Saturday, December 15, 2012

Swords - Miasma (w/ Interview)

We've been huge fans of Adam Goodwin's for well over a decade, either in mach tiver, Beaumont Hamel or in SWORDS (aka [monument of] swords). He's been doing it longer than almost anyone in this country, and doing it almost better than anyone in this country. Miasma - the final output from Swords, as Adam has moved away from Newfoundland back to Ontario - sees Swords taking on two giant pieces. I know this word "epic" is oft overused when describing big sounding music, but Miasma actual feel like an epic: The LP contains only two songs, but each fills the entire sides of the record. Almost Envy-like in its quality of movement and pacing. It's heavy, it's ambitious, it's got that narrative flow, it delivers. If you need to place it alongside some canuck contemporaries, Swords would fit well alongside Tempest or Le Kraken. The world has slept on this record - but often times, swan songs are the greatest eye-openers.

Get the LP from Anteduvia now.

We're posting up this Swords LP to coincide with the release of our Zine: Kindling issue #2. Kindling came about as we felt the documentation of our scene of post-hardcore within Canada is one that is largely undocumented (though our buds at Slept on the Floor are making strides!!). This stuff is important, and the dialogue within needs to be expanded. I was pretty excited to talk to Adam, and even though the release of Kindling #2 was supposed to come out for Ghost Throats, it's out now, looks beautiful, and is filled with interviews of some of the people in Canadian hardcore we felt were worth an interview.

Below is the interview with Adam Goodwin of Swords:

I know you were living in Ottawa at the time when Shotmaker, Okara, Uranus and all that (some of the best stuff produced anywhere in the world, let alone Canada) were exploding - and that it affected you profoundly. Can you tell me about that time and it’s affect on you?

I actually never did live in Ottawa, but the guys in Shotmaker came from my hometown area and so I was introduced to them before they relocated to Ottawa.  My first show I ever went to was to see Shotmaker but the second show was the real life-changer for me:  Shotmaker, Union of Uranus and Union Young America. 

In 1995 music became more than just that to me. It was the year of my final semester of high school going into my first time living on my own, attending college in Toronto. This year marked my real discovery of DIY punk rock. Labeling it as such does seem a bit trite and it is not really the punk rock part that is the most important (I have, only now, truly begun enjoying music which people would term as punk), though it is often holding hands with the DIY ethic, but rather coming to learn how much you can do on your own or with a few friends to help you out. i was always into music but it was usually music that held the glittery sheen of a major label, even though i could say that my musical tastes were not the popular taste (I loved metal, particularly the heavy kind like Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Sepultura and Grunge (well that was popular, you know Nirvana!) but nonetheless all major label artists.

In late 1994, I attended a local show for the second time (the first being a rather boring affair about which the only thing I took away from it was that one band had a bass player/singer who had the worst breath and every time he sang, my eyes would tear-up) in Cobourg, ON. This show had a resounding impact on me. The show was three bands: Shotmaker, Union Young America and Union of Uranus. I went because I was friends with people who knew Shotmaker (being local Belleville punks who had re-located to Ottawa earlier that year) and had met one of the band a few times. I was skeptical, the show was in a church basement (very un-metal) and these bands still put out vinyl records, a format which I thought was long-dead as I had been a die-hard cassette man and had just recently begun a pretty extensive CD collection. So the idea of releasing music on a format which had been proclaimed basically dead was a bit foreign to me.

Well from the get-go this show blew my mind. Union of Uranus was first and although at the time I was not really into them, i was amazed at certain aspects of them: their drummer was unreal, almost destroying the kit in his fury, and their bass player seemed to only play two notes the entire set. They were good but not really my thing: a bit too fast and frenzied. A few months after this show, in 1995, I ended up buying their 2x7”; probably one of the greatest outputs of Canadian hardcore (or punk, crossover, whatever you want to call it: most sounds were just called DIY hardcore at that point) and one of my all-time favourite records.

The second band was Union Young America. I do not know very much about these guys except: they were from Guelph, ON and they were, at the time, my friend’s favourite band. These guys were amazing. I hadn’t really heard much like them at that point. The only real reference I had was Fugazi with whom I was passingly familiar. Most hardcore bands were very much centered on screaming and harshness, not so with UYA. This 3-piece were aggressive but the main vocalist used an urgent singing voice as opposed to the relentless vocal-chord shredding of the previous band, Union of Uranus (whose singer screamed so hard that all he could do was stand in one-spot looking like he was trying really hard either to poop himself or to hold it all in, I think in the end he was able to hold it all in). Their music was driving and melodic but every once in a while they would drop into a cool mellower part and build it up into a bitchin’ climax. Anyways this was an excellent lead-in to my soon to be favourite band.

Shotmaker was and is my favourite band.
This was my second time seeing them (the first being the previously mentioned stinky bass-breath show) but it was my first time really seeing them. Up to this point they had released a couple 7”s and a demo tape, which I had heard and liked but was not blown away by: mostly due to my ears being used to over-produced metal and grunge recordings. Yet this set changed everything for me. From the first note played, the first beat struck, and the first scream unleashed they never let up. At one point the drummer was knocking over his cymbals and grabbing at them as they were falling and never seemed to miss a beat or vocal line. Shotmaker can be looked back upon as one of the archetypes of the mid-90’s emo scene. They spawned countless inferior imitators and in my opinion rose above the myriad of bands doing a similar style around that time (though many of these bands I still find great and love but they also feel a bit dated, a quality that Shotmaker doesn’t really suffer from for me).

I wanted to ask you about aging in hardcore. I have to say, I find the fact that you’ve continued to do this to be pretty inspiring.  How have you managed to remain vital and kept your vitality for hardcore well over a decade?

The biggest thing for me is that I still love playing music and I still love finding new music.  One thing I have noticed with friends of mine is that some are just happy to keep on listening to what they know and like, feeling that “back in the day” was always better, bands back then were always better, bands today are just watered down derivatives of those bands.  I strongly disagree with this mindset.  While newer bands often do owe a debt to older bands, it is their innovations that keep me interested. 

I have definitely slowed down in the past few years musically speaking, schedules of band members, as we get older, become more hectic and therefore touring is not as easy to do anymore.  But making music is still important to me.  I have been thinking about trying to do some solo type stuff, not really singer/songwriter, but rather just doing everything myself and seeing how that turns out.

Right now is the first time I have found myself without a musical project.  Having just moved to Toronto, my last band, SWORDS, has gone on indefinite hiatus, and although I have a few ideas of new projects, nothing has materialized yet.  It is harder to find like-minded people in my age bracket now, so finding people to play with is a little more difficult.  Now, for me, it is more about making music with friends rather than just people who are into the same type of stuff.

The packaging for all your projects have always been super inspiring and staunchly DIY - you do the screens yourself. Can you comment on the personality of creating every record by hand?

The idea of DIY is probably the most important thing to me about making music, in particular the packaging side of it.  I love being involved in the design and creation of the artwork, right down to cutting the paper, screening the covers and putting it all together.  That has to be one of the most satisfying things about being in band to me, holding that final product that I had a hand in making at each step of the process.  Now I know I have been lucky being able to do all the screen printing myself as not every band has the opportunity to work at a screen printing shop where it is encouraged to use the space in the production down time but I think it is important for bands to look into using screen printing as a way to do interesting and usually low cost packaging.  Screen printing is a fun and invaluable tool for bands.  So I encourage bands to seek out how to do it.

It was awesome to hear your sister (the other half of mach tiver) on the new record. It almost felt like a mach tiver reunion. Tell me about that time and what it was like to make music with her again.
Well, it was fun but I was also nervous.  Shannon’s parts were pretty off the cuff.  We didn’t give her much time to prepare her vocal lines but after it was all said and done I was really happy with how it worked out.  Her vocals were the very last thing we recorded for the record and I think the spontaneity and time crunch of the situation helped in the process; there was no time to second guess, we just went for it.  Ian was a huge help as well, coming up with ideas on the spot for her to try harmonies and different cadences.  Overall it was really fun.  Shannon and I have been talking casually about making some music again with each other but involving some more people this time to balance out the screaming siblings.

mach tiver were a pretty big deal back in the day for us. You two were one of the few bands willing to make the trek West. What about the disconnect between the east and west in this country. Are our cities just islands, or is there a Canadian collectivity?

When mach tiver were touring I felt that there was a collectivity to the Canadian scene and we loved heading out west.  I always felt Alberta and BC were great provinces to play in, particularly in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.   We became close with a few bands from those cities that helped us with shows and in turn we would help them with shows back here in Ontario.  Going on tour out west for us just became a sort of vacation to visit friends who incidentally set up shows for us. 

I don’t know if I feel the same way now though, and I think that might be in direct correlation to me moving out St. John’s where it is very difficult to do the cross-Canada tour in a reasonable amount of time.  But I also think it stems from me not being in a band that tours.  When touring, you are part of a community, I mean I basically dealt with the same group of people for 3-4 years of touring with mach tiver in Canada. 

I do think there is definitely a disconnect between the east and the west in Canada.  But it is the nature of distance in this country.  It gets harder to book shows once you are past Montreal heading east, I found that there were very few scenes in the Atlantic Provinces that were supportive of touring bands, and I have to say I was lucky to live in one for quite a few years:  St John’s, NL.  And although the scene there has ebbed and flowed since I moved there (like any scene), there always seems to be enough people that are interested in taking up reins and helping touring bands out. 

Even though you’ve released two 12” with SWORDS over the last little while - with all that output, it comes to just three songs, expansive as they are. In a genre that generally opts for brevity, what is it about the epic, 18-minute jam that attracts you? Do you feel you able to do more outside the confines of a 2-minute burst?

Well we have released more than just those 2 LPs, but we did specifically set out to write long, expansive songs with those 2 records.  When SWORDS started we wanted to tackle writing longer more exploratory songs where we could build and expand on a few ideas within one long number.  Now I will admit that going back and listening to Oceans (our 1-sided LP) we probably could have benefitted from a bit of self-editing, but at the time we were really excited about the possibility of writing 1 really long song, which may have been a bit self-indulgent, but you know, if you aren’t writing the music for yourselves first and foremost than you shouldn’t be writing it at all.  With the new record, Miasma, we set out to create, basically again, a 1 song album but with attention to creating movements within the song, but always revisiting the foundational structure with which we had started.  I do love the hypnotic and mesmerizing aspect of a good repetitive riff coupled with an evolving melody progressively building underneath.  With that being said, we have nothing against the 2 minute burst, as 3 of us in SWORDS were also in another band, Night Men, which tried to keep our songs around the 2 minute mark:  opting for a faster more streamlined approach to song writing.
Tell me a little about the scene in St. John’s. How has the seclusion of that city affected the scene, and affected the bands specifically?

When I first moved there, there were no touring bands coming through and I found that most kids were not very exploratory with their musical tastes, but within a couple of years, and of course the prevalence of music on the internet, that all changed.  All kinds of bands were popping up playing a variety of styles of punk/hardcore.  The scene itself was very insular and incestuous, there were some kids playing in up to 5-6 bands, some of these just switching around members onto different instruments.  This was exciting as there were new bands popping up all the time but also frustrating as some bands would only last for a few months.  There have been some really amazing bands in St John’s, while I lived there, that people should check out like:  Monsterbator, Geinus, Local Tough, Taxi Driver, Werewolf (actually you won’t be able to check these guys out as they never, unfortunately, recorded anything), Skullface and Others, Juicer, Which Side?, Triceratops, Clocked In, Veneers, Map to Temenos, plus a bunch more.   The St. John’s scene is pretty supportive of its bands; it was a great place to be and to play in a band.

What kind of fire do you want to build?

One that smolders as it gasps for air then ignites in a furious roar.

Interview by Kevin Stebner

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