Orbweaver: Band Of The Day

By on 31 July 2014

Photo: Janette Valentine

Death metal finds itself in a weird place in 2014; there’s no end of “old school” obsessed youngsters who are happy to do nothing more than mercilessly rehash Autopsy and Entombed riffs, whilst on the other end of the spectrum, the modern death metal sound has seemingly turned into a sterile pissing contest, more concerned with musical athleticism than actually crafting memorable, engaging songs. With the amount of true innovators in the field currently operating at an all time low, it’s hardly surprising when so many people claim “death metal is dead”…

But don’t give up hope – there are still bands out there flying the flag for inventive, original and bizarre death metal, and Miami’s Orbweaver are one of them. Formed by ex-Hate Eternal bassist (and former Gigan frontman) Randy Piro back in 2010, the quartet released their debut EP ‘Strange Transmissions From The Neuralnomicon’ last year, a surreal and thoroughly absorbing journey that is equal parts psychedelic, brutal and intricate. If you were to seal Frank Zappa, Gorguts’ Luc Lemay and Today Is The Day’s Steve Austin inside an old rocket and blast them off into the stratosphere, the resulting racket they’d make whilst floating through space probably wouldn’t be a million miles away from this. There’s enough mind boggling fretwork here to satisfy the tech-heads, but also enough well crafted songs and huge, meaty riffs to satisfy the old-schoolers too, all wrapped up in a demented, hallucinatory atmosphere that is all their own.

With ‘Strange Transmissions…’ finally getting a vinyl release this year via Corpse Flower Records, we thought this would be a fine time to catch up with Randy and guitarist Sally Gates to find out more about the

WORDS: Kez Whelan

WHO ARE THEY: Orbweaver
FOR FANS OF: Gorguts, Today Is The Day, Atheist
LATEST RELEASE: ‘Strange Transmissions From The Neuralnomicon’ (2013, self released, 2014 re-release – Corpse Flower Records)
WEBSITE: Facebook & Bandcamp

Could you tell us briefly how you all met and formed Orbweaver?
Sally (Gates, guitar, effects, visuals): “Randy and I have previously played together, and have similar musical tastes, so when he was putting Orbweaver together, it was a natural event that I became involved. Initially I played bass until we were able to find Jason, at which point I was able to move over to guitar. When our original drummer Mike decided to leave the band, we set out to find his replacement, and found Scott on Craigslist of all places. His ad was hilarious and ended with the line “let me come blast your face off.” So we took him up on the challenge.”

Did you have a specific sound in mind when you formed the band, or did that grow and evolve as you played together?
Randy (Pire, Guitars, Theremin, Effects, Narration): “Right from the start I had a very good idea of what would become Orbweaver’s overall sound. I wanted to create music that had its roots in the more extreme side of metal, but with a large emphasis on noise and soundscapes. I have always been a fan of avant garde music, and quite frankly I felt that a lot of that stuff was a lot more horrific in terms of sound than death or black metal. In short I just wanted to create dark, ugly music that had a lot more colors than what was being offered in metal.”

What kind of stuff are you and the rest of the band into?Who would you cite as influences?
Randy: “I love all types of music. It really depends on what kind of mood I am. Movies, books, my life experiences, and video games are what really put me in the mindset to write music or lyrics. If I had to narrow it down to a few musicians it would be Frank Zappa, Morbid Angel, Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Primus, Celtic Frost… .etc.”

Sally: “We all really have a large pool of influences and taste. Personally I like weird, out there music like Mr. Bungle, Primus, Today is the Day, Kyuss. Weird movies with killer soundtracks inspire me a lot too, like Clockwork Orange and Natural Born Killers.

“Scott is the metalhead of the band, if it doesn’t have a blast beat, he’s not interested. He’s also unashamed in his love of breakdowns. Jason’s tastes are closer to Randy’s: they both love prog-rock, but Jay leans a lot more to the stoner-rock side of things, where as Randy is more into death and black metal.”

How does your writing process normally work out? Will you meet up with song ideas pretty much fully formed beforehand, or do you tend to jam stuff out a bit more?
Randy: “Generally I will come up with a rough skeleton and then we lock ourselves in our jam-lair and flesh it out. That’s not always the case, we have quite a few parts that began as little jams, but usually someone will flesh out an idea beforehand.”

‘Strange Transmissions From The Neuralnomicon’ is sounding fantastic, what can you tell us about the writing/recording process for this EP?
Randy: “Thank you very much! We worked long and hard on it, so I am glad you enjoy it. I wrote the majority of it before I had a lineup. The last 2 songs we put together as a band. Once the songs were written we let them grow by playing them live, so little changes crept in from the inception to the documentation. We tracked down here in Miami at Pinecrust Studios with Jon Nunez; and it went great. He’s got a nice setup down there and the vibe is killer.

“After the tracking was done, I wanted a bit of that metal production cleanliness to make sure all the instruments and sounds came out like they should. So we had Brian Elliott mix and master it at Mana Recording up in St. Pete. The results blew me away, and the first listen brought me to tears. I could not have asked for any better from either.”

The upcoming vinyl release has been remastered by the mighty James Plotkin –how would you say the sound of this remaster differs to the CD and digital versions?
Randy: “Getting James to master the record for the vinyl release was 12 year old Randy’s wet dream come true. Corpse Flower uses James for a lot of their releases, so when Kenneth came to us he suggested James and I was just like “YES!”

“James kept the recording the way it originally sounded, but maximized it for vinyl. The results are mind blowing; and I really want to work with him more extensively in the future.”

What’s your opinion on contemporary technical death metal? It seems like many bands are content to just regurgitate the same tried and tested formula in slightly faster or more technical variations, but there are very few bands that are pushing that death metal sound into strange new places like yourselves.
Randy: “Depends on how I wish to look at things I guess; but when I was young and just getting into metal, there was not this blitz of media and categorization that there is today. Once I got into Morbid Angel, and found out that this new terrifying music was called “Death Metal”, the bands I discovered from Cannibal Corpse to Hellhammer to Grief were all death metal to me. Now, this was just from basic ignorance. I didn’t have access to ‘zines and the music magazines didn’t cover this just yet. If it was ugly, guttural, evil or gross it was death metal to me.

“And I still see things like that to a certain degree, I just refer to it as extreme now. Gorguts and Neurosis are just two sides of the same coin to me. So when I keep that mind frame; I hear tons of newer (to me) bands that I love. Tombs, Murmur, Ulcerate, Dragged into Sunlight, Dysrhythmia, I can go on and on. This is a great time for metal. Sorry for the long winded response, but its kind of a loaded question for me.”

Death metal, and extreme metal in general, has always prided itself in this sense of one-upmanship, of constantly pushing the genre and making it faster, harder, more extreme etc. Do you think we’ll ever reach a point where the genre has been exhausted, when it can’t physically get any faster/heavier/weirder etc, or do you think there will always be room for reinvention?
Randy: “I think any form of art has its inherit limitations, and what we do with the free ground and the barriers is what makes up the creative fabric for any artist. You are right that extreme metal (especially the “death”metal world) has a very competitive, almost athletic mindset. Some people take that way too seriously in terms of speeds, techy riffs and whatnot. But a little bit of a competitive spirit is not a bad thing at all. We all have it. I don’t set out to be the fastest or best guitar player. But I do set out to express what I’m trying to say in a way that is unique to me. Do I have my influences and reference points? Sure, we all do. But I try my hardest to compile them in such a way that it can only sound like me, and so does everyone else; so I always see the the room to progress.”

What’s been your best moment as a band? And on the flipside, what’s been the worst thing to happen to you in music?
Sally: “There have been a lot of great moments with Orbweaver, but for me two instantly come to mind: playing a live soundtrack to a clip from the original Tron flick, and our EP release show, which was very gratifying, given all the hard work we put in leading up to it.

“The Tron soundtrack was for a Miami ‘Cinema Sounds’event, where bands and artists improvise original soundtracks to their choice of themed movie. We put together a detailed score, rehearsed and performed it under a very tight schedule. This was also in the middle of self-releasing our album and writing new songs, so things got very stressful quickly. I was very proud of the whole band for pulling off something so different and out of the box for a metal band, and especially Scott as he had only recently joined us.

“Honestly I can’t think of a bad or worst moment. Even if you make mistakes or have disasters, you always learn from every situation, and it all builds together into who you are as a player.”

Randy: “It’s hard to pick a best moment because I’m spending time with three people I admire greatly, playing music I love, and getting to meet other creative people. So to pick out one specific incident is hard. Like Sally said above; Cinema Sounds really sticks out to me for personal reasons. I really don’t wish to mention any bad situations.”

What does the future have in store for Orbweaver?
Randy: “Right now we are writing the new record, so my immediate future will be filled with riffs, ring modulators, and locking myself in my own inner space for uncomfortable amounts of time. After that; world domination.”

About Kez Whelan

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