Interview with Gravehuffer
By Victor Augusto
My lack of creativity in writing introductions is nothing new for all the readers of Ever Metal (by the way I am copying this intro from my review), but today I have to repeat something that I often mention in introductions to my reviews. This is how amazing it is seeing a band’s evolution while I have the pleasure to follow them, releasing their albums, since they have formed. Of course, Gravehuffer (from Joplin, Missouri) are not a young band and they are very experienced musicians, but I am the lucky guy who has reviewed all of their albums since 2017 and I have to say that Gravehuffer is one of the most intriguing and challenging bands that I have reviewed so far.
I had the pleasure to talk with the guitarist Ritchie Randall to dig deeply on how they achieved such an amazing result on their last album “NecroEclosion”.
Victor Augusto: I confess that I tried to find the meaning of album’s title, but I couldn’t understand it. Could you explain the definition of the word NecroEclosion?
Ritchie Randall: It means to emerge from a cocoon of death. We were going through the pandemic, lost our singer and had to cancel a lot of shows at the time. It all went into the sound of the record.
Victor Augusto: NecroEclosion, for me, is a pure American album. Not that the album is just for American listeners, but it is a hard criticism of things from your country. You talk about those who stayed at sea a long time during the colonization, also about the disco music and even the NASA missions off of earth, but it’s always related to the USA. Was your intention to be focused on American history or American culture, or did it just happens naturally?
Ritchie Randall: That’s an interesting observation! I never thought of it that way. It was definitely not our intention, but it could relate to all of the upheaval going on in the United States at the time we wrote the album. So, I guess to answer your question, it happened naturally.
Victor Augusto: There is the typical acid humor that Gravehuffer always uses in the best way, as you hear in ‘Death Before Disco’. It starts with a funny version of ‘You Should Be Dancing’, from the Bee Gees, that shows the wreck that Disco music made of the music industry decades ago. It also criticizes the cocaine and other stuff involved with those who were part of the scene. I think it also shows how we have plenty of excellent and varied material here, and I am not talking about that stuff from Disco clubs, that could make Robocop (with rusty hinges) dance like hell! Could you talk about this sense of humour and about this song?
Ritchie Randall: I think we always have that cheeky sense of humour going on throughout all of our records. How it manifests into a song can vary a lot though. Mike (Jilge), our bassist, has been wanting to do the ‘Death Before Disco’ idea as long as I can remember. We’re talking since the late 90’s! He learned the bass line for the Bee Gees song and so at that point, we had to do it ha ha ha! It was a lot of fun to step out of our comfort zone for a minute there. Travis came up with the idea for the lyrics to be about the disco culture of the 70’s and how it tried to ruin the music scene.
Victor Augusto: You also talks about serious historical subject for example in ‘Ghost Dance’, which is about the mass killing of the Native Americans in the USA. The backing vocals, like the ghost of the indigenous ancestors screaming for help to anyone who could stand and fight. Melodies bring the feeling of a ‘last breath of hope’ amongst all the chaos that sadly didn’t save them from the coward’s killing. Was the band’s intention to bring all these emotions for the song?
Ritchie Randall: Yes, it was. We had the subject matter of the Wounded Knee Massacre already picked for a song, and we wrote the music to specifically fit with what happened. It was very emotional to write. It’s something that means a lot to us, being from the United States. We haven’t always treated people the best ever though we’re a nation of immigrants. Travis (McKenzie – Vocals) once again came up with the lyrics and really did a fantastic job! We let a few of our Native American friends listen to it before it was released, and they really thought we did that part of their history justice.
Victor Augusto: ‘Custom Of The Sea’ also has a serious subject. It is about those who stayed at sea a long time during the colonization. Many people went mad and died. By the way it is a perfect song to understand the bands sonority! Could you explain this track?
Ritchie Randall: Sure, it’s about cannibalism at sea and how it was basically allowed until a trial outlawed it. We just thought it sounded like such an intense thing to go through! I saw an article on the internet about it and wanted the band to write a song that put you in the headspace of the people who were living through it. We had no idea that took place back then. It was actually called the ‘custom of the sea’ and it happened very regularly. If the sailors ran out of rations, they would kill the people who were the sickest and eat them.
Victor Augusto: Musically, you are not restricted to only one genre and you are getting heavier with each album release, even though you keep your main spirit of Crust / Hardcore and Thrash Metal. For example: ‘Quarantine Death Machine’ reminds me of Sepultura when playing Hardcore. ‘Smaller Than Death’ has a Doomy side. ‘Stingray’ is more Punk Rock in style, but it is very heavy as well. Gravehuffer is a band that always wants to surprise their fans. What makes you always want to play whatever you want, no matter the style?
Ritchie Randall: Thanks! We basically write how we are feeling at that particular time and it translates to the sound of the music. Sometimes we are feeling in a good mood, sometimes we are angry, sometimes we are bummed out, it just depends on what is happening in our lives at that time. The only rule in this band is there are no rules!
Victor Augusto: This new album is pretty organic and raw, of course it is amazingly well recorded. It is funny because in an age that most of the bands prefer to do a much-digitalized production, you went against this trend. Is it a pattern for Gravehuffer or do you think that the compositions asked for this raw production?
Ritchie Randall: Thank you once again! It’s a little bit of both actually. We come from the era of bands that had that more raw production. There are times when we will hear a band with polished production and then see them live and they sound nothing like their record. We want our live sound to translate to our albums. We’re a loud, aggressive, and intense band and we want the production to match that.
Victor Augusto: It is funny because I’ve already heard the album, to review, since October or September of 2020. I took a long time to listen to it because I was involved with other things in the end of the last year. But I clearly remember the post of a review that totally showed a person who didn’t understand the band’s idea and talked a lot of crazy things. It pissed me off and made me want to go deeper into this album to write the best review ever that I could, considering my limitations ha ha ha ha! How do you handle with these kinds of things coming from magazines and people connected to journalism?
Ritchie Randall: Your review is fantastic and also we appreciate that you think highly of the album to include on your 2021 albums of the year list! Bad reviews are rare for us thankfully, but when they do happen, they tend to be a little bit short sighted. They don’t really ‘get’ what we are doing it seems. That’s OK really. We understand we’re not for everyone. There was one that we made an example of because they got a little bit personal in the review and that’s not cool. Other than that, we don’t mind. We just appreciate that people are taking the time to listen and write their thoughts about our music!
Victor Augusto: We first meet each other when we were at Sare’s Invasion radio show. By the way Sara was the person who told me about Ever Metal. Since then, I have reviewed all of Gravehuffer’s albums and you don’t leave more than 2 years without a new release. How is the composition process working to have so much good material in a short spaces of time?
Ritchie Randall: Yeah it’s been great being a part of the family at Sare’s Invasion! We are always writing, practically every couple of weeks we’ll have new ideas to present to each other. Our phones and computers have hundreds of riffs, lyrics, melodies, beats, you name it! We have stuff from 7 or 8 years ago still sitting around. We may use it, we may not, but it’s nice to have that wealth of material to have at our disposal.
Victor Augusto: You started touring just in this year, after all issues from COVID during 2020 and 2021. How are the shows so far? Do you have any intention to tour outside of the US, such as a European tour?
Ritchie Randall: The shows have been good. A few great ones too! Attendance is still on the lower side, but I think people are just being cautious and that’s OK. Regardless, we have a blast and love meeting new people and playing our music for them! We do plan to play outside the US, it’s just the cost and timing that we have to figure out, but we are actively pursuing it!
Victor Augusto: Over all these years playing in a band, what was the band’s achievement which made you feel most proud of that’s worth all the hard work so far?
Ritchie Randall: Probably putting out vinyl. That was something I never thought I would do! It’s always been one of the dreams! NecroEclosion in particular. Just wait for our next record. It’s really going to raise the bar! We can’t wait for people to hear it!
Victor Augusto: Thanks for your time. I really hope to see you in concert someday. For sure I will be on the front row and screaming whilst you play, like the stupid crazy fan that I am. Please let your us know your final considerations for your fans and for Ever Metal’s readers, also the plans for the future.
Ritchie Randall: Thank you for the insightful questions! This was a lot of fun! We would LOVE to play Brazil! Wow that would be amazing! As far as the future, we are finishing up this new record that has a 21-minute epic song about Dante’s Divine Comedy, and another side of our crazy antics. Kam Lee from Massacre and James Murphy (Death, Testament, Obituary, Cancer, etc.) is playing lead guitar on the Dante song! Many more shows as well! Cheers!
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Victor Augusto and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.