BLACK WATER CHEMISTRY (from l-r): Dan May (drums), Murphy “Murph” Lee (rhythm guitar/vocals), Matt Saunders (lead vocals), Gareth “Gizz” Stacey (bass/vocals), Chris Saunders (lead guitar/vocals)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
From South Wales, Black Water Chemistry are a five-piece that specialise in an energetic yet aggressive style of metalcore that utilises both retro and modern techniques.
Since forming in 2014, the band have been working very hard, and succeeding, at perfecting this, which has enabled them to make a real impact on the British underground metal scene, with many favourably comparing the quintet to such outfits as Soundgarden, Mastodon, and Parkway Drive.
However, the Newport collective are not content with just this, as they now aim to make bigger waves with the release this August of a follow-up to their well-received 2016 debut EP, ‘A Thousand Tides’.
Having just brought out the title track to that, which has already had a positive response, the band recently told me what else their rapidly-growing fan base can expect from the upcoming offering, and more.
How did the band form?
We’ve known each other for a while, some members longer than others, we’ve also got brothers in the band, Matt and Chris. The organic bit was between Matt and Chris having an idea to change musical conversations into real music, we auditioned “Gizz“, who we’ve known forever, Dan was added, then “Murph“, who was previously in rock outfit GoX. And now here we are!
From where did the name Black Water Chemistry originate?
Black water is waste, chemistry is the analysis of compounds, it’s about missing the bigger picture of what something is by always focusing on the micro rather than the macro.
What would you say was your songwriting approach?
It’s all about feel and context, usually Chris has a riff or an idea, which we then run with lyrically, we see where that ends up, then the guys add their own flavour to it, something may start as a riff, but may end up as a piece of music that doesn’t contain the same riff anymore.
Before finalising everything, we will usually talk about theme and structure, and look at where we’re going with something, then we will let it sit for a while before we revisit it to see if we can improve upon it, we always ask “Are we pushing ourselves enough?” about pretty much everything we do, but the process is very organic and natural.
What inspires the band lyrically?
Personal experiences, we try to not be vicarious in our lyrical approach, trying to imagine someone’s experience is kind of intrinsically impossible, so it’s always going to be our take on things for the sake of honesty.
Any struggle, rising above clichés, and the need to progress are things we admire in any society or person, so these are the themes that reoccur, that and the cyclic nature of all things.
We like the fact that things have a beginning and an end, or at least a transformation.
Recently, you brought out a new single, ‘Return To Ashes’. How has the reaction been to that so far?
It’s early days yet, but we think it’s made a few people sit up and take notice of where we are headed, we’re not the type of band that will sit on the same formula forever, things have to progress and move on, you look at a band like Pearl Jam and every single album has been a progression on the last, that’s the kind of artistic integrity we aspire to, we move on naturally in our sound, so people will notice this record isn’t as clean, has a harder edge, and a different message, and ‘Return To Ashes’ kind of embodies that change. So far, so good, we’d say.
The track was taken from an upcoming EP of the same name that the band will be releasing this August. How has the recording process been?
Incredibly natural, as we just sort of ended up writing the album and then recorded it over the period of about nine months on and off. The themes came together, the music came together, and it was a very collaborative effort all around.
We layered things up, but didn’t want a too overproduced sound, as a lot of bands in our genre use samples extensively and we kind of wanted to move away from that a bit, we’re not saying it’s analogue or anything, it’s just not over-embellished, Chris, our guitarist, produced it and poured a good two months into that including the mixing, Phil Smith from One Louder helped with the process and mastering, he produced our last record, and he has a really good ear.
Jo Sheehy, our friend and drummer from Salt Bath and formerly of Venom Prison, was hanging around the studio, and came up with this huge reverb that we ended up using. It was a good process, very natural, compared to our last EP.
And how will it differ from your 2016 debut, ‘A Thousand Tides’?
Massively, it’s more where we want to be, it’s the right dynamic, we’re very proud of ‘A Thousand Tides’, but we think that it was kind of a stepping stone for us, we set out sort of saying, “How can we reimagine our sound and better that record“, and we think we’ve done that, whereas our debut EP was more like a concept album, ‘Return To Ashes’ has a theme too, but each song has its own message now too.
We can’t listen back to our music after checking out the final mixes, as we just find it very masturbatory, so we’ll let everyone else make the final judgment.
How is the experience, for the band, of playing live?
It’s our pinnacle, we think, as we just love playing live, the buzz never goes away, and we’re blessed now with good crowds of good people who want to listen to what we are doing.
Our stage performances are almost cathartic, we give everything, it’s a very cleansing and tiring experience, but it’s 100% worth it, as when we stand in front of a few hundred people, and they are really enjoying the show and the sound, it can’t be beaten.
And finally, what else do you have lined up over the next couple of months?
We’re in The EVI with the guys from the Rock and Roll Circus radio show, which will be awesome, then we head to Bristol to the Fleece, then Manchester to the Grand Central, so that’s the next few months sorted show-wise.
We, of course, have the EP release, then a video coming out for the lead single off the EP, and then it will be a winter tour, which will be announced over the next few months, so it’s going to be fairly busy for us up until December, when we will retreat back into the studio again for a few months with no set agenda other than making some music.
As they say, watch this space!
‘RETURN TO ASHES’, THE SOPHOMORE EP FROM BLACK WATER CHEMISTRY, WILL BE RELEASED ON AUGUST 31.
FURTHER INFO ON THIS, AND THE BAND, CAN BE FOUND HERE.