An (incomplete) list of Canada’s greatest exports:
Degrassi Junior High
Yes, I know one of those things is not quite like the others, but if you call yourself a grindcore fan and aren’t familiar with Calgary’s WAKE…man, I don’t even know how to finish that sentence. So instead let me break it down for you: their last full-length, 2016’s Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow, are nineteen of the most unrelentingly pissed-the-fuck-off minutes of grind ever committed to (digital) tape. It’s also one hell of an act to follow, so what did the band do?
Maybe Misery Rites isn’t quite *completely* different from Sowing the Seeds, since there are still plenty of raging moments to be found within. However, it certainly shows some different sides of the band, as they branch out from the more straightforward grind of the previous album and experiment more with tempo and dissonance. But make no mistake the album is an absolute fucking beast, and you can preorder it on a variety of formats ahead of its February 23 release from Translation Loss Records.
I had the pleasure of talking with guitarist Rob LaChance and drummer Josh Bueckert about the new record and a couple other things besides. Grab yourself a preorder (I got the cassette myself), and then come back and check out our conversation.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey, so first off – thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview. I’ve had the chance to spend some time with Misery Rites, and sweet mother of fuck – what a record. Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow is easily one of my favorite grind albums so far this decade, so I was wondering how you’d be able to follow it up. You may well have topped it with this new one. I know almost every band will say their new album is their best ever, but how do you think Misery Rites compares with Sowing the Seeds? After living with it for close to two years and touring it relentlessly, how do you feel actually feel about Sowing the Seeds at this point?
Rob: Thanks, man. I feel Misery Rites is more refined, but is still a continuation of what we were developing on Sowing. I’m still very proud of Sowing and enjoy playing the songs live. What we’ve done with Misery Rites is produced heavier riffs while venturing into the more dissonant and ‘uglier’ sounds of the metal spectrum. We learned quite a bit between Sowing and the writing of Misery Rites, specifically introducing the use of textures and atmosphere. We had experimented with this a bit in the past but had never really developed the sound fully, to the point in which they are on Misery Rites.
Josh: Sowing is an album that I toured from the get go but didn’t help write or play on, so to me it is night and day compared to Misery. But I think it’s a great album objectively, and looking back years ago now it is the reason I was eager as fuck to join the band once that all fell into place.
IMV: The thing that I noticed right off about Misery Rites is that it’s more…I don’t want to say ‘nuanced,’ because it’s still the kind of album that will chew your face off, but it’s not all rage and blasting like Sowing the Seeds. There are some slower tempos, some dissonant passages. Opening track “Exhumation” is a good example – it has this caustic, sludged-out feel to it not unlike something Primitive Man or Vermin Womb would do, right down to what sounds like Ethan McCarthy on guest vocals. When you started working on the material for Misery Rites, was the plan to add some of these different textures from the start, or was that something that evolved as you were writing the album?
Rob: We had a definite direction and vision in mind from the start like we did with Sowing, but honestly I’d be lying if I said that everything went according to plan and that a lot of stuff didn’t evolve from just spending too much time in the room together, practicing and writing. A few things we knew right away was that we wanted to experiment with slower tempos, focus on writing ‘songs,’ push further away from ‘one dimensional grind.’ We knew that we wanted to see Dave Otero for production as we were really into a lot of records that he had worked on. Most of Sowing was written by me and then worked out with our drummer at the time. Misery Rites was more of a group effort, where I would bring riffs or Arjun would bring riffs to the table and we would work them out together as a full unit.
Josh: None of us sat down and decided preemptively exactly what we wanted the album to sound like, but we knew it would be a natural continuation from Sowing and a step away from typical grindcore. As soon as the first few riffs were being written it was pretty clear that it was going to be less straightforward, and I think the writing process helped spur this headspace. We were inspired by various musical genres and we didn’t feel restrained by the confines of grindcore or any one genre whatsoever. It was refreshing to write songs that we would want to hear. Yes we experimented a little with slower tempos and odd times when we felt it was necessary to do so.
IMV: The second main difference between the two albums is the lyrical focus. Sowing the Seeds might not have necessarily been a political album, but it did seem to take very angry aim at the problems of the world at large. Misery Rites is far more introspective, and it feels much bleaker than any political-themed album would (which in 2018 is saying a lot). According to the PR notes, the album “follows a theme of cycles, the main cycle being the metaphorical killing of the person you hate being only to eventually end up back in the same place, just to start the cycle again.” At what point in the writing process did it become clear that would be the concept? Were some of those different musical textures on the album inspired by the lyrical concept, or did the music inspire the lyrical direction?
Rob: Kyle had explained to me his lyrical concept for the album a few songs into writing. I was way into his ideas and we crafted a great deal of content to fit Kyle’s idea of perpetual cycles and built that into the music.
Josh: Kyle writes all of the lyrics and we let him say what needs to be said.
IMV: Just in general, what’s your songwriting process like? I haven’t interviewed many grind bands, so I’m curious as to how that process might differ from the average black metal or death metal band. Wake has always felt closer to the Rotten Sound end of the grind spectrum than the Sulfuric Cautery end to me: you write these very compact, precise songs with memorable riffs instead of doing the shitty production and blazing speed thing (which I also like – don’t get me wrong). How much of the writing happens separately, and how much of it gets jammed out in the rehearsal space?
Josh: Misery is an album that I don’t see as a typical grindcore album, and compared to Sowing the songs are much less compact and straight-forward. Writing hooks and memorable parts is something that always we aim for. Every riff has a purpose, whether it’s to be melodic or brutal and nonsensical. The writing process for Misery was: Rob and Arjun wrote riffs, showed them to me, and we either came up with something workable within minutes or we rewrote shit till it became cool, and then went for drinks. Also, we recorded good quality demos up in the studio we were using in Edmonton just before going on tour, and we ended up changing tons of stuff from playing them every night. Having some demoed and road hardened songs months before recording with Dave helped us analyze and milk every riff for optimal brutality.
IMV: After working with Joel Grind on your last album, you recorded Misery Rites in Denver with Dave Otero. What was that process like? The end results sound fantastic from a production standpoint. I’m fascinated by gear, so I always like to ask about that as well – what did your studio setups look like, and how close are they to the rigs you use on the road?
Rob: Dave was a lot of fun to work with. He also loves good beer and good Indian food, so it was a great fit. Dave understood what we were doing and what we were trying to achieve with recording. He made sure to push all of us to the best of our abilities, specifically Kyle and Josh. I think my main set up was a Soldano Avenger with a TS-9 in front of it with maybe a blend of a 5150. Arjun’s was purely 5150. Nothing to really get all FCOAW about, but we usually go with more modern tones and are more than happy with the turnout.
Josh: Working with Dave was great. Having a third party perspective of someone who knows what we were after, as well as a dude who also plays and listens to this kind of music, helped change some small stuff that I personally never thought much about, but that ended up making some impact in the big picture. He knew how to push me and get the most out of my drum parts. Plus it was great to hang out with the dude and drink at the vaious Denver hotspots.I don’t know anything about Dave’s studio gear, but we drove our shit through U.S. customs and used that. I used my old Yamaha Oak kit and the biggest ride cymbals I could find, and the other boys played their usual blood stained gear.
IMV: Misery Rites is coming out on Translation Loss Records. In general, I associate them more with post-metal than anything else – Rosetta and Mouth of the Architect are the first two bands that come to mind, though I know they released Vermin Womb’s full-length as well. How did that deal come about?
Rob: Translation Loss is a label that has no genre limitations and has worked with bands of all kinds of flavour, which was very appealing for us as we don’t necessarily fit into everyones definition of what ‘grindcore’ is, and nor do we want to. Their roster includes bands that were very influential to WAKE, from the beginning. TL had contacted us after hearing that we were in the studio with Dave. Shortly after that, TL heard the recording and offered to release our album.
Josh: We had some labels in mind and Translation Loss was the best fit.
IMV: Wake is a band that’s known for touring pretty consistently, which is particularly impressive considering how much more difficult it’s gotten for underground bands to eke out any sort of living on the road. Do you have any tips for younger bands that might want to make that leap and do more touring?
Josh: We certainly don’t make anything close to a living on the road, but we are all prepared to sink time and money into this band for our own selfish satisfaction, which is the only way you can really justify this insanity aside from love of METAL. Tips: make music you care about, make connections with the right people, don’t piss off aforementioned people as to enable further touring. And get wasted every night so you can guarantee falling asleep in any circumstance.
IMV: Wake is from Calgary, and I have to admit that I’m not very familiar with the Calgary scene. Aside from a couple of Edmonton bands like Begrime Exemious/Falsehood and Rites of Thy Degringolade, I don’t know much about Alberta metal at all – I’m much more familiar with the Québec black metal scene. Any Calgary or Alberta bands you want to shout out here as being worth checking out, especially for grind fans?
IMV: So what’s the plan after the album drops on February 23? I’m going to guess…touring? Any plans for an extended run through the US? And how might you be persuaded to come to Indiana?
Rob: We’ll be touring most of Canada and a lot of the US in March/April and more to come throughout the year. Be prepared.
IMV: Thanks again for taking the time to answer some questions. I always like to leave the last word to the bands – anything else you want to add?
Josh: Follow the eternal black formless flame to the frosted homewoods of the F.K.D.K. to truly understand the answers to these questions.
Rob: This was an awesome and well thought out set of questions, and if all interviews were like this I’d probably complete a lot more of them.