Wellington Stoner rock band BEASTWARS hit number 15 on the New Zealand music charts with the release of their self titled debut in 2011 and sold out their limited edition 300 copy run of vinyl within several months. They’ve supported the likes of KYUSS and HIGH ON FIRE and they’ll also be performing at the Big Day Out 2012 along with the legendary SOUNDGARDEN. NZRock caught up with drummer Nato to find out how this band has come so far so fast, and when we can expect a follow-up album…
BEASTWARS has achieved cult status in New Zealand and in a relatively short space of time. Why do you think that happened? Was it the huge riffs? the epic artwork? or something else?
We have been really lucky this year. It feels like people seemed to want to hear something like this. Everything kind of just fell into place. There was no plan or formula we were following we just recorded an album and people responded to it.
KYUSS hand picked you guys to open for them when they visited NZ. How’d they get onto the music of BEASTWARS and what was it like to hang out with those guys?
When we heard Kyuss were coming this was before the album had come out and no one knew who we were. We just found out who the promoter was and hassled him and emailed him every day. Then he sent our music to the band and they dug it. It was pretty cool to hear that Nick Oliveri was headbanging side of stage to us at the show and yelling out “FUCKING ROCKING!”. I’m pleased I didn’t see him at the time. It would of freaked me out.
You’ve said before that your music will never be commercially viable but the album actually made it to 15 on the NZ Music charts which is awesome! You’ve got to be happy with that right? Did you celebrate this with some BEASTWARS beer?
Ha yeah it was a very strange day when we found out the album had charted. We really didn’t expect that to happy so it was a bit of a buzz. The beer came later and we do drink it as often as we can.
Having your own brand of beer is an awesome idea. How you guys come up with that one?
The beer thing is very cool. The guy who owns Hallertau brewery bought the album and was playing it one day while brewing some beer and he was struck with inspiration for a recipe. We had never met him before and he just emailed us out of the blue saying he wanted to brew this stuff. Of course we said yes. Not many bands get a keg for their backstage rider at gigs let alone one filled with a beer named after them. And it tastes so good. Like lemonade from the heavens.
Matt Hyde’s vocals are awesome and you need that gutteral style singing to match the low end music that you’re playing. Do you think there’s anyone else in New Zealand who could even come close to singing the way he does?
We are so lucky to have Matt singing for us. His voice inspires us to play heavier and harder.
Whenever I hear BEASTWARS I’m reminded of stoner bands like KYUSS, ORANGE GOBLIN and ELECTRIC WIZARD. What were some of the bands which inspired you guys to obey the riff in the first place?
For me personally it was BLACK SABBATH of course. But HIGH ON FIRE really inspired me when the band first got together. And to get to play with them this year and see them play twice was extra special.
The cover artwork for Damn The Sky is just epic, even more epic than an ALAMABA THUNDERPUSSY’s ‘Open Fire’ haha! How did you discover Nick Keller and what did he say when you told him you wanted his art for an epic stoner rock recording?
I was working with Nick’s girlfriend and he came to a lot of our gigs. I happened to see some of his art and it absolutely blew my mind. I asked him if he’d ever done any album art and he said he’d always wanted to. Then we talked about what we wanted and while we were recording we had a rough version of it with us in the recording studio to keep us on track to make something deserving of such art.
Is he already working on something else for your next album?
That’s a secret.
Normally there are a couple of stand out songs on an album but on the BEASTWARS debut they’re consistantly awesome. ‘Lake Of Fire’, ‘Call Out The Dead’, ‘Cthulhu’ and ‘Empire’ are my favourites. What are your favourite ones to belt out in front of an audience of raging stoner rock fiends?
Thanks man. I like them all too. ‘Empire’ is always fun to play. Usually we play it last so it feels good putting everything into it and smashing it out.
What is the lowest tuning that you used on the album?
The lowest tuning was on ‘Cthulhu’ where the bass was tuned so low that they were flopping against the pickups making the metal breaking sound.
Have you guys approached any overseas record labels at all? I can imagine BEASTWARS being at home on a label like Relapse or Southern Lord.
That’s a great idea.
Congratulations on winning best album cover at the VNZMA’s. Do you think BEASTWARS should’ve received an award for the music as well? Jon Toogood said you deserved to.
Haha! Of course it would of been nice to win but winning or not winning doesn’t change anything for us. It was a good party. I got my photo taken with Ray Columbus.
Dale Cotton recorded the album, great choice considering his musical background e.g HDU. What sets him apart from the pack when it comes to audio engineering / production?
That is a hard question to answer. He is a really talented and passionate person. Because this was our first album we wanted to go to someone we could trust to make it all that it could be. We were really happy with that choice.
Will you stick with Dale Cotton for the next album or go with someone else?
How did you choose John Golden (FAITH NO MORE) to do mastering? You guys have mentioned that you liked what he’d done with ‘Epic’, but that’s quite a different sound to stoner metal.
We looked around and listened to a lot of different albums. His name kept on coming up with albums I was hearing and what I was reading on the Internet. He really added a little bit of magic dust to the finished album.
It’s awesome that you’re releasing music on vinyl, what was it like seeing the final result of your work on the gatefold vinyl you did earlier this year?
Getting the album on vinyl for the first time was one of the coolest experiences of my life. It is just so beautiful. I was very proud that day. Doing vinyl is stressful and expensive and a headfuck because there are so many variables to the production of it. But once we went though all that the finished result was worth it and we will definitely be releasing all our albums on vinyl in the future.
You released 300 copies of the album on record. Have you got any left or are they all sold out now?
We sold out of all 300 which really surprised us. We were hoping to sell 100 of them so for them to all sell out in 3 months was a bit of a shock. We a getting some more pressed at the moment so they’ll be available early January 2012.
You said earlier in the year that you’ve already started writing for a second album and hoped to record it by the end of this year. How soon could we potentially see the new album?
We have already recorded some demos for the new album. Ideally we’d want to release it within 18 months of the first one coming out. We’ve got a whole bunch of great new songs so we’re really excited about getting back into the studio to smash them out.
How are you going to top the self titled album for heavyness?
Ummmmm, not sure. Bigger drumsticks maybe.
You guys have the Big Day Out 2012 gig coming up. How does it feel to be playing at a BDO headlined by SOUNDGARDEN?
I am so pumped about seeing Soundgarden. All hail Kim Thayill.
After Big Day Out what are your plans for the rest of 2012?
Ideally we’d love to play some shows overseas and make the album available in some other countries. And of course record a new album full of killer riffs.
Beastwars Photo by Nick Keller