Friday, November 1, 2019

an interview with Coilguns

Coilguns aren't lacking for big ideas - which is what you'd expect from a band formed by members of The Ocean Collective. The band's style channels post-punk, sludge metal, and noise rock in a way that sets them apart from the post-metal herd. I reached out to the band to find out more about their history, the creation of their latest album Watchwinders, and the band's own label Hummus Records; guitarist Jona Nido was kind enough to answer my questions (with an assist from vocalist Louis Jucker).

Dreams of Consciousness: Please introduce Coilguns - who are you, where are you from, and how would you describe the music that you make?

We’re a four piece band hailing from the highest city of Europe called La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland. The place is also known as being the « watch valley » and is not far from one of the coldest place in Europe - « La Brévine » (also called officially « The Siberia of Europe »). Mountain rednecks building watches spending a lot of time in heated rehearsal rooms, if you will.

We’re mostly affiliated to the noise/hardcore scene as lately but we like to think of Coilguns as a very loud rock / punk band.

DoC: Please give a brief history of your band - when did you form, and what did you set out to accomplish?

The band started as a three piece back in 2011 when we were still full time members of German prog-metallers The Ocean Collective. Coilguns was meant to be a fun side-project to play fast and simple music but quickly turned into a full time activity. We did not want to bring this band to a live environment but after the release of our very first EP, offers started coming in, so eventually we did play shows and now this is what we do for a living.

We didn’t want to depend on anyone (and let’s be honest, no one was interested in Coilguns) so we started taking care of everything: artwork, booking, screen printing, management, promotion…that eventually led us to start our own record label - Hummus Records - and since then we’ve always been in control of everything. Doing whatever we want whenever we want is very comfortable and has allowed us to create our very own job. Everything we do in our lives revolves around the band/label. It’s a long and hard way but eventually feels like some kind of freedom.

Accomplishments evolve with time. At first we were happy to play shows outside of Switzerland and small tours. Then when we released our second album Millennials back in March 2018. We realized we wanted to push it a bit more, do bigger tours, maybe more support shows and more festivals. Since the album did quite alright, we decided to keep the pressure and release another one barely a year and a half later and see how far we can push this thing. I don’t think Watchwinders will be our breakthrough album but the way it was produced, thought and what it has triggered in each of us has already defined how we will do the next one.

I’m the one who started the band, and the vision I have for it is now to go as far as possible, at least until I realize we’ve reached our limits. Until then we’ll keep pushing. No one has ever really wanted us anywhere for anything, but somehow we were able to grab some people’s attention along the way and those with an understanding of our philosophy and ethics have been able to help us bringing the band to the logical next steps every time it happened. I hope I’m not too delusional when I think we can play to more people. I do want to play to bigger crowds, just for the simple fact of sharing our passion and love for the scene with more souls and eventually even maybe inspire some youngsters to grab a guitar and start their own band.

DoC: Members of Coilguns were in The Ocean, which was described as a collective (as opposed to a band). Does Coilguns also have a revolving membership, or is the line-up more straight forward?

Luc (drums), Louis (singer) and I have been a three piece for the first few years until Donatien (keyboard) joined us on stage to tour Millennials and then in the studio to write Watchwinders. We’re not an entity with revolving membership AT ALL. I’m not only talking about band members but also about the people we work with. We like to be surrounded by people that feel concerned and therefore involved in the band almost as much as we are. Label / band, we’ve always worked as a tribe. We rarely do one-off collaborations with anyone.

We’ve never talked about replacing a member for a show or a tour. This is also because we won’t ever have to face this kind of dilemma as we all agreed to put the band before anything and have built our private life and all other professional related activities around the band’s agenda. This is how we’ve been able to make it slightly sustainable being involved full time in what you can clearly consider a small band. Communication is key and we all talk a lot about future plans and what we want to do with our lives. That means nothing should ever come up as a surprise and if one of us started to loose it, we would know it way before it’s too late to react.

DoC: Your latest album Watchwinders just came out. What were the writing sessions like? Where was it recorded? What do you want the listener to experience while listening to it?

Not a single note was written prior entering the studio back in January this year. Before that we were constantly touring and the only month off we had was January. We booked the studio Farrago in Crissier, Switzerland owned by Louis’ neighbour. Louis is actually an architect and helped build it. We spent 4 weeks all alone in this beautiful studio located on a farm. Sleeping in the band’s apartment and cooking together everyday. This was necessary to be able to pull this off. Immersion, unity and communication.

Not only did we have to write the record, but Louis was engineering and recording it as well as arranging the songs and eventually mixing it. We had done that with Millennials but back then we had no real clue on how to do it and we just pushed everything as loud as possible. Since Millennials, Louis has been producing a lot more records and the workflow was much better this time around and we were able to put more attention to the overall sound, the takes and mix details than on Millennials where we had to figure out how to work with the gear we had.

The first two weeks were like a riffs factory workshop. We didn’t have time to think too much so in the morning we would all seat in separate rooms, writing riffs and beats. Louis would be in the mixing room having an ear on everything and already tweak the sound. Then in the afternoon we would all gather in the main room, put ideas together, record whatever we were able to play and move to the next thing. After two weeks we more or less had an instrumental version of the album which was roughly mixed.

Then Louis took the weekend to record vocal ideas, which was necessary as after the first instrumental listening session, I freaked out and couldn’t envision where this was going. Vocals are a very important part of Watchwinders, more than it has ever been in Coilguns. They’re mixed upfront, and also very intelligible. The songs also have more of a « normal » structure compared to the more chaotic days of the band.

Though, to be honest, it was a very stressful experience. A record we HAD to do. I mean, we wanted to have to do it and see what was coming out of it. I think the result is very personal and the work Louis has put into Watchwinders to make us all feel good with the outcome is unbelievable and I think it really reflects the way we want to sound. Unfortunately I didn’t get so much time to step back from it and analyze it deeply but I can say I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved sonically, songwriting-wise and also on a personal level altogether.

I’m not expecting people to experience anything. The album is rough, noisy, definitely with more contrasts than anything we’ve done before. Watchwinders is here to remind us all (or those who care) that these are very sad times to be alive and that it won’t be better anytime soon so, as it is obvious that we’re stuck in the dark; one needs to question his actions and place in the universe. Though the lyrical content can also be read ironically, it just talks about us being in a band, being aware of the paradoxes of what we do and what we stand for. Yet still do the same thing and hope to have fun while doing it and share it with as many people as possible as long as our bodies and sanity will allow us to.

DoC: The album deals with the passage of time, aging, and mortality. What led you to focus on these themes? Would you describe "Watchwinders" as a concept album?

LOUIS: We don't really do concept albums. but I always end up with a general theme for the lyrics. I write a lot of texts listening to the songs without any set direction, and after one or two weeks some ideas start to emerge and dominate. We've been doing this for many years now, and the band, the label, everything that's related to Coilguns or Hummus Records has become a major part of our life. We really wonder how long we'll manage to sustain our hyperactive flow of releases and tours. Our bodies and brains are ageing and we sometimes wish we had a trick to freeze time and go on forever - without seeing our friends become parents and/or orphans. It feels we're stuck in a parallel generation of adolescent hobos. We felt it already while writing Millennials but now this has started to feel real and a little bit scary. We also see a strange and distorted parallel in between what we're doing at our little DIY punk scale and the global challenges our species is facing for the first time. We all rely on fake perpetual motion machines despite perfectly knowing it's nothing but a dangerous hoax.

DoC: The album is being released by Hummus Records, which is run by members of the band. What led to you forming your own record company? Does the label focus on a specific type of music? How do you choose the bands you release?

I started the label as we were missing one to release our third EP back in 2012. It was a co-op, three labels were in and the fourth one became Hummus Records. The idea initially was to have an entity that’d represent all of Coilguns artistic aspects. To be honest, since I was doing everything on my own already, it just felt that it would help to contact people with a « » e-mail adress rather than the band’s e-mail. I must have made some good work or at least good enough for bands in our region to start approaching me to release their album. For the first five years, we only released debut albums from bands no one wanted to sign.

Fast forward 7 years later, and we now have over 70 releases. Being the label comes with a tremendous ammount of extra work and responsabilities. The good side is that we are the only ones deciding everything. We decided of the deals, timings, partners, logistics etc…all with a perfectly transparent overview. This is one of the reason we were able to make this band sustainable without being what you would consider a successfull band. The management or booking agents we work with have understood that about us and it is very pleasant having establish these basics in our working relationships so that when people approach us, they work with us exactly because of that and that means we never have to compromise on anything.

We almost exclusively work with Swiss bands, and though it is obvious that guitar based music is our thing, we couldn’t only focus on one genre as Switzerland is too small of a country for that. Here, jazz musicians hang out with black metal ones (if not also playing with them), your friend being a school teacher might also be the one most experimental drone artist around…so I’d say that it’s all a big scene. Our singer Louis Jucker is having a solo career of his own, playing folk songs. Right now (litterally today) we’re on tour with him through France. Coilguns are his backing band for his folk solo project. One of the top artist on the label - Emilie Zoé - is a dark-indie-rock duo. The band has won some of the Swiss Music Awards, yet we are releasing the new album of Geneva based Black Metal lords « Rorcal ». And we have all these bands play together when we organize the « Hummus Fest » in Switzerland. I like that very much. The records I’m putting out all become my favourite ones. It is also crazy the amount of crossworking relations there are between the bands themselves and the label.

I prefer to work with Swiss bands and moreover with friends, because the communication and the workflow is just easier when you can speak the same language, and when you can meet people on a regular basis to talk things through over a drink. Switzerland also is our core market and this is the place where we’ve been active for over 15 years as individuals investing time into the cultural scene. Whatever the scene has done for us, it is the reason for we’re here now now, being able to tour the world and expose our art. The label is a good opportunity to give back some postive energy to our regional and national scene and in that purpose, our role is to try and federate part of our regional scene and help the ones that are new to it not to do all the mistake we’ve done and guide them into doing their own thing.

DoC: The label is operating on a "name your price"/"pay what you want" basis for digital downloads. What do you like about the NYP format? Can a company really be successful by letting the consumer set the price?

I’m no economist so I can’t tell you whether the NYP option will lead Hummus Records to its bankruptcy or not. We have a strong attachment to the NYP thing and though we don’t push it as far as bands like Birds In Row - whom are selling all their tour merch NYP - we’ve grown in a city where most of the cultural events are NYP. The entrance to the shows and even the drinks at the bar are NYP. And this is no trick to make people feel guilty and give even more money. This just allows everyone to be included not depending on their financial power. Those having money spend money, other can’t spend it but they can still come to the show and be part of that big tribe.

With the download thing it’s as easy as WHY WOULD YOU FORCE PEOPLE INTO BUYING DIGITAL FILES? Most of the people don’t even download anymore but rather stream music. But for those downloading - for whatever purpose or good reason they do it - the ones who want/can support our bands will pay, the ones that cannot still have access to our entire catalog and can enjoy some good music. If you think about it, back in the days where downloading illegally was a thing, you would ALWAYS find a download link on some weird Russian websites, even releases from the most unknown local band. What we decided to do was to channel all those people to our plattforms so that they can be exposed to other artists from our catalog so that we could get their e-mail and send them news regarding the artists they enjoyed. The dude who doesn’t want to pay will never pay anyway and if you are forcing him to pay he’ll find another way to get your shit for free as this is the world we’re living in so why not give him a place as well and just hope that he/she will eventually buy a ticket to a show and buy a shirt at the merch table?

DoC: You've got a tour with Yautja coming up. How did the tour come about? How would you describe your live shows for someone who has never seen you play? How do the songs change when you play them live, if at all?

Funny story. Tyler - Yautja’s drummer (whom also plays in Thou) - wrote us on Facebook saying something like « I discovered you guys on bandcamp and thought your music rips, what about we do a Euro tour together and maybe you can come over to the US? ». It appeared to be the perfect timing as we had just started booking the Watchwinders release tour and were looking for a band to tour with. We hooked them up with Doomstar Bookings - our booking agency - and one week later we started booking the tour as a two bands package.

I don’t know man, our shows are intense. Intense because we play every single note to the maximum, that every word we spit out means the world to us and that we genuinely don’t know what else to do with our lives than throwing it to shit to travel around and play loud music to people carrying about it. A Coilguns show is unpredictable not only because Louis likes to interact with the crowd but also because the energy can be very different from a room to another depending on our mood or whether it’s a crazy crowd or a quiet « listening to the music » crowd.. Every night we meet up 15 minutes before the show and all talk about how the venue feels, how the crowd feels and what will be the climax of the set and how we bring it up there and how do we go down from it. We’re basically playing the songs as you’ll find them on the record. Though Louis will add extra guitar here and there, some parts don’t have a fix length and are played on cue depending on the vibe but generally this is written music. What changes everything is the way we play it and how do we adapt it to make sure everyone in the room is included and that we have their attention.

DoC: What's your favourite kind of hummus?

Very classic: Olive oil, lemon and garlic.

DoC: What's next for Coilguns?

Next is the European release tour of Watchwinders starting Nov. 7th until 30th which includes our biggest headlining show so far in Switzerland in a 1000 capacity venue. Let’s see how that goes! Then something is cooking for February in Europe, and we will finally be going to the US this spring before coming back to Europe for the summer festival season. That means there won’t be more EU tours before fall of 2020, better show up on this one!

We are also playing some off shows as the backing band of Louis’s folk project, and starting on January I wanna start writing the next Coilguns record.

You can now download Watchwinders for free or name your price on our Bandcamp or our online store. Visit and grab a copy of one of the limited testpress or colored LP. We put a lot of thoughts and energy into making our records art objects.

It’s also 2AM, we’re on tour and I’m falling asleep on my keyboard so I might be forgetting stuff. I’m hungry. I need to sleep.


Coilguns on Facebook

Coilguns on Instagram

Coilguns on Bandcamp

Watchwinders on Bandcamp




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