Hanging out in the jam room at Bully’s Rehearsal Studios in New West after an ass-kicking rehearsal, all four members of Vancouver’s Anciients are so relaxed and humble, one might never guess that, at the time of this interview, they were just about to embark on the great Death To All Tour. A fixture in the Vancouver and New West music scenes since their formation in 2010, Anciients just released their debut album, Heart of Oak, in April 2013, and they have now just completed their tour across North America in support of Death to All (featuring Death’s Human-era line-up), accompanied in some locations by Exhumed. They took some time at the end of their practice session to sit down with Asia and Willow of Not Your Scene to give us the details about the tour, their new album, and the Vancouver music scene in general.
NYS: Let’s start off with the most important stuff: the new album, Heart Of Oak. Tell us what it’s all about, what it represents for you as a band.
Chris [Dyck, guitar/vocals): A year of figuring out what we sound like, and a bunch of trippy fucking pages of lyrics and it turned into kind of something that meant something to us, emotionally a little bit because of all the bullshit life through at us in the months leading up to the recording of it. There was a lot of deception involved and something that happened in mine and Kenny’s part of the family, and then there was mega death that happened right around that time of recording the record and writing the last bits of it. Like we had a few songs that didnt really mean a lot in terms of actual metaphorical meaning relating to life events, they were just like cool space-y lyrics and we had already had those, but the last songs… as me and Kenny worked on the vocals and lyrics and stuff.. yeah they kinda have some meaning to it [now]. The very last song definitely does, because I knew my step mom was going to die, there was no question. It was just a matter of a couple of weeks, so Kenny started playing these riffs and we started putting together the song. Going to record that song was fucking hard… At the end of the day, with [the album] being a finished product that’s packaged with rad art and people actually like it, the meaning is like 100 times what it was before. It’s way more [meaningful] now because it is kind of a tribute to that time in our lives, and people dig it, and it’s going to be out in the world.
Mike [Hannay, drums]: For me, the record was about learning how Chris and Kenny and Boon want the drums to sound, what I play is a little bit different than what they listen to, in the beginning. It was kind of a learning process, and I’m still learning.
Kenny [Cook, guitar/vocals]: Yeah it’s our first full length as a band so we’re really stoked on it and happy it’s finally completed… It’s good to get it behind us and we’re ready for the next one already.
NYS: What do you hope that people are going to take away from this record? Do you have any particular hopes for it?
Kenny: I just really hope that people have open minds to it and the mixing of different styles, etc. I feel the tunes have sort of a lot of different stuff in them and I’m anxious and curious to see how people are going to react. I hope they can dig the blending of the tunes.
Boon [Aaron Gustafson, bass]: I just hope that people can listen to it and hear that it’s not just stock riffs. That it’s well thought-out music and I hope people can appreciate that. We have put a lot of time and effort into playing these songs and writing the stuff… it’s sort of new and fresh.
Chris: I always [tell people], if you’re going to listen to it, you have to listen to it start to finish. Not everyone is going to do that, obviously, but I just think when you do listen to it, just from an outsider’s perspective, that it gives you a different perspective. It’s like whoa, that was an experience. Each song is different and everything but as a whole it’s a pretty cool collection of songs. I just hope everyone listens to it fully and doesn’t get tired and fast forward through it. I hope everyone is patient and gives it a chance.
NYS: Obviously you guys are blending a lot of genres on here, do you have a particular approach to the way you write the songs, in terms of encorporating all the genres?
Kenny: There’s not really any sort of formula to it, you know you have a heavy riff that you like and two weeks later you write a mellow riff and they somehow fit togther. You know it’s pretty much just writing a different riffs all the time and making them fit together. It’s listening to a lots of different music too, to try and be influenced by as much as you can. I think it plays out in our music for sure, that we have a wide spectrum of genres that we listen to.
NYS: Every review I have read describes Anciients as prog/sludge/whatever metal. What do you guys prefer in means of a genre?
Kenny: It’s definitely got lots of prog in it; we take a lot of time signatures… like 5/8 time 0r 7/8 time, that’s definitely prog. I dont know what you would classify it as.
Mike: I kind of thought it was Psychedelic Metal.
NYS: Do you think having a wide variety of genres included in your music affects the fanbase? Do you think you appeal to a wider variety of people?
Chris: Well we played Noctis and that lineup the night we played was pretty fuckin different. Like Pig Distroyer, Manilla Road, Midnight, Archspire, Catapluxus, us, and Psycho Stick. That show fucking slayed, no one was choked we weren’t metal enough…There is no really “This is too heavy,” or “This is too mellow”, that’s what I really like about being in Anciients.
Kenny: It just depends how open-minded people are. If they really like hard rock and classic rock but have never really listened to stuff with harsh vocals, we are hoping it will maybe get them into more of the metal.
NYS: What are your musical influences?
Chris: Allman Brothers, Slayer, Dayglo Abortions, Dwarves… I don’t know like Mayhem, Bolt Thrower… also way more chill stuff like Bruce Cockburn and The Band and stuff but for guitar playing its straight-up like Tool, Slayer, like heavy down-picked stuff, rhythm playing, like that’s the kind of stuff as far as like influences and for vocals because I’m limited to what I can do vocally… I have kind of a bellowe-y low voice so like High on Fire and Sepultura and you know, big caveman yell-y voices. I really like Dan from Bison’s vocals.
Mike: I have a big soft spot for old funk music.
Boon: I listen to … Jawbreaker, From the Crypt. I guess I didnt get into metal until much later in life, I liked my punk rock and my weird indie jangley shit. Dinosaur Junior.
Kenny: I’ve got lots, like standard jazz stuff, Miles Davis and John Coltraine, and lots of progressive 70s stuff like Mahavishnu, King Crimson, Camel for sure, and just all of classic rock pretty much.
NYS: You guys recorded Heart of Oak with Jesse Gander at The Hive and you produced it yourselves. How was the experience and any thoughts on the studio’s closing and relocation? Mike: We’re a little choked it’s closing.
Boon: It was really comfy, just felt so at home hanging out there.
Chris: That was awesome, that was a good time. Jesse didn’t smoke weed with us for the first day, and then he gave up. Yeah I’m kind of choked… Recording with Jesse was perfect ’cause he actually did his research, he was in contact with us lots beforehand, came to see us play, made sure we had the songs and checked out the art and the lyrics, just to make sure he had the vibe.
Mike: We had a couple loose ends in our songs, so when we were in the studio we didn’t know exactly how they were going to turn out, and then he was there to give us a hand with that and just because he has a lot of experience and a good ear, he gave us some good stuff so he’s on the record.
Chris: Yeah he did some keyboards and stuff on it. A lot of the stuff on there isn’t like several takes it’s just like one time, Jesse just going over and ninja-ing it and fading it out after and we listen back and we’re like, “Yep, that’s pretty cool.” A lot of the little trippy things on it weren’t necessarily thought out, or done a bunch of times, it was kind of just like keep it creative and spontaneous. When you go back it seems like the first and second takes are usually the best anyway. That was a great time, we did most of it live, almost pretty much everything and then we went back and redid the guitars and the vocals but yeah, we wanted it to sound like how we sound right? We don’t want to record something that we can’t replicate.
NYS: You guys have recently signed to Season of Mist, how’s that going?
Kenny: The people there rule, man.
Chris: Seriously, some of the people we work with, they’re friends for life, like just amazing people, man. They’re in contact with us every day, every day there’s something cool, they’re busting their asses… It’s really cool… they really just get us all these opportunities. It just made it so that when we made it to the next stage, which was securing a booking agent, that having Eric Greif as our lawyer and Sean [Palmerston] as our manager, Season of Mist, and even War on Music as our label for our 7-inch, we were just armed to the teeth for like a resume. And all the bands we’ve played with, we’ve been really lucky…We’re really humbled by that. The stuff they’re bringing us is great so far, apparently we’ve been submitted for some other big tours later in the fall once Kenny’s back from Europe. So everything’s working awesome, label’s awesome… Having a team is bizarre, people actually think that the record and the band is good enough that they actually put it on their list of things to do in a day. It’s just kind of a mind-blower for an old metal guy like me.
NYS: Speaking of awesome opportunities, how do you guys feel about the Death To All Tour?
Mike: I feel pretty good about the tour, I’m stoked to watch Sean Reinert play drums, watch them do their thing. It’s going to be a good experience playing live, traveling.
Kenny: I’m super stoked, it’s an amazing opportunity for us… couldn’t have coincided with our release any better… we’re going to have amazing crowds to play for and we couldn’t ask for anything more. Yep, pretty stoke-y.
Chris: That Death album [Human] is so organic and so different than all the other Death albums, it’s one of my favourite metal albums of all time, like top ten ever. So when Eric told me that it was the Human line-up of the band… it was fuckin’ mind-blowing. The fact that we get to be direct support on most of the dates, that means we’re playing to at least a half-full or a full room, it makes a fucking huge difference. And if we hadn’t got this, we have a cross-Canada tour in May and part of June and we have that Scion Rockfest thing that we’re flying down for in Memphis and Calgary Metalfest thing, that’s gonna be cool, but we wouldn’t have had anything ’till this.. so it’s fucking genius. It’s a totally huge deal.
NYS: So you’ve mentioned a few of the more immediate tours and things coming up, but what about beyond that? Do you have any more long-range plans for the band?
Kenny: We’re going to play on the moon next year.
Chris: Yeah, totally. Inside a volcano. In a crystal cave in Mexico. Long range plans: Go on this tour. Go on the next tour. Play the Memphis thing. Kenny’s getting married and then he’s going on a trip to Europe with my sister/his wife. And then September, we’ve been submitted to several festivals… We want to go make a record, I know Season of Mist won’t let us make one though, like right away. We can start writing it though…
NYS: You’re all quite heavily involved in the local Vancouver music scene, be it with other bands or through putting on shows… would you care to list off the other projects that you guys are involved with right now?
Boon: Chris has got his Nothing is Heavy thing, Kenny’s involved in another band called Black Wizard, Mike’s in another band called M16, I don’t play in any other bands so I’m not involved in anything else.
NYS: Do you have any thoughts on the Vancouver heavy scene or the music scene in general?
Mike: It’s peachy.
Chris: It’s rad, I’ve got no complaints. Seriously, any genre of tunes you like, there’s pretty much one or two bands at least that just kill it. Except black metal, there’s not a lot of black metal.
NYS: I’ve heard a lot of people say lately that the Vancouver scene is doing a lot better than it has been previously… thriving so to say, what with Nothing is Heavy and the New West Scene. Comments?
Chris: I think it just needs a spotlight. You know, you shine a spotlight on everybody else, they shine one back on you. People talk about building a scene, so just do it. And the bands are always there; the scene never goes away. People are like oh, Vancouver metal, for a while there it sucked… and it’s like no, it doesn’t… You have guys like Kevin Grindon or Gord, who are in literally six bands or nine bands.. so those guys make up the bulk of the scene just by being in fuckin 29 bands, right? …There’s always good stuff there, like I didn’t know about Nylithia, or Archspire, until Anciients became a band and because I was involved in more of a different scene, I was involved more in the punk scene cause that’s what my band played, right? Archspire is fucking insane, I’ve never seen a band like that in my life except maybe like Origin or something like that you know? I think the bands are always there, sometimes there’s just more than others, they occur in little clusters or whatever, just need to shine a light on it.
NYS: Do you guys have any final thoughts for your listeners out there?
Mike: Stay peachy, and go out to shows.
Boon: Just give the record a full listen…
Chris: ABSL…. Always be snake lording.
Listen to the newly released album Heart Of Oak on Bandcamp here:
[bandcamp album=937936526 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=9b1f1f size=venti]
For more information or to order a copy of Heart of Oak, visit:
- Chris Dyck – Guitar/Vocals
- Kenny Cook- Guitar/Vocals
- Aaron “Boon” Gustafson – Bass
- Mike Hannay – Drums
***Anciients have just finished with the Death To All Tour and will be playing a hometown album release party at the Astoria on May 11th.
***Click here to see a full list of their upcoming Vancouver shows.