Black Tusk | Interview with Andrew Fidler

Having spent the last two years producing multiple split underground releases and touring endlessly throughout the US, Savannah, Georgia trio Black Tusk are finally set to emerge from the confines of underground and thrust themselves into the upper echelons of American metal with a new record deal and an awesome second album. “Taste the Sin” is garnering incredible reactions from all over the world and Scratch the Surface had the opportunity to trade some words with Andrew Fidler about the band’s progression and their debut for the respectable Relapse Records.

[Black Tusk]

Congratulations, you’ve released one of the best albums I’ve already heard this year!

“Thanks! We're happy that the album has been so well received!”

Taste the Sin is being lavished with tons of praise from all over the word, are you surprised with such incredible reactions?

“It’s been great to hear and read all the kind words that have been spoken and written about ‘Taste the Sin!’ We were definitely nervous on how the album would be received being that it would be our first release for Relapse. It was well received so we are happy and looking forward to our next release.”

Let's start the interview with the band's origins... It is well documented that Black Tusk genesis began in 2005 when Andrew Fidler and Jonathan Athon decided to knock at their neighbor’s door James May and ask him to join them on a new musical endeavor following the dissolution of their crust punk band that same year. What were the steps after that?

“After that we practiced non-stop for three months, recorded a three song EP entitled "When Kingdoms Fall" with Philip Cope signed on as the producer, and then booked a tour and started our relentless tour schedule. We put that ourselves, returned to the studio again and recorded another EP, "The Fallen Kingdom" (which is scheduled for re-release on Hyperrealist records this year) which we released ourselves, and then recorded "Passage Trough Purgatory" which was put out on Hyperrealist records. Then Relapse noticed us, and here we are now.”

From what I understand you all came from a punk background right?

“Somewhat, we grew up on southern rock, country and rock 'n roll and 80's metal. I'd say, we probably got heavy into punk rock around 8th grade or so and then that lasted throughout high school and our twenties. We all played in punk rock bands during that era. We still love, appreciate and listen to punk rock, and it comes through a little in our music, but you know we evolved our sound as our interests changed.”

What determined the musical shift towards a more sludgy and groovy sound?

“I can't really pin point what exactly made the music shift towards a sludgier and groovier sound, it was something that just sort of happened naturally. It was the music that was flowing out of us, and it reflected our moods and situations. You know, it just kinda happened. It is said that some of the greatest things in life aren't planned, they just happen.”

The new album Taste the Sin features your best production so far, it brings out that classic rock flair without sacrificing the band’s ruthlessness or sounding dated. Are you pleased with the work of Jay Matheson and Steve Slavich?

“Thank you! We were a lot more involved with this project than those of the past Jay and Steve are great to work with, and our buddy Scary helps us a ton with pre-production at home, so we have a better idea of what we want to do when we get to the studio. The Jam Room is such a great studio to work at. Jay and Steve have been recording bands for a long time, and the bring that experience to the table, and they know our sound and what we are striving for when we get into the studio.”

Do you come in to the studio with fully formed songs or there’s still room for some studio improvisation?

“Generally we come in with everything written. It’s easier for us to create in our practice space. It’s our own little world there where we can shut everything else out and just focus on our music. But, we have written things in the studio, improved on a take, anything. The music is fluid, it moves and changes and sometimes writes itself!”

One of the most interesting and intriguing aspects of ‘Taste of Sin’ lies in the lyrical themes revolving around the concept of sin and the symbols of evil. The song titles alone, ‘The Snake Charmer’ and ‘Unleash the Wrath’, seem to deal with a religious theme. Could you shed some light on the inspirations and process behind the lyrics?

“Taste the Sin deals with an internal conflict of right and wrong, the sins of man and the manipulation of man’s desires. So it is a religious theme while not being overly religious, make sense? We aren't purporting one view of religion, rather we are dealing with the human aspect of it, why people do what they do. Other songs are about honor and perseverance, ‘Unleash the Wrath’ for example is about our friend who was paralyzed in a senseless act of violence. He actually sings the lyrics on that track.”

I believe the band has lyrical subject to fill at least five albums, since man dwells in sin and life is basically a one way road down to hell.

“Hahaha! This is true, I'm not sure what the lyrical content for the next album is going to be, but we will keep you posted.”

Prior to “Taste the Sin”, you have released several split EPs thru several underground labels. Do you enjoy doing that sort of thing, working with kindred spirits like ASG, Holy Mountain and Fight Amp?

“Absolutely! It is fun to do projects with bands whose music we enjoy and tour with. It keeps things interesting you know? Instead of writing a full album's worth of material, we can deliver a few new songs to keep our music fresh instead of waiting a year or two for a new record. Plus we get to release records with our friends and work with different labels and make some unique records.”

What’s been like since you signed up with Relapse, have you noticed a surge in interest in the band since that? Do feel that being part of a label has benefited you?

“Being with Relapse has been great! We have noticed a surge in interest in the band since our signing. Relapse is able to reach a broader market, and the have a great PR team that has been helping promote the album. There are more and more people at our shows now telling us that they just found out about us and they love the new album, so something is working!”

Do you plan on touring extensively for this new album? What do you get out of experiencing your own music live?

“Yes we do! We have already done two US tours on the new record, lots of regional shows, and are currently on our third US tour this year with Fu Manchu. The record is sold out at this point, and we are waiting on a repress, so it’s been a good year. I love playing live, it’s an experience that is hard to describe, but it's great.”

David Teixeira

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