A TMO Interview with Steven Peyton of Garroted
Garroted is a Massachusetts-based death metal band that recently dropped their debut demo, In the Court of Nyarlathotep, a four track chunk of ripping death metal. The band is currently a five piece, featuring Billy Cooke (bass), Steven Peyton (drums), Jerry Witunsky (guitars), Ray Brouwer (guitars) and Dan Jacobs (vocals). The Metal Observer was recently given the opportunity to speak with Steven Peyton about the band and what’s to come.
I asked Peyton to offer a little background on Garroted and how the members met up, to which he states that the band formed in March 2011. “I believe our first jam was March 3rd, specifically.” He then goes on to explain that the members met via Facebook. “After Ray and Dan’s old band, Blister, dissolved Ray posted a status on Facebook saying that they were looking for a drummer. I responded to it, and they came over one day, we jammed, and the rest is history.” Though apparently at that time, Dan was a bassist, as he didn’t take up vocal duties until further down the road.
Garroted’s Bandcamp page describes the amount of effort, passion, loss and pain put into the writing process of the debut EP. I asked for Peyton’s synopsis of what the band went through and how that related to that process. He explains that the actual recording process “was actually quite enjoyable and streamlined without any stress at all. Prior to that, though, Ray and I spent two years (summer 2012 to early fall 2014), alone, jamming and writing music together. During this nobody took us seriously, and one of my close friends even remarked that “we weren’t really a band”. I feel as though this gave me a desire to prove people wrong, and bring into reality the ideas that I always believed we could express. Now those people have been remarkably quiet.” With a monster demo under their belts, I think the members of Garroted can kick the detractors to the curb; satisfied in their knowledge that those ideas came to fruition. He continues, “In terms of “loss”, Ray and I both lost people close to us over the past year. For myself, it was the death of two close friends, one in October 2015, and one in late January of this year, and for Ray, it was the death of Michael Falker last summer, his high school music teacher and orchestra conductor who influenced him greatly, and was the source of much inspiration and knowledge. So for me, at least, our music is a tribute to their memory. Few words can express the pain I feel upon remembering that neither of my aforementioned friends will be able to attend our performances, or listen to our recordings. I can only hope to honor their memory instead.”
A lot of bands tend to unabashedly wear their influences on their sleeves, yet with Garroted, it would have to be a monstrously huge sleeve. Despite that, their music sounds fresh and invigorating. When speaking with Peyton about the band’s influences, it’s quite impressive to see what all of these influences are and get a glimpse into how they ultimately shaped the band’s sound, lyrics and imagery. “As far as direct metal songwriting influences go, it would be Morbid Angel, At the Gates (the TRUE At the Gates, with Alf Svensson), Timeghoul, Atheist, Order from Chaos, Suffocation, and early Therion (Beyond Sanctorum primarily).” A mighty fine group there, though I must mention Alf Svensson At the Gates is the only At the Gates worth listening to, so I’m glad Peyton made that clear. He continues, “Aside from that, we are influenced by most art aside from music, whether it be literature, cinema, visual, etc. In terms of influence from outside of metal, it varies widely. Ray and I both adore progressive rock of the 1970s such as King Crimson, Camel, Gong, Yes, and Emerson Lake & Palmer, as well as a variety of classical and jazz music (such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Tony Williams Lifetime, Miles Davis, Mozart, Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni, etc). Jerry’s biggest influence is Pink Floyd, Dan loves death/metalcore, and Billy is a big fan of grindcore, noise, and free jazz. All those things come together into a fairly unique melding pot. I myself listen to way more electronic music than any of the other guys, and I don’t really listen to most metal drummers at all (some of my favorites are Tony Williams, Dave Weckl, Benny Greb, and Jojo Mayer– not that I am anywhere close to their level of mastery, of course) although I do enjoy the playing of Mike Heller, Tomas Haake, Lille Gruber, and Bobby Jarzombek to name a few.” And it’s true, while Garroted’s sound is firmly rooted in death metal, it’s not your average sound: it’s unique, and perhaps that insight into their influences provides the required code to the cipher. I inquired as to how these directly influence Garroted’s music. “As far as how that specifically influences our music, it varies. It can start from wanting to work with a particular idea used by another artist (i.e. building a song from a small two or three note motif) in our own style, or creating a variation of a theme. As another example, Ray is fond of the hybrid picking technique (where finger strokes are used in addition to picked strokes), which he definitely picked up from studying the guitar playing of Steve Howe and Yes. It can be techniques used in other genres that are uncommon in metal, or songwriting ideas, etc.”
In sticking with influences, I mentioned that Garroted has an interesting relationship to both consonance/melody and dissonance and asked what particular artists helped influence this perspective and how it works within the context of your compositions. “Ray would probably be able to answer this question better than I as he wrote the entirety of all guitars on our demo. However, I’d say that that is accountable at least in part to our appreciation of (old) At the Gates, Atheist, and Timeghoul as well as our overall songwriting philosophy, which is more or less that everything must be balanced in equal measure. We try to achieve a sort of equilibrium. We definitely take some ideas from classical songwriting technique as well in terms of arranging counterpoint sections which probably isn’t true of most metal bands.”
Save for the opening track, most of the band’s songs are fairly concise but have quite a bit going on. I questioned Peyton on the compositional process that produces tracks like this and what does it primarily focus on. “Dynamics, thematic development, ensuring that parts are melodically and conceptually related and not merely thrown together at random, that drums and bass add a unique voice to the music without dominating it, etc. In addition to that, we seek to more or less unify lyrics and music (which is my job) as I believe that they should exist as one entity in the sense that the music should sound like the lyrics and the lyrics should describe something that evokes imagery similar to the song (and eventually, we plan to incorporate even the album art into this sort of unification as well). That idea comes from Wagner, specifically the idea of gesamtkunstwerk, which translates to something like “total work of art”, “synthesis of the arts”, etc. Obviously, it is somewhat subjective and open to interpretation, but as a lyricist I often try to write a small story which more or less coincides with the ebb and flow of the music. This is probably most evident on “A Ritual Profane”. Also, we really dislike using generic ABABCB structures. Pretty much every song on the demo has its own unique structure– this is not a coincidence.”
Continuing with the band’s writing process, I asked Peyton to describe the band’s approach. “For the writing of the demo, Ray pretty much wrote all the songs on his own, although he did consult me for advice on the arrangement and structure many times throughout the process, so I played a part in it as well, I just didn’t come up with any actual riffs (that will change in the future though). From there, we worked on our individual parts until it became what it is in its finished form. These days, we mostly write material by jamming and recording that jam, listening back to see which ideas we liked and keeping those. The bulk of what exists of the first new song we began writing was created that way, although the shortest new song (which shall be titled Crimson Thirst) was written entirely by Ray on his own in about three days. So basically, it varies, but overall it is probably fair to say that Ray and I are the primary songwriters and arrangers (though I have a recording on my phone of a jam I had with Jerry where he played some sick riffs that most likely will appear in future material). We would like to make it more of a collaborative process in the future also, as in writing while together in the same room.”
An ongoing debate with death metal fans, some say death metal is stagnating, others claim it is surging forwards. I asked where he stood on the current state of the genre and where he sees death metal in the coming years. Peyton explains, “It really depends on the band and scene that is being discussed. I’ve definitely heard plenty of new music released this year alone which gives me hope for the future (to name a few: Zealotry, Blood Incantation, Nucleus, Voidspawn, Defeated Sanity, Tomb Mold). (Interviewer note: Check out these band’s now, dammit, they are really good). There also are unfortunately a large amount of bands out there who simply want to produce cheap imitations of those who inspired them. It is what it is. I don’t think that that is particularly unique in the context of this era. There will always be leaders and people who follow them. I do think that we are at a point in time where creating music is much easier than it once was, though. We live in an era where an entire band can live in different states or countries and still create powerful music! That kind of thing could never have happened in the 80s or 90s, but at the same time, I feel that that makes those eras more powerful by default. As far as where death metal will be, I have no clue, but it is my hope that Garroted will change what people think death metal is, and what it can be. More advanced songwriting technique and greater conceptual design across the board with all bands is the step in the right direction, I think.”
Garroted has been making quit a stir in the New England live scene. I asked Peyton what the band’s plans were for tours and any goals for going abroad. He explains, “as of right now, are more focused on growing our local fanbase as well as playing in other states that are still inside New England. We do have contacts in different states like New York, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, California, Maine, and Virginia so we’ll have people to share the stage with once the time is ready. We would have to work out the logistics of transporting gear and people, primarily, as well as having the financial security to do so at all. Moreover, we’re friends with Condor (sick band, check them out) from Colombia, who broached the idea of us possibly performing in South America with them, which I’d love to do as the underground scene down there is absolutely nuts by all accounts (shows with 2-300 people in attendance? Count me in!). I’m also friends with Andrew from Ominosity, a sick death/doom band from Alberta so the possibility of Canadian shows exists as well. I can’t say I’d be opposed to playing abroad, but it would obviously be a significant undertaking involving much planning (and I’d need to renew my passport) so I’m not sure when that will happen, but it is another long term goal.”
In other news, the band’s Facebook page stated that there is an upcoming release. What should we expect compared to the debut? Peyton gives us some insight, “Longer songs with a less spazzy sense of tonality and less jarring abrupt shifts, more purposeful and dynamic songwriting. Certainly more focused conceptual design (it’s a bit hard to explain what I mean, but basically, ensuring that the art, lyrics and music are unified as I mentioned earlier). Compared to the demo material, where pretty much every song had at least two tempo changes (six in The Crawling Chaos!), we’ve been writing stuff that revolves around one tempo instead and uses different rhythmic feels. It’s hard to say as only one song is fully written, but we are working on two others and possibly another one (though the initial plan was three, but I’d really like to put out something longer than our demo). We definitely want to continue to progress and improve, not stagnate, and although the demo was well received, there are still clear flaws which I hope to erase (or at least reduce) on the next recording.”
Wrapping things up, Peyton offers a closing statement, “I’d like to thank all of the people who supported us in the years when our music existed only in tabs or at rehearsal, and those who have come to our shows and paid for our music even though they could have had it for free. I never could have imagined the response we’ve received thus far, and it’s quite motivating. As for the next release, we are hoping to put it out around the end of winter/beginning of spring 2017 (March or April), so keep your eyes and ears peeled about that. To all of our local area friends who try and make it out to every show, you guys are the best.”
Peace, Love, and Cthulhu.
Many thanks to Steven Peyton, drummer from Garotted, for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to check out their Bandcamp page and support the underground.