This is a dated but still worthwhile interview that was originally done a while back for the Peacedogman webzine.
Three piece San Francisco carry on with the Bay Area’s tradition of producing creative metal tinged music. Grayceon’s electric cello driven metal edged music grabbed our attention as the creativity was backed with great musicianship taking in and spitting out influences from all over the musical spectrum. We put some questions to Jackie and Zack.
STO: How and why did Grayceon form?
Jackie: We all happened to be in the right place at the right time, really. After playing in Amber Asylum for almost 10 years I was looking to play more metal-ish music. Max wanted to explore some of his more experimental riffs that weren’t appropriate for his other band, Walken. Zack wanted to play drums again, which was his first instrument, but he had been playing bass for some time. Grayceon came together entirely unexpectedly and then quickly turned into something we couldn’t get enough of.
STO: How did you get your band name?
Jackie: When we started thinking about it, I really wanted a name that didn’t have any other connotations. Max suggested naming ourselves after a stray cat that lived behind his house named Grayson, which is a common last name. So, we started with that, played around with the letters and came up with ‘grayceon.’ Then we googled the word and the search engine said that it didn’t exist. Perfect!
How would you describe Grayceon's music to someone that hasn't heard it?
Jackie: Epic-melodic-guitar/cello/drum-doom-chunk yumminess!
STO: How was the no bass player decision made?
Zack: It never was a decision we made, per se, we just never got around to finding one. Actually we never even looked, because Max's tuning is so low, and Jackie's cello more than covers the low end.
Jackie: Yeah, and if we added another musician it wouldn’t be just the three of us and we were definitely grooving on being a trio. So, we just never really considered another addition to the group.
STO: How does "This Grand Show" differ from your debut album?
Zack: I think this album was brought into the studio as a full album before we even recorded it. The debut was mostly us experimenting and throwing spaghetti against the wall, to see what would stick...
Jackie: The new album is definitely more cohesive than the debut. Not that debut is all over the place, but it definitely exhibits our earliest ideas as a newly formed band. Now that we have been playing and writing with each other for a couple of years, we are starting to find our sweet spots. I also feel that “This Grand Show” is a bit darker and a bit doom-ier than the debut.
STO: What is the reason behind the album title? How did you decide on the order of songs on the album?
STO: The black brooding sky on the album cover suits the serious feel of your music. Can you tell us about the story behind the album cover?
Jackie: Our friend and one of my former Amber Asylum band mates, Lorraine Rath, created the painting for the cover as well as all the package design, etc. Lorraine worked very closely with us to capture the feeling of the music in the imagery and since we were mixing the album while she was working on the cover art, she got to hear some of our earliest mixes and really got a sense of what we were going for.
Zack: I can't say enough about the great job Lorraine did on the album art. She is a very methodical artist, and puts purpose in everything she sets out to do.
STO: Other than the bands you'd never heard of before, what have been the oddest comparisons you've had and some that you've checked out and liked? I hear lots of different music in your sound from sixties pop to thrash metal to classical but which band do you feel has been the closest comparison?
Jackie: I don’t feel like many people even attempt to compare us to a single band. But we have seen some pretty impressive mash-up combos that could perhaps give a reader who has never heard us a sense of what we might sound like. We have been compared to any number of these bands mixed up with each other: Opeth, Tool, Scorpions, Indukti, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Pelican, The Fucking Champs, King Crimson, Ved Buens Ede, Dysrythmia, Slint, The Canterbury Sound, Silent Stream of Godless Elegy, Anekdoten, Isis, Mastodon, Beggar's Opera. My favorite comparison though is this one: “Apocolyptica, Neurosis, and Metallica capped off with a Nyquil fueled lullaby…”
STO: The official release of "This Grand Show" was delayed from August 2008 until November 2008. What was the reason for this?
Jackie: Oh just the usual… design delay, PR delay, printing delay. Considering we finished writing and recording the album in late April, we are pretty anxious for the November release date!
STO: I saw on your myspace player that "Love Is A Dream" was a song from a demo. Why was it used on this album and not the debut? Are any older songs likely to appear on future albums?
Jackie: “Love Is” was the first song we wrote and it has been recorded three times now! I mentioned earlier that we recorded it again for the debut album, but the tempo wasn’t exactly how we wanted it, so we recorded it again for “This Grand Show” and we got a chance to treat it very differently. Because it appears as a dream in the narrative we wanted to shake it up a bit and make it stand out as the most hopeful and happy song on the album. So, we ran the vocals through a Leslie and treated the instruments differently to give it a nostalgic feel. I’m not sure if we have any more old songs that are not released. Well, ‘The West,’ which is on a 7” split with friends Giant Squid may get re-released at some point. Currently, it is only available on that 7” record.
STO: Your music has a movie soundtrack quality. If Grayceon's movie was used for a soundtrack, which type of movie could you see your music being used in?
Jackie: I envision it being a spacious, surrealist Western. Very lonesome, very bleak.
Zack: We actually approached the songwriting as a movie score for this album. I'm glad it translated more or less the way we envisioned it. Morricone was a heavy influence for us in the songwriting process for this album. It is one my personal goals to score a movie someday and I am a huge fan of movies. Music and movies go together like cocaine and waffles!!!
STO: Could you tell us something about Grayceon members other musical projects? How do you all prioritize your time in each band?
Zack: Max and I both play together in Walken as well, which has been a band for 10 years now. It hasn't been hard for me to play with two bands, it just means I get to do what I love more times a week. They require different types of drumming for me. Walken is more aggressive, more relentless than Grayceon, which has a lot more space in the songs.
Jackie: I don’t know, it somehow just works. Sometimes its difficult trying to schedule shows because we have to check with a bunch of other people that aren’t even in our band to do it, but it’s worth it. I know that Max and Zack, like me, need to be playing a lot more than just 1-2 nights a week. So, unless we want to work Grayceon to death we need other projects to keep our chops in shape.
STO: As a relatively young band who consider the internet important, where do you stand on the downloading music issue?
Zack: I don't give a shit if people want to hear my music and download it from the net. I'm already broke, so it's not like I'm losing capital from it. The more people download it, the more people hear it.
Jackie: I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, people are rude because they are giving away our music for free before it’s even released. On the other hand, that is the way that fans feed music to other potential fans and we want as many people to hear the music as possible. Free downloading is really changing the way the Music Industry operates and the way labels operate. We’re just not sure what this means for musicians, like ourselves, yet. We write over 60 minutes worth of music, painstakingly record and market it, then… we don’t even get recouped for our time and effort because other people are giving it away freely. I dunno. Like I said, I have mixed feelings!
STO: I see Zack recently gained a drum endorsement from Po' Boy drums. How did that come about and what exactly does it involve? Is there any chance of other members of Grayceon getting instrument endorsements?
Jackie: Yeah! He super deserves it, too. I have never played with anyone who needed to buy, fix, and replace more gear than Zack. He’s just such a hard hitter and he must spend $10 every practice on drum sticks alone. So, an endorsement for him was very welcome. I think Max could easily get an endorsement by any guitar company he wanted. Max plays so uniquely and is such a shredder and I can’t imagine anybody not wanting to pick him up. I think its just more an issue of finding the time to court the companies. We would rather practice, honestly. Nobody wants to give away a $10k electric cello. So, I’m screwed in that department.
Zack: That was a nice surprise, to get an endorsement. Po’ Boy approached me through Giant Squid, and I wasn't going to say yes to an endorsement unless I really liked the company. I had heard some of their kits, and started rapping with Tony, and they sent me a gorgeous kit that sounds incredible.
STO: Which bands would you consider your peers and why? If you could play with any band who would it be?
Zack: There are far too many bands in the Bay Area that are our peers, so it would take me all day to write them all, but there have been some very fast friendships between us and bands like Giant Squid, Triclops!, Hightower, and Orb of Confusion, just to name a few.
Jackie: I’ll add to that Ludicra, Asunder, Hammers of Misfortune, Saros, One Hundred Suns, Embers and Amber Asylum. The Bay Area metal scene is pretty tight knit in terms of musicians really supporting one another. Playing a show in San Francisco means you are playing to 50% regular audience and 50% serious musicians. If you can keep that latter half entertained then you are doing something right! If I could play with any band I wanted I would have to say Judas Priest. I know that’s a stretch, but I love those guys.
STO: What is a Grayceon live show like for the band and for the audience? What sort of people do you see at your shows? With a few songs over ten minutes long, how do you pick your live set?
Jackie: We try to mix up our sets with short and long songs, usually playing the newest songs we wrote so we stay fresh and feel challenged. We rarely play the 20 minute songs and the older ones don’t get rotated in very much. The audience is typically pretty attentive. I see some jaw dropping, some head banging, and a lot of smiles. There has been only one air cellist thus far, but I hope to see more of them in the future! As for the type of people that attend our shows I would have to say it’s a very mixed crowd. Short-hairs and long-hairs, rockers unite!
STO: What are Grayceon's short and long term musical career goals?
Jackie: Well, that’s a tough one to answer because we don’t actually know ourselves yet! I can say that we are currently writing new material and are thinking that these newest songs might appear on a 7” split or maybe a vinyl EP sometime in 2009. We also have a possible European tour in the works, but nothing is final. Long term, we just want to keep rollin’. Another album, more tours, more fun for us!
STO: Obviously you all listen to a wide range of music but if your houses were burning down which album would you save first?
Jackie: Oh jeesh… “Appetite for Destruction“. I never get tired of that one. But… I sure would miss the rest of my records if that were the only one I had!
Zack: Well, my favorite album is “Frizzle Fry“, but it never wants to stay with me. I think I've bought that album 6 or 7 fucking times!!!! So I would probably save “Revolver” from The Beatles, stuff “Master of Puppets” into the sleeve, making it a double album!!! Then I would wrap the albums in a blanket, rush them out of the burning building, hurrying to a river where I would place them ever so gently in a basket, floating them away to their safety, where the barbarians couldn't reach them.
Jackie: If he gets a double album, then so do I- “Appetite” with “Then Play On” [ Fleetwood Mac] and I might survive. But, I would be in the same burning building with Zack so I would also get to listen to his two. Thanks, man! Green’s
STO: Thanks for your time. Any last words for our readers?
Jackie: Thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciate the support and are glad you are enjoying “This Grand Show!”
Grayceon are Max Doyle - (guitar/voice), Jackie Perez Gratz - (electric cello/voice), Zack Farwell - (drums). Their latest disc at the time of this interview, “This Grand Show” and past releases are available from Vendulus Records.
Grayceon's official website