You’ve probably heard the phrase “Those who live by the gun, die by the gun.” It’s generally taken to mean that those who live a life of violence are destined to meet a violent end. It’s a cautionary and parabolic phrase directed at would be villains and vigilantes alike. But what does it mean to live by the gun when its barrel is not aimed outwards, but rather at your own temple? What motivates such a lifestyle? Most people would break under such deadly pressure, but there is at least one man who seems to thrive while in its sights. So, we asked him—what is it like?
“I don’t want to get to metaphorical because I’ll probably sound cheesy,” Ian Shelton of Militarie Gun admits with a laugh. “But to me, that gun … it is this thing that refers to my drive to make music. And I can’t avoid it.”
Militarie Gun started as a quarantine project of Shelton’s to keep himself preoccupied when he was no longer able to work on projects for his other group, the powerviolence steamroller Regional Justice Center. Militarie Gun was formed with some of the last people Shelton met and talked to before the COVID lockdowns went into effect last year. The project allows him an outlet to express himself in versatile ways, some of which do not give with his more hardcore/punk-oriented bands, letting him embrace influences as varied as The Byrds and The Strokes.
“I would say there’s not a strict lens that I look through to determine the way a song can be written,” Shelton reflects, when asked about his process for writing for Militarie Gun. “I think I have very specific structures that I go back to that are just my intuitive way of songwriting. But the general thing is that I’m willing to take from anywhere and then run it through my filter.”
When asked if he ever worries that his audience will demand that he pick a musical lane and stick with it, Shelton is unconcerned and clarifies that it is not the expectations of others that drives him. In fact, considering such expectations would be a detriment to his work.
“I think that I’ve primed the audience to accept that they’ll never received the same thing,” Shelton says. “The big thing for me is that I always stay writing. So when I finish a record, usually I start a new one. And because of that, I’m never waiting for the public to ingest it. The thing that would mess me up is anticipating what the audience will think.”
The thing that drives Shelton is not how an audience receives his music, but his own, internal drive. His ceaseless zeal for creation. It is the gun he has pointed in his own back. For our benefit, Shelton illustrates this relationship with his steely muse.
“There’s a song on the second record called ‘All Roads Lead to the Gun,’” he says. “And it’s almost describing an abusive relationship. To me, that was how I feel about in my incessant need to always be creating. This is inevitable. There’s no other way.”
Watch the video for “Ain’t No Flowers” here:
For more from Militarie Gun, find them on Bandcamp.
Photo courtesy of Militarie Gun and Octavio Orduno.