Interview by Brayden Bagnall.
Wartorn delivered a musical fragmentation bomb with “Iconic Nightmare”. Brayden Bagnall sat down with the entire band discussing the new album, political ideas and all the other things that make them tick.
First of all, tell us a little about the band.
Bitty: We started out in a dirty wet basement in Manitowoc, WI in September of 2004. After a few months we had an entire set written. We started playing shows in early 2005 and we were supposed to do a small tour with Strong Intention that summer but things fell through, so instead we ended up going on tour with Municipal Waste. Then the tours just kept rolling in. Since then we’ve toured with Blown to Bits, Hellshock, Pyroklast, In Defence, Appalachian Terror Unit, Choose Your Poison, Krang, and Los Dolares and have covered 13 countries. We have releases on CAH records, Profane Existence and had the help of several other DIY labels. Now our latest release, Iconic Nightmare, is on Southern Lord Records and Greg Anderson is fuckin amazing to work with.
Ela: Wartorn has never lost a member over the eight years that it has been a band… it just keeps growing!!! Started off as a three-piece with Bitty, Ryan and Hart. A couple years later Toban was added as a second guitarist. Then Bitty decided he wanted to just do vocals and I got added as a bassist. Most recently, Derek joined and we now have three blazing guitars… we have reached a new level of brutality!!!
How would you describe Wartorn’s sound?
Ryan: Fast and aggressive with melodic intricacies. We owe much of our sound to Scandinavian punk and hardcore.
Toban: Heavy and Brutal
Hart: We’re fuckin ADHD Scandi crust goofballs. Though to me nowadays, if i sit back and listen to all the rough demos we used to help us write, at a certain stage it also sounds like each of us being nerdy for all the different music we dig behind closed doors.
Ela: heavy and down-tuned, and our latest record, not only with the writing but also through adding Derek, definitely more metal while still sustaining our roots as a crust band
Is Wartorn a political band? If so, how does that influence your music?
Hart: That’s Bitty’s department, through and through. He just runs his ideas past us to figure out if anything’s over the top or fucked sounding.
Bitty: The assumption in almost every review is that we write standard political crust lyrics, which I, for the most part, completely avoid. I am a situationalist and a realist so I don’t tell people what to think, I just point things out from a logical perspective. People are free to think whatever they like. Political ideas are just that: ideas. Also, a lot of the songs I write are from personal experience (such as surviving an attempted homicide, friend who committed suicide, and dear friend who was wrongly imprisoned with a $50 million bail bond). As far as politically charged lyrics go, too many people bend ideas to their whim, and redefine them. I don’t buy into oversimplified ideologies. I’m more concerned about pragmatic use of an idea/ information and how things play out in reality with historical validation.
Generally speaking, do you see punk and hardcore as becoming more commercialized?
Ryan: It seems that what is “hip” in underground music comes and goes in waves. I see crust and hardcore to be on a rise right now, I’m not sure if that actually makes it more commercialized. When I think of commercialized music I tend to think of the over-produced radio bands.
Ela: Yes, it’s definitely possible, rebellion is marketable… look back to Malcolm McLaren commercializing the Sex Pistols. People tend to look to new places for different styles of music, fashion, lifestyles, etc. It’s how they find ways to stand out, or participate in something that is “different” or “new” in their eyes. These days with such commercialization, the original format is just used to make a diluted version so that it’s more widely acceptable.
Hart: Well it’s entirely possible, though it’d be super unfortunate. If you look up the definition of commercialize, it’s: “To sacrifice the quality of for profit.” So, who the fuck is gonna listen to that bunch of bullshit anyway, Metallica fanclub hanger-on types? Fuck ’em.
Derek: I hope so, I’m fuckin broke.
Toban: There’s no question it already has. Without stating the obvious, including everything from Nirvana to garbage My Chemical Romance, it’s gone beyond music and translated into fashion, where you see Lady Gaga wearing a studded leather jacket with the “Doom” Logo on it and so on.
Bitty: Well to a degree but that always go in cycles, music that is. I mean when the last punk wave got big (Green Day ,the Offspring ,etc) it was a pretty weak form of punk . But on the other hand it did bring out the kids to the DIY shows as a result. As a person who put on DIY shows, it made it easier to pay the touring band when there were twice as many kids at the shows. So I guess my answer yes, and either way it’s kind of a double-edged sword.
What are Wartorn like in a live setting?
Hart: Bitty hands back everyone their own ideas to chew on with a different flavor when introducing the song concepts, then we all throwourselves at the songs like they’re trying to kill us. I do anyway, I throw a fucking fit when we play, I actually feel furious when I play drums live. I love beating the shit out of shit.
Toban: I always try to give it my all at every live show. No matter if we are playing a cramped basement or some huge club.
Ela: We always go all out at the shows and have a blast. Bitty starts getting the crowd riled up and then when the rest of us kick in the place tends to go nuts, especially in basement shows, which are my absolute favorite. There’s nothing like the feeling of being in a cramped , sweaty room with everyone going ballistic.
Derek: Crowded, loud, sweaty, fun. Hart’s usually having a fist fight with the drums between tunes ’cause they like to move around mid-song.
What are some bands you have shared stages with over the past couple of years?
Bitty: Well besides the bands we toured with ,, tragedy, eye hate god, oil tanker, from ashes rise, Plague Dogs ,Kontrasekt ,the Parish, the Crude, Stormcrow , Voetsek, ICOS , Magrudergrind, the Scuds, n -klē-ər blast suntan’s, Hellbastard, the list goes on and on after 8 years.
Ryan: We have been lucky to share the stage with tons of great bands over the years. I would say some of my personal favorites are Hellshock, Eyehategod, Parasytic, Samothrace, Thou. There are also great bands in Wisconsin that we get to see and play with like Northless, Neon hole, No brainer, Subjugation, Pyroklast to name a few.
Hart: Gawd, so many. Almost every band I’ve worn out on a turntable in the punk/hardcore sub/genre! Fuckin Eyehategod, Tragedy, Municipal Waste, Leadershit, Face Down in Shit, Criatura, Descarados, ATU, Hellshock, Antisect, Deviated Instinct, Blown to Bits, Regulations, Noisear, Ghoul, MDC, Naked Aggression, fuck it. I’ll be here all night if I get going on this. We’ve played with so many bands that stoke me!!
Ela: So many amazing bands, obviously the bands that everyone has already mentioned here were all such great shows, as well as the Victims, Nux Vomica, War//Plague, Wrathcobra…. And the list goes on.
Your upcoming album, Iconic Nightmare, is set for release early next year on Southern Lord. Your previous releases have been DIY labels, so what’s it like being on a fairly prominent record label’s roster?
Bitty: Fucking amazing! We got a more than fair record deal, great advertising, great PR, and if we get a big tour out of the deal I will be the happiest person on planet Earth.
Hart: Rules. Great label with great taste, and they help their bands out a lot it seems… and Profane’s still putting out our concurrent 7″. Shit’s looking good for us, and we have options unhindered by our actions because we do our best to make sense and persevere without fucking anyone up in the process other than ourselves.
Ryan: Honestly, Southern Lord has been my favorite label for many years now. I’m stoked to be on a label with so many great bands.
Talk us through the writing and recording process for Iconic Nightmare.
Ryan: The writing process has pretty much stayed the same since day one. I bring a rough skeleton of a song to practice then we all critique until we’ve come up with something we are all happy with. The recording process on the other hand was much different this time around and much of that is credited to Adam Tucker of Signature Tone Studios. It was probably the fastest we have ever recorded an entire album and definitely our best sounding.
Hart: Like I said earlier, different shit has musically stoked us behind closed doors than when we all started hanging out or jamming with one another anywhere from 9-12 years ago. Every new project Wartorn takes on together Ryan, Bitty, or I have some agenda or idea up our sleeves to make it the logical next-raddest thing. Then we jam the shit we have in mind, and either stare at one another blankly; or me and/or Bitty scream “Fuck yeah! That’s what the fuck I’m talking about, you fucking stupid stupid fucking stupid!” and likely slap one of the others or something like that. Ryan likely would stare down and give a satisfied nod and calmly sigh, “Yeah, that works really good. We should do that.” We all come into the album-writing process with similar intention, but from different angles, and it pokes out super prominently at first when the songs are new and raw, then they all get tossed into the rock tumbler for like at least 1/2 a year. By the time we get to the recording part of things, we’ve almost always toured on all the material, and it’s all tested and tight and wired for sound. This LP was recorded by one smooth operator named Adam Tucker in MPLS. This dude pukes spiders, just ask him. Sound fuckin crushed from the first drum check to the last vocal track and went quickly and seamlessly.
Toban: It was surprisingly painless. I usually hate recording, I don’t know why, I just do. Working with Adam Tucker was great though. He made it very tolerable and gave solid input without stepping on anybody’s toes.
Derek: The majority of the record was written before I came along. So when I came into the picture we wrote a few more jams, I wrote my solos, and then we went up to Signature Tone to hang out with Adam. That’s pretty much how it felt working with him, very relaxed but focused.
Ela: Working with Adam Tucker (Signature Tone) was amazing. He knew exactly what he was doing to make us all satisfied with the final sound (individually and collectively. And his studio is top notch! Also, Jack Control (at Enormous Door) did a great job with the mastering the record.
What do the next six months look like for Wartorn?
Bitty: We tour in Spring 2013 with RAW POWER from Italy and it’s still too early to see what other tours will come up after that.
Derek: I’d like to start writing our first power metal record consisting of one single 45-minute long song with lyrics taken straight from The Odyssey, but I don’t think the other guys will go for it.
Your house is burning down, and you only have time to rescue three albums. What are they?
Hart: First of all, fuck this question for having rules. There’s no way I’m grabbing just 3! Okay fine I’ll pick the ones sitting out. Stooges-Fun House, Moho-20 uñas, His Hero is Gone-15 Counts of Arson, The Records- Crashes, Cigarettes-They’re Back Again 7″, and my girlfriend’s Cleveland Bound Death Sentence 7′ I never listened to. They’re all right there, I swear it wouldn’t take any longer to grab em!
Ryan: only 3…well i guess Black Sabbath – Paranoid. Eyehategod – Take As Needed For Pain. Bongzilla – Gateway.
Derek: Christ, mine are going to be so different haha. Children of Bodom’s “Hatebreeder”, Wintersun’s “Wintersun”, and Opeth’s “Watershed”
Bitty: Well the apt building that I live in was on fire in 2012 and I didn’t grab any records. Instead I tried to help people get out of the building ,everyone made it out and I got burnt lungs for my effort. But if I had …..the Crucifucks- self-titled, Depo Provera- Totally Useless, TSOL- Change Today.
Toban: Eyehategod – Take as needed for pain, Wu Tang Clan – 36 Chambers, From Ashes Rise – Nightmares
Ela: I don’t like the idea of having to choose just three, but I suppose it would be: Poison Idea—Feel the Darkness, From Ashes Rise- Nightmares , and Johnny Cash- The Essential Johnny Cash.