Chuck Schuldiner Project

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Interview with GypsyHawk

Wednesday night I got the chance to interview the genius guitarist in GypsyHawk Andrew Packer. So here is my exclusive interview with the recently signed GypsyHawk (link to their facebook is at the bottom of the page). I've edited out a few minor bits but overall this is the entire interview.
(Phone Rings)

Andrew Packer: Hey this is Andrew

Two Guys Metal Reviews: Hey, Andrew you're from GypsyHawk right?

Andrew: Yeah, that's me.

TGMR: Cool, okay, so is this a good time to start?

Andrew: Yeah, smooth!

TGMR: Okay, cool so, yeah, lets going. So how do you guys feel about this new tour, now that you're signed to Metal Blade and all?

Andrew: Oh man. We feel pretty great about it. You know we've had to most of the, all of the promoting on the previous tours on our own. Now that we've got Metal Blade behind us a lot of that should be a lot easier and effective. So we're hoping we're gonna get a lot more attention from people y'know and in cities we've never been, that'll like, y'know notice the stuff that Metal Blade is doing and not just be some random band's name in the newspaper.

TGMR: This will be like your first nation wide tour right?

Andrew: No, actually it's our third. This is our fifth tour total. We started touring last July, right around when our first album came out on Total Destructor Records. And we just did like a few weeks on the west coast to sort of feel it out. And see if everyone in the band was actually able to handle the road. After that we did all of September and did pretty much most of the country except the northeast. January we did another nation sweeping thing to the south rim. And then we just finished through most of May a month long tour were we made it to New York, Philadelphia and all the way up there. But, this is our biggest tour yet, the longest.

TGMR: So I heard you book all your own gigs, so would you describe yourselves as a do it your self band?

Andrew: Absolutely, cuz y'know, we're doing it ourselves! It's y'know... you get a lot of help from certain friends in certain towns and just some bands we'll like make contact with will be really stoked on our sound and really wanna play with us. And go out of their way to help us find a place to play. And make sure it's a good spot and try to get good local bands and stuff like that. But yeah, we don't have a tour promoter we don't have a manager, we don't have any of that shit. It's pretty much all been on, its all been on mostly me and Eric's (the singer's) shoulders. But now our new guitar player Eric Kluiber got us a few shows in places we've never been on this new tour. In Detroit and everything, hooked us up with some buddies in Chicago too so, it's really cool.

TGMR: You're a classic heavy metal band, in the way of Hawkwind and Thin Lizzy so what's it like playing in Southern California where there's a lot of pop culture going on?

Andrew: Well you know, I have to say, despite being our hometown if we didn't have the vast array of friends here that are really supportive and getting us a lot of our shows all the shows here would be kinda dry. I'm not sure a lot of people... are really like really sort of ready for our sound. There are still a lot of people who just really like thrash metal, and black metal. Black metal shows here always draw a ton of people. So being in such a pop cultural icon place there has been... I dunno I don't think there has been much effect in that sense.

TGMR: So today is actually Led Zeppelin's 42nd anniversary of their first ever performance.

Andrew: Ah no shit!

TGMR. So how do you feel about like what they've done for music as a whole and for your band?

Andrew: Oh well, I love Led Zeppelin! I'm actually reading a biography of theirs right now. I think its... I think they're a really cool band. I love their progression from like doing practically what every other band in Britain did in the 60s. Which is start out as a pretty much blues based band and I don't know if it was the drugs or just traveling around the world they really became a huge creative power force. And did a lot for rock and roll. I think everyone still loves Led Zeppelin. A band you can ask anyone between the age of 10 and 60 who they like and they'll say they're a great band. And I think they sort of were effective in making rock and roll an art form that probably will outlast most other genres of music.

TGMR: So speaking of classic rock, how do you feel about the whole Black Sabbath reuniting thing?

Andrew: I don't know. Are they actually getting back? I read something that says that that's not happening.

TGMR: Yeah, it seems kind of confusing.

Andrew: I think it would be great. That music... anyone who plays the guitar and likes anything heavy loves to play Tony Iommi's riffs. And I'm sure he's not sick of NIB and Paranoid and Wizard and stuff like that. I'm sure part of it is still pretty fun for them. Though at the same time, they're old and probably have serious health bills to start being concerned about. So they got stay home whenever they can. I would go see them if they come back with Ozzy and it was the old line up I would be down. I don't see anything as too sacred or anything like that. So it's not something to be like all stuck up about. So, I'm down with it.

TGMR: Let's talk about more bands in your movement, like Wolfmother and Black Veil Brides how do you feel about those guys? The other classic metal bands that are coming back.

Andrew: Black Veil Brides?

TGMR: And Wolfmother all those other great guys that are like trying to bring back the good old days.

Andrew: It's funny that you bring up the Black Veil Brides. I have a weird obsession with them. I'm not really into their music but I think they're such a cool business oriented band. I 'm just fascinated by them. I really like the band Graveyard they are really good at taking what was done a long time ago. They don't really do what we do in the sense that we incorporate a lot of 80s heavy metal sound into the classic rock thing. They kind of stick with it and they do a good job while keeping it heavy and coming up with their own sound. Taking a lot of what was going on back then. Wolfmother I'm really not that familiar with, I hear their shit in car commercials and they got pretty catchy riffs. Our friends Blizzard Wizard from San Francisco often have a strong influence from the 70s. I think they're great. I think they're one of the best bands working right now. I think it's just like, I can't say where everyone is coming from but just because rock and roll had it's big hey day n the 70s doesn't mean you have to play deathcore now just because you want to play music. I think there's still room for melodies and guitars that are fuzzy without being over saturated with distortion. Pull that hokie stuff. People still wanna dance without it being techno music or whatever! It's about having fun music and you play what you feel.

TGMR: So I'm sensing that you're not necessarily very fond the metal scene as it is today?
Andrew: (Hesitates) Yeah I'm I went to this one the California metal fest, or maybe it was part of the Summer Slaughter tour. And it was just a few good bands like Skeleton Witch playing and Odeus Mordum. And I think Knoknistium played? And the crowd just sat around everyone was on the floor. And the band's were up there just killing it. And I was like, whats going on with this place? Maybe this crowd is just empty. Then the deathcore bands came in and all these kids that just blew up on MySpace and the crowd just went apeshit for em karate kicking and shit. I mean like what the fuck is this? They aren't actually hitting each other they're just acting hard and I'm trying to stay away from them. But just by being in contact you see it's a really bizarre scene. I think well that's one side of it. And I'm not totally thrilled how a lot of death metal bands went through a lot of sweeping acrobatics phase and didn't do anything else and didn't come up with any songs. I understand that like there are progressive and classical influences and proggy structure and whatever. I still feel that a lot of it is just a series of riffs that they think are really cool they put together. On the other hand there's some great hands like Decrepit Birth is really awesome. Son of Aurelius incredibly good. I think they put out one of the greatest death metal records I've heard in a few years. Then there are a lot of cool European bands like Spinal Possession, I really like too. Black metal, maybe I'm not enough of an enthusiast to catch all of the nuances but I see a lot of bands that are rehashing what Emperor perfected 15 years ago.

TGMR: I get where you're coming from yeah. With other bands I listen to I get a sort of mental image when listening to them. Is there a picture that you come up with when thinking of your band?

Andrew: I guess. the first thing that comes to mind maybe because Hawk s in the title but definitely see something soaring through the air. And we like the idea having sort of your own way of life and doing what you think is what you're made for. In other words its just about freedom and trying not to conform to what people kind of lay out for you as the road to success. It's not for everyone. Especially looking at the world and the country everything is just completely going south. I don't think anyone wants to doing anything to make it better before its going to get worse. Not a powerful enough effective body has appeared of people that wanna make that happen. So it's kind of like all these kids are like graduating from Harvard and getting a job at a coffee shop. And the road that was paved and we were told was the way you have to live your life. Is not shaping up the way it was advertised. A ton of digressing going off. But just someone going through life going their own way.

TGMR: So that's basically where the name came from?

Andrew: More or less. Eric came up with the name I think he wanted to call t Skeleton Wish. But when he came up to me and said what do you think of the name GypsyHawk. I was like “meh whatever” but as a thought about it I think some of those feelings came into it for me.

TGMR: With my blog we do a lot of unsigned bands. So I wanted to ask you is there any single thing you did that got signed. Whats your biggest piece of advice for a band looking to get signed?

Andrew: Touring, is definitely one. I think now in the day and age when everyone is downloading music and not paying for it record labels really wanna see that you're gonna be on the road. Because people are definitely gonna wanna buy records and Cd's more when you're out there. And they wanna know that you can tour. I've heard that a lot of labels just have giant rosters of bands that make albums and never leave their hometown are being dropped. So you're gonna hafta suck some dirt for a little while. We had to. But its worth it and it's fun. You gotta do it because your names really out there when you tour. And on more outlets and even newspapers. So that combined with just networking with as many people as you can. And don't act like a shit. Your bands not the shit till its the shit.

TGMR: So you mentioned illegal song downloading, could you give me your opinion on that?

Andrew: I'm kind of ambivalent. It has it's good side. It;s so easy and people are gonna see an ad or something and be like “Well I don't really wanna buy it if it's not good” so they download it. They download hopefully they like it so people come to the shows and buy the record buy shirts buy you drinks stuff like that. It could have its good side. On the other hand, the only bands that seem like they're making a living out there, The Rolling Stones, U2, Metallica have 30-40-50 years staying power or they're manufactured pop acts. And that's kind of unfortunate I think bands at our level in the 60s and the 70s where making a living. They weren't rich but they were making enough to pay rent pay bills and have the tour payed for stuff like that. Because people bought records. It's a shame that all of this happened. I think that underground and independent record companies will figure out way before the major labels do how to handle this. And either the major labels will change evolve, and start signing better acts or they'll just tank. Time will tell. It;s rather unfortunate, obviously I'd rather people buy my records than just download it. If they download it and like it and come to the show, that's great too.

TGMR: So, earlier you kind of talked negatively about touring what is that like for your band?

Andrew: Well we love touring. Especially because we're all really good friends and have a similar sense of humor and interests. And hanging with these guys is great. Going to different cities is a blast. And driving between places in the middle of nowhere you'll see some of the most inspiring stuff in the world. I hadn't traveled that much before I was in this band. I'd been to New york, I'd been to a couple places on the west coast... Philadelphia. But other than that I don't know when I would have ever gotten a chance to see the south or the Midwest or anything like that without touring. Its hard work its really hard work. And sometimes people are like “Oh it's gonna be so much fun you're gonna have such a blast” And I'm like “It is but it's a grind too”. Its not just living the life. I don't know what else I'd rather be doing with my life at this point. It's what I've been wanting to do for a long time and I'm really stoked I've gotten to do that with GypsyHawk.

TGMR: Your first tour backed by Metal Blade is about to start. Do you have a setlist up now, or do you have a new setlist every night or what? How does that work?

Andrew: Yeah we usually have a different setlist every night depending on what we feel like playing. Basically we've always done this. We get to a crowd and try to figure it out. If it;s all kids with long hair and black then we play the heaver tunes. If it's older crowd who look like your average civilian then we;ll play the lighter stuff., Now we have a much more focused list. We're going to be doing mostly new songs leaving room for one or two songs from the last album. And we've also before every tour we've pretty much hammered it. There's songs that you love 'em but I'm sorry you're not gunna here it. It's just not planned.

TGMR: Okay, cool. So talking about your music, do you guys have a favorite song that you'll always play?

Andrew: Yes, the song from the last album that we always play we always end our sets with is Commander of the High Forest which is the third song on the new record. We just think that;s a great way to say goodbye to a crowd. It's got a little bit of everything, it's got a bit of rocking then it gets pretty dancey then there's like this amazing shredding part and then its just heavy and it just crushes at the end and Ian the drummer goes off and, it's just the perfect way to end a set. We always used to play the song GypsyHawk to end the set because we thought that was probably the most inviting. It seemed like no matter who you were you would like. Then once we got the video for it... That song will not be in every set. But Commander of the High Forest and then one of our new songs called The Fields that is one that will show up a lot. I think pretty much everybody in the band has agreed that that's our new favorite song so you can pretty much count on hearing that one too.

TGMR: Speaking of Ian quickly I was looking at your facebook page. Can you explain to me the nickname “Pee pee Rider”?

Andrew: (Laughs) Ok, Ian is a super guy and he;s one of those dudes you can rip on all the time and he'll laugh it off. And it's all in good fun. One of the ways you can rip on people who are only your really good friends. For some reason we where on our way to New York we stopped at a Mcdonald's. Eric was in the bathroom for some reason singing the Jimi Hendrix song “Easy Rider” to himself and starting singing “Pee pee Pee pee rider”. Then he came out of the bathroo mand was like “Hey I got the best new name for Ian 'Pee pee rider'!”. And I was like “Alright dude”. And it kind of caught on in Philadelphia in the last song Commander of the High Forest right before the drum solo he yells out “Pee pee Rider on drums!”. Into the microphone and ever since then it;s cemented. So we just call him that now. But y'know he's the kind of guy who can handle being called Peepee rider so we do it.

TMGR: Wow...nice (laughs). So I wanted to talk to you about now that you're on Metal Blade which is kind of a major label with some great acts like GWAR and Between the Buried and me. Well I guess they're popular. So what is it like to be on the same label as these people who are kind of legendary?

Andrew: It blow's our mind man. When we went to the offices to sign the contracts and I saw the old Slayer shit and Cannibal Corpse stuff I was like “This is amazing, this is exactly the kind of place we would love to be”. One of my favorite records of all time is DRI's Four of a Kind. That was probably the first metal punk records I ever got, my older brother bought it for me when I was like 11. And I;ve been a fan ever since. Metallica's first thing that they ever did was on that metal compilation they put out in 82 or whatever.

TMGR: Yeah, Metal for Mutha's

Andrew: It's pretty heavy man! It's a hell of a legacy to live up too. I know there;s been quite a plethora of other bands on the label in the past 10-15 years. But I think they've really got solid bands. Hammers of Misfortune is an awesome band, King Diamond AND Mercyful Fate. GWAR like you said. You can go on for a while. There's a ton of great bands in there. And that's really like fulfilling. And it feels like we've accomplished something that a lot of people wish that they could do. It's cool, it's really cool.

TMGR: Sounds like it would be kind of amazing.

Andrew: (Laughs) Yeah
TMGR: So you were talking about the first record you ever got. So what band's specifically and what bands and albums and songs and whatever got you into the music that you're doing today?

Andrew: Well, Hendrix was one of my biggest influences growing up as a kid. I kind of went through a Hendrix phase through middle school and high school. The I went on a metal punk thing. Then I went back to Hendrix because I wanted to play more wild shit on the guitar. So I've always wanted to play like that. But bands like Sir Lord Baltimore, Kingdom Come, was one of those albums that grabbed me and made me go holy shit and start reaching out more for that kind of music... ZZ Top... I finally really started getting into Thin Lizzy I really started digging it. I;ve always been a huge two guitar fan. Once I finally heard Thin Lizzy's Emerald I was like, “God Damn this is what everybody is talking about”. I loved doing the guitar harmonies with Eric the new Eric. Both taking turns ripping. It feels like you're twin brothers in this band together. Vibing off what the other one's doing. They say twins can feel one another. Deep Purple was a huge influence on us. When I heard Fireball that changed a lot of things for me. Leaf Hound was a band I really got into several years ago. What else... Granted is a great rock n roll band. Led Zeppelin as you said earlier, always loved playing their stuff. Some of its complicated some of its not but it just still rocks. And it makes for great songs. A lot of good things just basically rock n roll.

TGMR: So, would you feel that with the music you're making today, would you say that you have almost like a connection with our musical ancestors?

Andrew: Uhm, that's an interesting question. I wouldn't say I;m like in the same Pantheon sort of sense connected that way. But definitely I guess like a next generational thing. I almost feel like there was a generational gap though which is kind of interesting. There weren't too many bands in the 80s and 90s kind of doing this rock n roll sound. In the way that we play it. The closest thing to it would be like SoundGarden or Alice in Chains and those guys are pretty grunge metal or whatever. So I feel like there probably is some sort of a lot of the same influences from the hear t and stomach. Where the music;s coming from. But also those dudes grew up in places like Birmingham and Manchester listening to whatever cheap blues records they could find. And they just started playing and suddenly rock n roll was created. And we didn't have such a ground level roots thing. A lot of it was laid out for us. I think there's that and then also having the influence of all the stuff that came out in the 80s and 90s that we really like Hopefully coming out with something that's like that stuff but different and cool and hopefully exciting for some people.

TGMR: Yeah, because What I've noticed is that on the modern metal scene there's not a lot of stuff with clean vocals. And there are people who will only listen to clean vocalled stuff. So when they find stuff lie yours they like freak out with joy and awe.

Andrew: Yeah, that's cool. We're definitely hoping that we can reach out to a wide range of audiences. I don't want it to sound like we specifically are doing that because t gives us potentially a wider audience. But it;s great that people who like music in all sorts of different ways and like it. I think that people do like to hear what the singer is saying every now and then. Stuff like that. And I think people. The very cool thing about is the musicianship thing. I had friends who'd play in these tech death metal bands like Decrepit Birth and Filius Mordum. But it's so cool to hear that you can play stuff with musical theory and complex riffs but not have it be all blasty with grinding vocals on top of it and stuff. And we're like yeah “Why the fuck not?”

TGMR: So lets just do a lost few questions here. What song is the most fun to play, not necessarily your favorite but the most fun to just blast out.

Andrew: It might be our new song The Hedge King. Its got a real Skynyrd sort of flavor to it. And its really easy to bang your while playing. I don't have a solo written for it I pretty much improvise it every single time. So, hopefully the song gets me in the zone enough that I can just tear it up. And so far we've only played it live once, last night. And every time we practiced it it's just been like brain turns off and I'm just rocking out. Its the shit I love it.

TGMR: Nice! So, what would you say that the future of metal is. What direction do you see heavy metal going into?

Andrew: Who knows? Everyone probably thought thrash was gone but that has come back like a phoenix! And 70,000 tons of metal tours have come with all these 80s thrash bands. And then other bands that are trying to emulate that, that seems to be wildly successful. You gotta spend like a 100$ to go on that trip. Honestly man, I don;t know. It;s hard to predict that stuff. I guess that was my point at first. I think that is going to fade out again though and something else will come up. Black Metal might be staying on all the MTV's soon enough. I think people are definitely working past the strictly tech shit. I think people are getting over that and I think people might be going back towards making sure that they're just gunna... write songs. Everyones always gunna love songs.

TGMR: Okay yeah, that's definitely true. You talked about thrash metal. How do you feel about the whole new Metallica Lou Reed thing?

Andrew: I mean you can't really get mad at Metallica for doing disappointing things anymore. (Laughter) Kinda like, who cares? Lou Reed's written a lot of great songs has the song or music that they're writing together come out yet?

TGMR: No but today they released the track listings and how long the songs are gunna be and some are gunna be like 20 minutes long.

Andrew: Thats interesting...

TGMR: Yeah...

Andrew: I can see Lou Reed doing that. I don't know if he still shoots up or not. But Metallica's all supposed to be pretty clean. I dunno how they can stand playing a song for 20 minutes. But you know, I won't expect it to be good. But shit! People want bands to stay the same forever but if you're an artist you don't want to stay the same forever. Maybe what Metallica does these days isn't really good for those who love Kill Em All, Master of Puppets. But screw it man! It's their guitars they can play whatever they want on them.

TGMR: So speaking of changing your musical path do think GypsyHawk will ever change their direction?

Andrew: I dunno, I don't think so. Something I really like about the band is that we've sort of left us a really open palate of paints to paint with so we can do different style s and do different things. I'd like to start incorporating a lot more classical type stuff into it and progressive rock. Eric is definitely the giant Thin Lizzy fan so he;s been liking to keep songs like 4 minutes and kind of poppy in that area. But I'm a big King Crimson and Yes fan and I wouldn't mind trying to do something really aspirational like that.

TGMR: Okay, yeah. So here's our last question. What is it that you love so much about music?

Andrew: I love how music makes me feel. Its just something that hit me when I was pretty young. I was like 10 when I decided I wanted to play guitar. I'm 28 now so it's a part of me I guess. It's not all I am. I just love playing music it;s fun. It's my life. I'm not gunna spend my life sitting behind a desk. I've tried it and its like pushin boulders up hills. It's always different and always exciting to meet fellow artists and people coming out with new stuff. And it's passion.

TGMR: Cool Thank You Very Much.

Andrew: Thank you

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