Thursday, December 7, 2023

Interview with NothingNew by Dave Wolff

Interview with NothingNew by Dave Wolff

Before NothingNew, Andrew C. Zinn was a member of the death/thrash band Head Not Found and a handful of other bands. Can interested parties listen to any of those bands via streaming?
Andrew C. Zinn (vocals, lyrics): Head Not Found is on Youtube but I can't say if anyone would care to hear it. Jerry Clayton was in a hardcore band called Stand Strong that did pretty well. Stand Strong is also the name of his record label. I looked up Stand Strong but didn't find anything. Jerry also played in a pop punk band called New Leaf.

How long has Jerry Clayton run Stand Strong Records? Is he assisted by a staff or does he handle everything on his own?
Jerry Clayton (guitar, bass): I started Stand Strong Records to release our music. I guess I’ve been doing it about two years or so. There is no staff, just me and anyone willing to help. We try to be as DIY as possible. Honestly it’s not much since we just do digital releases.

Does Stand Strong Records exclusively sign hardcore bands, or also bands of other genres? How many bands are currently with the label?
JC: I haven’t signed many bands. Honestly I just offered to help out one more band with recording and release. Mainly because they are friends and I already do it for us. They are in the writing phase now. When it’s done, if they decide to let me release it, they will be the second band on Stand Strong.

Who is Jerry assisting and how long has he known them? When and if the release is handled by Stand Strong, will hardcore fans be interested?
JC: I have known the members of NothingNew for well over twenty years and I have known the members of New Leaf around five or six years. I hope the listeners of Stand Strong will be interested in New Leaf’s songs. If I get to release it and since Stand Strong is so new and pretty much unheard of I think it will be okay. I don’t really want Stand Strong to just release one genre or another. I want to release good music no matter what the bands are doing.

Before NothingNew, what level of experience did Sean Lyons have with bands? Are you working with him for the first time?
Sean Lyons (guitar/bass): I have mostly jammed with friends or added guitar solos or parts to tracks recorded by friends. I briefly played with a heavy alternative rock band called Jericho Quick Stop in college. I’ve played as a member of a house band for stage productions. Jerry and I have been friends since high school so we have jammed together before. NothingNew is the first time we’ve done something together formally.
ACZ: I knew Jerry years before we started the band. I used to work at a mall; he would come in and we'd talk about music. We always discussed trying to start something, but we would be in other bands, or other things were going on and it never happened. That changed at an Eyehategod show we went to at The Knick in Birmingham, Alabama. We were there separately but it was weird because Birmingham was a pretty good drive for us both. We had the same conversation again but it was different because Jerry had been learning recording and how to use drum sims. He told me he could play everything and record it and I could do the vocals. That's where it started from. Sean is a childhood friend of Jerry’s. Jerry was looking to expand the possibilities of songwriting for NothingNew and to take some of the songwriting burden off his shoulders. He suggested Sean; if Jerry said he was good people, I knew it would work. Sean and I had talked a few times at shows or online but didn't know each other really well before he joined the band. He's been an amazing addition and he's my brother as much as Jerry.

In what ways has working with drum sims benefited Jerry's performance with the band?
JC: The drum sims benefit us in the way of using a perfect drummer. It’s perfectly in time at all times. It was used out of the fact that we didn’t have a drummer at first, and it let us record and release music without finding someone that might not have the same work ethic we do.

Can you tell me about the stage productions Sean was part of? How active was Jericho Quick Stop, did they intend to attract a larger audience or was it a local college band?
SL: It was just a couple of local theater productions from when I lived in the Muscle Shoals area. A coworker who was a drummer knew I played and connected me with the director. Jericho Quick Stop was fairly active with live appearances before I joined. They played original material but had not released anything, to my recollection. Unfortunately, shortly after I joined a couple of members decided to pursue other interests, so that basically ended the band.

NothingNew composes songs influenced by death and black metal, doom, sludge, and hardcore. Is there a way you mix these genres? If so, what steps are taken to make it unique?
SL: Personally, I don’t focus too much on genre when writing. Songs generally start with a riff that I’m excited about, and from there it’s about building around it in a way that makes musical sense. I’m inspired by bands more than genre, though the goal is to create something honest that sounds like us.
JC: I think our songs sound unique because we are the ones writing and playing them. Our band name comes from the idea that there is NothingNew in music. But I think when we have a song finished it’s going to sound like us. And that’s what makes it unique.
ACZ: Related to the mixing of different genres of metal, I've always mixed death, black, and hardcore guttural vocals to the songs. I feel using different vocal timbres helps keep the vocal delivery interesting throughout the song. And it adds more textures to the overall completed song. Also, the music itself started more with sludge, doom, and death/doom in the early days of the band. As we've gotten more comfortable and improved as musicians we've branched out some into other, more extreme, metal genres. We even did a full black metal EP. With Sean joining the band, we've moved into more thrash, hardcore, and death metal places in the music. However, we'll never abandon our doom and sludge roots. The slow and heavy will always be a major component of what we write.

How much of a unique sound are you striving to achieve? Are you close to reaching this goal?
JC: For me I don’t try super hard to be unique so much. I just try to find a sound I like, then see if the band likes it. As for different styles I just write what comes out that day. Sometimes it’s doom, sometimes it’s something else. A goal for this band is just to keep making good music and having fun with my friends.
SL: For me, I’m just trying to write music I would want to listen to. Like Jerry, I’m not consciously aiming for uniqueness. But I don’t think we’re copycats either. I think we sound like us even though our various influences are there. As long as we like what we’re doing, I expect it will continue in that direction.

Do your lyrics vary as much as your music? What are some topics or themes you've covered? For example, the lyrical content on your album “Blood From The Southern Sky” seems to stand out.
ACZ: Song lyrics for the band are generally stream of consciousness. They are purposefully left vague and open to interpretation. I prefer the listener to get from it what they need to. There have been few exceptions from that. We did a song called “Work to Death” that Jerry wanted a specific theme for lyrically, so that's what we did. The black metal EP is going to have black metal themes such as evil, darkness, and general anti-Christian sentiment. As a whole, I'd prefer not to force concepts down the listener’s throat. I'd like the lyrics to mean something different to everyone who hears them.

How has your band been received locally and on social media/streaming sites so far? What improvements have been made over the years?
JC: I think we do better on social media than locally. I feel with every release we gain a few more people that like what we do. So on all our albums we do all the mixing and producing ourselves. I do most of the recording. Now we can do our own parts at home. Mastering is also done by me. I just took up the recording side of it because I always wanted to learn. And I’m still learning as much as I can. I know I need to be a lot better. But it’s also night and day from the beginning of the band.

Exactly how much have you learned about recording? Does recording your own music make it closer to your vision that working with a producer?
JC: I learned a ton about recording from the beginning of the band till now. And I still learn every day. I think recording our own music does help with the vision of each album. I do tend to let outside people listen to our records after we’re done to give me ideas on how to make it better.

What equipment do you have available for recording, mixing, and mastering?
JC: I’m always trying new VSTs and sims. Different DAWs as well. I and Sean are always looking at new guitars. I have found a lot of things I like to use for mixing and mastering, but new VSTs come out all the time I check out. Right now we use Reaper for the DAW and a MOTU m4 for my interface. We used a ton of different amp sims for amps and Superior Drummer 3 for drums, a few different EQs and reverbs for finishing and Ozone to help with mastering.

Does the band prefer a raw or polished sound, or does it depend on the song or the album?
JC: The sound of the band changes song by song. If the song needs to have a rawer sound we do that. If it needs to be polished we do that.

Describe the process of creating your full-length “In This Together”. Did the band mix and produce the album independently or did you hire professionals?
JC: We recorded and mixed this ourselves. This is the album Sean joined on. This album we recorded and I was not happy with it. I felt like my solo playing should have been a lot better. Sean’s solo playing is nearly perfect so we asked him to join.

Your full-length “Wretched Paths” featured covers of Black Sabbath, Sepultura, Joy Division, Superjoint Ritual, and Darkthrone. What was the process of selecting songs and adding your own touch?
JC: We each picked a few we liked and thought would sound good done by us. As far as adding our own touch, I just did the songs as I’d do any NothingNew song.
ACZ: Choosing the cover songs for “Wretched Paths” was really some give and take. Jerry picked some, Sean picked some, I picked some, and we picked some together. Satyricon and Darkthrone are the only ones I'm positive I picked on my own. There were a few songs that really made me step out of my comfort zone. Honestly, I may have butchered some of those beloved songs, and if I did, I apologize to anyone I've offended. I swear I did try my best. On the flip side, doing covers is good for musicians because it gets them out of their comfort zone. It can get you out of a musical rut and try new things which you may even apply to your primary music. This allows you to grow as an artist.

The vocals on your cover of Sepultura's “Refuse/Resist” are spot on and one might mistake them for Max Cavalera's. How long did it take you to record it so accurately?
JC: The Sepultura song was honestly pretty quick. I’ll let Andrew talk about the vocals. The one thing I will say about the musicianship is Sean recorded that song in one take. He had that solo down perfectly and nailed it one take.
SL: Thank you for the kind words. As Jerry said, the guitar tracks were done in one take, even the guitar solo. I can be pretty obsessive over recording solos, so I was proud of that one. Sepultura is one of my favorite bands. I’ll also add that “Refuse/Resist” was the catalyst for me joining NothingNew. Jerry texted me and asked if I’d be interested in playing the solo, and the rest is history. In retrospect, I’m glad I did a good job, haha.
ACZ: In reference to the Sepultura cover, they are a band I used to practice with a lot over the years. I don't know if many vocalists would admit it, but doing karaoke in the car is how I keep up my vocal chops because we don't practice like a band who does shows. Crowbar, Pantera, and Sepultura are bands I've done a lot of karaoke with. Particularly Crowbar. With that said, “Refuse/Resist” was one I worked with before.

Your rendition of Black Sabbath's “Children of the Grave” is rawer and more stripped down, like doom metal in its root form. In addition, it was arranged in a slightly different manner.
JC: The Black Sabbath song was actually done for a comp that was released a couple of years before “Wretched Paths” came out. So the recording is rawer because I wasn’t as good. Plus I found the actual Bill Ward drum track and used that. The reason it was arranged differently was because of time issues. We got behind on time and had to kinda rush it to finish. And I honestly love it. It is very fitting for NothingNew.

Your diverse range makes you ideal for this webzine, which has covered a wide variety of genres. When conducting interviews, do you seek zines that do the same?
JC: As far as interviews go I’m always excited to talk to anyone that’s interested in the band.
SL: I’ll talk to anyone about the band as well. I think because of our sound we would primarily attract interviews from like-minded publications or people, but I’m open to anyone.
ACZ: We appreciate anyone, and not just interviewers who take interest in what we do. And thank you for taking the time to speak with us. I don't foresee us turning down any publication for an interview any time soon, regardless of that journalist's specific genre focus.

As you continue to experiment as musicians, would you consider releasing another album of covers? What does NothingNew have in mind for their release?
JC: As for another covers album, it would be a long time from now. We would get a few more releases out there before I’d want to do another covers album. Right now we have “Wreathed in Bone” coming out on December 15, 2023. We are working on videos and things like it. Then we start the next album.
SL: If we ever do more covers, I think it would be either a one-off or an EP. I’m excited about “Wreathed in Bone”. We worked hard on it, and it was a long time coming. Beyond that, I’m excited to continue writing new music.
ACZ: As far as covers go, I'd have to agree with Sean when answering with my gut. I would think it would be a song or two here and there, but I don't feel like we would commit to a cover album in the near future.

How do you envision NothingNew's long-term impact on underground music? Are you beginning to have that impact or do you have a way to go?
JC: I can’t say about our impact in underground music personally. I just enjoy making friends and releasing music. I hope we are liked and people listen.
SL: I haven’t thought too much about our impact. I just hope people check us out and dig the songs.
ACZ: Our impact on the music underground is impossible for me to quantify. When you do something creative, you have no idea how many people it reaches, the impact, and how it affects the rest of the art community. My approach is, I work hard to put out a product the three of us are happy with and we release it to the world. What the world chooses to do with it is out of our hands. I can only hope it impacts others in some positive way.

-Dave Wolff

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