"Ultra pissed , insanely violent and brutal" is how Willowtip describes its Boston signing Watchmaker, and who is SPB to argue? Guest writer Kirby Unrest talks to vocalist Brian Livoti about metal, hardcore, artwork, lyrics, and what matters.
Scene Point Blank: Give me the Cliff Notes version of Watchmaker:
Brian Livoti: I got back from college disgusted with life. So I called up all of the people I used to thrash with in an attempt to combat this. This was around 1997. We got together and thrashed fucking hard, purely for the reason of thrashing fucking hard. That’s it. That is what we did then, and it is what we do now. We played in my basement to nobody, for years, just excited to be playing again. Some people eventually heard what we were doing and offered to release it, and as far as that stuff goes, we’ve put hardly any effort into it at all. Anything we’ve gotten has just been pretty much handed to us on a platter. And that’s a good thing too, because we would have never got around to even recording our demo, had an old friend of ours not worked in a studio. We ran into him shit-faced at a wedding, and he offered to record us for next to nothing. And that would have never been heard by anyone but us had the same guy not shopped it around to our first label, Wonderdrug, which was in the same building as the studio. Think about that the next time you add up the monthly expenditures of your nowhere band. We have literally pulled equipment from the trash on multiple occasions, and have spent next to none of our own cash keeping this band going. It is not an effort to keep Watchmaker afloat, because there is simply nothing to think about, even financially. We just plug in, turn on, and fucking kill. There is no other agenda for us. We are not doing this in the hopes of somehow making it and quitting our day jobs. We are not doing this to impress anybody. Which may be why getting our stuff out there is so effortless. Despite what you think of our music, which is definitely not for everybody, there is no denying our conviction and honesty. We have complete disregard for the listener and you. We truly do what we do for our own benefit, and we would be doing this anyway, whether nobody but my basement walls heard the result or not. Hell, even the gauntlets and the bullet belt and the saw microphone are purely for my benefit. I think they look cool as shit, and would walk around with all my gear on an everyday basis if it were practically possible to do that. I mean, you cannot even wear a jacket with the gauntlets on, and have you ever taken a shit with a bullet belt on? It is a complete and total ordeal. Even pissing is a little tough, as you’ve got to get through the gates and avoid the sharp casings. But, as usual, I digress. So, the extremely Cliff Noted version is: We got together and thrashed hard. People paid for us to record and release said thrashings. And we will continue to thrash long after all of our detractors have given up completely on metal, and move to wherever it is that pretentious cocksuckers spend the rest of their petty lives.
Scene Point Blank: I've read that you guys rarely practice, and for the most part, rarely record songs you didn't just write in the studio. Do you think that you would be able to produce the same songs if you used a more traditional approach?
Brian Livoti: No fucking way. If we actually thought about what we were doing, the complete mission, purpose and joy of what we do would get completely lost. We’d turn into one of those gay “jazz influenced” grind bands or something, which is a fate worse than death. What is “extreme” about over thinking every single note and sound you put to tape, and then constantly worrying about who will like it or not? Holy shit, what is the point of that? Watchmaker is an emotional response to the stress of our daily lives, and you cannot rehearse an emotional response. Hell, that alone makes us more of a jazz band than the music school jack offs who slag us all the time. But fuck it. We are definitely not a jazz band, and we certainly are not going to start second guessing what we do now. As I said earlier, we do this for the pure love of thrashing, and to bring outside stress and pressures into something that is supposed to relieve this stress and pressure completely defeats the purpose of doing it in the first place. This is not work for any of us, and none of us intend to change that. And that is probably why so many people are completely put off and personally insulted by what we do.
Scene Point Blank: In a sense, from what I've gathered, is that the final product contains overdubs and whatnot to help flesh things out and maintain the flow of the songs. Any plans to release the raw masters in the future?
Brian Livoti: Here is the Watchmaker recording process revealed. We decide on a date and book the time according to how much money the record label has given us. As I said before, this is not an expense for us, so we are not going to go over this budget and pay for it ourselves. We set the equipment up in the same room, with no isolation. The key to doing what we do is to interact with each other, and cubicle walls and vocal booths just don’t work. Plus, you cannot lose your shit in a vocal booth. I thrash just as hard as in the studio, or anytime we are playing, as I do on stage. This is not an act for me, it is just what I do. Same thing for everybody else. Nobody sits down in this band when recording. We are here to kill, not noodle. That said, the first block of dates, usually set up as a weekend, is used solely for mindless thrash sessions. This part of the process is by far the most fun and rewarding for us. One of the two guitarists, Paul or Mark, will take turns thrashing with Mike and myself while the tape is rolling. We only use one guitarist at a time for the initial thrash sessions, as two guys writing riffs spontaneously never really works out. And this is from experience that I know this. Anyway, these sessions go on until we have exhausted ourselves. We then take a quick break, change guitarists and do it all over again until we run out of time. Two full days of doing nothing but thrashing like maniacs is the best time EVER, and I highly recommend trying sometime. After we’ve spent a couple of days thrashing, Mike packs up his kit for good, and is not seen until we get the finished product in the mail. All of his drums are the ones from the original sessions. One fucking take, with no triggered or pro-tooled bullshit. Beat that motherfuckers! We then spend the next block of time, chopping up the thrash sessions into what vaguely resembles some type of song structure. Once we got the songs laid out, the guitarist that did not take part in the initial songwriting plays over it. This new CD was almost exactly half Mark material and half Paul material. Then Nick, our bass player, plays his shit over that. But everything you hear in the final version was mostly from the first take. Any additional overdubs in guitars or vocals is done just to further accentuate some cool part, or just because it is fun as hell doing the vocals. So I do a lot of screaming. And now that we have Mark, who is just a younger, better version than I am, we’ve got somebody else to go ape shit too. All of the better screaming on this CD was done by Mark. But that is it. This method of recording is totally care free and fun, which is what it is supposed to be. Plus, it gives us an excuse to hang out with each other and drink heavily. Towards the end of the first session, Mark was so fucked up, he literally had to be propped up to play. But he was still in full metal stance, so the tape continued to role. Fuck yeah! And as far as releasing the raw sessions go? I’d love to. I like that stuff better than the completed CD versions. But finding someone to put up the cash for a sea of endless noise is not easy. I would love for Willowtip to release alternate versions of both CDs, but I feel we have tried Jason’s patience enough with the music we’ve produced for him already, so we’ll see.
Scene Point Blank: Does the same style apply to lyrics and is that why none appear in the booklet for "Erased From The Memory Of Man?"
Brian Livoti: Sort of. I go into the session with a bunch of song titles and loose ideas for lyrics. But once we get going, I lose complete control, and the initial ideas for the most part go right down the toilet. But the reason that the lyrics were not printed this time around were because my marriage was going down in flames when the recording started, and I spent way too much time screaming about that. I am not going to print lyrics for something that is way too explicit and overly personal. I didn’t even show or play the new CD to my wife, the person who inspired the lyrics, so why should I show them to anybody else? Well, Nuked to Ashes is not about her. That is the one song that came in already written, defying the Watchmaker song writing/recording process. We wrote and recorded a version of that previously for the split we have coming out on Bestial Onslaught with Hirudinea, so the lyrics were already done. We busted that out to warm up, and decided to just keep it. But everything else is about my wife. Even Lice Crawling Humanity. I wasn’t in a good frame of mind then.
Scene Point Blank: In an interview, you stated that you write about things that matter. So I have to ask; what matters?
Brian Livoti: My wife matters. My fucking self matters. My daily fears, struggles and anxieties matter. I don’t really care about much of anything else enough to spend time venting about it. Watchmaker is as cathartic and therapeutic for me as it is a good fucking time, so I do not need to write contrived gore lyrics about something I’ve never experienced – or hope to experience - and really, why would I want to? Again, we are completely honest and straightforward about who we are and how we represent ourselves. How many of you young, suburban shit heads really know about the violence you portray in your songs? Fucking zero. So why sing about it, and base a fake persona off of it, you scared, posing pussies? Lyrics about being a tough guy, badass do not apply to me either, so why go that way? Being from Boston, we’ve got a lot of that queer, macho bullshit floating around, along with a whole bunch of confused people who seem to idolize that type of behavior. There is always going to be somebody tougher and meaner than you, no matter who you think you fucking are, and it serves you right to get your ass beat for blatantly throwing that shit around. “I’m from the streets”. “I’m in a gang”. “My neck tattoos make me so tough”. I hope you all go to prison and get ass raped. Sorry. Again, I digress. Your question had nothing to do with “ass raping”. But, nothing I sing about is contrived. Whatever is happening in my daily life at the time of recording is what gets put to pen. Anything in the titles that sound gory or horrific or violent is just metaphorical. The actual words I write are about dealing with the always multiplying pressures of my adult life, and what I do to deal with it. That is it. That is why I do this, and that is what matters.