by James Muschinski
Spring has finally sprung and the Minneapolis music mavericks known as Scaphe are finally set to release their follow up full-length to 2015's Long Way Down entitled Factory Gleam, on Forward Records. It's been years in the making but so was the official claim that Forward would be releasing the record as the third and last installment in a trilogy of final releases from the label, starting first with Tenement's self-titled album and second with now disbanded, Animal Lover; showcasing their noisy jazz-rock masterpiece ironically titled, Stay Alive.
Hovering over the hive, Scaphe represent exactly what Forward Records always postured to the public. A constant pursual of unfamiliar sounds, arrangement, and responsiveness. Factory Gleam is an adventurous and inventive take on modern metal and in all honesty, rock music in general.
I got a chance to talk with Scaphe's founders about the album and their decision to truly trash the mold and create a self-serving masterpiece above all else. As the saying goes, "in order to lead an orchestra, you must first turn your back to the crowd."
First and foremost, how did Scaphe form and what major changes have there been since the bands inception?
Nate Johnson: It was 2009 when Bryce came by one day and approached me playing a borrowed bass in my room at the rathole house where we practiced and recorded for the first couple of years. He was pretty insistent on getting me to play music with him and particularly bass. Having been primarily a guitar player, I ended up having to get my own bass stuff.
Bryce Beverlin II: I was looking to play heavy music with a bass player and had been impressed with Nate's playing in the previous projects he'd been involved with. It was pretty natural, we just started jamming and it was fun. Shortly after, Charlie Holtz asked if he could hang out and show us some songs he had made (also on bass) was a major enhancement.
N: Charlie and I had played in the grindcore band Dianoga for a few years prior to this point and wanted to continue playing together. We were fresh out of bands to play with and starting to really focus our attention and critical listening into a wider variety of other things to learn besides the steady dose of punk and heavy metal music we had become obsessed with as teenagers. Bryce was a strange new mind to bend with coming from more of an experimental/avant-garde background. With many differing tastes, creative sensibilities and playing styles, Scaphe right away was trying to sound like a hundred things at a time.
B: We have always been interested in pushing our musical limits and abandoning comfort zones, that idea has not changed much over the past 9 years. We've really mutated in musical style(s) and have somewhat expanded in instrumentation, especially on the recordings.
N: A big part of that musical mutation was at times intentional, trying to avoid being pigeonholed. For the longest time we were considered a grindcore/power violence band and would largely play such shows on tour and would end up confusing the fuck out of the audience. People seemed to really enjoy it! Like, they thought it was the second coming of Man is the Bastard or we were the Grateful Dead of hardcore...or…they didn’t dig it cause it wasn’t grindcore or it wasn’t explained very well. We just wanted to separate ourselves from people’s expectations.
Just one listen through and it's pretty apparent that Factory Gleam compiles the most eclectic selection of Scaphe recordings thus far. What were some of the major musical influences or styles you incorporated into the arrangement?
B: In the recording process, we did try to be true to each song individually. If the song had an aggressive heavy feel, we focused on making it sound potent. Or if it's going to be spooky or funky... loosen up, twist off your head, get in the mood, DO IT RIGHT! There's so many different kinds of music we love that it's sometimes tough to say where it comes from exactly. I'm influenced by everything from noise to baroque to rap to rock.
N: Writing and arranging for Factory Gleam technically started in 2013 before the previous Long Way Down album had even seen its release. In that 4 year time span I recall honing in on a lot of stuff like The Bryds, Captain Beefheart, Herman Szobel, Thrones, Butthole Surfers, Manfred Mann chapter 3 vol.1, Judee Sill, Husker Du, Sun Ra, Bali Gamelan, ragtime, abke dance music, Peter J. Woods, The Meat Puppets, micro-tonal composer Jullian Carillo, Big Star, minamalists and no wave people like Steve Reich and Glenn Branca, shoegaze music, Allen Lomax field recordings, some vaporwave bullshit... People like D’angelo, Jessica Pratt, Tenement, and Thundercat all had amazingly authentic, ambitious and futuristic sounding records come out within 2015, the year we started recording. That music was all very inspiring. I wanted Gleam to be a total outpour of omni-directional creativity and an honest reflection of a time that was really trying for the band. Charlie decided to leave Scaphe at this point and most of the record was made without his involvement. We toiled with our identity, trying [to] get this album finished, different lineups, and with very little output otherwise for a while. Aside from all things musical, I felt a lot of the influences on this record were psychological and environmental to say the least...
What kind of reaction do you think fans of Scaphe's previous recordings will have to the new material?
B: That depends on which previous recordings they were fans of. I want people who loved the Echo of Ape tape to listen to this and get challenged. I want people to listen and know that it's part of our evolution. There might be people that really like a few songs and are puzzled by others. That's a good thing.
N: That's right. A grave is where flowers grow...
Are there any upcoming tours planned?
B: We're playing in Winnipeg in late June. We'll likely be touring again come end of summer/fall season.
Before the fine folks at post-trash.com agreed to run this interview, I had initially tried to get the hip music aficionados at Noisey to do so but almost every editor declined. One even replied by saying the record was "hard to vibe on." On a scale of 1 to 10, how does Noisey vibe to you?
B: Zero. I don't look at Noisey so I don't really give a fuck about that. "Vibe" is for people that want to put music on and tune out, something predictable... It's not like its the kind of boring record you boil down in a spoon and crush it! Like a fix of the unchanging and typical.
N: Geez, thanks Post-Trash! I figured that it might be hard to vibe on for Noisey, maybe for others too. We've been securely and privately working on this shit without much feedback from any peer circle for so long now that we're kind of detached from the idea that other people will get to check it out now and react (or not) however, thats a liberating place to be, when you're making what you want to hear, not so much following aesthetics everyone is trying to vibe with.
Factory Gleam is now available for pre-order at www.forwardrecordsus.com