Nick Sargeant interviews Gazelle Amber Valentine
Self-advertising nomadicism is pretty much the name of your game as a band, and your preferred way of living (at least for the last 15+ years) – how are you still doing it?
It’s pretty grueling. But living in a vehicle we could tour in, a.k.a. touring in a vehicle we could live in, was really the only path we saw to be this weird extreme underground band we are and survive.
Does it get expensive to travel with your massive amount of gear?
What inspired you to use such a large amount of gear and pioneer this massive sound and large-scale performance?
For our own enjoyment, and for the audiences’, we both wanted to do the most amazing shows that we could. Part of that was approximating stadium level sound in the smaller spaces that an underground band inevitably plays. To us, the combination of intimate space and massive sound is simply the best possible scenario for a live show. We love experiencing this. For the audience, it means my guitar, which is half of our music, doesn’t get obscured if the sound engineer misunderstands our band.
Another aspect of what we do is our belief that you can truly create something grand and awesome without a giant crew and income. Because getting a transcendent show environment shouldn’t be only for bands who play pop music or fans who can afford hundred dollar tickets. And being DIY is no less valid than having things done for you. If anything it’s maybe more valid – definitely more rewarding.
Important note re: Psycho Las Vegas – we’re flying there, so we won’t be able to bring our infamous White Wall. But I can promise that whatever the festival provides for backline, we will bring 100% of our devotion and energy to the stage!
Valentine – the guitar tone that gear creates is so unique and diverse that it breaks through a wall of music that can often run together, so what do you do to give it that individuality? Are there any pedals involved, or is it just your amps and how you’ve worked your guitar?
Thank you! I alter almost every aspect of the gear and signal path. As much as I love talking about gear, I don’t share my techniques. I’ve built my sound with my own ideas, taste, and learning process. I think that’s not only the path with the most integrity, but also the one that will get anyone to their best personal tone.
Is life one big tour to you, or just as many tours packed into a short life as possible?
Do you guys have a favorite place to play in the world, since you’ve made your way around it so much? Where are you planning to go after you’ve dominated the Earth? Maybe be the first band to play on Mars?
With consistently being on the road and having literally no home base, what are the difficulties for you guys in writing new material, recording it, and then releasing it?
The biggest difficulty is stopping to record, because it’s hard for us to throw a wrench into the booking process. But we’ve now recorded War Bird, If Thine Enemy Hunger, L’Autrichienne, Autocannabalist, Throned In Blood, за волгой для нас земли нет, and District of Dystopia from the nomadic fortress – planning stops at various studios to record between tour segments – so we’ve found some kind of rhythm in the process. It always takes longer than we want it to, due to having a finite amount of studio time before a fixed date that we’re back on tour. We make adjustments to the recording process to make that work.
Writing isn’t so difficult, in part because we have a lot of ideas and playing shows constantly just adds to our level of inspiration. It also helps that we’ve been playing together for 23 years. We can communicate and jump in on each other’s parts really well.
Releasing is hard, especially because we are always on the move and don’t necessarily have time or internet access to do publicity stuff or even things like approve a test pressing. But we have learned that the UPS store is our friend. Endorsement gifts welcome, UPS!
All your albums have upheld a theme, and your most recent releases (including District Of Dystopia and за волгой для нас земли нет) have had very politically-driven themes. Are you continuing on a political route with this upcoming release, or drawing content from a wider sphere?
For me, our previous albums aren’t so much political as they are explorations of human propensity for violence, cruelty, endurance and resilience. There’s a thread throughout history in which politics figure as period costume for this relatively unchanging skeleton of human nature. I’m interested in revealing how that skeleton endures through different segments of the thread, and in connecting it to the present and the future, whether as homage or indictment or comforting familiarity.
I can’t disclose the theme of our upcoming album until the release date is close, but it will definitely be something we’re very inspired about.
The split with Sete Star Sept did come out awhile back. We didn’t work directly with them, but through a French label who approached each of the bands individually. We hadn’t known about SSS before, and didn’t even hear their tracks for the split until it was all done, but I loved the songs and hope we will end up playing together at some point. It was cool to find out about a great band we didn’t know before.
Aside from splits, there’s a growing popularity in collaborative albums recently breaking into a more mainstream field for metal; are you interested in collaborating with any artists?