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A sip of stoner Irish beer with HARVESTER

HARVESTER are a stoner metal band from Galway in the west of Ireland. They recently released a 6 track EP called “The Blind Summit Recordings” for free download. I took this great chance to talk to Gavin, who sings and plays guitar for this pack. The chat below covers their local music scene, a discussion regarding the landscape of the music industry, Gavin’s “best of 2012”, and a lot more. Have a seat, press the play button and take your time to read the whole thing below.

The band, consisting of former and current members of RITES, THEM MARTYRS and GUMMIDGE, was formed through a mutual love of BLACK SABBATH and Guinness :)

Welcome! How’s Galway, guys? You’re the first 100% Irish band interviewed for IDIOTEQ. We are dying to learn about your local ground.

Galway is great. I suppose it’s seen as one of the more hippy ish cities in Ireland where some people go to find themselves and end up staying. Galway has a small enduring music scene that seems to be really establishing itself as one of the best places in Europe for DIY/hardcore bands to tour. Bands in Galway tend to sound a bit more unique than other parts of the country to my ears though I might be a bit biased [laughs]. The main heavy/punk/etc. gigs are run and have been run by the same people who are also in bands themselves for the last 10 years. People like Dan from Us vs Them and Tebs from Randall Records have been bringing over bands from Europe for years. Bigger bands from DARKEST HOUR, KYLESA, THE OCEAN to smaller crust and power violence bands have played some great gigs over the years.

The bills for gigs tend be more diverse sometimes out of necessity as bands don’t want to be playing to the same people every week. You might have super heavy slow band like TRENCHES play with a SHELLAC type band GUMMIDGE with us in the middle. I think the music from has gotten a lot better in the past few years. Bands seem to be a bit more sure of what sound they are going for and have a better ability to achieve their goals. This goes for everything from merch, performing, recording releases etc. I think people in the bands are taking more ownership of their music and recently gigs have been moving away from traditional spaces like bars and pubs to practice spaces which has resulted in the best gigs we’ve had in Galway. The gigs have been way more fun and altogether a great atmosphere maybe because people can drink for as long as they like [laughs]!

Moving to practice rooms sounds like California, huh? [smiles]

How about recording places? You recently wrapped up the recording of your “The Blind Summit Recordings” EP at The Hive Studios. Tell us about the place and alternative spots that you could choose instead of this one.

Ah the hive is really cool. We’ve known those guys for prob bout 10 years. James who recorded us is currently in a d-beat band BACCHUS and before that he was in prob my favourite Irish band KIDD BLUNT. They had kind of AT THE DRIVE-IN sound and they were fucking great. So yeah 3 quarters of the band had recorded with James in the Hive before so we knew it would be a fun experience. Maybe not for him, but for us it was great ha! There was alot of soloing and pedal messin goin on which myself and Higgins (other guitarist) never really got to do properly in our other bands as that is kind of stuff is sometimes frowned upon in hardcore bands so we took full advantage to have fun with the guitars and solos.

To be honest we didn’t think of any other studios because we get along really well with the Hive guys. I knew we could possibly drive people crazy with soloing and noise but I knew James would be cool with us and not throw stuff at us. We were all hungover as fuck on the first day of recording like the geniuses that we are so that made for some interesting polite passive aggressive discussions between myself and Ken our drummer [laughs]. We’re really happy with the sound of the recording and James did some great work.

Recording in Ireland for heavy/diy/punk has gotten much better in the last few years. For myself a heavy recording has to have a push in the sound, sonically or it makes the experience a bit weird. That bein said, BAD BRAINS and MINOR THREAT albums sound like shit but the songs are great so I suppose it’s a good mixture of both for me. There have been some great sounding recordings recently. I really like the last GUMMIDGE release which was recorded in their practice space. Local bands have gotten more interested in having their recordings properly mastered and mics etc. which is great as long the songs are good too, which for the most part I think they are.

About GUMMIDGE, what other bands/projects have you had over the years?

GUMMIDGE are a three piece that our drummer Ken is in. They just released a 4 track EP that was recorded at their practice space. They have a YOUNG WIDOWS type sound to them. Myself and Ken used to play in a band with GUMMIDGE’s bass player Gab years ago. People in Galway all end up playing in each others bands which creates a good variety of music from the bands.

Ken was also in a crust band EASPA MEASA that recently split up but they had been around for over 10 years. They were really good, had 2 vocalists which was cool. To me their earlier stuff sounded like TODAY IS THE DAY and later sounded like HIS HERO IS GONE.

Bryan Higgins (guitars) is in 2 other bands, RITES and VAGRANTS. RITES are full on doom rock band in the vain of BONGZILLA. They recently released a split with DUKATALON on Hell Comes Home. VAGRANTS are a hardcore punk band with really fast short songs similar to CEREMONY. I think they have 2 EP’s out now and will prob release another one soon on bandcamp. They write songs quickly.

I had previously played in a hardcore band THEM MARTYRS. They sounded like BOTCH / POISON THE WELL that kind of period of hardcore. They recently released a 12” EP called Wretched. I’m sure they will be looking to tour Europe in 2013. At least I hope they will.

If I was to trace the all the people in Galway’s bands it would just look like a confusing spaghetti mess cos everyone plays with everyone.

Everyone with everyone, you say [smiles]. Sounds like a very warm and cozy place, ya know? [laughs]

OK, Let’s go back to the EP. How many downloads have you got already?

[laughs] Galway is definitely not a cozy place to live. It’s prob one of the wettest places to live in Ireland as it’s right on the west coast facing the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a good thing though. It’s conducive to producing shouty weird music, especially in the winter.

We’ve had over 500 downloads on our bandcamp in the last month which is great for a band like us. It’s way more than we expected considering we haven’t toured Europe and we don’t have a label. Loads of people have been emailing us sayin nice things which is great. We’ve had distros lookin for physical copies which we are sorting out now. We’d love to release the EP on vinyl but at the moment we definitely couldn’t afford to do that ourselves.  All the reviews/mentions so far have been pretty good so I’m awaiting the ones that will rip into the band to balance things out a bit.

So it’s available only digitally now, right?

Yeah, unfortunately we couldn’t afford to make a physical release at the moment so it’s available from our bandcamp.

We’re all huge fans of vinyl so it would be cool to have a vinyl release in the future. We’re sorting out a physical release now and we should be able to confirm it before the end of the year. I don’t want to make any big claims and then look like an asshole if it doesn’t happen.

Cassettes are cheaper, mate [laughs]. And it’s kinda trendy now [smiles].

Yeah we’re all about bein trendy. Next recording will be a dub step masterpiece…

[laughs] Who would you like to collaborate for that?

I have no idea. SKRILLEX? I’m sure he could afford us.

Seriously, have you thought about letting in some electronics to your compositions?

To be honest this is meant to be a traditional band so we never really thought about incorporating electronic elements. I don’t think it would work in this band. Some of us are fans of electronic music APHEX TWIN, AUTECHRE, etc.  but we wouldn’t have a clue how to make that kind of music. It would prob be hilarious if we tried. We’re admirers of it but I think we’re better at playing guitars, bass and drums.

Okay. In hindsight, anything you would differently now if you could record the EP again?

I don’t think we would do anything vastly different. There are obvious things that are the norm for most like having more time/days in the studio. I would have liked to record more songs and possibly an acoustic piece but we simply didn’t have time in the run up to recording. There is the fantasy of recording that you will be able to record the same track with loads of different guitars and amps but the reality was that we were doing alot already with not much time. I’m happy with how it turned out. All the guitar solos and most of the vocal harmonies were made on the spot. There are points in the recording where I hear a guitar solo and I can’t remember playing it or how I wrote it. Bryan was the same, he did a good few takes for solos until he was happy with what he had.

[laughs] Did you drink a lot of Guinness during the session?

Unfortunately not much Guinness was drank. The recording was fueled by cheap beer and pizza. I think Bryan ate 3 pizzas in 3 days. It was quite a sight, like watching a goat give birth, but in reverse. We are giant fans of Guinness though, mostly in pint form. We’re holding out for our Guinness sponsored world tour.

Is it expensive to have one a in a pub right there? Guinness is twice as expensive as a regular beer here in Warsaw. Plus it’s really hard to find it. Bummer.

No not really, it’s slightly cheaper than other beers in the pub. The quality varies from place to place in Galway. It’s usually better where there are loads of people drinking it so the Guinness is not sitting in the lines going bad. I usually don’t drink it in other countries cos it’s a rip and tastes terrible.

Ha! You got it… and it hurts to hear that [smiles]. Anyway, I’m a big fan, I’ve got a whole bunch of stupid Guinness merch items to have it in front of my eyes all the time [laughs].

Ok, let’s go back to the music for a while. Did you enjoy recording an instrumental track like “All Roads Led Away”? I think it turned out amazing. Maybe you should think about releasing a post rock EP, huh? [smiles]

Cheers, thanks. I’m pretty happy with how that song turned out. That song has the most guitar layers on the big riff near the end. We’re were looking at each other in the studio sayin’ maybe another layer with another fuzz pedal?…. maybe another?… another one?’. I think there are 5 or 6 different layers on that one riff, octave pedal, big muff, old boss fuzz, new boss fuzz, etc. Now that I think of  it I had more ideas for another few layers. James was very patient with us [laughs].

The acoustic part at the end was the very last thing we recorded on the last evenin of recordin. I was completely wrecked tired so it’s played slow and lazy which suits the end of the EP. The feedback at the end was fun to record. We just turned a load of pedals on and lay the guitar on the floor and messed with the pedals while givin the guitar a bump every so often. We’re real intellectuals [laughs].

I like alot bands that could be described as post rock, ISIS, SIGUR ROS, MOGWAI. I don’t know if any of the other lads listen to post rock though. There’s probably only a handful of bands or artists that I could safely say  all 4 of us like. BLACK SABBATH, NEUROSIS, Rory GallagherZZ TOP and THIN LIZZY. I can’t really think of any others at the moment. Myself and Ken have traveled outside of Ireland to see NEUROSIS. They’re one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.

What is your goal or mission when it comes to music or art in general?

Our main goal is pretty simple. We just want to make the music or artwork to a decent standard. We don’t have any broad over arching mission when we write other than for it to be as good as possible. The songs were being tinkered with right up to when we recorded. Once we have a general structure ‘ll obsess over it to refine it and make it as good as I can. Atom Splitter went through 2 tempo changes before we were happy with it.

For myself personally I just try to write riffs and songs that I would want to hear as a fan of music. Myself and Ken (drum) have played with each other lot over the years so we don’t have any problems tellin each other a riff or idea is not good. It might prolong the writing process but the end result usually ends up with something that everyone is happy with.

When it comes to art in general I try not to focus on just one particular type of music or art. I listen to alot of different music from Neil Young, to SLAYER, Django Reinhart, etc. I don’t listen to one  specific genre as long as it grabs me I try not to exclude any type of music, unless it’s U2. That’s where I draw the line.

I think most people listen to more varied styles these days. One thing I don’t do is listen to million different artists in a short space of time. I tend to find something, obsess about it to a weird degree and then move on to the next thing.

Yup… and what about the new countenance of music industry? Do you think the digital age is killing the roles that album art and packing play in the music industry and the digital music industry will develop along the lines of pay-as-you-go downloads?

I think it’s interesting that people think it will plateau or come to a resolution where musicians and labels are both happy. That will never happen and I don’t think it was the case before mp3’s. The process was lob sided so the labels benefitted more from musicians. The introduction of file sharing was a massive change and I don’t expect it to right itself back to a similar previous model. I am a fan of vinyl and art work and the different layers that can give. I you get a vinyl you can check out the bands or engineers they thanked or what studios or small pedal companies the guitarists use. Nerdy stuff like that is interesting to me.

As a musician at the level I’m at, which is the bottom, [laughs], it doesn’t bear thinking about. We just concentrate on writing good riffs and songs and if people are interested, good.

I think it makes people look at what they are doing a bit closer and try and make each aspect great. If you take a band like BARONESS, in my opinion every level of what they do is killer. The music, art work, merch, live show, musicianship, production, everything. Being that good doesn’t just happen, you have to pay attention to what the fuck you are doing if you want people to be interested in your band. There’s a naivety and sense of entitlement that I hope is moving away from musicians because of the breakdown of the music industry. I play music because I love doing it and all the fun things that come with it. I don’t expect anything more from this band other than the music is good and we have fun doing it.

As far as album artwork and all that stuff we are huge fans of vinyl and I don’t think that will ever go away. Like when people say “vinyl is making a comeback”, tell that to the crust punks that have houses full of 7″ s from the last 20-30 years. I think whether a format stays or goes depends on how much people cherish it in its physical form which is why vinyl is great simply because the artwork is the biggest and most elaborate. I never heard anyone say check out the icon artwork on my iPod [smiles].

I try not to generalize about music because it’s a complex spaghetti mess of people contributing to a huge volume of different sounds, which is great. When you try to step back and look at it there is no one way to figure it out on every single level. That’s why it’s an interesting art form to me.

Well said. Have you ever been a fan of cassette format?

Yeah I definitely was when I was younger. It’s not a format I go looking for these days The first tape I bought was IRON MAIDEN’s ‘No prayer for the dying’. It’s one of the worst IRON MAIDEN albums [laughs]. I got a double cassette of ‘Live after death’ after that which is amazing. I have loads of old tapes at home.

My mom didn’t know how to stop the tape player and used to come into my bedroom, press record by accident and record herself onto my tapes. There is definitely a copy of SEPULTURA’s Arise with my ma givin out to me in the middle of a solo [laughs]! I had a copy of Nevermind that fell in a fish bowl that sounded completely bizarre afterwards. I was always wondering what was wrong with other peoples copies. Ha!

Oh yeah, I remember IRON MAIDEN’s tapes had been soothing my pain, too [smiles].

Speaking of Nevermind. Have you see the yesterday’s NIRVANA reunion? What’s your opinion on that?

It’s sounds a bit like helter skelter to me. I’m not really into Paul McCartney on his own. He charges extortionate prices for his gigs as well. I don’t think you can have a reunion without the main songwriter and vocalist. I doubt it was their idea to call it a NIRVANA reunion. It’s probably just a once off thing for charity. I’m huge fan of Dave Grohl’s drumming especially on Songs for the Deaf. The first FOO GIHTERS album is great as well. I must have seen them 6 or 7 times  in the 90’s. Exhausted off the 1st album is amazing live.

I suppose if it makes them happy then good. They both had really shit things happen to their band mates.

Ok. Give us your top albums, top shows, top  and top people lists for 2012, plus what’s been the highlight of his year personally.

Top Albums
CONVERGE – All we love we we leave behind
GRAVEYARD – Lights Out
NEUROSIS – Honour found in Decay
BARONESS – Yellow and Green
Fiona Apple – Idler Wheel
DEAFHEAVEN– Roads to Judah
HIGH ON FIRE – de Vermis Mysteriis
GUMMIDGE- Sick Again
YOUR HIGHNESS – Blue Devils EP

Top Shows</em>
SLEEP, in Dublin.
CONVERGE in Glasgow in November.
GUMMIDGE, RATS BLOOD, RITES. HARVESTER, local warehouse gig in Galway.
HEXIS, THIS GIFT IS A CURSE, DIRTDRINKER, in Edinburgh.
REVOLUTION OF A SUN, in Cork.
Fesant Fest in Ballina.
Siege of Limerick April, in eh Limerick.

Top people
My lady friend.
John Dyer Baizley.
Emil Werstler.
Everyone who helped HARVESTER / downloaded the EP.
James Eager.
Matt Pike.
My dog Mr. Toast, total legend.

Highlight of the year
 Moving to Edinburgh to study for a while and the HARVESTER EP getting a good response from complete strangers, not just our ma’s.

Do you believe in the end of the world story? [smiles]

No I don’t follow any of that stuff.

If it would come what would you do? [smiles]

Prob just throw a big party with everyone. Stick on THIN LIZZYy’s Live and Dangerous and have a time of it. I’d probably try and get some lovin at some stage. Depends on how long I have [laughs]! Also depends on what kind of apocalypse it is. Hot firey death raining from the sky or tidal waves. Tidal waves, I’d probably befriend someone at the THIN LIZZY party with a boat or submarine, preferably Russian. Russians would have vodka. I’m always meeting Russian submarine pilots at parties. Friendly dudes.

How often do you meet Polish people? [smiles]

I have worked with loads of Polish people over the years in various jobs. I was a scaffolder during the economic boom in Ireland so I have worked with a good few. The Polish I met were always really sound and very hard working. I have been to Poland on holiday in 2006. I was in Warsaw and Krakow. I went to the salt mine in Krakow. It was cool, I really liked it. The food was different. You guys really like cabbage [smiles].

Oh man, you have no idea. Visit Poland on Christmas and you’ll see the real festival of food [laughs].

Ok, man. It’s time to go, I guess. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Yeah, we’ll be releasing the 6 track EP on 12″ vinyl through Freak Flag Records in March next year. It’s currently being mastered by James Plotkin who has worked with KHANATE. We’re also doing dates in Scotland in March and another tour to come in Ireland later in the year.  Check out our Facebook  for updates on gigs releases and merch. The EP is still available for free download at this location.

Cheers for the interview!

Who ho ho, wait a minute, man [smiles] Does it mean the EP is a kind of demo recording? How come it’s being remastered so soon? [smiles]

It was originally mastered for digital release CD/download. It’s being mastered for vinyl. There’s a different approach to mastering vinyl.

Oh, damn right [smiles]. Thanks again, mate. All the best!

Seriously, have you thought about letting in some electronics to your compositions? Emil Werstler.

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[laughs]YOUR HIGHNESS

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