Nice evening on Jean-Talon's street near the Il Motore in Montréal before Castle's gig with The Sword and American Sharks. We did the interview while walking near some restaurants, Liz Blackwell was with us but I did the interview with Mat Davis, the guitarist and main composer of the band.
Antoine Richard : So you've been touring a lot since the release of Blacklands, I've seen you guys 2 times already in Montréal.
Mat Davis : The first time wasn't really a tour, it was 2 dates with Witch Mountain (Toronto and Montréal). The last one was a full tour with Witch Mountain and now we're back with The Sword.
AR : Biggest tour so far, I guess?
MD : By far, yeah. Playing a whole different size of venue. The venue tonight is kind of small..
AR: Around 300 people, I've seen Nails and Hammers of Misfortune there.
MD: Ah cool, most of the venues have been closer to 500, 600 or 700 people. We got good crowds.
AR: You went to Europe too, for Roadburn if I remember correctly?
MD: Roadburn was amazing, we did a European tour with Intronaut and Roadburn was the highlight of the tour.
AR: Yeah, I want to go there.
MD: Great people that run, great bands, what can I say? Everyone raves about it and for good reasons.
AR: Was it the highlight of your recent career?
MD: Yeah, probably. Also playing in London, England was up there. It was a personal goal of mine. Playing the Desert Fest which was a lot of pretty cool bands (Pentagram, Pagan Altar, Ufomammut...). Those two shows were probably the highlight of the tour but also the band's touring career so far.
AR: What was the worst city you've been to if you want to answer that? And what do you do with Liz when you visit a city?
MD: Oh man, what if I offend people! Because even if the city is crap we have fans there. We rarely do stuff because our schedules are so tight, 8 hours of driving, 3 hours of setting up and like right now we have half an hour before the doors open and we have to be there to sell merchandise and say hi to people and then we play, tear down and go! Sometimes when we have a day off, it's usually spent in a motel, laying there watching tv, trying to rest. But you know after our European tour, both times we stayed in Europe for like 10 days and just try to relax and look around like we were in Berlin the first time and London the second tour and it was awesome.
AR: I think you guys are married, how's the couple life on the road if you feel comfortable talking about it?
MD: Sure, I mean it's just something that you kind of adjust to and we make it work. 'Cause we both want to take this band as far as we can so you have to compromise a little bit for your privacy and simple things people might take for granted. You're stuck in a van with a bunch of dudes who stink, you know it's not for Liz, she's a woman right? But it's awesome, you share great moments like great shows and being in a cool part of the world.
AR: A question about the future of the band, have you started writing songs for the new album?
MD: Yeah, we recorded a couple in Toronto with Ian Blurton who was in bands like C'mon and Change of Hearts. He goes way back to punk rock and garage rock. And then before The Sword tour we had a little studio set up in Los Angeles in our apartment. We were writing and demoing, so we have maybe 3 more songs. The album is close to half being written and that's where we'll go after this (tour)
AR: What can we expect from the new album? Because Blacklands was a very fast and short album, I really like as you know because you read my review (here's the review!)
MD: More of the same! Even though all our music sound a little bit different, it all has a similar riff heavy, trying to write good songs that are catchy, so that's not gonna change. There's also, I guess, more vocal parts we may record in a more live fashion rather than a lot of overdubbing.
AR: Because you're really powerful live.
MD: Yeah and the more we play, the better we get. We just recorded at Concordia University today on the radio. We recorded 5 songs that they're gonna broadcast next sunday, I think (note of Antoine: I'll keep you guys posted on that recording). That felt great, just going and blast through the songs in a live way so I think we're gonna work on that but we'll see. It just depends what works and who's producing the record and how they work. Everyone has to feel good about it. We have a few producers in mind but we haven't really talked to them yet
AR: And you worked with Billy Anderson on the latest album.
MD: I don't know if he'll be available or we don't know where we'll do it. Like we may try to do it in Canada and it would be harder for him to come here.
AR: I know you're from Toronto so how's life in the US and do you miss the old country from time to time?
MD: The US is much different but San Francisco is very similar to Canada culturally, very liberal. But Liz and I also spend a lot of time here in Canada in Ontario. In Toronto and Saint-Catherines. We haven't been there during the winters much but we've spent some summers in Canada. We kind of have two homes.
AR: That's cool, you have the best of both worlds. Since I know you like occult rock (stuff like The Devil's Blood), is there an influence on the new songs? It's pretty trendy these days with bands like Blood Ceremony.
MD: Even though we played with a lot of these bands, I never thought we mixed entirely with that. I think we're way more of a metal band, they have a lot of folk, blues into their sound that we have none of.
When I go and do a record, I kind of have a conscious vision of what exactly I want. I try to filter the sounds. I guess in a way, there's a few bands that really inspire me when I write and these bands are Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. I think they're two giants and two masterful songwriters. I do listen to these bands to get some inspiration. Like one of the newer songs is kind of a metal “ballad” and not anyone will find that influence exactly since it doesn't sound like a Judas Priest song but it's definitely there.
AR: The spirit of these bands! You are a power trio, how do you manage to play as a three member band all the time?
MD: It takes some work, man. Like we had to basically rewrite many songs. Like “Blacklands” has like 5 guitar tracks simultaneously
AR: it's very different live since you're the only guitarist.
MD: Very different, I mean you've seen us, I think tonight you'll notice even more that we reworked the songs to make it sound more natural. I think it's only a matter of taking the key components to keep the songs as it should be and utilizing the bass to play some of the guitar parts.
AR: You guys signed to Prosthetic Records for the US, it was a very weird choice for me since you're quite different from most bands on their lineup (death metal, deathcore, metalcore, thrash...).
MD: Hahaha yeah and really no one which sounds like us, which is fine. The album was already out in Europe and to re release it in the US wasn't a big release like they usually do. But it allowed us to make the record available for people here.
AR: Yeah, because to import it from Van Records can be expensive.
MD: It also allowed us to get on a bunch of tours because we got a support here in North America so for us it was great. We will also do a lot of legwork for the next record and when this record will come out and it will be simultaneous in Europe and North America so we'll have two record labels. So we'll have to get them to work in conjunction with each other. It's difficult enough sometimes to keep one label so we'll see how two goes. But yeah, they've been great. It is what it is, I don't think a record label is what people think it is. They don't give you tons of money, they put your record out and if you're not afraid to do the work, you'll do alright. We worked hard before getting a label and we still work hard or not harder to maintain that level. They allow you to get your name around in a more readily fashion.
AR: Thanks Mat, do you have something to say to conclude?
MD: Maybe that we're in one of my favorite cities on the planet, I'm very glad to see people like you who are supporting the band and hopefully we'll see you every time we'll come down the road, you know!
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