Circling The Pit With South Gate
There aren't many truly exciting things going on in the heavy music world today. Most of the older juggarnaut metal acts like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are too worn out and out of touch with what's truly relevant anymore to peak any interest with their latest offerings. And when Nu-metal legends like Korn flatout decide to release a disco album it forces one to stand in a dark corner alone wondering what the hell is happening to your scene. I was recently turned on to Detroit, Michigan's South Gate, and I am very much blown away by their machine gun rattling form of heavy metal. I went directly to their platoon leader, lead vocalist, Ness, to find out more about the battle they wage.
Rocket: Let me first say that South Gate is one of my favorite underground metal discoveries of 2006. First question I want to ask you is about your singing background. When did you first try your hand at metal vocals? You are a very talented young man.
Ness: I have always been a fan and student of metal from the beginning. I guess I have sort of created my own style by learning from and listening to some of the greats. This would include the likes of Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio, Geoff Tate, of course the old Metallica days, Slayer and evolving ultimately with modern day greats Phil Anselmo of Pantera, Slipknot's Cory Taylor and influences such as Machine Head, Sepultura and Devil Driver. I guess you could say I have experimented with many different styles of vocal tones and I think it helps to have as many guns in the case as you can. I truly believe I have found my true place with the band South Gate. The chemistry we have together and the style of vocals I have been able to achieve with this group of individuals has made me that much better of an individual musician and vocalist. When you have a great chemistry it makes each individual that much better. The machine, is only as bad ass as the parts that make it go. We are also honored that you see us as a great discovery. That makes all our hard work worth while to have someone such as yourself behind us.
Rocket: What does the band moniker South Gate mean?
Ness: The South Gate is where we all reside in this world as we know it. I will leave that to your imagination. It also made sense from an ironical standpoint that we all grew up together in Southgate, Michigan. Like I said, we kind of leave it for the fans to create their own ideas of what South Gate as a name means to them. We kind of like to think of it as a family of as many adopted lost orphans we can give a sense of belonging too…hence the Gate is always open so to speak.
Rocket: When did this band first form exactly and tell me about the rest of the band. Is this the original lineup?
Ness: Yes, believe it or not this is the original line-up, other than having experimented with some sampling and moments of scratching at one time. Those duties and background vocals were done by long time friend Ron Leslie who is no longer with us in the band, however, we remain friends and he will always be part of the South Gate family. It just got to be where it just didn't fit us anymore, and it kind of slowly phased itself out of being what we were about. The band actually started out as an experiment/recording project between myself, Eric Lindstrom-Guitar and Steve Fraczek -Drums back in oh 2002. We all had some ideas on what we wanted to do and it just kind of went from there. We all came from some different sort of influences but ultimately loved the same kinds of heavy music. Some rough recordings came out and we started to realize we had something special, like I said earlier we all grew up together and were already friends so the chemistry was already in place. Now we just needed a bass player to complete the line-up. I suggested my long time friend and former band mate from the band Tread, Mike Treadway for the job, he fit in instantly and immediately brought even more chemistry to the table, before long, we had fifteen or so songs written that began to evolve into what we ultimately decided to call South Gate.
Rocket: Who are some of the band's biggest metal influences?
Ness: Black Sabbath, Metallica(old), Slayer, Slipknot, Pantera, Devil Driver, Lamb of God, would be a few of our common favorites. Eric Lindstrom on guitar is a huge Machine Head fan as well as Unearth and Flotsam and Jetsam way back in the day when Newsted was the man. Oh, and Alex Skolnik was always a major influence on him too. Steve Fraczek on drums was very much influenced by Rush's Neil Peirt from an early age. He is a huge Slipknot and DD fan as well…I also remember him taking a liking to Helmet a lot a few years ago. Mike Treadway has an industrial influence Skrew, Ministry, Jack off Jill to name a few as well as being a fan of, well, anything fuckin heavy…as he would put it. Myself, I have a secret love of the Doors and Jim Morrison's lyrical patterns, as well as being a fan and influenced by all the above said bands other than industrial, but I can't even say that because I am a big fan of Marilyn Manson and they touch on the industrial side of things. I think you get the picture. We have an unbelievable amount of influences that I believe really help us to sound as different as we do.
Rocket: You guys sound like Slayer meets The Deadlights, but South Gate seems to have a strong grip on clearly defining itself as its own metal band. Is that something you guys work hard at to achieve or do you even care?
Ness: Well, we pride our music on not sounding like anyone else, we strive for originality but yet are influenced by those that have done what we want to do and/or are currently achieving success in the metal world. To answer that more specifically, we care, but I think it is more of a pride in ownership kind of thing, a lot of what we come up with and ultimately gets refined into a completed song just simply comes from our hearts and deep down in our souls. The comparison to those two great bands is very much appreciated although we as most bands do, want and strive for our own identity.
Rocket: You guys are signed with the indie label Blood Brother Records. Tell us more about what this deal is all about? Is it for multiple albums? And when is South gate going to release a debut album?
Ness: Blood Brother records is the brain child of myself and our ass kicking manager Gary Jones-a.k.a.-Sticky, along with Blood Brother Records we have created the MBM (Michigan Brotherhood of Metal. It (MBM) has accomplished what it has set out to do. We wanted to form an organization of metal bands to bring the strength in numbers mentality back to the Michigan metal scene. We have accomplished exactly that with the help of people like yourself, Karen Elliott, Ryan Bartek, Tammy from Rock the Madhouse, Screamin Scott from 101.1 Wrif, the many cooperative club owners and especially the bands and their fans who have come on board with the MBM. South Gate as an entity/client of Blood Brother records has pulled their weight in gold for the label, right now, they are the only signed band on the label due to funds, but the ultimate goal is to sign more of the great up and coming bands here in Detroit as the funds for recording, touring and merchandising become available hopefully through profits from MBM shows. Oh, by the way, South Gate's debut release is scheduled for June 6th …(6-6-6)…which we are very much looking forward to as we currently have moved well over 3,000 copies of the "Psychological Warfare" demo...not bad for a years time without a major label or tour.
Rocket: That is very impressive. Psycho Crisis is clearly my favorite song so far from what's being featured from South Gate's music profile on MySpace. What is this song about?
Ness: Extreme chaos about sums it up best. It could be chaotic life trials and tribulations, relationships, etc. or just someone who has shit in your face one too many times and your standing up to them and letting them know, "Hey mother fucker, you will never break me or put me on your fuckin leash, ever! I am free to live life however the fuck I wanna do it so piss off and get the fuck out of my way." Uh oh, I think I just transformed into, NESS...lol…excuse me, I need to go break something in half...be right back...
Rocket: Haha, right on, man. It's all good. Bust some shit up for me too, bro. Listen, I understand South Gate has been getting airplay on the legendary Detroit rock station, 101.1 WRIF. What songs have they been playing? And describe what you felt when you first heard your own music playing over the airwaves?
Ness: Ah, I feel better already. Primarily the song, "Let Go" has received the majority of the airplay on Screamin Scott's Midnight Metal. The first time I heard it actually, I was getting laid…put it this way, I had to stop so I didn't hurt the poor girl, if you know what I mean...haha.
Rocket: Alrighty then. Got yah. So what is your opinion of what I term "Faux metal bands" like Avenged Sevenfold and the likes. And faux is french for false by the way. Which is what these guys are.
Ness: My Mom and Dad always told me, if you couldn't say something nice, just say nothing at all, keeps you out of trouble. I really do love and appreciate a very wide range of music, but maybe I just don't get this whole type of music, sorry guys, just not my thing.
Rocket: Each band member of Avenged Sevenfold is a tool, little bro. I have no fear in saying that. They are ruining heavy metal.... oh shit, I think I need to go break something now. Haha. Okay, so how has the local touring been going for the band in the Michigan scene? I imagine you heads have been getting a major response and the pits rolling.
Ness: Michigan as a whole has been great, some of the craziest mother fuckers I have seen anywhere. New York and Ohio have also been pretty great for us. We plan on expanding our touring space as the cd rolls out. Oh yes, we have had some tremendous mosh pit response as well as a packed stage one night...
Rocket: South Gate is hooked up currently with Elliott Booking, right? Does Karen Elliott know her metal or what? Actually, she's married to one of underground metal's most talented singers, Chad Elliott of Scarefactor and I just love her to death. She's a real cool lady, huh?
Ness: Karen Elliot has been a godsend for us and her support of South Gate and metal is second to none, she is a quality person and stands for what is truly right. The Metal world needs about twenty or thirty more of her just for starters. She has built a great working relationship with our manager, Sticky and we look forward to working with her for a long time to come. If you think your band is ready, I highly recommend getting in touch with her.
Rocket: I see you guys are fans of Flotsam and Jetsam. Are you guys into Voivod at all? Former Flotsam member, Jason 'Jasonic' Newsted, has been holding down the four strings for the Vod before he now goes and does this new reality show following the formation of a super band called, imagine this now, Supernova. Haha. I am a big time fan of Denis 'Piggy' D'Amour by the way, rest in peace, bro.
Ness: I myself am not a huge Voivod fan, but anyone who has touched souls like a Piggy D'amour, or a Dimebag Darrell always deserves the fuckin highest Horns High Salute from their brothers of the metal world...here's to ya boys, (tip my beer).
Rocket: South Gate has developed a pretty strong following via MySpace that I've observed. How important is marketing via the internet to this band?
Ness: At this point without a major label or major worldwide tour it is the one true way to reach the masses without the above. I think it is going to be crucial in the months and years ahead, unless of course major label status is achieved but I think it will still play a part even at that point. It is the way of the now and future for marketing anything including music.
Rocket: What are some of the shows coming up for South Gate?
Ness: April 21st, your good buddy and ours Karen Elliott has invited us out to Battle Creek to play her show at the PLANET ROCK, April 23rd we hit the all ages club, Modern Exchange in Southgate Michigan, Club Soda in Kalamazoo Mi. April 28 th and finally the biggie. MBM - Metal til Death Fest, May13th at the Token Lounge, Westland Mi. where we welcome in Virus from Dope as the special guest host. We got 8 of the premier metal bands around MI including Mindrought, Writhing, Internalize and Cursed Eternity along with some buds of ours Fireborn, the lone out of stater from Buffalo, NY for anyone interested we have a Myspace page set up for the show at www.myspace.com/metaltildeathfest.
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