We are here with Nate Garrett, the big kahuna of doom metal outfit Spirit Adrift. You may remember Spirit Adrift from when we reviewed the EP Behind – Beyond. We will be talking about the debut full length Chained to Oblivion (due out August 12 on Prosthetic Records), as well as the man himself and whatever else we see fit.
Okay well thanks for agreeing to do this with me. I guess we’ll just jump right into it… The question that everybody has been wanting the answer to is, do you dip your French fries or cover them?
SA: I dip everything. When I can, I even dip salad. I forget where I heard this, but somebody that does a podcast or something said it. Maybe it was a movie. But if you get your salad dressing on the side, you can get whatever part of the salad you want on your fork, and then control exactly how much dressing is on it. You have total control over the flavor of each bite. So I’m a dipper.
I haven’t thought about dipping salad that’s genius. Anyways the last time I did some Spirit Adrift related stuff I had to pretend I didn’t know you. What made you keep the identity secret and what made you reveal it when you did?
SA: There’s a complex answer there that I’m not even sure I fully understand. The short answer is insecurity. Particularly at the time I did the EP, I was newly sober. I had been drunk basically every day for 5 years or so, and drinking hard for almost a decade before that. I just wanted to do the album for me. I didn’t want it to be seen as a “solo project” because I find that to be pretty pretentious. I really didn’t want any attention. I didn’t want to talk to anybody about it. Unless you were in Black Sabbath or Judas Priest nobody should give a shit about your “solo project.” I like stuff like Wovenhand, Dawnbringer, Horseback, Leviathan, and Panopticon. Situations where yeah, it is one guy, but there’s a band name and it’s approached as just a project or a band rather than a “solo project.” I took it a step further and just made up some initials of nonexistent band members. I think what happened is that when I realized it was actually going to come out on a label and get reviewed, I wanted to see what kind of reviews it would get if people thought it was a full band. I’m not really a drummer, so I wanted to see some totally unbiased, honest feedback. Maybe so I could see what I needed to work on for the full-length. Out of all the reviews I’ve gotten to date, nobody has criticized the drumming, specifically, so my plan didn’t really work.
I revealed my identity because I was just kind of over it. I never planned on it being a big deal or some big secret.
I think I read somewhere that one of your favorite things about being in Gatecreeper is that you love death metal but before now have never played in an actual death metal band. Is that how you were with doom until now with Spirit Adrift as well?
SA: That is correct regarding death metal. I’ve played in a band or two that had some parts that resembled death metal. Doom metal and death metal were the first two subgenres that I fell in love with. Black Sabbath – Sabotage and Death – Spiritual Healing are what did it. I have played in doom and sludge bands before. The very first band I was ever in was kind of punk rocky with a bit of metal influence, my very next band was total Black Sabbath and Clutch worship. We covered EYEHATEGOD, Slayer, Sabbath, and High on Fire. So I’ve been playing doom type stuff since I was about 16. I’ve been in every kind of band you could imagine, just not a death metal band, until I started playing with Gatecreeper. (fun fact: we had this conversation on the 41st birthday for Sabotage)
It’s crazy how close the EP and the LP are being released together. It’s also crazy how much progress can be heard between the two. How much time was there between writing and recording them?
SA: Thanks man. For the EP, I spoke to Bob Hoag in May of 2015. He twisted my arm to record with him, but the only opening he had was, like 3 weeks from then or something. I only had one song that wasn’t even really done. So I wrote most of the first song and the entire second song in a couple of weeks, then recorded them in 3 days. Then for the full-length, we booked time in October. So I wrote all that stuff between June and October. We recorded the full length in a couple of weeks in October. Fortunately I had some money saved up, and my fiancé was cool with me being a ghost for that entire time. Even when I was home, I wasn’t there. I was fully absorbed in it. My hands were annihilated 24/7 from the 10+ hour drum sessions and whatnot. I would re-record every instrument on the demos basically every day or every other day. I averaged about 3 hours of sleep for a few months there.
Oh yeah man definitely!
Is this the first time a band has been solely your project? I don’t mean like you playing and writing everything but like it being your brain child and you being the big kahuna.
SA: Not really. I’ve been pretty active in every band I’ve been in. I would say that there’s only been a couple of bands that would classify as my brain children though. One of which was Queen Beast in Arkansas. Don’t get me wrong, it was a collaborative effort for sure, but I wrote the vast majority of the music and even a few lyrics and stuff here and there. That band actually recorded with Sanford Parker in Chicago. Sanford and I are labelmates now (War Crime Recordings) so that’s pretty cool. Sanford is one of a kind. He’s a fascinating and extraordinary human specimen in a lot of different ways. But yeah, I’ve been in more bands than I can count. I would say 2 or 3 of them were my brainchild, and the rest I was a contributor in some way.
Oh! About the recording process! I’m super stoked that you’re working with Bob Hoag on this. I’ve heard you speak highly of him on many occasions. Has he performed on any of the Spirit Adrift songs? Also I know he has tons of vintage gear have you used any of that to record with as far as guitars and amps?
SA: Bob is my family at this point. He’s probably one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and he’s operating on a level that few ever reach. He’s the man. He didn’t perform on the EP at all because I wouldn’t let him. He was super understanding of that. He did perform on the full-length. He does some super high harmony vocals, and the crazy Ayahuasca-tripping Cannibal tribe percussion at the beginning of the last track. You’ll see. We always use a combination of things, but yes. Vintage amps, guitars, recording console, compressors, EQs… basically vintage everything was used at some point. He even has an old Echoplex box. A real one. Jimmy Page style.
That’s awesome I love his ability to record so many different styles with the Take Over And Destroy, Spirit Adrift, Spoiled and who knows what else goes down at the Flying Blanket. What about the live members, how did you go about choosing those guys? What is a job interview for Spirit Adrift like?
SA: Yeah, the funny thing is Bob doesn’t even specialize in heavy stuff. At all. That’s just how good he is. Something I just realized is that Bob and Sanford (the two most pro guys I’ve ever recorded with) both possess the old-school mindset, they just have slightly different angles. Their approaches are more like back in the day when audio engineers were ex-Navy guys, mad scientists, and hard ass 9 to 5 type dudes. Back then, it was just as much hard work as it was artistic expression. Bob takes the entire process very seriously.
There was no job interview for Spirit Adrift. I’ve seen the other guys’ bands, heard their albums, come to understand their character and work ethic. What was really important to me is that I find guys who share the same philosophies and mindset as me, and dudes who have been through some shit. In life and in bands. In the past, I’ve been in bands with great players, but a lot of times the downfall of a band will stem from differences in motivation, work ethic, or attitude. Those sort of things. It was important to me that I found guys who could do the music justice, who were also down to work their asses off, stay humble, and never fall prey to the delusion that we’re going to be rock stars one day. Music means everything to these guys, and everything else is secondary. Same with me.
(Spirit Adrift will be performing live sooner than later with: Jeff Owens of Goya on Guitar/vocals, Christopher Coons of Sorxe on bass, and Marcus Bryant of Gale on drums. All of which do an exceptional job in their own respected bands, so this is quite the live line-up Nate Garrett will be surrounding himself with).
Speaking of working your ass off, how is it different with this band basically getting label support from Prosthetic immediately? Is there less DIY involved?
SA: I paid for everything involving the EP out of pocket, other than pressing vinyl and CDs. So there wasn’t a huge difference there. I think there’s a misconception out there that once you get signed, things change. They don’t, not really. I knew that going in. Prosthetic paid for a good chunk of recording fees and CD manufacturing on the full-length, and I’m grateful for that. Steve Joh, the A&R guy at Prosthetic, and head of War Crime Recordings has been a major benefactor of Spirit Adrift. He’s facilitated so much of it, and I’m thankful to know such a great person and have him in my corner. He literally single handedly made the vinyl release happen. As far as artwork, mastering, music videos, and other things, I paid for or did those things myself. I would say, if anything, I have more work to do at this point than I ever have before, actually. Kelly at Prosthetic US and Duncan at Prosthetic Europe have killed it with the PR. That’s definitely something I’m not used to. So yeah, in this day and age the best situation you can have with a label is a symbiotic relationship. You’re not going to just sit there and leech off of them, and you can’t let them do the same. I still work my ass off every day, and now so do a few other people.
I have actually always wondered about that. You mentioned the artwork, which I love what other Nate has been doing in that department. How close do you work with him in the creation process, also who is “Brenda” can we consider her the mascot similar to Agatha with Black Tusk? (Other Nate being Nate Burns the cover artist for both Spirit Adrift releases)
SA: Nate is incredible. I was drawn to him by complete accident, actually. He doesn’t even know the full story but I realized recently that I thought I knew him before and I did not. I had the wrong Nate. But, like everything else Spirit Adrift related, it somehow worked out perfectly. That work ethic and attitude I’ve been talking about, he has it in spades. He knocked out that art so fast. We worked somewhat closely. There was a ton of communication. I told him as specifically as I could what I wanted, provided a ton of references, and he did his own thing with it. I laughed watching Stranger Things because the X-Men comic they talk about in the first episode is the same one I sent Nate as a reference. The Phoenix. Everything he’s done for me has been perfect, first time. He’s awesome.
You are correct, Brenda is the mascot of Spirit Adrift. Man you’re paying attention! I feel like she’s a nod to Iron Maiden, Megadeth and other bands like that. I might try and get her looking gnarlier and more metal on future releases. Maybe not. Brenda is my mother’s name. She died when I was about 4 months old. The older I get, especially after becoming sober, the more fascinated I become with my bloodline, my relationship to her home state of Kentucky, and my ties to Ireland and Scotland. I think there’s a lot of traditional Gaelic influence in some of the melodies and harmonies in Spirit Adrift, and that was not a conscious decision. Back in the day, the native music of Ireland and Scotland ended up becoming gospel and bluegrass in the Appalachians, which would explain why I’m just genetically predisposed to go ape shit when I hear that kind of stuff. I can’t hear a bad ass fiddle part without wanting to holler and put my fist through something. In a good way. Things got really interesting when I started researching the name Brenda. When I was speaking to Nate about the appearance of our female mascot, I mentioned that I wanted her to be feminine, but also very strong and tough looking. Come to find out, Brenda actually comes from Brendr, which was a male name meaning either “torch” or “sword.” Obviously a strong name. So it couldn’t be more perfect. That’s how everything has been with this project. It just falls into place.
The artwork to Chained to Oblivion done by Nate Burns featuring Spirit Adrift mascot Brenda
Damn dude it’s the craziest thing when stuff works out like that especially artistically. I’m a firm believer in things happening for a reason.
What song off of Chained to Oblivion are you most excited for everybody to hear?
SA: Yeah the whole thing has been such a trip. Really just a life-changing experience. I’m a better person because of what I’ve experienced through this music. My views on life in general have improved significantly and I think I’m much more positive than I used to be. It’s surreal and I’m grateful for every second of it.
Psychic Tide was the song I was most worried about. It was the least finished when we recorded, and I remember being so worried that song in particular was going to be a disaster. I had to rework the bass after I recorded drums. Then I had to rework guitar after I recorded bass. Then I had to rework vocals. It was terrifying. It’s probably my favorite song on the album now. The cool thing is that people’s favorite songs seem to be pretty evenly divided. I’ve been hearing a lot of praise regarding the title track. Marzanna is another favorite of mine, it’s definitely the “hit” I think. I’m proud of all of them, truly. I set out to ensure that there wasn’t a single lackluster moment on the album, and I think we did it. I want to thank Bob Hoag for putting up with that insanity… haha
I love Psychic Tide! I cannot wait to hear the rest, just comparing Psychic Tide with Form and Force and how individual both of those songs from one another are has me hyped through the roof.
I guess that was the last of the “serious” questions. Now I have a good friend of mine/reader who got wind that I was going to do this, and she has a question. She of all things wants to know what your favorite book is. Also recommend us a movie and we’re done. (Thanks for the question Autumn)
SA: Oh man, great interview, and that’s a great question to end it!
My favorite book I’ve ever read is Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Some others are anything by Charles Bukowski, Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson, and anything by Alan Moore.
The worst book ever written is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
Y’all are from Arkansas. Sit down and SERIOUSLY watch Slingblade because it’s my favorite movie of all time. It’s easy to clown on, but if you take it seriously it’s one of the most powerful cinematic experiences there is. Billy Bob Thornton also did one right after that called Daddy and Them that’s just as good. Between those two movies, that’s the spirit of Arkansas summarized right there.
Once again be sure to check out Chained to Oblivion by Spirit Adrift when it drops on August 12th. We Promise it’s going to be one of the best doom metal albums this year. This also won’t be the last time you hear about Spirit Adrift from us.
Physical Pre-orders: http://prostheticrecords.limitedrun.com/products/search?q=spirit+adrift
Spirit Adrift Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpiritAdrift/
@spiritadrift on Instagram and twitter
Find Abusement Park here: https://www.facebook.com/abusementparkblog/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf&qsefr=1