Friday, November 15, 2019

catching up with Grey Skies Fallen [2019]

It's been a while since Grey Skies Fallen have been on this blog (though the members' other projects have popped up on this site regularly). Since it was recently announced that the band would be releasing their fifth album Cold Dead Lands in a few months, I caught up with my buddy Rick Habeeb to find out what the band has been up to these past 5 years.

Dreams of Consciousness: Hey Rick, it's been a while since we've spoken about Grey Skies Fallen. What's been going on with the band since 2014?

Hey there, Adrian! Thanks for having me once again. I guess it has been since 2014 that we last talked. That would have been right around when the last album, The Many Sides of Truth was released. You mentioned the Earthwalker 7”, that came a year later with the same lineup, which in GSF land is a rarity to have back-to-back releases with the same lineup!

Pretty much right after the release of that 7”, that lineup fell apart. We did manage to record a cover version of My Dying Bride’s “From Darkest Skies,” which turned out to be the last recording which would feature keys. After that, myself, Tom (bass) and Sal (drums) started to write the new album as a three piece. In mid-2018 we went in to record and we finished up in January of 2019. We shopped it around to labels for a bit, and are now ready to self-release.

DoC: The fifth Grey Skies Fallen album is due January 24th, 2020. What can you tell me about Cold Dead Lands - how long have you guys been working on it, where was it recorded, and what was the writing process for the album?

One of the songs, “Procession to the Tombs” was written when we were still a 5-piece, back in 2015. That was the sole holdover song from that period. We changed the ending around a bit though. So figure we started writing the album in early 2016, and with us, for whatever reason, things take time.

During this time, one of us started a family, while the other two moved a bit further away from each other than we had been, so writing sessions had slowed down a bit. That’s life. What can ya do? But we got our shit together over time and wrote 5 other songs. We would jam them at Tom’s house in his basement where we rehearse, and I would record the rehearsal on the iPad, take that home and then overdub guitars and some vocals and really get an idea of how the songs should sound. I found this to be a great way to do things, and when we went in to record, most of it was already laid out.

We recorded up in Kinderhook, New York like we always do with our friend Keith Moore in his studio, Audio Playground. We have recorded everything since Two Way Mirror with Keith.

DoC: Dan Swanö of Edge of Sanity (and a dozen other bands) mixed and mastered the new album. How did he get involved? Would you describe Swanö as a big influence on your music?

Back in like 1999, I was in touch with Swanö via email. Even back then, we had discussed him mixing the next album - so that would have been the second one, Tomorrow’s in Doubt. We kept in touch over the years here and there and when we started getting this album together, I knew now was the time to finally work with him. I hit him up and told him we would be retaining his services for this album! Again, with us, things take time, and like a year and a half later we finally presented him with the recordings. No instructions were given to him. I’m not gonna tell Dan Swanö anything about what I want. He knows what’s good. So of course, we get the finished album, and there were zero revisions to be made. He is the man.

For me, I’ve been a big fan of his since I first heard The Spectral Sorrows back in 1994. I actually bought that CD used from Zig Zag Records (RIP) in Staten Island solely for the Manowar cover, which is hilarious now when I think about it, and was blown away by what I heard on that album. So after that, I was a big-time Swanö guy.

DoC: Your last album, The Many Sides of Truth, was crowd-funded and self-released by the band. What are the release and distribution plans for Cold Dead Lands?

For that one, we self-financed the recording and mixing, but crowdfunded for the vinyl, for which we reached around half of our goal. This time, since the album is a lot longer, it would have been double vinyl, and double gatefold, and we just can’t spring for that right now. We also decided against crowdfunding this time around. We are hoping the album does well digitally and we can move our 300 run of CD’s that some label would like to release the vinyl for us.

This album is gonna get a nice 6-panel digipak CD with Travis Smith art, and will be on all the digital platforms. We are releasing it on our labels Xanthros Music, and Old Souls Collective.

DoC: This year (2019) marks the 20th anniversary of the first GSF album, The Fate of Angels. How would you describe the difference between GSF then and now - musically, or otherwise? How do you look back on that early material now?

Back when we did The Fate of Angels, we were in our early twenties. I was still in school, had nothing but time and energy. We all lived close,and the band started in Staten Island. There was a brief time in '97/'98 where we all lived on Staten Island and could jam at any time. Of course those days are long over, so you have to adapt to the realities of life as a bunch of dudes in their thirties and forties.

I haven’t really heard much of the early stuff the last few years. I still like it though. When we do play live, we play select cuts from those days, for sure.

DoC: With all the different projects that you're involved with, what makes Grey Skies special for you? What brings you back to the project all these years later?

In 2012, I joined Buckshot Facelift. The common thread before my joining was that Sal was the drummer of that band as well. So when I joined up with them, I was now in two bands with Sal somehow! This is where I met Will, Terrell, and Tom. In 2015, Tom and I got together and recorded a bunch of ambient instrumental tracks called Brave the Waters. We’ve done 2 albums with that project now, the latest of which Chapter II - Days of Solitude is now available on beautiful vinyl as well as all streaming platforms. We get together every year or two and get baked and record these songs in a very loose environment. All of my parts on those albums are improvised for the most part.

Grey Skies has always been around, it never really went away, even if we have some long gaps in between our releases. Even if the lineup changes, there are some consistencies throughout. Having Tom join in 2013 has brought some stability to the band. He will be our final bass player.

DoC: What's next for Grey Skies Fallen?

Right now we are trying to get the live lineup together for some potential shows in March to support the album. Nothing there yet to announce, but we hope to put together a few killer shows. We are trying to add 2 more guitarists to the live lineup so we can do the new songs justice. We’ll see how that comes together!

The album is being released independently on our Xanthros Music label on January 24th, 2020. We are hoping it picks up enough steam that some quality label will be interested to release it on vinyl. Again, we’ll see how that goes. We have a pre-order on our Bandcamp page for the 6-panel CD Digipak of the new album, and those are actually moving nicely. So if anyone is interested in grabbing the new album, please consider pre-ordering.

I also have a new death metal band coming out soon. It’s myself, as well as Tom, Terrell, and Will from Buckshot Facelift, along with Ryan Lipynsky from Unearthly Trance on guitars and Keith Harris of Afterbirth on drums. We are going to record a 3-song demo/EP in February 2020. The band was formerly known as Crimson Dusk until South Park ran an episode where they had a death metal band called Crimson Dawn, and we thought it was just too close! So now we search for an name! Keep an eye on the GSF social media pages for info on that!

Tom and I will bang out another Brave the Waters album, hopefully in the spring of 2020.

Anyway man, thanks for having me again, and we can’t wait for everyone to hear the new record!!

Grey Skies Fallen on Facebook

Grey Skies Fallen on Bandcamp

The Opposite of Up:

Mixtape 9:
Grey Skies Fallen