Earl Heath And Dave Cotton From Seven Nines And Tens Talk Upcoming Album "Habitat 67"
Band Photo: Seven Nines and Tens (?)
Bassist Earl Heath and Guitarist Dave Cotton from Vancouver, Canada's up and coming progressive metal act Seven Nines and Tens recently sat down with Metalunderground.com to discuss a variety of different topics. From the band's beginnings, coming up in the local scene, to its inspirations and most importantly the impending release of its debut full length album "Habitat 67," Seven Nines and Tens offered in depth insight into its musical realm. A band known for being as heavy as it is adventurous Seven Nines and Tens are preparing to take its unique brand of instrumental progressive metal out on the road by the end of the year to anyone willing to listen.
Cody B: So first off, how did the band come together? What is the history behind Seven Nines and Tens?
Earl: 7 9s and 10s has been Mr. Cotton's brainchild from the very beginning. After a spate of tryouts for various instrumet-filling positions, David settled on a young bassist named Aylon, and they started carving out a bunch of Dave's bizarre, other-worldly ideas into actual songs. They cycled drummers for awhile, trying to find someone who 'fit', and picked me up through a craigslist post titled "lonely prog-drummer seeks whack-job outfit." After a few successful first-shows, we decided we needed another guitarist to fill in some of the meaty space, and picked up our friend Matt who was an excellent addition. We had a blast playing together, but Matt decided he needed to concentrate on his own musical endeavors, and he amicably split from the band but we're still all very good friends. Aylon - the bassist, remember? - also took that opportunity to leave the band, mainly because he had other commitments to fulfill, while Dave and I were getting quite serious about the band and focusing on perfecting the material. So there Dave and I are, a drummer and a guitarist, trying to figure out how to fill these voids, when several pieces fall into place and all of a sudden our lineup consists of two drummers (myself and Riley) and three guitarists (Dave, Jono, and Mike). The two-drummer lineup was...interesting. Fun as hell, a little lacking with no bass, but still an excellent configuration and an awesome opportunity as a learning experience. Fast forward: Mike leaves the band for much the same reasons as Aylon and Matt, while I move on full-time to the bass for a more traditional lineup. Dave, myself, Riley, and Jono are making sweet sweet music together, when Jono makes the announcement that he has to reluctantly bow out of the band to move back to the U.K. True to his dedicated and persevering spirit, Jono tracked down the brilliant Hayz Fisher so we could track a couple of songs in Vancouver's Dead Room studio before he took off for the land of proper pints and crisps. Almost caught up: we are now composed of Dave (guitars), myself (bass/drums), and Riley (drums/bass), and are mixing our tracked songs with Hayz. The culmination of all of this is that we are immensely excited for our first full-length release! Whew! Got all that?!
Cody B: So how did the name Seven Nines and Tens come about? Its quite unique.
Dave: We literally posted 10 band names on facebook and asked people to choose their favorite. Seven Nines and Tens was the victor by a large margin. The name itself is a phrase from the song "stars" by the band Hum. They were successful mainly in the 90's and now have a ridiculous cult-like following comparable to that of a smaller scale Jesus Lizard or Murder City Devils.
Cody B: How would you describe your bands sound to those who have yet to check you out?
Earl: It's like the kind of progressive, fusion-y metal you'd expect to hear in outer space.
Cody B: What inspirations do yourself and the other band members draw from?
Earl: My inspirations are purely emulation of my favorite artists, I make no secret of that. My current obsessions for bass are Jeff Schmidt the solo fretless bass wizard, and Sean Malone of the progressive juggernaut Cynic. Drums-wise, my ultimate, persevering inspirations will always be: Danny Carey (Tool), Martin Lopez (Opeth), and Sean Reinert (Cynic). Also, I wouldn't have the meager understanding of bizarre time-signatures I do without Meshuggah, who're a huge inspiration to me. Others include Between the Buried and Me, Sikth, The Ocean, The Faceless, Behold...The Arctopus, Deltron 3030, MC Paul Barman, Gordian Knot, Spastic Ink, Blotted Science, Liszt, Circle of Conformity, Animals as Leaders, Bulb, Cloudkicker, Day Without Dawn, East of the Wall, Giant Squid, King Crimson, Les Claypool and Primus, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck...I could go on...
Dave: When I first started writing songs for this band I was really into the level plane records roster, stuff like Hot Cross, Malady, and A Day in Black and White. I also had a "core" group of bands that I listened to obsessively like Cave In, Failure and to a lesser extent Autolux and Chavez. I can't leave out that I strived and literally demo'd weeks worth of guitar sounds to emulate the sound of "Mezcal Head" era Swervedriver. Listening to a record like that on headphones is just pure ear candy; a true guitarists record. A band I used to play in actually got to play a show with the vocalist from Swervedriver's solo band, and what a humble and interesting guy. Straight from Oxford England, a true legend - telling us stories about hanging out with the band Ride back in they day. Also, I wanted to mix the really frantic, unconventional and kinetic instrumentation of Drive Like Jehu with the bruising yet gorgeously melodic sound of Jesu. I think the new songs we've been working on at practice are indicative of all the heavy guitar driven music that I've been listening to as of late - stuff like Tombs, the Secret, Gaza, Knut, Burst, Mare, Buried Inside, and the Atlas Moth. I've also been demoing songs with aspirations of achieving a Cursed or Trap Them meets Crossed Out vibe on a song or two. We don't really get a chance to play at the beats per minute pace of those bands and I'm really finding that sound interesting these days, so I know that I'm going to try to write something to satisfy that urge. As far as other influences go-our upcoming album does have some "post rock" moments on it and I'm really happy with that influence; but I’m also looking forward to messing around with the formula a bit. We’ve all heard the quiet to loud dynamic that is the hallmark of post rock and I want to see what else we can do with it.
Cody B: So you guys have a new album coming out soon?
Dave: Habitat 67 is our debut record, it should be coming out in August. We've briefly discussed putting it out on a friends label, though we've yet to really take an in-depth look at our options.
Cody B: Tell us about the record.
Dave: We recorded it in arguably two of the best studios in Western Canada - the Factory and the Deadroom and it just sounds incredible! We were lucky enough to work with Hayz Fisher who engineered, mixed and co produced the album with us. Our buddy Adam Veenendaal mastered the songs for us. Hayz and Adam have done a ton of work with alot of my favorite bands in Vancouver. We all met each other through our respective bands over the years and I even had the pleasure of being in the shoegaze band the Ludvico Treatment with Adam for 4 or maybe even 5 years? When that band first started out you'd hear the genre thrown around in pop culture alot less than you do these days. As far as the sound of "Habitat 67" goes, my interpretation of the record is its a mix of the more complex and fervent arrangements of our older songs with the sparse and copious weight of our more recently crafted stuff.
Earl: I believe the correct term is "god's balls." We keep likening the sound to a freight-train of demon-pigs comin' atcha.
Dave: For us to refer to something as "god's balls" or being "a demon pig" is to give it our most esteemed praise.
Cody B: Do you have any favorite tracks from the album?
Dave: I love them all. So cliche, I know. I don’t mind re-writing and demoing songs and arrangements. I want this music to sound as good as the day I wrote it 5 years down the road. I don’t mind putting in the work try and achieve that. Also I've had the entire album in demo format on my iphone for 8 months so we've had the liberty to improve any flaws since then.
Earl: I'll have to agree with Dave on this one. I just can't wait to hear the entire finished product, the recording process was a treat, and we're really enjoying mixing too.
Cody B: Being an experimental/progressive band have you found it difficult at all to come up in the general Vancouver music and the particular metal scene?
Earl: I think it's like any eclectic genre of music: your fans are fewer and farther between, but they're more appreciative than casual.
Dave: I don't think we've actually ever played a legit "metal show" with other bands of the genre, I know that when we first started playing shows people were surprised at how heavy we were. We actually did a show at one of the most notorious local annual "indie" festivals last summer and it was just a washout. We're far too heavy for that scene. On the other hand in some cases we can get away with playing on a 4 band bill with the other three bands not having a single thing to do with metal so we're adaptable. I have alot to say about the Vancouver scene as I've been immersed in it pretty heavily for awhile now - I’ll try and be brief here. For one, there are so many venues and so many bands. I can't count how many shows I've played in the city but over time to me its pretty apparent that the amount of shows and sheer amount of bands playing every night sort of detracts from the idea of having really well attended shows because there simply aren't that many to choose from. I would definitely recommend this city for anyone wanting to get involved with like minded musicians or to meet people with similar tastes. Its not hard to get involved and a few minutes on craigslist is really all it takes. I'm not complaining though, I say this alot at practice - that I think we're lucky because for some reason, for the most part, our shows are well attended and people seem to care about what we're doing. I hear and see countless bands unfortunately that write horrible songs and play empty shows and complain about no one caring about them. "You get out what you put in", to paraphrase. Also, like any scene there are a fair number of fake people trying to rub elbows with the "right" crowd. I dunno, I rely on social networking pretty heavily to promote this band, people could be saying the same thing about me? Just something I've noticed. I think my time spent playing in Vancouver can be summarized by this story: When I was 12 and I got my first electric guitar I was living in Ontario and my favorite band was Mystery Machine from Vancouver. To me - and this is still true to this day - that band writes some of the most clever and brilliant guitar arrangements going. They take a page from Swervedriver's book and add their own British Columbia flavor to it. The reason I even mention this is, the bassist from Mystery Machine actually approached me after a show one time and told me that he really liked our music - at that point in time I realized that even if no one buys our records and people hate our band, still that 12-year old music nerd in me would never believe that I actually received a compliment about my music from someone in Mystery Machine. For that, I'm 100% creatively and artistically satisfied and happy with what I've done in this city thus far.
Cody B: So what are the future plans looking like for Seven Nines and Tens?
Earl: Hopefully some manner of summer-tour in support of our full-length release, and more EPs and releases to follow. We have lots of material.
Dave: Like Earl said, the next era for this band is going to be the "prolific" one, it's taken us a long time to grow into our sound and now that we've finally done it, its time to use the countless ideas we have and put em' on record.
Cody B: Before we sign off, anything else you'd like to add?
Earl: Thanks to all the parties who have helped us on the way, in the myriad of capacities we've needed. The bands we play with, the people we record/mix/master with, our friends and families who unflinchingly support us, and anyone else I may have forgotten to mention here. Also, I want to extend my personal thanks to Mr. Cotton, without whom there would be no SN&T, and who does all of the liaising and show-booking. Anyone who's reading: keep listening! It's only going to get heavier and more insane.
Dave: Thanks for the interview!
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