Chuck Schuldiner Project

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Interview with Gary Arce from Yawning Man

Promoting the second installment of their “Legends of the desert” tour with Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man is currently on their 6th European tour. On the occasion of the bands  Parisian show last Sunday at Le Glazart (brought to us by Stoned Gatherings), I’ve had the honor to sit down with none other than frontman Gary Arce for an interview.

So you’re halfway through your European tour with Fatso Jetson. How has it been going so far?
It’s been going really good so far, it’s been really fun, good times!
How would you describe the sound of Yawning Man? What does it evoke to you?
The way I would describe it would be along the lines of “heavy ambient” I guess.  It’s a very visual kind of sound, it’s cinematic.
I definitely feel the visual, picturesque quality; it feels like witnessing a painting coming to life and being drawn into it.
Yeah, it’s very artistic I guess, with landscapes and all.

So Yawning Man is known as being one of the most important and influential acts in what is now known as the Desert Rock genre. From what I’ve read, you grew up listening and playing punk rock. How did you eventually get around shaping the sound of Yawning Man?
For us punk rock is all about expression, bored kids starting their own thing. When the punk scene kind of ended in the desert we were kind of bored and so we wanted to start doing our own thing. Punk rock started going into metal and that really fucking ruined it for me. We just started searching and listening to other forms of music, we started experimenting around with the energy of punk rock, but we were listening to stuff like the Grateful dead.
We liked the Grateful Dead a lot but we liked punk rock too, so we tried mixing it in with heavy music with heavy visuals to create something unique.
So we were listening to all kinds of music like the Allman Brothers, a lot of jamming music…
There were no rules with us, we thought “What’s the problem with mixing the energy of Black Flag with the sound of the Grateful dead?”
So we started jamming in the garage. There no song structures, we would just come up with a riff and jam it for 2 hours.
So did the transition from punk rock to a slower paced compositions come gradually or did you make an abrupt change, starting again from scratch?
It was more like a natural evolution. It was just the way I wrote, the way it came about, using a lot of weird effects and jamming a lot. The jams would get slow and moody and we’d start going into these weird space jams, some of the songs would last 40 minutes up to an hour *laughs*.
We just kept on jamming, drinking beer… friends would start coming into the house, really digging it, saying “woah, that’s a really unique sound, it’s really trippy!”
It was about playing for our friends and jamming. We’d play a couple of notes that sounded cool and Alfredo would start looping it on drums and things would evolve from there. It was very natural, very “volcanic”, you know? There was nothing that was forced or preconceived, it was very natural.
So you kept same line-up as you transitioned into this new sound?
Yeah we were basically all heading in the same direction.
I mean we still love the old punk bands to this day but when punk rock started getting metal, I just walked away from the whole scene. Punk rock is dead, it’s over.
To me, punk rock died in ’84, it was ruined.
Was there any event that marked the death of punk rock for you?
Yeah. Me and Mario went to go see a bunch of punk bands in Santa Monica. There were like 15 bands, and it just seemed so corporate. It was put on by a big agency and it just lost the unity, the friendship… it was gone. It was in this big coliseum, with 15 big punk bands, and they were selling beer for 8 dollars. It’s over; it just got corporate to me. But that’s just my personal opinion.

Do you see the music of Yawning Man more as result of you still living in the desert or is it now fueled by your upbringing there?
It think it’s just in us now. We’ve been doing it for so long now, it’s just part of our fiber. It’s more of an ethical thing that we do. It’s more like an attitude that we have about approaching the music. There can be ten thousand bands that go one way, but Yawning Man will always go this way.

What are some of the strangest experiences you’ve had on the road in Europe?
There’s been quite a few. On this tour there hasn’t been anything crazy so far. One time we played a German biker party on an off-day that a friend of ours wanted to play at. It was just some German beer biker party, none of them spoke English. So there we were, jamming for a bunch of German bikers that we just looking at us with blank faces, thinking “what the fuck are you doing here?” and we were looking at them thinking “what the fuck are we doing here?” *laugh*
They probably weren’t too familiar with this kind of music *laugh*
No I think they were looking for more of some biker rock n’ roll stuff… and Yawning Man is definitely not biker rock n’ roll so I don’t think we were the band that they were expecting.
Did you still manage to convert a few bikers in the audience?
I don’t know about that... I don’t think so *laughs*.
The guy that opened up the biker party was a German guy who did Neil Young songs but who didn’t speak English. He learned the words from the records without knowing what they mean. And so he wanted Yawning Man to jam with him on Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”. I don’t do cover songs so I told the guy I don’t do covers and he didn’t understand so he started playing it and I started doing some Yawning Man leads over the top. So it was a really fucked up version of “Sweet Home Alabama”, if you can imagine me doing leads over the top with my reverb and delay pedals, it was all dark and moody *laughs*.
I actually didn’t know the song at all. I wish someone would’ve taped it, it would’ve been really funny to see.

So what’s next for Yawning Man?

After this tour we’re going to go back and do a new record. We have a couple of new songs that we’ve been working on. The new record might be a little heavier, a little darker, more experimental. We’re always looking to try new stuff. We have a girl in the band now, she couldn’t come with us on this tour but Jennifer plays cello in the band it’s going to be really cool. She’s an excellent musician; it’s going to be beautiful.

To close this off, what is your favorite album, movie and book?
My favorite album would be Blind Idiot God’s debut album on SST.
My favorite Movie would be… Brüno? *Laughs*
As for books, I don’t really read, I just get bored.  I wish I had more patience to do it though.

Interview by Robin Ono
Very special thanks go to Stoned Gatherings and Gary Arce for making this interview possible.

Stoned Gatherings
Official Website

Yawning Man
Official Website

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