Interview: Great Falls

I have been recording and releasing records for over 30 years but I’m still riding high on this record.

Great Falls recently released their latest album Objects Without Pain on Neurot Recordings and it sees the Seattle trio produce some phenomenal examples of the most ferocious noise you’ll hear all year. Gavin Brown caught up with Great Falls vocalist/guitarist Demian Johnston, who was on tour with the band as he discussed Objects Without Pain in detail.

E&D: Your latest album Objects Without Pain has just been released. Have you been pleased with the reaction it has had so far?    

Demian: Absolutely. We have been very pleased. We aren’t used to a ton of positive reactions like this so it’s kind of brand new for us. That said we have received some really great feedback. 

E&D: This is your first album with new drummer Nickolis Parks. How is he fitting into Great Falls and what does he bring to your sound? 

Demian: Nick is incredible. Shane and I have known him for years and always wanted to play with him so when we parted ways with our last drummer it worked out perfectly. He is a very aggressive and musical player and he really pushes the songs forward. 

E&D: Was the making of the album a smooth process? 

Demian: We had written a large chunk of the record with our last drummer and he did a good job but once we added Nick to the process the songs got better and smoother to finish. Not only that we ended up writing a handful more songs that we recorded for splits and our Funny What Survives EP. Once we got into the studio with Scott Evans the actual recording process was amazing. We had a great studio and tons of time to work on sounds. 

E&D: The albums opening track ‘Dragged Home Alive’ starts off with a minimal and sparse feel to it but then explodes with energy. Did you want to lure the listener into a false sense of security with this opening? 

Demian: Shane had an idea before we recorded of how he wanted to record to start. It was a little different than the way our last couple of records started and nick and were totally on board. 

E&D: The epic track ‘Thrown Against The Waves’ finishes off Objects Without Pain. Was it important for you to close the album with such a massive track? 

Demian: Same with the opening we sorta knew how we wanted the record to end. We look at a record as basically one big song so we had the basic beats planned out in advance. It wasn’t easy to come up with that. The first and last songs were actually really big pain points with our last drummer. He was very much opposed to how we wanted to end the record and the first song and that was the difference that ended up driving us apart.

E&D: The music of this new album and Great Falls definitely has a rawness to it. Is this an essential part of your music? 

Demian: For sure. Our live shows are pretty noisy and we don’t want the record to sound super polished and then have someone come see us and think we are a totally different band. Scott is really supportive of us being drenched in feedback. When I track guitars I stand about six inches from my amps and turn up to full stage volume. It’s really bad for my ears. 

E&D: Was this album a cathartic album to make for you?

Demian: Very much. The pandemic had canceled a tour and we had just had to let a band member go. I think getting this record out was very important to both Shane and I. We are really grateful to everyone that helped us make this possible. 

E&D: Can you tell us about the subjects that each of the songs on Objects Without Pain explore and are they all linked? 

Demian: I had gone through a pretty rough patch with my partner and basically all the lyrics came from that point in time. We are good now—although relationships are a constant work-in-progress—but it was tough and I had to write about it. I’m not sure if it’s healthy to approach relationship issues like this, in such a public way, but I find it pretty cathartic. 

E&D: What were the biggest influences on this record? 

Demian: Like musical influences? I think I constantly pull from my early favourites. Albums like Craw – Lost Nation Road,  Today Is The Day – Willpower and Spaceboy – Getting Warm On The Trail Of Heat, but there are a lot of contemporary examples as well but it is sorta hard to nail anything specific. I’m sure I have “borrowed” inspiration from everything I’ve been listening to. 

E&D: Can you tell us about the artwork on Objects Without Pain

Demian: It’s all loosely related to the lyrics. I couldn’t say exactly but the themes of focusing on my own alienation and my fears of separation are probably the most obvious. 

E&D: This is your first album on new label Neurot Recordings. How is life on Neurot and how did you come to be on the label? 

Demian: Neurot are wonderful to work with. Incredibly supportive. Scott, who recorded us, is in a band on Neurot and he sent along our record. They dug it and here we are. It was very low stress. 

E&D: What are some do your all time favourite Neurot albums? 

Demian: Well, anything Neurosis related is likely at the top of that list. They’ve been a constant inspiration since 1992. Kowloon Walled City also has some great albums and I love that they did those homage records to Townes Van Zandt. 

E&D: What are your touring plans, now that the album has been released? 

Demian: We are at the beginning of our NE tour of the US. We have a few shows in Canada early next year but that’s about it for now. We hope to do more but nothing planned. We all have jobs and family that require our attention so we will sadly have to be very picky with shows and tours. 

E&D: What have been some of the most memorable shows that Great Falls have ever played? 

Demian: I’ll tell you after this tour. 

E&D: Going back to the feeling of catharsis, is this something that you feel when playing your songs live? 

Demian: I always feel like I’m barely holding on live but when the show is over I always feel wonderful. 

E&D: How did Great Falls start as a band in the first place? 

Demian: After Playing Enemy broke up Shane and I started doing a noise band called Hemingway. It was just the two of us making noise and having a drunken, stoned blast but after a couple years we started writing more traditional songs with a drum machine. That started going well so we kept at it but it became so different from the noise band that we changed the name. After that we looked for drummers and found Phil. Then it was Great Falls all the time. 

E&D: The members of Great Falls have played in the likes of Kiss It Goodbye, Undertow, Playing Enemy, Bastard Feast and Gaytheist. Does the spirit of any of these bands deep into the music that you make now? 

Demian: Of course. These bands were where we learned our musical language and vocabulary. Everything we do can probably be traced back to one of those bands in some way. 

E&D: What bands have been the biggest influence on how Great Falls sound? 

Demian: aside from the ones I mentioned before I’d say Neurosis, Craw, Distorted Pony, Deathspell Omega, Dazzling Killmen, Coalesce, Sigur Rós, Unsane, Merzbow,  Afghan Whigs, Arab on Radar, Big Black and a zillion other artists all play a part. 

E&D: What have been some of your favourite albums that have been released this year so far? 

Demian: I love the recent Nightmarer record. The recent Blood Incantation EP is cool but it’s really just a teaser for what is coming next. 

E&D: What have been some of the proudest moments in your music career to date?

Demian: I have been recording and releasing records for over 30 years but I’m still riding high on this record. So I’m gonna say putting out Objects Without Pain.

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