The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Escape Velocity

Translate Properly: An Interview With METZ
James Ubaghs , April 30th, 2015 14:21

The Canadian noise punks' sonic ferocity is such that they've done tQ's James Ubaghs some serious dental damage. Still, with gums bleeding, he picked up the phone to talk to the band's Alex Edkins about their new album, METZ II

Photograph courtesy of Colin Medley

There's more music than ever being pumped out of the internets these days, yet somehow for all the abundance of choice, it's still oddly hard to scratch that ever-present itch for painfully abrasive, no bullshit, righteous punk rock. Canadian three-piece METZ manage to do it just about better than anyone else these days. Their 2012 self-titled debut was a ferocious smack in the teeth, and their follow-up METZ II, out next week, is an even more ferocious smack in the teeth (thanks guys, I literally have no teeth now). Their post-hardcore, no wave-tinged skronk has only gotten heavier and rawer - which is a welcome relief, as most bands only ever seem to tone it down with time - and live they continue to play with a genuinely heroic level of commitment and energy. Over the phone, guitarist and vocalist Alex Edkins discussed the new album, his mum and Grand Theft Auto, among other scintillating topics.

You have an incredible level of energy as a band, how do you keep it up? I've seen you a bunch of times live and it's always awesome, but just thinking about doing what you do for five minutes, just makes me want to have a nap.

Alex Edkins: Well I was just right now taking a nap! I don't know. I think we're excited to just be able to do what we're doing, but also I think it's true that certain music can only be played in a certain way for it to translate properly. You really can't hang back and chill and play these songs, if they're going to be heard in the right context.

So there's that and I think that whenever you put a guitar on and you crank up the volume it just feels awesome. And I've always gotten that from live punk music, and hardcore music, or noise music, or whatever. That's always been something that's resonated with me. And we try to create that feeling for other people, that feeling when you first go and get introduced to this stuff. For me it kind of changed how I looked at music. So we try to put it all out there on the stage every night and if you don't do that it's perceived as a failure in our eyes.

With the new album, has your recording process changed at all?

AE: I think on paper no. We went to some of the same places, we worked with the same two guys, Graham [Walsh] from Holy Fuck and Alex Bonenfant, and that was in an engineer-type way, and those are people whose instincts we trust. So on paper it's very much the same, but I'd say the difference in my mind is that we went into it with different goals. I think we figured out that in a lot of songs, what would work with them would be a looser kind of feel. And we realised that with most of the songs, the sloppier, mistakes-left-in kind of approach sounded the best and felt the best. That's definitely the difference I hear between the two records. In the first one, we were pretty clinical and meticulous in trying to get it perfect as it is in our heads, and with this one it's less like that. We don't have as much of an interest in that any more. We like music that's a little rougher around the edges.

Yeah, the new album feels angrier, and more intense if anything.

AE: Yeah I think it in some ways; it's got more melody, and in some ways it's way more dark than the first one.

Do you ever see METZ moving away from a high intensity, abrasive sound? I mean, is an all-acoustic folk album on the cardS any time soon?

AE: Uh... it's hard to say! We definitely want to continue making music, and to evolve, but I think the thing that ties the three of us together musically is punk rock. If we were to do that, I think it wouldn't be together. Maybe one of us would go off and do that, if that's what they were feeling like doing. But we play this music because it feels right, and it's what we've always done. And I don't think we'd change that as a three-piece; I think that would involve a different arrangement and different people. But who knows, that could happen. That's not to say that we won't change musically as a band, but probably in a more incremental way. I think we've changed and evolved over this album, but we certainly weren't in any headspace hoping to do anything drastic.

So you're a really fucking loud band - have your parents heard you guys? What do they think?

AE: Yeah, well, my mom is not a fan, and you know, god love her, and she's just the best, but I totally get it! It's not for your mom, or at least my mom. My dad is awesome and supportive and his photographs are incorporated into our artwork. He did the photos for both of our album covers, and the liner notes and stuff. So it's really fun to have him involved in it. But it's certainly not their style of music at all.

And I'm glad, you know, because it'd be kind of weird if it was. I've always enjoyed music that was maybe disconnected from what the older generation was doing. Something that always spoke to me was stuff that was not accepted when it was new. And when you think back to stuff like - and not to put us into direct comparison at all - The Kinks, or even Bob Dylan, it was considered noisy and ugly to the older generation. So I don't necessarily expect my parents to love what we do! That's not what we're about.

You're doing something wrong if you're not pissing off your parents.

AE: I know! I think so. I honestly think so. That's the kind of music that's always spoken to me. It's got to be pissing off someone, or it's not doing its job.

So how's the Toronto music scene at the moment? Have you been back home much at all? Any new bands you'd recommend?

AE: We were home a lot while we were making the record, and it's crazy, it's such a cool place for music and there's always new stuff. Whenever we got off a tour there will always be a brand new band that is totally awesome. Who do I like? There's a band called Weaves who are doing some really quirky pop, but who are really quite heavy live. There's a great punk band called S.H.I.T.. Absolutely Free are doing a kind of Kraut-y-type of thing - hate using that term- but that repetitive thing. But yeah Toronto is pretty great. There's another Canadian band, not from Toronto, called Viet Cong, who are great, who I'm sure you've heard of. They're really, really cool and recorded with Graham as well, at the same place we did.

I was playing Grand Theft Auto V a while back and I noticed that there was a METZ track on the soundtrack. How did that come about?

AE: That came about basically as a total fluke. We were driving home from a show in our van, and we got a call from one of the guys from the company [Rockstar Games]. And he said, we're interested in using a song, and so from there we talked about it. What I thought was interesting, it wasn't the make or break of it, but something that we're way more interested in, was that they let us do some original scoring for the game, as opposed to just using a song. They used one of our songs, but we also spent about a week making original music for a couple of the missions, or whatever you call them.

So we kind of made a deal with them: 'we'll give you a song if we can do some scoring'. It ended up being pretty rad, where we got to experience that and also realised that the group of people doing that was actually quite small. There were some members of Tangerine Dream, Alchemist, and I think a couple people from Autolux, and us that were doing it. So it ended up being something that we were pretty pumped about, to be given the opportunity to try something new.

Do you get royalties on every copy sold, because that game sold like a billion copies?

AE: Oh man, that would be so great, but no. I can say that I think that rarely happens nowadays, where you'd get that kind of money. That'd be crazy. Because, yeah, we realise that's literally one of the biggest games ever, but no, certainly no royalties.

I'm sorry, that's too bad.

AE: Thank you for feeling our pain! But it was a very cool experience none the less.

METZ II is out on May 4 via Sub Pop Records. METZ start on a world tour tomorrow, May 1, at Lee's Palace in Toronto, Canada, with Protomartyr and Fake Palms, heading to London on June 16, where they'll play Underworld with Bad Breeding in support; for full dates and tickets, head here