Heavy-Vinyl Presents: An Interview with Gatecreeper vocalist, Chase Mason
GATECREEPER return with their highly anticipated new album Deserted. The new album, a furious mix of snarling guitars and driving, rhythmic pummeling takes death metal from its 80's Floridian roots and 90's Swedish expansion straight into the here and now. In fact, the vanguard of death metal in 2019 can be found under Arizona’s searing sun. That’s where GATECREEPER members—Chase Mason, guitarist Eric Wagner, bassist Sean Mears, drummer Matt Arrebollo and guitarist Nate Garrett—make their homes.
Of course, the band nodded to their scorching home state with the title of their 2016 full-length debut, Sonoran Depravation. The theme continues on Deserted, whichboasts songs like “Sweltering Madness,” “Boiled Over” and the double-meaning title track.
You can hear the results on “From The Ashes,” a crushing cut primed for the European festival circuit. Over on side two, “Boiled Over” fuses classic BOLT THROWER with the pulverizing power grooves of sludge titans CROWBAR. Album closer “Absence Of Light” upholds GATECREEPER's tradition of finishing their records with a deathly doom dirge.Vocalist, Chase Mason, took a few minutes this week to talk to Heavy-Vinyl interviewer, Noah Anderson, about the upcoming album and Gatecreeper’s creative process.
Heavy-Vinyl: Hey is this Chase?
Chase Mason: Yeah
HV: Hey this is Noah with Heavy-Vinyl.
CM: Hey how are you doing?
HV: Good, How are you? Are we still good to talk at the moment?
CM: Yeah I’m currently in Prague with my other band Spirit Adrift we’re in Europe right now.
HV: Oh wow you’re in Prague, that sounds pretty awesome. How is that going?
CM: It’s going pretty good yeah.
HV: So are you guys doing a whole European run?
CM: Yeah, we’re doing about two weeks worth of shows and we are going to come back right before the Gatecreeper record comes out.
HV: Very cool, yeah I saw your tour starts in October.
CM: Yeah that's right.
HV: Well I have some questions after listening to the new album so we can start by going down the list if that’s alright with you?
CM: Yeah, sure.
HV: Awesome, so like I said I gave the new album a listen and it sounded to me almost like black metal and doom metal mixed with old school thrash. I just wanted to know how you guys got to that sound?
CM: Well, I think for me it’s death metal with a little bit of doom or whatever stuff incorporated in. I think that our influences are pretty apparent you know? Like Obituary and Swedish death metal, I mean the surface level influences are pretty obvious and we don't really shy away from that. We kinda wear it on our sleeve. But our sound has been the same from the beginning of the band. I think for this record we incorporated a couple new elements on it. Yeah there is some black metal stuff on there and we’ve always had some doom parts but I think it’s going to be more apparent on this record.
HV: For sure, I definitely picked up on that.
CM: It’s really just been an evolution of our sound. The ingredients are all the same but in different amounts you know?
HV: Absolutely. I kinda picked up on that when I went through and listened to some of the older stuff and then switched over to the new songs and you could really hear what you guys brought through with the new elements so that was really cool to hear. So how did you guys come to make the new album? What was the process of making that?
CM: Well since this is our second full length album, we were able to write all these songs with the intention of it being a whole record. For our first record, it’s like you start writing songs as a new band and for years you are just writing new songs to write new songs because you are a new band.
HV: Yeah i’m sure you want to get as much out there as you can when you are starting out.
CM: Absolutely. So with this new one it’s like “alright we are writing a new record” We’re not just writing songs to write songs, we’re writing songs as a record.
HV: Yeah for sure.
CM: And we had some goals (with the new record). We looked at our last record and said “what’s not on there that we want? We wanted more guitar leads, I wanted my vocals to be better and more dynamic. We’ve always had memorable riffs and riff focused music and we wanted to kinda continue that but have more catchy song writing. But we didn't want to change too much. What we were doing (on previous releases) works for us. But we did want to incorporate new elements and get better at what we have already done.
HV: I definitely think that came through pretty well on the new tracks.
We talked a little bit about the black metal and doom themes but what would you say are some of the biggest themes throughout the album?
HV: Yeah musically or lyrically? Was there anything you guys wanted to really focus in on and kinda drive home on the new album?
CM: I mean musically the themes are like I said, we wanted our guitar lead to have more memorable parts. We wanted it to be a record you want to listen to over and over or even a song that gets stuck in your head that you want to listen to again and again. There are different elements, like some of the fast songs and we have been touring a lot since our last record so we know what works well in a live sense. So some of the songs are like “alright, this is a song that is good on the record, but in a live setting this is really going to pop” you know? And there are some songs where we can look at it from the perspective of “we aren't just writing a record, we are also writing songs to play live on tour. Then there are some songs like the last song ‘Absence of Light’ which is a very doom-y song which we will probably never play live. That’s the other side of it, that was how we wanted to close on the record out. Kind of like a funeral with this doom song at the end.
HV: That was a good way to kind of just wrap it up.
CM: Yeah we know that we probably won't play it live but it's how we wanted to wrap it up and end the record. So we have different little mini themes. There are a couple of different songs that are kind of the same. And also the way we write music, I only sing live but I do write about half of the guitar. Me and the other guitar player Eric wrote the guitar for the record. So some songs are ones that he wrote, some are ones that I wrote, and some are ones that we wrote together.
HV: So do you think it will be noticeable on the record as to who wrote which songs?
CM: I know that I can tell the difference because we have different styles, but I'm not sure if anyone else can really tell. But for me there are songs that are linked together, not in the track listing, but these songs have a similar vibe. We tried to set it up to where those songs are spread apart so that it’s constantly changing. I wanted it to be like a good mixtape where every other song is different. At least when I make a playlist that has things like metal, punk and rap I want them to be spread out so it’s not two metal songs in a row or anything like that.
HV: I understand that, I do the same thing with playlists. I don't want to hear the same thing or the same band twice, it just gives a good sense of variety to the whole thing. It’s really cool you guys spread the tracks on the album that way.
CM: Yeah. As far as lyrical themes, our band is from Arizona which is a unique element. Arizona isn’t a place that is well known for having death metal bands.
Photo: Joey Maddo
HV: Yeah I was going to say, you usually think of California for metal.
CM:Yeah. The climate is also unique, in the desert it’s pretty hot so we’ve tried to tie that into our artwork and even the album title and some of the lyrics. Heat is also a thing that comes up, almost as the opposite of black metal where they talk about it being so cold so it’s like the exact opposite of that.
HV: That’s really cool that you guys brought the two styles together like that while keeping them separate and unique to you and where you come from, even throughout the artwork and title of the album.
CM: Yeah it’s definitely a recurring theme in our band.
HV: I know we talked a little bit about the live aspect of things, but what are some of the highlights of touring for you?
CM: Obviously playing live is fun and interacting with people who like our music or other bands that we tour with. The more you tour, the more people you meet and you become friends with people and bands that you tour with. Especially when you tour in the United States it seems like every city you know people. Whether it’s fans that we’ve met before or friends that we’ve made along the way or bands that we’ve played with. We have done it enough to where no matter where we go there are going to be some people we know. For me that is one of my favorite parts. Being able to see people I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise is really cool for me.
HV: Connecting with people like that must be fun, especially when it’s all over the country. Keeping with that, what are some of the more negative parts of being on the road and being away for a long time like that?
CM: For me, I don’t really mind being gone a lot. I have it set up at home to where I can be gone and it’s going to be fine. I know it’s different for everyone, some people are married, some people have other responsibilities at home but for me personally I enjoy being gone.
HV: Is there anything you, or even as a band, have noticed being in the studio and recording the new album that has made it easier for you guys to record or come up with things to put on the album?
CM: Yeah, we’ve recorded everything we have put out at the same studio with our friend Ryan in Tucson. For our band some of us are in Phoenix and some are in Tucson which is like an hour and a half drive but we record in Tucson. So for me it’s not exactly local as in right down the street but it’s close enough. Every time we do a new record or a recording session we learn from it and like I said, we looked at our previous record and said “what can we do better that will make this easier for us or make it more efficient so that we have more time to really perfect it?” So we took two weeks, I think, to track it and we were able to do every layer and go over it. We took our time and didn’t feel rushed at all. Then we had Kurt at God City mix it and this is the third record he has mixed for us. So it was a pretty tried and true method.
Like I was saying before me and Eric write music, and we like to make demos using Garage Band. We program the drums and then record riffs. So making demos is a big part of our writing process. We aren’t a band that gets to the studio or the jam space and write together, that’s just not how we do it. We record it, and now we have it set up so we demo it and use the guitars we recorded as scratch tracks when we are recording in the studio. So that makes it a lot easier and more streamlined because we don’t operate like bands used to. I think a lot of bands now do it the way we do because you don't have to live in the same state or country as your bandmates because you can send stuff back and forth online.
HV: Yeah I think that Garage Band is an awesome tool. I’ve played around with it in the past and it has always been a helpful tool to have. Especially for putting down demo’s or riffs or even a beat that you will probably forget later. That’s got to be a lot easier to pull out a device and get your ideas down.
CM: Yeah it has definitely been a valuable resource.
HV: Just one final question for you. What are you most excited for fans to hear on the upcoming album?
CM: I’m definitely excited for people just to hear it as a whole. We have released two songs already and that has gotten a good reception. But like ive been saying, it’s kind of one piece you know? It has a specific beginning, middle, and end. Ideally someone listens to it front to back. But I also think each song stands on it’s own. The one that I am most excited for people to hear, and almost anxious, are the ones that we did something a little different on. There is a song on there called ‘From Ashes’. It’s the third song and it’s almost more melodic than anything we’ve done before but it’s not too extreme of a change. So i’m excited for people to hear that and see what they think.
HV: Well that’s everything I've got for you. Thanks again for carving out some time and I hope the rest of the Prague tour goes well and the new album has a good release.
CM: Yeah no problem. Thank you so much, have a good one.
Gatecreeper will be on tour this November. Check out tour dates at:
Cover photo: Pablo Vigue