Thanks for agreeing to the interview Vaughan, as you and I talk fairly regularly, how about we start off with something a little different. I imagine a few of our readers may never have heard of Grave Forsaken before, so if I asked you to tell me why they should listen to your band, in no more than a few sentences, what would you say?
You should listen to GF because we are committed to a long term musical and spiritual vision. God willing, we intend to continue this indefinitely. It’s not a phase we are going through. We hope to keep releasing regular albums for the next 10, 15, 20 years. So if you listen to us, you are listening to a band you can grow with over a long period of time. We’d love to build up a loyal base of supporters who keep an eye on our progress. The style may shift slightly from album to album, but we will eventually hit the “GF sound”. Spiritually, we just want to present the gospel in an honest and open way, either as an encouragement for Christians or an outreach to non Christians.
I’ve just finished listening to the new RoxxRoweMass podcast, in which you were interviewed and had two songs played. Could you share a little about that with us, and your relationship with the three labels involved?
Yeah, no problem. We did 2 albums with Rowe Productions. They were “Beside The River Of Blood” in 2006 and “Destined For Ascension” in 2008. We also did the 2007 “Horror And Sadness” EP through Rowe. During this time we formed a solid working relationship with Adam from Soundmass, and we approached him about releasing the 3rd album “This Day Forth” on Soundmass. That album did well enough that we got offered a deal to release our 4th album “Fight To The Death” on Soundmass as well. Roxx Productions has recently partnered Rowe Productions and Soundmass for the podcast, and they are selling our latest album through their webstore.
The podcast interview was a lot of fun. I called up Bill in California and we chatted for about half an hour. I respect Bill a great deal, and it was really cool to chat with him. We hope to be involved in a lot more podcasts, they are a fantastic medium and in my opinion, the best way to get music out there. I listen to Warzone, Master’s Metal, Full Armor Of God and Anvil and Hammer, so if any of those want to do an interview, I’d be honoured!
Grave Forsaken have been very busy lately, recording an album almost every year. Your latest offering, “Fight to the Death”, has been heralded as your best yet, by a large margin. What did you do differently this time around?
We developed the album in the studio this time around. We were very open about the direction and we let it flow. Having done 4 albums and 2 EP’s, they’ve all been done slightly differently. We like to keep the recording process fairly fluid, and try new things each time. It’s been a huge learning curve. Elias had a good chunk of the riffs, while I bought in a few myself. Simon, Dan and Dave we’re also very involved in writing some of the tracks. We wanted a cleaner production than “This Day Forth”, as that album was very much moulded on the very early 80’s raw thrash sound. So it’s an extension from “This Day Forth”, but much cleaner in my opinion. We also had 6 different guitarists (that’s correct, 6!) play on the album, so that gives the solos a lot more variety. We won’t do that all the time, but it was fun to have the guest players contribute bits and pieces on this album. We also experimented with sound effects and for the first time I handled nearly all the lead vocals. On our previous albums nearly everyone in the band has done some singing, but this time we went for the consistency of one voice throughout (except in “Call Me A Dreamer”, which features guest vocals by an ex student of mine). Having said that, I really do like the variety of vocals on our first 3 albums, meaning album number 5 will possibly feature Matt, Elias and Richard on vocals as well.
But the main difference was definitely us saying to Dan (producer) “Let’s make this one sound a lot sharper and tighter than our previous albums”. Dan was awesome, and I think his hard work behind the desk shows.
Tell us a little about your home city, and the state of your local metal scene? How do you fit in with the other bands? Do you have any trouble getting shows?
We live in Perth, Western Australia. We are quite isolated from the rest of the country, so it means there is a big DIY ethic and culture here. That is probably where a lot of our drive comes from. I like the metal scene over here. There’s always gigs on weekends, and most of the bands are pretty decent towards us. We’re a little on the outer in the social circle because we are Christians, but we never encounter much hostility from the non Christian bands. Early on we did, but as we’ve played more shows we have become more accepted. I hope and pray we have been good representatives of Christ in that scene. That’s what we try to do when we gig with the other bands. It’s known that we are Christians, and that we are an openly Christian band, so we have to act with complete integrity.
There are enough local promoters who like us that we never have trouble landing gigs. We have played in half a dozen or so different pubs and clubs, so it’s nice to be part of that scene. The goal is to land shows in some of the higher profile venues, and I’m confident that over the years those chances will come our way. We give our all everytime we play live, and I’m sure that reputation will hand us in good stead in getting higher profile shows.
You’ve just come back from playing at one of Australia’s largest Christian music festivals, on the other side of the country. You played on two of the three nights, and had a couple of signing sessions with the public. How did you find the transition from playing small club shows here in Perth, to playing a huge festival?
It really wasn’t that different to be honest. Probably the hardest thing was playing with all the modern metalcore type bands at the festival. We are used to playing with death and black metal bands, so it was different type of audience. It’s funny, we’re more comfortable playing to black metal fans than we are playing to metalcore crowds. We didn’t quite fit in musically, but the positive is that we stood out. So many people were telling us that we sounded really 80’s, like early Megadeth and Metallica. It was cool to get that feedback from the metalcore people, because we don’t often hear that back here in Perth. In terms of the actual performance, once we get on stage, the surge kicks in and we do what we do. As you know well Rowland, we give the same performance whether it’s to 5 people or 100 people. Actually, being over there with music as the primary focus, it was actually easier to put it all into playing our best. Back home, we have work and family concerns that have to take priority in our lives. On tour we could completely focus on the gig. It was unreal.
The festival was also the farewell gig for your rhythm guitarist Simon Hoggett, who appeared on “Fight to the Death”. You’ve had a few line-up shuffles in the past, and if I’m not mistaken, none of your 4 studio albums, or the live album, has the exact same line-up. Each change has brought a slight difference to your sound and live approach. How has this affected your long-term vision for the band, and what’s next on the horizon?
It’s been hard. We have certain expectations within the band as to what needs to be done. I don’t hold it against anyone if they can’t meet those expectations, but it unfortunately means that not everyone is suited to the lifestyle. It’s hugely demanding on your work and family life. So the changes have happened out of necessity. I wish it didn’t have to be like that, but it is.
In terms of the vision, that’s remained the same. There have been times when we’ve strayed and lost sight, but through it all the main focus has been to glorify God and do our best for him. It sounds simplistic and somewhat cliché, but it has always been the motivating factor behind the band. The awesome part is that we get something out of it ourselves, but ministry is the main goal. We just want to play as many gigs and record as much music as we possibly can with the resources we have available.
I heard on the grapevine that you recently released a live album; I’d love to know more about that, as I’m sure our readers would.
It was recorded in 2008 when Dave was drummer. It was actually my first gig back as vocalist after Tim had had the job during 2007 and the first half of 2008. Daniel Holmes did the multitrack recording and I mixed and mastered it here at my home studio. It was primarily a test project for my home studio and we weren’t sure if it would be released. We got some interest from Iron Guardian Industries, and we made the decision to release a CD and vinyl of the recording. I’ve had some good feedback from the project, which has been great.
It is entirely live apart from half a dozen or so guitar and vocal overdubs that Elias and I did here at the studio. I also had to edit Horror And Sadness, as we made a huge mistake in the middle section that needed fixing. I’m pleased with the album, and sometime down the track I’m sure there will be a Light The Hall II.
Three out of four current members of the band are married and have young children. How have you managed to find a balance between work, music, and your families? Do they ever seriously conflict?
I think I’ve kind of answered this question by default throughout! The truth is we’ve never managed to find the perfect balance between band, work and family. I don’t think you can. I think a lot of bands quit because they try to find that balance and get frustrated when it proves elusive. It is tough, relentless work at times. Having said that though, the reward is always there, particularly for Christian musicians. We can sleep soundly knowing we’ve given our best for God. Just today we had a gig and I really didn’t feel in the right headspace having dealt with a sick 2 year old all weekend. Still, we got to the gig, prayed, and we played very well. It was yet another chance to sing about the gospel in a pub environment. So no matter how hard it seems, we know we are doing an important job in our city and that’s certainly what drives me. It’s got to the point where if things go smoothly and easily I wonder what I’ve missed! Our families find it tricky sometimes, especially when you’re leaving your wife and kids at 7pm to go rock and rolling till all hours. Sometimes the struggle makes me want to scream, but I know I could never quit unless I had direct word from the spirit to do so.
Thanks for your time Vaughan, any parting words?
I worry about how I come across in interviews, so I’ll conclude with this. GF is a band that exists to serve God. I want that to be clear above all. I am guilty of being caught seeking praise from humans, but it is a futile, unfulfilling way to live. As a musician you should play what comes naturally to you with no other intention than to glorify God. As soon as I start worrying about what people will think I lose sight of the core vision, which is to do as much as we humanly can to expose as many people as possible to the gospel. We are not a technical band, or a this band, or a that band. We are simply a heavy metal band doing our best to serve God with the resources and abilities we have at our disposal. We are so grateful to our supporters and everyone who respects what we do. We hope in some way the work we do for God can be a blessing to you. Thanks so much for the interview Rowland. You have been a great friend and you know how much I value you. God Bless and Rock On!
Interviewed by Rowland Gwynne