Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interview: Nate Garrett (TOAD)

Photo by Cody Walker

AoC: Today we're sitting down with Nate Garret, recently of Phoenix based TOAD, formerly of the mighty Queen Beast from Arkansas. Tell a little about you and what you do, Nate. Anything interesting besides being in a series of kickass bands?

NG: Well, I moved here from Arkansas to study audio engineering. I went to California for a couple months after I finished the program to try and get into the audio "industry" or whatever. Decided pretty quickly I didn't want to have anything to do with it. There's some cool folks involved in recording music nowadays but the vast majority of the people drawn to the business wouldn't be worth my piss if they were on fire. I basically wanted to murder everyone the whole time I was in that nightmarish place, so I came back. Serendipity/synchronicity kicked in and I happened to return to Phoenix the same day TOAD's guitar player Danny quit. I was a fan and good buds with the dudes so it just made sense to everyone that I replace him. Now I'm tryin' to figure out how to eat just like everybody else. So yeah, fuck California.

AoC: It's interesting that you went to California, then came back to Arizona. A lot of people make that move and don't look back. What is it about Arizona's scene that was interesting enough to draw you back?

NG: I actually didn't expect to come back and be involved in the scene immediately. Before Danny quit the band, Alex (TOAD's other guitar player) and I had discussed starting a new project, but hadn't formed any serious plans. So it wasn't necessarily the scene here attracting me as much as it was the lack of anything remotely redeemable about the SoCal crowd repelling me. Hell, I went to a Weedeater show when I was out there; Billy Anderson and I were the only ones in the whole crowd who were raging. Fucking Weedeater! Actually, that's a good example, because when I saw them play in Phoenix earlier this year it was out of control. People gave a shit about the music and performance as opposed to obsessing over whether or not everyone in the crowd was dressed metal enough. It was that bad out there.

Artwork by noir33

AoC: California is pretty fucking whack. I don't blame you there. Let's talk about old projects for a minute. I first became aware of your music when a good friend down in New Orleans, Jules Rogers, turned me on to Queen Beast a couple years ago. I loved that album, which I think you recorded with Sanford Parker. What happened to the Beast?

NG: Jules is a good dude, I totally forgot y'all knew each other. You're correct, we did record the Queen Beast album with Sanford. When I spoke earlier of people in the biz being worthless pieces of shit, you can bet your ass he is not one those people. The dude truly inundates his daily life with all things sound. I'm pretty sure he's capable of engineering 10 Decibel magazine (or whatever) albums of the year, all in the same year, in his sleep. Okay, I'll quit with the verbal BJ and just say he is a bad man.

I had contacted Sanford about doing our record when we were still called Pile of Dead Women. He dug it, so we finished up enough material for a full-length and went up there. Looking back on it, I was such a fucking amateur at that point. We all were, but man, I was just completely out of my element. There's a really embarrassing story about the first day of recording. It should be funny by now but isn't. Everybody that's recorded with Sanford since then has probably had a good laugh at my expense, and I deserve it. Anyway, everything worked out after the first day fiasco. Sanford was pretty hardcore when we were working, but I dug the extra motivation. That dude's death stare made me play better than I ever have in my life. I'll never forget laying down this sort of Greg Ginn/Dave Chandler-inspired solo on the track It's Okay If You Don't Like It. I was stoked on it, but Sanford was dead silent. I started trying to explain "Nah dude, it's like Greg Ginn sloppy style nasty craziness. It's supposed to sound like shit!" And he says something like "It's supposed to sound like shit? Well then you nailed it." No smile, nothing. I crack up every time I think about that. He was exactly what we needed to bring out our best performances for that record, and he went out of his way to show us a great time when we weren't working.

So basically we did the Queen Beast record and couldn't seem to get anybody to give a shit about it, then the band broke up. It wasn't anything personal, though we did have our differences. We just got tired of treading water and playing for the same three idiots we hung out with every day anyway. I'll always be proud of (most of) that record, and I'll always cherish those memories. I was in a lot of bands during my time in Arkansas, but that one was my baby. Now I sound like a fucking Hallmark card.

AoC: For those that haven't heard it, give us a rundown of Queen Beast's sound and style. You know, so the kids can go illegally download and be cooler than someone else.

NG: Oh dude, I encourage people to steal our shit. We all do. Our old demo is on youtube under the Pile of Dead Women name, and the record is all over the place so just google it. I would say our sound was mostly a product of my inability to decide what kind of band I wanted to be in. When I first moved to Arkansas I didn't know anybody and I was aimlessly writing a bunch of random riffs every day. Black metal here, early 80's hardcore there, stoner rock here, death metal there. When the band got together, the other guys did a great job of making it all work, but even when the songs were finished they were still all over the place. So if I were forced to describe it I would say it's a bunch of incoherent, drunk, high, paranoid, society-hating hillbillies ripping off so many different bands that it almost becomes original. 'Cause that's what it was.

AoC: Fast forward a couple years, and now you're in the Phoenix based TOAD, another band that is pretty hard to classify. You mentioned you were a fan before joining. What drew you to TOAD?

NG: I saw the band play with Whitehorse from Australia and frankly I was a bit confused as to what they were going for. Intrigued might be a better word, cause I definitely dug it. Later that night I was on the patio by myself because I didn't know anybody, and I overheard somebody say something about Kvelertak. I was having a hell of a time meeting cool people, so I immediately approached the dude and we started nerding out. It was Alex from TOAD. Within like 5 minutes we were already total butt buddies. I started going to all the TOAD shows I could make. I'm pretty sure I only missed one. Other than the sweet riffs, I was probably just as into the fact that they all seemed to be mentally unstable party animals. This turned out to be true.

AoC: You guys have a show coming up on January 27th with Graveyard at The Yucca Tap Room. That band made pretty much everyone's Top Ten list for 2011, including yours. You have to be pretty stoked to step into a situation like that.

NG: Yeah, they're probably my favorite band right now so I'm happy to say the least. That's actually not the first show we booked. We played with the almighty Black Cobra on December 22 at the Rogue Bar. They are another one of my personal favorite bands. I definitely fell ass backwards into a killer situation. Story of my life.

AoC: What plans have you guys got for 2012? Any touring? How soon can we expect to hear you on some new TOAD jams?

NG: 2012 is going to be big for us. We're in the process of booking a tour that will last for nearly the entire month of March. We'll spread our filth as far east as Atlanta and as far south as New Orleans. After that, our focus will be directed toward recording a full-length which, if the songs continue to shape up the way they have been, will make the EP sound like child's play. We were jamming on the newest song last night and it is purely and simply a mother fucking rager. There were moments at practice when I was so blown away by what I was hearing that it was hard to even concentrate on playing it. I'm not trying to be cocky or conceited here, because I'm so new in the band that I still feel like a fan. I'll just say if I wandered into some dive bar and heard a band playing this newest song, my jaw would hit the floor and I would try really hard to drink all the booze. All of it.

Photo by Cody Walker

AoC: It ain't bragging if you can back it up. I'll be looking forward to hearing that album. So give us a little run down of what makes your sound. What kind of gear do you use. You have any go-to gear that people might like to hear about?

NG: Trey has an Ampeg bass head and a Peavey cabinet which I'm assuming is an 8x10. Pete plays his organ through a Sunn keyboard amp. Shane has basically John Bonham's kit. The kick startles the shit out of me every time we're setting up. It sounds like a bomb going off. Right now Alex and I are using mostly my gear. He's playing a Gibson Flying V with a DiMarzio Super Distortion humbucker. That's going through a Laney GH100L and his vintage red Marshall 1960A cabinet. The serial number on that thing is really low. I'm playing a Gibson SG Standard with the same Super Distortion pickup. My guitar goes through a Laney 100-watt Tony Iommi signature and out of my custom-built Avatar cabinet. That thing is awesome, it's built like an Orange and has great tone. Just like any self-obsessed guitar player I'm geeking out on my own shit and don't even know what the bass player uses. Our mentality, which is certainly reflected in our equipment, is to strive for a no-frills, immovable rhythm section, with a lead section that actively flows over the top. Like an ever flowing stream (ha). Alex covers the high frequencies, I cover the mids, and Trey obviously covers the lows. Shane pounds the drums like he's summoning King Kong, and Pete vibes it all out to sound like a metal version of the Creepshow soundtrack. You can almost see our sound pressure waves having an orgy in the air. Best tone of any band I've ever been in.

AoC: That's a pretty nice set up. Coming from a band that favors vintage equipment myself, I can understand how nice it is to turn on and get that perfect tone right out of the guitar and amplifier. We're obviously experiencing somewhat of a Renaissance of vintage gear in heavy music right now. Do you think that adds to TOAD's sound? I mean, I see guys trying to play doom with Crate tone and it just doesn't sit right to me, no matter how articulate they are.

NG: There's a phenomenal youtube clip of Seahag (one of the best bands of all time, no shit) playing Downtown Music in Little Rock, and the guitar player Jeremy goes on a violent drunken rant against Crate amplifiers. Classic. But yeah, when Queen Beast first started I was playing a Crate combo amp. As I began to learn about the physics and properties of sound, I realized that it is now literally against my religion to play through a sub-par amplifier. That sounds like a joke, but if you get me into talking about how quantum mechanics and astrophysics apply to the meaning of life, I can plead a pretty good case for the theory that playing music with righteous tone is one of mankind's many pathways to enlightenment. Blasting good riffs with a guitar made from a tree, through a powerful vaccum tube amplifier connects the human with the cosmic source of all good vibes. When that happens, everyone in the vicinity can feel it. I'm sure you have, I know I have, and I guarantee everybody reading this has. It's the actual rhythm of the universe, not the hippie rhythm of the universe, but the actual vibrations still resonating from the dawn of creation. Or I could just be mentally ill and everything I just said is bullshit. I don't really know. But yeah, tube amps definitely add to TOAD's sound, haha...

Photo by Cody Walker

AoC: Let me put the proverbial gun to your head. Give us you five favorite albums. One rock, one punk, one hardcore, one metal. Then surprise us with the last one.

NG: Ok here we go...

Rock: Danzig II or Black Sabbath - Sabotage
Metal - Slayer - Reign in Blood or Dissection - Storm of the Light's Bane
Punk/Hardcore: Misfits - Earth AD or the Void side of The Faith/Void split
Surprise: The Darkness - Permission to Land

Those aren't even necessarily my favorites but they're the ones that affected my life the most. And as usual I cannot abide by the rules.

AoC: Alright, you had mentioned that you had done some studying to work in the recording business. In the light of that, let me ask you a question. Would you rather engineer the Illud Divinum Insanus remix album (which you just fucking know they're gonna do), or would you rather engineer Korn's next dubstep album? And no, killing yourself is not an option.

NG: Well if I remixed the Morbid Angel album I could potentially make it sound better and meet Trey. Possibly kick David Vincent in his soul patch. So that's a no brainer.

AoC: Damn, that's hardcore. I couldn't do it even if Trey was leveling up my World Of Warcraft dragonelf mage the entire time.

Hypothetically, if you could change one thing about music, what would it be?

NG: There's no changing music, but as far as the music "industry" goes, I don't have to change a thing. The major labels are killing themselves steadily. They choose to resort to Gestapo tactics when it comes to the money they are losing every day, rather than attempting to understand or adapt to the changing environment. So if one thing needs to change it would be the entire established system of major record labels. To quote fight club, they're rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

AoC: Nate, that just about wraps this up. We want to thank you for your time and your candid answers. We're looking forward to seeing TOAD inflict some damage on the Arizona scene in 2012. Before you go though, give us a few more Arizona bands to check out, and let people know exactly why the fuck they should pay attention to the Arizona scene.

NG: People should pay attention because there's some sick bands here. Sorrower and Vector are my personal favorites, other killer bands include TwinGiant, Drone Throne (RIP), Slut Sister (RIP?), Ace High Cutthroats, and Godhunter. There's also an awesome little pocket of country dudes which included Jim Bachman, Tony Martinez, and one of my favorite living artists Ray Lawrence Jr. Not too bad for the middle of the desert.

Be sure to check out Nate and the amazing TOAD on January 27th at the Yucca Tap Room when they open up for Graveyard!

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