Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sarcoptes Interview

1.For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit
about the band?

Garrett:  Sarcoptes is a two-piece metal band from California. We are heavily influenced by old-school thrash, black, and death metal.
The founding member and I met in highschool. He was a withdrawn, goofy kid with a soft heart, and could shred everyone I know on guitar. Before his darkest days, he recorded several songs on Myspace under the band name. I free-styled a cheesy black metal vocal over one of them, and thus was dubbed the band's singer.
Later on, I would jam with Sean Z, who also had an appreciation and talent for music from Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, and other great and influential bands, and we were able to establish our own sound.
The creation of this CD is a milestone which cannot be taken away from us. Through all trials, reservation, regret and resistance, we have persevered and created something meaningful to ourselves.
The driving intent of my participation in this band is to stay as close to meaning as possible. I am really only able to get into this style if the music moves me. I am not one who can mechanically perform at high speeds without any connection to the music. It just makes no sense.
The CDs and bands that moved me so much that I committed myself to becoming a drummer contained a great deal of meaning, message, and power. I hope to bring that through my participation in this band.

Sean:  Gar and I met through a mutual friend at a concert. I learned he and another friend were jamming as a black metal two-piece in Gar’s garage. I asked if I could get in on this playing bass. We had two rehearsals as a three piece where we rehearsed “I Am the Black Wizards” and “Blessings Upon the Throne of Tyranny”. The guitarist bailed after that but I stayed on and transitioned to guitar. We continued to rehearse other cover tunes until Gar asked if I had any original material of my own to bring to the table. I actually had already completed songs 1 and 3 from the album at that point. From there we just continued to write and rehearse new material.  Once I heard Gar’s vocal tracks on the original Sarcoptes demos with Steven on guitar I knew that Gar had to be the vocalist. I was blown away with his voice. At that point I pretty much knew we needed to continue on as Sarcoptes and not another project. We recorded the EP ‘Thanatos’ in February 2013 and began work on the album ‘Songs and Dances of Death’ in February of the next year.

> 2.So far the band has released an ep and a full length, how would you describe the
musical sound that is presented on both of the recordings and also how do they
differ from each other?
Garrett:  Well, the CD is just better [laughs]. Honestly, we have been under the double-barrel with the hammer clicked back every time we've tried to do anything. I've personally been stretched so thin I'm surprised I have made it out as loosely sane as I am throughout this experience.
The EP was a good opportunity to hear ourselves played back. I liked the vocals, and I liked Sean's work, and my drumming was ‘meh’. I've been caught up in too many bands at once to ever give this a full punch.
The CD is much closer to a true effort. I could sit and pick it apart until I make myself unhappy but it's really good. It's our music, laid out, with a great job by our producer to enhance our sound.

Sean:  Well the two songs on the EP were re-recorded for the album. So style wise there is no difference. I think the major difference would have to be in the production. Namely the keyboards on the album are much, much better sounding than the EP and the drums are much better as well. The mix on the drums and the clarity of the hits is greatly improved on the album. Style-wise it’s very much a blending of 90s black metal meets classic thrash with a dash of old school death metal. I’ve always thought of it musically as a mix of ‘In the Nightside Eclipse’ and ‘Reign in Blood’ with a dash of ‘The Bleeding’. Those were the kinds of sources I was drawing from. Early Emperor, Dimmu, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Metallica, etc. All old school influences from the 80s and 90s. In my opinion the album has the no-nonsense crushing riffs that made all those classic thrash bands so great but with the depth and grandiosity that made bands like Emperor so compelling. There’s no unnecessary intro or outro tracks, no ballads, no ambient tracks. All the fat has been trimmed.

> 3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the music?
Garrett:  This album is heavily centered around introspection. The constant narrative is one of self-examination, and the speaker is often in the grips of agony in understanding the weight of truth. There are also themes of becoming self-aware, to see what is truly there for better or worse. The fear of death, and its inevitability, as the truest justification for man's many (and sometimes ludicrious) forms of religion. Also one song is about Constantinople. I'm the uneducated hack of the two, so I just coat-tail the insight provided by Sean. But it sounds cool as f*ck.

Sean:  Gar’s description is pretty accurate. The opening track “The Veil of Disillusion” is basically about trying to transcend the mundane through contemplation of the mystery of existence itself. “The Sexton’s Spade” is presented as an allegory of a congregation worshiping Death. The meaning behind the allegory is that mankind’s fear of death is the true source of religious faith. All of the songs deal with topics like this. “The Fall of Constantinople” is about the invasion of Constantinople by the Turks and the ensuing slaughter of the city’s population. The moral of the story is revealed in the last verse which states “with God on their side all crimes are justified”. You can extrapolate that message not just to the subject at hand in the song, but to all kinds of atrocities that mankind has committed. Once people are convinced they are on the side or God or “right” they can then use that conviction to justify any action. I’ll leave the listener to decipher the rest of the album’s subject matter. But that is the general tone of the lyrics.

> 4.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Sarcoptes'?
Garrett:  Well, the rock-and-roll story behind it is that our founding member moved back to Texas and picked up Sarcoptes scabiei (skin mite) from a "lady-of-the-night" on one of his infamous benders. Pretty metal, to be honest.
Beyond that, it's just a kind of shocking, uncomfortable name without being like "Anus Farm" or "Re-mutilated Goat Labia." We wanted to get in the middle, and when we formally began as a two-piece, I knew Steven's band was sitting to not be used anymore, and figured it was an awesome way to both give tribute to a fallen friend and also carry the torch forward.

Sean:  Sarcoptes is the genus name of Sarcoptes scabiei, better known as Scabies or the itch mite. I loved the sound of the word. It seemed very mysterious to me. I also found the origin of the band name to be highly amusing. Honestly it has no real connection to the lyrical themes of the band.

> 5.According to the fb page one of the former members is deceased, was it hard keeping the band going after deal with that kind of experience?
Garrett:  Initially that was a devastating blow. I felt that I could have done so much more for the kid. He was truly one of the funniest people I’ve known. If there's one thing I've learned from doing this deal for a while, it's that if you can sit and laugh for hours with your band, you've got a keeper. That and his unheard talent for a unique vein of music, it was a great loss that many will not ever know went by.
Nonetheless, as a proud member of this unit today I can safely say that we do Steven justice by continuing forward under this name and playing this music. We are not simply black metal for the sake of the ambience, or the tattooed girls that are into a gothy look. This music has class, sophistication, and depth. This is something I think Steven would be proud to know his influenced matured into.

Sean:  I actually never met Steven in person. I think when he passed Gar and I were already doing our own jam together out of his garage. Nevertheless I heard those demos he and Gar did and was blown away that this 18 year old kid was writing these ferocious black metal riffs. I’m happy that we continued on with his legacy and feel we’ve done it justice.

> 6.Currently there are only 2 members in the band, are you open to working with other musicians again in the future or do you chose to remain a duo?
Garrett:  I think that creatively we will always remain a duo. There was a long stretch of time where Sean and I were able to carry on long conversations speaking entirely in inside jokes. That kind of rapport you just can't build quickly. Also, the drive of this band is very close to each of our spirit and insight into the world.
That being said, would I love to hire out a 5-star line-up and tour the world, not having to annihilate my bones on that cursed drumset? Of course. I'm open to any future, but the core of this band will remain the two of us. We have been scarred and bled enough times to make our positions unmovable.

Sean:  The core will always remain Gar and I. If either of us calls it a day then the band is done. It’s impossible for this entity to exist without one another. That being said, I would certainly be open to musicians doing guest spots on future recordings.
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 7.The new album was released on Cimmerian Shade Recordings, how would you compare
working with them to your old label Wraith Productions?
Garrett:  I am very happy to be working with Cimmerian Shade. So far, the interaction has been professional and comfortable, and it is nice when the label appears to enjoy your music and support what you're doing.

Sean:  Actually we were never signed with Wraith. I sent our EP to Wraith as a demo submission. Armando who runs the label was floored when he heard it and wanted to put out our full-length which was almost done at that time. Our time tables didn’t quite match up though so he recommended us to Cimmerian Shade Recordings who got back to us the next day. Wraith has done some distro on our EP though. So while we were never signed with them I consider them an ally. Dave at Cimmerian has been awesome. Very professional and completely enthused about the album and its potential. I’m very grateful for his support and for giving us this opportunity.

> 8.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of black metal?
Garrett:  I am not sure. On my end, I try not to pay too much attention to the feedback. I am extremely hard on myself as it is, and I would not want to piss myself off by reading the wrong trolling or flamed comment. That being said, it appears that several credible sources are liking what we're doing. I hope to continue to produce material to keep the listeners who enjoy this genre satisfied.

Sean:  The feedback I’ve received by and large has been very positive. I think once this album is released and people become aware of it, it’s going to turn some heads. The album is old school influenced without sounding like we are copying a specific band or a specific era of music. It’s taking what I think are some of the best elements of classic black, thrash and death metal and putting them through our own filter.

> 9.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
Garrett:  Personally I hope I get a lot better [laughs]. That's just me. We've become seasoned going through this process, especially in managing disappointments and setbacks. I am active in music in the area, and continue to rehearse on a daily basis.
I would like to explore more middle-ground with our music. I think our peaks and valleys are very nice, and would like to hear us jam out a bit more in the middle. Theme wise I am not sure either. A musical mentor of mine once said that if you have to continue to claim the same position, or the same grief against whatever entity or ideology you oppose, you are not succeeding. I think we nailed this b*tch straight to the cross on this one. We'll have to see what domain we want to tackle next.

Sean:  Musically I want to stay true to the foundation we’ve already established. The classic influences I’ve already detailed will always be the root and foundation of the band. I’ve been playing around with some very heavy doom metal riffs for a while now though, so that’s an element I’d like to incorporate into future work.
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10.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your
music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Garrett:  Definitely Dimmu Borgir. I was that kid who would spin the same CD for weeks at a time. I couldn't get over that mental rush of those blasts and grooves inside such dark music. Same with Emperor. Such an atmosphere, a presence, you were transported to a different place. Like a book with less effort [laughs]! Black Dahlia Murder too. Lots of cool shredding drum fills, musical and accompanying the guitar movement. That entertained my mind for a long time, I was so committed to figuring out how in the f*ck they were doing that!
Nowadays I branch out a bit more. I was really into 1349 for a while. It's so insanely brutal. Borknagar as well. I love the keyboard work. Bands with ambience in addition to the shred usually get my attention. I've also branched out into bands like Fit for an Autopsy, After the Burial, and Within the Ruins. Conquering Dystopia. It eventually just becomes anything with that caliber of musicality. I will always prefer the black metal style. But I will nod to anyone who's pouring everything they've got into it.

Sean:  Well, I’ve already detailed what some of my key influences were in the composition of this album. Slayer was a huge influence on the riff writing of this album. For my money Jeff Hanneman is the greatest riff writer of all time. Most of the thrash influence is from Slayer though there is also some Metallica influence in spots. All those minor third harmonies and those hammer-on pull off minor third riffs are a Cannibal Corpse influence. The influence of Emperor, especially their first album is incalculable. I learned so much about how to arrange keyboards and twin guitar parts from Ihsahn and Samoth. Obviously Dimmu Borgir was an influence as well, both in the riff department but more so in the vocal department. To this day Shagrath’s vocals on ‘Enthrone Darkness Triumphant’ are my favorite extreme metal vocal performance. I also learned from and was influenced by other bands such as Morbid Angel, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Iron Maiden, etc.

As far as what I’m listening to now... I’ve been working my way through a ton of classic old school thrash albums. Lots of it is new to me even though some of these albums are 30 years old [laughs]. I really enjoy going back and filling in the blanks in my musical education. Newer releases I really enjoyed were the new Tribulation record and the latest Paysage D’Hiver album which was incredible. 

> 11.What are some of your non musical interests?
Garrett:  I enjoy exercise, playing with my dog, reading, meditation and video games. I have education goals that are slow moving, but in my personal life experiences I have taken leaps, that most thought I was surely doomed to never make.
Sean:  I’ve been getting back into playing old school 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons with a group of friends and fellow musicians for a while now. Games like these really get the imagination and creative juices flowing. So that’s been a blast and what I’ve been doing with my spare time as of late. Outside of that I love reading, learning, movies and playing with dogs and cats [laughs]. I’m also always continuing to further myself in my career field.

> 12.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Garrett:  I appreciate you taking the time to ask us some questions. We are exactly as you see and hear us to be. I live inside my own transparency and only aspire to improve. I hope to continue to bring home the accomplishments, with additional tales of victory for the next time. Be safe and stay metal!

Sean: Thanks very much for your interest in the band and for this opportunity. Thanks again to Dave Lindley at Cimmerian Shade

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