Rising out of the ashes of progressive doom merchants, ANUBIS RISING, and tech grind anarchists, UPHILL BATTLE, Southern California’s INTRONAUT have quickly made their mark on the underground scene with their unique mixture of molten heaviness, odd-time signatures, and complex atmospheric passages. APESHIT caught up with lead singer/guitarist Sacha Dunable following the group’s second performance in support of MISERY INDEX. Sacha dropped some science on everything from the group’s new album, Canadian border patrol, and what “Teledildonics” is all about.
APESHIT: Let’s start from the beginning, How did the band come together?
Sacha: Danny Walker [drums] and I had been talking about doing a band together when UPHILL BATTLE was sort of on the outs, and we had been exchanging ideas about what we wanted to do [musically]. While he was still touring with EXHUMED, I recorded some ideas at home, and when he got back from tour we started jamming out ideas. Shortly after that, I brought in Joe Lester [bass], who was old buddy of mine from high school, and Danny brought in Leon del Muerte [vocals/guitars] who had been playing with in EXHUMED…and Leon was into the stuff, so that was the band right there.
APESHIT: Did you have a specific vision or idea of how you wanted the band to sound?
Sacha: Yeah, we talked about doing a lot of time signatures that weren’t straight-forward four or three’s. We wanted to mix it up (with different time signatures) but still keep it listenable. You know not necessarily death metal, but just keeping things semi-progressive…but still heavy, you know, but still tough. But everything worked out, and I think it surpassed all of our expectations.
APESHIT: So how does the songwriting process work? Do you guys come to rehearsal with finished ideas and teach each other the songs? Or do you guys jam everything out at rehearsal?
Sacha: Some of the stuff is written at home. Like a lot of stuff I do at home personally with a drum machine just because that’s how I like to do it. I like to write at home and then present the ideas to the band. But I’d say at least five or six of the songs on the new record were done as a collaboration, with all of us presenting ideas together. Whereas the EP [Null] was mostly the ideas that I had originally laid down by myself and just Danny.
APESHIT: So with the new album being more of a collaboration was the writing process more difficult?
Sacha: Yeah. It was a little more painful you know. But it was still cool. It was definitely cool.
APESHIT: I noticed that in most of your songs, for every hard part there’s a soft part and vice versa. So would you say that dynamics are the most important key element when it comes to songwriting?
Sacha: Yeah, for songwriting, that’s definitely what we keep in mind. It’s all about having the tension, but then the release with it. You know, like having dynamics…exactly what you are talking about–keeping it complicated but still giving the listener something to grab on to, even if it’s not necessarily totally poppy shit, but still something the listener can grab onto and sort of rock out to.
APESHIT: The band has several members that are current and former members of established death and grind bands. Would the band ever consider doing a song in that vein, but in your own unconventional style?
Sacha: Yeah, well, we definitely have ideas that come out that sound like they would be coming from a more brutal band. But that was sort of the ground rules we laid down…that we just didn’t want to be like just another death metal band.
APESHIT: With that in mind, it seems like there’s a strong progressive edge to the music. Where does that come from? Is there a source where you guys draw that particular influence from?
Sacha: Yeah for sure. 70’s progressive rock. YES…KING CRIMSON, CAMEL…you know all that stuff.
APESHIT: Are there any other bands that you draw inspiration from that might suprise your listeners?
Sacha: Yeah well for instance, like in the van when we are touring, we don’t even listen to metal. It’s all like proggy stuff, a lot of jazz…I mean Joe has a background in jazz, and that’s pretty much all he listens to. And we listen to a lot of experimental like back-beat kind of stuff like TORTOISE or BONOBO or stuff like that…just mellow, mellow experimental stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily expect, I guess.
APESHIT: So the band has two frontmen. Does that ever cause a problem deciding who sings what? How do you break down the vocal arrangements for the songs?
Sacha: Well, vocals are pretty much the last thing we work out. We just sort of map them out. You do this, I’ll do this, we’ll double this–and it usually ends up being pretty equal. We all like having two vocalists as it adds more power to the vocal delivery.
APESHIT: Do you find it easier to write with two singers or is it more of a challenge?
Sacha: It’s not really a challenge. We sort of have that in mind when we are writing–that it’s going to be for two vocalists. We kind of have different voices too, so we kind of use that as an instrument, or have that in mind as another instrument.
APESHIT: Do you write your own lyrics or do you trade off writing parts for each other?
Sacha: Well, for the new one Leon wrote lyrics for two songs, I wrote lyrics for two songs, Danny wrote two and Joe wrote one. And once we have the lyrics, that’s how we map them [the vocal sections] out. After we write out the patterns, we break them down and decide who’s going to sing what.
APESHIT: Speaking of the lyrics, can you tell us about what some of the songs are about? You have some interesting titles…what is “Gleemer” and “Rise to Midden” all about?
Sacha: I think those are both Leon‘s lyrics. The lyrics are mostly just about, like, personal shit or, like, observations on society…that kind of shit.
APESHIT: How about a “Monolithic Vulgarity?” What would you classify as a “Monolithic Vulgarity?”
Sacha: That’s one I did. The lyrics are basically about how history repeats itself in some way or another, and at the end of the day, the world is just one big piece of shit recycling itself. You know whatever, nothing new.
APESHIT: How about “Teledildonics?”
Sacha: Teledidlonics (laughs). It’s sort of about the evolution of technology and how everything’s sort of evolving at an increased rate. In the song in particular, in probably 20 years or something, people are going to be fucking through the internet…you know, full-on sensory. Everything’s going to be digitized. It’s sort of like how life’s evolving, and life as we know it is sort of going to be lived through computers in one way of another.
APESHIT: You guys worked with John Haddad from EYES OF FIRE and PHOBIA once again for the newest album, Void. A lot of the members of INTRONAUT have played gigs alongside a lot of John’s former bands. Did him having that history help create a comfortable environment during the recording?
Sacha: Oh yeah, totally. Especially with our drummer Danny being the current drummer for the band he used to be in (PHOBIA). We had a lot to relate to each other with.
APESHIT: So ex-bandmates situation wasn’t akward at all?
Sacha: No…if anything it would bring up a lot of cool conversation, because they would talk about how they played certain songs, and how they played the same songs differently and their different experiences with the same band. But he (John) was definitely cool. He and Matt Fisher from EYES OF FIRE/Shiva Industries Studio definitely made us feel comfortable and at home. But it was a lot cooler working on the new record with John since we had so much more time. The Null EP we did in like five days and for the new album we had almost a month, so we had a lot more time.
APESHIT: Was the recording process a lot smoother this time around since you had more time? Or was there more pressure since this was the full-length album?
Sacha: Well, we were definitely more prepared, but there was some pressure because we really wanted to make the record sound really good. But since we had so much more time it was also more relaxed, and we were just stoked that we had so much time to work on it.
APESHIT: Do you prefer working in the studio or playing live, or do you like both?
Sacha: I like both. Playing live is fun and touring is a lot of fun, but it’s like a totally different story from recording, because in the studio, you are thinking about what you are playing and changing parts, and you’re making adjustments, getting sounds…and that’s all really fun. It’s the really interesting part for me at least. But touring is just like second nature, because we don’t practice while we are on tour or anything. So you just get up and play, and you’re not even thinking about it really. You’re just having fun.
APESHIT: Speaking of that, how’s the tour going so far?
Sacha: It’s going all right. We just started with MISERY INDEX a couple of days ago. We had a few a shows on our own on the way out to the east coast–about a week and a half worth of shows.
APESHIT: Any particularly memorable shows so far?
Sacha: Well, Denver was really cool because we had all the CEPHALIC CARNAGE guys come out. They pretty much put the show together for us at a bar in Denver, and that was a lot of fun. We played in Detroit with some really cool bands. Nothing crazy just yet, but CMJ was a good time for sure.
APESHIT: Now INTRONAUT has a somewhat progressive edge to the music. Would you be willing to tour with some progressive bands if the opportunity came up?
Sacha: Oh yeah, for sure. I think we would actually almost prefer to tour with more progressive bands in the future. I think the progressive bands and their fans are a little more receptive to what we do. They tend to be more into it and can tell we are doing something…offering something a little more.
APESHIT: So they’re a bit more open-minded than death metal audiences?
Sacha: Yeah the death metal…we’re okay. We do okay. But sometimes when we are on tour, we get booked with a lot of local metalcore type bands, and younger kids go to the shows–which is cool. But a lot of the metalcore kids, their friends and fans aren’t really that receptive to what we have to offer, so it ends up being a bunk time.
APESHIT: On your last tour you played Canada. What was that experience like to be touring another country?
Sacha: Canada was cool. It was really cool touring another country, and we toured with FUCK THE FACTS who were really cool. The shows weren’t great all the time, but it was definitely interesting, especially when we got to Quebec where nobody spoke English. When we there, we definitely felt like we were in a foreign country.
APESHIT: How were the Canadian audiences? Were they digging the INTRONAUT vibe?
Sacha: Yeah most of the places were really receptive. Ontario, Ottawa, Hamilton, Toronto…all of those places were really cool. Our label (Goodfellow) is up there, so the shows were really good for the most part. Quebec City was pretty good. People were receptive. It was a little different though, since we played a big metal fest. So maybe we got lost in the shuffle a little bit, but it was still really cool.
APESHIT: Did you have any problems at the border? Seems that bands often have problems getting over the border and dealing with border patrol. Any run-ins with the mounties?
Sacha: (Laughs) No run-ins with the mounties. It actually went really smooth. We rolled up to the border, and I put on a buttoned down shirt that I had and with Danny up front in the opposite seat.
APESHIT: So you looked respectable? (Laughs)
Sacha: Yeah we looked semi-respectable. We looked almost Canadian, because we are all kinda like goofy guys you know. I guess they normally pull you over and search your van and everything, but we just pulled over and told them what was up. Some guy with a mustache and cop glasses came out, and it looked like he was going to give us a hard time. But then he was really cool and said “have a nice day.” They didn’t look in our van or anything. Suckers! (Laughs)
APESHIT: Let’s discuss the visual aspects of the band a little. Where did you find the artist for Void? Do you use him for all of your artwork and shirt designs?
Sacha: Justin Bartlett, who did the artwork for our new album, was a friend of Leon‘s and had done some artwork and layouts for some bands…really some diverse kind of shit. He did a SUNN O))) record and DODHEIMSGARD and some other stuff, but he did a really good job.
APESHIT: Did you give him an idea of what you wanted, or did you let him come up with his own ideas?
Sacha: Well, we told the album title was Void and he went with that a created a void. If you unfold the whole thing, it looks like a void. But the shirts were pretty much all us. I did some and Leon did some.
APESHIT: Cool. Your music has a very visual sound to it. Is INTRONAUT going to be making any videos in the near future? Is that something you would be interested in?
Sacha: Yeah, I think we will be doing a video. We actually had a video scheduled to be done before this tour, but then due to scheduling conflicts, it didn’t end up working out. But after this tour we’ll get one done when we get home. When you are on a limited budget, sometimes things get delayed, but it will happen soon. And hopefully it won’t be too cheesy.
Random homeless bum: Can you spare some change this evening?
APESHIT: He just said he was on a limited budget!
(Laughs all around.)
APESHIT: So what’s next for the band?
Sacha: Probably a couple more tours, and then I think we might do Europe at some point. At least Lifeforce, our label in Germany, is pushing for that to happen. At some point next year, we are going to take a couple months off to write what may become an EP, or possibly the next full-length. But we definitely want to do some more U.S. touring, and then head over to Europe at some point.