Talk all you want about sludge and metal in the American South. It's a hot spot, it's where this band or that band started, it's where the spirit breeds, whatever. Making its own statement as a burgeoning regional metal community is the American Southwest. Spearheading the Southwest's metal cause and upping the fucking ante is Tucson's Godhunter. With a critically lauded album under their buckles, a new slab of heavy in the works, and an absolutely massive fall metal festival filling up calendars, these five miscreants are giving fans plenty to be excited about.
Heavy Planet pulled in the reins on Godhunter's David Rodgers, gnawing on everything from the Southwest scene and their tenacious fans to new tracks and the upcoming album. Hell, he even discussed why the name Godhunter was chosen instead of... Well, David can tell you all about that one. And let's all get a listen to a live take on a new Godhunter track! Here goes...
Heavy Planet: First, I wanted to say congrats on winning Heavy Planet's March Bandness!
David Rodgers: "That was pretty cool!"
HP: You guys beat out Clamfight.
DR: "It was a pretty fun contest to do. Tons o' good bands in there. It was cool to make contacts around the country."
HP: You guys are coordinating the Southwest Terror Fest, right?
DR: "Yeah, it's mainly myself and a fella named Dave Carroll from a band called Inoculara that's also from here in Tucson. We're in a band together called Diseased Reason with some guys from Oakhelm and Noisear. We'd both been to a bunch o' different fests like Maryland Death Fest and South By Southwest and what-not. We always kinda wondered why there wasn't something like that in the Southwest. So we just kinda got a hair up our butt and decided to go ahead and throw one this year."
HP: Awesome. Who's on that bill?
DR: "So far, there's 32 bands on there. A lot o' great bands from around the Southwest. Godhunter is on there. Other ones you guys have reviewed before like TWiNGiANT and Powered Wig Machine is on there. We also have a few nationals on there... We're gonna have Sons of Tonatiuh from Georgia are comin' out to play it. Hull from New York, the band -(16)- from California, and Pigeonwing from California, too. Ryan form Pigeonwing has actually been helpin' us do a lot o' stuff with the fest as well because he's been in the scene forever and done a lot of events like this."
HP: There's a lot made of the Southern metal scene or the Georgia metal scene. What's goin' on in the Southwest? What's that scene like?
DR: "That's a good question. Quite honestly, we're kinda trying to replicate what those scenes have done. There's a really tight-knit group of bands down here that go across a wide span of genres. You've got guys like our friends in Sorrower that are a pretty extreme grind band. On the other hand, you've got Powered Wig Machine, who's really like a stoner-rock band that kinda sounds like Clutch and The Toadies. But we're all pretty close down here and there's a lot of amazing bands. So we've kind of all banded together in the last few years and instead of all just fighting for ourselves, let's kinda try to fight together. So we can collectively get a little more attention on ourselves rather than just... all of us out there fightin' on our own."
HP: Aside from the Terror Fest, what other dates do you guys have set up? Any, right now?
DR: "Not a whole lot for this year. We're doing a local show in August. We've been writing a lot for the new album so once we've got that...We'll do a few shows in our hometown here and there, try the songs out live and make sure they don't suck, basically. So we're doin' one o' those in August and then we're kinda takin' it easy until the Terror Fest. Um... We do have two awesome shows in the fall, but I probably shouldn't... I don't know if I should say anything because they're not necessarily confirmed quite yet. But we do a Halloween show every year and this year we're trying to get a certain band from Portland and a certain band from Georgia to play that both have similar name structures..."
HP: YES! Yes, awesome!
DR: "And in November another awesome band from Texas, from Austin, is comin' through...that we played with before. Hopefully,they might be doin' that show again. Y'know, I'm kinda in charge of the band, not just in it. So I know a lot of things before they even happen. So I gotta sit on information a lot."
HP: Well, that has absolutely NOTHING to do with my next question... But, you guys have played with some prominent bands like Crowbar, Saint Vitus, RED FANG, BLACK TUSK...
HP: Which live show or tour has been the most exciting for you guys?
DR: "Oh, man... We've played some really incredible shows. On our last tour, we played a show in Flagstaff that was a house-show at a place called The Big House. We played it with our friends up there in Swampwolf. There's video from this house on YouTube. If you look up Kylesa on YouTube and put in, like, Kylesa House Show, an awesome video from the same place comes up. It was just one o' them things where the place is packed and people are in your face while you're playin' and beers are gettin' spilled all over your pedal-board and people are fallin' all over themselves. I live for shows like that when there's a little bit o' chaos in it. We opened up for Saint Vitus and Crowbar for that Metal Alliance Tour last year and... I mean, I have a Saint Vitus tattoo on my arm, so opening up for Saint Vitus, for me, is like opening up for Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath or something like that, y'know? I mean, we've played some amazing shows here in our hometown, too. Last year, we opened up for Red Fang, we opened up for The Sword. They were at Club Congress, which is an amazing old venue. It's the place where John Dillinger got captured, there used to be shoot-outs in it and what-not. Every time we play there it's just a giant party because everyone in town comes out. We've definitely played some shows that are very memorable."
HP: Aside from the obvious... You've mentioned Saint Vitus, Sabbath, but who are some of the more influential artists on, not just you, but also Godhunter as a band?
DR: "Obviously, Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Neurosis... not that we'd ever get a chance to open up for any of those. But those are pretty big ones for us. We have a few different influences in the band... myself and Charlie are more comfortable with the hardcore scene. So we kinda bring in some stuff every now and then that sounds like Coalesce or somethin' like that. A lot of reviewers will pick that up and they're like 'this is like stoner-doom but I kinda sense a hardcore influence here.' They're pretty dead-on with that when they get it. Dick, our bass player, I think he literally listens to four bands. Like Slayer, Pantera, Black Sabbath, maybe Hank III. I don't know that he listens to anything else. Our drummer, Spyro, on the other hand, comes from a straight metal background. Basically, that's what he listens to. And Jake's kinda all across the board. He listens to a lot o' crazy stuff. We have a wide variety of influences but when you really boil it down, like I said, you get Black Flag, Neurosis, Black Sabbath, definitely stuff like that."
HP: Let's talk a little about the band's formation, was it 2008 you guys formed?
DR: "I think it was 2008. In 2008, it might have actually been a band called Blood Regime which was what Godhunter was before it was Godhunter. But, funny story... After a show one time, a girl walked up to us and looked at either me or someone else in the band and she goes 'So, Blood Regime. Do you guys mean like a girl's period?' And we all looked at each other and we were like 'Ohhhh! We have to change this name.' So shortly after that, which I think was January... I know we played a show in January of 2009 as Godhunter. So somewhere in there, the name changed. The lineup has kinda changed a little bit. I'm the one person that has been in the band from the beginning and will be 'til the end. A lot o' bands have that. They have the one dude. As bands go, you kinda have to build for a while and change out parts so you can get into the right formation that actually works, which took a couple years. The last year and a half or so, we've been there. And since we put Wolves out, we've just been chuggin' along."
HP: That kinda led into another question I have. The Godhunter name, who came up with that? And has that been met with any religious hostility or anything like that?
DR: "The actual name Godhunter was picked out by me and my friend Max who used to be in the band. He and his dad own a family business and he couldn't get on the road as much as we needed to, so he eventually left with another guy who used to be in the band, Loren. And they formed a new band called Thorncaster that's pretty awesome. But Max and I came up with that name. It's actually from a comic book. Beta Ray Bill that's in the Thor storyline of Marvel books. They did a three-issue series and it was called Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter. And when it came out we were sittin' there reading it and we just kinda looked at the cover and we were like 'Wow, that's a GREAT name for a band.' And I think that was when the band was actually named Blood Regime, so when the time came to change it we were just like 'Well, how about Godhunter?' and everyone was like 'Oh, yeah. That's...' It's a pretty iconic name, it's easy to remember, it kinda sticks out. Have we had religious problems about it? I'm sure. Our shirts make people stare at you. We've had kids that have been kicked out of school or had to turn their shirt inside out. We had one kid that was actually suspended for three days. They wanted to kick him out for the day and his parents said 'No, freedom of speech,' stuff like that. And they're like 'Well, there's no freedom of speech in junior high,' or high school or whatever grade he was in. So anyway it came down to a stalemate. They kicked the kid out for three days over one of our t-shirts. We've definitely had religious people in... it might have been at Chick-Fil-A, actually. I was wearin' one of 'em one time and, straight up, the girl at the counter wouldn't serve me. The manager came out and did it and was just really abrupt the whole time. There's another place here in town, a local sub-shop, that's Christian-owned. I know someone else in town that's had problems wearin' one of our shirts in there where they just flat-our refused to serve 'em."
DR: "Y'know, people are gonna take it how they want. The term 'Godhunter,' to us, doesn't necessarily mean we're hunting, specifically, the Christian God. With Charlie and I being the main lyric-writers... we come from hardcore so we like to write lyrics about things that are real. We don't like lyrics about dragons or swords. Nothin' wrong with that, but that's not our thing. So a lot of what we write is socially relevant, from our point of view. Just kinda being a little anarchist and whatever. We're against gods of all forms, like McDonald's or Shell Oil Company or Apple. In our eyes, if you look through our lyrics... a lot of 'em are tellin' people to wake up, there are things wrong with the world. There are things you can do to make the world a little bit better place if you just unplug and get back to reality. So when we think of the name, that's definitely what we're thinkin' of. Do we use the religious connotation? Absolutely. We slap upside-down crosses on anything. A couple of our shirts we've put out are highly, highly offensive, I would say. Especially our last one, I don't know if you've seen it. It has Jesus flipping off... Jesus is flipping the camera off and in the other hand he's wearing a detonator and a terrorist explosive belt and there's a church burning behind him. So we'll pretty much throw out anything we can on a t-shirt because they're fun. Whatever people wanna throw at us for it, we're willing to take. Charlie and I will openly get into debate with anybody that wants to debate us about any of our artistic aesthetics."
HP: I think you'd win, that was pretty convincing. That ties into another thing I was gonna ask. I've read that the goal of the band is to show the world for what it really is: an ugly place. Personally, what's some of the ugliness that has made its way into your music?
DR: "Just... PEOPLE! Our biggest thing we'd like to point out to people is that we're not that special. We're animals. People are gonna do terrible things. It's animal nature. Chimpanzees... one tribe will go after another tribe because they think the other chimpanzees have better hunting grounds. Scientists are just now starting to realize we're actually not the only animal that goes to war. So maybe it's not just a human thing, we're just animals. We need to wake up to this thing. If we realize what we are, we can probably be better to each other in the long run, y'know? The person that actually realizes he's a jerk can somehow, sometimes prevent himself from being a bigger jerk. Or you get that completely oblivious asshole that never realizes it and that dude is gonna be an asshole until he dies. So we just want people to wake up. Like the song (Stop Being) Sheep. That's exactly what that song is about. Stop it. Stop buying into everything. It goes even for things like... conspiracy theorists. Everyone in my band... we HATE conspiracy theorists. If you believe 9-11 was an inside job, we probably think you're the dumbest person working that day."
HP: Yeah! Put a bumper sticker on your car that doesn't really mean anything. But you see 'em all over.
DR: "Yeah, and all that stuff is just used for division. It's just like political parties. We only have two here, which is a shame. It just divides left and right. People vote Republican because their dad voted Republican and their grandfather voted Republican and they don't even really know what Republican stands for anymore but they're just gonna keep voting it because they like country music and they like Ford pick-ups. So that's what they do. And I love country music and I have a Ford pick-up, but I really don't give a crap about bein' Republican."
HP: It seems like the press is starting to pick up on you guys. It's all pretty positive. How are you guys responding to the increased success and attention?
DR: "We're all really happy with it. We're pleased that things are generally positive. The things people point out, 100% we agree with them. I'm sure you've talked to bands that look back on an album six months or a year after it's done and they say 'Well, we should've changed that, that could've been better, we should've done that part totally different.' We pretty much agree with the criticisms that are out there. We're happy with the praise that we do get. We've gotten reviews from Germany, The Netherlands... I've shipped stuff to six, seven continents now, for mail order. So it's exciting when someone in Malaysia or Bangladesh orders one of your t-shirts. You start wondering to yourself how a band like Godhunter get into Bangladesh in the first place."
HP: You guys confirmed Procession of the Equinoxes to be the opening track of the new album, right?
DR: "The song, as it's played, will be. We actually just got into a discussion... we've had long arguments over the name. I named that one and Charlie actually wants to name it Despite All. So when the album comes out, it may be called Despite All, but that WILL be the song. That's definitely gonna be the first song on the new album. We're kinda playin' it in a live version. The way it is presented on the album will be different. I don't give it away too much, but there'll be a more extended intro to it. We like big lead-ups; if you listen to Wolves, you listen to Sheep, the vocals don't even start until four minutes into the album. I like building that tension, getting it worked up until something just slaps you in the face."
HP: Yeah, it's great the way you guys did that. I love artists that are patient and don't insult the listener by throwing the point directly in their face, they let it build. This Will Not End Well is also gonna be from the new album, right?
DR: "Yes, that definitely be the second song on the album. Procession or Despite All, whatever it ends up being called, I'll go with Despite All 'cause I think that's what we're gonna end up with... Despite All and This Will Not End Well are kinda parts A and B, the same way that (Stop Being) Sheep and Wolves of the North are kinda parts A and B of one grander song. Once you're able to read the lyrics, you'll see how it all ties in together. The new album is gonna, loosely, be a concept album. It's basically about living in Tucson, in the Southwest, the desert. The middle of nowhere in the age that we're living right now. Climate is changing, jobs are disappearing. You're in Illinois, you guys have had a big drought this year, right?"
HP: It's been terrible. All our corn is dead, our crops are dead. It's gonna be rough for these farmers, everything is gonna skyrocket in terms of price.
DR: "Our desert is getting more desert. What little rain we had is going away, it's coming at odd times. Things like that are affecting the extreme places quicker than they're affecting the temperate places. We have the second-lowest in education, the greatest number of vacant houses, per capita, in the country. We have an unemployment rate... we're not like Michigan yet, but we're a little bit higher than average here. We feel like it's kinda worse here right now. This is one of those places, so close to the border and us having really incendiary legislation like SB-1070 being passed and people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio being around. We almost feel that Arizona is a tinder box of what might happen to the country as a whole. If you see some actual... I don't wanna throw around the word revolution, but... if you see something like that happening, we feel it might happen here first."
HP: So that's what the concept is focused on?
DR: "Yeah, the album is gonna be called City of Dust. It's just about... we're watching our city turn to dust right now. It goes from Beverly Hills to Beirut in the space of two blocks."
HP: You guys have some pretty rabid fans. Talk about them for a minute.
DR: "I love our fans. A lot of 'em, like you said, they're rabid. Some of them are idiots, we're totally cool with that. We're idiots, too. Our fans kinda remind me of EYEHATEGOD fans, they're extremely dedicated. But you never know when one of them is gonna throw a bottle through a window and set off a fire alarm. The one show we played here in town with Red Fang, we had fans pushing each other out the fire exits and building fire alarms are goin' off in the middle of Red Fang's set. Red Fang just kinda looked at each other and just played through it. We're just in the back like 'Man, everyone we know are fuckin' idiots! It's awesome!' So we'll take it, y'know? I love people that are dedicated, and our fans are extremely dedicated. I don't know how much o' this you wanna print, but I'm gonna tell you the story 'cause it's a great story. We were doin' a show in California in Palm Desert and some of our fans showed up. We do like to smoke weed, everyone in the band smokes except for Charlie. So they showed up with a mason jar packed full o' weed. And I don't mean like a little baby-food jar, I mean like a mason jar almost the size of a two-liter bottle o' soda. Packed. Full. And then they had another mason jar, a smaller one, baby-food sized, of this black oily liquid. I'm like 'I know what's in that big jar, what's in that little jar?' They said it was an oil of weed or something like that. I was like 'What do you do with it?' They're like 'just take a sip of it.' I took like a teaspoon full of it. Y'know, I fell back into the couch laughing. Like I was twelve years old, first time I got high again. They're tellin' us 'You guys should take this home,' and I'm like 'Our next stop is back in Arizona, we can't cross the border with this.' They're like 'No, take it! Take it all, really!' We literally had to give it all back to 'em because we're like 'Look, this is like six or eight felonies, we don't know. But whatever it is, we can't get caught with this crossin' the border, y'know?' They were like 'Okay, but next time you come back we'll have more, so plan on it!' We're like 'Jesus, I can't smoke this much weed!' So I will NEVER complain about our fans, they're amazing people!"
HP: Is there anything else you wanna share for our readers or your fans?
DR: "Just that if you're in the southwest, come see us in October for the Southwest Terror Fest. Literally, it's the best bands from six or eight states. A couple from the other side of the country. Other than that, we'll see everybody on tour in March. We're gonna do a giant run and hit South by Southwest for a few days. So we'll see everybody once we get out on the road."
HP: Well, Heavy Planet loves you guys, you've got some fans with us. Shit, you won the damn competition. So thanks for everything.
DR: "Thank you, man! We appreciate you guys. Ever since you guys featured us a couple years ago it's been a cool relationship. Thank you very much!"
And here's that new shit!
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