I happened upon Intronaut by chance, a friend of mine gave me the Null CD (thanks Warren!) and I was pretty taken aback with the technicality of it, also how listenable it was for it is not the usual soul-less technical bollocks. I waited with baited breath for “Void” to come out, when I got it, the cover sticker said “For fans of Neurosis, Isis & Mastodon” I would not take that as a literal “sounds like” statement but I am pretty sure that people who have an appreciation of the aforementioned bands will definitely find something to draw them in, just don’t pre-judge as they will smash any preconceptions. Now their fourth recording “Prehistoricisms” is set to take the world by storm. I caught up with the inimitable sticks-man Danny Walker.
Hi Danny, are you able to give us a bit of an introduction to yourself before we get started?
Hello my name is Danny and I drum sometimes.
I currently play drums full time for the bands Intronaut & Murder Construct. Also sometimes Phobia.
How did the recording of “Prehistoricisms” go? Listening back, are you still happy with it?
In all honestly the record was a little rushed as we fumbled to finish material in the studio, but sometimes that can result in something magical. For me this went both ways. I personally did not have the drums completely mapped out as well as I had liked. I prefer to have every fill and accent set in stone. I’m a perfectionist to the point of insanity!
The others killed it on this record and really showcased some major progression. Listening back to it I am happy with the songs and direction on this new record. That’s what makes this record so different. I don’t want to tread old waters. I want every record to stand out. I think that this new record is a little more laid back, but that also has to do with our current state of mind and what is going on in our lives. That definitely has a profound impact on the writing process. As a band I think we are honest with ourselves and don’t think to hard about direction. We want to write technically challenging music that has melody and hooks.
How was it when Leon del Muerte left the band? Did it take you long to “dust yourselves off” and come back fighting
It was fine. There were no hard feelings. We are all still good friends. Leon and I have been playing in bands together for awhile (Exhumed, Intronaut, Phobia & now Murder Construct)
A lot of bands struggle to recover after the loss of a vocalist. Do you feel you are a stronger band now?
Well Sacha & Leon contributed equally vocal-wise in the past, so it was really just about filling in the gaps. On the new album Sacha is definitely doing more of the singing and Dave has a hand in that as well. Mostly just doubling up here and there.
I don’t think we’re necessarily stronger; we’re just “keeping it real”.
It is fair to say that Intronaut are pretty technical and dare I say progressive? Have you ever composed something in the studio or practice room and felt you have outdone yourself and struggled to pull it off live? Or is that part of the challenge?
You can call us what ever you want. We strive to be tastefully technical. I guess you could call us “Progressive metal”.
I have always fancied the concept of being tastefully technical while still being catchy and being able to hold a melody. You have to have hooks. I’m not the biggest fan of endless wanking! It’s impressive, but what it comes down to in the end, is the song. Structure is crucial to making a good song.
I think we have always challenged ourselves and in the beginning like most, struggle with new material. It’s pretty satisfying to raise the bar and now dominate what we struggled with in the past.
How comfortable are you with the ambiguous term “prog”? It is a little overused these days, usually by journalists with limited vocabulary. I tend to think of the term “prog” when I think of bands that aren’t happy with conventional song structure and have that desire to extend that, and want to defy genre generalisation.
I agree with you, I don’t mind being called “prog”. It’s just another hip term. Just another sub-genre to help paint a picture of what people think we’re doing. I don’t really care for labels, but if it gives someone a better understanding then fine. Like I’ve said before, labels are for the critics and press.
Is there any chance of seeing Intronaut in Europe soon? Specifically, the UK? Please.
We hope to come back at some point next year to promote the new album.
Do you enjoy the sense of responsibility by being the drummer in bands? (Like you are the one that holds everyone together. If you make an error there is no mistaking it). How happy are you with your performances?
Well I do what I’m supposed to do as a drummer. Hold the tempo down and try to be as creative and colourful as I can. If there is a mistake, you for sure have to be quick to recover. You can for the most part turn an error into something creative. It’s happened before and some people do it better than others. I prefer not to have to ever do this. For instance when Intronaut was in Durango, Spain I played on a really unstable drum riser and my cymbals toppled over one by one. I had to compensate utilizing other areas of the kit and had to just deal with the absence of crucial cymbals that define certain parts of the song. Hahaha, it was a mess. There were people working the stage putting down weights and trying to tape down my stands. Hahaha, nothing worked.
These accidents can be natural disasters or personal mistakes. Regardless you have to be prepared.
I personally am my worst critic. It takes a lot for me to be happy. Like I said I’m a perfectionist and want things to be perfect. Volume, dynamics, meter, togetherness! It’s all got to be there.
Being a technical player (think Intronaut), why do you think it is that you are satisfied with the primal force of the blast-beat (think Phobia)? Does it take much effort to adapt, like your equipment for each band etc? Do you have to put yourself into a different place for each project?
I like all styles of extreme music and sometimes I feel like I need an outlet for all. Intronaut gives me things that Phobia doesn’t and vice versa. I love grooving and being technically challenging with Intronaut, where I love the outright raw brutality that Phobia provides. I like to play fast and blast beats, being one of the easiest things to do for me, I have so much fun doing it. It’s an outlet for aggression.
Sometimes I adapt my equipment for other projects. For instance with Jesu I really stripped it down just playing a four piece with a few cymbals. If it doesn’t require much, then why take up space on the stage?
What about things going on other than Intronaut, what else are you involved in? Feel free to talk a little about these projects…
Well…..besides Intronaut and finishing up my duties with Phobia, Leon Del Muerte and myself have finally got a project rolling that we’ve been talking about doing for years. It’s a new project called Murder Construct. Also along us is bassist extrodanaire – Caleb (Bad Acid Trip) We plan to write and record an album next year and just see where it goes from there. I’m really excited about this one!
I’ve also been corresponding with Eric Wood (Man Is The Bastard/Bastard Noise) to collaborate with him and Bastard Noise. There is talk of recording and some possible gigs. I haven’t even rehearsed with them yet, but I’m listening to bass demo tracks and getting some ideas.
We’ll see how it goes and what kind of chemistry we will have. Eric Wood is a monster on that bass!!!! My jaw dropped when I heard these tracks!
Let’s talk a little about your session work? How did that occur? By reputation alone?
Well before Uphill Battle, I really didn’t have much going, other than playing in a bunch of local bands that never ventured outside that realm. After Uphill Battle had surfaced, got signed to Relapse and started touring, I got hooked up with the Exhumed gig being that we were label mates. Between 2003-2004 I did a few tours with them. Places such as Japan, Australia, Canada and some stuff in the states. After this it just sort of snowballed. It’s all about networking. Who you meet and know. I did a lot of recording work with a band from Ventura called Thornlord. Around the same time the guys in Phobia asked me if I would be interested in doing a couple of tours that were currently booked. Also they wanted to start writing for a new album. I happily jumped at the chance. I had been a Phobia fan in my early teens. It was almost like playing with people you looked up to as a kid.
Since then I have done a couple of full lengths and a few splits with them. In early 2007 is when I got the Jesu gig. This was all about being at the right place at the right time. There are a lot of gigs that I didn’t do as well. I’ve gotten offers from bands such as The Red Chord, Dying Fetus, Black Dahlia Murder etc….It’s all about timing and the will to do something.
How was it touring with Jesu? How did it feel playing with Justin Broadrick, someone who has been fairly instrumental in the evolution of extreme music as we know it? What are your feelings on the use of drum machines?
This was a dream come true for me. I have been a fan of Justin’s music since my infancy. That man has got a level of creativity that most can’t touch. Just a certain honest, genuine emotion behind his music. He carries the same ethics and power that Joy Division held. I think drum machines are fine. It’s all about context. I know this because I listen to a lot of electronic/industrial music. You can’t match that power. It’s just a different sound.
I had to adjust my style significantly playing for Jesu. I had to emulate a drum machine and at times play along side a drum machine at the same time. I was playing to a click to keep in time with the wall of sound coming out of Justin’s laptop. He had extra layers of guitars, samples, keys etc… My job was to hit hard and be in the pocket. It was not about tinkering and showing off. That shit does not fly here. I studied Ted Parsons (Jesu, Swans, Killing Joke, and Godflesh) drum parts and then just embellished a few things. It was a new dynamic and a new challenge.
What has been your favourite recording or performance to date? Besides the main bands and the session, what do you do in your spare time? Drum perhaps? How many hours a week do you find yourself behind a drum kit?
My favourite performances:
Intronaut – New York 2008 w/ Behold The Arctopus & Mouth Of The Architect
Exhumed – Tokyo 2004 w/ S.O.B
Phobia – Mexico City 2006 w/ Anarchus
Uphill Battle – Toronto 2003 w/ Mastodon, Cephalic Carnage & Dysrhythmia
Jesu – Hollywood 2007 w/ Isis & Zozobra
My favourite recording sessions:
Phobia – Cruel 2006
Intronaut – Void 2006
Uphill Battle – s/t 2001
I work shitty day jobs and hang out with friends and family when I’m not busy with music. I hope for more session work. I have taught here and there, but feel I’m not the best teacher. Hahaha.
I do what I do and can’t explain it. I definitely don’t practice as much as I should. The more session work I do, the less time I have by myself to work on my chops and challenge myself. Hopefully that will change.
Going back onto Intronaut, what does the future hold? Does everyone have busy lives and the band is at hobby level or are you trying to take it to another level?
I don’t know what the future holds! Hopefully a little income and lots of tours with bands we dig and admire.
This is definitely our lives and would not trade anything for it. I think I speak for the rest of them when I say that. The level of commitment cannot be matched. We’ve been doing this shit as a hobby playing in other bands forever, but it’s time to step it up. This is our lives!
Has being located in California helped or hindered the progress of Intronaut? On one hand there seems to be a lot happening but on the other hand I can imagine it to be very two-faced?
It has definitely helped. We are in LA where there is an an overabundance of artists and musicians looking to get stuff rolling. This is the place to network, collaborate and play shows. It’s just too damn expensive to live here!!!!
If you can deal with pollution & traffic then you’ll be fine. Hahaha.
Well good luck with the album and all future endeavours, any final words?
Thanks for this interview. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Please come out to a show, by a record, support, keep our scene alive, say hello and drink a beer with me.
Interviewed by: Jas Murray
Photo Credit: Travis Shinn