This month we have outstanding live footage and an interview with the Northwest’s titans of rock, Dog Shredder! Guitarist and vocalist Josh Holland answers some of our questions concerning the band’s up-coming album, their approach to songwriting, recording Yes’s epic track “Heart of the Sunrise”, and more. Also, stream video of the band performing “Battle Snake” from this year’s Good To Die Records‘ showcase at the Highline in Seattle, and get a look at the band’s ferocious live show! Interview follows the jump!
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VIDEO: Dog Shredder: “Battle Snake” Live @ Highline [YOUTUBE]
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With only two short EPs under their belt, Bellingham, WA’s Dog Shredder have pushed the reset on alt metal reinvigorating thrash with their impeccable playing and pure, unadulterated melt your face riffage! The trio is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Josh Holland, drummer Noah Burns, and bassist Jeff Johnson, and on their first two EPs, Boss Rhino and Brass Tactics (Good To Die Records), they effortlessly bridge Prog’s early metal with the nasty, punked up thrash of the eighties, creating a fierce, new sound! The band’s cover of Yes’s legendary track, “Heart of the Sunrise” is a perfect example of what happens when 70’s psychedelia is attacked with raw, punk abandon. The result, and the ability to put it down on tape, puts Dog Shredder in a truly elite class! What follows is from an email correspondence with the band’s Josh Holland…
LET: Hi Josh! To begin, I would like to ask about the band’s creative process and to what degree the songs are impacted by being played live. You’ve released five dense and intricate songs across two EPs, and with the complexity of the songs being what they are, do they develop from being played live, or are they nailed down through practice?
Holland: Yeah some of the tunes develop more and more live. They certainly get better and tighter. The songs on Brass Tactics have pretty much stayed the same since we wrote them when we first started the band, but there are some songs we’re working on now for the next album that live and breathe more than those songs. We rehearse ’em and rehearse ’em and there’s so much going on sometimes we have to stay right on point, so to keep things interesting we put spots in where anything can happen. We blow off some steam and hit the jam hole. I think pulling that off (when we can!) in that thrashy context is really, really special.
LET: Let’s go back a bit and talk about your first EP, Boss Rhino. How did your recording of Yes’s epic track “Heart of the Sunrise” come about? How does such a monumental prog track with it’s difficult time shifts, alternating passages, and grand structure fit into the band’s vision and sound?
Holland: I guess when we sat down one day and learned HOTS we thought ‘well, if we can do this then we can do anything.’ So we did it and started doing it live and just thought it would be cool to record. It was a real motherfucker tracking it and getting the dynamics right, but we learned so much from doing it. Like, we have the tools now to write our own Heart of the Sunrise one day.
LET: You guys have described the second EP Brass Tactics as being thrashier and nastier than Boss Rhino, and it definitely turns the intensity up to battle-ready levels, while at the same time approaching the energy and sound of the band live. Was that in any way your intention, and how did you pull off that rawer, more live energy for this recording?
Holland: Brass Tactics was actually recorded at the same time as Boss Rhino. We sat on the tracks for a year or so and when we revisited them wanting to get them out somehow we were like, shit, we’re a different band now. So we scrapped some stuff and I went back in and skipped some of the meticulousness while tracking and just banged it out like I do live. No crazy amp setups or anything, just my live rig. When it was finished, it just sounded like US, you know? We were stoked on it.
LET: While it’s hard to argue with “Battle Toads” and a “Battle Snake”, “Battle 07”, is a bit of a departure with it’s dirge like pace, heavy effects, and dark, psychedelic undertow. Working with an engineer and producer who you have an established relationship with like Adam Pike at Portland’s Toadhouse Studio, do you feel you have more leeway to experiment with a track like “Battle 07”?
Holland: Adam was always down to flesh out any hair-brained ideas we had in the studio. He’s awesome. I’d be like ‘Adam! I’m just gonna play some really silly solo with no music. Track it and maybe we can use it somewhere!’ 6-part vocal harmonies? Some whack Brian May rip-off shit? Bust out the synths for a churchy hymnal? Adam was always down. And unlike some of the ideas above, Battle 07 actually worked so we threw it in there. We thought it was good and fit with the whole package and didn’t care how metal it was or wasn’t. It just kinda fit.
LET: What can you tell us about your up-coming LP? Have any tracks been recorded yet? Is there new material still to be written, or will a majority of it come from the material you have been playing live?
Holland: Yeah we’ve got about a zillion demos for the new album right now. Some of the new stuff is all fleshed and ready, some of it we’ve been testing out live, and some of it we’re just kinda keeping under our hats til it’s ready. We’ll be ready to track it this winter and I think it’s gonna be a really cool record. Kinda like we did with Battle 07, and I guess with everything we do, we’re kinda throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. I think it’s going to be a raging record to record and listen to. We’re definitely stepping it up for this one, and it’s getting pretty gnarly.
LET: As one of the West coast’s northern most artistic outposts, Bellingham continues to foster a very interesting community. Though small and close-knit, it seems pretty full of talent and creativity. How did you end up in such a place, and a little off the beaten path?
Holland: There’s a big university here so we kinda gravitated here for college and to start bands. Bellingham has always been pretty supportive of bands doing things the way they like to do them. Great heavy bands have come from here. It is an absolutely ideal place to jump off, to meet other musicians easily, get some shows and cut your teeth. But I would always encourage bands to tour and tour and get out as well. I’ve seen a lot of great Bellingham bands just breakup because they went as far as they could go in Bellingham. It’s a big world, but we treasure our roots here.
LET: Good To Die Records has been crucial in coalescing and bringing exposure to Seattle’s hardcore and extreme metal scene, a scene that has often been strong through the years, but has maybe lacked a coherent voice and outlet. How did you guys hook up with Nik, and has been being on the label helped to foster a sense of community for the band?
Holland: First off, Nik is the man! That dude busts his ass so hard for his bands and anybody should feel fortunate to have a friend like him on your team in ANY capacity. We met him playing in Seattle a bunch. Nik is a true lover of heavy music and always has his ear to the ground. So we were friends first but when he started the label he approached us and we eventually got something going! We’re in great company there and have made some great friends directly because of what he’s getting done. It’s awesome.
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