Australian Heavypedia: Interview with Shatter Brain (Death/Thrash)

Interview by Carcassbomb

Shatter Brain just put out their debut LP Pitchfork Justice after having a split and demo to their name since their formation in 2017. This new album marks a rise for the band in the underground Australian metal scene with an overall well rounded product. It certainly helps that they host a couple of their states largest metal festivals.

Shatter Brain is a band fuelled largely by performing live, essentially creating the band for that end and have performed at many shows in various countries in their short but promising career. In terms of music geography Adelaide is the city of churches and the city of doom, a lot of great black metal and doom metal come out of there so it’s not surprising to hear those sludgy elements even with a death/thrash band.

Who are you and what part of Australia are you from?

Matt Disisto (guitarist) and Ryan Quarrington (drummer) for Shatter Brain and we’re from Adelaide, South Australia.

What is the current release out and how would you describe it?

MD: Our last release was a split we did with Melbourne’s Blunt Shovel back in August of 2018. At that stage we had a couple of new song ideas leftover from “The Shatter Brain Demo” that we had released at the start of that year, and we were keen to put them out as part of a split vinyl EP. We’d known the Blunt Shovel guys for a while and knew that they were in the writing process as well, so we hit them up it and it all came together pretty easily from there. On that one we elaborated on some of the things we were doing stylistically on The Demo and explored them a little further. We also tracked a version of Mastodon’s “Blood and Thunder”, which was a heap of fun! We found the that the songs we had written stylistically and even some of the lyrics we’d written had a lot in common with that era of Mastodon and that song in particular, so it seemed fitting to cut that track on the split as well.

RQ: I love the artwork on both sides of that EP, but you HAVE to see the Blunt Shovel side. It is glorious. Both of our originals on that EP are probably the sludgiest stuff we have written so far.

Do you have a release coming up in the near future?

RQ: An album!

MD: Yeah, we are currently in the lead up process to releasing our new album ‘Pitchfork Justice’, coming out May 1 in WormholeDeath Records. We recorded it in the back half of 2019 with Jimmy Balderston at Ghost Note Studios here in Adelaide. We recently released a video for ‘Talk In Fear’, the first single off of the album, and have been releasing webisodes detailing the history of the band and the writing and recording process for the album. They feature some really cool footage of writing the songs, and tracking the album in the studio! The response we’ve gotten so far has been awesome!

Who are your biggest influences?

MD: Man that’s a tough one haha I mean you’ve got those integral influences that sort of formed your taste and style, and for me those would have to be bands like Metallica, Sabbath, Deep Purple, KISS, Pantera, AC/DC, The Living End. Other than that, some more direct influences for me writing wise would be High On Fire, Mastodon, Power Trip, Entombed…

RQ: Yeah Black Sabbath and Metallica are the main two for me. Hearing Black Sabbath as a kid started my love of heavy music, and Metallica made me want to start a band. More recently Black Breath, Gatecreeper, and Kvelertak have made me want to up my game as a drummer and songwriter! 

Have you played live or toured much?

MD: Yeh we’ve done a few miles haha. We actually started the band with the premise of wanting to get out there and tour a lot more, so it’s a big focus of ours to get out there and bring the music to the people so to speak. So far we’ve been all over Australia, and to New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan… Hell, we’ve even been to Port Pirie and Port Augusta! Haha

RQ: As Matt said, touring is one of the main reasons we started the band. We really hit the ground running when the band started, even playing internationally before we played our home town of Adelaide for the first time, but it has slowed down a little over the past 18 months while we’ve been focussing on the album. Now with the virus, we don’t know when we will play next!

Is there something unique to your state’s scene compared to other states in the country?

RQ: Well we host Australia’s two best music festivals: The New Dead Metalfest and Heavy SA. Both are run by our good friend Jason North of Truth Corroded, and he does a fantastic job booking the best bands Australia and South Australia have to offer. They are always a massive party that everyone in the state (and interstate for that matter) looks forward to!

MD: I think the heavy music scene in SA right now is really strong. We’re not the biggest city population-wise, but there seems to be a really strong group of bands doing their thing and doing it well at the moment. You’ve got bands like Truth Corroded, who have a long history here and are still kicking arse, who are happy to put the ladder down so to speak and help out up-and-coming bands who are busting their chops writing, recording and promoting shows and their band in general.

Who are some of your peers in the scene?

MD: Some bands killing it in SA now are Freedom of Fear, Dyssidia, Sobaka, and Sundowner. Over the border we are big fans of Requiem, Blunt Shovel, Vexation, and Envenomed.

RQ: Yeah I agree with all of them! I’d probably also add Earth Rot from Perth, who just released their first album on Season of Mist, Gutless from Melbourne (some of the best death metal you’ll ever hear), and Asylum from Queensland.

What’s the best and worst gig experience you’ve had?

MD: The best for me would have to be Wake Up Fest in Taiwan. It was a multi-stage outdoor type festival. We played right at the end of the night and everyone was over at the main stage on the other side of the festival watching another band right before we went on. Thunder clouds were forming and a storm was imminent. We went back-stage to warm up and by the time we walked on stage and started it was pissing down, but the place was full! Not sure in terms of worst, playing live is usually blast no matter the situation.

RQ: Wake Up Fest is definitely up there for me too. Our set opening for the Cavalera Brothers was amazing as well! We haven’t had too many bad gigs in this band, but I played a show with my previous band where our guitarist was so drunk that he couldn’t stand or tune his guitar, but he insisted on continuing to try and play while way out of tune. That was pretty embarrassing, and safe to say he didn’t last in the band much longer after that!

As an Australian artist do you face any specific barriers in the music making or promoting process?

MD: Not really. We live pretty close to each other so getting riffs together and arranging them into songs usually works quite well, and a lot of it is done online trading ideas back and forth. In terms of promoting all the social media platforms make it relatively easy to get word out about a lot of thing to all sorts of areas around the country and the globe. Although it’s a bit of a double edged sword in a way because a lot of those platforms are flooded with people doing similar things. So the onus is kind of on you to be original and entertaining with it.

What is the art process for the band, do you get the same person a lot of grab pieces from different places?

MD: For ‘Pitchfork Justice’ we used a local artist named Steve Lehmann. He does the artwork for the Heavy SA Fest poster every year, and also did the cover art for our two previous releases. At some point during the writing process for PFJ it became apparent that there was a bit of a theme running through a lot of the lyrics: Political Correctness gone too far, social justice keyboard warriors, and mob mentality via social media. We approached Steve with these ideas and themes, and mentioned a few rough ideas we had for the cover art. What he came back with just blew us away and we feel has really done ‘justice’ (pun intended) to the overall themes throughout the album. There are so many little details in the artwork that are a nod to different parts throughout the album.

RQ: I’m keen to keep using Steve as well. Not only does he do amazing work, but I think consistency of artwork helps to build a brand that people will associate with the band.

Is there a unique or custom piece of gear that the band uses for it’s sound, or any sponsorships?

RQ: Jimmy used a few unique pieces of gear in the studio to pull the drum sound on the album. The bass drum was a strange Japanese-made 24×16” TAMA that seemed to be made out of some wood composite. It was a bit beaten up but it sounded great! He also had a 14×6.5” Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum that we tuned quite low and dampened heavily, giving it an early thrash sound. Finally, we use my mid-90s Pearl Masters Custom cannon toms, which Jimmy ripped the resonant heads off of to give them a concert tom sound. The final product of that combination of gear turned out great!

MD: Not particularly with the guitar sound. We went into this recording with an open mind and to really explore being produced in the studio by someone like Jimmy. We brought in a bunch of guitars and amps and he also has a tonne of gear as well. So from there we took his lead and for the most part used whatever guitar/pedal/amp he thought would be best for that certain part.

What is something the band is interested in doing outside of album releases?

MD: Touring!!! Haha, not sure when we’ll be able to do that again. Other than that we’ve been enjoying chatting with people about the band, and promoting the album! There also might be a few new riffs kicking around as well! You know the old saying, when life gives you lemons, plant the lemons and make another lemon tree! Planting a few lemons at the moment.

RQ: I’m liking the lemons quite a lot!

Is there anything you’d like to plug for your members like side projects or tutoring? 

MD: I’m currently in another band, Voros. Death metal with a good dose of tech, check it out!

RQ: Yeah check out my other band ALKIRA who released an EP late last year.

What are some major lyric influences and how is that side of the process completed for the album?

RQ: Myself, Tom (vocals) and Pat (bass) contributed the lyrics for this album. As Matt mentioned before, they were inspired primarily by the hypocrisy we’ve observed around keyboard warriors, political ‘correctness’, and mob justice, which social media seems to facilitate and propagate like never before. In terms of influences, I have always been a huge fan of Dio’s content and delivery, and his ability to incorporate allegory into his lyrics.

Bands are often given a lot of advice online and through experience, what’s a piece of advice that really helped your band?

MD: Just be cool, don’t be a dick/cocky/arrogant. Opportunities come to those that are prepared, work hard, and are easy to work with.

RQ: Agreed. In my experience the best way to progress as a band is to help others so that they want to help you. Noone is going to offer you a cool opportunity if you’re a dick to everyone, unless they want to make money off of you!

How has COVID affected your plans and what are some things you’re doing as a band to stay afloat while shows are down?

MD: Well we had some tour plans in the works which would have kept us pretty busy this year and helped us support the release of the album, but obviously the touring world has been turned on its head as of late so all of that is kind of on hold at the moment. At the moment we’re just working at promoting the release of Pitchfork Justice and trying to get the word out as best we can. We have a few things in mind to stay in touch with fans on the socials etc but we’ll see how that pans out. Also, planting lemons.

RQ: Gonna make lemonade.

How do you feel about the current state of your genre?

RQ: I’m positive about the direction that heavy music is heading in at the moment. I think ‘metal’ in general lost its way a little bit in the 2000s by focussing too much on polished production and robotic unhuman performances; it felt like music had turned into a sport rather than an artistic expression. But the pendulum seems to have swung back the other way in recent years, with a lot of the more popular bands (Kvelertak, Power Trip, even Suicide Silence!) focussing on writing and releasing music that has a more human-element to it and is more, well, musical!

Thank you for the interview!

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