Interview with Andrew Hawkins of Baring Teeth

22/03/2015 Video Interviews

Interview with Andrew Hawkins of Baring Teeth

Agoraphobic News: Baring Teeth is 3 piece band. How do you manage to keep your music so full live without having a second guitarist in the band?
AH: Since we (typically) play parts independent from one another, we try to fill in frequencies that the other instruments aren’t hitting. So if I’m playing something really high on the neck, Scott might play something really low on his bass to compensate. We’re very aware of the limitations that can arise from having only 3 members, but at the same time it’s a unique challenge: how can we make these songs sound huge with the configuration we have?

Agoraphobic News: Do you play guitar every day?
AH: At the moment I don’t have time to play every day, unfortunately. With work and life commitments outside of the band it’s a challenge to find time to focus on guitar, but I still play 4 or 5 times a week. But for a really long time I did play every day.

Agoraphobic News: Is it commitment or talent that makes musicians what they are?
AH: It’s a combination of both. Talent will get you pretty far, but to go beyond natural ability you have to really dedicate yourself to practicing and writing. I think that’s where stagnation comes from: that complacence that happens when a naturally gifted musician doesn’t take the extra time to hone his skills.

Agoraphobic News: Are you happy with Willowtip records promotion?
AH: Yeah, we’re happy with how they’ve handled the two albums of ours they’ve released. Even in the short time we’ve been on the label (we signed with them in 2011), the metal landscape has changed a lot. It’s been interesting to watch the label adapt to those new challenges.

Agoraphobic News: What was the turning point for the band
AH: I’d say it was during the writing process for Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins, because we really started to hit our stride as songwriters. We became a more cohesive unit and figured out how to write our parts to cater to the playing styles of the other guys in the band. Obviously, getting signed to Willowtip was a massive change for us, too. It gave us exposure to a lot of people who had never heard of us before and the opportunity to release Atrophy to a much wider audience than would have otherwise been possible.

Agoraphobic News: Can you tell me something about the Interstellar Intellect North American Tour? I mean, playing with bands like Gigan, Pyrrhon and Artificial Brain must have been something to remember!
AH: It was great! We only got to play on the Austin date of the tour, but it was a blast to share the stage with such like-minded bands. It’s a rarity for us to not feel out of place on a show, and this is one of the few instances I can remember where I felt like we really fit in with the other bands. I wish we’d had the chance to do the entire tour, but hopefully we can hit the road with at least one of those bands before too long.

Agoraphobic News: Baring Teeth also shared the stage with Exhumed, Noisem, Tolar, Pinkish Black, Nervous Curtains, Tyrannosorceress , Dysrhythmia etc. What are the best bands to share the stage with?
AH: We love playing with any band that we feel some sort of connection with or relation to, even if they don’t necessarily sound the same as us. Case in point would be Pinkish Black: we don’t really sound anything like them, but we feel an affinity with them because they also work “outside of the box”, so to speak. Playing with Dysrhythmia is always phenomenal; it’s always a treat to see them work, and we obviously look up to those guys a great deal.

Agoraphobic News: Your music is filled with a lot of dissonant riffs, breakdowns, contrapuncts. It can even get pretty melodic like in songs like Vestigial Birth. Do you promote ,,organised chaos“ through music?
AH: Definitely. It’s a real challenge to write something that’s both chaotic and catchy. A riff going at a million notes a minute doesn’t mean anything if the riff is shit. I think a lot of metal bands view “catchiness” in a negative light, but I see it as a means to really have a song take hold of the listener. Songs can still be catchy with a skewed sense of melody.

Agoraphobic News: What were your aims for both Atrophy and Ghost Chorus among old Ruins?? New album is kinda more "in your face" if you ask me...
AH: We certainly set out to make Ghost Chorus much more immediate and powerful than Atrophy. My perspective is that Atrophy had a lot more variety than Ghost Chorus, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. We were still honing in on our sound, and so a lot of things we attempted on the first album aren’t really representative of where we are as a band. We’re really proud of that album, but because it was our first set of songs it was much more of an experiment than the new LP.

Agoraphobic News: And what about the lyrical concepts for both albums?
AH: The biggest difference on the lyrics between the two is that Scott wrote all of the lyrics on the new record, while I contributed lyrics for a few songs on the first album. He’s always written the majority of the lyrics anyway, but simply for the fact that it was ALL him this time marks a difference. Conceptually the lyrics don’t really differ much between the two albums, though.

Agoraphobic News: Are there any stories behind your album covers? Atrophy is the cool one.
AH: Our friend Calvin Sprague designed the covers for both albums. We gave him the finished recordings and lyrics to use as inspiration when creating the images, but I’m not really sure what the stories are behind each cover. Scott gave a lot of input and guidance when Calvin was working, though, so in that sense we helped shape the final product. We love what he did; he’s a really talented guy.

Agoraphobic News: Tell me something about writing process. How much time do you need to make a record?
AH: The thing is, we never took a break between Atrophy and Ghost Chorus. The entire 3 years we were writing, playing shows, and demoing new material. A lot of people think we were on hiatus, but in reality we just needed a lot of time to flesh out these ideas. The majority of the new album, though, was written in the 6 months leading up to our recording date in May of last year. Some of the material took a really long time to write, particularly “The Great Unwashed.” That song was a bit of a beating to finish.

Agoraphobic News: Who are your biggest musical idols?
AH: Robert Fripp, Scott Walker, Kevin Hufnagel, Alex Webster, Kurt Ballou, and Ben Weinman are just a few. I’m having a hard time thinking of all of them at the moment.

Agoraphobic News: Are there any particular albums that changed your way of thinking music-wise?
AH: Fas by Deathspell Omega, The Drift by Scott Walker, In The Court Of The Crimson King by King Crimson, Calculating Infinity by The Dillinger Escape Plan, And Then You’ll Beg by Cryptopsy

Agoraphobic News: I The sound of Death metal music has developed throughout the years. European death metal tends to be more commercial/melodic while new American scene is exact the opposite. Is there such thing as dissonant death metal scene?
AH: There is definitely a core of bands approaching the genre from the same mindset, but I don’t think there’s really a “community” for bands of that ilk. If there is, we’d love to know, ha. We’ve been trying to get on some tours without much success, so that’d be great if there was some scene to tie into and play for across the US.

Agoraphobic News: Do you think that Gorguts’ Obscura started a revolution in death metal world ? Sad thing is that Obscura didn’t get the attention it deserved when it came out. And it’s pretty funny what's happening nowadays – it is getting trendy.
AH: Yeah, it definitely redefined the genre and what was possible within it. Nothing else sounded like it before or has sounded like it since its release; it’s an incredibly unique, affecting album. I’m really happy that Luc and the rest of the band are getting the attention and praise they deserve, because they completely changed my and many others’ views of what you could do with death metal.

Agoraphobic News: I remember the first time i’ve heard An illusion of Multiple Voices – i Was like WTF? STEEVE HURDLE ON THE VOCALS? Got anything to say about him? ( What I really want to do is to make a big article about BIG STEEVE in the future)
AH: That’s really nice of you to say. Of course, his guitar playing was a huge inspiration to me. It’s flattering to get the comparison, but the resemblance was more of a happy accident than intentional. On a personal level, I only got the chance to chat with Steeve once or twice, but he was a very warm and encouraging personality. I’ve only heard great things about him. It’s sad that he left us so early in his life.

Agoraphobic News: Do you like bands from no-wave, noise/math rock scene?
AH: Absolutely! There are several bands from the original New York no wave scene I love, like Swans and James Chance And The Contortions. Math rock, too, has always been something we’ve all enjoyed; I know Jason is a massive Don Caballero fan. There are some newer bands that I like, too, that are taking the no wave idea and running with it, like Ex-Models and Daughters.

Agoraphobic News: Any thoughts on The Residents?
AH: Honestly, I haven’t listened to a ton of their material in part because there’s just so much of it. I’ve read about them quite a bit, though, and they’re an incredibly interesting band. I need to delve into their discography more, because I haven’t heard as much of their stuff as I’d like.

Agoraphobic News: Jazz or Classical?
AH: If I had to choose, I’d say jazz just because of the energy conveyed through it. I haven’t heard any classical pieces that could compare with the frantic pace of Ornette Coleman or some of Coltrane’s later stuff. Still, I really love classical as well, particularly Stravinsky and Penderecki.

Agoraphobic News: Are you writing riffs for a new record?
AH: Yeah, we’re getting started on writing new material. Ever since the last album came out we’ve been playing shows and attempting to organize some touring for later this year, so writing has been on the backburner until now. It’s getting underway, though.

Agoraphobic News: Last question must be goofy - Beyonce or Gwen Stefani?
AH: I’d pick Beyonce, Scott says Gwen Stefani, and Jason says “who”?

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