Adam Dyson and Withdrawal Almost ‘Never’ Finished Their New Album
Withdrawal from Winnipeg, Manitoba released their debut album, Never in December on Escapist Records. Like the frozen north that Withdrawal calls home, Never’s ten tracks are unforgiving and hypothermic, leveling you with their relentless and ethereal tone. Following their two EPs, Unknown Misery and Faith, Flesh & Blood and a pair of splits, Withdrawal committed the extremes of their artistic measure into crafting their LP and it shows in every aspect from writing to art design. I spoke with vocalist and songwriter Adam Dyson about the path to releasing Never and everything in between.
Never is Withdrawal’s first full-length and first release in three years. The path to its conception and release has been reportedly long, please detail it for us?
Well, we had a big lineup shuffling in 2010 after a US tour, and we had intended to release an LP. We had a general idea of what we wanted to do, and a theme we wanted to follow, but any time we would get some traction on writing something would happen. This is also probably the hardest partying era of the band. The guys were just fucked up. We had a couple of new songs done when we parted ways with our old drummer from the Faith, Flesh & Blood album. We went with a new drummer and new bass player, both of whom lived about 18 hours away from us. So we would write in Winnipeg and get together to do shows and tours and stuff. It worked great for touring, and the guys are still some of my best friends and allies of the band, as they contributed to the LP. But it just wasn't working as far as writing went, we just couldn't get the same feel with drum machines on our own that we could practicing in a room together.
So after the split with Young And In The Way we decided to go back to a lineup that was all in the same city. But by then, a couple of the guys in the band had kids, so that just threw things off a bit, just because suddenly you can't do whatever the fuck. You have families to provide for. So this, plus the guy recording the record having kids while we were recording, plus samples not being cleared plus the six years of bullshit before plus drugs and kids and we're all insane.The point is, we never stopped writing songs, we just didn't want to half ass it. We could have dumped out a record years ago, but it just wouldn't have been right.
For example, we have no shortage of unreleased songs. Either totally finished and scrapped, or instrumental, or they just didn't fit the mood of the LP. We never stopped.
You're not kidding. Any plans on releasing these in a compilation?
Some of the songs were pretty much finished, and it was down to the last week whether some of them made the LP or not. Some we played live and then never recorded. I don't know what we'll do with them. I remember one song in particular, and everyone else being all for it but I just wasn't a fan of it, or didn't think it fit the mood for the record, so we scrapped it. Now we gave it another listen and it's a great song. We're looking into doing some splits and EP's this year. It's honestly just now hitting me how funny it would have been if we had done a Double LP for our debut. Just really make it worth the wait.
What was the recording and writing process like for Never and what made it unique compared to prior releases?
When we wrote the record, we knew that each song needed a different feel. We didn't want a record of 10 songs that sound the exact same. We didn't want to front load the record with 3 good songs and then cram whatever else we had on the last half of the record. There's a very deliberate reason that "Tracing Fingers" is the last song on Side A and why "6th Psalm" opens Side B. We were meticulous to a fault though; like I said, we had so many other great songs that didn't make the record. As for recording, recording was great. We wanted to make sure we had a real sounding record, so there are no triggers. Private Ear studios had a great live room. Our drummer hits very fucking hard, [he’s the] hardest hitting drummer I've met. So many times you hear other hardcore bands whose drums are so triggered they sound like cannons on record, but then you see them live and they just tap their fills and toe tap their kick. We didn't want that. Guitars and bass went well, again we didn't want to do what everyone else was doing. So there are a lot of pedals on there but without sounding like some post-hardcore nerd shit. Brent McCrea, who recorded it and two of our 7"s, is always great to work with, even if we would get easily distracted by looking up Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel or Hatebreed videos on Youtube.
There's a definite Hatebreed feel on parts of the album. Which jams from them were you guys listening to?
Well it's funny you mention that feel, because since Faith, Flesh & Blood was so raw, we went out on tour for that 7" and we noticed that we were playing with nothing but D-Beat or like "Dark Hardcore" style bands. And we'd get people saying we like Black Metal or that we should have blast beats. And to be honest, that whole experience had the opposite effect on us. We went for a more ignorant or caveman style. As for Hatebreed, I mean obviously Satisfaction is the death of Desire and Perseverance are the classics. Both of those records are perfect.
What's your favorite Kate Bush song?
As for Kate Bush, we would marvel over her backing vocals on Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers". Personally, I'd say "Running Up That Hill" or "Cloudbusting" are my favorites of hers.
The album’s sound pays homage to other 90s and 00s metalcore in spades and is notably more melodic that your prior material. What are other artists came into the fold throughout the writing?
Well, we've always tried to take inspiration from artists, not influence. Which is to say, we're not one of those bands that sits down and says "we need a Merauder part". Musically, I think there is a little 100 Demons, All Out War, Killing Joke, some Kickback, Cave In, bit of Neurosis in there. Some goth too for sure; we all love Sisters Of Mercy and Fields Of The Nephilim are a big influence too. Obviously Integrity, though I don't think we sound like them.
Personally, which songs did you enjoy creating the most?
I'm not sure I enjoyed much about it, to be honest, I really tried to leave it all out there in my lyrics, which means a lot of it feels embarrassing or brings up bad memories. I'm kinda happy that "Tracing Fingers" made it on the record. That song was a couple of years old, and I had to really fight to get it on there, it meant a lot to me to see if make it on there. I think everyone will agree it came out great on the record.
In the red booklet that accompanied the vinyl release, you attribute many cultural influences on Never to include Voltaire, Depeche Mode, Catharsis and even the Bible. What led to ascribing these songs to these figures and works and how do they tie together as a cohesive whole within this collection?
That was just something I thought would be nice to include in the "Further excerpts from Never" booklet. That's not to say those passages are directly related, but they certainly fit the feel of those songs. The Tower Of Babel in particular being a metaphor for the skyscrapers and condos in “A White Tower” is probably the closest they get. I should mention that Jacob Abernathy’s drawings for that booklet were amazing. What a talented artist.
His imagery in this booklet varies from altars to Ouroboros to a notebook with Slayer’s logo embossing its cover. Please elaborate on this iconography and how it relates to the album?
I am very influenced by visual art, even if my actual artistic skills are fairly rudimentary. I had collaborated with Jacob on those images, [and] maybe pointed him in the path of what I wanted to see, but gave him the freedom to take what I visualized and bring it to life. As for how they relate, for example "Tracing Fingers" is about sex between damaged people, and I thought the idea of a fractured statue of a woman with flowers growing from her lent itself to the theme of the song. Something joyous coming out of something or someone so dirty and miserable. The Slayer notebook, is basically just a nod to "Slayer's Book Of Death", which was crucial evidence leading to the arrest of Jason Eric Massey. I just thought the extra booklet, which most people will probably never see, needed something to make the record more than just a record. I hate half-assed records where it just looks like it was designed and put together in a week. Disgraceful. Bands who put out a record a year as an excuse to sell something on tour. They make a product. We wanted to make it art.
The effort definitely shows and the booklet, though it may be scarce, was a touch most of other artists wouldn't take. Additionally, the cover art by Sarah Sheil is monochromatic and mysterious. In working to create the cover, how did you and her tie it in with Never’s abundance of themes? Do you feel it unifies them?
I had randomly stumbled across her work and was mesmerized. Totally taken back by her black and white imagery, it was so cold and mysterious and felt alive. You could almost feel a chill looking at her art. I was so astonished that I had not yet seen her art elsewhere, or seen any other bands who had used her, which is a rarity in this day of regurgitated album covers. Usually one band finds one good artist and then suddenly every other band on the planet is releasing records that look the same. We were so nervous waiting for the artwork to come back, just because we gave her free reign to do whatever, and she totally exceeded expectations. The gold foil printing and the sigil on the back was the icing on the cake. To me the album art represents a procession of lost souls marching towards "the never". It totally sets a mood when you pick the record up.
It definitely sets an ethereal tone that carries over into the Holy Terror style, which the aforementioned booklet paying tribute to the Holy Terror Process Church of Final Judgement, an organization that artists including Catharsis, Integrity and Rot in Hell, among others, have paid tribute to. How do you feel Never, in particular, fits with the ideals expressed by the Process Church and the wealth of art it has inspired?
I'm really interested and influenced by the contradictory and often hypocritical views and logic displayed by the Process. Between that, and the power of duality found in gnostic figure Abraxas, I think the fact that we didn't settle for any sort of genre trappings and put out such a caustic and confrontational record fits right in line with what inspired me with Holy Terror many years ago. We gave everything to the record.
Elaborate on Abraxas and how the figure, specifically, has influenced your sound?
Well, Abraxas is hard to perceive, being both dark as it is light, absolute good and infinite evil in life. But not just warring opposites, people see things so black and white, they can't understand the concept of duality. Abraxas is made whole of life and death at the same time. I just find the concept so interesting. You don't just have to be one specific aspect of your art. You can co-exist with the part of you that is seemingly in opposition to your other interests. For us I think it manifests itself in maybe writing a very thought out part in a song that may sound simple, or even thuggish, but totally slaved over. It's hard to explain.
What's an example you can give from Never?
Well, it's perhaps hard to hear underneath all the cacophony, but I doubt you'll find any other hardcore bands who put a tambourine in the middle of a metallic hardcore song…
Well there is that reggae track on Catharsis’s Passion...
I love that track!
That whole record.
Tough call if I like it more than Samsara to be honest.
Catharsis has an all around solid discography, I get you there.
About a year or two ago, when the Canadian dollar was up above yours, I drove 8 hours to Minneapolis to buy a bunch of music gear for super cheap. I went to Extreme Noise and just cleaned house on records and found Catharsis' self titled 7". So sick.
Lucky find. Around the same time, they opened up Wooden Tooth Records here and I found “Arsonist's Prayer” there. I was so stoked.
Great song. And actually, the new song we're recording this month for a split is kind of our take on a 7-minute “Arsonist’s Prayer”-esque marathon of a song.
What other records from that style of hardcore have inspired you the most?
The three real game changers for me were Integrity - Humanity Is The Devil, Gehenna - Upon The Gravehill and Catharsis - Samsara. Once those records entered my brain they opened windows that will never close. Musically, maybe we kind of fall somewhere in the middle of those bands. I think it should be mentioned that all 3 of those bands, or at least the members in Catharsis' case, continue to create music and art that challenges listeners. Gehenna in particular.... they will never stop, and having met the band, they are the real fucking deal. As Dwid once told our bass player when he found out we were playing some shows with Gehenna "They don't have an off switch." The off switch for Gehenna is death.
On other artists, three tracks feature guest vocals by members of Putrid Brew, Hollow Earth and Crucified. As bands that you’ve had consistent relationships and respect for, how did bringing them onto Never come about? Were the other artists you wanted to include?
Putrid Brew, Hollow Earth and Crucified are three of my favorite bands. They just so happen to include some of my favorite people as well. I think they knew how important the record was to us, so they all jumped at the chance to contribute. Nick from Crucified's vocals sound timeless on the record. He sounds exactly like he did back in 2010 when we first toured together. I mean, there were other artists we would have liked to have had on there. Even some weird ideas but it was mostly just daydreaming. I would have loved to have had Carl McCoy from Fields Of The Nephilim or Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory on a song. But hey, who knows who will turn up on the next record.
With Never finally being here, will there be any tours in support of it?
We're intending on playing shows to support the record. We're not a young band though, so we have to be a little more selective with how we play shows. But I think there will be some live offerings to unveil in the new year. We owe it to the record and to Escapist too.
You worked with A389 Recordings on Faith, Flesh and Blood and this is your first time working with Escapist Records. How has that experience been?
I've known Mike since we met at the Burning Fight record release show in Chicago back in 2009, and we had intended on working with him for an ill-fated split with Rot In Hell that kind of fell apart back before we had even worked with A389. A389 was great. Dom was great to us. Mike is great too though, he's been known to fly out to meet up with us for shows and has been supportive of the band since day one. One of the most genuine people I've ever met. A lot of labels would probably have scaled back on the art with the release where as Mike encouraged that we go all out. Plus, he's from Cleveland. So he knows his Clevo style HC.
The effort from all parties shows on Never. Knowing that Withdrawal is putting out a piece of art that is above much of what others are doing, where do you want to go from here?
First and foremost I really want to increase our output. It would be nice to put out two releases in the same calendar year. We're working on a split right now. We're coming up on 9 years as a band. We're far past the point where anyone is going to like us because we're a "cool new band" or something like that. All we have is our music. I don't think we've put out anything bad, and I'd like to that to continue. I just want to put out more music. I would love to play some shows or some fests, go places we've never been.
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