As I mentioned in the last installment, this edition of Haunting The Chapel features an interview with towering Gaza vocalist Jon Parkin (I’m 6’5″, he’s 6’7″, so he earns “towering,” for sure). Parkin is a smart, intense guy who has a smart, intense way with words:
We wanted this record to pick you up and death shake you like a dog would snap a rabbits neck. And to once in a while stop to lick the blood running from your nose. I hope it came across that way.
It did. Read our discussion and then sample a bit more of the Salt Late City hardcore-nodding grind crew’s excellent second album He is Never Coming Back.
[Jon has the longest legs]
STEREOGUM: I’ve visited Salt Lake City a couple of times and the Mormon presence is undeniable. Not just in the architecture, etc., but in folks approaching and asking if you’re LDS. I approached it with an open mind, but after a while… How much has this atmosphere inspired Gaza? Have you guys always been in Salt Lake?
JON PARKIN: The Mormon church is headquartered here, it’s true. We call the section of town they’ve bought up “Little Vatican.” But to give one church credit over any other would be tantamount to saying one is less crazy than the rest. Some of us grew up LDS but have been separated long before this band ever started. Some of our families and friends are Mormon. I don’t want to shit all over that specifically. Our focus is broader in scope.
STEREOGUM: You’ve been quoted as saying: “He Is Never Coming Back is a knife pushed slowly through the temple and into humanity’s primitive religiousness. It is a call to utilize the same logic and reason applied in every other aspect of our lives in the assessment of theology.” So, to continue the thread from the first question… I was going to ask just how important is Salt Late City to He Is Never Coming Back, but you just answered that, you’re called Gaza… which points at something much more international.
JP: We called the band Gaza because that corner of the world has been at war since before the bible was written. It’s a perfect example of the “God is on my side” mentality that we’re harping against. We’re not just talking war. It comes into play when discrimination against homosexuals, women, or minorities gets justified with the same ideal for example. Salt Lake City isn’t any more important than Rome, Mobile, or Kandahar.
STEREOGUM: Ever read Brian Evanson? Your lyrics remind me of his work. And there’s the Utah thing, Mormonism, etc…. his The Open Curtain, especially.
JP: Honestly I had to google him at your question. And now I remember his name from the news when he left BYU. His wiki page says his writing has been compared to Cormac McCarthy … The topic and that comparison is enough to spark my interest. Can I ask you to hit me with this question in a couple months?
STEREOGUM: Folks talk about your live show. A lot. And you’ve said you wanted He Is… to sound like that live show, without much studio trickery, etc. Are you happy with the results? I love the rawness, especially in the vocals. How important is the communal vibe of the live setting to your songwriting/sound?
JP: I’m 99% happy with the way the record turned out. We’re pretty good about setting up a vision for the way we want things before we commit it to 1’s and 0’s and this ended up pretty close. Metal records are shiny now days. There is a serious lack of grit and emotion. To me the more real a record sounds the more you can identify with what is being projected. Honestly I think duct tape has as much to do with the sound of a record than the vocal effect you use does. It’s attitude and emotion that prevail. Rarely can a band pull of an actual live recording without defeating the purpose of a studio. Not since The Chariots first record has anyone done it well that I can think of. Records are a snapshot. You shouldn’t be able to recreate them.
STEREOGUM: The album feels like one giant, forward-marching patchwork. Intentional? I mean, songs bleed together, are conjoined, etc. Like you don’t want to stop to catch your breath.
JP: We wanted this record to pick you up and death shake you like a dog would snap a rabbits neck. And to once in a while stop to lick the blood running from your nose. I hope it came across that way.
STEREOGUM: Lyrically, what’s the idea behind the closer, “Carnivore”?
JP: My ex-girlfriend was telling me about something she was reading. I can’t remember the name of the book or article nor can I remember the subjects name but the story was about a mental patient who drank human blood neurotically. They locked him up being that he was mentally ill and he began trapping pigeons outside his window so that their blood was available. The point being that blood was blood and that was enough to satisfy his mind. It’s kind of saying we know better but continue on our path. The part about race horses takes that a step further. Suggesting that we’re good soldiers. Some of us are aware and some of us are simply trying to win the race without an existential thought. Now apply that to religion or politics and you’ve got the meaning behind the end of the song. Cooking the meat saved us not prayer is simply asking to look a little deeper into our existence. We now know god doesn’t cause droughts, it’s weather patterns. Capture the knowledge we’ve gained and apply it further.
STEREOGUM: I was just linking I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Die to “Tombless.” What are your views on an “afterlife”?
JP: I don’t believe in an afterlife. I, like anyone else, would hope things don’t ever come to an end but that is simply wish-thinking.
STEREOGUM: There’s “The Anthropologist,” “The Historian,” and “The Biologist.” You’re calling in the experts to disprove theology?
JP: Don’t forget the Astronomer. :) These areas of study provide the most damning evidence against deity. And as each track gets more powerful, I named them according to which study carried more weight with my personal beliefs or lack there of.
STEREOGUM: Where does the “Bishop” fit into this? “I called you and you answered me like a fool.” An unsatisfying answer?
JP: Generally Bishops are given the authority to “call” people to service. I’d bet there’s a good chunk who are aware of their authority in a worldly sense.
STEREOGUM: Besides these “experts,” a major lyrical theme is meat …. and animals. These things shows up in a few tracks, in various forms. Can you talk
about it a bit?
JP: That stems from my lack of creativity in metaphor. I try very hard to stay away from “cheesy” metal themes like corpse mutilation, etc. Its easy to see human character through our own animal instincts. You can even simplify that more with our relationships with animals. How we treat them … and even each other for that matter.
STEREOGUM: You lost a band member last month. Has he been replaced? What happened?
JP: He has been replaced … With a loop station and an A/B foot switch. Without getting too personal, just think Dave Mustaine and Metallica.
STEREOGUM: I see you played with Baroness and Earthless in Salt Lake tonight. Did a lot of hometown fans come out? Did the Baroness crowd dig you guys?
JP: We’ve been a band for five years now. I think we’re kind of old hat in SLC. We have fans out here but we really don’t see them unless we’re playing with a band from out of town they’d like to see as well. They came out in droves for Baroness. We’re isolated out here. We do far better around the country than we do here.
He Is Never Coming Back is out via Black Market Activities). Previously I posted “Windowless House. Here’s my favorite, “The Kicking Legs.” Say it.
Gaza take on a record store with the album’s title track:
“The Kicking Legs” in a proper club setting:
Now that I have anti-religious sentiments on the mind… You should check out Canis Dirus’ A Somber Wind From A Distant Shore (Moribund): Wintry two-man short-haired Nietzsche-quoting, nature-loving, at-time-flanged Silencer/Burzum-inspired Minnesotan black metal:
We stand above and against the sick animal, man — the herd animal. Through loathing and indifference our art is an expression of contempt and hatred for the ill-constituted and weak. Our will is our own.
If you haven’t grabbed a copy yet, immediately track down Peste Noire’s brilliant François Villon (and etc.)-homaging Ballade Cuntre Lo Anemi Francor (“Ballad Against The Enemies Of France” (De Profundis). It’s the group’s strangest, most endlessly compelling collection to date. It’s clearly alienated some purists. In one sense, they figured out how to literalize Folkfuck Folie with wobbling, courtyard Madrigals. Or, think of La Sanie Des Siècles – Panégyrique De La Dégénerescence’s “Nous Sommes Fanés” extended, scuffed-up, and complicated by a zigzagging vocal presence. It’s like carousing hooligan black metal Pogues. And it’s somewhere in the upper five of my year-end list.
Speaking of list-worthy back metal, I decided to hold the Nightbringer discussion for its own installment. No need to crowd people. Then again: Before the end of the month look for a massive Year-End Haunting The Chapel with dozens of Top 10’s from some of your favorite folks in metal. And, if you’re in the NYC are this weekend, watch me read from my American black metal oral history in Brooklyn this weekend at the Hideos Gnosis Black Metal Theory Symposium. Fred at Brooklyn Vegan did a nice job breaking it down. Nerdier still? Been re-reading a bunch of Hemingway, which has me listening to Cobalt’s Gin like it’s brand new again.
2010: Got a copy of Ludicra’s forthcoming The Tenant (Profound Lore, 3/3). As expected, really digging. More on that soon. Have set up an interview for a future HTC.