Savannah, GA based sludgsters Black Tusk are getting ready to “Set The Dial” with a third full-length album release this coming October 25th. With a string of imminent record release shows coming up for the band, I got in touch with the southern trio of Andrew Fidler, Jonathan Athon, and James May to discuss Savannah’s metal scene, writing new songs, and the character of Agatha that repeatedly appears on Black Tusk cover artwork. You can find a transcription of our chat below.
xFiruath: Fill me in on the state of your local metal scene these days and how often you guys get to play hometown shows.
Andrew: There’s not too much going on in Savannah these days. Baroness and Kylesa don’t play here that much. We always play here a couple of times a year. There’s a few local bands that do some shows, but a lot of what bands will do, we have a college here and kids will come and start their bands and then in two years their gone because the kids will move.
xFiruath: What’s going on with “Set the Dial” and what will fans be hearing on this album?
James: This album we made it a little more rock and roll rather than a more thrashy style. We got to do it with Jack Endino and he helped us get a great sound that was really full.
xFiruath: Where did you record the album?
James: In Seattle at Soundhouse Studios.
xFiruath: How do you guys write music for new releases?
Andrew: It’s usually the three of us together in the practice space and people bring in ideas riffs and stuff. We’ll sit in our space and start jamming. We have this space set up so we can record in it and we’ll start recording stuff and making tapes. We’ll sit down and listen to the tapes and figure out which stuff we want to use. Once we start playing it, all three of us, we’ll come up with ideas and put input in on the songs. We do the same thing with the lyrics as well, we’ll sit down together and write them out.
xFiruath: What are the lyrics about on “Set the Dial?”
Jonathan: More of the same Black Tusk stuff.
Andrew: There’s a lot of apocalyptic doom type stuff. It’s kind of like the storytelling of what happens after you get a taste of sin, it’s what happens afterwards.
xFiruath: Tell me about the character that shows up on the album covers and how this artwork ties into the themes of the new album.
Andrew: John Baizley did that. We kind of created character with John Baizley when we first started with the band and her name’s Agatha. She’s always kind of morphing into this boar type of character and she kind of embodies the different themes we have. This time everything’s looking kind of sparse and it goes with the end of the world doom feeling.
xFiruath: Where is Black Tusk headed to support the album?
Andrew: We have some release shows planned and then we’ll do a couple of dates supporting Mastodon. We’ll go from the end of October to mid-November for a headlining tour. It’s going to be east coast and Midwest.
xFiruath: I saw on your Facebook page you had van troubles and turned that into a contest for fans to figure out what was wrong. Did you guys get that all fixed?
Andrew: It’s not fixed yet, but we know what’s wrong with it. The van will break, it happens frequently.
James: We’re up for any help anyone can offer. We’re down for getting a new van, that’s our goal for this year, a van sponsorship.
xFiruath: Lately in the metal news there have been a lot of record labels pulling out of Spotify and I’m wondering how you guys feel about streaming music online in that format.
Jonathan: I don’t even own a computer, so it really doesn’t bother me that much. I’m the sort of dude who likes the read the layout and see the artwork and physically feel the end product that someone has put their love into. I like sitting down with the album and getting the whole experience. You don’t really get that with the computer.
James: You’ve got to do what people what you to do, and a lot of people don’t want to own the album or artwork or anything, so you’ve got to adjust to the times.
Andrew: I read a thing about Spotify and the record labels having a problem with them not showing where the income is going, I guess that’s their problem, not getting paid enough royalties maybe. With the downloading, you aren’t paying for it, but at the same time it’s cool that they’re getting our music somehow. So if they download it, we want people to hear the record and try to get them to come out for the shows. It works in the end. As long as the music gets out there and people keep coming to the shows.
xFiruath: Speaking of shows, have you seen any great shows or mosh pits lately?
Andrew: Not so much moshing happens in Savannah.
James: There’s not too many shows happening in Savannah actually, we get skipped over for all the decent sized metal shows. Most of it is younger touring bands and people who toured Savannah back when there was a decent scene. They keep coming back because they love the people and the town.
xFiruath: What albums are you listening to lately?
Andrew: I’ve been listening to that new Graveyard record, that’s pretty cool.
Jonathan: I’ve been jamming that new Karma to Burn album a lot. I’m hooked on that.
Ty Arthur is a freelance writer who writes for both entertainment and technical instruction sites. An avid fan of many different forms of metal, he has been involved in reviewing music for several years and is currently a contributing editor for Metalunderground.com