Interview: Landmine Marathon discuss new album “Sovereign Descent”

Posted by Morgan Y Evans - Walking Bombs on Friday, November 5, 2010 at 5:59 PM (PST)

Landmine MarathonI spend a lot of time trolling the internet and scoffing at bands who are being heaped with praise and adulation but who have the talent of dead fish in a dancing contest. It makes me want to just watch Sepultura’s “Inner Self” video on Youtube (or the Lingerie Football League, fuck it) and say to heck with new music, but that’s a temporary solution. Usually I will just hide under my desk for awhile and do meditational breathing until the hatred for the band of the week (or should I say “weak”) fades to a comfortable dull roar. If that doesn’t work I’ll grab some Mrs. Renfro’s Raspberry Chipotle Salsa and some organic corn chips and eat away the sadness like some fat girl with no prom date attacking a bucket of vanilla ice cream. Thankfully now there is hope.

Arizona’s Landmine Marathon are the band you should be checking out if you want to hear a group from the last few years who really add some excitement to the current metal scene. They may wear their influences on their sleeves but it’s really not a bad thing and the band is aggressive, tight and interesting as hell. I saw the band play Checkpoint Charlie’s in New Orleans over the summer with the super rad Black Skies and Nola’s own Mars (the latter of who’s new material is veering towards more “Sabotage” era Black Sabbath these days than the more cosmic/less whiskey Weedeater sound they used to favor). Anyway, Landmine killed it that night with the band raging through old songs and new material from one of the top (in quality) metal records of the year, the new “Sovereign Descent” (out now on Prosthetic). As heavy as a fudge tunnel collision with Napalm Death on a death metal gender fender bender, Landmine are one of today’s bands (like Chicago’s The Atlas Moth, Nevada’s Seventh Calling and New York’s monstrously grim Batillus) who are making metal that the 21st Century can be fucking proud of!

That New Orleans Landmine show really made a dent in my skull. I had already been a fan of the group but it was awesome to see them live finally and witness the onslaught of riffs matched up to vocalist Grace Perry’s roaring whiplash antics. I had interviewed Grace once previously but not about the newest record, so I tracked down guitarist Ryan Butler and got the inside score.

To read the full interview click here.

MORGAN Y. EVANS: You self produced “Sovereign Descent,” and Ryan, you write most of the music, correct? I gotta say you know what you are doing for the band’s sound. The bass tone on “Exist” is so disgusting!

RYAN BUTLER (guitar): Thanks Man!  Matt’s bass tone was very dialed in and his recording setup is somewhat complex.  We definitely use no less than 5 tracks just for his bass.

I like the fact that you list who plays each guitar solo. Some “punk” people think stuff like that is pretentious for bands to do but it is really about the craft and individual voicings of the guitarists.

RB: Dylan was fairly new to the band when we started recording the record, but I knew he could do solos (better than me) so we definitely got him in on there and there will be more in the future.  Being a fan of music in general, liner notes are something I grew up poring over. So, I just thought it’s a cool tidbit to have that in there.

The sound for SOVEREIGN DESCENT is even heavier and more assured than RUSTED EYES AWAKE. Do you think it is because you have so many shows under your belts as a band now? The other stuff you’ve done is all good but the new record truly kicks it up a notch. To me it seems even more…burly, for lack of a better word.

RB: Not necessarily. I think it was just more focused. I joined the band a few months after WOUNDED was released and our old guitarist asked me to start writing with him.  We co wrote several songs on RUSTED, and I started writing a few as did he.  He then announced he was going back to school and wouldn’t have time to write music.  Then he bailed a few months before we were to record and it was left up to me to finish the writing. So, like 70% of that record is me joining a band and then like a year and a half later becoming the primary song writer by default as a result. We had a short stint with another guitarist, whom we parted ways with about ¼ of the way through writing SOVEREIGN DESCENT and continued writing while training Dylan.  I can’t even remember, but there might even be a song or two on there Dylan never learned.  So, needless to say, it’s been a wild ride writing wise.  We’re going to commence writing shortly for the new record and have yet to decide if it will be written solely by me as we’ve yet to write anything with Dylan.  I definitely have the feel for the bands original vision and have definitely brought in a more aggressive and raw punk viewpoint to the writing.  So, we’ll see what happens on the next album!

“Justify The Suffering” builds on your sound and has a massive, memorable intro riff. Love the song name also. That big Glenn Beck protest crap in D.C. went down on the Martin Luther King anniversary and Beck said God made him pick that date coincidentally. You travel a lot and see much of the country. There is a values war happening right now. Yes, some people are lazy, but a lot of people on the right are very quick to point fingers at anyone on welfare even though the whole economy is reeling and some people genuinely need support while they get back on their feet. Meanwhile, we really need education reform and dialogue between people of different backgrounds. We are so quick to justify writing off parts of society. It is important to strive for your self but we don’t have to be so callous. Then you have people who really believe what they are saying about pro-U.S.A. stuff but support businesses where you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that is American made, chains like Wal Mart that choke the life out of small businesses and treat workers like indentured dogshit! So they are justifying their own suffering too even if they don’t realize!

Landmine Marathon

Photo by Jeremiah Cooper

RB: Yeah, the album plays on the instilled roles of monarchical society.  All of those things come into play.  We try not to get super political for a bunch of left wing vegetarians. (laughing)
Let’s talk about the album artwork. How did you get Dan Seagrave on board as the artist? It really has a classic death metal look. I always loved a lot of older metal covers. I can remember the first time I saw Deicide’s ONCE UPON THE CROSS with the Jesus autopsy image and it really stays with you (plus it had “Kill The Christian” on it, which is kind of an incredibly funny song…not to take away from how metal it was). Any particular albums that had covers which helped pollute your brain with metal thoughts as a youngster?

RB: Prosthetic asked if we’d like to work with him and we jumped at the chance.  I’ve been staring at his covers for 20 years now.  All the Suffocation stuff, Entombed, Malevolent Creation, Morbid Angel, etc.  Loved it.  He’s definitely one of my favorite “metal” artists and it was a privilege to have his art graces our cover.  Most of us in the band grew up straddling the punk and metal scenes.  So, there was tons of cover art polluting out minds.  My favorite record to this date is Rorschach’s PROTESTANT LP and I remember just sitting there staring at the cover that was just a photo of a Mayan ruin, but the sky was colored bright purple and just tripping out on it.

You are from Arizona. I heard Native Americans recently did a protest sort of referencing the immigration scandal asking for all non-Native Americans to leave. I think it is important for people to try and get citizenship the right way, but the racial profiling aspect of the recent controversy was fucked up. Near me, in Upstate, NY there was a couple who were promised green cards to act as informants on crime and then they were bailed on and nearly deported. These people are friendly and sweet business owners of a popular restaurant who were pressured to moonlight in terrifying situations with criminals by the government and then were betrayed in the end when they realized they didn’t have to do this! It was a huge scandal in the papers. Some people don’t get citizenship because they are truly afraid or confused. It isn’t a one sided issue and there is also a lot of corruption. As a resident of Arizona, how do you feel about it all?

RB: We’re all definitely anti SB 1070 and we’re elated to see that it pretty much fell apart and was blocked.  I feel it’s racist and criminal.  We have a huge Hispanic population in the metal and punk scenes here and some of them are illegal.  And they’re great people just trying to make it.  Not criminals and drug dealers like the press/Jan Brewer makes them out to be.  Plus, this law really gave officers the right to question anyone of darker skin color. Silly.

Mind talking about your new drummer situation at all?

RB: We’re now playing with Andy York, formerly of Fall of Empyrean as well as some other notable locals and it’s a pleasure to be playing with him!

Does Grace ever lose her voice and have to speak in sign language to you guys? She was so nice in person when I met you guys at your recent New Orleans show with Black Skies, but then she is a metal beast!

RB: It gets tender sometimes and she’s lost it once or twice, but it stays pretty strong despite not sleeping and drinking regularly. (laughing) She’s never not been able to perform though.

The underground is self sufficient and self sustaining to a certain “level”. It’s cool to see bands like Goatwhore and Skeletonwitch play Ozzfest and all that. I read in Metal Hammer recently where Erik from Watain said he doesn’t want to do “a Coca-Cola tour with Slayer. There have to be some limits.” I like Watain but that gave me mixed feelings. You’re a political band and have done some bigger things. How do you feel about larger package (haha, that always makes me laugh) tours? Fugazi were great at being self-sufficient but there is also something to be said of that Sonic Youth model of getting bigger backing and exposing the average person to weirder shit. I think that, while it may get co-opted a bit and lead to some bands being in car commercials or whatever, it is probably better than if that influence from the underground wasn’t present at all in the larger zeitgeist of society. Thoughts?

RB: I wouldn’t say we’re a political band and we’ve played Scion Fest this year as well as having them endorse a few shows on our recent tour.  We’re also very poor and can use all the help we can get.  It’s a struggle to pay our bills just to go on tour and then to have to put several thousand dollars into a van that we’ve already paid ten thousand dollars into EVERY time we go on the road is just an absolute challenge.  I’m not saying we’re gonna be getting Toyota tattoos, but if they wanna help us and all we have to do is put a box of t shirts by the door, I can’t complain. The Fugazi model is great in theory, but there’s many reasons why most bands can’t make that work.  Mostly because other bands aren’t Fugazi and don’t have the background, following, and history that they do.  Fugazi is a one in a zillion entity. I wish we all could be as punk and moral as they are, but most of us aren’t drawing 3000 people at $5 a head every night.  Ryan from Trap Them wrote a brilliant article on of this:   http://www.metalsucks.net/2010/07/19/trap-thems-ryan-mckenney-responds-to-sacha-dunables-metalsucks-column/

You guys are playing really soon with Kill The Client. That band is cool. It seems like for all the crap there are also loads of bands with character rising up from Salome to Fenris Maw to your band to Leng Tch’E and Trigger The Bloodshed. Any bands you are currently excited about as peers in the underground or in general. I love that band Black Skies that I saw you play with in NOLA at Checkpoint Charlie’s.

RB: Hmm, some of my current favorite contemporaries are Graf Orlock, Rotten Sound, Early Graves (R.I.P. Makh Daniels), Ludicra, Trap Them, Misery Index, Mutant Supremacy, Victims and probably a million others I can’t think of, but I tend to lean more towards the classics these days.  I’d probably be quicker to put on Rainbow or Entombed over anything that’s come out in the last ten years.

What is your favorite and least favorite thing about ICP?

RB: (laughing) My most favorite thing is how ridiculous they are, and my least favorite thing is how ridiculous they are.

Sick Of It All, one of my favorite bands ever, have a new song called “Good Cop” about Obama. It’s about the two party system and how while we look better to much of the world because he is not Bush, a lot of the same policies are in place due to corporate meddling. I am not against business if it is ethical, but it is disheartening when you have the liberals aghast to criticize and the right wing have their talking points more together. It’s a sick merry-go-round. The cozy and lax safety regulation of BP led to Gulf spill mess (which people are already forgetting about) and the current and preceding Presidents BOTH played a role in that. Also, Michael Taylor as the food safety czar, a former attorney for Monsanto in a key policy role for the FDA is crazy, since Monsanto is a very corrupt company.

RB: Obama sent more troops to Iraq in the last month.  Enough said.  Our country is a mess and looked down upon by all others.  We’re the last to take care of 98% of our population because the top 2% are so well taken care of.  Real change is hopefully coming.  It can’t be made by a Democrat or Republican.

What are you proudest about in terms of the new album whether from your performances to Grace’s awesome lyrics or anything that comes to mind? Was it high pressure or did you just all do your thing?

RB: It’s always fairly high pressure.  I’m proud of the whole package, though I can’t wait to see what the next album will bring!  Thanks for the interview!

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