They were born from a band called ‘Pile of Dead Woman’, they play ‘ADD-driven, southern, psychedelic, experimental, filth-core’ and think about the end of the world a lot. When I first heard the Queen Beast album I couldn’t figure out if it was madness or genius. After it crawled into my brain and stayed there I jumped at the chance to find out more about them by putting the following questions to founding member Nate.
Nate, can you briefly shed some light on the genealogy of the band?
I moved to Fayetteville in 2006 with about a dozen riffs, but I knew no one in the music scene. It took a while to get a band together. I was playing with this really shitty Metallica ripoff band with a bunch of weird dudes that were all way older than me, and I was miserable. Everything finally came together when I saw my first local show. It was Dirtmother and Lethal Red at a house party, and I was blown away. I hit it off with Craig, the singer of Dirtmother, who happened to live with Andy and Jonny, the singer and bass player of Lethal Red. I showed them the riffs, and they all seemed to dig it. Those guys knew a drummer named Jed, and he knew another guitar player named Jonathan, so the first lineup was assembled. We went through some lineup changes and our buddies Beau and Thor stepped in (both also play guitar in Lethal Red). Queen Beast was born, the lineup being me on guitar, Andy on vocals, Jed on drums, Jonny on bass, Beau on guitar, and Thor on samples/keys/Theremin/etc.
I read that the band hails from Fayetteville, Arkansas, which was given the accolade of ‘One Of the Best Places to live in America’ but I understand you moved there to go to school. So what, from an outsider’s perspective, is the place like?
I was pretty bummed out when I found out the only real option for school was the University of Arkansas. I really wanted to go somewhere in California or even New Orleans. I moved down here and for months felt like I had no idea what the town was really like. When you’re going to college, it’s almost like you are completely isolated from the real side of the town you’re living in. You go back home pretty frequently, you’re tied up with school work; the only people you meet are fellow students. So you’re missing out on the actual experience of living in the town.
I wasn’t too impressed with Fayetteville until I started losing interest in school. When I began going to shows instead of class, I began to meet some honest down to earth people instead of the shallow, spoiled college types I was used to. I saw how much potential this town had. Fayetteville is a great place to live. Economically speaking, we’re smack in the middle of Wal-Mart country, plus we have Tyson Chicken, JB Hunt, and the University. Think what you will about these entities, but you can’t deny the fact that they lead to a healthy economy. Plus there are a lot of open-minded, talented folks around here.
Would you say the music you produce is at odds to the environment then? If so, is it because of or in spite of it that Queen Beast came about?
I believe that no matter where you live, where you’re from, or how you were raised, everybody feels fear, anger, frustration, and hopelessness. There are circumstances which cause people to feel these emotions more frequently, such as working shitty jobs. Fayetteville is a nice clean place with barely any crime, but when you’re having to bust your ass just to live off Best Choice hot dogs every week, it’s gonna suck no matter where you are. I feel that anyone who has a personality equipped to seriously pursue music will usually be more in tune with injustice and that sort of thing. I can speak for the rest of the band when I say we are all wracked with anxiety and frustration all day, every day. It’s a cliché thing to say, but playing loud, heavy, angry music is the best kind of therapy there is. Musically speaking, the climate in this town can be pretty upsetting and offensive. There are plenty of soulless, disgusting acts that draw huge crowds despite their obvious lack of anything remotely decent, musically or otherwise. There’s this dude (who) sounded like whatever moderate-rock pseudo-Christian bullshit was clogging the airways. Then Wolfmother comes out and sort of takes the spotlight for a minute. Six months after, I go see this guy and he sounds just like them. This “band” has performed a complete 180 with the sole purpose of keeping up with what’s currently popular. Living in a town in which that sort of thing happens, it’s easy to be angry.
Is there a healthy music scene there and how do you fit into it?
The music scene has kind of fallen off recently, but I’m sure it will make a comeback. Douche bags like the guy I mentioned above will always be able to book a show because that’s what sells beer at the bars. As far as real music goes, it will be great for a year or so, then falter for a while, then come back. The scene picked back up when this place called The Grill started doing shows, at about the same time the Old Post Office opened up. It was home base for everyone in a heavy band.
As far as our role in the scene, it’s hard to say. Pile of Dead Women was actually nominated for the Northwest Arkansas Music Awards, which is a big deal to some people around here despite what a crock of shit it is. The only thing we really care about is our tight-knit group of friends that happen to play in heavy bands, so what ends up happening is there will be a group of about 20 guys who make up the entire heavy music scene. These bands include Queen Beast, Deadbird, Brass Knuckle Abortion, Lethal Red, Sinking South, Auger, Deadeyejack, Dirtmother, Friday Maybe Saturday, A Restless Tongue, SwampDonkey, Vore, Dragon Sunday, Pisser, and a few more.
What kind of people do you attract to your live shows and how does the material go over?
We attract people that want to party. Punks, drunks, metalheads, burnouts, transients, sluts, trannies, rednecks, tweakers, and the like. We get some clean cut college types sometimes too. The material has always gone over well, although it’s been a while since we’ve played a show where people went ballistic. The last show the Old Post Office ever put on was us, Deadbird, and an awesome band from Little Rock called Seahag. That crowd must have broken every piece of glass in that bar. After our set, the floor was covered in a 2-inch layer of broken pint glasses. We’ve played quite a few shows, especially house parties, that have been that buck wild. I wish it was still like that at shows, but sadly it’s not. Maybe we need some new songs.
You have a wide ranging set of influences including Darkthrone, Black Flag and Sleep, Skynard and Black Sabbath, with all that in mind how do you set about writing a song?
I write the riffs and Andy writes the lyrics. I sit down with my acoustic guitar and start jamming by myself. When I try to write a hardcore punk part I end up writing a doom riff. When I try to write a stoner riff, I end up writing a black metal riff. When I hear something new that I like, I usually become obsessed with it for months, and I can’t force my mind to think in any other way. When I heard Fuck the Universe by Craft, damned if I could write anything other than black metal. Right now it’s US Christmas, so who knows what any new riffs will sound like!
When I get enough riffs to constitute a song, I bring them to the rest of the dudes and they always come up with killer stuff to play. The guys are really good at turning a haphazard collection of riffs into an actual song. Sometimes Jed and I will jam on something together, he’ll show me a drum part he likes and I’ll write something over that. Then Andy will write the words as he listens to us flesh out the song. And Thor will come in and fuck it up cos that’s what he does. Just kidding Thor!
Having listened to your full length album it is quite a hybrid of styles. I must confess to you that I got the review gig because the original guy couldn’t get into it. What would you describe your sound as and are you challenging yourselves or the audience?
Shit man, we just can’t decide what kind of band we want to be. I would describe our sound as ADD-driven, southern, psychedelic, experimental, filth-core… or something! I personally loathe the term “metal” because it brings such garbage to the mind of most people. I can deal with being called hard rock or simply a heavy band. That’s cool. But metal ain’t. Even though we probably are a metal band…
As far as challenging ourselves or the audience, dude, we really don’t think about it that hard. It’s just like “hey man if we broke out of this tripped-out relaxed part into an early-80’s hardcore part, people would probably fuck shit up or like chug a beer or something.” That’s about the extent of the thought we put into it. It’s all about fucking shit up. And chugging beer.
On a similar but more thematic note you seem at home making people uncomfortable – the samples, the style changes, the feel of apocalypse… is this a deliberate attempt to shine a light in dark corners of the mind or are you just trying to push the listener/yourselves as far as you can?
Personally, I think about death and the end of the world constantly. I’d love it if I didn’t, but I just can’t help it. I know the other guys are the same way. Thor is basically responsible for giving the album a flow thematically. He did a great job of taking the lyrics and finding a common thread that linked the songs, as well as seeing a logical progression of subject matter. We’re all interested in death, destruction, conspiracy theories, insanity, sex, substance abuse, and the like, so that’s just what came out.
How do you think the world will end?
I think there are limitless possibilities as how the world could end, and I think it could happen as I’m typing this, 15 billion years from now, anywhere in between or beyond. I’m pretty sure that humans will do an efficient job of total nuclear or environmental annihilation long before any cosmic disaster such as an asteroid or black hole gets a chance. As far as reality, the universe, multiverse, existence or whatever you want to call it, maybe the all-knowing center of cosmic energy will finally decide that it really isn’t worth the trouble. Or maybe, just maybe, I have no idea what I’m talking about and neither does anyone else.
Your previous band name was Pile of Dead Women. Given the abrasive nature of your music why did that change?
Originally, I had to force that name on the other dudes. Nobody liked it. We changed it because of a couple of reasons. First, we had been through a significant lineup change and were a totally different band. Second, let’s face, it the name is fucking stupid. It sounds like some broke-ass grindcore band playing through crate combo amps. As I typed that, I remembered I used to play through a crate combo amp, so maybe when I got rid of that the name had to go too.
So what was behind the name Queen Beast?
Beau came up with the name skimming through a Misfits lyric book, and the songs Queen Wasp and Demonomania were on adjacent pages. The first line of Demonomania is “Look upon me, I am the Beast,” so Beau just pieced that together and pitched the name Queen Beast. Surprisingly none of us thought it was terrible so that’s what we went with. The unlisted final track on the album is actually a cover medley of those two songs, sort of a tribute to our name.
You recorded in Steve Albini’s studio in Chicago. What was that like and did you get to meet the man at all?
Unfortunately we did not get to meet him cos he was playing a show in Ireland. We were really looking forward to seeing Thor get in a nerd battle with him. Thor likes to argue. But yeah, Electrical Audio was great. Everybody that worked there was super solid and hospitable. The facility itself is stellar. We were, however disappointed upon arrival when we saw that the supposed pool table was actually a billiard table and nobody knows how the fuck to play billiards. Except Steve Albini, I guess.
How has the album generally been received and what are your hopes for it?
The five people that have heard it seem to dig it. Except for that one guy at Sleeping Shaman! Chuuuuuuck from Deadbird likes it so that’s all that matters. Our hopes for it are that we can sell the fucking things and get our name out there so we can start booking tours. Cause that shit is hard nowadays when people have never heard of you.
Thanks to Nate for answering all my questions with such detail and photos courtesy of Noir33 Photography.
More info on Queen Beast at: www.myspace.com/queenbeastmusic
Interviewed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden