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Interviewing GAZA; Dirty Music, Nice Dudebros!

Gaza are pissed off. I mean, dangerously pissed off. They’re one of the few bands in the extreme music today that actually lives up to such classification, whether it’s the blistering time signature changes on I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Die or the monolithic funeral dirges at the start of He Is Never Coming Back. The bottom line is, Gaza are scary as hell, filled with vitriol towards 95% of modern society, and four of the nicest guys I’ve had the opportunity to chat with. I met with Gaza after their almost unpleasantly loud set in Charlotte, North Carolina to chat with them about what it’s like to be a black sheep, North Carolina’s new marriage amendment, who they’d record a split with, and the band’s undying love for Metallica. More below:

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Kit Brown (Metal Injection): I know it’s only the first show of your tour with Corrosion of Conformity, Torche, and Black Cobra, but how have things been going? What places in particular are you trying to hit during this tour, anywhere in particular?

Jon Parkin (Vocals, Gaza): It’s crisscross the country, twice. We’re headed straight back to Cali. After this we head out to play five dates on the way to California.

Casey Hansen (Drums, Gaza): Well, we’ve already gone across once, then we’re gonna come back. So it’s more like four times. Just with this package, it’s twice. But then to start it, we had to drive across the south. The better question is “What places aren’t we playing?”, and it’s not a lot.

Kit: Well, you’re doing this tour now, and your album’s coming out in a couple of months. Are you expecting to do more touring after that? Do you have anything else lined up right now?

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Casey: Not lined up, but cooking.

Kit: You guys have done a lot of different types of tours, at least in the time that I’ve been a fan. I’ve seen you with more underground bands like Converge, and then you’ve been able to tour with bands like Job for a Cowboy. I think I can tell what kind of music you guys are into, but do you like doing different types of tours? Is it more of a pain?

Jon: We love to do a variety of tours. It would suck to do the same thing all of the time. I think it’s mostly because nobody knows where to put us, for better or for worse.

Kit: I would agree. Just watching your set, you could see people looking confused. You’ll hit the crowd with a more metalcore-influenced riff, and then go into something closer to doom. It’s all over the place, but that’s really the appeal, at least for me. What are you guys trying to push in terms of new ideas with the upcoming record, or refine the sound you have been building? Were there any sorts of goals in mind?

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Jon: I think honestly with playing extreme music, it’s hard to one-up yourself. We try to keep setting the bar, and on this one we went for a much more dismal and bleak feel on the record. The last one was a little more quirky and angular, and…kind of grumpy? I don’t know. This one’s just quite a bit darker.

Casey: The way I put it, and you asked an interesting question because you said were you going for something different or refining your own sound. I am honestly not sure, but I would say it’s schools of both. You always want to keep it fresh because if you don’t introduce new ideas, things feel stale, and I don’t feel inspired if things aren’t fresh. And it’s also hard to negotiate newness with your core sound, you know? You don’t want to write stuff that doesn’t sound like your band. Long story short, I feel like we negotiated that very well. I think it sounds like us, but it just sounds like a better version of us.

Anthony Lucero (Bass, Gaza): Or you could just put it this way:  us trying something new is actually us refining our sound. The farther we push it, then the farther we fall into our own groove.

Kit: What would you say were some of the bigger influences going into writing the new songs? Were you listening to any bands in particular, or did any books inspire different types of lyrics?

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Jon: Our sound has always been a combination of things, and I’m really hesitant to say that. I don’t want to get lumped in that Attack Attack shit where you’re playing heavy metal riffs and then just drop into dubstep, you know? We try very hard when we write songs to make them cohesive. You hit a brick wall, and then something changes.

Kit: I’d say there are very few bands out there that can pull off the tempo changes and shifts that you guys can, at least as far as metal goes.

Jon: Thank you. Songwriting to us, the emotion of it, is more important than anything. If you don’t feel some sort of strangeness or darkness…if the riff itself isn’t portraying something, what’s the point? Music is supposed to be emotional.

Casey: I would add two things: our inspirations and our influences are from four very different groups of things. We’ve been fortunate to tour with some really, really awesome bands and I have personally been able to see how some of the masters play their trade. I’m really happy to have been able to do that. My mind went blank…

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Jon: I’ll help you. There are so many great bands out there, it almost feels competitive. I mean, the last Trap Them record was phenomenal. We got to put something else that stands up to that. Or the last Converge record was amazing. That’s what kind of pushes you. You have to look to your peers. When you hear things, is it its own thing? Does it belong in that category? I don’t sit down and think “What would Sean [Ingram] from Coalesce do?” They did that, now we have to do our own thing and live up to what they’ve done.

Casey: One thing that’s worth noting is that we did have a member change, and Anthony primarily plays guitar, even though he plays bass in Gaza. When we had five members, Anthony was kind of in the background. He just stuck to bass. Now that there’s a vacancy, he really stepped up and added a lot of stuff that fit with what we did, but was also really fresh. That’s the number one thing. There have to be riffs brought to the table that are exciting. I can’t just get the creative juices flowing if I’m not into it, and these guys do a great job bringing things that make me really pumped and excited to try something new.

Jon: Being that we’re all from the four corners of the universe with thing we listen to, there are always bands as a center point where we’re all like “Yeah, that’s a great band!” But we probably throw away 90% of the riffs that get brought to the table; the 10% is where we’re all stoked.

Kit: Going into this record, did you have a lot of extra songs that were left over because of this?

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Casey: There is one song, but that will be released later.

Jon: I think we’ve learned to take each other’s criticism, and trust each other’s criticism, if that makes sense. More now than we’ve ever been able to, and that’s been huge. The gel of us writing and stuff, it just feels much smoother. That, again, could be the member change thing, but we all trust each other. We all respect each other for what we do?

Kit: If you guys could do a split with anyone, it doesn’t matter…

Casey: Metallica. (laughter) 1984 Metallica.

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Anthony: Ween. Chelsea Wolfe. Jesse Sykes. Napalm Death? I don’t fuckin’ know, anyone who is awesome that we’re into.

Jon: Converge, Coalesce. We’d probably do it with somebody that wouldn’t make much sense, like a big genre cross.

Casey: It makes sense but doesn’t. A genre cross, but the vibe…the vibe is bigger than the genre. We’re all way more fascinated by the emotional expression of another band.

Anthony: I mean riffs are super important. But we can be just as stoked on Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter as we can be stoked about anything Converge has ever put out. It’s primarily just because of the emotion it conveys. All of us can relate to those issues, so being able to expand on those issues with them would be fucking awesome.

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Kit: Has there been anything recently that’s come out that you thought was pretty cool?

Jon: There’s the new Sharon Von Etten record…Tramp, I believe it was called? Peter Broderick, that’s not really new, but it’s new to me. Chelsea Wolfe’s record, Apokalypsis, is blowing us away. True Widow has been a band I haven’t been able to stop listening to.

Casey: Also Death Magnetic. Is that new? (laughter)

Kit: So basically what I’m getting at here is that you guys only listen to Metallica in the van.

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Casey: Metallica, and boo-hoo wussy stuff. But basically only Metallica.

Jon: These guys will give me some shit, but I fucking hate Metallica. Even ’84 Metallica. Metallica, if you’re listening and would like to tour with us, I’m sure I’d learn to love you.

Kit: That’s right Metallica, tour with Gaza. I see plenty of similarities between the two bands already. So you’re in North Carolina, which just passed Amendment One, the marriage amendment. Even though it’s already been established that gay couples couldn’t marry in our state, it’s now been cemented in the state’s constitution. It’s going to end up fucking over a lot of people. I was just wondering, since you guys talk about things of a conservative, Christian nature, how you feel about this? I mean, it’s obvious, I’d just like to hear what you have to say.

Jon: History will paint that portrait, and those folks will look foolish. It’s unfortunate, and it’s a setback, but it won’t last. It can’t last.

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Kit: I thought it was a coincidence that all of the counties that voted against it were all university counties, and the rest were against. I think it says a lot.

Casey: To not get too political, I think the reason the “media” is too liberal is that people who are informed happen to me more liberal. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

Jon: The hard part about it too is that it’s a blatant attempt to legislate morality. I mean, the laws were already in place, and people were already being separated, which is totally unfair in the first place. But then go to and cement it in your constitution really is just giving the government a pass to legislate morality from a religious point of view.

Casey: …and that’s the dark side of democracy. That doesn’t take anything away from democracy though.  I was just led to believe from very early on that the type of government that was founded was supposed to express what the majority wanted while protecting the minority. And I think something like this oversteps that idea in a very fundamental way. It’s just overreaching.

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Jon: All it does is just fuel the fire of their opposition.

Anthony: It won’t last. Everyone is finally either accepting, waking up, or dealing with it.

Jon: Now you’re going to have to have an Amendment Two to override Amendment One, and that’s going to be forever in North Carolina’s constitution. But we’re from Utah, so we don’t have much to be proud of.

Check out a new Gaza song here! No Absolutes in Human Suffering will be released on July 31 through Black Market Activities.

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