Saturday 27 February 2016

Interview with Clayton Anderson from BEASTWARS

I've been a fan of New Zealand Riffsters – BEASTWARS – ever since they released their incredible debut album back in 2011. It showed the Sludge/Stoner Metal world that a great new band has risen with huge gigantic riffs and intelligent lyrics to match.

In 2013, they shot further into the Sludge/Stoner Metal ascendency with their 2nd album – Blood Becomes Fire. I rate that album as my fave album of 2013 when I was The Sludgelord. BEASTWARS have a fearsome and an electrifying reputation in the live arena which has seen them perform gigs with Mastdon, High On Fire, Red Fang and The Sword amongst others.

The band will be releasing their 3rd album – The Death Of All Things – on April 22nd 2016. I'm pleased to report that BEASTWARS may have released their finest album to date. As the guys have opted for a more progressive feel with hard-hitting riffs and lyrics to match. Matt's vocals are more focused and pissed off than ever before.

I was given the chance to discuss with Clayton Anderson (Guitars) about the past, present and future of BEASTWARS and this is what went down....

Hi Clayton. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.

Great, thanks. We just got back from playing a couple of shows in Aussie (Sydney and Melbourne), which went down really well.

So lets get straight down to business. Your new album – The Death Of All Things. A brilliant album if I do say so myself. What can people expect from the album:

Thanks man! If you’re familiar with our last two albums you can expect the usual Beastwars riffage but I suppose some things that might stand out are some of the songs are longer and have feel changes in them - so what you hear at the end of the song is totally different to how it started.

There is maybe more melody in the vocals and guitars - instead of multi-track rhythm guitars pummelling you - we have guitars doing soaring melodies while James’ bass is still providing that identifiable slab of sludge, rhythmic backbone. We wanted to create more space on this album, so it’s not all a continuous guitar and vocal assault - on some of our tracks there are parts where it’s just drums, bass and vocals while the guitar is noticeably silent or just feeding back.

We tried things that we probably wouldn’t have on the first two albums, well, definitely the first. One song, which Nato and Matt wrote, is just Nato playing an acoustic guitar with Matt singing, not roaring but singing. That’s something we definitely wouldn’t have been game enough to do on the previous albums.

The album has a different sound compared to your first two albums. Was that the plan todo something different with this album. It has more of a progressive feel and Matt's vocals are more focused:

With the vocals, Matt wanted people to hear his lyrics and all their intensity. Apart from having a unique roaring voice, he has actually got a really diverse range. We tracked the album in our home town, Wellington. The previous two albums were recorded in Dunedin.

This time we tracked with James Goldsmith at his Blue Barn studio. It has this beautiful big room, like a barn (hence the name) with a wooden beamed high ceiling. James got a fantastic sound out of Nato’s drums, which were tracked first, and when we listened to them back, it was then we knew that we were going to get something different but great.

The other major contribution to this record’s sound is that it was mixed and mastered by different people than the first two albums. Both Andrew Schneider and Brad Boatright did an amazing job and added unique touches that, in some songs, we wouldn’t have thought of.

The album feels slightly more political as well especially on songs such as Devils Of Last Night, Witches and Black Days. What made you go down this route with the new record. It seems your mega-pissed off at the world:

We’ve always had this underlying aggression and pissed-offness at the state of the world, which comes out in our music. It’s pretty obvious the world is going to hell in a hand basket thanks to the world’s politicians, religious leaders and the banksters, who I loath and wish to see hanging from Wall Street’s lamp posts some day. But the way things are going it doesn’t look like things are going to get any better.. maybe when, as a society, we can get our collective heads out of our cellphones and stop worrying about what the Kardashians are wearing or who Kanye is dissing, things might take a change for the better. 

Did you do anything differently recording this album compared to your other albums. Was it an easier or harder album to write and record for:

I’d say harder due to a few things. First, we wanted to make something that sounded different than the last two albums so it took a while and a bit of experimentation to work through stuff. Also, we weren’t getting together jamming as much as we use to. Nato was spending a bit of time up in Auckland because of his work and we all had other commitments at different times.

It was only two years between the release of our self-titled album and our second, Blood Becomes Fire. It took us over two years to get back into the studio to record The Death Of All Things. During a lot of that time the band’s focus was on establishing ourselves in Australia, so we were touring there a lot and getting new fans familiar with the first two albums.

I've read that this is the last album in the trilogy started off with your self-titled album and could be the last album you guys will be recording. Is this true. I know with Nathan moving to London soon will make things harder for BeastWars to perform and record. Is this the end for BeastWars as we know it:

The Beast will never die! I suppose you could say this is the last album of our trilogy. We always set out to do three albums that had unified themes - and with that goes the like of having Nick Keller do the artwork etc. We wanted to make three albums that we would be proud of and stood up to our own expectations, which thankfully, they have.

Nato is shifting to London, which means we won’t be touring as much, and writing new material may be put on the back burner to start off with. But, to look on the bright side, Nato is the band’s manager and having him over in London might open up other doors of possibility. 

Before Nathan moves over to the UK. Will you be touring this record heavily at home or abroad:

Yes - in New Zealand and Australia.. so far. But, as I said in my previous answer, with Nato shifting to London, other possibilities might eventuate.

I consider The Death Of All Things as your finest record to date. It's more personal and takes more risks than the first two albums. And you know I love your first two records. Do you feel this is your best album yet:

Yes, and, pretty much because of the reasons you’ve outlined in your question - it’s personal and it takes more risks. We could’ve played it safe and provided another album full of sludgy dense riffs but we’ve chosen to stick our necks out - with the possibility of them getting the chop! Who knows, some old school fans might not like it because it’s a bit different. Although, there are songs on our previous two albums that I think have elements of where we ended up with this album. Tracks like The Sleeper on Blood Becomes Fire and Iron Wolf on our self-titled first album, hark to the kind of experimentation with tracks on The Death Of All Things.

What inspired you when writing the album as you have included some bleak lyrics at times:

A lot of what’s happening now in the world and how it seems to be a repeat of follies from the past. We never seem to learn.

Your releasing the album yourselves like you did with your previous albums. I know a lot of people are looking forward to the vinyl release. You know that's going to sell out straight away. Does that make you proud that you have a dedicated fan-base wanting to buy the album on vinyl straight away that it sells out:

It would be great if the vinyl sells out straight away but you never know, so I don’t want jinx things by presuming it will!.. but if it does, we’ll be buzzing. A lot of effort has gone into this, especially because we are our own record label, which means a lot of extra work (mainly for Nato). We have a special place in our hearts for vinyl - it’s more than music, it’s like buying a piece of art - so to see so many people have that same appreciation for something you’ve made is one of the biggest buzzes anyone can ever have.

After the success of the last record, did you have any offers from record labels to release your new album or previous albums to a wider market. Or do you strictly want to be solely independent:

We have, but to cut a long story short, it was better for us to do it ourselves. We have all artistic and business control, and in the end, we only have ourselves to blame if the record doesn’t do as well as we would like.

One of my fave songs on the album is not even the heaviest – The Devil Took Her. Such a beautifully written song and haunting lyrics. That song felt like it could have been used from a classic New Zealand movie. Why did you include that song on the album as it's perhaps your most personal song:

I probably won’t be able to give you the best answer as I didn’t write or play on it. It was a guitar piece that Nato had come up with - we initially had ideas of having these guitar interludes in between songs but it was blowing the time out on the album. Matt wrote the lyrics after reflecting on a disastrous evening with disastrous results, which really affected him for months after.. but that’s all I can really say as they are his lyrics.

If this is the final album from BeastWars. Looking back over your musical career, would you change anything about the musical journey you've been on so far. Good or Bad.

We don’t know if this will be the last and we aren’t announcing any break-up or retirement but things are up in the air at the moment because of Nato shifting to London. I can’t speak for the rest of the guys but it’s a shame we haven’t got to Europe or the US but things just haven’t worked in our favour yet for that to happen. There’s a variety of reasons for this, which I won’t bore you with, lets just say we’re not in our twenties with no responsibilities. We have boring - not very rock n roll - reasons like families, day jobs and mortgages.

Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans.

Thanks for digging our music - we hope you enjoy the album as much as we enjoyed making it.. and.. Obey The Riff!

All the best with the new album. It's your best work yet. Best of luck with your future endeavors. Hopefully we will hear more of your great music in the years to come.


Words by Steve Howe and Clayton Anderson

Thanks to Richard at Sheltererd Life PR for arranging this interview. Thanks to Clayton for taking the time out to talking to us. The Death Of All Things will be released on CD/DD/Vinyl from BEASTWARS on April 22nd 2016.