Break Everything and Smile: Godmaker

IMG_9455 I was initially blown away by Jon Lane when Bröhammer played a benefit at the Trash Bar in Brooklyn for UnBlock the Rock, a campaign for Cuban metal. Years later, I would meet Kyle, knower of all things metal in Brooklyn, at an Eyehategod show who said, “If you liked Bröhammer, you’ll love Godmaker.” Lo and behold, there was Lane once again, the brains and the beats behind the emerging band Godmaker. Friday the 13th brought me good luck and I got to skype down with Andrew Archey (bass) and Jon Lane (drums) and their dog to talk about their place in the Brooklyn metal scene.

 TNL: How was Godmaker born?

Jon Lane: I was playing in Bröhammer and I was in Crows on Vultures and they were both fun, they were all people I loved, but we weren’t playing the music that I was really wanting to, music that I felt like was me, so I sort of hashed out an idea in my head and there was a cute little door girl who worked at Guitar Center who kept trying to talk to me about music, who turned out to be Andrew Archey…

Archey: He’s not lying.

Lane: Seriously, he had amazing girl hair and a chin strap, it was fantastic.This kid who we worked with pulled us together to jam with him for some Lamb of God-y, not horrible, but very generic-y metal stuff, at Ultrasound, and it was just very obvious watching us that the only thing happening in that room was me and Archey jamming together. So, it started this long agonizing process of trying to put this band together.

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TNL: You get the sense, watching Godmaker on stage, that what makes you so tight on stage exists off stage. How did you guys find each other?

Lane: After a year, our friend Jess who heard about what we were doing, introduced us to Pete (Ross, vocals), and the first time I hung out with him, he was talking about getting a hamburger tattoo, he was wearing a Floor shirt and a Godflesh hoodie. And I was like “This guy’s ok, we’ll talk to him.”

By the end of the first practice we knew he was the guy. A couple of practices later he came out with the main riff of “Megolith”, and I told him he no longer had the option of considering not being in our band at any time.

I had a random conversation with Chris (Strait, guitar) with whom I had been in a hardcore band, a very techy, mathy, cathartic hardcore band, in Kansas for many years. I hadn’t even considered him as an option because it was so far from what we had been doing. He told me he was going to move to LA and be in his friend’s band and play bass. I was like “Dude, you’re not a bass player, I don’t want to be a dick but you don’t waste hands like that on bass.”

Archey: I’m just going to pretend you don’t exist for the rest of the night.

Lane: I get that a lot. I was like “Dude if you’re talking about moving across the country to be in a band…A. fuck LA, B. our band’s better.” He responded with, Is this the band that’s “crushingly destructive, and very 70’s”?                                                                           We moved him in on St. Patty’s Day.

TNL: Let’s talk about Bröhammer for a second, that was such an incredible line up of musicians, Nick Cageo who is now in Mutoid Man, James Danzo who’s in Deceased…

Lane: That band started as a joke. Which is why it’s pronounced, “Brew Hammer”. It was originally me and Nick (Cageo), and Jeff. Jeff was already playing in Vermefug, Nick was playing in various bands around town, we worked with this guy Pete Macy (Early man), a giant sweetheart and ridiculous guitar player.

BroHammer was the original joke name, and then one of them, I forget who modified it. They were like “Dude, we don’t hammer bro’s, we hammer brews!” Genius. And then Joe Silver joined the band, and we’re like, Oh, this guy’s insanely talented. We conned James Danzo from Vermefug to jump in and suddenly it was a real band and we didn’t know what to do with it, which was a recurring theme.

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TNL: Archey, where did you come from musically?

Archey: In the interim of us trying to figure out band members, I was just doing random hired shows, which caught me for about 6 months playing in a goth synth rock band. Which is a completely different story for a completely different time.

Lane: He or we are all lucky enough that he grew up in a family who knew the music industry pretty well and had a really vast catalog, like Archey knows shit about Kansas bands that I know people from Kansas don’t know.

TNL: How and when did you start playing drums? How and when did you start playing bass?

Lane: I started playing drums before Andrew Archey was born. That’s not a joke.           My brother was into music for like a month a half when he was a kid which was just long enough to bring home “And Justice For All”. By the time “Blackened” was over, I knew like 3 things: This is my new favorite band, I have to be a musician and I have to play the drums, get me lessons right fucking now.

With mild dry spells involving college –

Archey: What’s that?

Lane: I’ve been going for 25 years.

Archey: I started playing bass at about 9 years old. The thing is my dad used to work for Gibson guitars. I grew up in their office around instruments all day.

My brother started playing drums around the same time. All the bands I played with in NJ were with my younger brother, who is now off doing things I want to be doing instead of you know, working to pay my rent,

I had a bizarre upbringing ‘cause I was kind of exposed to just about everything. I would learn random rock and punk songs and all that kind of shit in the midst of taking lessons. Toward the end I was learning old Motown tracks and I think that’s where became not as white as I am or appear to be and I actually grew a bit of a pocket, which seems to be a little too deep every time we jam.

That’s about it. I wish I had something glorious . I could say I played tambourine when I was 5 for Hootie.

Lane: Let’s not gloss over that.

TNL: I think that ‘s crucial, that should be in the liner notes.

Lane: I’m looking at the tambourine right now.

Archey: Dude still remembers me, I don’t remember being up there.

Lane: How could you not remember that?

Archey: Would you want to remember that?

TNL: NYC is the place where it seems some people make it really easily, because they have certain connections. For bands who are just really trying and really talented and really amazing, is it much more difficult these days to break in?

Archey: There are definitely bands that happen to be in the right place at the right time, they were where they needed to be to be looked at by somebody. For everyone else it’s never not a struggle to get noticed, especially out here, because the metal scene out here has grown so much and has become so diverse. You definitely have to find ways to stand out, but you definitely have to work your ass off. You have to play and bring it every time you play a show find ways to separate yourself from everyone else.

It is difficult now because you have so many ways to absorb media, you have Youtube, you have Bandcamp, you have Facebook which links to all of the above, and there’s a million and a half record labels now, kids are starting them in their fucking basement. We want our ep out, it ‘s just that finding the right way so that it’s exposed to as many humans as possible.

 

TNL: Making sure it got out there and it’s distributed, more than before, artists have to be their own distributors, their own agents…

Archey: I know people who’ve done the whole DIY route and had great success with it, because they don’t have to pay anybody. You’re your own boss. Yeah it takes a lot more work to get it done with the way you can absorb media now, it makes it a lot easier for DIY bands to have a further reach because there’s so many outlets, it’s how you use them.

 TNL: But it’s time consuming, it takes time to post on FaceBook, it takes time to tweet, doesn’t that take away from your time to rehearse?

Archey: Between that and… keeping a roof over our heads, takes precedence, I kinda wish it didn’t, unfortunately money still rules 90% of our lives.

Lane: All of us work full time. Chris has two jobs, we’re working 40 to 50 hours a week.

Archey: Pete’s got a big boy job.

Lane: At the same time, Archey and I are just fucking waiting for the day when we shove all our shit into a storage unit and get the fuck out of town and tour. That’s kind of the goal.

TNL: How do you guys feel, as part of the metal community in BK, about this huge gentrification going on?

Archey: Ok, it’s pushing us out of the expensive neighborhoods, that used to be cheap, but with that it does expand places for us to play. The Acheoron is still in a fairly desolate area-

Lane: It still costs a fuck ton of money to live over there.

Archey: My biggest joy about being out here is that the metal scene is pretty much the biggest brotherhood of friends that I ever had. When I played in NJ, everybody hated each other, nobody liked each other, you had maybe one band you were friends with…out here we all hang out together, are possibly in two to three side projects together, hang out at each other’s houses, throw parties…

Lane: I grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, it was a tight little group, a handful of bands that were pretty successful. I’ll still rock a “Coalesce” t-shirt, I’m actually wearing an “Esoteric” shirt now that I look. It was a very positive scene, when I moved out here I never expected to find that again.

Saint Vitus to me is what the Bottleneck was in Lawrence, it has such a familiar vibe where you just walk in and know everybody, and there’s so many familiar faces, it’s like that everywhere.

 

TNL: It is very communal, I’m new to that scene but already I saw like 10 people I knew at your show the other night (Grand Victory, June 2, 2014). At the show, moreso than before, live Godmaker sounded like if the Allman Brother’s went really heavy. There’s such a country influence, something that seperates you from everyone else.

Lane: I wouldn’t use the word country. A thing that’s really important for me is swing. I need music to have a little swagger to it, I hate that teenage hip hop fans have ruined that word, I need that.

TNL: It’s not country perse, but if I heard the music and someone told me half the band is from Kansas, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Lane: What’s funny is that zero percent of that is Chris’ fault as of yet. Pete writes some pretty fucking redneck riffs now and then. There’s a song that will be on the next record that the first time Pete played the riff, I was like, “No, no. That’s awesome but you have finally done it, you have finally written a riff that is too hill billy I can’t do it.” I then walked around with that riff stuck in my head for an entire week and figured out a way to make it work and thought, Ok now, now we’re going to do that. I’m insisting that we call that song “Purple Drank”, so you’ll know it. But Kansas isn’t the South.

TNL: The south isn’t country either, I think blues is more the south…

Archey: There’s a lot of that with us too.

Lane: My friend Jeremy and I had a hard core band when I was back in Kansas. We both wanted a band that created this atmosphere that when we were on stage… I’m a total priss about my gear, because I was a po’ kid and never had nice shit, and spent a lot of money on my shit, but my goal in that band was: “I want this band to make me want to break everything on this stage that belongs to me and fucking smile while I’m doing it.”

I need that. And Godmaker does that times ten. I’ve never put so much into a band, and I’ve never gotten nearly as much out. We haven’t really done that much with it yet, but every time we’re on stage…

Archey: I don’t even think she saw Pete shake his ass yet

Lane: When Pete starts shaking his ass on stage it’s kind of the best thing ever.

TNL: I think I’m afraid to see that. That idea kind of terrifies me.

Lane: It’s wonderful.

TNL How did you come up with the name?

Lane: We spent an awful long time trying to find a name that was as big as we wanted the sound of this band to be. It took us forever. I remember stumbling over the name Kingmaker, and thinking that’s good, I need something bigger than that. Wait a minute, google search, google search, no one has used that yet!

 Archey: Pete actually suggested Pink Disaster.

Lane: Don’t look into that.

TNL: Tell me about the new EP coming out.

Lane: Well it’s us, so it’s four songs and it’s about 33 minutes. It’s kind of the “Hi, we’re Godmaker thing.” It’s fully done, it’s fully mastered, we’ve got cover art by Joe Silver, which is fucking ridiculous, as you would probably expect if you’ve seen our shirts which is also his.

TNL: If you were forced to label this record, if you were forced to qualify your music, categorize your music, how would you pitch it to someone, what genre would you put it in?

Archey: Loud.

Lane: Very fucking loud. I always thought the best bands that don’t know how to describe themselves are usually the best ones because they’re usually not aiming for a thing. Ours has always been about no boundaries, it’s always going to get weirder.

TNL: That’s the point right? To keep pushing yourself, and to not do the same thing over and over again.

Lane: People will lob stoner and doom and there are definitely even prog aspects to it, which I don’t like to use because then everyone puts on their glasses and starts counting beats…

 Archey: I kind of like to keep it as “metal”, the whole subgenre kind of annoys me to an extent because it confuses 90% of the people who don’t know what it is. They’re like what’s stoner metal? What’s prog metal?There are parts that are all over the place and touch a lot of different aspects in different subgenres and quite honestly, there’s a lot of straight up rock shit going on.

Lane: We’re a fucking band, you know?

 For more info on Godmaker: facebook.com/godmakerbk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Letter to Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez

Dear Negro,IMG_7771

After the Vulcan show at the Blue Note, now, almost a month ago, I asked you “If I wrote you a letter about what I was thinking while Vulcan was playing would you read it?” You looked at me with the same earnesty I asked, Yes, you said, yes.

At that champagne and vodka and throbbing explosive flower pussy 3 am moment, everything I had to say was pulsing on the surface of my skin, fresh from the experience of live Vulcan but I was tired and it was loud.

First, know this: in January of 2010 when you came to perform in Cuba, when we saw each other. I was there, as you know, living in a budget hotel in Havana during a cold winter I had not prepared for. The shower in my room only had cold water, and when I went down to the front desk to ask if I could switch rooms, they would accompany me back up to my room, run the shower for like 10 minutes until it got a little less cold, and tell me it was hot.

I was into my 6th month of filming “They Will Be Heard” and trying to adjust to a daily existence of documenting a metal band within the context of not understanding anything. Not just the language, but why things were the way they were. Why cold was hot. Why free was not.

There was also a strange and difficult relationship with Escape, for me, as a first time director who had personal relationships with the band, trying to reconcile what my relationship as someone from a country where not having hot water in the middle of winter was something new.

I’m trying to condense a lot of what I was feeling and experiencing at that time, where general frustration was no longer something I experienced every now and then and could step back from, but it became part of my personality, it was how I woke up each morning and greeted the day. Escape could not understand this. They never expected things to get better, so they were never frustrated. I was unable to do that. I always wanted things to be better. For everyone.

On that morning when I met you and Jenny and Josefina at the hotel in Havana, and you were so happy, I realized I had forgotten to smile. And you just being there, arms open, “Traceeeeey!” So much weight was taken from me, I physically felt lighter. Without even knowing you taught me in that moment that it’s almost always in reach to be happy. It’s almost always easier to be happy. And I want you to know how powerful that was, your smile.

On March 18th, 2014, in NYC, I arrived with Jenny and Edgar at The Blue Note, and we were sat in an awkward spot until Jenny recognized a friend and who invited us to join them. I was sat up front, almost up against the stage. I had my camera, but when you shoot you immediately become an observer, a witness. I made the choice to become a participant in the performance, to allow myself to become mesmerized by each moment and not step outside what was happening. Yet each piece was compelling me to act, to be, to exist. I could not stop my mind from racing, trying to explain this music, these songs to someone else, what would I say? Over and over again, I thought, How did they know to get together and do that? Hearing Vulcan is hearing a battle cry, a spiritual, a message from our ancestors, something holy and sacrosanct, a ritual that involves fire and rebirth.

I woke up this morning to find the Blood Moon tonight. It was 3 am, and I didn’t want to roam the city streets by myself with my camera so I jumped into a taxi with an Egyptian taxi driver, Hamada. We drove around Jersey City, trying to find the light, trying to find the moon. The moon was no where to be found. “Maybe you come back earlier tomorrow night and you find it,” he told me. I got home and put on some coffee, thinking I would try again. But this letter was fighting me. It was insisting I let you know this now.

In my life, I decide to do something and I do it. This documentary, like everything Cuban, is unnecessarily complicated and taking too long.

When I began making “They Will Be Heard,” I believed with all my heart it would be completed and be successful. That I would be completed and successful. That if I followed my dream and was determined and committed that the “right people would show up at the right time.” That the “universe would conspire to help me.” I have learned, trying to finish this film, that belief and universe and the secret is all bullshit. The “law of attraction” works for people who are well connected or have awesome hair. I’ve learned over the last four years, not without a great deal of pain and sadness, which I suppose accompanies every transformation, that there is no special force outside of us, no level of energy that brings us material well being, no special thinking that brings us success. What there is, happily, is people. What’s made the last four years tolerable is the incredible support of my friends and family.

The best thing about the last four years is that it’s over and I heard the performance of Vulcan as both a goodbye to that era in my life and a hello to what is about to come. The music that isn’t a magic coming out of thin air, but a magic coming from the hearts and blood life and fingers and breath of who we all are. Vulcan isn’t born from a mystery, it is the story of what we know to be true, scientific and full of faith.

There was a Vulcan piece, in the beginning, that reminded me so much of when I was 8 years old. Our living room was small, there was a record player and the speakers were placed on top and below the record player. During the day, when my mother didn’t work, she would play Olivia Newton John or Linda Ronstadt or the soundtrack to Star Wars and she had a million things to do. I would grab on to her legs like they were an old lover and she would let me dance there. Listening to Vulcan at the Blue Note that night brought me exactly there. To where I knew I was safe, to where I was hearing what I was ready for, but there, in the back of my dreams, the sounds of what was to come. That is Vulcan.

Love you always,
Tracey

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