Sunday, June 14, 2015

Green Druid Interview

Green Druid are a stoner doom quartet based in Denver, Colorado, who recently released their first EP, simply titled EP (you can read our review of that slammer right here)The band was kind enough to give us some words with their vocalist, who gave us the straight skinny on the band's history and their plans for the future.

Ride With The Devil: Hey there, after getting to hear your EP, I'm very pleased to have a chance to shoot some questions your way, so thanks for giving us some of your time. 

First of all, could you give us a run-down of everybody in the band and their backgrounds, covering what they play, any past bands in which they've played (or current side-bands), and some of their favorite music?

Green Druid: Ryan Sims is our drummer.  He has been playing various instruments since about 8 years old.  He's been in a few bands since high school and has been playing guitar in a band called Solterra for about 3 years now.  He's taken roughly 6 months of drum lessons, but other than that, is self-taught and doing a pretty kick ass job of it in Green Druid.  His drumming is heavily influenced by people like Josh Garza of Secret Machines and Michael Martens of O’Brother.

Ryan Skates is our bass player.  He's been playing guitar since he was 12, and just recently picked up a bass to be in Green Druid.  He was enrolled in a music program in college for a short period of time, but the place he was attending really sucked at that kind of stuff so it didn't last long.  He plays/has played a variety of different styles such as rock, funk, blues and jazz.  Ryan's a disciple of Black Sabbath (as are we all), Thin Lizzy, Sleep, and Led Zeppelin.

Graham Zander's the axe man.  He's been playing for a stupidly long time and knows more about guitar and everything that goes along with it than I probably ever will.  He too was enrolled in a music program in college for almost 4 years, and now teaches guitar to little kids, teenagers, and a few adults.  He's also been in a bunch of different bands over the years and now plays guitar in Solterra alongside Ryan Sims.  Some of his major influences include Mastodon, Electric Wizard, Nels Cline, and Russian Circles.

And I'm Chris McLaughlin, the 2nd guitarist and vocalist.  Until Green Druid I hadn't really been in any bands and just played guitar off and on.  I haven't had any formal training and at this point I'm just trying to learn all I can about being in a band and being a musician.  I've always loved music and constantly had ideas about what I would do if I were to make it, but now is really the first time I'm seeing that come into fruition.  Bands like Swans, Sunn O))), Bongripper, Old Man Gloom, and Sleep are all very big influences on me as a musician.

RWTD: What's it like being a stoner doom band in Denver?

GD: It's pretty fuckin' dope, actually.  I feel like we have a very open and accepting scene amongst bands in Denver.  Most of our first shows were with bands that we just asked to play with and they brought us on board.  We’re not big enough yet to be bringing in any kind of big crowds, but we have no trouble finding places to play.  Denver has always had a good metal scene and it’s only spreading further and reaching more people.  It’s great seeing bands like Primitive Man, In the Company of Serpents, Cult of the Lost Cause and Native Daughters getting the kind of recognition they deserve.

RWTD: How did Green Druid get together, and how many line-up changes did you go through before settling on the current one?

GD: It’s a pretty standard story really.  Graham had been talking about wanting to start a sludge band for a long time and we were both really getting into stoner/doom metal.  I didn’t originally intend to be in Green Druid, but he convinced me to try it out with him, and we sat down and wrote most of “Ritual Sacrifice” right then and there.  We called up Ryan Sims cause had said something about wanting to play more drums, and him and Graham were already playing together in Solterra.  And we were friends with Ryan Skates in high school and knew he was a good guitarist so we asked if he wanted to try playing bass and he jumped on immediately.  I remember as soon as we played “Ritual Sacrifice” as a full band this grin spread across all our faces and we knew it was all gonna work just fine.

RWTD: How long have you guys been playing live shows together as Green Druid?  Have there been any really unusual events at those shows so far that stand out in memory?

GD: It’s been like… 7, maybe 8 months.  I can’t recall any particularly unusual events at one of our shows, but we do all have fond memories of a show we played at this place called the Deer Pile.  It’s this dinky little place above a bar downtown.  All the windows were open and that was probably the loudest we’ve ever sounded; I can’t help but wonder what it must’ve sounded like from the street below.

RWTD: Could you give us your thoughts, song-by-song, on what making each track was like?  First up would be your intro, "Nightfall".

GD: This song was actually written/recorded last.  It was pretty easy actually, everything was done with guitar pedal effects -- minus the knife and samples that were added in afterwards.  We knew we wanted to do a drone before going into “Ritual Sacrifice” because that track hits really hard when it first comes on.  We had done a little research on druids beforehand and found out they would perform ritual sacrifices as a way to appease the old Celtic gods – which is a pretty metal idea if you ask me, so we made this and the next track with that in mind.  Picture yourself slowly regaining consciousness and finding your arms and legs have been tied down, and all you can hear as you come to is the sound of a knife sharpening.

RWTD: And "Ritual Sacrifice"?

GD: We wanted to keep things simple and huge; something that would blow people back at the start and then release a lot of tension at the end.  It was also the first song we wrote together so we didn’t feel the need to experiment with it too much.  Heavy and doomy – that’s all we needed.

RWTD: How about "Rebirth"?

GD: We definitely experimented more with the riff writing in the first part of this song, but the long jam section at the end came organically at practice one day.  We weren’t really sure what to do with it yet, but we had the last riff and just kept hammering on it till we found a groove we were able to ride out for the rest of the song.  The first time we played it in practice is still the most satisfying it’s ever been for me.

RWTD: And lastly, that monster "Cursed Blood"?

GD: We spent a lot of time crafting riffs in this song, making sure everything flowed together well and that each part was as strong as all the others.  Green Druid likes repetition; personally, I like how things can become more hypnotic and trance-like as you repeat them, and this is certainly enhanced by the effects of grass.  We wanted to exhaust the listener and make them forget everything but that last riff.  All the crazy guitar noise that swallows it up at the end was just a given – I love it when things dissolve into chaos.

RWTD: Is Green Druid putting together new stuff already, or are you taking some time to just enjoy getting the EP finished and out there?

GD: Oh we’re definitely writing new stuff now.  We’ve nearly completed a new song and are working on a bunch of others and I’m quite happy with all of it.  I feel like we’re really starting to hone in on our own particular sound and I think this new batch of songs will be more representative of Green Druid as a band.  Not that I think the songs on the EP aren’t, but we wrote a lot of that stuff when we were still figuring out what kind of band we wanted to be.  Now, we know it all works, we know what kind of band we are and we know our songwriting potential, so I am very much looking forward to what’s next.

RWTD: What are the band's plans for the near future?

GD: Print CDs, get some kickass merch going, and write some new material for a new set-list.  And probably another EP somewhere down the line.

RWTD: Anything else you'd like to mention?

GD: Thanks so much to you guys, Ride With The Devil, for spreading our music and all the kind words you had for the EP.  It’s blogs like yours that make me love doom metal.  And of course, thanks to everyone who listened to and/or paid for the EP – we appreciate every one of you.

RWTD: Thanks very much for the kind words and the time you've given us, and keep up that high-quality music!

~ Gabriel