Coilguns Speak To SonicAbuse

Coming to a UK town near you in April 2012, and undoubtedly unleashing their unique brand of sonic carnage, Coilguns are the latest band to join the incredibly small collection of ferocious art-metal bands exemplified by Botch and Converge. Hailing from Switzerland, Coilguns features three members of the highly acclaimed Ocean collective who, in their spare time, take to the stage and unleash dense blasts of near-overpowering technical metal destined to give the unsuspecting a nosebleed in the process.

With new EP ‘stadia rods’ out now, it was a split EP with Kunz (read our review here) that first bought the Swedish mentalists to our attention and it was quite simply impossible to resist the combination of metal, punk and technical skill that the band bought to the record. A DIY act, Coilguns exist quite apart from the machinations of the music industry and we felt it was the perfect time to catch up with Jonathan Nido and quiz him about the formation of the band and the difficulties of operating a DIY outfit in a market already saturated with acts. Read on and meet Coilguns…

Firstly could you introduce Coilguns for us – how did you come to form as a band?

Coilguns is a trio from La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, proud cradle of manufacturers of high luxury watches, not that we care though. The three of us are also playing in another German based band called THE OCEAN.

It was a great drinking night in Berlin where we agreed to eventually start a fun D-Beat-Punk band whenever we would have time to do so. Few months later, I was spending a month in New York, bought this new guitar and spent the whole afternoon writing some riffs and eventually came up with what ended up being the three songs from our first EP. That was in December 2010. I then sent the guitar tracks to Luc and Louis and both were really enthusiastic. I dropped a line to my friend Steve Notari from Artefact Studio in my hometown and asked him if he was still looking for a band to record for his sound-engineer exams. 12 days later I was tracking guitars.

Prior to the recording Luc and me only rehearsed 2 hours to checkout more or less how the songs would go. Louis wrote his vocal lines and lyrics in the train on the way to the studio and after 3 days we had those songs and realised it was actually pretty solid and good sounding.

Then it was pretty much only a snowball effect. I was posting stupid studio reports when Franck Hueso (Hacride) e-mailed me and offered us a mix and mastering. Shortly after that we had 3 songs that were actually pretty kickass considering the time and effort we didn’t put in it and thought it was good enough to release it. That’s how it all started.

Although we all joined The Ocean something like 4 years ago, we’ve been playing together for more than 10 years since we are from the same area. So to me it was a natural choice to look at those 2 dudes to start a band and also it was convenient since we have the same schedule the whole year.

How would you describe the music of Coilguns to the uninitiated?

Violence, energy, balls, loud as fuck… It is always hard to label your own music but let’s put it this way:

It sounds really dark, intense, oppressive and it’s all really raw and spontaneous. I’ve always liked those bands that makes you laugh because it’s so violent, that it makes you wanna hurt someone. But even if in the first place it looks and sounds negative in the end all we are looking for is to share emotions with the people listening to us and obviously this needs to be positive. I’d say it’s like a good rough fuck. While you’re doing it, you slap, spit, choke but when it’s over, everybody’s happy and had a good time. Was that clear enough?

Does your recording and touring as Coilguns have any impact upon your work with The Ocean and which band takes priority?

So far none of them really. We’ve been able to squeeze Coilguns whenever there was some Ocean-free time. After the first 3 months of touring last year we’ve spent the whole summer writing stuff and then went on our first EU tour right before going out with The Ocean for 4 months. It’s the same with the tour we are doing right now. We were in Russia for a month with The Ocean, went back home 2 days and left for this tour together with Earthship. And after the Gunship tour we go back home for a week and leave again for 6 weeks to Thailand and Australia with The Ocean. 

When you can arrange such a schedule you don’t really need to have priorities. But that’s true that since last summer I’ve been really busy with Coilguns and for that reason I didn’t take part in the writing process of the new Ocean album to come. When finally, after 3 years and half I had some free time, I decided to start a new band when Robin decided to start writing a new album so, fair enough. It was my decision to not be a part of the creative process.

But after the Australian tour we’ll all take it easy for a while. We all need it for our own health, financial situation and also to get things right in our life. Being away 6 months a year touring kind of fucks your mind up a little bit. So we will be playing single shows with The Ocean, but also Coilguns, sometimes even together, but no big tours planned on both sides. For The Ocean we will most probably wait until the release of the new album, which will be early 2013 and for Coilguns we will play weekend shows or maybe 1-week tour but not much. We are gonna focus on writing our first full length and also focus a little bit on our personal life I guess.

‘Stadia Rods’ is your debut EP, but you actually released a split EP with Kunz last year – how was the reception for that EP?

The split has been really well received as well as the tour we did for its release. And trust me it was all a big surprise. 

Although the influences are much more obvious on the split than on STADIA RODS, most of the people found it out to be pretty original and also everybody noticed the spontaneous rawness, the ultra-violent feeling and the state of emergency we where in when we recorded the EP. That was the best thing to me. People actually had understood what we were about and were not just making the comparisons to the first Dillinger’s records and stuff. They went over it and were able to pin down whom we were and what we could be if we develop certain elements in our sound. And that’s what we did.

To me it’s a pretty logical step. You first write an EP without knowing exactly where you are going and from there, after stepping back on it, you realise what in the songs makes it yours and what not. Therefore, when you write new songs, if you analyse this correctly you can get rid of your influences pretty quickly or at least making them a bit less obvious.

Your music seems to be scarily complex and yet gloriously raw – how long does it take to compose and record Coilguns tracks?

It is not that complex I think. Of course it is a bit techy.  I’m trying to use my technical background in a way that serves my music and not to wank on my neck. With the years I’ve learned on how to restrain myself and keep it simple but efficient.

As said above, it took me few hours to write the 3 tracks from the split. For what STADIA RODS is concerned it was pretty quick as well.

PARKENSINE, the opening track I wrote in like 2 hours at a friends place in the asshole of Germany on a day off.

WITNESS THE KERN ARC was written in a same time frame after an Ocean show in Jolliet, USA.

Then for the whole EP it was about 3 weeks of rehearsal every day. We’ve spent the last summer in the room 6 hours a day. Then we just thought: “Why not recording?” 2 days later Luc and I were recording STADIA RODS live in 5 hours. No edits, no overdubs, no click…Just Luc, his drum kit, 4 guitar cabs, 2 bass cabs, 2 guitar amps, 1 bass amp, a huge custom pedal board with 21 pedals and me all in the same room. That’s what it takes for Coilguns to write shits. The vocals Louis recorded in his living room 2 days later and the next morning Julien Fehlmann mixed and mastered the EP in about 4 hours.

We do not really think but we just do things. And up until now it has worked pretty all right.

Most of the time I have a riff in my head for a few days/weeks and one day I decide to open my pro tools, start from this riff and usually 2-3 hours later I have a song that makes sense.

Back in January, we were in the room and -by mistake while playing around- I’ve found some harmonies I really liked. 5 minutes later we started working on it with Luc. 3 days afterwards we had a 7 minutes song that is now the opener of our live set.

At the start of next month you’re kicking off the Gunship tour which will see Coilguns and Earthship heading out across Europe – how difficult is it for a DIY band to organise such a venture?

I had to give away the booking to someone else as it is too much work and since I’m doing everything else I just couldn’t do it. But Charly from Hibooking (F) did his first full euro tour with us back in September 2011, so we’re on the same boat.

Honestly I don’t think it is that hard. If you’re willing to loose a bit of money (you need to see this as cheap holidays with your best buddies and then it’s fine) and to play in any conditions (Bars, basements, dog squatt, without PA, at 4am after 7 other bands, for free and / or sometime in front of 2 people) then you will always find promoters willing to help you out setting up a show somewhere. It is just a tremendous work to do. This is obviously only one side of it next to the promotion and logistic of a tour.

When you do a tour by yourself it is not only about booking shows. You have to check out the situation with sleeping every night, to avoid hotel costs. You need to rent a van obviously, most of the time you need to pay it in advance, which sucks since we all count on the fees to pay the van so you then need to find a good friend who’s willing to lend you about 2500 euros…Booking ferrys, making sure we get to the venue on time for get-in, make sure you have all the vignettes on your van to legally drive on EU highways. Since we have a subvention system from cultural institution in Switzerland you need to make up big files in order to ask for money which means keeping track on all your costs and expenses which basically means doing accounting in between shows and hang-overs.

It is doable but you need to have the will to invest quiet some time in it. But I can assure you that I have many friends of mine that have been touring Europe and even UK with really small bands. It’s just a matter of organisation and…. main point – I don’t wanna sound pretentious but- the MAIN thing is that you need to have something to say in the sense that you need to be sure that you are actually proposing some kind of quality music. If your band sucks and you know it, or if people around you tell you do so, then you should save your and the promoters time. It sounds a bit rude but that’s just the reality.

What can fans expect from a Coilguns show?

Satan, darkness, high energy and violence. We love what we do and we are doing it as intensely as our bodies allow us to. As soon as you can hear the first note of the first song we all switch to evil mode and get in a weird trans-state. Luc and me are facing each other the whole show so, we are playing a lot of parts “on cue” which means sometimes we decide to make a part shorter or longer and we just give each other’s a sign.

Then Louis is most of the time not on stage, singing in the middle of the crowd, running through and over people and is also playing anything he finds during the instrumental parts…

To summarize I’d say we are really intense but maybe too much for people that are not really prepared for that kind of show. We are also playing super loud and it’s mainly because my main amp is super old and as soon as you put it on 0.01, it’s pretty much the same volume as 11, haha! Not mentioning there is no Db limit in the UK so bring your ear plugs with you!

Obviously the music scene these days is very fractured with labels becoming increasingly wary about signing anybody, and being somewhat parsimonious with their support when they do – what advantages do you think working as a DIY unit has had?

Having a record label really increase your exposure to people in general morelikely the ones who just eat what they get, if you know what I mean. Then you obviously have a real distribution which obviously make your record much easier to get for everyone and also, as a newcomer band you get good support tours. Theoretically, that’s what should happen.

Working as a DIY unit prevents you from being disappointed in case the label wouldn’t respect its commitments, which -I guess- happens especially when you’re a small fish on a big label. It also saves you from being stuck because of contracts issues that you didn’t realise in the first place because you were too excited to sign a deal. That actually happens quiet often. Can’t really give names but some really good bands just break up because of deal they were not happy with and the label would just not let them go. But don’t get me wrong; it is a reality but not the majority. I know by being signed on Metal blade with The Ocean and having met other label people that most of them are just music fans that have to deal with the general economic situation and the fact that there just are too many bands.

Even big labels can hardly provide tour supports these days because there’s no money. And I really do think that this is somehow all connected to the mp3 and download in general. Not that I am against. But you need to use it with moderation. When people download a title from a big selling artist thinking they won’t hurt him since he’s doing enough money, maybe that’s true. But when you know that labels, even major ones are loosing money on 8 releases out of 10 and that the money they make with big artists is re-invested in smaller bands. I could go for hours on this topic.

My point is that downloading is good to discover, to spread the word, for people who don’t have money but are coming to shows. But if you can, for fuck sake buy your record! Bands are not paying their rent by singing a song the their landlord.

Obviously, as a 100% DIY band you don’t really have these issues. But it’s a problem that is big enough to be mentioned, as in the end, it’s mainly the small structures that have suffered the most from this big digital revolution.

For an act such as yourselves where word of mouth is very important, how much of a help (or a hindrance) has the internet been in spreading the word of Coilguns?

It was huge. Everything has indirectly happened because of Internet and especially Facebook. Facebook can be a wonderful tool if you know how to use it. Even before we played our first show, I was able to reach people I could never have reached without such a promotion tool. I then checked out how other bands were using theirs, other social networks and realised that there was another upside to it than just promote your shit:

As a fan you can actually get closer to the band / artist you like and as a band it gives you the opportunity to communicate with many people that like your stuff  in a much easier way and personal level than ever before. And this is definitely is the future. I mean I admire bands not using all of this like KUNZ for example they only have a video blog online with videos from weird performances they did. That’s the only way they “web-exists” and people are wondering and curious. Coilguns is a bit more classic in that regard. We are more “push” than “pull” really. It’s a lot of work to update everything and keep it interesting for people but I like doing this and being able to answer people about whatever they wanna know.

To what extent have your experiences with the ocean moulded your approach to making music with Coilguns?

I’d say that if we talk about the music itself, the way we wanna sound and the general attitude, Coilguns’s approach is the complete opposite of The Ocean.

Then I’d say that The Ocean helped me in many ways to be musically more open-minded, therefore more mature. I also learned how to play live to a click and to be tight as fuck and obviously, I just ended up being better on my instrument after playing 600 hundred shows in 4 years. Writing songs for Anthropocentric has thought me on how to build a song that isn’t only a compilation of riffs. That doesn’t mean you have to do simple stuff but it’s a matter of structure and transitions. How do you bring the next riff you know? I’ve also learned a lot about restraining myself and not always playing to 100% of my capacity but below it so I play much better than if I’m on the edge all the time.  All these things have definitely changed my approach to music and made what Coilguns is somehow.

The music of Coilguns is blisteringly intense – what influences you musically and how did you develop your own sound away from those influences?

Breach, Cursed, Converge, Botch, Dillinger, At The Drive-in, Mars-Volta, Meshuggah…And if there are similarities in our music with these bands, their influence isn’t mainly about the music. It can just be about the general DIY attitude of the band, the way they handle their “carrier”, or the way they sound on record, the way they’ve been recording, the technical skills of their members being used for the good sake of music and not to wank off or the zero compromise a band like eshuggah did on their music for the last 20 years.

When I started playing guitar 13 years ago, I obviously played songs from my favourite bands at the moment. But from 17 on I stopped learning any kind of metal song that I liked. I’ve been writing and playing only my shit for the last 8 years. Not saying I’m the shit and have the most personal guitar playing. But I know what I like and don’t. I know really well what I can play or not so I kinda developed my own stuff. But it is the same for anyone who has been playing for more than X years and has been writing songs all the time. It is just logic. I’ve also been playing for 10 years with Luc and to me he is one of the best Heavy Rock drummers I’ve ever seen. He’s got a really personal approach of drumming and he’s really creative; always playing what you don’t expect him to and that helps to create your own sound.

I guess you can obviously tell that there are similarities with the bands we are affiliated to, or simply the ones that we quote as influences, but I don’t think we are a rip-off of anyone. Influences start to be less and less obvious and if we don’t give up and keep working hard, I truly believe we’ll be able to do something with this band.

In what ways have Coilguns developed between releasing the split EP and ‘Stadia rods’?

The main development was about the line-up. From a regular trio we turned into this 1 singer, 1 guitar, 1 drum trio with this whole system we came up with that allow us to sound like a 5 piece band.  Then I think we went a bit more extreme and experimental. Maybe a bit less crazy but definitely more massive and darker. Wit the new EP we started including 5 minutes sludgy instrumental build-up.

I’m really happy with the way this band grew up after the split. All the press has been helpful by spreading the news about the release of the new EP, Dead Dead Dead Music spreading the word on their networks and people being curious… This really gives us the hope we will be able to keep doing records and tours. Writing STADIA RODS – which had new interesting elements compared to the split-  has given us more attention from people who actually liked the split and now I guess for a few persons, expectations for the first full-length will be pretty high and that’s some kind of an accomplishment to me already.

With the new EP released this month, what future plans do you have and can we expect a full-length album anytime soon?

The plan is to try to survive this tour and then we will be touring with The Ocean for about a month and a half. Then Coilguns will mostly be playing festivals and weekend shows until the end of the year. Maybe some UK dates are in the air already but I guess the final decision will depend on how the shows on this tour will go. Since we will have an Ocean break until the release of the new album we will be able to write a full-length with Coilguns, which I really wanna do this year. We already have 10 minutes of new material that we are playing on this tour. We are also thinking about weird and new ways to share the recording process with people. Can’t tell you more about it now but you’ll know soon enough.

Any final words for our Readers?

Thx for having taken the time to write this really interesting interview and for your dedication to music and Sonic Abuse.

I’d also like to share a few bands that we met on the road or that live next to us and that you guys can should check if you wanna discover some new hot stuff:

Abraham (CH) / Aside from A Day (F) / Humanfly (UK) / Lavotchkin (UK) / Yog (CH) / Kruger (CH) / Shelving (CH) / Kailess (RU) / Oh Me (IT) / Attic (IT) / Last Minute to Jaffna (IT) / Rorcal (CH)/ Kehlvin (CH) / Maudlin (B) / Unfold (CH) / Elizabeth (CH) / Wardhill (CH) / Aliases (UK) / The Construct (UK) / Collusion (UK) and so many more…. But that’s a pretty big list already.

SEE YOU ALL IN A FEW DAYS!!!

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