Chuck Schuldiner Project

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Interview with Andrew Packer of Gypsyhawk

So I recently had the joy of interviewing one of my friends in Gypsyhawk, Andrew Packer, the guitarist. In the interview we talk about the new album and his thoughts on his work and the band in general.

Be sure to check out Gypsyhawk on facebook HERE

So tell me about the new album!

Yeah, we've got this fuckin' sick ass record out! It just came out in the UK today, I guess you guys got it on friday and it'll be out here tomorrow! We're really stoked with it we think it does a good job of where we wanted to be. And we're getting a shit ton of good responses from press and those places. We had a record release show the other night and it was fuckin' off the china there was a shit ton of people there it was the first time we had played a show since SXSW and we were totally on point. And we hadn't praticed at all until this last week.

So how do you feel the band evolved since the previous record?

I think we were a lot more focused on what we wanted to do. The first record was almost an experiment. The band as a whole didn't really know what we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to do the 70s. We knew we wanted to have lots of guitar parts. I don't think we could really square the instrumental stuff with the 70s style rock songs. I love the record, its great, it definitely captured a point in time where we were but in hindsight I think a lot of it was a little mesy. This time aroudn we got more focused, we knew what kind of songs we wanted to do. The songs are a lot more concise and punchy.

I was just about to say that not a single song on the record is over 5 minutes. I was pretty impressed by that. You've evolved from a band that had some longer songs that maybe didn't flow as well to a band that can have a progressive epic in four and a half minutes.

Totally, the song length was a conscious decision, it was like “We don't want a song that hits 6 minutes on this album” I think that approach worked. It's a little to specific for what I want to do in the future. I think a song can totally be over 6 minutes or 8 minutes if its written properly. On the last record we let the songs do what they felt like doing. And that didn't work in parts. My main complaint on the whole album is that song for Those Who love the Lizz which is a total ode to Thin Lizzy which sounds like a song that they would have written it would have been great if it was at 4 and a half minutes. It ended up being the second longest song on the record at almost 6:10. It went on too long! There's no other way you can fuckin' describe it. Theres not enough going on in that song to require that kind of length. That was the most glaring alert once the record was done and we had time to sit on it that something we where doing was not quite right.

Another thing I noticed is that on this album the lyrics seem to be a lot more fantasy based. A lot more swords and sorcery, why is that?

Well, that would be a question for Eric. I think he found his strengths in writing. The first album had a lot of songs where he sings about personal stuff in very abstract ways. Songs like Guidance and Resentment City. I don't really know what he's talking about and you can' get much of an idea from reading the lyrics. I think some of his strongest lyrics on that album is Blackhaven the first one that we took the lyrics from The Song of Ice and Fire series, and The Bokors Procession which is a story he made up about a necromancer somewhere in New Orleans raising the dead. An eerie foreboding story that's really cool. I think that on this record he did have a couple songs that went into the personal abstract notions especially Night Songs from the Desert. I can't say for sure why he chose to do more songs about fantasy related stuff except that maybe I helped encourage him! (Laughter)

That's another thing I was going to ask you about, traditionally rock bands and metal bands talk a lot about Tolkien, but you guys cite George RR Martin a lot. Why is that?

Well we really like the books because they're fantastic stories! I personally like the realism that goes into them, which is a funny thing to say when you're talking about a fantasy series. It's a made up world grounded in how reality works. It's a lot more character driven than Tolkien's work. Which is more of a good vs. evil human triumph, happy ending type story. Which is great. The Song of Ice and Fire heroes are irrelevant. You knew Aragorn was never going to die before the story was over, it just wasn't going to happen. But with The Song of Ice and Fire series anyones up for grabs, it doesn't matter who it is. I really like the real political thought that goes into it. All of the diplomacy and behind the scenes stuff that really goes on in modern day governments that all the characters in the books seem to deal with. They're just great epic stories!

What is the overall impression you have of the album now? I know you recorded it a while ago.

I'm still loving it. I don't think I can be any happier with it. The band was pretty together on everything that we wanted to do. There wasn't all that much that anyone was sort of... outvoted on. We're all pretty united on everything we wanted to do. Its definitely a step in the right direction for us. I don't think I've totally gotten us to where I'd like us to be but we're a shit ton closer than where we were on the first record. I still listen to it a lot. It hasn't gotten old for me. Some songs I like more than others, but the vast majority of the songs I just love!

What are the touring plans following this record now?

Well we're hitting the road next Friday the 7th (Of September). Were doing a Week throughout California because we've got to come back here to play the Scion showcase with Six Feet Under, Cattle Decapitation, Battlecross and Pilgrim our labelmates on the 17th. We found out about that after we started booking the tour. That's why we have a weird routed tour a few times which is a pain in the ass. Basically that tour is going to end October 5th at Hollywood. Then we're home for about a month and then we're going on the road again. It hasn't been announced yet it should be announced this weekend, so I can't say much more about that now. But we're going to go on another full national tour that's going to go throughout November and half of December. We're talking with some people in Europe about getting their next year, but that's still in the preliminary stages of being talked about. So we don't really have any plans yet for 2013 but we're pretty sure but you and everyone else can expect us soon enough!

What is it like playing in a revival band and what kind of reaction do you get from the audience?

I know we obviously take a lot of inspiration from the 70s but I don't think we sound exactly like bands from the 70s. We're really influenced by metal. It's not like “Orange Amps and analog recording tools” to really sound like Creedence or Lynyrd Skynyrd or whatever, which is what a lot of these so called revival bands are aiming for. We get that because we're not playing brutal technical metal. To me its just like rock and roll and rock and roll has had different forms throughout time. I think the extreme metal has become so mainstream now that that's what people expect people are suspicious of anything's that different. I don't really care what those people think about it, that seems to be the minority of opinions. Not everyone is going to like everything, I certainly don't. That doesn't mean that stuff I don't like is bad it's just not for me. So I don't know. I think at the end of the day we're just a rock and roll band. Rock is rock. I don't know how much you can say we're from the 70s. I certainly never wear band shirts for bands from the 70s. Most of my stuff is 80s and 90s or current bands. We all wear sleeveless shirt, jeans and cowboy boots, which is a mix of 3 decades really. We're not wearing really flamboyant and colorful shirts and super tight bellbottoms and stuff like that. And it would be cool if we did, but unfortunately thats not our style and we're not going for the whole... our whole persona is not supposed to be mired in the 70s. So it is what it is.
How do you feel then about the modern metal scene as it is?

Well I think a lot of it is pretty lame (laughs) there's so many bands from decades ago that hog the majority of the big theaters. There's not as much chance for newer bands to become giant stars because the giant stars of yore are still in that spotlight. It's still cool that you can go see bands like Slayer and Iron Maiden I think Iron Maiden's almost done I'm not sure. There are greats, there's Obituary who is doing a tour right now with Decrepit Birth who are in my opinion a band that shows that modern metal can still be awesome. Unlike a lot of this shit that I've been hearing on Liquid Metal which is a Sirius XM station in the States, there's just a ton of bands like Whitechapel and All Shall Perish. I don't even know what kind of music to call that shit it seems so formulaic and copycat. I'm not saying that from a guy who likes rocks' perspective. I love a lot of death metal and a lot of bands that I've been into have had a lot of unique personalities like it comes on for 5 seconds and its like “Oh that's Suffication” no fuckin' doubt about it. There's these new bands that seem to be all the rage these days and they're really similar. Its really similar, its all technicality and speed and breakdowns. It's like a pissing contest between bands between like who can out extreme each other. Hopefully it will hit a breaking point and go back to something more natural. Peter out...

What I was thinking about the other day was that the problem with death metal is that there aren't really any big classics that everyone knows. Whereas with a Gypsyhawk song theres more of a melodic side that gets in your head. Do you get what I'm trying to say?

I totally do! I think that's something that, at the end of the day is what music is supposed to incorporate and go on for. I think its a lot easier when you're young and full of energy to be an elitist in a scene. The technical stuf where you don't care if there's melodic hooks and stuff. As you get older you start to appreciate the classics that are timeless and have memorable melodies. Thats what we want in every song of ours.

Talking about older stuff in a modern setting Thin Lizzy is going to make a new album, and I wanted to ask you about that because I know you love them.

They're gonna make a new album?


It'll probably be dog shit but hopefully not. I've heard some of ZZ Top's new album already and its awesome! They have all the dudes and they're legitimate badasses, they're like Lemmy, always going to be like that, never going to go away until they're dead. They have all of the original members who've been there since the beginning. The only original member whose playing in Thin Lizzy is the drummer and I guess Scott Gorham counts because he was their first second guitar player, definitely a part of the classic line up. They don't even have Phil. I've heard from people that the tours they've done recently they've been awesome live and everything but I don't know...

Also, the Black Sabbath album is actually going to happen! I think its coming out in November, do you have any reaction to that or are you just like “Oh dear lord”?

I hope they still know how to write good songs! They've still got Tony Iommi and he's the fuckin' riff master. But after all the years of Ozzfest shows I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to do something that kids want to hear and modern metal but that would totally ruin the legacy. There's the whole controversy regarding Bill Ward and I guess he's not going to be a part of it, I don't know how much that matters, probably a lot! We'll just have to wait and see. It's like I say about Metallica's music and they keep making shitty music and people are upst about it. Its like “Fuckin A man it's their guitars and amps, you don't have to buy it”
Let's head towards the end because you don't have a lot of time. What do you feel is the place of Gypsyhawk in the modern music scene as a whole?

Hopefully, eventually a critical part of it. Everyone seems to be really digging it, it's really crossing a lot of musical cultural boundaries. It's probably pissing off a lot of people too who see us as nothing more than an imitation band hellbent on trying to ride some sort of waive of popularity. But whatever I don't care. I care about the people who like it and so far a lot of people seem to like it. Hopefully we'll get on bigger tours and help inspire kids out there to expand the horizons on the kind of music they can listen to and play.

I know you don't consider yourself a revival band but is that why you consider yourselves really relevant to the modern scene. Because you're bringing the good stuff to the young

Yeah, absolutely! Our main purpose is to get guys to bang their heads and girls to shake their asses when they come to a Gypsyhawk show and not have it be a testosterone fueled event that's a fuckin' penis measuring contest in brutality. We want people to come out and have a blast and good honest classic party fun AND have something to sing a long too and enjoy some good tunes. I don't think that's a totally unique mission but it is what ours is. I can guarantee that if people are digging the music at all they're going to have a good ass fuckin' time seeing our show.

Very cool. Now do you have any last words of wisdom to blow our minds with?

Yeah! Fuckin' drink a lot and do a lot of drugs and life sucks and you should enjoy life as much as you can and those things will always work for me!

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