Words by Elizabeth Sharpe (@ummagummamumma)
The New Zealand lords of stoner sludge metal are crossing the Tasman once again and Aussie Beastwars fans are champing at the bit. Anyone who has seen me, spoken to to me, or kept up with my socials post-Dead of Winter 2019 would be well aware of my absolute love of this band.
It’s no wonder I jumped at the chance for a chat with drummer, Nathan Hickey about their DOW experience, the oddity of sludge metal bands attending awards shows, and of course, the This Mortal Decay tour (kicks off this Thursday!) plus their latest video release.
I’m a late bloomer Beastwars fan, I must be honest.
“Better late than never.”
I know, right! I first heard about you guys with the release of ‘IV’ being reviewed by one of our Good Call Live Team Members, David Cheyney here last year… I was impressed with what he had to say about the album and had to check it out – and then of course, your Dead Of Winter Debut… BLEW MY MIND! I was photographing that day and your set was the absolute stand out. You must have felt great after that show – I only saw fantastic feedback – myself for instance… you could’ve quoted me as saying it was like a spiritual experience, How was YOUR Dead of Winter experience??
“For us it was quite a special show because three years earlier we broke up pretty much at a show at Crowbar in Brisbane. It was just like a massive argument backstage before we played and we still played okay, I’m not sure if anyone in the crowd would’ve noticed, but for us personally it was a very odd show. So to come back to Brisbane and to play in a huge venue, you could feel the love in the room between us as band members but also people in the front row wearing Beastwars t-shirts which is always a good find when you’re doing a festival slot.”
And it was packed too, man.
“Yeah is was a great, great …. So we felt very lucky that we almost has a second chance to re-do Brisbane and to end that tour on such a high after the tour before that was such a downer, breaking up.”
That would’ve felt like turning over a new leaf, for sure.
“Yeah, and it’s always been kind of hard for us to ……. Melbourne’s always been really good for us because I think there’s a lot of Kiwis there That are into the sort of music we play, we’ve worked hard to get an audience in Sydney but we’ve played there quite a lot, but with Brisbane it’s a city that we haven’t hammered as much as we have Sydney and Melbourne, so I’m please that even though we haven’t been there that many times it was probably one of the biggest shows we’ve ever done, definitely the biggest show we’ve ever done in Australia at Dead of Winter in terms of audience numbers.”
Did you get a chance to see any other bands at DOW – were there any major stand outs?
“I saw a bunch of bands but being Australian band I didn’t have the name or first name familiarity …. I saw COG, they were amazing, Kyuss Dies which are really cool. I’ve had a bit of a thing, obviously being the style of music we play, of being a huge Kyuss fan and just through the ten years or so the band’s been together I’ve been lucky enough to meet every single member of the band apart from Scott Reeder, he’s the last one I’ve got to get. So, you know, I’ve had time with Josh Homme, and toured with John Garcia, and hung out multiple times with Brant Bjork at either playing the same shows as them or even just when they’re in town, having beers with them or whatnot. So yeah, Nick Oliveri, tick that off the list, we hung out and I heard some pretty crazy stories about lots of things but yeah… they were definitely a highlight too, Kyuss Dies. They were awesome.”
Beastwars were New Zealand Music Awards nominees at the end of last year! You didn’t take away the win – the prize went to Villainy – BUT it how does it feel to be getting so much recognition for your art? To know that it is resonating with so many people.
“It’s pretty cool. The whole music awards thing for us is quite odd because we’re not like a commercial band that tries to be popular in that sense of having the mainstream appeal.”
But that’s what I like in the way that you’re not trying to be that way, but you’re achieving that recognition that is otherwise seemingly reserved for more mainstream art.
“Yeah it is odd, it is odd. Because we turn up to these music awards and everyone gets a free limousine and whatnot so we’re cruising around in a limousine ’round Auckland city drinking champagne and whatnot and we’re just looking at each other laughing just going “This is not us!” But it’s pretty funny and every year, being nominated for Best Rock Album four times, for four albums, is quite an achievement but we never go in expecting to win. It’s always just like, we know that the industry will never kind of recognise us to the degree of putting us above a band that actually gets played to death on the radio. I mean, that’s not why we write music. It’s just a little bit of a bonus going to those award ceremonies and getting those tiny little hamburgers and getting some free drinks at the after party.”
Australia, definitely Brisbane, have fallen in love with you it seems and couldn’t wait to have you back – me in particular, I’m so grateful for Beats Cartel and Christian for bringing you back over so soon! In Brisbane you’ll be playing at the new Crowbar, and like you said before, maybe not such great memories for you guys from Crowbar – do you see it as a bit of a blessing that it’s recently changed locations?
“Definitely. It would’ve felt weird to be sitting in that same backstage area where everything blew up last time. So it’s pretty cool that they’ve changed venues.”
It’s less of a venue and more of an institution in Brisbane, Crowbar … You’ll be getting a fresh feel of it in the new address, the old Brightside, and forever be one of the first bands to play within the NEW Crowbar surroundings – how does that feel?
“It feels pretty cool. I’ve been following their progress on Instagram on how the place is getting done up and I sent a message to Trad, one of the owners, the other day saying “It looks like a house of sin”, and he kinda like that. Yeah so I’m looking forward to coming back. And what you just mentioned before about how it’s good that we’re coming back so soon, Christian from Beats Cartel, I only met him in October or something, he got in touch with us after Dead Of Winter and said “You guys are amazing. You gotta come back.” And then we had a few emails and he’s been working really hard for us. We’ve generally over the years done everything ourselves, this is the first time we’ve handed over the reigns of the booking and management side of things to someone else and I really appreciate how hard he’s been working, getting the word out. He’s doing a really great job for us, and it’s kind of nice to know you’ve got a champion on the other side of the Tasman.”
Coming back to my “spiritual experience” comment on your DOW performance, it’s fitting for me to be seeing you this time around within the walls of an old church – are you guys religious or or even superstitious at all?
“Well, I can’t really speak for the other guys, but I know Matt was raised a Catholic and you see his tattoos, he’s got a lot of religious imagery on his arms and whatnot. But I definitely would say that we all believe in some supernatural things, whether or not they’re religious or not, definitely supernatural.”
Does it come out in the music at all? Can Superfans go digging around in lyrics or anything like that?
“We’ve got a song Witches that is pretty blatantly about some special witches that Matt ran into one night.”
Oooo see now I’m going to have to have a few more listens to that one specifically – you’ve given me a challenge and a task! What other venues are you most looking forward to unleashing at over this tour and why?
“Well I’ve never played Stay Gold in Melbourne which will be cool, but we’ve played Cherry Bar a million times in the past, and we get to play the new Cherry Bar for our first time too, they’ve only been open for month or so too so it’s going to be pretty cool. James Young the owner has always looked after us really well and he’s a big fan so it’ll feel good that we can go and play a rock ‘n’ roll dive bar in Melbourne as well as a slightly bigger show at Stay Gold.”
Fresh release of a video for This Mortal Decay last week – it’s pretty damn epic, featuring live show footage, dramatic well thought out snippets from previous Beastwars clips, and animation too – where did the idea come about and what was the process like?
“It was an interesting one because Christian (Beats Cartel) was like “Have you got another single to do around the tour release?” And I said “Well, I’ve got this song that I really like called This Mortal Decay.” And it’s funny for a band of our genre to even be talking about singles because it’s not as if we get played on the radio or anything, so the concept of a single was odd, but it’s always good to release videos. And the whole thing about that song and the last record was all about us getting back together, being friends again, Matt getting over cancer, being healthy. And then we kind of reflected on everything we’ve done over the past ten or so years – and I thought, we’ve done so many great music videos over the years. why don’t I just take a snippet from each of the kind of worlds we created. It’s almost like a medley, or like a “best of” of everything we’ve done in the past and we’ve put the snippets together and tried to make some sort of narrative thread through it, which is probably a pretty loose narrative, but I’ve tried to make the pictures as literal to the lyrics as I could.”
Yeah, I really dig it.
“And it’s good for the environment recycling, too.”
So you put it together yourself?
“Yeah. I’m an editor. So I just grabbed copies of all our previous videos and spent a bit of time trying to think about how it would all work.”
A true multi-talent! Way to go! I love it, it’s epic!
“Gotta have a day job!”
But it’s great when the day job and the night job work really well together…
“Definitely! I thinks it’s the third video I’ve edited for this album. I think my favourite one was Storms Of Mars, which is one that we shot in the studio. It was the first song that Matt sung after chemotherapy and you can see he’s got no hair, no eyebrows, no beard – which is his trademark, his big beard – and that doesn’t exist, and he’s just singing his lungs out. It’s quite a powerful and simple video too.”
We strongly urge you get out to one of the shows on this Beastwars tour – check out all the details and grab yourself a ticket NOW!
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