Tuesday 29 September 2015

Like Rows Of Crooked Riffs - An Interview with GREENHORN

Today's guests have won praise for their unflinching style of brutal Sludge/Doom Metal over the past couple of years.

They've recently released their debut album – Like Rows Of Crooked Teeth – which was produced by current Conan bassist – Chris Fielding at the awesome Skyhammer Studios. They've also been called – The Future Of British Doom – by Terrorizer. Big words to live upto but Greenhorn are going to give it their best shot.

I've been trying ages to get an interview with these guys and my pleading has finally paid off. Well it does help that Lead Singer/Bassist – SID – is part of the Outlaws team here. So maybe I pulled some strings on that one or told him he will be reviewing the new GHOST album if he didn't agree to my terms.

Anyway let's get started.

1 – Hi guys. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you all today.

No problem. Thanks for asking. We're all good as long as that Ghost thing doesn't happen.....

2 – For people who haven't heard of your band. How did the band come about.

We started nearly three years ago after the last band AJ and I were in split up after a long period of inactivity. I knew Vinnie from his days when he played in UKHC band SNUB and that he was possibly thinking about getting back behind the kit. Vin and I bumped into each other a few times socially and always talked about jamming, so the three of us met up for a beer talked about what we wanted to achieve, which at that point was nothing more than just play a few shows locally and be making music again.

We booked a rehearsal room and a couple of months after that we played our first show supporting Earthtone9.

3 – Your debut album – Like Rows of Crooked Teeth – is a brutal experience from start to finish. Can you tell our readers what they can expect from the album.

They can expect 6 stories about 6 fascinating people who were put to to death for a variety of reasons. Some you could argue were just, some very much not so. Although as a lot of this is historical we do need to appreciate we live in a very different world now. They can also expect riffs. And feedback. And riffs.

4 – Was it an easy or hard album to write and record for.

We started writing it pretty much after we recorded "Doomhawk" and most of it came fairly easily as I think we were still on a high after that experience. There were a good few riffs that never developed into songs and got disguarded during the process, but I would think that's pretty common.

As we got closer to the dates for the studio we were still one song light and we actually wrote the music to "Deadmans Hill" a week before we left and the lyrics were finished the day we recorded it. A few people have told me it's one of their favourite tracks so hopefully we got away with that!
The recording process itself was a dream as Chris Fielding knows exactly what's what and how to get the best out of which ever band is in front of him. The guy's a hero.

5 – You produced it and recorded it with Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios. How did you get Chris to work with you and what was the overall experience like.

It was ace. We had been lucky enough to work with Chris for "Doomhawk" as well so I think both parties knew what to expect from each other. Drums get tracked first, then add guitars, bass and finally vocals. Then Chris sends us away (to the pub!) to start mixing it.

I guess the process itself is fairly standard, but Chris is an enthusiastic guy to work with and full of good ideas and plenty of tips to make sure we get the most out of our experience. We spend a good part of time cracking jokes about Alan Partridge and all sorts of things like that so it's a very easy going atmosphere which for us worked well.

6 – Skyhammer Studios. Is it the new Valhalla for Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal bands to record there albums at. Is that place as good as people have told me.

Yes. As well as Chris and everything he brings you have your pick from an amazing selection of amps, cabs and all sorts. It's cool to have Jon popping in and out as well to check up and come and have a listen and see what's going on. It's actually set in the grounds of his house so it's all very laid back as it's in the middle of a family atmosphere.

You only have to look at the calibre of bands/records that are coming out of there to see why everyone wants to record there.

7 – The album was released by Black Bow Records and Hibernacula Records earlier this year. How did you hook up with those great labels.

We sent a copy of our demo "The Plague Doctor's Mask" when Jon started Black Bow and we got talking and ended up booking into Skyhammer to record "Doomhawk" which they released on a limited cassette run and latterly through the labels Bandcamp page. After we recorded the album Jon got in touch again and asked if we'd be happy to have the record digitally available through the label, and of course we said yes.

Hibernacula is run by 1/2 of the Victorian Whore Dogs and we've just got to know them well through gigs and a mutual love of Iron Monkey and Transformers! Both labels are ace to work with as they're both run by people in bands, and we've got friends on both labels putting out records at the moment so it really feels like being part of a family.

8 – The album has a fantastic cover. Who designed the cover. And what does the cover mean to you as a band and for the album in general.

The cover was designed by the very talented Dan O'Gara. Dan is part of the Southern Doom Crew and you will have seen the excellent black and white shots he takes when bands roll into Bournemouth to play the anvil. I know this isn't the first time his work has been used for a band (Peter Pan Speedrock have used his shots on their last record) and I'm sure it wont be the last.
The cover really is just to sum up the theme of the record. We feel it suits the mood of the album perfectly.

9. – Why did you choose the name – Like Rows Of Crooked Teeth – for the album.

It was part of our original idea for artwork. It was going to feature a graveyard with the names of the people the songs are written about, but laid out in such a way they looked like rows of crooked teeth.

In the end we didn't like the idea of the artwork but the idea of that image stuck with us and the name stuck as well!

10 – What's the song-writing dynamic within the band. Is it a group collective or down to one individual.

Well things have changed a little bit since Vinnie stepped down and Mandy joined. She's a very different drummer so that probably will reflect in the new stuff we're writing, but the basic approach remains the same. Someone comes up with a riff (95% of the time it's AJ) and we just jam it until it flows and one idea tends to lead to another.

We've always been kinda "all hands on board" when it comes to arranging the songs and often things will get bumped around and often dumped. If we're not grinning when we're playing something it normally doesn't stay. Lyrics always come last. They seem to be getting sparser as well at the moment, but every song is different. It depends on the theme and story of the song.

11 – What have been people's reaction to your music. Good or bad reactions.

So far they've been really good. All the reviews we've had for "Doomhawk" and "Like Rows...." have been really positive. I'll be keen to see how they translate into sales when we get the figures from Black Bow in October.

We did have one zine decline to review it as they didn't want to give a negative review though!
We got a pretty lukewarm live review in Metal Hammer last year, but you can't please everyone and in fairness it's nice to say we've been in it at least!

12 – How do you deal with negative reactions to your music. Do you take suggestions or criticisms on board or do you focus on your own thing.

You can't take it personally. It's just people's opinions and you can't expect everyone to be into what we do. I have no problem with constructive feedback or honesty. So far though we've been very fortunate with the feedback we've had.

13 – Do you guys perform gigs on a regular basis. Do you have to travel further from your home town to perform on a regular basis.

We try to limit Bournemouth shows now to 2 or 3 a year. As much as we'd love to play there more, if we play all the time people will stop coming out. We're lucky now that in Bournemouth we have a few more bands in the local area so it's nice to be part of that.

We love to travel and play shows though. Some of the best we've had have been out of town. (Leicester. We're looking at you)

We're looking at next year trying to book 2 or 3 weekenders with bands and a few one off shows here and there. We'd love to play another festival this year, but that's probably out of our hands, so we'll concentrate on booking what we can ourselves. Both Mandy and AJ are in other bands and I have kids so there are other commitments to honour as well. But I think we like having that mix of things. That said we'd love to just jump in a van and tour for 7 - 10 days and I'm sure at some point we will.

14 – Which bands and artists inspired you to become musicians. Any particular albums that stand out.

I can't speak for the others personally but for me I stumbled down this path after picking up the first Iron Maiden album on tape back in the day. Eventually my tastes changed and evolved a bit and apart from Maiden the first band that really got me excited about the thought of playing music was Sepultura. When Chaos AD came out my little ears had never heard anything like it and I've never looked back. Bless my parents but I think they were hoping that my interest in heavy music would be just a phase. It would appear not.

As a band I can confidently say we have been inspired if not influenced by Slabdragger and Diesel King. We played a show in London town with them both a couple of years back and I vividly recall us standing around after the show and thinking "Shit. We're not doing this properly!"

We promptly got rid of our spare guitarist and that's when we started to pay more attention to things like what amps and pedals etc we were using and just our approach to writing heavy riffs in general. We've been fortunate enough to play with both bands a few times since then (we did a cheeky weekender with DK earlier this year in fact) and every time we see them I always remember that show and the impact it had on us.

15 – Well guys thanks for doing this interview. All the best with your new album as it's a killer record.

Thanks very much mate. Oh and if you need anyone else to review Greenhorn stuff in the future I think I know just the chap......

Words by Steve Howe and Greenhorn

Thanks to Greenhorn for taking the time out to talk to me. Now where's that GHOST album for SID to review....