Thursday, June 13, 2013

Interview with Andrew Packer of GYPSYHAWK

This interview was conducted before their set at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on November 18th, 2012. Due to a hard drive crash where I lost the write-up right prior to posting, and the time caring for a sick cat, I decided to delay writing up the interview again until next they toured through the area. Well that day is here as they play with the brilliant Valient Thorr a the Windup Space in Baltimore this Friday, June 14th. Try to catch this tour there or somewhere across the US as these bands are road tested, strong, loud and proud. But back to the previous discussion when Gypsyhawk was on tour with the Sword…

David Hintz - So where were did you play last night?

Andrew - Ah, Cambridge.

DH - Cambridge eh, was it the Middle East club?

AP - That's exactly where it was.

DH - Ah, ok--lucky guess, as I don't know the area that well.

AP - That's most everyone's first guess.

DH - (after the obligatory introduction items including that we both love Denver) So you guys are from LA?

AP - Yeah.

DH - And you grew up there as well?

AP - Yeah, I'm the only one who grew up there - in Pasadena. I went to college in Santa Cruz and when I graduated, I realized I wanted to be playing music more than I wanted to be doing academics. Law school was the plan more or less, but… And the other guys came to LA in different ways. Ian moved there to go to music school at the LA Music Academy. Ron moved there from Detroit to join White Wizzard, but eventually left as he was not enjoying his time there at all. And Eric ended up in LA to join Skeleton Witch and sort of got stuck there and we eventually met each other and started a band.

DH - Was that about 4-5 years ago?

AP - Four years ago (now five at time of post).

DH - Now LA is famous for its metal scene, but what is it like these days?

AP - I don't even know, man. I think when I first moved back in like 2006, it was great with a lot of great venues, a lot of great underground venues, but since then a lot of places have shut down or clubs have given up the rock nights to do dance nights with guaranteed audiences to come. There were some really good bands, but they have either become national bands or more or less fallen apart and I don't know that much about any up and coming young kids or bands, as the promoters I knew don't really do it much anymore. So, I don't know, LA has become a better place for the so-called 'punk scene' which is actually hipsters playing Black Flag songs to the least tough kids you would ever see in your life (laughter).

DH - Ha. So you probably have not spent a lot of time there being more on the road?

AP - We have spent a lot of time on the road, as this is our seventh tour. Our sixth tour was like a month preceding this tour and it had been a year since our fifth tour. So for the past year or so, we have mostly been at home, writing the album, recording the album, and we were kind of in a weird place for a while since the album did not come out for six months after we had recorded it, so no one was hearing it, so we did not want to waste money on the road knowing that when the album came out, much more would be happening. For the most part, we stayed at home, but from the people we've been talking to the past few days, we are preparing to be pretty much on the road full-time and working on the next album when we are home.

DH - Have you been to Europe?

AP - We have been to Europe.

DH - Your last record was on Metal Blade which is interesting as it is now a mature, older label. I remember the early releases, which were so important. How is this relationship working out?

AP - It is our first record with them, our second record in total. They've been great--they are really cool people and have been treating us really well. They are making us feel like we are part of the family, helping us where they can and doing a huge press push for us. The fact that we have Metal Blade's name next to ours has done wonders for our career, you know?

DH - I do and will attest to that, since they contacted me about your show and it was one of the few metal press releases I have received and I am happy they found my name and keep me informed.

AP - Yeah, they are good at their job at pushing the band and we deal with a lot of kids and people who try to tell us that you don't need record labels any more. But it's not true, often the people saying that are not out there trying to do it.

DH - It has really reached the day where, although we had to do it ourselves in the punk scene, all genres need full options (choices) going forward. It is nice that there are so many ways to do it now. I was friends with Husker Du and when they went with Warner Brothers, many people were saying this was terrible, then Sonic Youth and Nirvana with Geffen, but it all mostly worked out (musically at least). And I assume in your case, too, that your music is in your control?

AP - Yeah, totally.

DH - Did you have a producer working with you in a full studio?

AP - We were in a full studio and our engineer Zack Warren like sort of produced it in that he found our sound and he made us do things right and offered suggestions. But we didn't have a "Producer" producer telling us what to leave in and take out or any of that crap. The songs on the album were entirely written before we were in the studio.

DH - I have heard a little of your music, and it does seem to go not only to the early metal days, but to the classic hard rock days when I grew up in the early seventies. I am curious at how early in your life you discovered music that was older than you - as I am with almost any band a lot younger than me.

AP - (laughs) Yeah, well, my Dad was a huge Stones fan along with the Beatles and my Mom was a huge Beach Boys fan. So those three bands were always in my life growing up. When I started playing guitar around 11, I don't know when I discovered Jimi Hendrix either right before or after that, but he became a huge influence. Before I really got into classic rock or hard rock, whatever you want to call it, I was into punk bands in 7th or 8th grade, so from a pretty young start I have known how to find stuff whether rock, punk, or metal.

DH - That's right as punk is a great way that a lot of people start.

AP - Yeah, and I've always liked bands like Zeppelin and Deep Purple and such, and when I was in college, I started hanging out with some kids that were into psyche-rock, like Japanese psyche-rock. But I was also getting into stuff like Sir Lord Baltimore, Thin Lizzy, Captain Beyond, and other bands that really started speaking to me, because I've listened to a lot of techno, death metal. I like it, still like it, but it wasn't enough. It was all like brain music, and I like to feel it more than having a cerebral experience like smoking weed and say 'oh my god, how did he do that'. It's like 'no, this is rock, it's like this!'.

DH - Yeah, when I was in Denver some local metal band came back from Europe and said something like 'metal was back finally', but I wondered if it ever really left. What is your take on Metal History, does it come in and out of favor?

AP - Heavy metal?

DH - Yeah, I am not sure if it ever went away.

AP - Yeah, I think not. Everyone seems to like our sound and sometimes they are surprised at having a yearning for it. Most of the kids are playing death core or whatever you want to call it.

DH - Do you play on bills with bands like that?

AP - Yeah, we have, definitely. Especially when we have done Metal Blade showcase shows, we are like the lone rock band in the middle of the some really extreme crazy shit, which is fine. That is what has made this tour so perfect when we got the offer to finally play with such a great band (The Sword). I mean we have played with Six Feet Under, a huge band, but there fans may look at us like we are pussies. But Sword fans are going to accept it.

DH - Yes, I think so. And it is kind of interesting that bands like Mastodon, Baroness, and the Sword are getting good 'regular' media coverage to turning on many an indie fan.

AP - And they get a bad rap from some for being called hipster metal or something because are not extreme metal and that they are trying to cash in or something but there are kids who just learned about Sabbath and Iron Maiden. But they just grew up like I did, listening to all sorts of stuff. They all played in, like grind bands or hardcore punk bands when they were younger. But they grew out of that because they wanted good songs that have would be more timeless with catchy metal parts. You know it might not be the most technically difficult music to play, but writing a good song is hard (laughter). It is hard putting together really intricate riffs. I think that after year of doing music you just sort of eventually go that way, unless you are a band like Cannibal Corpse who is making money doing that, but I bet those guys have the same passion (garbled words)…
DH - I am curious if soft music is something you listen to.

AP - Ummm…. Earth (laughter)

DH - Earth! In the metal world, that counts.

AP - But yeah it goes back to the Beatles.

DH - Right, of course. I remember getting into punk because although I started with pop music, I kept going harder and harder like with Budgie or Montrose until punk came along and added speed, and then some of the newer metal acts after and it is interesting that I still like heavy music as much as when I was a kid.

AP - Yeah, well it makes you feel good.

DH - It does and it is a nice variation since I go to so many shows.

AP - Yeah, I was listening to Pink Floyd, which was a huge influence on me and King Crimson.

DH - Yeah.

AP - Those bands get kind of heavy, but they have their softer side.

DH - Yeah they will mix it up. So back to the Sword tour, have the logistics of the tour gone well?

AP - Yeah, it is perfect. We (our band) have talked for years, day dreaming, that the leading for us to tour with some day would be the Sword and it happened. It is everything I could have hoped for. They are SOOO good live, and such good guys. I mean I have seen them live before but I have not been able to sit there and study it. I see it this tour, how you take it to THAT level, how you have to be THAT good.

DH - Yes, that is interesting how you see an opening band that is really good and then you get to the headliner and it is 'oh yeah', these guys may have twenty years experience and know how to do that little bit extra and the young guys may figure it out, too.

AP - Absolutely. You know, we've been playing really solidly lately, and we've been getting better throughout the tour. (We chatted further about the tour and future plans but it is now the present so…). …we will try to write (the new album) on the road, but it is hard. All you want to do is sleep. I mean that is all I want to do if I am not in the club, doing the whole routine. But just sleeping and driving, the creative side isn't happening. I try to use my soundcheck to like find something creative that I can remember and use for later. But other than that.

DH - And the middle band tonight is on the full tour.

AP - Eagle Claw.

DH - Good name and we have two good representatives from the animal world opening for the Sword.

AP - Right.

DH - And I want to thank you for not being a wolves band or a deer (laughter) as so many bands have done in the last 5-10 years.

AP - Yeah, well although there are a lot of hawk bands, too.

DH - There's a few…, and for one last question, can you name an influence for you from the artistic world of movies, art, architecture that is non-musical but inspirational to you?

AP - Yeah, ummm… Hunter Thompson, love his books.

DH - Yes, from Colorado.

AP - Yeah, and Charles Bukowski is really cool. And Wes Anderson.

DH - You are the second person to mention the films of Wes Anderson and I don't do that many interviews.
So anyway I want to thank you for your time and have a great show and tour.

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