Deathchant | Interview | New Album, ‘Waste’
Los Angeles quartet Deathchant have a brand new album out! ‘Waste’, the band’s sophomore album and first for RidingEasy Records, is a combination of rumbling noise, chiming guitar melodies, bluesy boogie, NWOBHM thrash and punk fury.
Though you wouldn’t be able to tell by the concise structures and well-crafted songs, a lot of Deathchant’s music is improvised, both in the studio and live.
You recently released ‘Waste’. Tell us about it, how long did you work on it?
TJ Lemieux: George, John, Colin and I recorded live takes over the course of three weekends in Big Bear, CA at a rad little cabin. We hunkered down and moved all our shit in n’ created a home base / recording studio / party dojo for three groupings of 2-4 days – one in January of 2019 and one in June of 2019 and another I don’t remember when – kinda recording a few songs at a time as I wrote them, fine tuning and jamming on ’em as we tracked ’em. It was a shit show to figure out the setup at first but we tracked the first album at the same cabin so we were familiar with the rooms and such. We used full stacks set up in closets, bathrooms, showers, et cetera and smaller amps (for feedback and to max out n’ drive tubes all hard) set up in cabinets and shit. At one point I was plugged into a jukebox or something, shit was fun. Steve [Schroeder] is a wizard when it comes to recording and him and I have a long standing musical relationship. He definitely gets it and adds his own unique techniques and styles to the recording process. Our sound wouldn’t be fully realized or captured well without him. He rips and him and I speak the same weird language. Or… he understands my weird idea language.
The live setup was two guitars, bass and drums. No vocal obviously. We’ve got a hectic loose way of making records but its dialed. Controlled chaos for sure… Steve’s able to capture our hectic playing styles and ideas and help us reel shit in while still allowing room for jamming and experimenting. Also he puts up with all my stupid sound and feedback experiments. He actually loves that shit. Steve rules! Anyway yeah, drugs and amps in cabinets and 5 million spliffs and general fuckery. We’d work (writing, jamming, recording, et cetera) from like noon till 4 or 5 am. It’s a balancing act making sure nobody gets too fucked up or burnt out throughout the day cuz there’s always some batshit crazy ideas in the wee hours that require all hands on deck. I remember once working John’s pedals for him, using his wah pedal and tweaking delays and shit to get a specific solo sound and cuz the dude was on a sick one… We help each other out. There’s a bunch videos of tracking overdubs the night after live takes and I look burnt as fuck but we’re gettin it!
“Guitar and drugs and jams and shit”
What’s your creative process? Is improvisation important for your band? Do you just jam and get stuff together at the end of the day or?
Improv is always super important. It’s huge in Deathchant. These days that shits mostly in the solos and instrumental sections and with noise and longer passages… I also make the words up as we go along and sing a lot of phoenetic sounds as place holders ’til I’m able to shape the lyrics (which usually happens very last minute right before vocal tracking). We just kinda look at each other and the dudes let me steer in a way… I shake my guitar at ’em and they tap dance and we all smile and shit falls into place. It’s often unclear how long parts go for and what goes where until we’re in the final stages of tracking. Writing… I employ everything from voice memos to GarageBand to acapella voicemails and so on… usually end up with a fucked up demo that I bring to practice or send to the dudes and we expand on tunes from there. Most songs on the new record started with the main riff or hook and worked backwards from there. Process wise it ain’t that interesting… guitar and drugs and jams and shit. I smoke 345 spliffs when writing because I’m a fucking scatter fast brain and if I don’t dumb and slow myself down I tend to focus on 34 other things and write 4 ideas at once. All of them probably end up shit… unless I focus all hard on something specific and force myself to tackle an idea. Songs often start with tons of parts and get chiseled down and fine tuned while jamming with the dudes.
Are you excited to be on RidingEasy Records?
Yeah! We’re stoked. I feel like Riding Easy / Daniel gets what we’re doing and we’re in great company… We all love Zig Zags and Warish and Blackwater Holylight and Danava and all sorts a shit on the label. Dude loves weed and Corgis. That’s cool, too.
How are you coping with the pandemic? What were members doing besides recording new material?
George started making beats and weird cool electronic music. I recorded a pop album with Steve that sounds like Depeche Mode kinda, also recorded and put out a fake hardcore rap compilation that I tracked in my bathroom and a couple records drumming with Psychedelic Speed Freaks (High Rise)… I do session shit too so tend to keep busy in isolation anyway. Motorcycles, hikes, same ol’ jamming and writing and fucking around with sounds… outdoor activities like blowing shit up and riding fast things and doing dumb shit in the ocean and desert and whatnot… We booked it to Mexico for a long while and Doug and I worked on some acoustic shit that will some day see a release out there. Who knows. Joe is always doing cool outdoorsy shit so he dug into quads and dirt bikes and kayaks and boats and other rad toys all hard. He started recording a Forest Lawn album, his rad black metal band with some other homies… We definitely made the most of it while staying safe. Most of us live together so we were already kinda our own bubble. Deathchant house just got a little quieter and less party for a little bit. Shittiest part was no shows or touring although we were able to fuck around and play a few weird outdoor shows for cameras and whatnot. We got creative with it.
Music video for ‘Holy Roller’ is sick! It kinda represents your music, haha… How would you describe your sound?
Oh man… that’s always tough. We get compared to a bunch of shit but I like to think our sound is unique. A blend of classic metal elements, hard rock with a modern twist and psychedelic or noise rock elements. I don’t know, if something sounds interesting to me we usually run with it until it takes shape. Yeah, the holy roller video was fun as fuck to make. We just hung out, got day drunk and fucked around on machines and in our backyard and shit. I ate a lot of different substances as you can sere in the video and outtakes and lost my fucking mind later that night. It was intense. Joe got to murder someone which is cool. Doug ripped around LA on a little quad which was funny to watch. Gorge ate mushrooms and wandered LA (and ended up in Egypt thanks to the $5 green screen we made!). It was cheap, on the fly and a real party. Finished it in a day then edited it.. which took longer than filming. We didn’t even know which direction to hold the fucking iPhone in at first and had to refill a lot of shit. Again, Burnt.
Do you think you’ll be able to tour soon?
FUCK YES WE ARE TOURING IN LATE AUGUST ON THE WEST COAST, HITTING COLORADO AND SURROUNDING AREAS MID SEPTEMBER AND HAVE A FULL US TOUR ALL OF OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER. HYPED THE FUCK UP TO FINALLY BRING THIS NEW SHIT TO OTHER STATES! I don’t know why I’m yelling but yeah man, stoked. Europe soon. Everywhere soon! We want to constantly be out there hanging with all y’all…
“We are very much a live band”
I’ll hopefully catch you somewhere in Europe.
This doesn’t seem like a question but fuck yes we’re pumped to hit Europe. We have shit in the works like Sonic Blast Festival in Portugal and random Europe dates. Bookers get at us, we wanna take Chant all over the fucking place. We are very much a live band and are real good at having a great time in other peoples hoods.
Can you share some further details on how your latest album ‘Waste’ was recorded?
I outlined the recording process pretty thoroughly a few questions back but will add that overdubs was a long and explorative process… because nothings set in stone or written definitively when we hit the studio, a lot of the overdubbing process was trial and error and writing on the fly. Finding harmonies is always fun as hell, stacking them is even more fun. We snuck an organ in a couple sections, did tape manipulation, all sorts of shit that’s not real easy to hear unless you’re looking for it. Steve is really great to work with and really talented… once we get the full band live takes of each track the experimenting and shit goes wild. That takes patience from a producer / engineer! He lets me try all sorts of stupid shit and offers really rad feedback until we find the sweet spots. A lot of the noise stuff comes from his ideas and layering and whatnot. I’m gonna let him elaborate on the recording details for all the rad sound nerds out there…
Steve Schroeder: Recorded over 3 sessions from September 2018 – July 2019. We took advantage of a unique room in a big bear cabin, mostly for drum ambience, but also got everyone close and playing together. We let some bleed happen since we couldn’t full isolate cabinets and that was good thing, adding to the live feel. The drum mic approach was using 70s techniques. A modified Glyn Johns Setup with two different room mics, but also as few close mics as possible. Top/Bottom Snare 57s, Floor Tom 421, Kick D112, Overheads 214s. With drum processing we used no drum replacement! Nothing artificial on anything. Guitars were mostly straight forward “slap a 57 on it”, with some special sauce provided by a proto-57 mic.. the “Tom Jones” mic. This was mostly used for added grit on TJ’s guitar parts. Overdubs were mostly done in the same big bear cabin following the main takes, using an early 90s jukebox as a playback monitor and feedback looper. Vocals were recorded in El Sereno a few months after the main takes where we also took advantage of the “Tom Jones” mic (a shitty mic that has great breakup) recorded at the same time as the main AKG Condenser mic. Speaker simulations added to the drive with distortion on those. All the transitions bits were done on a Tascam multitrack cassette recorder, using bits from our “found sound” tape library, parts of the songs themselves fed back into the tape machine and some of TJ’s field recorded stuff and loops fed from the DAW. Would layer several of these together to find the right balance which eventually gave us the sonic collage thing.
How would you compare it to your 2019 self-titled debut album?
A lot more concentrated and calculated although still real loose. The first album is really special to me because it marks the beginning of Deathchant as it helped me figure out exactly what I was going for and what I wanted to do. It was a search, a process of honing the Deathchant sound which has become real specific but careful to not turn formulaic. On ‘Waste’ the songs were all written around the same time with the intention of releasing a record… A full motherfuckin package! The first record was a modge podge of tunes I had written over the course of a couple years in between other bands and shit. Stylistically they have similar elements – twin guitar stuff, noise, hard rock photo metal elements, et cetera – but ‘Waste’ was a much more intentional record instead of different live sets finally being recorded.
A peek into your creative process please, digital or analog?
We track live ‘n then Steve and I overdub shit afterwards. This record was finished a LONG time ago but is just getting released because of a bunch of boring bullshit that’s not worth talking about like covid and record label shopping and shit… We start with the basic tune, I demo it or play through it at practice, and the band expands on shit from there. A lot happens on the fly until the song totally takes shape and it feels like it’s found its home. So far on both records the songs have not been finished until we hit the studio. That added pressure is awesome and adds to the controlled chaos feel to our music which I don’t think we’ll ever change…
“I stick with natural tube break up and think that’s a huge part of our sound”
Would you please speak to your guitars and the effects pedals you employ?
Yeah! I use a 1972 Marshall JMP 100 watt full stack live and on the record through a Marshall cab and another custom weird cab that I push way too hard. I don’t use any overdrive or distortion, just an EQ all maxed out and tweaked to be a boost basically. I stick with natural tube break up and think that’s a huge part of our sound. I use that and one weird analog delay pedal. Doug uses minimal shit too – Mitchell 100 watt head, Marshall 4×12, a tube screamer I think and a wah. Gorge plays an Ampeg SVT 3 through an 8×10. We all play Gibson (who should fuckin sponsor us) guitars … Joe plays a Ludwig 4 piece kit. John played Gibson too and real similar stuff that Doug uses now… Colin had a similar drum kit as Joe’s too. It’s always been minimal with each line up with the occasional tape machine or noise generator or field recording or feedback loop thrown in here and there. Sometimes we sneak keys into the mix but rarely. I think gorge uses the most pedals but strictly for noise shit. and transitions. But that’s mostly live. He’s gotten really good at replicating the noise collage stuff in a live setting. He’s got some custom toys, I don’t know but shit sounds cool as hell.
Who are some of your personal favorites that you’ve had a chance to play with?
Zig Zags rip and put on a great show. We’ve played with them a lot. Doug’s old band Banquet was one of the funnest tours of my life, love all those guys and Doug’s now in the band… Sacri Monti rules and is an amazing band live. Those dudes are next level musicians. Munsens from Colorado are rad as hell. Acid Mother’s Temple a bunch early on… all the freaks!
In your dreams, who are you on tour with?
Nifelheim. Old lineup of Pagan Altar. Iron Maiden. Trouble. Deathhammer. High on Fire, Old Man Gloom, Motörhead, Les Rallizes Dénudés, High Rise [TJ plays drums in the new incarnation of High Rise which is nuts].
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
Trouble – ‘Psalm 9’
Les Rallizes Dénudés – ‘Heavier Than a Death in the Family’
Thin Lizzy – ‘Fighting’, ‘Black Rose’, ‘Johnny The Fox’, ‘Chinatown’ … all of the Phil Lizzy shit really.
Grand Funk Railroad – ‘Grand Funk
Gene Clark – ‘No Other’
Old Man Gloom – ‘Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regressionism’
Madlib/MF Doom – ‘Madvillainy’
Malady – ‘Malady’
Metallica – ‘Kill ‘Em All’
Darkthrone – ‘Soulside Journey’
Alice Coltrane – everything. Even the devotional shit fuckin rules.
TJ is in a new band called Iron Wrought which rips… watch out for that. We all really like all the Necrot stuff, they’re recent. Nyredolk fucking RIPS and is right up our alley. Joe’s in a rad black metal project called Forest Lawn, their shits real cold and rad. Persekutor is badass. Glaare too. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head for new shit…
Thank you. Last word is yours.
Thank YOU! Was fun diggin into these man, we appreciate what you do and appreciate anyone who read all this bullshit. Ramblin. Come see us live n’ say what’s up… give us party favors.