Experimental metal wears many faces and can mean wildly different things depending on each individual listener and their tastes. Bay Area band Gürschach has been around since 2011 and on their debut EP Beautiful Nightmares were considered a thrash band. Fast forward to now and their debut full length Dark Matter shows a band that has moved way beyond their origins and are mining the experimental, forward thinking arena but also have put together an album that takes full advantage of and is a spot-on look back into each members varied paths to metal and rock. More on that later as we recently had the chance to ask X (lead guitar, vocals) and Scotty McRib (bass, vocals) our set of Profile questions. Read on to see what they had to say and how their influences crept in and took over. Also, hang around for their, just released, video for “The Night the Sky Rained Nukes.”
How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped for?
X: Honestly, I had never even heard much Rock music till I was 13 years old. The first experience I ever had with that kind of music was at a summer camp I went to for video production. During breaks, I saw people playing this new game at the time called Guitar Hero II, and I was enamored by it. Eventually I got the game myself and was so into it that I became one of those people who would attempt to hit 100% of the notes on Expert for every song. This led to my parents suggesting I pick up a real guitar and give it a shot, and it clicked with me immediately. The moment I started playing guitar, I was practicing every single day and wrote tally marks on my calendar to make sure I never missed a day. I’ve been playing guitar for 11 years now.
Scotty McRib: I began learning the Trumpet in my school at age 9. I found that I really liked playing music, and as I grew older, it expanded into other instruments: First drums, then guitar, then bass and piano! I’ve been in various bands playing various roles, but with Gürschach, I’ve found that I utilize it in the best way I could’ve hoped for, and it’s what’s made this project a longstanding and continued effort while still being rewarding. I wouldn’t say I’ve achieved the success I’d hoped for, but with a music career, everything is a work in progress, and reaching for the stars takes work!
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If you don’t have a story, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story.)
X: My worst experience getting onto a show was one in which we were contacted by a group that needed an opener for a last minute show where one of the original bands dropped. At the time we had yet to release anything, this show was only 4 days away, and we were already busy promoting other gigs. However, we accepted it to be polite since they were short a band on a show that was about to happen.
Thing is, as soon as we accepted, the front man of the band booking the gig kept forcing us to share the event all over Facebook every single day and dog all of our personal friends directly to attend it. The booker kept constantly removing our name from the lineup until we complied as if he was trying to dangle the opening slot over our heads. Despite how pointless it was to do all this for a last minute show, we complied anyway and still managed to bring a bunch of people with us. Our set didn’t go very well, and as soon as we finished we were pretty much rushed out of the venue, along with our fans. It was a pretty humiliating day for us.
Fast-forward a couple years later, we tried contacting this person again to put on another show since we had gained a much stronger following and a lot more experience. He declined, saying he distinctly remembered booking us years ago and that we brought nobody, and that the venue we wanted to get into was way out of our league. That’s the first time I’ve seen someone reject us ‘cause of one crappy gig we played years ago when we were still noobs. Ever since then, I’m a lot more selective when somebody tries to book us on a last minute show. Oh well, lesson learned.
SM: We once were asked to provide music for an underground wrestling event, and while the wrestlers performed well, there were certainly a lot of problems with the sound (and some hilariously drunk performances to say the least). It was billed as both the wrestling event of the local area, and as the reunion of an old band I played in before joining Gürschach. This sounded like a fun event, and the wrestling was well put together with very talented individuals, but the performances ended up not going so great. We had to play without Daniel, so we used a fill in bassist and I played drums. Needless to say, his parts were pretty challenging to imitate, and sing while playing, and my tiny PA couldn’t carry enough volume to make the vocals that audible. Alongside of this, I really should’ve invested in wireless mics to assist the wrestlers, as I didn’t have them and it limited how the crowd could hear them. Worst of all, my old band met day of to go over the old tunes, and as the night went on, one of my old bandmates was heavily inebriated after sampling the bar’s band tequila bottle. My old band’s set only lasted one song, to which after realizing an amp’s reverb was all the way up, the drunk bandmate collapsed, to which our set was effectively over. All in all, it was still a pretty fun time, and it’s piqued my interest in underground wrestling leagues, but it’s definitely one of the most unique gigs we had.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
X: In general, 2018 so far has been a very bitter sweet year for Metal. What happened to Taake was very unfortunate, but on the other hand Judas Priest released their highest charting album ever. A lot of bands are going on their final tours, but all the while Nu Metal is making a comeback. Overall, I think Metal is in the middle of a transitioning period where all of the established metal bands are looking for the next group to pass their torch to as they ascend to a higher rank, but not everyone has noticed yet. Being part of the current scene is almost surreal in that sense, ‘cause we get to see our friends in other bands potentially contribute to that. I know I’ll happily support whoever makes it to the next level.
SM: As a pretty big fan of the doom subgenres, it seems like that movement is doing great! Lots of great releases coming from a lot of good bands on that front from groups like Yob, Pallbearer, and Sleep lately, with a lot more to come! In a local sphere, it looks like a lot of bands are releasing albums this year, with Cultural Warfare, Wartroll, Phantom Witch, and more local metal bands putting out new efforts. Of course, the local scene has problems with “those guys” who do some rather illegal things, but it’s generally supportive otherwise. I’m proud to be a musician in this scene to be honest.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
X: I’m not what you would call an activist, but I do write songs about certain subjects I feel strongly about; some of which appear on our album Dark Matter. For the second track, “Purest Momentum,” I wrote that song about the issues I have with the war on drugs. It goes through the perspective of a person who becomes addicted to substances once they realize that all of the overly exaggerated PSA’s they’ve seen about what drugs do to people are all lies. But then when they get to the point where they really are experiencing problems, they can’t go anywhere to find help.
I’ve seen it happen to a friend of mine who was involved with a group of people in a lounge area. She and her friends would get together and smoke weed there when it was still illegal. It was a safe place for them until one of her friends in the group was raped by an outsider and everyone in the group tried to report it to the police. However, rather than apprehend the rapist, the police arrested everyone who was reporting the crime because they were using cannabis. When it gets to the point where the police would rather let a rapist loose than a bunch of stoners, it makes more rapes or murders go unreported without lowering the crime rates at all. For me, that feeling of having a problem that you can’t deal with yourself and can’t go to other people for help is one of the worst things that we as a people constantly have to deal with every day.
There are a couple more songs on Dark Matter that promote messages like that. If you listen through once, you’ll probably figure out which ones do.
SM: Well, we certainly live in a tumultuous landscape in today’s politics and news, and we used that in our first single “What Do You Think This Is (A Game)” a great deal. Game’s lyrics dealt with the three sides that got the US to where it currently is today and left a call to action to those currently involved. But outside of that, I haven’t really inserted much of my own passions or causes in the lyrics. My contributions were more instrumental this time around.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
X: When I was a younger, I wasn’t big into metal, but I was at least familiar with it. Early on I mostly just listened to bands like Nirvana, AC/DC, Daft Punk, and Buckethead. I honestly think the moment I got into metal was when my mother took me to Hard Rock Café, and I saw the music video for Metallica’s “St. Anger.” As much as people bash that album, that song resonated with me indescribably, and it led to me owning Metallica’s entire discography. However, it was when I got an account on Last.fm that I started discovering all kinds of other metal bands. I guess as long as it wasn’t rap, my parents were ok with it.
SM: I grew up near a pretty strong thrash and death metal scene in the East San Francisco Bay Area. It was pretty much all around me, and the classic rock I grew up on made it a rather easy transition. I began with the Nu Metal bands of the time like System of a Down, Disturbed, and Korn, but I found my way into thrash through Megadeth and Metallica. Since then, I’ve branched into other genres, such as Death, Doom, and Folk through the diverse tastes of my metalhead friends, none of whom have bad tastes in my opinion. I’ve been accused of Satanism once, but aside from that my family was cool with it.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
X: Take requests. Especially if you’re just starting out. Way too many critics and music reviewers go by the familiar adage “I don’t take requests” but the truth is beggars can’t be choosers. If all you want is to do what pleases you, then by all means, go and review whatever you want to review at your own pace. However, if what you want is to seek and serve a wider audience, then the best way for you to serve that audience is to let them tell you what they want to see. Making polls on what to review next is helpful.
SM: My advice, don’t be afraid of writing a negative review. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be constructive in your criticism, as every musician wants to know how to improve. I would also say that if you’re going to cover a hard genre, it would be best to be familiar enough in the genre before covering it, because someone reviewing a hard genre without liking it makes it harder to give a fair review. I mean, a person who primarily listens to rap wouldn’t like the new Deafheaven album, especially if it’s their first real spin in metal.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
X: My goal in the band is recording and releasing at least three full length albums that I’m proud of. If things go well, I may release even more, but even in the worst case scenario, all I want is to release 3 records. But some days when I’m not making music, I like to animate. It’s the only thing that calms me down these days, and I would love to have a career in animation if I ever get the chance.
SM: As a member of the Church Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster, I have no interest in cults, but I would love to tour as much of the world as I possibly can before my liver dies. Personally, I want to record and release as much music as I can, as I find myself writing continually, and slowly building what could be components for a home studio someday. A career in music would highly interest me, but I do have a day job (it used to be two) until I can figure out the best way to make that work.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
X: I have over 400 physical CD albums in my room, and nearly half of them I haven’t actually heard yet. I like to go through each of them one at a time, so I’m always listening to new music. Lately I’ve been going through a rap spree with Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, but every now and then I’ll always return to my favorite artist of all time, Buckethead!
SM: I really enjoyed Sleep’s “The Sciences” which came out recently. I try to listen to local releases, and Phantom Witch’s new stuff for their upcoming “Death As We Know It” album is sounding killer! Outside of metal, I recently got into Thundercat’s material, and I can be an annoyingly obsessive anime fan. Lately, Darling in the Franxx has most of my attention.
What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?
X: Scotty focuses mostly on getting us gigs, but I like to write new songs for future releases as well as produce videos for songs we release. We’ve got a music video Undead Empire coming out soon, and our lyric video for The Night the Sky Rained Nukes is almost out. After that we may do one or two more music videos, and then we’re planning on releasing some behind the scenes footage of the recording and writing process we went through with Dark Matter.
SM: We have a lot of shows planned, we’re set to play Portland Oregon next month, and we do plan on returning to a lot of old stomping grounds like Los Angeles, Arizona, and a lot more! We will also be part of Devastated Media’s Devastated Fest III in Berkeley on August 11th, with a lot of killer bands local and national (Taipan is the headliner!). We’re always looking to try to reach new areas though, and we hope to be playing at a venue near the reader soon!
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication.)
Many thanks to X, Scotty and Gürschach for their time!