"Gnaw is probably the most democratic band that I've been a part of when it comes to song ideas, parts, and subject matter," Gnaw vocalist Alan Dubin recently told me during a chat about their forthcoming third studio album, Cutting Pieces. If the name sounds familiar to those of you who don't know him, Dubin used to front early Earache Records outfit Old Lady Drivers, while the '00s saw him singing in the critically acclaimed doom outfit, Khanate.
The reason we're on the subject of songwriting democracy is because experimentation is a hugely important element of what Gnaw does. I asked Dubin if he ever found himself having to defend any of his ideas. "For the most part, a band member will have an idea that he or she presents at band practice or through recording a rough idea and sending the elements around. Three things happen from there. The first one being, utter bewilderment, laughter and immediate 'what the fuck is that? It rules!' Then everyone contributes, expands upon it, re-records in a studio together or alone, depending on how developed the part or song is and it turns into a full tune.
"Second one is, 'um....that's way too straight forward, that sounds like (insert band name). There's no way in Hell that we're doing that.' The third is usually when someone sends a recorded idea around, members listen and If the pieces don't catch anyone's attention right away, they tend to sit on a server and rot until we rediscover them much later. Carter [Thorton], especially, has a knack for making these really great low fidelity recordings and they start piling up. Just last night over drinks, he angrily muttered "I have over forty minutes of music rotting on the server!". [Laughs] I've had a few moments that I had to defend where I felt strongly about a song. The first one was the first full Gnaw tune ever written. It was temporarily called 'Pig In Blanket' and was an industrial tune that I arranged but everyone thought it was silly. The song re-emerged as something else with the same lyrics but I lost that battle. Outvoted and scarred for life. Bastards! I love those bastards but...bastards!"
Now that you have a better understanding of Gnaw's creative process, why not dig into a track from their new album? So, let the nightmarish sounds of "Extended Suicide" soak in for a few minutes:
"'Extended Suicide' is one of the harsher industrial tracks on the album. We might get flack for the lyrics because they'll be taken the wrong way as pro-suicide which is not quite the intention. The song, to me, is about loneliness, 'imagined suicide,' procrastinating and being all talk but never getting around to the deed. Do it! Brian [Beatrice] came up with the skeletal music sections for this one. It's coincidence that part of the music was inspired by an old Suicide song that was a live cover of some 1950s song which I think was called '96 Tears' from some live CB's bootleg [laughs] That really has no relation to the song title.
"Everyone is all over this song. Jun [Mizumachi] has noisy sound design in there, adding fuzz and atmosphere. Eric [Neuser] is bashing away like a madman on the drums and even has a rare rock moment along with the Big Black vibe. Carter banged out a bass attack with his old sawed-off Kramer bass that he cut to pieces just so it would fit into an oddly shaped case that he had. Brian played guitar and has some wicked Butthole Surfers-like guitar solo action in there. Dana [Schechter] went nuts with lapsteel guitar on this one. Along with traditional playing, there are some ferocious noises that don't resemble lapsteel that she created. Check out the crazy rattling in the first section."
Before I let Dubin go, I had to ask him if there was any chance of Old Lady Drivers ever getting back to play a reunion show. "I never say 'never,' but the chances are slim to none. In order to play the old stuff, all the drum programming and samples would have to be recreated from scratch. It would be an overwhelming process, especially for James Plotkin. Plotkin's guitar playing and arrangements were absolute magic in Old. It's a known fact that he sold his soul the to the Devil to make that music. His guitar playing on Lo Flux Tube, Musical Dimensions..., and Formula is my favorite guitar playing by anyone and I really wish he would do something of that ilk again. I'm not sure if we're even capable of making new Old tunes now since we're a little more grounded to reality...you know...adults. You never know."
To celebrate the release of Cutting Pieces, Gnaw will be playing a record release show with Couch Slut and Syndromes on Oct. 29 at Brooklyn's hallowed Saint Vitus. Translation Loss will release Cutting Pieces on LP, CD, and digital formats on October 27; find preorders at this link.
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