Sunday, April 22, 2018

an interview with Synapse Misfire

Formed from the ashes of Helmsplitter, Synapse Misfire continue along a similar path - making a glorious racket equally at peace with black, thrash, death, and grindcore. Their Horror Pain Gore Death debut Losing the War Against the Sands of Time piqued my interest with its no frills assualt; guitarist Ross Mallie was kind enough to fill me in on the band's backstory and future plans.

Dreams of Consciousness: What is Synapse Misfire? How would you describe your band in 5 words?

"Cathartic release inspired black metal".

DoC: What were the origins of Synapse Misfire? What led to you forming and what were your intentions with the band?

This all started about 5 years ago. My life was complete and total chaos at that time. I was going through a variety of different hells and needed a variety of different releases to combat them. On one particular very, very long night and day, a bunch of music started popping into my mind that wasn't sounding like it necessarily fit with my main band at the time, Helmsplitter, and it didn't sound right tuned to where I normally [tune]. I tuned the guitar up to standard E and immediately it started sounding better to me. I wrote everything on the record as well as some material I ended up axing in one sitting. I decided that it was worth doing something with, and I had a lot to get off my chest and thought it would be a good chance to write a few lyrics. My intentions at the time were to recruit Johnny [Baker - drums] and Thurisaz [vocals] and do one release under the Synapse Misfire name. Once we started getting some scratch tracks recorded, we were all really happy with how it was turning out and started talking about the possibility of leaving the door open to working together more in the future.

DoC: The music of Synapse Misfire is not easy to categorize, blending elements of black, death, thrash and grind without straying too deeply into one side or another. Where do you see yourselves on the spectrum? If you had to come up with a "noun+metal" genre for yourselves, what would it be?

Well if I had to say i think it leans a little heavier on the black and grind elements, although as you said death and thrash certainly play a part too. One of the tracks has a very heavy punk influence as well. Thurisaz can do many vocal styles very well but we decided on a mostly pure black metal vocal approach for this, and I think it sounds fantastic. I'm not a flashy guitar player at all, and there are a lot of sections of relentless tremolo picking of full chords which sound a bit more on the grind side to me. On a lot of those places, Johnny is playing grind beats as well, too.

I have always kind of hated playing the sub-genre labeling game when it comes to music that I am involved in, because lots of times people's opinions on what is what varies, but I understand that it is a useful starting [point] for people to use when skimming through the billions of bands in the world these days, [and] to help decide if it's even worth listening to....or perhaps I should say "clicking on".

A "noun+metal genre" hmmm....not sure at all on this one. Perhaps "hopelessness metal" since that is what has largely fueled my songwriting thus far. I'm kinda kidding here, I don't if that is what I'd really want to be known as, but it as as good as I can do right now, hahaha.

DoC: You just released your first EP, Losing The War Against The Sands of Time. Where did you record it? How long were working on it before it was released? What do you want people to feel while listening to it?

Well actually we've been calling it our debut album, although at around 24 or 25 minutes I can see why you'd assume [it was an] EP. It doesn't really matter...LP, mini LP, EP....words are just words.

Johnny recorded his drum tracks at Mercenary Digital Studios in Zion, Illinois, with Scott Creekmore. Everything else was done with Mike Hall at his studio in Le Claire, Iowa. Honestly, we hadn't worked on it much at all. It wasn't even really a "we" at that point. I rehearsed the songs with Johnny maybe a total of 5 to 10 [times], depending on the song, before we went and recorded his tracks....and he still basically did them all in one take if I remember right. I think he may have needed a second or third take on one of them cause I messed him [up], haha. It was just me with my guitar on one side of the glass and him on the drums on the other, with no clicks or anything going. I sent the music, lyrics and titles that I wrote for 3 of the songs to Thurisaz. He wrote the rest of the lyrics, met up with me and Mike, and had his tracks done in no time.

I want people to feel whatever the music makes them feel. For me, it's a sense of cathartic release. That's what I feel. I just hope people feel something. If they don't, I really am not concerned. This album was largely for me. I needed it at the time I was writing it, which is largely why I just let the arrangements and everything just stay the way they were after I initially just sort of spit them out of the guitar. My mind, body and soul were all in torment and I didn't want to tamper with that after the fact. If a part went on too long or too short, or didn't have a smooth transition in between riffs, or this or that, kind of became beside the point in my mind. I liked what I heard and felt when listening back to the songs anyway.

DoC: The song titles alone are quite striking. Where does the inspiration for songs like "The Man Who Refused to Shake Hands" and "Mental Microcosm" come from?

"The Man Who Refused to Shake Hands" is about a guy I met during an internship at a residential mental health facility. He was severely schizophrenic with auditory and visual hallucinations among other things...and he was about the kindest soul you would ever meet. You would be talking to him and all the sudden his eyes would just dart off to the side at something, and he'd look terrified just that fraction of a second; or he'd start to act like someone was talking in his ear, that kind of thing. I got to know him a little bit over the course of my time there and always told myself that someday I was going to write a song about him. "Mental Microcosm" came from the mind of Thurisaz, you'd have to ask him about that one.

DoC: The last track on the album is the narrative, mostly spoken word piece "Loathe Thyself". How did the song come about and why did you choose to end the album this way?

For a long time before even deciding to do this project, I had an idea to do a sort of experimental thing with a weird, borderline out of tune bass line going on in the background and have samples of some kind and maybe a little guitar noise over it but no drums. At the same internship I was talking about before, they would have us put on head phones and listen to recordings of voices talking to you to try and simulate auditory hallucinations, and at the same time you had to take a multiple choice test to show how difficult it is to do normal tasks in that condition. That was many years ago but I got the idea to incorporate something like that and the sound of TV static as well. Mike and I got busy on it and what you hear is the result. Right from the start I knew I wanted to end the album that way, before we had even created the track. For some reason it was just part of my plan, I guess.

DoC: Synapse Misfire are based in Illinois, which has produced some of the most important bands since the early days of thrash and death metal. How would you describe your scene? Who would you say are your peers, local or otherwise?

There are a lot really talented people in my area, there is no doubt about that. Our bass player's full time band is called Crater, they are killer. There is also Luciferian Reign, they are newer but the members are veterans of some great bands such as The Horde, Insane Aggression, and others. I happen to be in another band called Obsidian Hammer, we are sort of a doom/sludge/crust punk thing that I totally love playing in. Check out The Venom Within and Morphine Dream as well, there are a lot others that I'm not thinking of that certainly deserve attention as well.

DoC: What does the future hold for Synapse Misfire?

Well we are all older now and busy, but we have decided that we like what we are on to with this. Losing the War started under the assumption that it was basically my thing but with hired guns, so to speak. That started to change throughout the process of making the album, though, and from now on it's going to be more of a group effort from a full band. A few of us have a couple things to take care of and then we will get going on writing new shit. The plan is basically to do an album, do a few shows or whatever we can squeeze in, and repeat. Wherever it goes is wherever it goes.

Synapse Misfire on Facebook

Losing the War Against the Sands of Time
on Bandcamp (through Horror Pain Gore Death)