Saturday, April 24, 2010

When we last left Mose Giganticus' Matt Garfield in the summer of '09, he was facing another canceled tour, bus repair, and the end of an recording session that seemed to take forever.  2010, however, is a completely different story.  Ithaca Underground's Bubba Crumrine gets the skinny on the year that was and what this promising year has in store for the synth-metal warrior, including the release of his latest, "Gift Horse" our July 20th on Relapse Records!

IU: How has everything been since we last spoke in the summer?

Matt:  Pretty well! 2009 was a difficult year because I had a lot of failed tours, which failed because of bus problems, which meant more money having to flow out, money that I didn’t really have.  So, it was despairing for a little while. Basically, in 2009 I was trying to finish the new record and trying to pull off two tours, both of which ended prematurely with the bus being completely dead. The first tour ended because I had to replace the engine and the last tour ended early because I had to replace the rear end, the rear axle, and everything that goes along with it.  I was up against all that and I was in debt from bankrolling the new record.  Things were looking pretty bleak but by Thanksgiving discussions with Relapse started coming through.  At this point as 2009 is behind me, the bus is almost finished being repaired. I should be able to pick it up this weekend. So, I’ll be getting the bus back, the new release on Relapse is moving forward, my financial situation is better so I feel there is a lot of potential for this year.  I feel a lot better now, a lot less despair (laughs).

IU: Awesome! That’s pretty much a complete 180 from when we spoke last time.

Matt: Absolutely!

IU: What’s the storey behind getting hooked up with Relapse to release Gift Horse?  Last summer you were wrapping up recording and there was talk about releasing it on Slanty Shanty like your previous releases.  What came about that turned all that around?

Matt: That’s a good question!  In the midst of the situation I was just describing, I was in the studio for way longer that I needed to be to finish the record the first time through because of my work schedule.  I was so destitute financially that I had to work any possible hours that I could.   So, I wouldn’t get out of work until 9PM and then I would go to the studio.  The gentleman I was working with, Joe Smiley at Red Planet Studios, also had a day job so, I couldn’t start until 9PM and he couldn’t go past midnight.  We ended up having to record the album three hours at a time – three hours, ever day for months and months.  If I can get an 8 hour chunk I can get a fuck-ton done but with three hour chunks there’s so much start up time it’s impossible to get anything accomplished.  It felt like it was just dragging on forever. 

Because of all that, I kind of snapped. Not aggressively in any way or at anybody, but internally I snapped and it was a good thing! I was always coming from a mentality where I’ve been bad at self promotion. The culture I came up in going to shows it was always viewed as douchey to tout your own band – like bands wearing their own T-shirts – that kind of mentality was frowned upon.  So, I’ve never been very good at self promotion in a sense. In the past I always liked to do my thing and let the work speak for itself.  But after everything that was happening I got fed up.  I was in the studio one day and I realized it felt like we were going to finish recording the next day for months.  Every day was “Sweet! We’re almost done! Tomorrow we should finish this up.”  I was really happy with what we were doing, it was just taking forever.  I started thinking, “What can I do with this record? What’s going to make this any different than the last record?”  I was putting so much into it and was a little depressed about it. I was pouring everything I had into it and I had no idea if it was even going to be recognized and if it’s going to get anywhere. Am I’m going to do another couple months of tour, sell a couple hundred copies while I’m on tour, and then have it peter out? That would have been a real blow to me. 

I got over the lack of self promotion.  I just said “Fuck it, I’m going to be THAT guy.”  I thought about who I knew that I could push the record on, and be a bit of a jerk – in my mind, not being mean to anyone – it might pay off tenfold. 

A friend of mine, Chris Grigg, who played drums for Mose way back 2006, is personal friends with several guys who work at Relapse. I talked to him, told him how I was tired of doing the same thing over and over again, how I was near finished with the record, and really needed something to happen with it, for  my own emotional well being.  I asked him flat our if he could talk to his friends at Relapse and see if we could do something with it.  I felt really dirty but Chris was very gentle and all about it! He said he’d be happy to talk to them about it and help promote what I’m and that he’s really into it. He said he wanted to be the guy to help make something happen.

That was really promising but I didn’t really expect much from it but a couple days later, Chris texted me and said he let his buddy Eli at Relapse listen to it, was really into it, and that I might expect to hear from him in a few days.  Which I thought was cool but wasn’t sure if they were just blowing smoke. I like to be cautiously optimistic about these sorts of things.  But, a few days later, sure enough I got an email from Eli which was very proactive on their part so I figured there might be something to it. 

Initially, Relapse was going to release the album as is, as I’d recorded it, as a mail order only release to see how it did and maybe do a full promotion push if they wanted to issue another Mose release.  They had a few internal meetings, some of the higher-ups at Relapse heard it and thought they could really do something with it.  It was perfect timing really. They were looking to push something new, they liked what was going on with it, they called me in for a meeting and asked what I thought about doing a full national release.  They said if I was on board they’d be willing to put full force behind it.

It all happened in baby steps and I’m glad it did because if it had happened all at once I probably would have blown up! (Laughs)  Little by little they started upping the ante and now we’re on the cusp of the announcement and they have lots of great things planned for it.

IU: That’s fantastic! I’m so excited for you.

Matt: Thanks! It’s really a dream come true and it’s so funny how all happened because I said “Fuck this, I’m tired of sitting back and waiting for someone to notice.” The one time I decide to get over it, it actually paid off!  (Laughs)

IU: Yeah and you put the time, effort, and miles behind it, doing it yourself. That must have looked really attractive for them to get involved with.

Matt: Definitely, I was already doing a lot anyways.  They were really into the trip up to Alaska we did in ’08 and all the other DIY touring.  The more attractive you can make yourself to a label the more it helps. 

IU: Cool.  Where and did you end up re-recording and who with?

Matt: Well, they didn’t say right off the bat that they wanted me to re-record the album.  I think they were worried it would scare me off too much.  It was scary because of all the time I’d just finished putting into it. When it came down to it though, they didn’t think it sounded professional enough.  That can be kind of insulting but from a business point I can see what they mean and after hearing the new recording, nobody – even everybody who was involved with the first recording – can argue that it doesn’t sound better now.  The way that they framed it was that critics and especially metal fans can be really judgmental and they don’t want people to write this off because it doesn’t sound professional enough-  or give them any excuse to right it off for that matter. 

The guys at Relapse gave me a list of a dozen studios that they had worked with before, places where they were confident they could get the sound quality they were looking for. So, I researched the studios based on what their hourly rate was, what kind of bands they’d recorded before, and their proximity to me in Philadelphia.  I didn’t want to have to drive four hours away to go to a studio and end up doing that week after week for the entire winter (laughs).  The best of all my points of critique of all the studios ended up being Skylight Studios in Fairless Hills which is literally blocks away from where I went to high school.  I didn’t even know it was there!  Vince Ratti - who has worked with the likes of A Life Once Lost, Bury Your Dead, Circa Survive and others for the last 15 years - is the engineer Skylight but he’s also in Zolof the Rock n’ Roll Destroyer.  I was familiar with them, knew what they sounded like, and liked what they were doing but the big selling point for me was that they were a keyboard oriented band as well.  It made me feel more confident going into a studio with a guy who already uses keyboards for their own sound.  I was worried about going into a metal studio with some dude who really didn’t know how to work keyboards or who belittles keyboards – which tends to happen a lot in metal.  In the end, Vince was great, we got a long really well and it worked out!

IU: Can’t wait to hear it! What has been the reaction from people around you who have known your sound for a while?

Matt: It hasn’t gotten out to too many people yet, but he first reaction I would get back from someone who is familiar with the old Mose material would usually be “When did you get so fucking metal?!” (laughs).   The heaviness of it would be the first reaction.  The previous stuff was aggressive but more punk oriented and a little more lighthearted in its demeanor whereas this stuff is a lot heavier, it plods, and it’s a lot thicker in the general tone, low end, and the layers of instrumentation.  The material on “Gift Horse” is a lot more guitar oriented, even though I don’t play guitar.  I was writing the songs with more guitar orientation in mind and worked a lot more closely with the guitarist during the recording process as opposed to my previous stuff where guitar was more of an afterthought. 

IU: Sounds like the new material has branched off of the slowness and heaviness you were going for on “Days of Yore” from your last EP.

Matt: Yes, that is actually the track that bridged previous Mose to current Mose.  A rerecording of “Days of Yore” is even on this record! I felt like that song is really what started this whole new direction.  It also seemed to be a favorite amongst the people whose opinions I trust.  I really liked it too so I basically did a whole record around the style of “Days of Yore”. 

IU: Yes! That’s 100% my favorite track.  It was familiar enough while still being really fresh. 

Matt: I think that’s part of what is intriguing about this record to the guys at Relapse and hopefully their audience as well.  It’s familiar enough to be metal and something that people like and accept but it’s a little weirder – a new spin on it with the keyboards and the vocodors in there.  I hope that it’s the recipe for initiating a new subgenre, not to be egotistical (laughs).

IU: Do you see yourself aligning, sound-wise with bands that are combining metal and keyboard oriented genres like Genghis Tron or HORSE The Band?
Matt: Yeah, Genghis Tron has come up a lot in conversation, being that they’re another Relapse band from Philadelphia who blend keyboards and metal.  The obvious differences being that is GT more synth-grind where Mose is more synth-alt metal or hard rock.  It has more of a traditional song structure.  To me it’s very reminiscent of “Black Album” Metallica in the way the songs are written where, yes, it’s heavy and you can call it metal but there’s no blast beats, the vocals are fairly accessible but heavy - like King Buzzo from The Melvins, for example – but not super screamy or screechy.

I’d be much more comfortable playing for a crowd that came to see Genghis Tron than say, Converge.  I think I’d be more concerned about being be written off by the latter (laughs).

IU: Well, if it ever happened, I’d book that package in a second!

Looking towards Mose Giganticus’ return to Ithaca for Big Day In, who have you tapped to join you on stage?

Matt: Well, as you know, Mose came on to Big Day In on relatively shorter notice than the tour I was trying to book.  I had a line up set for the tour that is starting on May 8th but I didn’t feel the drummer I’d picked for tour was going to be ready by May 1st.  He might be, but I haven’t played with him before so it felt a little risky.  For Big Day In it will be Dan, who has been my touring drummer for basically all of last year and who has stuck with me despite last year being a fairly disappointing tour year.  He’s from Philadelphia and is a high school teacher but this is his last year teaching. He wants to just tour.

IU: He was the drummer who joined The Emotron on tour last summer when we had him out in August, correct?

Matt: That’s the guy! So, Dan will be on drums and guitar will be Joe Smiley who recorded the previous two Mose records and who is a great guitarist.  I’ve played in bands with him previously.  He is part owner of Red Planet Studios and is one of the primary guitarists on “Gift Horse” now.  Joe did a lot of guitar work on the record so he already knows all the songs by heart and he’d expressed interest in joining in on any short tours as he really wants to get on the road again. Because of the studio he can’t go out on tour for months and months like I like to, but May is only 3 weeks worth of tour and he was all about it. 

IU: Perfect, we’ll look forward to seeing Dan again and getting to meet Joe.  What are your Mose plans for the rest of 2010?

Matt:  Well, a lot of that is still a little murky. May, being just a few weeks away, is all planned out.  We’re playing Big Day In on May 1st in Ithaca, and then there’s another fest called Rad Fest on May 14th in Wilmington, which I was booked for since last November.  The day after Rad Fest is The Emotron CD release party in Charlotte at The Milestone.  After that we’ll swing around up to Cleveland for another fest called Weapons of Mass Creation that a friend of mine, Justin Lee put together.  We’ll head back to Phily after that.

From then on I think I’ll be laying kind of low for June, maybe I’ll do some local shows, preparing for the record release which will happen in July.  From July through the summer and most of fall I’m planning to be on the road, touring the whole country pretty thoroughly.  I don’t know when I’ll be where yet.  There may be some things that come through Relapse but they can’t do too much until they can freely talk about me being on the label and have some of my music to show. 

IU: Sounds like a great year will be lining up!

Matt: Yeah, and I really hope to make it to Europe next year and if things go really well, maybe even Japan. I’m all in for all of that.