New York, especially in recent times, has had an air of fear and menace as you describe of a time we haven’t heard about or seen in, in a really long time.
Gravesend have just released their fearsome debut album Methods Of Human Disposal on 20 Buck Spin records and it’s a relentless, uncompromising and intense journey through the grimy underbelly of their New York City home soundtracked by the most intense and hellish grind and black metal. Gavin Brown talked to the band to hear all about Methods Of Human Disposal, how it all came together and what shaped and inspired the album as well as the band’s previous material that led to the new album, what it has been like living in such a vast metropolis as New York during a pandemic and a dangerous undercurrent has returned to the city during these dystopian times, how NYC has mounded them as a band and their favourite New York music and movies.
E&D: You have just released your debut album Methods Of Human Disposal. How did the recording and creation of the album go?
The creation of Methods of Human Disposal honestly started from before our demo release, Preparations For Human Disposal, as we actually never initially intended on releasing a demo. We had started with the mindset of releasing the Methods Of Human Disposal full length straight out of the gate, so at the point of which we decided to release a demo was actually just where we were at in our full length writing process. We wrote quickly, had all the ideas already in place, and just went forward with it, our process of decision-making is always a quick one.
E&D: How was the experience of working with Nolan Voss, Arthur Rizk and Brad Boatright on the album and what did they bring to its sound?
Working with all three individuals on this record was a very pleasurable experience, and working with a fresh pair of ears for each part of the process is also a very important one for us. We tracked with Nolan Voss for our demo, and his DIY approach and raw recording style is something we wanted to capture yet again with our full length. Arthur’s work needs no introduction, and he brought out stuff in Nolan’s raw recorded takes that we didn’t even hear when we were tracking. He added his touch on small things here and there that really made it stand out. Brad took all the magic and baked it in for us.
E&D: The album opens with two instrumentals in ‘Fear City’ and ‘STH-10’, did you always want to open the album with two non vocal tracks out did it just turn out that way?
The album does open with two instrumentals, but is not two “intros”. We wanted to continue the vibe of the demo with a synth-based intro. The second song ‘STH-10’, sets the broader mood.
E&D: Do you feel that these two tracks set the scene for what’s to come?
The purpose of the two tracks is to set the vibe of what is to come for sure. ‘Fear City’ sets the atmosphere with a synth driven track with its use of spoken word samples and field recordings to create an atmosphere of an era and place. All the while the anxiety sets in, comes in ‘STH-10’ to prepare you for bare fisted war.
E&D: The album mixes death metal, grind and black metal for maximum brutality especially on songs like ‘Needle Park’ and ‘Absolute Filth’, did you want to make the heaviest album you could with this record?
We wanted to take the angriest parts of all of those genres you mention, which we love, and create an abusive, punishing and anxiety inducing sonic assault.
E&D: The artwork of Methods Of Human Disposal is brilliant. Did you want an album cover that depicts the music and what Gravesend are all about perfectly?
The artwork and aesthetic we had already envisioned far before much of the record was written. Our roots in the DIY scenes led us to our cut, copy and paste handling of the record. Our documentary approach to our imagery is a result of staying honest to the stories written about behind the lyrical themes. Working with photographers and other documentarians of the era perfectly aligned with much of our aesthetic.
E&D: You released the demo Preparations for Human Disposal last year. Were you happy with the reaction that material received in preparation for the album?
As initially mentioned, we never really wanted to release a demo and when we decided to, as a way to give people a little bit of a taste of what’s to come and to mark our presence like a rabid street dog, we were pleasantly surprised to find that they were snagged up rather quickly. We had minimal coverage, but word spread and Stygian Black Hand ended up selling through 3 pressings of the tape swiftly.
E&D: What has the reaction to Gravesends music been like so far?
Disgusting and filthy.
E&D: How does it feel releasing your album in the middle of a worldwide pandemic with the fucked up way the world sees itself in?
The project started long before the pandemic began, and just how much the lyrical themes foreshadowed the future, as a way of life imitating art, was haunting. Especially in what direction New York City went, post plague, was an intense example of that cliche, “life imitating art”. It also definitely snowballed as we continued writing and the pandemic ensued.
E&D: Has that state of the world over the last year given you inspiration for new music?
The state of the world has reassured themes we have seen from the start of this project. It is ushering in an even angrier outlook on the new stuff we have been working on.
E&D: How has the pandemic affected Gravesend as band?
The pandemic did initially put a pause in our writing process. The band has a very fast momentum, and it definitely stuck a wrench in the system that we weren’t expecting. As a very determined trio of men, we employed many approaches to continue writing, including working remotely. We also initially wanted to make our live debut sooner, but that has obviously been put on pause since we have yet to play.
E&D: How has the experience of living in such a vast and normally vibrant city as New York during a pandemic?
Living in New York during this pandemic, in such a unique time, even as we were reflecting on what we were writing about was a trippy experience. It was as if we started to predict everything that was happening before us. Mounds of unattended trash collecting in the streets and causing fires, broken bottles and syringes, rioting, looting and fighting, the uptick in graffiti and senseless crime, and the underground parties springing up in the city was something we weren’t all used to in recent memory. It evoked an era and image of a different past.
E&D: Going back to the eerie ‘Fear City’, which opens Methods Of Human Disposal. It has a 70s horror movie vibe about it, was that the effect you were looking for?
If ‘Fear City’ evoked some feeling of horror, whether that’s from watching 70’s movies or being alone in the dark, then the effect we were looking for was achieved successfully.
E&D: Have movie soundtracks from that era and beyond been an influence on you and the music of Gravesend and which ones have made the biggest impact?
We are all big fans of horror movie soundtracks, the early synth works of black metal musicians before it was cool to call it “dungeon synth” and other artists working in the noise and power electronics scenes. That being said, our influence is least influenced by horror movie soundtracks but rather the emotions those movies evoke.
E&D: Even beyond the soundtracks, which movies have had the biggest effect on you and the music of Gravesend?
We would have to say movies like Driller Killer, Panic in Needle Park, Maniac, Taxi Driver, The Warriors and Dark Days have all had a big effect on Gravesend.
E&D: Did you always want to open the album with a track that captures a sense of dread about how New York City used to be?
We did want to open up the album to capture a sense of dread and anxiety of a city once referred to as Fear City.
E&D: Do you think that New York still has an air of fear and menace about it?
New York, especially in recent times, has had an air of fear and menace as you describe of a time we haven’t heard about or seen in, in a really long time. Some articles and local news pieces we read today get us scratching our heads thinking, wait, didn’t this happen decades ago?
E&D: What are your favourite things about New York?
The pockets of neighbourhoods and cultures all melting into one giant stew, the blaring STH-10 sirens and the hustle.
E&D: What are your favourite ever New York albums?
Chainsaw Dismemberment by Mortician, Age of Quarrel by Cro-Mags. Blood, Sweat and No Tears by Sick Of It All, October Rust by Type-O, Don’t Forget The Struggle, Don’t Forget The Streets by Warzone.
E&D: What are your recommendations in the city for record stores/bars/food etc?
We can recommend many spots, but good luck to you finding them surviving this plague as businesses are shutting down and boarding up. Hopefully the following places stay open when many arrive again; Material World Records, Saint Vitus Bar, L&B Spumoni Gardens, The Strand Bookstore and ABC No Rio. Katz deli, Di Fara.
E&D: Have you got any plans for playing shows once they start up again?
As we have yet to perform as Gravesend live, we very much are looking forward to making our debut when live shows and festivals start back up again.
E&D: Where are your favourite spots for live music in New York both past and present?
New York City has been the birthplace of many iconic music venues, a few favourite spots of ours that come to mind include ABC No Rio, CBGB’s, Don Pedro’s, Club Europa, Saint Vitus Bar, The Acheron, Silent Barn, Secret Project Robot, Bowery Electric, The Basement at Webster Hall, Union Pool, The Grand Victory, Trash Bar, Fontana’s, Death by Audio, Shea Stadium, Party Expo and so on and so on. It’s tragic to see lots of these spots shutter.
E&D: How much has your Brooklyn neighbourhood and New York as a whole inspired your music?
Our scene here in Brooklyn and just in New York in general, especially before the pandemic has inspired us by being such a breeding ground for creative output. A place of many inspiring artists across many genres, from photographers to graffiti artists, New York City at least once was, and hopefully continues to, foster the hustler like-DIY attitude we are all so moved by.
E&D: Were local Brooklyn bands like Type O Negative and Life Of Agony an inspiration on Gravesend and what other bands from Brooklyn were an influence?
Absolutely. A. grew up listening to a lot of NY hardcore and metal. Growing up, he loved bands including Warzone, Biohazard, Madball, Cro-Mags, Mortician, Type-O, etc. there are so many.
E&D: What newer extreme bands from Brooklyn and New York in general would you recommend for us to check out?
We would recommend you checking out the following currently active, New York based extreme metal bands such as Miasmatic Necrosis, Skullshitter, Gath Smane, Chepang, Glorious Depravity, Anicon, Bog Body, Ruin Lust, Knight Terror, Mutilation Rites, Magrudergrind (both a little older). There are a lot, and we may have forgotten a few, but the New York extreme metal scene is thriving.
E&D: What are some of the most memorable gigs that you have ever seen?
In recent memory, some of the most stand out gigs we have seen have been Archgoat playing Nihil Gallery with Pseudogod. Carcass and Mayhem playing the tiny Saint Vitus Bar on separate occasions. Ride for Revenge at a small latin restaurant in Queens and Urfaust at Union Pool almost a decade ago. Phobia in the basement of a bar called the Charleston, there was sewage coming up from a hole in the floor.