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THE WATCHER INTERVIEW: Heavy Death Rock



Since the band’s new, care to spill your guts on The Watcher’s background, formation and short history thus far?

The Watcher "officially" started in January 2009 with only me (Henry). I never really wanted to start a band - all I wanted to do was buy records, discover bands, and save money to travel. I've always written, like, joke songs with my friends. When I was sending around complete songs around late summer/fall of 2008 (through TabIt, haha) to them, they expressed interest. After finding the right sound and the right people, it all fell into place. A few months into it, everything came apart and I got fucked endlessly with people screwing me out of money, unresponsive parties, pointless and unprofessional drama, etc. It's been a rough time, but things are looking smoother. "No pain, no gain" is the saying.

Why was the name “The Watcher” chosen?

Interesting story with this. The very first Watcher sound was in the vein of Enslaved's later-era prog stuff, and obviously "The Watcher" is the closing track off their latest album Vertebrae - which is my favorite on that record. Surprisingly, no one used that name for a band, so I quickly jumped on it.

Since you must be satisfied with your logo, do you plan on working with Adam of Necromantic Art in the future for say, album covers?

The logo is fucking awesome! I can't thank Adam enough for it. I've always loved bands like Iron Maiden, who uses the same artist for every record. It just gives the band character. So yeah, I definitely have plans to work with Necromantic Art in the future. Of course, it all depends on his schedule since Adam is in 2 amazing bands: Enforcer and Tribulation...

What exactly is “heavy death rock?”

It's just a cool name to label our music, haha. If you break down the words, it just describes our sound. I don't know what other people think, nor do I really care for that matter, but I personally think we have some heavy riffs, an obvious death metal influence (pre-1994, mostly), and the song structures are just timeless rock song structures.

Disfear is one of the reasons why we are here now doing what we do, and I would say they are the first TRUE Heavy Death Rock band when they released Live the Storm (having Tompa and Uffe helps as well). A lot of bands give themselves their own genre, so this is ours. I mean, in an IDEAL world, I would love to just say we are crossover because that's essentially what we are - a hybrid of metal and hardcore punk. But you know how the modern "metal" and "hardcore" scenes are nowadays...

On your Myspace page it says “we play hardcore, or at least what we want hardcore to be.” So, what is your idea of hardcore music? What do you feel about how people currently label bands as “hardcore” who don’t match your definition?

Listen to the early NYHC releases. That will tell you what hardcore should be. I once read somewhere recently that hardcore started in New York because punks were beaten into harder music. If you listen to the Cro-Mags, Sick of it All, Agnostic Front, Leeway, Sheer Terror, Madball, and all of these bands, they are pretty much 50% hardcore PUNK and 50% METAL. The first band I ever listened to was Bad Religion, followed by Metallica and Slayer at the same time, and these bands were influenced HEAVILY by bands like the Misifts, Ramones, Discharge, etc. Swedish death metal was influenced by Mob 47 and Anti-Cimex, who were influenced by the UK-hardcore scene that influenced American speed/thrash metal.

It all comes full-circle. I'm just addicted to the aggression and speed of extreme metal and hardcore punk, so I feel hardcore should be that. At the same time, you can only go so fast and be so brutal before you get brutalized, haha. Even Motorhead had acoustic songs! I started writing some new songs, and they have some more melody. Hardcore should be the Slayer of punk: resistant to change, but adding on new elements to keep it fresh.

As for other bands who call themselves hardcore who don't necessarily match my definition, all I can say is keep going and don't compromise. I may not like some of those bands, but that doesn't mean I don't respect them as people and as musicians. I mean, hardcore is so broad. I don't like to drop names, but bands like Oceano and other nonsense like that call themselves hardcore AND death metal! So this leads into hardcore also being about the attitude and mentality. It's the full package, you know? There is nothing hardcore about getting signed to a big(-ish) label when it's so obvious that they are the flavor of the week and will pay the label's bills. Agnostic Front are on Nuclear Blast, but they fucking deserve it. They are not trend followers and tell it like it is. There is also nothing hardcore about being super clean in the studio. Most importantly, there is NOTHING hardcore and metal about looking like every other band in that field. No attitude, no character, and no identity...

Your influences are broader than most bands like to reveal with everything from Napalm Death and Entombed to Motorhead and KISS. Do you think the music you create for The Watcher really reflects this kind of eccentricity?

Many fans these days look, or I guess listen, only to the surface of a song. They'll listen to a song and say, "these guys ripped off Metallica!" and not realize all of the other things that happened. What I'm getting to is that when a band cites influences, fans don't see that it's not just the notes of choice or the tone. It's everything. My song structures are pure Paul Stanley rip-offs, who in fact rips off a lot of British invasion bands and Motown bands - and I love bands like the Beatles and the Zombies. That's rock 'n roll, you know? The influences are a starting point, and everything after that is how you make of it. Staying true to your roots is important. I have songs written with the mindset of strictly the Ramones but no one can tell on the first listen. I have parts of songs with strictly Slayer in mind and Judas Priest (I actually think a lot of Slayer breakdowns rips off Priest). Look at Sodom! They literally have songs that could be Motorhead songs - sung in German - and they have some songs that could easily be in a GBH album.

How is work on the EP going and what energies/ideas will be released with it?

Originally, I wanted the EP to contain 6-8 songs, but as I listen back to the songs I noticed the songs I've written later sound stylistically different. This is like the Darkthrone-style of releasing albums, haha. So I'm gonna omit the later songs and release the EP with the first 4 songs.

Releasing music as an unsigned, and UNKNOWN, band these days is fucking retarded. Like, how many bands are there today? How many of them are on MySpace? How many personal accounts on MySpace block bands? How many scene girls are there on MySpace that just has an account to gain numbers? I am still finding a way to release this EP in the most efficient way, and MySpace isn't the way anymore if you want long-term consistency. Plus, I don't wanna be "underground" just for the fucking scene cred. I don't need it, nor do I want it. I'm not gonna front: I wanna make a living doing what I love. I know I will not make a million bucks playing hardcore and metal. That's a given. If you go into this thinking you will be making a profit, get out. Do I sound like a hypocrite? Think about this for a bit and come back to tell me.

I know Gama Bomb released their latest album for free via Earache Records, as well as Terrorizer Magazine streaming full albums for free. There's also this new thing called Band Camp, which looks promising. So I'm gonna release the EP as a free download at 128 kbps. Naturally, if it's free, 98% of people these days could care less about the quality of mp3s. In a way, that's cool for the band because a lot of people will have access to it without the "$" wall. However, if you still want the mp3s in the best quality, I'll sell the tracks for 50 cents for whatever the highest quality it comes in (I guess 320?).

But fuck downloading. I am a record collector and I still buy CDs, and I think it would be rather stupid for me not to release my own music the way I intend it to be heard and seen. So, if you want a physical copy, I am planning on doing an extremely limited press on vinyl. Two 7" records, at 45. Gatefold, of course with great art from Necromantic Art. It'll come with a limited patch, pin, and a poster. This is no joke, haha. Oh, and it'll come with a download card AND a disc. So even if you don't have a record player, buy the physical one as it will contain a fucking download card and a disc, as well as all of those other goodies. And of course, burn the disc and mp3s and spread it like the Black Death!

What is recording time like for you guys?

Depends on when I will be less broke. New York City is a city where people assume there is a great music and art community. That is entirely false. There are no studios for bands, and if there are, they are insanely expensive and do not understand how to record extreme music. So finding the right studio will take time but I've found a few studios as close to what I want so recording will be later this month or early January. This will be out before the end of January, for sure.

You’ve also made comments on how the “internet scene” is killing the extreme music scene. Care to expand on this? How does a band use the internet to reach listeners and not become media whores? What do you think is the biggest disparity between what hardcore is seen as today versus what it used to be viewed as?

This is a subject matter that is so complicated that everyone will argue that he/she is right. It's like proving God's existence (which I acknowledged right there, or have I? haha...).

Basically, if you're a band like Motley Crue, who gives a shit if people download your songs? You're all millionaires. However, if you're a band like Midnight, there's a real problem. This is only the financial side of the internet and extreme music...

I see extreme music's existence in the internet as this: a joke. Metal is one big joke on the internet. Clearly, Abbath and Demonaz didn't get into the whole regalia thinking, "this is fucking ridiculous". They meant serious business. Look at sites like Blabbermouth and MetalSucks. Sure, they get the job done by reporting the news. Ok; that's fine. However, look at who is making their reputation: THE FUCKING FANS?! All they do is bitch and whine! Are fans supposed to do that? Granted, I am a young guy. I got into metal in 99/00 and I didn't have a working computer in my household until mid-high school when I got DSL in like 05. Technology and human interaction with technology has advanced so far so quickly so I am not going crazy here. So from all those years, I just accepted what I got and bought records and learned everything about music. I downloaded a bit but I just couldn't get into it. I needed the actual thing and I hate listening to music on my computer. Nowadays, everything is so open that people can look at bands and be like whatever, you know? Because it's so easy to throw yourself out there on the internet, people are less appreciative of underground music. Don't get me wrong, the internet is amazing and YouTube is the greatest thing ever. If you use it for good, underground music can benefit GREATLY. But everything is a joke to these bloggers and fans. Look at Vice. I don't even want to go there.

With people flashing the letters “NYDM” like they’re in some street gang, death metal and New York are somewhat synonymous. So what do you have to say about this and the other sides of the state’s metal scene?

Fuck NYDM. When I was 13, I noticed some NYDM people and I got scared of them. I was like, wait, metal has its own gang? That's kinda ridiculous. I don't get their deal. I know people who were associated with that group and they just wanted nothing to do with them. They're elitist beyond anything, and that's not cool. I'm not down with that. I'm sure they mean well, with supporting the scene and whatnot. But I don't like how they go about it. The same applies with this new Metal-Punk Squad or whatever it is. I think it's ridiculous. Hardcore has its fair share of gangs, too, like in Boston and I believe there is one here in New York as well. I actually have no problems with the DMS crew because they don't have their own armor or all of that shit. Look at Freddy from Madball and Jimmy G from Murphy's Law. They look like everyday New Yorkers. They are all part of that DMS thing but they don't go around taunting people. Now that I think of it, I think DMS is just a mindset, which is the way it should be. KISS has their own "gang", you know, the KISS Army. But it's a feeling. You can meet another KISS fan at a show and totally bond. Like, I saw KISS at Madison Square Garden not too long ago and Chris Caffery was sitting down the aisle from me. Lenny Kravitz was at the show. EVERYONE likes KISS! Savatage and Lenny Kravitz are pretty different, musically and visually, if you ask me but all kinds of people get together have a good time. Turbonegro has the Turbojugend, and the only benefit of having a denim jacket with your city on it is to feel accepted. They're not exactly a gang in the traditional sense. It's like a brotherhood, though the denim jackets are unnecessary.

What do you think about Earth Crisis, who proclaim to be “straight edge vegans?” Plus, should music be used to spread personal agendas and politics?

I haven't listened enough to Earth Crisis to comment on them. I do know they are extreme straight edge vegans. I mean, I honestly don't know a huge amount about them or their agenda. If they are true to their beliefs, that's all good. More power to 'em. I just hope they don't assault people. That would be horrible.

Music SHOULD be used to spread whatever you want. Music expresses feelings and ideas. However, do I agree with some of the politics of certain musicians? Absolutely not, but some of the music is good. Am I gonna support a band like Satanic Warmaster? No. That's one thing I can't stand: NS and Nazi shit in music, especially punk and metal which is a world-wide thing. That's one thing I will never support and for one simple reason: it's hypocritical. I will never understand the South American guy wearing a Burzum shirt and worshiping Varg like he is a god. He wants you dead - why support him? It goes to a lot of these bands. So many people blindly follow them because they LOOK kult and true. But who's worse...? At the end of the day, musicians should know their place. If the politics take over EVERYTHING about the band, like Chthonic, then something is wrong. Music first, THEN politics. I just wish everyone can just get together, drink a beer (preferably Beck's), and listen to Black Sabbath. That will solve everyone's problems.

What are your feelings on the following items:

Catholic school

 I don't mind Catholic school. I never had a problem with it. I mean, people are paying for it so it's not like everyone is forced to go there. My whole deal is that if you are a kid who attended Catholic school, and by the time you hit 18 and can't think for yourself or say to yourself if this is for you, then you need to get your shit checked.

“Dead Again”

I personally think it is Type O Negative's best album, and they're one of my all-time favorite bands. It's just perfect. Pete Steel has done it again! They are one of the few bands that has a flawless discography and they are definitely one of the fewer bands who get better with every album. Them being from my neck of the borough doesn't hurt, either.

Crack cocaine

Fuck that. I am a very firm believer in the saying "drugs don't kill people. People kill people." I don't use drugs. When I was in high school, I dabbled with marijuana here and there and believe me, I did not like it one bit. I had friends that used cocaine. I look at them now and they just look horrible. Drugs aren't for me. Am I gonna preach about how bad drugs are? Fuck no. If you wanna use 'em, go ahead. Just know what you're getting into. I actually want those people to take more so they can kill themselves.

Warped vinyl

Funny, I was just talking about how my Behemoth 7" was warped (from the new box they put out). It's very frustrating, but at the same time if the record looks cool (hopefully a pic disc), then whatever. Its a good display item.

Paterson 2010

He's a fucking joke. Every politician from New York is. Our state is so fucked. We have $36 million in the state bank - and that's fucking scary. I can't even afford to go to college anymore and I have friends who has their financial aid slashed so the state can save money. Who's in charge of this? The fucking politicians are. Even Bloomberg sucks. These people are being hassled by all of these organizations that they can't even look at the bigger picture: hard-working citizens who just want to make some money. I'm a born and bred New Yorker and it fucking sucks knowing I can't find simple, basic jobs in the city because they're all taken by out-of-town trust fund kids. Everything is changed. Everyone is so concerned about the less fortunate and "people with needs". Fuck that! We have so many people raping the system, be they illegal immigrants, out-of-town citizens, drug abusers, squatters, etc. There goes our money. It's like, all of us are given an equal chance to make something of ourselves. I don't see why some of us have to sit back and grab the benefits because of some bullshit. I know there are those people who truly can't work, and that's sad and I feel for them. Unfortunately, the ratio isn't even. By the way, I'm Chinese so for all of you PC fuckin' libs out there: FUCK YOU!

Thanks for the interview… Is there anything else you’d like to leave with Tanin’iver?

Thank YOU for giving me the opportunity to do this. Big zines like Revolver and shit won't give the small bands a chance to do this, to express themselves and give fans a chance to know what they're about. This is the beauty of small FANzines like Tanin'iver. Keep supporting underground music and fanzines! Remember people, Metallica existed because of the UNDERGROUND!