By Andrew Bansal
Pasadena-based classic heavy metal band Gypsyhawk released their second studio album, and first on Metal Blade Records, ‘Revelry & Resilience’ on August 28th, an album I’m really fond of at the moment. They did a US headline tour after that, and are now gearing up to go out on the road again, supporting The Sword on a 37-date US tour. Gypsyhawk is a band that has been featured in the news, album reviews and gig reviews on this website, but I never really got a chance to do an interview with any of the members, even though they were pretty much ‘local’ to me for a long time. But finally today, on October 16th 2012, I spoke to vocalist/bassist Eric Harris over the phone to discuss the new album, the recent headline tour, upcoming stuff, and various other things. Enjoy this candid conversation below, and visit Gypsyhawk’s facebook and twitter pages to keep up with them.
You just got off a headline tour a few days ago. How was that? Did you have a good time?
Oh yeah, man. I always have a good time on tour, because the worst day on tour is better than the best day at work!
That’s very well put! So, your new album came out recently. It’s your first one on Metal Blade Records too. At point was it completely written and how long did it take you?
Well, after our last album, “The Fields” and “Silver Queen” were the first songs we had written, so those were already in our back pocket and then I had started working on other songs. So I guess everything came together within a month or so, but we had only six days to record 11 songs. So that’s how the recording part of it went, but as far as writing goes, honestly, I was stoned so much at the time that I think I’m missing out on a lot of shit that I should remember.
That’s not a surprise, man.
(Laughs) Yeah dude!
But once it was recorded and ready for release, how much of a gap did you actually have between then and the final release on August 28?
Oh yeah, it was a long gap! We recorded in February of this year, and the album was released in August. So I guess it wasn’t that long, but long enough, and to kill the time in between I was just touring around with my buddies in Huntress.
In terms of the musical style, this is pretty different from the first album. Do you think you found yourself during this album, and this is what you stand for musically?
Yeah, I think we kind of knew what we wanted to do with our first album, but it was just like, we weren’t completely sure of it. We were just kind of feeling it out and there were a lot of influences that we had to narrow down. I think we finally narrowed everything down, and on this album we sound like what’s going to keep us happy as far as making a musical style and in terms of how we make our albums, you know. The first one was way more progressive, and that’s cool. I’m down to get stoned and jam that shit sometimes, but overall, we are all about music with hooks and melodies that you can remember, you know.
Yeah I think the previous one was a little progressive, as you said, and had a psychedelic, stoner kind of a touch to it. This one is more of a rock ‘n roll album. Would you say that’s a good description of the change in musical style?
Yeah, it’s definitely more structured for sure.
I’ve seen you perform plenty of times in and around LA, and when you go up on stage you pull out your stage moves and dances and all of that stuff. When people see you for the first time, do you shock them? May be they expect a brutal heavy metal band or something, looking at your appearance.
Yeah, I know what you’re saying (laughs). I think that’s true a lot of times because people see us and we have long hair and full stacks. So they probably think we’re going to play some fucking heavy metal, and that’s why they get interested and stick around to see us. After the first song they’d be like, ‘Oh shit! These dudes are just like boot-scooting and partying, so this is awesome!’
On this recent tour, did you come across such audiences?
Oh yeah, every time that we play to somebody new, I think you can see a look of like, ‘I know what this is going to be’ in their eyes, you know, and as soon as we start playing, they’re like, ‘This is not at all what I thought this was going to be’ So it happens a lot, but it’s not an intentional thing where we thought we were so fucking clever. It just happens. I think that in the metal scene, so many fucking bands just take themselves way too seriously, that in turn it comes off as being a joke. So our biggest thing is, we are having fun and we’re definitely not trying to be serious about this shit. We’re serious about being in a band and playing, that’s about it.
Production-wise, how do you compare the two albums? Do you think being a label helped you in that aspect this time?
Actually, the same dude that recorded this album did the last album too. His name is Zach Oren. He has a studio in Oakland, and when he did our first album, he was used to doing albums for bands like Suffocation, and all death metal bands. So I think when he did our first album, he was kind of going along with the same formula that he was used to, but this time he was like, ‘Dude, I get it now. This time I know what you’re doing, and my band is doing the same shit. So let me work with you again, trust me and I’ll get this done.’ He sure as fuck did, he nailed it. Being on the label is rad, super fucking rad because they allowed us to put up our second album, but as far as production goes, it was the same guy the whole time.
Interesting, man. So, you’ll be touring with The Sword, and you have the Metal Blade 30th anniversary show opening for Armored Saint, and you were confirmed for the Mayhem Festival Cruise too. These are big moments coming up for your band.
Yeah, the Mayhem Cruise got canceled because of the Randy Blythe thing, but the fact that we got offered to do that is just fucking amazing to me anyway. We’re all super-stoked about going on tour with The Sword, as most of us have listened to them at one point or another, and thought, ‘This is fucking cool man, we dig it!’ And the fact that they asked us to go out with them was a huge honor and we’re super-happy about it. So that’s fucking rad, and as far as the Armored Saint thing goes, that’s a huge deal man. I think that’s amazing. Every day that I look at press that the label sends me, I’m like ‘Are you fucking serious?!’ Most people haven’t even heard us, so being on that show is just weird to me.
One thing I was wondering was, when you were writing or recording this album did you feel pressurized or stressed because being on a label you were going to be scrutinized a lot more, and your album was surely going to get more reviews in?
No. Honestly, I’m not fucking care what anybody thinks or says about our shit. It’s a hard thing to deal with sometimes when you’re a band, because you get press in and people are like, ‘Oh, you could have done this better.’ And you start to think like may be they’re right. But for us it’s just like, fuck it dude. We did not start a band so we could just suck a bunch of music journalists’ dick. We started the band because we wanted to play awesome, fun-ass music. If you like it, that’s rad. If you hate it, that’s also rad because you probably like something else.
You’re right! Now, I want to ask you about something which no other people have really asked you. I’ve been checking out your interviews and I didn’t found this question. I mean, it’s OK if you don’t want to talk about it. You can just tell me. So here it is. You were in Skeletonwitch, which is another band I really love. Why did you leave that band?
Well yeah, I don’t want to get too deep into it because I don’t want to sound unprofessional about it, but when I was in that band we put out some rad music, and then it was time for me to do something else. It had been a long-ass time. I had given some very, very serious thought to quitting that band well before 2008, and it just didn’t seem appropriate at the time for it to happen. So everything did come to a head. It was a shitty way that it went down, and I definitely still .. I shouldn’t say anything because it’s just going to be a dick thing to do, but .. getting out of that band was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Well, that’s cool man. Clearly you are happy doing Gypsyhawk now, so obviously you’re happy you quit Skeletonwitch.
Yeah, very very much, because now that I’m with Gypsyhawk I have an opportunity to be in a band where we can all have fun, there’s just no really stupid politics or some fucking rules made up about stupid shit. That’s just my biggest thing. Playing in Gypsyhawk is so much more relaxed and fun. It’s a really great time. I just love this band.
You clearly do. But, after quitting Skeletonwich, it must have been a big change in terms of the musical style, doing something like Gypsyhawk which is totally different.
Yeah, totally. I think the reason I wanted to change up the style was, I’m personally just fucking sick of modern metal, because it just got to a point where every 15-year old kid that I knew was just coming up with a metal band that was being picked up by a label, and all the promo pictures were with all these skinny fucking 13-year olds looking like they’re going to rip your fucking head off. I don’t get that shit man. I don’t get why those dudes always take themselves so seriously. So I was like, you know what, I’m done with this shit man. I’m not pretending to be an anti-hero or some shit like that. So just the whole genre turned me off a lot of shit. Rock ‘n roll is fun, and it was pretty funny because at the start of Gypsyhawk I was pretty sure that everyone was going to hate what we’re doing, but I don’t give a shit. We’re just going to do it because we have fun doing it.
Currently I think you’re involved in two other bands, Huntress and Green & Wood. Do you see that as an opportunity to keep doing something all the time, or do you feel stressed out about it sometimes?
Actually I’m not in any of those bands anymore. I quit Huntress just recently to pursue my path with Gypsyhawk, and as for Green & Wood, I played with them for a little bit but I’ve been out of that band for a while. I just like playing in a lot of bands because you feel like when you’re playing in bands that are different in style, it just builds your chops and adds to your musicianship. So that was something which interests me, so that’s why I was really into it.
Right, I’m really sorry if I sound uninformed. I just never came across any press releases or announcements regarding your leaving these bands! I guess it didn’t go through the proper news outlets and stuff. Sorry about that!
Oh no no man, no problem. It’s weird because as far as Green & Wood goes, I don’t know how my name was associated with them because they had a different lineup for a really long time so I don’t know why they didn’t change that info, and as for Huntress I thought that they had put out a press release or something saying that they got a new bassist, I don’t know. It’s funny, and you’re not the only one dude. Almost in every interview I do, guys are like, ‘So, how’s this Huntress tour going?’ And I’m like, I’m not in that band!
I’m glad we clarified that! People who read the interview will know about this if they didn’t already. Everyone will know that you’re in only one band now.
(Laughs) Yeah! I started Gypsyhawk in 2008, and it’s the only thing I care to do right now.
On that note, I’ll bring this interview to an end. Eric, it was a pleasure talking to you man. I hope the interview was fun for you too, and not too boring.
Yeah dude! I liked the interview. It was fun!
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