Gozer Conjure Majestic Post-Metal On Debut “An Endless Static” (Interview)
The UK's post-metal scene is thriving. Up and down the country bands are crafting dark, emotive and experimental music that pushes against the boundaries of metal’s traditions. From London's Wren to Brighton's Aerosol Jesus and Wales' magnificently-named Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, there's a wealth of UK post-metal acts currently plying their expansive, textured brand of heaviness.
However, an especially intriguing micro-scene has developed in the country's northern cities of Leeds, Sheffield, and Manchester. From the shamanistic strangeness of Sheffield’s Kurokuma to the apocalyptic savagery of Leeds’ Hundred Year Old Man, this rain-strewn, post-industrial region of the nation appears to be a fertile breeding ground for the malleable post-metal genre.
The latest act born from this scene is Sheffield’s Gozer. The three-piece have risen from the ashes of previous-act Archelon and on June 17th released An Endless Static, their debut full-length as Gozer. A five-track, 47-minute epic, the album sees the trio deploy a weighty brand of textured metal that’s as solemn as it is stirring, as introspective as it is expansive. A thrilling trudge through an opaque mire, An Endless Static ventures to some dark places, but its tangible heart and soul provides an ever-present guiding light.
We spoke to drummer TJ Fairfax about, amongst many other topics, transitioning between bands, collaborative work with Gozer’s peers and An Endless Static’s deft handling of some heady themes.
OK, so let’s start at the beginning. How did you guys move from your previous project Archelon into Gozer?
We'd been Archelon for about eight or nine years. Me and Craig [Paul, Gozer guitarist/vocalist] have known eachother since we were sixteen, and we've been writing stuff for years. The idea had been floated that we would change the band name. We felt like the band we had started when we were younger wasn’t the band we’d become. We were a five-piece at one point but one of the guys moved back home to Scotland, then during lockdown our second guitarist left. So we figured that because the world was going to shit, what better time than now.
How does transition like this work? Does it happen over a long period of time?
It was a long, but natural change. A part of it was the previous band name, no one could pronounce it! We got into the practice space and learned some covers, but the other person who was then in the band didn’t want to do these covers. Me, Craig and Kez’s (Keiran Sockett - Gozer bassist/vocalist) ideas lined up a lot more.
What did you cover?
We did "Minions" by Torche, we've done "You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar…" by Queens Of The Stone Age and a couple of others, just for fun. We've recently started learning "Minoans" by Giant Squid.
Awesome. So you guys are based in Sheffield, England. I often think of post-metal bands as hailing from a very unique spatio-temporal zone. For example Cult Of Luna, to me they sound like the expansive Swedish wilderness. Do you feel any of this with Sheffield and Gozer?
I wouldn't say consciously, but I'm Sheffield born and bred. Where you live, grow up and your status within society definitely influences the art you create. I call where I come from the 'armpit of Sheffield.' It’s a rough area.
I can hear that, there's a grittiness and washed-out quality to your music. So what first drew you to post-metal?
I don't totally know to be honest. I have an eclectic taste, but there's bands that I would always come back to–Cult Of Luna, Neurosis, Isis. It started with listening to Melvins, and realizing how many bands they influenced. As a genre I love how wide post-metal is. For example, if someone says something’s doom metal or tech metal, there’s certain parameters to that. But post-metal can borrow from everywhere.
Definitely. I guess it’s in the name. 'Tech' and 'doom' are descriptive, but 'post' suggests something that’s moving beyond the genre.
Labeling a genre is a catch-22. If you say something is a specific sub-genre then people have an immediate idea of what that thing is. That's a good thing because it lets people find other music, but at the same time no artist wants to be pigeonholed.
You've already mentioned some of Gozer's more overt influences like Neurosis and Isis, but what are some less obvious ones?
I can only speak on behalf of myself, but for me definitely Melvins. I also grew up listening to a lot of Mclusky. Even bands like CKY, they were the biggest bands I saw when I was like fifteen. Just everything I grew up with.
You're releasing this album on Trepanation Recordings, but before that you’ve worked with FHED, Sludgelord and Surviving Sounds. Those are some of the best underground labels in the UK.
We've been very lucky.
What led you to Trepanation?
I was Craig really. He's got a drone side-project called Bogwytch and did a small tour with Dan Dolby (Trepanation owner). They got talking and it just made sense, given some of the other records that Trepanation have released. Also, to be totally honest, Dan offered us a great deal. It’s obviously not all about the money but if someone offers you X, Y and Z, you’re gonna take that over someone who’s offering X and Y.
You recorded An Endless Static during the COVID-19 lockdown era. What effect did it have on the production?
We actually had all the microphones set up, in our band space where we record everything, and had got through one track when it was announced that we were going into lockdown. It put everything on the back burner. I did some retail therapy and bought a couple more mics, then because I'm self-employed I didn’t go back to work when everything opened up. So I set it all up again and started from scratch. I recorded everything over and over again. Each song I'd finish then re-record again the next day because I knew it could be better by moving some mics. The lockdown slowed it all down, but it gave us time.
I was surprised when I read that this was essentially a home recording. Do you have a studio or is it literally a practice room?
Yeah it was done in our band space. We're lucky that it has reasonably high ceilings and it's big enough. I'd built a few things and did a little treatment, reading everything I could online. We did the same with Archelon. We recorded our first two EPs there, so I had a bit of knowledge of how to do it, but this was the first deep dive into recording a full-length.
What were your aims or goals regarding the album's sound?
Honestly, I just wanted it to sound good [laughs]. As I said, I like a lot of Neurosis, but I obviously didn’t have access to eight-track tapes. On some of their recordings you can hear a hiss before certain instruments drop in, which I love to hear. So I wasn't too worried about our album sounding too hi-fi. I just wanted it to sound good.
You definitely achieved it. A close comparison for me was actually Kurt Ballou's production style, particularly the drums. There’s a similarly powerful but brittle sound.
Thank you. A big part of that was Joe (Clayton, mixer of An Endless Static). He's great. He recorded and mixed previous stuff we’d done, so we got him in again. Honestly though, a big part of us recording it ourselves was to do with money-saving. We love going into the studio, but it's not a cheap business. Though in hindsight, I've probably spent more money on microphones than we would have in a studio [laughs].
I really like the album's collaborative feel. You’ve got Hundred Year Old Man, Ba'al and Torpor on there. Did these contributions come naturally or was it a pre-planned thing?
After our first album, which we did on our own and was recorded in six days, we thought that next time it would be cool to get other people involved. With Rich [Spencer–Ba’al bassist], we share a practice room with him and it came up that he was classically trained on viola, so we asked him to play on a few tracks. Then with both Hundred Year Old Man and Torpor we'd played a few gigs together, so we shot them some messages. We didn't put any caveats on their contributions, just said "we trust you to do what’s best."
I feel like metal has become more collaborative in recent years. Maybe it's a reaction to recent world events, everyone's become more community-focused?
I think, as big as the music industry is today, in a lot of ways, for metal and certain subgenres of metal, it's actually gotten smaller. There's more subgenres than ever, and with those, there might only be fifteen dudes in a certain city that like that specific subgenre. So not only is it easy for those dudes to connect, it's also easier than ever for them to connect with similar people in other cities and around the world.
We haven't talked about the album's themes. From what I've heard and read, it feels like the thematics are touching on both inner, mental turbulence as well as broader, systemic turbulence. Is that a fair reading?
Yeah. For each of us, we've brought our own ideas to the lyrics and music. For me, a lot of it is to do with my previous struggles with mental health, and the daily battles you face.
Is that what the album title is referring to? The constant background noise of mental health struggles?
It is. I think for a lot of people who have these struggles, you have times where things are good, but it’s just this constant background noise, yeah. Just yesterday I woke up and had a really difficult day. I forced myself out and it got better. But it’s so easy to fall into the trap. I’ve got better at noticing when I dip and can now do things about it. A big part of this album is about moving forward and letting go of stuff.
I noticed a lot of apocalyptic imagery in there too.
For Craig particularly, but all of us really, the gap between the elite and the working class is something we've become very aware of. We all consider ourselves liberal, we think everyone should be allowed to be whoever they are. That’s a big part of the album, how in life there are these things we don’t have control over, because there’s groups of people oppressing us.
Which also could tie into the title.
Yeah, and that then ties back into the mental health aspect. The album has a few meanings. For me, a big part was about just letting things go.
An Endless Static released on June 17th via Trepanation Recordings.