Saturday 5 May 2018

An Interview With Andrew Elstner (Guitarist from DEAD NOW, TILTS, RIDDLE OF STEEL and ex-TORCHE)

Today’s guest is one of my current favourite musicians and one of my favourite people to interview. I’ve interviewed today’s guest multiple times over the years. Though this is the first one in a very long time.

I’m here interviewing Andrew Elstner. Guitarist of Riddle of Steel, Tilts and formerly of Torche. I was kinda sad when Torche announced Andrew was leaving the band. As I saw Andrew perform twice with Torche and we hung out both times before and after the gig.

I was kinda pleased when Andrew announced he formed a new band called Dead Now.

Dead Now have just made an announcement recently that Brutal Panda Records will be releasing Dead Now debut album later this year.

I thought it was a good time to catch up with Andrew to see how things are going with Dead Now. And Andrew kindly agreed to do this interview.

Hi Andrew. Thanks for doing this interview. Congrats on your recent engagement How are things with you today. 

Andrew: Thanks man! Couldn’t be happier and the future looks brilliant. In the studio as we speak, finishing up the record.

We are here to talk about your new band – Dead Now. How did that band form 

Andrew: Dead Now started almost immediately post-Torche. I’d seen them play in their other band, drums and bass duo, Day Old Man and was completely floored from the first time I saw them here in Atlanta. When I became a free agent, we all kind of had the same idea to get something started, so that’s what we did!

What kind of music can we expect from Dead Now. Will it be similar to bands you’ve played in the past or something entirely new altogether. 

Andrew: I don’t think I can help that it’ll sound like past bands I was in, not that I’d try to avoid it anyway. It’ll sound like Bobby and Derek as well. It’s riffy, heavy but with tuneful vocals as I suck at screaming, plus I’m just brutally tired of that stuff. A three-piece band making as much noise as we can, and keeping things exciting. The rhythm section is crucial to this band. Bobby Theberge (drums) and Derek Schulz (bass). Those guys have a seriously insane telepathic nature and it’s a blast to be playing with them.

To address what I already know is coming, I mean, we could do an AC/DC tribute band and some cynical chud online is gonna go, “Pffff... sounds like Torche.” To which I’d say, sweet, I like that band and I was in it for six years, helped write two full lengths and two or three seven inches. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if things rubbed off. And anyway, we’re a new band, so our voice is still coming together. This first release is about us getting to know one another in a musical sense, refine what works best for us and continually move forward with whatever makes us “us.”

Did you know Bobby and Derek before you formed Dead Now. 

Andrew: Not for very long. Like I mentioned earlier, I saw their band numerous times in Atlanta and loved em dearly. Torche took them out on tour for a couple weeks in the south-east and they smoked people nightly.

Have you played together with each other before your formed the band. 

Andrew: Not a lick! Shame on me for not hitting them up sooner. 

Dead Now have just signed to Brutal Panda Records to release your debut album. How did that happen. 

Andrew: Dead Now had just played a show with Red Fang in Atlanta. I know those guys from the Torche days, having toured with em, so the show was a serious blast. As I understand it, a few days later, RF was in NYC and Relapse label guy Bob Lugowe was there as well. He and Bryan Giles got to talking, Bryan had enthusiastic things to say about us, which lead Bob to hit us up about a - then - potential release with Brutal Panda. I sent him our demos and the deal was on!

Did you have offers from other labels. Or was Brutal Panda Records the only serious one to consider. 

Andrew: There were local offers to do a seven inch single or some such, I’d contacted Relapse very early on just to put a bug in their ear, and they were interested in hearing anything we had once it came around, but it was just a very casual conversation. Honestly not a lot of time for us to communicate with anyone else as things moved very quick. Brutal Panda, 

I feel like it’s an awesome fit for us, killer roster and though I don’t know co-owner Mike Lara yet, I have history with Bob Lugowe through Torche days on Relapse and I have the utmost confidence in the guy. An absolute gentleman, ferociously hard working, gets shit done and is in my opinion a creative/marketing savant. Honored to have Brutal Panda in our corner.

Can you give any more details on your new album. What to expect from it and when it will be released. 

Andrew: I can tell you, it will be a vinyl and digital release and we’re on a fairly strict timeline to get it out by late August/early September.

Dead Now have started playing gigs. How has the audience reaction been to the band. 

Andrew: It’s been killer so far! We’ve played shows with Wand, Elder, Red Fang, Conan, The Messthetics, Lazerwulf, Motherfucker... all super fun and, if I’m allowed to say so, awesome crowd response. Heavily talking advantage of the “dark horse” factor.

I hope you don’t mind me asking this question. You left Torche about eighteen months ago. Can you talk about why you left. As it felt all of a sudden. Are you on good terms with the other guys from Torche. 

Andrew: Well, to clarify “leaving” was not my choice. Was a surprise for sure, but hindsight... it makes more sense man. Wasn’t like some major fight kinda thing, just, home from a tour, you get the call that it’s over and you’re out. Shame on me for forgetting how potentially tenuous my position was in the band and not making sure, as much as possible, that everything was cool. 

As I’ve said before, being their third guitar player (Juan, then Max then me), it’s really hard for a band to like, Frankenstein on another arm and not eventually have issues, just the nature of the game. Differences of opinion on things, things unsaid for perhaps too long? Disappointing? Of course. But ultimately no hard feelings man. I still speak with Jon on occasion, but haven’t yet had the opportunity to talk with the other dudes. Zero regrets and would do it all over again.

As you know I’m a huge fan of your other bands TILTS and Riddle Of Steel. Are there any plans in the future for both bands to write and record new material. Or play one-off gigs. 

Andrew: Always love that people still dig that stuff, it means so much! Tilts is definitely done with the passing of our best friend and beast of a drummer, Ken McCray. There’s always mild talk of future ROS stuff, but for me, it’s a thing where I want to desperately focus on the new band so I can’t really see anything happening there for the foreseeable future.

You’ve been involved with music for a long time now. What have been your personal highlights being from all the bands you’ve been involved with over the years. 

Andrew: Beyond the awesomeness of writing, recording, touring, getting to travel the world it also hugely comes down to the people. People gripe that the music industry is a nasty place, and I’m like, man.. maybe it’s the company you keep? I’ve worked hard, my bands have always worked hard, but I’ve also been lucky with the people I get to work with, the folks I get to meet. I’ve made so many life long friends who’ve forever changed me. I feel welcome and at home virtually anywhere I go. It’s an extended family I hope to never lose.

Looking back would you change anything about your musical career. 

Andrew: I would’ve started getting after it in earnest right around 18 years old instead of being shy about singing and stuff. It is what it, and maybe I just wasn’t ready. Otherwise not a thing. 

What is your musical setup playing live and recording in the studio. And has this setup changed drastically over the years. 

Andrew: My set up has, basically, been the same over the years. A loud ass amp into a 4x12 cab plus some effects, usually delay and octave stuff. These days I’m using two heads and two Atlas 4x12’s. One head is a Marshall 1959 Super Lead style amp I built and the newest is a heavily tweaked 2203 style build I did at Acorn Amps where I currently work in Atlanta, GA, though doing mainly pedals now.

Honestly, I like to chase tones, but my live set up is almost always the same as my studio set up.

You also work with Acorn Amplifiers building certain guitar pedals and other cool products that Acorn Amps are known for. (Can you tell I’m not a major guitar/gear person). How did you get involved with them. And do you use Acorn Amps products when performing live. 

Andrew: Ha ha, I do! I got involved with them a bit over two years ago or so through my good friend Andrew Wiggins (who’s currently tracking and mixing our debut release). He’s been working there as a tech for a long time now and when a spot opened up for a new apprentice, I jumped on it. Absolutely wonderful people there and a level of brainpower I can only one day hope to match. Couldn’t be more proud of what we’re doing. 

Andrew, thanks for doing this interview. Can’t wait to hear Dead Now’s upcoming new album. Before you go do you have anything to say to your fans 

Andrew: Thank you man! As I said before, it means everything that anyone cares at all. Always humbling and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy ya know? Cannot wait to get this show on the road and get this band in front of people.

Words by Steve Howe and Andrew Elstner

I want to thank Andrew for doing this interview. I will be keeping a close eye on Dead Now and will definitely be reviewing that album when it arrives later this year.

Dead Now Links:

Riddle Of Steel Links:

TILTS Links:

To close off the interview I'm going to include the last album that TILTS recorded. And it's perhaps my favourite album of that great band.