill and Vio-Lence until years later, if ever.

But having that wide range of influences in the band is great…collectively we love Entombed, Death, I like Amon Amarth a lot. Derrick loves Immortal and Darkthrone and our bassist likes D.I.Y. Swedish Death Metal and other crusty stuff.

Do you get the “how’s it having your brother in the band” questions a lot?


So how’s it having your brother in the band?

We get along great, ever since I’ve been a teenager and started playing guitar we’ve just gotten along, like I said great.

I wanted to talk about the Prosthetic debut, ‘Beyond The Permafrost’, which has new material as well as re-recorded stuff from past releases. Why is that?

The early self released stuff was limited, we knew what songs were the best received from playing live all the time. We wanted to re-record the ones we knew people were into and the way we saw it, these were the songs that got us signed, why waste them as limited releases?

We wanted a record out and didn’t want to rush new songs just to release something. I think the album would’ve suffered if we had come up with all new material as we would’ve hurried it without living with the songs.

With all the road work you do have you had a chance to begin writing new material?

I’ve written one song that I really like a lot so I need to get the whole band to let me know what they think, I write a lot of the stuff and will run it by the guys.
Do you show them the riffs at practice or do you work one on one with the guys?

Everything I write I write with a drum machine and record it to my little four track. Then I can get the guys tapes of the songs and let them know my ideas and we work on them from there. Chance works on the titles and lyrics and everyone adds what they can.

What’s the feedback from your people, are they looking forward to hearing some all new stuff from you guys?

Just on this tour it’s started! People will come up to us and ask when we’ll have some new stuff out and we don’t even know what to say to them, you can say “OK, but it’s going to be another 9 or ten months of touring” you know?

Before you guys inked a deal with Prosthetic had you been shopping your stuff around?

We sent out a lot of shit to a lot of labels. We got everything from “we’re really interested” to “We’ll see” kind of responses. It definitely wasn’t a fucking bidding war that I can tell you (laughs)!

Prosthetic, we just liked what we saw and heard and when we call the office we get the man himself, that’s what we like. We started with modest goals at a label where we weren’t going to get lost in the shuffle, I mean why do a debut album with a label where you’re going to be in debt for the rest of your life?

We’re happy with what’s going on and as far as where we’re at, well were a lot futher than we ever thought we’d be so that’s a plus.

Let’s talk about touring…you guys tour a LOT..I mean a fucking lot. Even if I hate a band’s music, if I see they’re just road dogs and work hard at their craft, I end up respecting them. Is touring and the grind everything you thought it’d be?

We never started out thinking shit was going to be handed to us. When we signed to Prosthetic we knew we weren’t getting a $40,000.00 advance and we knew it’d be just as hard as doing it yourself, but with much better distribution and a solid profile in the press.

As far as our end, we saw this as an opportunity to work harder than we’ve ever worked before…that’s the only way you can do it on an indie label. Prosthetic thankfully has been great to us, but we went into the deal with them knowing this was the one thing that would cause us to drop out of school, quit working and basically live on the road. If we didn’t do all these things we feel it all won’t amount to anything.

So back to the question, touring is what it is. Some of it has been really good, some of it has been really challenging. There are all kinds of things that can make it either great or horrible but it’s what we love, yeah it can be hard at times but it’s much better than a regular job, you know? But our van is our home and that’s the way it is.

How was the local scene when Skeletonwitch was coming up?

There were some good bands for sure, there were some good shows with killer support but it was no different than any of the scenes in the towns we’ve played ourselves. But our thing was always to just go for it, our first tour was back in 2004 and it was completely self booked. We paid $1,000 to play the Milwaukee Metalfest and that was the first date of that tour.

You know what? Our core audience still remember those shows, that’s how it all began. We were in a pick-up truck and a trailer and we loved it!

What do you see happening in the immediate future? More touring I assume.
We’re going to Europe for a month with Hate Eternal and Cephalic Carnage and after that we’ve got nothing booked yet, but we’re stirring the pot as we speak because I don’t want to stop yet. I’d like to fill the rest of 2008 up with touring and then maybe take a short break at the beginning of 2009…I don’t ever want to tour in the Winter again!

So whenever we can we’ll take six months to write and record another album and try to make the best one we could.

God forbid this happens, but if your tour van had a faulty wire and was about to blow up, and you could save only 1 album from inside, what album would that be?

Wow! That’s a tough one, I’d have to say ‘The Years of Decay’ by OverKill or ‘The Avenger’ by Amon Amarth...