Sunday, January 6, 2013

eyeswithoutaface Interview

Out of luck, I discovered Toronto's eyeswithoutaface at a point in 2012 when I was becoming increasingly jaded with the metal scene; during a flood of unoriginal and mostly forgettable death and thrash revivalists, EWAF's dischordant and unique brand of heavy industrial was a welcome relief. I fired off some questions over e-mail, which the band (vocalist Max Deneau, guitarist Mike Szarejko, and drummer Tuka Shahidi) took turns answering.

DoC: What was the genesis of eyeswithoutaface? What were your goals when you formed?

TUKA: The starting point was roughly late 2008 early 2009, I would say. I was in another band at the time (which has since broken up) and wanted to create something that most of the people I was making music with did not get or want to play. I wanted to play heavier, trippier stuff and never was in a band that scratched that itch until EWAF. I knew Max (Deneau, vocals) and was always in talks of starting a project but nothing ever materialized. I was also previously in a band with Mike (Szarejko, guitars/electronics) called The Chainsaw Stunt Double, who actually did not play guitar in that project but ran the samples and played the synth. He has since become a great guitar player.

DoC: How would you describe your music to someone who doesn't know what the terms "metal" or "industrial" mean?

TUKA: I would say heavy, loud, atmospheric music. We also have subtle, pretty parts and a big electronic influence. So as you can see, trying to explain what we sound like in a word or two is rather difficult.

MAX: I'd like to think we incorporate a broad range of metal and hardcore influences with a more experimental/industrial approach to texture and production. There are some reference points that many associate us with - Godflesh, Nine Inch Nails, early Swans, and so on, but I think one thing that unifies our sound is a willingness to incorporate elements atypical for the genre similarly to those artists, rather than sounding particularly close to them.

DoC: Mixing industrial/electronic influences into extreme metal isn't new, but the results are usually underwhelming (the last Morbid Angel album is a good example of that). And yet with eyeswithoutaface, it works. Why do you think you guys succeed where so many others fail?

TUKA: When we’re trying to write a slow, heavy album, there’s not going to be three random ska songs in the middle of it. In Morbid Angel's case, they wrote a few death metal songs, and then wrote one that sounds like Static X, so I can see where the backlash is coming from.

MIKE: This is not something I have ever considered since I am not focused follower of industrial metal. We do it how we feel it and it has worked thus far.

MAX: I think it helps that we generally stay away from the typical "industrial metal" sound, and tend to listen to stuff within both genres without fixating ourselves on emulated the expected genre acts. It is sweet of you to say, either way.

DoC: Canada has long been the home of seminal industrial bands, including Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly. Does eyeswithoutaface see itself as part of that tradition?

TUKA: Those are great bands, and if someone thinks of us in that light then that’s a great compliment, but we really don’t think of that kind of stuff.

MIKE: I have a lot of respect for these bands but never considered them a direct influence.

DoC: You recently released your second album Warguts. What would you say the differences are between Warguts and your debut Monotoneoteny?

MIKE: Musically, Monotoneoteny was about exploration of sound, and seeing how far musical styles could be pushed before they left the realm of what made sense for this band. The music for Warguts was written much more quickly and comes across more direct and less meandering than its predecessor. Warguts also draws a lot of influence from 90's East Coast Hip Hop like Wu-Tang Clan and early Mobb Deep, with an emphasis on crushing tones. 

TUKA: The main difference is that it’s a lot more organized and cohesive. It’s not as fast as some of the speeds we had on the previous alum, and it’s a lot heavier in tones and emotion then anything we have recorded previously.

MAX: With this record, I had a concept mapped out early on that all but a couple of the songs were written after discussing and agreeing upon it, as opposed to Monotoneoteny where after several months of sporadic recording, I wrote all the lyrics in a short span of time and they happened to unify somewhat due to what was going on in my personal life. This time, we wrote the music more quickly, and I took considerably longer fleshing out the vocals and lyrics, which was the opposite method from what we were used to in a sense.

DoC: Tuka, you recently moved from playing bass to drums. What precipitated the change?

TUKA: The need for change. We were a three-piece since our inception with a drum machine. As of May 2012, we added Justin Boehm (ex-Orchidectomy, Animals Killing People) on bass, and I have moved to drums, but we still use the computer. The last thing we want to do is write the same album ten times, and it was time for some new blood.

MAX: We also found that with exclusively electronic drums, our live sound varied dramatically in heaviness depending on the venue and P.A., and wanted to have a more consistent live sound and not be so dependent upon whatever facilities were available to us.

DoC: How difficult is it to translate your recorded material into the live setting?

TUKA: Some of our songs have been mutated in the live setting so that they are not even the same structure as the recordings. We also leave room for improvising, which has become quite a fascination of ours recently. You can thank Swans for that one.

DoC: With the album title "Warguts", and songs "War Will Set You Free" and "Dead Friends," the lyrics seem to have a strong socio/political commentary. Is eyeswithoutaface heavily influenced by current events?

MAX: While I am definitely influenced by my surroundings, which include politics and world events, I prefer to not focus directly on them and try to get inside the psychological effects of modern life upon the individual. With this record, the theme started out with a simple image of a young soldier, sprawled out on the battlefield holding their own guts in their hands, realizing that death is imminent and that they never really had a life. Despite having watched tons of gruesome cinema and having witnessed this and much worse over the years, the tragedy of this image hit me unexpectedly hard and I couldn't shake it off. On Monotoneoteny, I focused mostly on the theme of personal existential crisis, so for this record, I used that image as a springboard to analyze my and other's relationship with society as a whole, and the sort of helplessness and insignificance one feels when overwhelmed by both the cruelty of nature and the density of the infrastructure we are complicit in allowing to exist and manipulate us. Warfare became a sort of unifying extended metaphor for the day-to-day experience of having one's lustre rubbed raw by external forces that one is symbiotically connected to yet appears to have no control over.

DoC: If one had to transport eyes (without a face), what would be the best way?

TUKA: In a nice van that I can sleep in the back of.

MAX: Transporter/wormhole.

DoC: What's next for eyeswithoutaface?

MAX: I think the plan is to play some shows, release a split or two in the next few months which will soon be announced, write some new and and totally different material, and generally move anywhere but backwards.

TUKA: We always have new stuff in the works, so check out the Bandcamp for new releases and the Facebook page for more general info.

Find eyeswithoutaface on Facebook.

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