An Interview with Skeletonwitch Vocalist Chance Garnette
Band Photo: Skeletonwitch (?)
Skeletonwitch has been assaulting their hybrid of thrash, death and black metal to unsuspecting crowds since 2003. The Ohio natives are one of the hardest working bands in the underground and have won the respect of fans and critics alike. Now signed to Prosthetic Records, they recently released "Beyond the Permafrost" and will head out on tour with Hate Eternal in April. I recently spoke with Skeletonwitch vocalist Chance Garnette exclusively for Metal Underground.com anout about the band's history, his love for Howard Stern and his thoughts on the thrash metal resurgence.
Carlos Ramirez: Your brother also plays in the band. What was your upbringing like and how supportive is your family?
Chance Garnette (vocals): Nate and I are lucky to have such a cool family. Our parents have been riding Harleys for a long time so we got to grow up around that scene. We've spent hours and hours in the garage with our dad wrenching on bikes, drinking a few beers, and telling lies. We even get away with letting the "F" word slip around our mom. Our family has always been very supportive of our musical endeavors. Nate and I both started playing drums in 6th grade so they have been putting up with our noise for over 20 years. So yeah, they are pretty damn supportive!
Carlos: Something about your sound reminds me of a lot of the late 80's German thrash bands that I loved like Kreator and Assassin. But there are also elements of death and black metal thrown in. Can you talk a little bit about the influences and are my comparisons fair?
Chance: We are influenced by all three: thrash, black, and death metal. We have never said, "We need a black metal part right here," or "Let's make this one all thrash." One guy may be more of a "thrash" dude and another guy a "black metal" dude. Those dudes write a riff together, and I happen to do death growls over it, you see where I'm going? The Skeletonwitch sound is the result of our collective influences. We don't write with a preconceived notion of making it death, black, or thrash metal. More than likely, it will be all three on its own.
Carlos: It seems like metalcore and screamo bands have all the rage in the past few years. Did you guys have trouble finding an audience for the first couple of years or were people receptive early on?
Chance: There are, and will always be, fans of "metal." Ask a life long Overkill fan about screamo and see if they even know what it is. It's been 100% off my radar as well. Even though metalcore and screamo may be "in" lately, metalheads have always been there and will never leave. I see some of the same people that I saw on our first tour in 2004 as I do now in 2008. Bobby Blitz said it best: "Evil Never Dies!"
Carlos: You have a really distinctive, screechy vocal style. Has it been tough on you physically on tour with all the wear and tear your voice gets?
Chance: After waking up in a frozen van night after night of drinking, playing shows, smoking, and still drinking, you'd think my voice would be gone! It hurts most mornings on tour, but after a while its fine. I'll drink some hot water throughout the day, maybe not smoke before we play. After a handful of beers, I get on stage and its fine!
Carlos: The lyrics are very cinematic in feel and scope. Do you find inspiration from old-school fantasy-action films?
Chance: I try to be as descriptive as possible, and paint a mental picture of what's going on in within the lyrics. I guess it could be called cinematic in scope. I mean, most of my lyrics tell a story, now that I think about it. You busted me, the next album was gonna be lyrically all Star Wars! haha!
Carlos: Are you going to explore similar themes on future releases? Do you ever see Skeletonwitch writing topical songs?
Chance: I doubt I'll ever write songs about the war in Iraq, the government, racism, or how I didn't get everything I wanted when I was growing up! We live with that shit every day, I want my lyrics to be an escape from the topical, let's grab a beer, bang our heads, and have some ol' fashioned evil fun! "This ones about Satan!"
Carlos: The cover art and layout for "Beyond the Permafrost" definitely harkens back to the days when metal packaging was a complete and engaging experience. You would go home with a new album and soak everything in as one complete artistic vision. How did you hook up with John Dyer Baizley? I know he's also in Baroness.
Chance: Yeah, I'm really happy with the album art and layout. I remember buying tons of cassettes back in the day just because the artwork looked exactly like what I was looking for musically. I got burned a couple of times; Meatloaf "Bat out of Hell" isn't nearly as cool as it looks! We hooked up with John Baizley through playing shows with Baroness. He also did the cover of our EP, "Worship the Witch." He's a good friend of ours now, and has always turned out amazing things for us!
Carlos: Cory Smoot of Gwar produced the album and does a great job of capturing the essence of the band. Was his work with Municipal Waste what sold you on him?
Chance: Cory's work with the Waste definitely played a role in us going with him. Plus, Nate and I are huge Gwar fans as well! We wanted the album to be clean, but not sterile, so you can hear every instrument. We wanted it to be very representative of our live sound, not a million effects, or over produced. I think we got just what we were looking for on this one.
Carlos: Which songs are people reacting to the most during your live show and will this influence the direction you are heading into songwriting wise?
Chance: It really depends on the show. At some shows kids are yelling "Baptized in Flames" and at others "Limb from Limb." I'm stoked to see a lot of the kids are singing the lyrics to songs like "Beyond the Permafrost," "Upon Wings of Black," and "Fire from the Sky." I don't think that we will intentionally write new songs in the vein of our other songs because a particular song went over well. We'll just put it all into the fire and see what we get when it comes out…that's what we've always done.
Carlos: After being on a bill with three or four other heavy bands, how do you guys unwind in the van? What kind of music do you play in the van?
Chance: Well we sleep most nights in the van, truck stop, rest area, Wal-mart, etc. We all have our own seat and area so we're not up each others' ass all the time. As far as what we listen to in the van: lots of Howard Stern, Nate listens to oldies when it's late at night and he's still driving, we've been getting books on tape a shot lately, plus we all bring some of our own shit so we all get equal time with our personal favorites. We make a lot of mix CDs. Basically, in the van we play things you'd think we'd play and a few things you'd be shocked to know about.
Carlos: What is the biggest misconception people have about Skeletonwitch?
Chance: When a person hasn't heard our music but has read the reviews, sometimes they have in their head that we are a thrash resurgence band. I'd like to think we have the spirit of thrash, the frozen heart of black metal, and the claws, teeth, and malevolence of death metal. Go get "Beyond the Permafrost" and you'll get a hell of a lot more than thrash resurgence!
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