I had the extreme pleasure of attending The Sword at The Madison Theater in Covington, KY on 11.10.12. Supporting the headliner was Gypsyhawk, and Austin’s very own Eagle Claw. I “discovered” Eagle Claw about two weeks before the show, giving me ample time to buy and wear out their latest instruMetal offering: Timing of the Void. My only previous experience was the wealth of Eagle Claw videos on youtube, and that was enough to unhinge the wallet from my back pocket. Much like Pelican, Animals as Leaders, or Earth, this Texas band has discovered the limitless possibilities of catering to themselves along with the massive fan base for instrumental bands. Many metal fans are just discovering bands like this; that remains true in my circle of influence anyway. Frank Zappa is my favorite musician of all time, and I’ve racked up a good 90+ Phish shows, so long and intricate vocal-free runs are in my blood. I didn’t have to adjust to the genre like a lot of metal heads.
Me and my friends got to hang out with the guys for a while after the show. They were more than happy to sign records, shoot the shit, and agree to this interview. So, without further delay, I give you the FisterClaw interview with Eagle Claw’s own Matt and Bart.
Mike Gonz, Bart Butler, Luther Smalls, and Matt Rade
Matt, you and Bart started off pretty raw, piecing songs together and jamming. What was your ultimate vision of Eagle Claw? Is the 2012 version exactly what you hoped it would be?
Our ultimate vision was to make something heavy and fun to play and to play it live locally, nothing more really. So in that sense we’ve already accomplished everything we wanted to do, but of course we’re constantly setting new goals. Touring with our bros in the Sword was one of them. They floored us when they asked us to do a national tour. The 2012 version of this band is WAY beyond anything we ever hoped for, musically and otherwise.
Metal fans are famously hard to please. What is it about the instrumental approach that works so well for Eagle Claw?
Well it’s a combination of factors. I think we’ve all seen a bunch of bands and thought “wow they were rad, but the singer blew it for the whole band” and we never really wanted that, and never once wrote any song with a vocal structure in mind, so if you did hear it with vocals now it would feel pretty weird with no verses or choruses or anything for the vocals to fall back on. Another thing that is on our side is that the younger generation under 35 has grown up listening to instrumental music in its various forms from electronic music to hiphop/dj culture as well as having more instrumental heaviness like The Fucking Champs, Karma to Burn, Pelican etc all experiencing success in more recent years. Many older people just can’t imagine the musical experience without vocals unless its jazz, it’s all they know. Plus chicks dig it. We’ve had multiple clubs comment that we’re one of the only metal bands that has 5+ females in the audience.
And we all have such diverse musical tastes that even if we wanted vocals we’d never find the guy that we ALL like and agreed on. Some of us like screamers, some singers, none of us are big Cookie Monster style fans, so that’s another part of it.
You’ve only be around since 2007, are you surprised to find yourselves touring with a band like The Sword? What’s life on road like with this tour?
They’ve been kind enough to take us out for regional stuff in the past and this opportunity was a no-brainer! Every band needs to catch some breaks to get anywhere, this is one of them for us, but no doubt we’ve busted our ass touring these same markets on our own, almost breaking us in the past so it’s amazing to be on a successful tour. They’ve been taking really good care of us ya know, letting us drink their booze once ours is gone, introducing us to the right folks in each city 😉
Can you guys remember the first band, metal or otherwise, that influenced you to this day? What was it about that song or band that led you to picking up your instruments?
It’s safe to say we were all heavily influenced as kids by early Metallica, pre black album. The intricacy and speed was mesmerizing. Of course there is tons more that influences us, but if ya gotta pick one…it’s the easy answer
Hands down, your top five metal favorites?
Top 5 (Bart and Matt)
I’m sure our readers would be curious to know your favorite horror movies.
Mike Gonz is a huge C.H.U.D. Fan.
Bart goes with 28 Days Later
Matt picks The Exorcist
Bart kind of looks like a pro wrestler. Does he have any special moves outside of drumming?
Bart and Luther are both competitive martial artists in MMA, kickboxing and grappling in their off time. Don’t fuck with the rhythm section!
Can we expect some great songs about tits on the next album?
Why does everyone always ask if our instrumental songs are about tits!?!
Speaking of albums, your newest record, Timing of the Void, is absolutely crushing. Where does the overall vibe of this album come from?
The vibe on TOTV is about timing and strategy. How to get the point across in the most direct, effective manner, but also to remain fluid enough to adapt to changing song structures and energy. The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi was inspiration and the term Timing Of The Void is taken from that text, referring to the innate timing of nature all around us, the intangible void, or force that drives energy in every direction causing action and reaction. It’s also about the visceral experience one achieves while sword-fighting, which is a similar feeling when you play this music. No thinking, only reaction, just let the muscle memory flow!
I’ve mentioned this a million times, but in 2012 I don’t feel a metal band is defined by long hair, all black, and songs about the devil. How has the tone and attitude of metal shifted over the years in your opinions? A couple of things are driving that:
The sounds and looks of heavy music are always changing. I mean ozzy used to wear sequined bell bottoms and boa’s when he was in sabbath haha and that music is still incredibly heavy. However the one constant is that people are looking for something heavy, but now there’s so many sub-genres exposed by the Internet that all these mini-scenes have popped up with different styles. Like hardcore, punk, to black metal to doom…all those crowds have different looks which is kinda silly cuz I like all those.
Also I like to think that people are starting to realize that everyone wearing crusty jean jackets and studs or the dudes in all black are just as conformist as the frat boys in their polos or the “hipster” kids wearing dayglo, but not sure everyone’s on that same page yet, people are just trying to identify with kindred spirits.
Lastly, what’s in store for the band for 2013?
We’re gonna spend 2013 writing the new record and hopefully put it out early 2014. And maybe a tour…
Many thanks to Matt Rade and the rest of the guys for taking part in this and for being such an amazing fucking band. I urge all the metal-inclined fans to check out Eagle Claw and add them to your regular rotation list! Check it out, ya Dingus.