Monday, April 3, 2017

An Interview with Buckshot Facelift

I've known the members of NY's Buckshot Facelift for years through their other bands Grey Skies Fallen and Artificial Brain. If their idiosyncratic style wasn't a selling point, then their highly entertaining live performances would be. Since they have a new album Ulcer Island coming out in a few weeks, I figured I'd hit up vocalist Will Smith (his second time being interviewed for this blog) and guitarist Rick Habeeb (his third time - so you know he's getting a free coffee) to fill in all the blanks on Buckshot's past, present and future.

Dreams of Consciousness: Please introduce Buckshot Facelift - who are you, where are you based, and how did you come up with your band name?

Will: I came up with the name "Buckshot Facelift" sometime around 98-99 and recorded a one-man drum machine style demo that did not go anywhere. Between 2004-2005 we started the REAL Buckshot Facelift and have been going ever since. In the beginning, everyone was from Long Island, NY but now we have members from Brooklyn and Staten Island as well.

DoC: If you could, give a brief history of Buckshot - when did you form, and what were your goals at the time?

Will: We wanted to start a grindcore/powerviolence style band with influences from hardcore and death metal as well. Representing Long Island and NY was always a big deal for us too. There have been a few lineup changes and some shifts in exactly how much of each genre we mix in to the songs, but I'd say we have kept true to those ideas throughout all these years. Since 2004 we have played countless shows in NY, NJ and the New England area and also have released 4 albums, 2 EPs and a handful of splits.

DoC: Your music isn't easy to categorize, as it spans several styles (sometimes within a single song). How would you describe Buckshot musically? Who do you see as your peers?

Will: Thank you, that's something we aim for. A short, accurate description has always been evasive for us, but in the PR cycle for our upcoming album we just settled on "Death/Grind/Powerviolence". To me, powerviolence has always been a potent mix of metal and hardcore with a punk attitude, so I'd say that is our main root. Many people feel we are too"punk/hc" to be a metal band and then others feel we are too "metal" to be a powerviolence band so who knows....? We listen to punk, metal, HC, grind, hip-hop, etc and mix in what we like. I don't know about the word "peers", but some inspirational bands who mixed up genres would be Cephalic Carnage, Corn on Macabre, Candiria, Disharmonic Orchestra, and of course some of the more BRUTAL power violence bands like Black Army Jacket, Scary German Guy, Excruciating Terror.... The only band that is a real "peer" to us is THE COMMUNION from here on L.I. - we have a lot of history with them in the local weirdos club.

DoC: You have a new album coming out on April 14th called Ulcer Island. What was the writing process like? How would you describe the album in 5 words?

Rick: Writing began pretty much right after the release of Living Ghosts of the North Shore, so that's about 3 years ago now. It's actually insane to think that 3 years went by in a snap! The bulk of this record was written at [bassist] Tom's place, where we would put riffs together with [guitarist] Terrell, and then present them at the next band practice with everybody there. Songs came together quickly.

We wound up recording, I believe it was 18 songs during the "Ulcer Island" sessions.

Will: In terms of the lyrics, I wrote most of the songs about things going on in the news here on Long Island - drugs, crime, corruption, etc... So it felt good to vent about all that nonsense in the music. Our drummer, Fergus, also wrote some of the more disturbing lyrics and I always enjoy collaborating with him like that. To describe the album in 5 words: "DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK"

DoC: After years of self-releases, the new album will be out through Paragon Records. How did you get involved with them?

Rick: Grey Skies Fallen worked with Paragon on our last full length, The Many Sides of Truth. Originally, GSF released it on digipak CD and vinyl. Paragon then re-released it in a jewel case CD format with alternate cover art. Since we are friends with Mike, (owner of Paragon) he was aware of Buckshot and was interested in releasing the new album on his label. Since GSF had a good experience with Paragon last time, we decided to go with him again, but this time for Buckshot.

Will: Paragon also released an EP by my old band Biolich in 2006. I have known Mike from Paragon personally through the local metal scene since at least 1997. Great, respectable label and a trustworthy friend.

DoC: The album art is quite striking. What is the story behind it?

Rick: First and foremost, Travis Smith is the man, and a legend. I've been lucky to know him for quite some time, from online metal message boards back in the day. We kept in touch over the years and finally started working with him with Grey Skies Fallen back in 2010. He did the cover for the last Buckshot CD, Living Ghosts of the North Shore and also the artwork for our 2016 digital EP Buck at the Moon. That cover featured a brooding lighthouse, and Long Island is famous for lighthouses out east. Since Ulcer Island paints a pretty grim picture of modern day life, we wanted something equally grim to represent the album. Will came up with the dead whale idea, and I passed that along to Travis and he did his magic. Notice the lighthouse from Buck at the Moon also makes an appearance on this album cover, so as to tie the two releases together.

Will: Rick pretty much sums it up... I just want to mention that duality and masks are big running themes in this album. The killer whale - a deadly predator washed up on a beach helpless - not to mention his two-tone skin and mask-like coloring - perfectly represent alot of the characters in the lyrics. The exposed corrupt politician, the rapist who gets murdered in retribution, the doctor caught dealing drugs on the side - all of these people are the dead whale.

DoC: The members of Buckshot Facelift are also in a number of other bands, including Grey Skies Fallen, Artificial Brain, and Thaetas. How do you guys divide time between your different projects, as well as work and family life? What is the most challenging aspect of juggling multiple bands?

Rick: We are all quite busy with our various musical projects. Tom and I also have a trippy, ambient project together called Brave the Waters. We put out a digital EP and plan on recording a new one this summer. I may also have another something brewing, but I'll talk about that at another time.

One positive about sharing 3 members between 2 bands is the ability to switch out and jam either band at very short notice. We often do double rehearsals where both bands will jam for 3 hours back to back.

It takes a lot to keep everything going, especially as we all get older, and priorities change with age, and responsibilities. But I think we are all having a sick time right now, all supporting each other in our endeavors.

My whole thing is, back around 2012, when I met the rest of these guys, (I'd known Sal from GSF) Grey Skies wasn't as active as I had hoped so I looked for something else to do, and it snowballed. We recorded that last album Living Ghosts about a year after we got together, and now are following it up with this one.

Will: It's not always easy, there is a lot of cross coordination when it comes to planning tours and such. Besides Artificial Brain and Buckshot Facelift I am in also in a band called Afterbirth, which shares a bassist with Helmet. We can only play live at certain intervals in the year because of his tour schedule. It can get frustrating sometimes, but everyone has a day job and a life outside of music so we understand and make it work. There are a lot of hectic weekends and late nights.

DoC: Buckshot Facelift really shines live. How would you describe your live performances, and what would you tell someone who has never seen Buckshot to expect?

Rick: Expect it loud and abrasive. I think we come at you pretty hard in a live setting. We are always trying get tighter and tighter, though.

Will: We just want to keep it old school. Fast, raw, and in your face. No frills.

DoC: This is the first Buckshot album I got through a PR company and not from one of you guys personally. How does it feel to be big time? 

Rick: Sorry it took so long to respond to this interview, Adrian! I dropped my solid gold iPhone into this Jacuzzi because I was trying to balance champagne and type at the same time!

Will: Now that we're on Paragon Records I just sit back and dictate interviews to an intern in my stretch Range Rover..... In all seriousness, we put out our last 2 albums and EP completely independent without any label or distribution. As proud as we are to have kept it DIY and put all that work in, we all have a life outside the band and limited funds so it's really nice to be working with a good label and PR firm this time around. They are doing a great job building on what we've established the last 13 years.

DoC: What's next for you guys?

Rick: Well, Buckshot is going to be doing little weekend runs up and down the east coast this summer, starting with May in Virginia, and Philly. We are planning other dates now, so we'll see how those go. We also have local shows coming up too like our record release show out on Long Island, the day after the record comes out, April 15th.

Grey Skies Fallen is writing the new album and that will begin recording this summer, or at the very latest, this autumn. That's the first album with our original guitarist back in the fold since 2010's Along Came Life. We are all psyched on what that will morph into.

Also, check out Brave the Waters on Bandcamp. That's like half-improvised/half-prepared stuff we try to nail in 1 take, and just have some fun with during the summer.

Will: In addition to that new Buckshot Facelift album, I am doing vocals on the new Artificial Brain album out a week later on Profound Lore records and the new Afterbirth album, which will be out sometime soon on Unique Leader records. All bands are booking shows for the rest of the year, you can follow us on the usual social media for updated info about tours, etc...... I'd keep an eye on our guitarist Terrell's other band Thaetas as well, they are gearing up to make some moves. Thanks for the support Adrian, all the best bro!

Buckshot Facelift on Facebook

Buckshot Facelift on Bandcamp