Drunk Talk Pt. II: Marsh Dweller’s Kerr talks riffs, very surprising influence, working with Eihwaz

John Kerr, sans eyes

John Kerr, sans eyes

In case you missed yesterday’s dramatic first episode of drunk interview with John Kerr, who is putting out his first Marsh Dweller record “The Weight of Sunlight” Aug. 15 (Eihwaz Recordings), we promised more. At this point in the interview, I’m fairly certain we had eight beers between us (strong ones .. Dogfish Head Palo Santo, friends), so things hit “ramble on” mode. Thankfully, Kerr handles his beer way better than do I, so he motored through this like a champ. We cover a lot of ground, such as riffs, more riffs, how he found his way into the Eihwaz family, and how Marsh Dweller differentiates from the bands in which he has played (Seidr, Vit, Noltem). Thanks again to John, who very well may have reformatted the way we do interviews in these parts.

Meat Mead Metal: OK, so riffs. I think I gravitate to that because of Adrian Smith. And, you know.

John Kerr: Dave Murray.

MMM: Dave Murray, and Helloween, and Metallica. And the solos. I feel like, if that’s not there, not that it’s wrong. It just feels like it’s missing something.

JK: You need the excess, I think.

MMM: Yeah. Excess is a good way to put it.

JK: OK, so, my favorite guitar solo of all time, and it’s been my favorite guitar solo since I heard it 10 years ago or 12 years ago or whatever, is “December Flower” off the In Flames album “The Jester Race.” If you just compositionally look at that song, I mean, it’s a good song. But if you compare it to the rest of the record, it’s nothing special, I guess? It’s just mid-paced, early ’90s Gothenburg-style riffing that’s not particularly noteworthy. But then the fucking solo comes in, and it just completely elevates it. That album came out in, like, ’96, so it’s 20 years later.

MMM: Holy shit.

JK: I know, right? But I don’t think any guitar solo has surpassed that solo ever since. Well, the solos on “Aria of Vernal Tombs” by Obsequiae come close. I also love the solos contributed by Tanner (Anderson of Obsequiae and Celestial) and Aaron (Carey of Nechochwen) on the Marsh Dweller record.

MMM: Yeah, that’s right where I was headed.

JK: The guitar solo, I think, if done correctly, if you’re coming from a place where you’re trying to make things melodic and more interesting, where you’re not trying to show off and you’re trying to express yourself, and the only way you can express that is from a place of complexity, I think that’s awesome.

MMM: OK, so having Tanner and Aaron, and what they’ve contributed with their own bands, their work is the type that makes me appreciate and love metal. I hear a lot of those elements on the Marsh Dweller record. Not to, like, shower praise and shit. But again, the idea of the riff and the solo, it’s something way more powerful than I am.

JK: It’s the power chord.

MMM: No, but I hear this music, and I go through life feeling like a jerk and a loser, but metal always makes me realize I’m not that way. And I definitely hear the same kind of thing intertwined with the Marsh Dweller record that I’d hear in Nechochwen and Obsequiae and a lot of the modern bands that keep me loving heavy metal.

JK: The think I love about metal, and it’s one of the things that has made me never really fall in love with punk and hardcore, it’s because it’s too fucking real.

Lost Horizon: super fucking happy

Lost Horizon: super fucking happy

MMM: The thing that’s always bugged me about hardcore is too many of those dudes seem like dicks.

JK: Well, with hardcore, in whatever political perspective, it’s always about shit I see every day. I want to listen to music to escape from shit. So when I hear In Flames and Metallica sing about post-Apocalyptic shit, it’s an escape for me. It’s fantasy in the same way I’d watch “Lord of the Rings” or “Star Wars.” It becomes so boring and predictable to hear music that’s just talking about things I see every day. Give me something different. Isn’t that what art’s for? I mean, you talked about feeling ostracized or feeling like a loser, and you can’t really hear it in the music, but one of my biggest influences, and you especially can’t hear this lyrically, but one of my biggest influences is this power metal band Lost Horizon. They have my favorite Metal Archives pages of all time. If you go to their page … they only put two albums out, but they were super good. But the lyrical themes on Metal Archives are, like, and I don’t remember exactly, but something like self-discovery, empowerment, and truth. (laughs) Something like that. It’s like the most positive shit ever. I just wanted to bring some of that positivity to Marsh Dweller. I mean, Lost Horizon is super fucking happy sounding (starts clapping happily). It’s double bass and chugging and sounding all super happy. It makes you want to do the invisible oranges all day. I wanted to bring some of that positivity to a darker record.

MMM: OK, I was worrying I was hearing some of the record wrong, because some of the riffs felt euphoric to me.

JK: Good.

MMM: Like again, the Maiden thing, they always made me feel empowered.

JK: Yeah, like, you listen to Iron Maiden. Name one dark Iron Maiden song.

MMM: None!

JK: There aren’t any. There are no dark Iron Maiden riffs. So I was curious if you could bring that type of feeling to extreme metal. I think Marsh Dweller is extreme metal. There are blast beats and there’s screaming. Compositionally and execution-wise, I think of Marsh Dweller more in terms of New Wave of British Heavy Metal and early ’80s and mid-‘80s metal bands. So that always fascinated me. Can you meld those different sounds together and make it work? I hope I did that.

MMM: I keep bringing up Obsequiae when I talk about the Marsh Dweller album. Shit. I’m about to go into a rabbit hole.

JK: That’s fine.

MMM: When I was listening to metal in high school, I’m pretty sure my dad thought there was something wrong with me. Not that I was a Satanist or something. So I had to kind of defend myself. Like, I don’t believe in Satan or anything. It gives you empowerment. Not, like, from religion. I don’t give a fuck about that. It makes me feel free in everyday life.

JK: I think I led too privileged in my childhood to have rebelled against anything. (laughs)

MMM: Oh, shit, it’s not like I had things bad or anything.

JK: My parents were so cool that, even when I was going to church, they still bought me Metallica and Slayer records.

MMM: Yeah, pretty much same.

JK: The first album I ever got, that my mom bought me, was “Ride the Lightning” by Metallica. It was on tape, and this was in the ’90s. They got sick of me coming home from school and going to the stereo, and we had one of those three-CD changers with the double tape deck, and I would sit by the radio all day and wait for them to play Metallica songs. I would hit record on this blank tape that I had. I didn’t care about rebelling or Satan or that shit. My life was cool as hell. Why would I want to rebel? (laughs)

MMM: I hope Christina (Brian’s wife) doesn’t transcribe this because I’m pretty drunk and I feel like I might be getting drunker. Let’s talk about Mike Trongard.

JK: Who’s that?

EihwazMMM: I don’t know. No, we should talk more about Bindrune and Eihwaz and what it means to you being with them.

JK: Well, I’m in Seidr, which is on Bindrune, and Austin (Lunn of Panopticon and Seidr) has had a long relationship with Bindrune, and me and Marty (Rytkonen), who runs Bindrune, became friends, and it’s kind of funny, because I told him, “Hey, I’ve got this shit I’ve been working on, and it’s me on every instrument.”

MMM: And obviously you’d never done that before.

JK: Right, and I sent him some of the riffs and some of the things I’d been working on, and he said he liked it, but he needed to hear the vocals. I was like, “Um, OK. They’re fine.” (laughs) I just love Marty. He’s like a big fucking bear, and he hugs you and breaks your bones. So every time I’d see him, he’d bear hug me and be like, “Where are the vocals? I need to hear the vocals.” This is back when I was living with Austin, and I asked him if he could set up in his studio, because he has a studio in his garage where he records all the Panopticon stuff. I said, “I have to do two things. I have to record drums for Noltem …” That’s another band I’m in. We put out an EP in … uh, whatever. (“Mannaz” was released in 2015) Anyhow, I did that, and I asked if he could set up some mics for me to record some vocal demos. So, I busted both of those out in the same day, and then I sent them to Marty. All he said was, “Yep. They’re good.” (laughs)

MMM: They’re fine! (laughs)

JK: Yeah, after all that buildup! (laughs) OK, so after that Jim Clifton, who runs Eihwaz, was like, “Hey, I want to work with you on this Marsh Dweller record,” and I was like, “Hell yeah, let’s do it.” I became friends with Jim when I was living with Austin, and we took a trip to Michigan because we wanted to hang out with Jim, and Marty, and Jack Hannert, who used to be in Seidr and now is in Kolga. Jack’s an awesome dude, and we stayed at his house in northern Michigan. Anyway, we all then went to Marty’s and got drunk as shit, because Austin brought all these HammerHeart beers, and Jim gave the most epic rant I’ve ever heard in my fucking life.

MMM: Oh no.

JK: He gave this rant … Eihwaz had put out a couple records …and we were in Marty’s basement listening to Lost Horizon. And I think we were also listening to old Morbid Angel or something. So Jim went on this incredible rant about how he only likes bands and only wants to work with bands that he super believes in. He’s like, “I put out these fucking records because I fucking believe in them and I fucking love them!” He’s got his first clenched the entire time. And I’m thinking this guy rules. This guy is the shit, and I can’t wait to work with this guy. Luckily, I am working with this guy. I don’t think he gets my sense of humor sometimes. (laughs) But I’m glad we’re working together.

MMM: Jim’s always been cool reaching back out when I do stuff on his bands, which is super cool of him.

JK: I actually put up a joke post on the Marsh Dweller Facebook page last night he commented on that was a bet. I said I will do a cassette release.

MMM: Oh, I saw this.

JK: Yeah, I said any label that wants to put out the album, but the only catch is it has to be blank. And if anyone notices, I’ll buy every single record you’ve ever put out. Because I firmly believe people buy tapes and then never listen to them, because it’s fucking 2016.

MMM: OK, let me ask you this question, and it’s my last question because I’m really drunk. Fuck. OK, so you’ve done Seidr, you’ve done Vit, you’ve done Noltem. This is an obvious thing to say, but I feel Marsh Dweller is you.

JK: Yeah, sure.

Marsh Dweller coverMMM: So, every one of those bands has their volume and their significance to you, I’m sure. But what does March Dweller mean to you? What is its essence?

JK: The thing about Marsh Dweller is it can be anything I want it to. With Vit, I’ve been in Vit since I was 16. So Vit is really close to me, and I feel a lot about that band even though no one knows who we are. So I feel really attached to that music since it’s something I’ve grown up with. Seidr I feel close to mostly because of my friendship with those guys, but I haven’t really been involved with the creative part of that band. In Marsh Dweller, I have the chance to do what I want. The one thing I really like about this debut Marsh Dweller record is that none of the songs sound the same, and that’s why I didn’t want to do a track premiere. I mean, track two (“The Dull Earth”) has that medieval, Obsequiae thing going on. Track three (“Where the Sky Ends”) makes me think of a more melodic Dissection. Track 4 (“Monumental Collapse”) kind of sounds like At the Gates. There’s so much diversity in it, I think, and it lets me play with all of my influences.

MMM: Well, with the influences … (long pause). I don’t know. I lost it. I’m out of it.

JK: Me, too. This is going to be the most rambling interview ever, which is what I wanted.

MMM: Shit. I really had a question there. Shit. I think it was good. Maybe not to anyone’s standards.

JK: Go ahead. I believe in you.

MMM: Uh, shit. Just go ahead with what you were saying.

JK: Uh. I don’t. I can’t remember.

MMM: Fuck. We can finish I guess. Oh, we could eat.

(long pauses)

JK: Yeah, shit.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/marshdwellerhails

To buy the album, go here: https://thecollectivedistro.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/

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