With two EPs, a split, and a movie soundtrack under their belt, Chat Pile’s much-anticipated first full-length, God’s Country, is out July 29 via The Flenser. The Oklahoma City sludgy noise rock quartet have been an object of affection amongst horror fans and heavy music lovers alike, writing some of the most terrifying and punishing tunes out right now. Their album sees the act pushing even further into narrative consideration and the real-world application that makes their music so impactful. We had the pleasure of discussing the new record with vocalist Raygun Busch and bassist Stin.
Before we talk about the record, let’s talk about Tenkiller. What was it like scoring a horror movie? Would you like to do something like that again?
(Special note, Tenkiller is actually a drama, although we totally understand why people would assume it’s a horror movie. No one’s seen it, and our music seems to naturally lend itself to horror!)
Stin: It was interesting to create music with more of an atmospheric and thematic approach in mind. It certainly stretched our abilities and added quite a bit to the musical language we share with each other. I think making this immediately before starting work on the album helped add some atmosphere to the record as well. The soundtrack mindset was still clicking while we switched to making more traditional music. We would most certainly do it again if our schedules allow.
Some of you also acted in the movie; What was it like being a part of the movie in multiple ways?
Raygun Busch: Acting is super easy and a lot of fun. Just yesterday, I acted in the same filmmakers’ new movie, and I’ll definitely be accepting any and all acting jobs in the future because, as I said, it’s a super easy and a fun job.
Now, moving forward, are there any literary or cinematic influences you pulled from in particular for God’s Country? Are there any real-life stories you pulled from?
Raygun Busch: Absolutely! My brain is only truly working when I’m talking about movies, music, books etc. There is a song on the record I am immensely proud of, that is sort of extremely personal in a lot of ways despite essentially being Friday the 13th fanfiction. The Grimace song alternately draws from the films Mysterious Skin and In a Glass Cage (not to mention real-life experience)—There’s also some songs on the record that draw from real life events from our region of the country, true, but they are merely impressions, not meant to be a history lesson by any means. Sort of the In Cold Blood approach.
Stin: With all of it, we very consciously try to express and represent the feeling of living in the southern plains. Even the more Beavis and Butthead, ’90’s alt-metal musical leanings are meant to evoke a sense of place. It’s very culturally ingrained here.
How would you describe the different types of horror on the record?
Raygun Busch: It’s all mostly real-world based—even “Pamela” is an attempt to ground famous cinematic madness. “Why” is probably the scariest song on the record.
Stin: Ya, more than anything, we’re trying to capture the anxiety and fear of seeing the world fall apart. Raygun is especially talented at that, even if the lyrics are fantasy based at times. I think that that specific type of anxiety comes through no matter what.
One of the highlights of God’s Country is the massive “Grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg” which was released as a six-minute flexi demo not too long ago but ended up being a nine-minute monster transformation. Did you set out to make a song that long initially with it? And what inspired you to have Grimace as the monster of choice?
Stin: Our writing process is a little weird (or perhaps not?) in that usually one of us brings a few loose riff ideas to the table, and the three non-vocalists jam on it endlessly until it feels the way we want it to feel. So the length of “Grimace…” wasn’t premeditated; it just kind of ended up being long as we kept feeling it out. We knew Raygun would be able to really take the long, doomy section at the end and make it his own.
Raygun Busch: The title comes from a long list I made for potential EP titles way back around This Dungeon Earth. I ultimately wanted to use it because the title is very silly and had the potential for so much darkness. This is much similar to the way I wrote the words to “Dallas Beltway” except that “Grimace…” is sort of based on a movie I was particularly obsessed with at the time, In a Glass Cage. Mysterious Skin also looms large for me; both are extremely affecting films with similar themes, and so, it was written. Grimace, the character, is innocent, though.
You said that “lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of THC” were used for this album. Approximately how much THC would you say? Are you more of a sativa or indica band?
Raygun Busch: Where did that quote come from? I would never say ‘lots’ that many times. When it comes to weed, at least half of us are elite super soldiers, but we all serve dutifully. Much like conversation, laughter, sex, good food, movies—It’s an essential spice of life.
Stin: Ya, sorry Raygun, that was me on the “lots.” I was having trouble expressing how hazy the recording was without getting hyper literal on the THC consumption. Mark my words though, it was a nearly worrisome amount.
You do not shy away from graphic nature in your lyrics in any way, shape, or form; it’s actually one of the most impactful elements of your music. What do you think the benefits are of using those harder-to-stomach images and expressions?
Raygun Busch: Honestly, if I had been left to my own devices at the beginning, it would have been way sillier, more gorey, way more stupid. I was encouraged to keep everything a bit grounded, because it would seem more disturbing, and dammit, the boys were right. I sincerely hope we are not viewed as edgelords, but I do consume a lot of media with pervasive dark themes because that’s what I like.
All I really hope is that our songs can recall the movies or books that rightfully won’t leave my brain like L’Humanite or Henry: Portrait of Serial Killer or Continental Drift by Russell Banks or Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi, etc.
Something else about your music that is impactful are the bass and drum tones you all have. They are so interesting, heavy, and punishing, but remain crystal clear. What do you use to get them to sound like that?
Stin: The drums are actually an e-kit played live by Cap’n Ron with no click track. The e-kit triggers drum samples that we can manipulate to give an industrial tonal quality to–no time correction though! This makes self-recording a breeze and gives us the liberty to manipulate the sound to be quite a bit larger than life.
As far as bass goes, my favorite bass players are guys who have a very top heavy, plucky approach like Chris Squire, David Simms, and Fieldy, so I’m trying to put my own spin on that type of bass tone. We’re not shy about having the bass upfront in the mix. As for the “how” on the bass sounds of the recording–I use a Rusty Box and we mic the cabs, no DI at all.
Everything about you has been consistent through your existence as a band. Your recording, production, and artwork all go hand in hand with one another because you do everything yourselves, right? What is the importance of having everything being self-contained like that to you?
Raygun Busch: It was borne from necessity but it’s really the only way to do things, right? We’ve each been recording our own music since at least our teen years. There’s really no reason for anyone to ever pay someone to do shit that a computer has made pig simple for the masses. The internet and computer programs have completely equalized the medium–You can make a record or a movie or whatever you want (easy as writing that book always has been lol) if you really want to. Tangerine was shot on iPhones and Tangerine is one of the best movies of the century so far. Deathconsciousness by Have a Nice Life was recorded using Garageband for chrissakes!
Stin: If messing around in bands for many years has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t rely on anyone else to share your vision or even show up to help when the time comes. I think we have a strong point of view, and the best way to express that is by doing as much of the process as possible yourself. It also doesn’t hurt that we don’t have any money to spend on anything, so this is certainly the cheaper option! I could see us possibly working with a recording engineer who actually knows what they’re doing one day, but it would have to service the broader picture of whatever we’re attempting at the time.
And, finally, what are the first three things you would change about the country if able?
Raygun Busch: Goddamn, this question is too hard. I guess I’ll try to do an easy answer though there’s not way to not be reductive here: tax or jail for the rich; homes, medical care, clothing, food and education for everyone no exceptions; and of course, upturn law enforcement and completely reshape the criminal justice system in America (ie term limits, no death penalty, releasing those from jail for non-violent drug charges etc).
God’s Country is out July 29 via The Flenser, and you can preorder it here.
Featured band photo courtesy of Chat Pile.