Ilenkus: “All the Work We Got to Do Felt Particularly Rewarding”

Ahead of touring this week with Swedish mathcore outfit God Mother, Mike McGrath-Bryan chats with Ilenkus frontman Josh Guyett.

2017 was a quietly busy year for Galway mathcore/sludge five-piece Ilenkus, one that saw the much-feted physical release of most recent E.P. ‘Hunger’, and consistent live activity across the country in its wake. Guitarist/vocalist Josh Guyett surveys his feelings on the year that was. “It was a good year for us but also a tough one. We did a couple of tours in support of ‘Hunger’, despite the fact that it was a pretty demanding year for us personally, so all the work we got to do with the band felt particularly rewarding.”

‘Hunger’ came in for high praise from genre blogs and listeners alike, while the attendant touring worked out well numbers-wise for the band. Guyett goes into the record’s gestation process, and how it was met. “It was a really smooth process to be honest. We wrote the whole EP as one piece over the course of a couple of months at our rehearsal space in Galway. After figuring out where how we wanted to split the tracks up, we did a bit of pre-production and headed to the studio with our buddy Aidan Cunningham from Murdock. The tracking of the instruments was done quickly and with very few overdubs, which seemed to focus the sound. We were really happy with how it turned out and the response it got from the public.”

The physical release came about via a split with a series of labels around the world: WOOOARGH, Smithsfoodgroup, and others, including the band-affiliated Feast promotion house. How did these come together and how did it work out in the end? “Basically, after pitching ‘Hunger’ to some bigger labels without much luck we decided to try to fund it by getting a bunch of labels to all collaborate together. This works out great for smaller labels because the bulk of the costs are shared. It also benefited us by widening our exposure across their locations and networks. Overall I’d say it turned out well, all the labels are very supportive and the records came out looking and sounding great.”

Some of the labels also helped out with touring internationally to support the record, a process only given pause by the aforementioned break for attendance to personal matters. “To be perfectly honest that was the plan, but with 2017 being such a tumultuous year, we didn’t get to do as much touring as we’d have liked. We got picked up by a new booking agent earlier in the year; a mad bastard called John from a deadly band called Vasa – go check them out – so working with him has been fun!”

It’s been a healthy 2017 for heavy music in Ireland, also, and Guyett is effusive about the metal scene over the past twelve months. “Destriers are great, so are Bailer, who just put out a raging new track. Horse, Unyielding Love, Partholon, Soothsayer, Coscradh, Zh0ra, Ten Ton Slug. Our pals Bitch Falcon have been doing brilliant lately, Jenova impressed me when they played in Galway, and there’s a cool sounding new band called God Alone.”

Guyett has also had a busy year as a promoter with Galway-based gig house Feast, alongside Galwegian culture impresario Shane Malone and Tribal-resident Limrocker Steve Hunt, with some massive names in during the year and their domestic duties with Ilenkus’ release. “It’s been crazy and really cool. The highlight for me was getting to put on Melt Banana and Zu in the same week. Such great bands, and it was a privilege to bring them to Galway. We also have a distro set up at all the shows these days, and have been working away on a website for the label. It’s great to see Feast progressing and I honestly don’t know where we’re going right now, but we’re going!”

The band is on tour with God Mother for the rest of this month, a tie-in with the band that supported influencers Dillinger Escape Plan’s final gig. “I had first heard God Mother a few years ago when they released a split with Artemis, a UK band that we’d toured with, so last year I reached out to them on behalf of Feast. I asked whether they had any interest in coming to Ireland and when they said they did, we figured the best way to do it would be to tour with Ilenkus. We’re really excited for these gigs, it’s their first time in Ireland and a while since we’ve done an Irish run, so we are psyched for some great shows.”

The inevitable “what next” question is met with a holding close to the chest of cards, understandable considering the aforementioned revision of plans mid last-year. “We’ll be working on new material for sure, as well as touring. Beyond that I can’t say too much right now, but keep your eyes peeled.”

God Mother: “You’re Making Music for Yourself”

Ahead of their tour of Ireland later this month, Mike McGrath-Bryan sits down with God Mother drummer Michael Dahlström to reflect on a year of milestones for the metal quintet.

Swedish five-piece God Mother are a veritable onslaught of sound and fury, not only in the immediate sonic sense, but in the array of musical reference points that come the listener’s way over the course of new album ‘Vilseledd’, out now via Party Smasher Inc. Math, grind, and hardcore inflections all make themselves blisteringly apparent amid a satisfyingly substantial mix.

Drummer Michael Dahlström gives us some insight into the band’s creative and recording processes for this LP. “Writing songs for ‘Vilseledd’ was a fairly simple process. We all had the same idea of where we were going with the album, and we wrote almost all of the songs together in the rehearsal room, which made things pretty easy arrangement-wise. We did all the recording of the album ourselves with some help of our friends: Staffan Birkedal, who helped record the drums, and Ove Noring who helped with the bass recording at Studio Ovett. Magnus Lindberg from Cult Of Luna later did the mixing and mastering.”

How did the process differ, if at all, this time around, compared to self-released recordings? “Even though we recorded it ourselves, we rented a really nice studio called Soundtrade Studios in Stockholm to record it in. That really made a huge difference to the drum sound. The drums sound huge, and great without any samples or digital reverb thanks to that really big-sounding live room. All the previous releases have been mixed by me as well, but this time we decided to have Magnus mix it, both because he is a great producer, and also to relieve ourselves from some stress.”

‘Vilseledd’ has been in the can for a few months now, and the band are fully satisfied with the result, having taken the time to live with the record over the past while. “We are really happy with how it turned out. We really gave it all we had, and think it came out pretty solid. This is probably the first time I am really 100% happy with something I´ve done creatively. We had a plan for everything from the cover art, to the songwriting, to the sequencing and production.”

The album was released via Party Smasher, Inc., the label run by the now-former members of mathcore pioneers The Dillinger Escape Plan. Dahlström outlines how the opportunity to work with heavy music’s foremost innovators of the last two decades came to them. “Party Smasher actually first came into the picture after the whole album was already recorded and mastered. We didn’t have a record label when we started recording it, so after we finished, we emailed some labels that we liked and would like to work with. PSI was one of the first that replied. They said they really liked the album, but did not have time to release it just then. They were supposed to play in Stockholm a couple of weeks later, and we saw that they did not have a support band booked for the show, so we asked if we could play. To our surprise we got both the Stockholm and Gothenburg show. After the second show, Ben Weinman came to us backstage, said he was really impressed with our live show and that they wanted to sign us to Party Smasher. We were of course a bit surprised, but very happy and our collaboration have led to many amazing things: getting to do a full European tour with The Dillinger Escape Plan, as well as playing on their final show at Terminal 5 in New York together with Mike Patton.

With TDEP disbanding after twenty years, and doing so accompanied onstage by a living legend of leftfield music in Mike Patton, he of Faith No More and many others, the bar had to have been skyhigh for the young band heading into the latter experience. “It was a bit unreal, and totally amazing. I was very jetlagged due to the fact that we just landed the day before from Sweden, and tried to fix that by drinking a great deal of caffeine, which just increased my heartbeat so the whole thing kind of felt like a weird dream, albeit a very sweet one. Getting the opportunity to play our first New York show together with Dillinger and Mike Patton at Terminal 5 in front of 3000 people was pretty great.”

There’s been a lot of positive critical reception for the album since, specifically from specialist press such as MetalInjection and the like – is it hard to shut out those external voices when it comes to the creative or the day-to-day of the band? “Not really, I mean of course you read some of the reviews and it´s nice that people like the album, but in the end you’re making music for yourself and for the band, not for anyone else. But with that said, it also feels great to have your music being heard and appreciated by people, and all those metal blogs of course help with the PR, and making more folks aware of our existence.”

The band is on tour in Ireland this month, and Dahlström collects his thoughts heading into a fairly full-on clutch of dates, with five gigs on the agenda in little over a week. “We are super excited to play in Ireland! I personally have never been to Ireland before, but always hear good things about it, and we love to explore and play at new places. Also, getting to to it with Ilenkus and some other great Irish bands make it even more fun.” The tour serves as a warm-up for what looks to be a banner year for the band. “We are still planning a lot of the year but already have a couple of shows confirmed, we will play at Complexity Fest in Amsterdam in February, and Obscene Extreme Festival in July. We have a lot of other tours planned, but more about that soon, stay tuned to our social media for updates.”

Ilenkus: Galway Metallers Hunger for More

Ilenkus hit Cork on tour for new E.P. Hunger on April 7th. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with guitarist Josh Guyett.

It’s been a long road for Galway mathcore/prog outfit Ilenkus, from their beginnings seven years ago in and around a then-fervent hardcore scene in the West. Today, with two long-players under their belts and their dues more than paid on the live slog around the country, the band is ready for the next chapter in their story, opening with new 7” EP Hunger, released this month following a digital release in November. Josh Guyett, guitarist, speaks on their reaction to the record being out. “We’re delighted to finally have the EP’s in our hands, they look beautiful and we’re generally very happy with how well they turned out. It’s always a privilege working with James Sheridan and I think his art really shines through on this record. The process from writing the riffs to completion takes such a long time and so much work from many different people, that the main feelings we’re experiencing are probably satisfaction and relief! I guess we’re also feeling pretty proud of ‘Hunger’. Personally it’s my favourite out of all of our records so far.”

Heavier on riffs and lighter on dynamic, Hunger sees the band focus their considerable energies in one musical idiom, a contrast from the ambition displayed on previous long-player The Crossing. As much out of desire for change as for expedience, the band kept it concise enough this time to go on a wax platter. “It was a conscious decision for us to focus more in one direction for this release. Where we have previously spent a lot of time working on songs, these were all written in a relatively short period of time. We tuned down our guitars and set out to write something a little more to the point. The recording and mixing was all done by Aidan Cunningham (Murdock) and that made the process so smooth. Aidan really understands this type of music and was super-easy to work with as a result. We gave him a brief and some references in terms of sound, and he just got on board with the whole thing. The mastering was then done by Brad Boatright in the States and we couldn’t be happier with the final result.”

Previous records have also had social/political connotations whereas tunes like Hunny Bunny come directly from the more personal, seemingly. How have the themes changed in recent times? “I think we toyed with some of of these kinds of lyrical themes on old tracks like Devourer, but this time around we eliminated any obvious political or reactionary imagery. Instead we aimed to tell a story. This record is more of a social commentary than a political one. It primarily deals with human nature and issues surrounding mental health. The story is about an individual spiraling out of control and losing their grasp on reality. We all have darkness, rage and secret desires inside ourselves. This story is about someone who can’t keep them buried inside any longer.”

The E.P.’s physical release has been stewarded by several labels in a few different territories, all split-releasing. Guyett explains the exact arrangement. “In terms of labels, we’ve been lucky to work with WOOAAARGH and Tjueto Cvlt from Germany, Smiths Food Group DIY from The Netherlands, Icore Produzioni and Vollmer Industries from Italy and Feast here at home in Ireland. There are plans for a larger European tour as soon as we can set aside some time for it. We’re also now working with Black Sheep Agency in Glasgow as our booking agent, which is fantastic as it allows us to focus a bit more time on things like writing new music. So yes, more touring is on the horizon for sure.”

At home, the release is being overseen by Feast, a label/gig promotion collective including members of the band. Guyett is one of its founders, and is quick to outline his vision. “I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a label for a couple of years now, so it really felt like a natural progression for Feast. We’ve expanded from running gigs and the odd tour to helping bands release their music. That could be done through financial assistance, taking records for our distro, giving advice, sharing information and a host of other things – we’re just trying to help bands raise their profile and become self sufficient. Obviously Hunger is our first release with Feast, but we plan to get involved with another two/three records this year. For now we will only be working with Irish bands. Part of our vision is to be a platform from which some of the often overlooked, quality Irish bands can showcase their work in a professional manner. We’re currently setting up our website and shop, that will distribute a handpicked selection of Irish records, as well as the projects that Feast is involved with more directly. This is not a typical record label format. Instead of putting up all the money for releases. because we physically can’t do that, we’re offering a range of ways that we can assist musicians. Fundraising, PR, pressing, contacts and networking, booking and even just being an extra set of eyes or ears. Our goal is to help develop bands and showcase their work. This year we hope to work with Belfast’s Hornets, Destriers from Dublin and Cork’s very own Bailer.”

06. Irish metal seems to be in rude health again, and Cork is finally catching up in recent years after an extended period of silence throughout the recession. The band have always found a home Leeside, though, and their connections run deep. “To be honest, the scene in Cork has always been good to us. I remember our fist ever gig down here in The Quad in 2011 – it was way more hopping than we were expecting. Things may have quietened down all over the country for a few years, but live music and especially heavy bands seem to be on the up again. Maybe it’s a reaction to the current political climate… or maybe these things just go in cycles. One way or the other it’s a great time to be playing in a heavy band. New promoters and bands keep popping up and the one of the really cool things is how the community is developing. People are happy to work together to help the scene. Like our Cork gig on the 7th is a co-promotion between Cosmonaut and Pyre. It’s a group of cool people coming together to create environments where bands and artists can viably ply their trade. That’s what helps the scene; community, working together and building a collective of people who share the same ideas. It’s a pleasure to be a part of.”

Ilenkus are playing the Poor Relation on Parnell Place on April 7th to launch the Hunger E.P. alongside a rake of other bands. What are the band’s thoughts heading into it? “This Cork gig is the first show of our Irish dates and one of the gigs I’m looking forward to the most. The lineup in incredible. We’ve got Destriers, who hugely impressed me at their recent opening slot for Oathbreaker (in Dublin). Then Partholón, who are a deadly new Cork band, featuring members of our old friends Five Will Die. Horse, another awesome band made up of friends and musicians from cool acts like Fat Actress, Kawtiks, Ghost Of Medina and Waiting Room. Then finally we’ve also got our mates in Bailer, who’ve been carving out their own niche for the past few years. Even just having all those bands in one place is gonna be fun for us to get to hang out! We’re excited about this show. A lot.”

With an ambitious long-term plan for the band, the question next is how to get there.“Next up for us is hopefully a UK tour in August. We’re planning 10 dates up and down the country. I also imagine we’ll do a headline Dublin show in the next while and possibly some live video recordings. Musically, we’re working on new material all the time, so with any luck we’ll be back in the studio before long. After that who knows…”

Ilenkus play the Poor Relation on April 7th. Support from Bailer, Horse, Destriers and Partholón. Tickets €10, available at tickets.ie and participating Centra/SuperValu outlets.

Body Hound: A Solid Body of Work

Ahead of a Cork stop on their upcoming Irish tour, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with Body Hound bassist Joseph Thorpe about the math rockers’ beginnings, their extended-player and the future.

A band blurbing themselves up as sounding like “Yes playing Meshuggah songs” is bound to raise eyebrows, but considering Body Hound’s pedigree in awkward and noisy tunes, it’s not that much of a stretch. The band came together initially as a departure from UK grindcore outfit Antares, before being joined by ex-members of multi-headed prog beast Rolo Tomassi, including bass player Joseph Thorpe, who explains the band’s early movements. “Body Hound was initially just Calvin (Rhodes – guitarist) and Ryan (Bright – drums), although they played under a different name at the time. They rehearsed at the same place that a lot of Rolo stuff was recorded, so I used to hear them jamming and I always thought it sounded incredible. At that point Calvin had this synth pedal and it sounded way more like The Locust. I’d been friends with Calvin since we were teenagers, and when him and Ryan stopped playing together I managed to convince them to do the opposite, with me. Calvin and the other Joe (Nicholson – guitar) are a symbiotic entity, so there was always a place for him in this new band. Since he’d left Rolo Tomassi to study he was really keen to carry on making music.”

Rolo Tomassi’s body of work is a tall shadow to get out from under, with the raucously noisy synth-prog band having toured the world, garnered critical acclaim and become a live favourite. Eagle-eyed Cork heads may well remember the band destroying the Quad on Tuckey St. a few years back. No surprise, then, that Thorpe is keen to place the spotlight on Body Hound’s constituent parts as they are now. “People seem to get really involved with the Rolo Tomassi thing, like having your name in lights equals certified talent. Calvin and especially Ryan have had very little praise in the press relative to how phenominally talented they are. Nobody seems to realise that they are the band. I liked the stink they were kicking up and they were nice enough to let me roll around in it.

I can only answer from my perspective, but for me it was about taking all of our musical interests and doing something that was completely unfettered by anything other than that and our own impulses.”

Debut extended-player Rhombus Now released in April of 2014, and the songs thereon have become the backbone of the band’s set. Thorpe gets into how the band look at the record now, and the yardstick it sets for future endeavours. “The tracks on RN were all based on stuff from the duo incarnation of Body Hound. We learned them together, chewed them up and spat them out. It’s a process of regurgitation that is still very much how we approach writing, at least in as much as we often revisit things that were considered finished. Those recordings capture how those songs sounded on the days they were done. Having said that, some of the alterations might go unnoticed, but we know they’re there. It’s like getting a tattoo in a place that it’s not likely somebody else would see outside of an intimate situation. The tattoo says ‘are you quite finished with that?’ Considering it now, I think we did ok considering the time and resources we had. There’s things that it’d be nice to change, but hopefully it’ll serve to highlight the progress we’ve made since then. You don’t take over two years to write a new record for no reason, or something.”

Much talk surrounded Body Hound at the outset centred around influences, musical reference points and the whole, well-worn game that still gets played among musos of “sounds like”. It’s something Thorpe has thought about a little. “I’m always interested to hear what people think we sound like. On two separate occasions we’ve had Nomeansno, which makes me laugh because they were pretty prog for a punk band the only real similarity is my bass sound, kind of. Just to be clear, I really like Nomeansno. I think the fact that it’s a talking point means it does different things for different people. That feels good, and I’m flattered anyone wants to talk about us at all.”

After the EP’s release, the band processed to impress at progressive/math rock symposium ArcTangent festival in 2015 and again last year, which played a part in directing the band’s fortunes. “That festival is just a big, wet, steaming drunk launching pad for bands who play nerd music. It’s brilliant. Every year you’ll meet people who’ve come over from other continents to hang out in a sodden field near Bristol. It’s a magical place and it’s very close to our hearts. Anyone who goes there will tell you the same.”

Ireland has been a fertile breeding ground for math-rock, post-rock, and other forms of guitar experimentalism in the last decade. Was this a big pull-factor in getting across the water? “Some great bands have come from Ireland over the years. Personally I’ve been a big fan of We Are Knives, Bitch Falcon, The Redneck Manifesto, Jetplane Landing, Girl Band… last summer I was playing a festival in Portmeirion and we saw this band Documenta who had three thousand guitarists and they played in a lighthouse. I think they’re from Belfast. We can’t take any credit for booking any of these dates. We were asked by Vasa if we wanted to go and we said ‘yes’. In this situation we were mindless drones. Sometimes being a mindless drone pays off, and you get to play in cool places. I’m really excited to come back to Ireland. Last time I was in Cork I ended up at a stranger’s birthday party.”

Body Hound are here on the 10th, supporting Scottish outfit VASA, with Cork post-metallers Ealadha also on the card. How would Thorpe describe the live show to those of us seeing them for the first time? “Part of the official press release for these dates, which I wrote when I was less tired, reads: ‘the band serve this up with a live show soaked in sweaty zeal’. We’ll be at An Spailpín Fánach on the 10th of February. We’ll be having a really brilliant time playing our stupid music and trying to maintain a good ‘fun:correct notes’ ratio. If you come and you hate it, just imagine we’re playing all your favourite songs, we’ll still look very happy and damp. We’re really loud because our drummer is really loud, but we’re not a blunt instrument. We put a lot of thought into what we play. If you suspect yourself of enjoying acoustic drums, electric guitars and physical enthusiasm then there’s something for you here.”

As with a lot of tours at this time of the year, Body Hound’s Irish excursion is prelude to a big twelve months of touring and recording, the latter preoccupying the band throughout the next few months. “I imagine we’ll spend a lot of it wishing we could have four more days in Ireland. The cold, harsh reality is we’re writing and recording a new record. After that we’ll be looking to get it out there and to play as many gigs as possible. Hopefully we’ll go to more places this band hasn’t been before.”

Body Hound co-headline a gig with VASA on the 10th of February in An Spailpín Fánach on South Main St, with Ealadha in support. €8 on the door.