Having inflamed like so many others, our passions with their blistering intensive and thrilling album Matterhorn, Canadian noise metallers The Great Sabatini returned earlier this year with an even greater mouthwatering proposition. Third album Dog Years is a masterful tempest exuding virulently destructive and invasive sonic devilry; an enthralling examination and manipulation of the senses. Not needing to be asked twice, we rifled questions at Sean from the band to discover the depths of The Great Sabatini, talking about origins, lyrical intimacy, musical magick and much more…
Hey Sean good to meet you and thanks for giving over some of your time to chat with us.
Tell us about the birth of The Great Sabatini and the time leading up to the uncaging of the band in 2007?
Hey, nice to meet you too. It’s our pleasure to talk a bit about our dumb selves. All of us came together when bands we were previously in collapsed. We all decided to start moving away from the kind of things each of us had been doing with past efforts, musically. It seemed to come together easily, naturally. We just kind of went with the flow.
How did the four Sabatini’s meet?
Rob and I have been playing music together since we were 15 or so. We’ve played in bands together since that time. We knew Joey from other bands around town, and even shared a jam room together years before we started playing together. We met Steve in Sudbury, 2004 at a really crappy weekend fest that both of our bands at the time were playing. We became fast friends, and the rest is history.
Did the band start out with a specific intent and is that still the same driving force now or has it evolved with your music?
I think the only intent really was to move away from our previous musical comfort zones. Rob and I were used to writing more technical metal things in standard tuning, so there was a focused effort to distance ourselves from that. We bought baritone guitars and started slowing things down naturally, due to the nature of the much lower tuning and feel of the instruments. You can’t be as busy sometimes when you’re playing in a lower register, so riffs start slowing down for clarity’s sake. In regards to intent, it’s the same as it was from day one; keep challenging ourselves to create music that subverts our own comfort zones as artists. It might not be a huge leap from record to record, but there is movement, and growth, with every new project we take on
You sound is a unique brew of noise, sludge, doom, progressive rock…and plenty more. How would you describe it to simplify things?
As a kind of inside joke, we refer to our sound as “swamp trench arithmetic”. Maybe it hints at a sludgy math-rock vibe… Usually I describe us as a sludge band, because for all the variety rolled into our songs, all of it is pretty grimy or sludge-based. The end result is sort of wrapped up in this sludgy package.
We discovered you through your second album Matterhorn, a startling and riveting treat to our ears. How would you say your music and creativity has changed and evolved from your first days, through that great album and onto the just released Dog Years?
I think that, as songwriters, we focus on making things simpler; communicating ideas in a simpler way. Part of that is recognising our strengths, and reining them in. We want to include a myriad of ideas and influences into our sound but feed them through our creative process in a way that results in more a more cohesive end result. I suppose one might call it “nuance”… Not something that most folks associate with brutal, loud music, but I feel that there’s more and more depth and nuance to our songs as we go. Matterhorn was the first time I really felt like we’d accomplished a certain level of that in our music. The songs are relatively simple in structure and riffing, and seem straight forward production-wise, but there’s a subtle balance of feels and ideas stitched together throughout. I think Dog Years employs this much better. Taken at face value, it’s a loud, raw, angry record, but there’s a lot going on in the songs, in a way that isn’t like an overt genre mash-up kind of thing.
We feel the brilliant Dog Years, and it is, is less cruel and destructive than its predecessor but has a more intensive and precise examination of the psyche which makes it just as exhilarating and threatening. Is that something you would agree with?
I do agree. Matterhorn was about cruelty and violence and the harshness of life, ‘cos that’s what I felt when I heard the music we were writing. Dog Years, musically and lyrically, is kind of exploring the things that drove us to play music initially. It has some throwback moments with the punkier parts, and maybe it rocks out a little easier. I still feel like it’s a punishing, loud, angry record but maybe you picked up on the focus of the record. It’s hard to tell sometimes, as the creators of the music, how much of what we’re saying is obvious and how much is completely buried in the end result, but Dog Years is more of a look inside OUR heads and our history, to some extent.
Did you approach the writing and recording of your third album in any way differently to the previous release?
Well, we usually do a lot of writing together in the jam room but a few small bits were demoed separately and sent out via email to the guys, and then tweaked and moulded by each of us on our own time. The songs are totally malleable… they can change easily before we hit the studio. In the past, a lot of our material, especially the Matterhorn stuff, was played on the road a lot before it was recorded, so the songs adapted and changed a bit more, but almost all of the Dog Years material was written and then quickly recorded with less time to mutate. Maybe that gave it a bit more immediacy, or urgency.
I guess the studio and recording process is something always bringing new lessons and discoveries which can be used or avoided next time. Was there anything from Matterhorn which had that inspiration and any new things learned with Dog Years?
There’s always a learning curve. We’re always learning things and trying to apply them the next time around. I can’t think of any major things that happened with Matterhorn that wound up shaping Dog Years in an obvious way… we’ve always strived to make things sound more raw, natural or live-sounding on our records and Matterhorn was a nice step in that direction, but Dog Years, I feel, has a bit more of that raw thing going on.
How long was the new album in the making?
We started writing in earnest at the start of 2013. We spent a lot less time on the road that year and really just focused on writing. By December 2013 we were in the studio and by February of this year the record was mastered. It was a pretty quick turnover, for us.
Like a great many bands do you have to struggle and deal with obstacles of everyday life when it comes to creating and certainly recording a record?
Obstacles are always present. But we’ve been a band for almost 7 years and we deal with things together, in a focused manner, quite efficiently. Making records is something we’re always trying to get better at, but we’ve all been doing it for over ten years and our collective experience is constantly being employed to overcome any obstacle. Thankfully, we’re all really good friends, so we’re good at working together to accomplish our goals
There seems an intimacy at times to the lyrical side of your music which suggests inspirations often come from things close to home and personal experiences. Give us some idea of stories or situations to songs upon Dog Years.
Some of the songs relate to people or things in our personal history. Pitchfork Pete is about a guy Rob and I knew many years ago. Some of the songs deal with our rituals, our perception of our lives as romantic black-magick purveyors of the Almighty Riff. When the reality of being a penniless touring musician sets in, the thing that keeps us going is the magic. Music is total magic and we have fun projecting some kind of cartoonish self-importance onto the band. It’s much more fun to think of ourselves as traveling Riff-Warlocks spreading the unholy gospel of Satan through amplified guitar riffs than it is to see ourselves as the jaded, ageing heshers that we ACTUALLY are. We’re following our dreams. Dog Years is a glimpse into that world, we hope. Lyrically it’s all about that… the world we’ve created for ourselves, full of feral beasts, oracles, war-cries, Viking battle-lust and strange visions. But sometimes this kind of fantasy shit collides with the naked truth of our choices in life, and that’s where the “Dog Years” thing comes in. One day, maybe, we’ll be old men looking back on these times as our Dog Years, all that time we spent hammering away at our dreams.
How does the creation of songs more often than not transpire in the band?
More often than not, Rob and I write riffs or ideas in our own time, and then, when we get together, the ideas are presented and everyone puts forth their own takes on the riffs and we arrange the structures together. There isn’t any one mastermind. Everyone’s fingerprints are on the end result.
Is there a particular moment or twist in Dog Years which gives you an extra inner tingle of pride or just satisfaction?
I think each of us probably has his own moment like that, but for me, Akela was one of those. I wasn’t thinking that would be on the record, but the guys heard my demo, and wanted it to be there. It’s a pretty naked thing, for me, to have a song like that on there. There isn’t any wall of noise to hide behind. I recorded that in my room at home and everyone agreed that to re-record it might ruin it. So, I feel pretty happy that Akela is on the final cut.
Tell us about the great ‘scary’ album cover.
We wanted the cover to reflect our childhood in some weird way. We were aiming for an image that looked borrowed, from another time, not from 2014. I made the puppet, and he represents a certain aspect of our collective personality. Rather than actually steal an old image that may have worked just as well, we opted to create this thing ourselves and hopefully imbue that aspect into it in a subtle way. Really, I want people to see it, react to it, and fill it in with whatever feeling they think is best.
The album has been released on the great Solar Flare Records. How did that come about and is it true that the equally brilliant Sofy Major has some inspirational input?
We met Sofy Major first in North America when they came here to make a record and tour a bit and then later when we played with them in France. Sofy Major/Solar Flare are the raddest dudes on the planet, so their interest in Dog Years is incredibly flattering. Those dudes have been through a lot and suffered it all with a smile on their faces so that alone is a huge inspiration to us. Their music is incredible… I don’t wanna butter them up too much, but getting to work within that particular family is a huge privilege.
What is the Montreal metal and rock scene like right now and specifically in regard to your style of creative mayhem?
Montreal is always a hotbed of awesome music. In recent years, more of the sludge, doom, noise-rock and stoner rock stuff has been surfacing, which is nice, but I feel like everyone here is reacting to their surroundings, in a nice way… nobody is trying to sound like anyone else, I feel. Everyone that I know kind of does his or her own thing and tries to blaze their own trail. Sometimes it’s hard to be heard among all the amazing bands and artists, but we have our niche.
What comes next for The Great Sabatini across the rest of 2014?
We’re just about to get home from the first stretch of touring. We’ll probably do a few small things this summer but in the fall we head out again to do some touring in the U.S and then get ready to hit Europe in the spring of 2015.
Once again big thanks for sitting down with us; any final words for us to contemplate?
Thank you for your interest and support. Final words? Ummmmmmmmmmmmm……
And lastly give us an idea of the biggest inspirations on you musically and individually.
Take your basic 80’s/90’s generation stuff, all the grunge, punk, metal and hardcore, and throw our dad’s old Beatles, Zeppelin, Sabbath, and King Crimson records in there too. We’re all just disciples of this great tome of Rock. Finding a nice balance is the hardest part when starting a band, but ALL of that stuff is in our music, and album covers, lyrics etc. You could get real specific and say things like Melvins, Today Is The Day, Helmet, Jesus Lizard, Napalm Death, King Crimson, or what have you, but there’s just too huge a range of stuff influencing us to make for an easy answer.
Read our review of Dog Years @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/the-great-sabatini-dog-years/
The RingMaster Review 21/06/2014
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