The calm before the storm: METZ

The calm before the storm: METZ

Ferocious Canadian trio METZ released their third full-length Strange Peace via Sub Pop.

Interview by Cem Kayıran – Illustration by Naz Tansel 

Bant Mag. is one of the media partners of Utrecht’s Le Guess Who? Festival this year and we’ll be covering some of the bands from the amazing lineup of this year’s edition. Canadian noise rock band METZ is coming back to Utrecht two years after their enchanting performance. We had a chance to chat with the band’s singer and guitarist Alex Edkins just before the release of their Steve Albini engineered third record Strange Peace.

“I WAS VERY UNANCHORED AND UNSURE OF MY LIFE AND FUTURE DURING THE WRITING OF THE ALBUM. I WAS BECOMING A FATHER AND TRUMP WAS TAKING OVER AMERICA. I FELT MY LIFE CHANGING IN VERY SIGNIFICANT WAYS, AND IN THE CASE OF TRUMP VERY UPSETTING AND TERRIFYING WAYS.” 

One of the most significant notions about Strange Peace is that the record captures the amazing spell of METZ live performance with every bits. I read that you guys finished recording in 4 days. How did you guys decide to record the whole record live?

Recording the record live seemed like an exciting idea and new challenge for us. We had never attempted it before and I think it played to the strengths of our live show. The vast majority of the tracks bass, guitar, and drums were done in 4 days live off the floor. I later did some overdubs and vocals at home in Toronto, so its not 100% live but close. Our time with Albini was very productive. We recorded 14 songs in 4 days. Songs like “Mess of Wires” and “Drained Lake” were written a couple days before we got to the studio (that is very rare for us) and recorded in a couple takes. It was a very spontaneous workmanlike environment.

Of course there’s nothing to be debated with choice of Steve Albini, but after producing your first two records, what made you guys go and work with another producer for Strange Peace?

It’s always a good idea to switch things up. Change is good. We felt that if we wanted Strange Peace to live separately from our other two LPs that we should approach it differently. We knew the songs were a big step up so we decided to break all tradition and work with Steve. On a subconscious level, I think working in a different city and studio helped us too. We tried new structures, instruments, sounds etc. and ultimately made something we are very proud of.

Just the idea of the collaboration between METZ and Steve Albini is quite thrilling and it seems like there’s a substantial outcome of the process. How was working and sharing ideas with Albini for Strange Peace?

It was surreal and something I feel fortunate to have done.  Steve is primarily an engineer so his input regarding drum and guitar tones is invaluable. He prefers not to get involved in the creation of songs and we are used to doing that ourselves anyway so it was a great fit.  His knowledge of his equipment and room (Electrical Audio) is really quite amazing. You’re literally watching a master at work when you are working with him. We would start at 10am and stop at 10pm. Very little time wasted very little over-analyzing. He would hit record on the tape machine, we would start playing. That was it. The simplicity of the process was incredibly refreshing.

With Strange Peace, the way that METZ deals with chaos seems to change in a distinct way. When you compare it two the first two records, Strange Peace sounds like you guys manage to engrave auditory and conceptual chaos with a characteristic approach. Songs like “Mess of Wires”, “Common Trash” and “Cellophane” invites listeners to face the grueling of the world we’re in right now in every sense. What were the main differences for you during the song writing process this time? Do you reckon that this is the most conceptual METZ record so far?

I’m not sure if you can say its a conceptual album but there does seem to be an overarching feel or theme. Its about attempting to overcome negativity, hate, and fear and live a meaningful life. I can’t offer any answers. Music is medicine for me, it helps me work through life’s impossible questions.

“WE KNEW WE WANTED TO GO IN NEW DIRECTIONS AND DIDN’T GIVE A SHIT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE MIGHT THINK. IT WAS A MUCH MORE LIBERATING EXPERIENCE. IF THE SONGS GOT US EXCITED, THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERED.”

The name Strange Peace fabulously describes the feeling and mood I found myself in after listening to the whole record. Is there a story behind the title of the album?

The title Strange Peace refers to the eery feeling in the air right before a massive sea change. The calm before the storm.  I think all the songs can be connected by that feeling. I was very unanchored and unsure of my life and future during the writing of the album. I was becoming a father and Trump was taking over America. I felt my life changing in very significant ways, and in the case of Trump very upsetting and terrifying ways.

After being in the limelight with the vastly admired two releases, how did you guys manage to overcome the expectation in creation span of Strange Peace? Was that a thing that you bear in mind during the process?

I think we succumbed to a bit of that pressure when making II. It’s not something you want to admit but looking back I know we were all feeling a little stressed and that’s got to be the absolute worst way to make music. This time around there was none of that. We were feeling very confident and motivated to make the best record we could. We knew we wanted to go in new directions and didn’t give a shit what other people might think. It was a much more liberating experience. If the songs got us excited, that’s all that mattered.

I read that you guys recorded 14 songs in the sessions you made with Steve Albini in Chicago. Are you planning to release the other three at some point?

I hope so. It all depends on if they still feel exciting to us when we listen to them again. I think you will hear them eventually.

I saw you guys live in Le Guess Who? two years ago and now you’re coming back. Can’t wait! What’s the first thing that comes to your mind about this festival?

I think its one of the best festivals in the world. We are honoured to be asked to play again. My Mom is Dutch, I love travelling to that part of the world.  

For a first time listener of METZ, what kind of setting would you suggest to experience Strange Peace

A dark club where everyone is sweaty and dancing together. Le Guess Who would work too.

METZ performs at Le Guess Who? on Saturday, 11 November, together with Pharoah Sanders, James Holden & The Animal Spirits, John Maus, Shabazz Palaces, Moon Duo, Avey Tare and many more. Full line-up and tickets can be found at the festival website.

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