Thursday, February 23, 2012

Driving Force: David Rodgers (Godhunter)

by: Walter Kovacs

For this installment of Driving Force, I present an interview with David Rodgers.

David is a guitarist and vocalist for the band Godhunter. Godhunter has been a seminal force in the Tucson metal scene for a few years now. Despite some line-up changes, this last year has seen a lot of action for the band. Within this last year they have released their first record, a split 10” with Tucson’s own Methra, as well as the new devastatingly heavy recording “Wolves." Godhunter is a band that is not afraid to piss people off and push the boundaries of heavy music.

Godhunter spits in the face of those who establish stringent divisive parameters to dictate musical association. They are proof that you do not need to play arpeggios at 100 miles per hour to prove that you have the chops to play engaging metal. Sometimes, a slower, more methodical approach can prove to be much more devastating. Sonically David’s guitar work will rupture your ears, and open your mind about what metal has evolved into in this new millennium.

What would you say gives/gave you inspiration when you are/were writing music?

Inspiration really comes from anywhere. Better yet, I'd say it comes from everywhere. From our work and social environment. From what we consume, mentally, throughout our day. Then all those inspirations, positive and negative, work together to build my mood, which is really where all my music comes from. Music is really catharsis for me. If I'm having a shitty day, I'll generally tend to write some very angry music. If I'm have a low day, I'll write something sad or remorseful. I don't think I have any control over it though. I don't ever walk into the rehearsal room and say, "Today I am going to write my angriest song ever." Because, in the past when I've tried that, I usually end up with nothing. Music can't be forced, or expected to produce itself at command. So generally I just pick up a guitar and let my emotions decide what my fingers want to play. So I guess I would say that life is really all the inspiration that I need.

Are there any films/books/paintings that have proved to be a recurring influence the way that you look at your art?

Absolutely. I'm not a very visual person, so paintings and, in a lesser sense, movies don't influence me much. Generally the only movies I like are Star Wars or movies made from books that I have enjoyed, like No Country For Old Men. And since I don't write space operas, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that my Star Wars superfandom doesn't influence my writing style.

Books though, that's a whole other story. I lose myself completely in books, and when I'm immersed in that world, their influence tends to bleed through fairly easily. I wrote one of our songs, The Road, while reading the book of the same title from Cormac MacCarthy. I probably read that book four times in row. It's so bleak and disturbing, with just a complete breakdown of society and morals on every level. I'm a bit of a pragmatist so I'm pretty sure that book portrays exactly how the world is going to end. Not in a big brilliant flash, but in a slow spiral of decay. I'm pretty sure we're already partway down that spiral too, so it hits me in my core.

I have a core group of authors that I truly love as well. Cormac MacCarthy. William Faulkner. Ernest Hemingway. Jack London. Chuck Palahniuk. Jack Kerouac. I've been told by some smart women that my literary tastes tend to favor writers that celebrate the male ego, and I'd probably say they're right. I'd also say that my music fits that same mold. We don't exactly have a legion of teenage girls for fans like some bands do. Our fan tends to be a thirty something crusty dude with a wallet chain and PBR.

I like to say that I read hard books and write hard music. It's just what comes natural to me. That may sound a bit egotistical, but I'm in a band, so what do you really expect out of me?

Are there any habits/rituals that you and/or your band mates have when writing music?

Of course. We all like our beers. We generally don't get shitfaced in the room while we're working, but we do like a couple beers to grease the wheels. A few of us smoke weed too. That's probably a bigger ritual. I like to get pretty high before writing. I don't think weed is inspirational in and of itself, but what it does for me is allow me to shut off the outside world. I think too much, and the wheels are constantly turning. This is why I don't sleep a lot. But weed will let me slow the wheels down long enough to concentrate on one thing; writing music.

Have you ever written music while on tour? If so, how did you arrange songs while being away from you studio and in a different environment?

No. We're nowhere near the point where traveling is comfortable, and I need to be comfortable to write. Having a bus and a driver is great. I'm sure we'd all love to do that, and I bet it's pretty easy to write when you have all that spare time. But we travel in a van, doing long drives between shows. I usually just crash out in the back with a book, listening to some tunes. I may think about some riffs in my head, but that's the extent of it. I wrote some lyrics for a couple songs during a trip to Gettysburg once, but that wasn't a band related trip. I was just very inspired by the surroundings.

What sort of influence does the music and writings of your peers influence what you create?

That's a big question. Off the top of my head, I'd say I'm influenced by other musicians a lot. Not so much in what I write, but perhaps in how I write it. You know, you take a band like Neurosis or Isis, bands that are masters of balancing between darkness and light, loud and quiet, tension and release, and if you listen to them your whole adult life, you'll probably not write songs that are in the typical verse/chorus/verse form. If you're a teenager listening to Black Flag, you're going to have an entirely different take on music when you mature than a teenager that listens to Justin Beiber. That's just how it is.

Of course, with these examples I'm talking more about the aesthetic of music, of how I approach it as a person. I'm also clearly influenced by the certain styles of musicians that I respect and enjoy. Take Mastodon's "Seabeast" for example. They threw this amazing heavy riff at the end of the song. It only goes for maybe 20 or 30 seconds, then you never hear it again. Most bands would take that one riff and form an entire song around it. But I like what Mastodon did better. They show it to you for a second, then they take it away. I've outright stolen ideas like this before. There's a riff at the end of "Wolves Of The North" that is just...there. We play it twice and it's done, and it's not really like anything in the song before it. So sometimes I'll hear something another band does, dig the shit out of it, and then steal some version of it for myself. Is that influence? Yeah. Is it stealing? Probably. But look, like Dimebag said, "There are only so many riffs, brother. We're all just borrowing them from each other."

Looking at my life today realistically though, I think I now draw more influence from Radiohead than from any other band. Their willingness to break any boundary, write in any style, do whatever the fuck they want, just speaks to me on a very personal level. If I could make a wish and join any other band on Earth, it would be Radiohead. I don't give a fuck if that makes you think I'm a hipster or some shit, honestly. When you can make some music that touches me on that level, then I'll listen to your opinion.

So, how long have you been into music? What are your earliest memories of hearing something that really moved you? Were your parents musicians? What albums changed your outlook about what music is or could be?

I've always been into music, for as long as I can remember. I still remember the first time I heard Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" on WMMR in Philadelphia when it first hit the radio. That album, and some Judas Priest and Iron Maiden pushed me down the path into metal, that's for sure. I had one of those all-in-one record player deals back in the day and I would raid my parents 45s, listening to The Rolling Stones and The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. I thought these bands were just incredible, and looking back, I was so young at the time, so it almost seems strange that I still look at Led Zeppelin, for example, the same way as I did when I was eight years old.

My parents aren't musicians, but both of them listened to music pretty extensively. My mother is more of a hippie/biker kind of lady, so she obviously turned me on to some crucial bands in my development, like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and the Grateful Dead. I mean, if anyone wants to know why I write 8 minute long songs all the time, blame it on my mother and all the jam bands. My mother has also been the most supportive of my choices to be a musician. She's always been there to help out when I needed it, be it with advice or some beer or whatever. She is a true music lover, so I think it makes her happy that I'm doing this, even if the music I make might not be her favorite style.

My dad, on the other hand, kind of looks at my music with bemusement, probably the same way any father looks at his son's hobby. But on the other hand, he's probably the most important factor in the style of music I play today. My dad liked to party when he was young (and still does), and he used to come home and wake me up so I could listen to Black Sabbath or Deep Purple or Grand Funk Railroad with him. He turned me on to Alice Cooper, who at that age I thought was the most frightening man on the entire planet. Even later in life, my dad was ahead of the curve. He knew who The Black Crowes were before anyone else I knew, probably because he spent so much time on the road listening to the radio. ZZ Top is another good example. I remember him not liking Eliminator, complaining that he wished they'd just go back to playing guitar. I'm pretty sure he said the same thing about Van Halen too. Lessons like that stick to you. You know, I still can't remember my phone number, but I'll never forget every note on Disraeli Gears. I'm pretty thankful for that.

Is there an album that changed my outlook on music? Yeah, there are probably a few. I mentioned Radiohead before, and OK Computer is probably one of those albums. I'd say Neurosis' Times Of Grace is another one. I'd put The Allman Brothers Live At The Filmore East in there too. I don't think there's another album I've listened to in my life as much as that one. Everything Duane Allman does is magic, and when you listen to that album, you either want to play guitar like him, or I think you might be dead inside. I guess I could also make a strong case for the first Black Sabbath album. Without that album, most of the guys I know are probably playing an entirely different kind of music. If you play metal, you should get out of bed every morning and get on your knees and thank whatever the fuck you believe in that Tony Iommi exists. I ain't even kidding around on that one either.

The new Godhunter release “Wolves” is now available for purchase on iTunes, at CD Baby and on Bandcamp.

A special limited edition CD will be available from them only on tour. They will be hitting the road in February and March. Check out their Facebook or Bandcamp page for updates.

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