words and photography Lamont Abramczyk
We catch up with Alex Edkins of METZ to talk about the Toronto noise rock band's new album, 'METZ II'. Edkins opens up about the loss that went into the new record and bringing Holy Fuck's Graham Walsh back on board for the album. Read on if you want to see what your face looks like when it melts off.
CREEP: A lot has changed for you over the past three years. From a Toronto-based visual researcher to an internationally acclaimed musician, how have you and METZ adapted to life following the release of your debut album back in 2012?
Alex: [Laughs] I don’t really notice too many changes. The big one is we’ve just been away from home a lot. We’ve been fortunate enough to be on the road pretty much nonstop since our record came out and took some time off to make the new album. It’s been a bit of a blur since then, you know. We toured the world a couple of times…. it’s been cool, it’s been great – something we couldn’t have ever hoped for or imagined. It’s definitely been above and beyond all our expectations.
In a press release, you explain the sudden expectations and pressures associated with success and how it was important to not let it influence you while recording METZ II. How did this affect your creative process?
I think we’ve always just tried to do what comes naturally. This time around there’s obviously going to be more people maybe anticipating, or just generally going to hear it because of how the last one went. We’re conscious of that but at the same time we’ve always attempted to do what feels good and not think about really what other people might want, or think is cool, or want to hear. We’ve always just made the music we want to make, the music we want to hear, and I think it’s pretty obvious. By listening to both records, there certainly aren’t any attempts to cater to anyone…hopefully it can resonate with people in a really honest way.
You spent over two years touring internationally following the release of METZ (album). As a band renowned for your high-energy live performances, how did you approach this rigorous schedule?
We just kind of went for it. Luckily the songs get us pretty excited to play, so there was never really an issue of doing it night in and night out. We felt totally lucky and privileged to be playing for these people, so it was easy to put it out there every night. It was never something we were reaching for or anything like that – it was automatic, that excitement and adrenaline just goes straight away.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve witnessed or experienced while performing?
I don’t know, I find it all crazy. It’s never going to get boring or expected to see people moving or singing the songs – that’s kind of a mind blow for me. As far as antics, there are always some people that go a little bit too far, but I can’t really think of anything specific right now.
METZ II has been described as “much heavier, darker, and sloppier”. What influences are behind this record, and is there a message you’re trying to communicate?
Like I said before, that’s kind of just what happened when we went to write…I lost some people who were very near and dear to me that year, so I think some of that mood or sadness can come out in some of the vibes of the songs and also in the lyrics. Other than that, it really just felt good to not make a pop record, you know? It was really just a great feeling to make some dark, raunchy kind of music come out of us when we went to write. We try not to fight whatever happens.
You decided to bring Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh back on board for this record. What does he attribute to METZ’s sound?
I would say that the best thing, I mean he’s very talented obviously and knows his gear so we turn to him for his technical knowhow, but I’d say mostly it’s his really calm demeanour. The three of us are wound pretty tight to say the least, and we need somebody like him in the studio just to chill us out. We did a lot of the mixing (for METZ II) at his house. He has an amazing wife (Julie Fader) who’s a fantastic musician in her own right, and a young kid named Francis. Whenever it got too much, we’d just go upstairs and hang out with Francis and kind of just remember not to take it all to seriously. It’s not the end of the world; it’s just a song. And it really helped just to have that release after being concentrated on this minute detail on a mix or something and be like, “Okay, here’s some perspective on things”.
The new album incorporates a lot of new instruments: baritone guitar, tape loops, piano, synth, found sounds. How can we expect these instruments to influence METZ’s distinctive sound?
We’ve always tried to integrate things in a way so that it doesn’t just jump out. So in a weird way, it’s not novelty – it’s just going to add to the song. I think in a lot of ways, people won’t even notice. It’s just more so us trying to (while making a record) distinguish between the live version and the record, which we want to be something else. For “headphone people”, you’ll be able to hear some tiny little things in there but they’re not grandiose changes. The last record had little things like piano and stuff in there too that you have to listen hard for to hear.
METZ was formed here in Toronto back in 2008. How much of your success do you attribute to the city’s independent noise/ punk scene and venues such as Soybomb, Hard Luck, and Smiling Buddha?
It’s obviously a great place to make music. We all love being from here (Toronto) and find it pretty invigorating being able to go see bands and that kind of thing. But at the time we started, there really was no scene at all. We were kind of aliens – what we were doing was really strange. I don’t think it was in style, and we like that as well. It’s cool to see that there’s a lot more people doing it now. It certainly is a tightknit community and it’s very supportive that way, so that can only be a good thing. It means that things are progressing and things are good in Toronto and we’re all for that.
METZ is often mentioned when discussing other contemporary Torontonian noise outfits such as Fucked Up, Soupcans, and Death From Above 1979. How does it feel to be associated with such prolific artists?
It’s awesome! We have a lot of respect and have had the privilege of playing with all of them on tours. It’s cool, the way they’ve been supportive of us – we try to do the exact same thing to younger bands. It’s flattering and we don’t take it lightly. It’s something that we’ve been lucky to be able to do.
How did your band come about the name, “METZ”?
We get this all the time but I never have a good answer. It’s really supposed to be abstract and have no meaning at all. We kind of just like the sound and look of it. A few years ago, Hayden and I were playing in another band and we did go through that city on tour, so I guess that’s where we first heard it, but it’s not a reference to that town in any way. It’s just supposed to be nothing to us.
Earlier this year, the Grammy Award for best metal performance went to Jack Black’s Tenacious D. Do you have any thoughts on the mainstreams perception of noise rock, or the lack there of?
[Laughs] I don’t really have a comment. I try not to think about the mainstream, I guess. It’s not something we’ve ever been involved with and I don’t see us ever being involved with it but I mean, I think it’s a bit of a travesty to happen. Personally I think that they’re funny, but there are so many talented musicians doing heavy music that get panned for a comedy album. I think that but at the same time, the whole idea of awards for art and music is a tricky subject and I don’t think it’s one you can give too much merit to. I don’t know if you can judge these things in any real way.
That being said, you were shortlisted for a Polaris prize a few years back?
Yeah….and that’s very cool. It was an honour for people to think of us that way, but I guess you could say we’re kind of skeptical of judging music that way. Not to say we weren’t somewhat pleased about it [laughs].
Who would win in a fight: Puff Daddy or Drake?
I think maybe Puff’s getting a bit old…so maybe Drake.
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