Gozer Conjure Majestic Post-Metal On Debut “An Endless Static” (Interview)

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The British post-metal scene is thriving. From top to bottom, country bands create dark, emotional and experimental music that pushes the boundaries of metal traditions. From Wren from London to Aerosol Jesus from Brighton and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard from Wales, there are a host of UK post-metal acts currently carrying their trademark expansive and textured heaviness.

However, a particularly intriguing micro-scene has developed in the northern cities of the country, namely Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester. From the shamanic weirdness of Sheffield’s Kurokuma to the apocalyptic savagery of Leeds’ Hundred Year Old Man, this rain-strewn post-industrial region seems like fertile ground for the malleable post-metal genre.

The last act born from this scene is that of Sheffield Gozer. The trio rose from the ashes of previous act Archelon and released on June 17. An endless static, their first feature film as Gozer. A five-track, 47-minute epic, the album sees the trio deploy a heavy brand of textured metal that is as solemn as it is moving, as introspective as it is expansive. A thrilling walk in an opaque quagmire, An endless static ventures into dark places, but her tangible heart and soul provide an ever-present guiding light.

We spoke to drummer TJ Fairfax about, among many other topics, transitioning between bands, working collaboratively with Gozer’s peers and An endless staticthe skilful manipulation of certain heady themes.

OK, so let’s start at the beginning. How did you go from your previous project Archelon to Gozer?

We were Archelon for about eight or nine years. Me and Craig [Paul, Gozer guitarist/vocalist] we’ve known each other since we were sixteen, and we’ve been writing stuff for years. The idea had been put forward to change the name of the group. We felt like the band we started when we were younger wasn’t the band we became. We were a group of five at one point, but one of the guys flew home to Scotland and then during lockdown our second guitarist left. So we thought because the world was going to shit, what better time than now.

How does a transition like this work? Does this happen over a long period of time?

It was a long but natural change. Part of it was the name of the previous band, nobody could pronounce it! We walked into the practice space and learned a few covers, but the other person who was in the group then didn’t want to do those covers. The ideas of me, Craig and Kez (Keiran Sockett – bassist/vocalist from Gozer) aligned much more.

What did you cover?

We did “Minions” from Torche, we did “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar…” from Queens Of The Stone Age and a few others, just for fun. We recently started learning “Minoans” from Giant Squid.

Impressive. You are therefore based in Sheffield, England. I often think of post-metal bands as coming from a very particular time-space area. For example, Cult Of Luna, to me they sound like the vast Swedish desert. Do you feel that with Sheffield and Gozer?

I wouldn’t say consciously, but I was born and raised in Sheffield. Where you live, grow up, and your status in society definitely influences the art you create. I call where I come from “the armpit of Sheffield”. It’s a tough neighborhood.

I can hear that, there’s a gritty, washed-out quality to your music. So what first attracted you to post-metal?

I don’t totally know to be honest. I have eclectic taste, but there are bands 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 the breadth of post-metal. For example, if someone says something is doom metal or tech metal, there are certain parameters to that. But post-metal can borrow anywhere.

Absolutely. I guess it’s in the name. “Tech” and “doom” are descriptive, but “post” suggests something beyond genre.

Labeling a genre is a catch-22. If you say something is a specific subgenre, people have an immediate idea what that thing is. It’s a good thing because it allows people to find other music, but at the same time no artist wants to be pigeonholed.

You’ve already mentioned some of Gozer’s more obvious influences like Neurosis and Isis, but which are the less obvious?

I can only speak for 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 fifteen. Everything I grew up with.

You released this album on Trepanation Recordings, but before that you worked with FHED, Sludgelord and Surviving Sounds. These are some of the best underground labels in the UK.

We were very lucky.

What brought you to Trepanation?

I was really Craig. He has a drone side project called Bogwytch and did a little tour with Dan Dolby (owner of Trepanation). They got to talking and that made sense, given some of the other records Trepanation has released. Also, to be completely honest, Dan gave us a lot. It’s obviously not just about the money, but if someone offers you X, Y and Z, you’re going to get the better of someone who offers X and Y.

you recorded An endless static during the COVID-19 lockdown era. What effect did this have on production?

We actually had all the microphones set up, in our group space where we record everything, and we had walked a trail when it was announced that we were going to lock down. He put everything on hold. I did retail therapy and bought a few more mics and then because I’m self employed I didn’t go back to work when it all opened up. So I put everything back together and started from scratch. I recorded everything over and over again. Every song I finished then re-recorded the next day because I knew it could be better moving some mics. The confinement slowed everything down, but it gave us time.

I was surprised when I read that it was basically a home recording. Do you have a studio or is it literally a practice room?

Yeah, it was done in our group space. We are lucky that it has reasonably high ceilings and is quite large. I had built a few things and done a little processing, 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 on how to do it, but it was the first deep dive into recording a feature film.

What were your goals or objectives regarding the sound of the album?

Honestly I just wanted it to sound good [laughs]. Like I said, I really like Neurosis, but obviously I didn’t have access to the eight-track tapes. On some of their recordings you can hear a hiss before certain instruments go off, which I like to hear. So I wasn’t too worried that our album sounded too hi-fi. I just wanted it to sound good.

You definitely made it. A close comparison for me was actually Kurt Ballou’s production style, especially the drums. There is an equally powerful but brittle sound.

Thanks. A big part of that was Joe (Clayton, An Endless Static mixer). He is great. He recorded and mixed previous stuff we had done, so we brought him back. Honestly, a lot of us recording it ourselves had to do with saving money. We love going into the studio, but it’s not a cheap business. Although in hindsight I probably spent more money on microphones than we would have in a studio [laughs].

I really like the collaborative side of the album. You are a hundred years old, Ba’al and Torpor there. Did these contributions come naturally or was it a pre-planned thing?

After our first album, which we did alone and recorded in six days, we thought that next time it would be cool to involve other people. With rich [Spencer–Ba’al bassist], we share a rehearsal room with him and it turns out he was classically trained on the viola, so we asked him to play on a few tracks. Then, with Hundred Year Old Man and Torpor, we played a few gigs together, so we messaged them. We didn’t put any caveats on their contributions, we 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 has become more community oriented?

I think as big as the music industry is today, in many ways, for metal and certain subgenres of metal, it’s actually gotten smaller. There are more subgenres than ever, and with those, there might only be fifteen guys in a certain town who like that specific subgenre. So not only is it easy for these guys to connect, but it’s also easier than ever for them to connect with like-minded people in other cities and around the world.

We haven’t talked about the themes of the album. From what I have heard and read, I feel that the themes touch on both inner mental turbulence and larger systemic turbulence. Is this a fair reading?

Yeah. For each of us, we brought our own ideas to the lyrics and the music. For me, it has a lot to do with my past struggles with mental health and the daily battles you face.

Is that what the title of the album refers to? The constant background noise of mental health issues?

He is. I think for a lot of people who have these struggles, there are times when things are going well, but it’s just this constant background noise, yeah. Just yesterday I woke up and had a really rough day. I forced myself and it got better. But it is so easy to fall into the trap. I noticed better when I dive and I can now do things about it. A big part of this album is about moving on and letting go.

I noticed a lot of apocalyptic images in there too.

For Craig in particular, but for all of us really, the divide between elite and working class is something we’ve become very aware of. We all consider ourselves liberals, we think everyone should be allowed to be who they are. It’s a big part of the album, how in life there are these things that we have no control over, because there are groups of people that oppress us.

Which could also be related to the title.

Yes, and then it comes back to the mental health aspect. The album has several meanings. For me, a big part of it was just letting things go.

An endless static out June 17 via Trepanation records.

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