Despite perhaps sonically belonging elsewhere, many acts have been appropriated by the metal community. For example, Germantown blues rockers Clutch. Swedish retro occultists Ghost are another; progressive titans Rush and King Crimson, space cases Hawkwind… you get the point. Right now, we are adding Saskatoon quintet Shooting Guns to the mix. Although the band has played with and for dance, indie and rock crowds, they are equally at home in the metal community due to their sonically crushing brand of psychedelic instrumental tunes that utilizes elements of Kraut rock and doom metal. BeatRoute had a lengthy phone conversation with drummer Jim Ginther to determine exactly how this sound materialized.
“The shortest answer I can give you is that every member in this band is a crazed vinyl fiend,” says the good-natured Ginther, who spends most of our conversation laughing and making humble, off-the-cuff remarks. “I don’t think I’m even exaggerating slightly: I think we’ve probably been to 80 per cent of the record stores in Canada. Keith [Doepker, guitarist] and Jay [Loos, bassist], they each have record collections in the thousands.”
He continues, “We draw from a pretty big well of stuff that we like… things like [Black] Sabbath, or Neu!, those are very easy ways to relate to people, but that’s not really what we are going for. We are trying to pull from almost everything, but nothing, too, at the same time.”
Indeed, every listener would hear something different from the band’s short discography, which so far includes three seven-inches – including the Dopestrings/ Harmonic Steppenwolf EP, and splits with Edmonton’s Krang and Nottingham’s The Cult of Dom Keller – and their debut full-length, Born to Deal in Magic: 1952-1976. Swirling synth locks into hypnotic layered grooves and elephantine riffs and, unlike the droning repetition of Pelican, Russian Circles or Red Sparowes, these tracks have the verse-chorus-verse form of rock. It’s at least partially because of the drummer and his counterparts’ eclectic tastes.
“The last [record store] we went to was Audiopile in Vancouver,” says Ginther. “That is just an amazing store. I found a Dead Boys record I’ve been looking for for a long time, I found some Sparks, some Giorgio Moroder, some pop synth from 1980, my birth year. I got Slayer’s Reign in Blood. Those were the highlights. And Wire, Chairs Missing.” His recent buys run the gamut from classic punk rock (Dead Boys) to ‘70s pop/rock (Sparks) to post punk (Wire) to Italian Donna Summer collaborator/producer Morodor to the unholy thrash titans. Throw in the tens of thousands of other records owned by his band mates and you’ve got too many musical influences to parse out where anything is coming from other than the members of Shooting Guns themselves.
“We all work together, but it’s almost like there is two units. There is Jay and I, holding the rhythm side down, but Steve [Reed, synth player] and Chris they basically do what a vocalist does in terms of colouring the songs,” describes Ginther. “The guitar stuff that Chris [Laramee] does, it really hits you and brings you in, and with Steve, he hits frequency ranges that are so high and so low that it’s not that it’s abrasive, but he colours the spectrum so much that anything a falsetto singer would be doing hypothetically, the itch is already being scratched, but through synth.”
Instrumental bands constantly find themselves at the receiving end of poor sighted remarks regarding the lack of vocals. Shooting Guns is taking it in stride and has actually released their entire discography on Soundcloud to allow fans to record their vocals overtop.
“When heavy music has the right vocals it’s amazing, but if it has the wrong vocals, it can throw the whole thing off. We didn’t want to play that gamble, is what it really comes down to,” jokes Ginther. “We’ve all been playing in the scene for 10 years and we are having fun with the idea now. What we’ve done is put all our songs that we’ve ever released on SoundCloud to download for free. What we are encouraging people to do is record their own vocals over top and post back up, and have almost a user-generated vocal track.”
The band will not be recruiting a vocalist though, despite some varied offers, and is stoked to have their music resonate beyond their hometown in Saskatoon. Shooting Guns recently appeared on the Polaris Music Prize long list, which awards $30,000 to the “best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label” alongside the only other metal addition on the list, Mares of Thrace. The prize was ultimately awarded to Feist’s fourth full-length, Metals.
Seeing their name on the list came as a somewhat of a shock.
“It was actually a surprise as much to us as to 95 per cent of the panellists. We were fortunate that the jurors that did know about us, they felt pretty highly about the record, so it was just enough to add us on, it just barely made it, you know what I mean?” Ginther laughs, “We are very grateful to Polaris, and the jurors, everything about it has given us more exposure, because what we do, to describe it, it doesn’t sound like the most accessible or you know, marketable genre: instrumental pysch rock.”
Although they’ve yet to be approached by a label in the post-long list glow, the band’s increased visibility is working to their advantage for touring and recording. Their upcoming full-length has three tracks completed so far and they’re be happy to stay DIY, as they have since their inception in late 2008.
“If people are interested in what we do, fans or labels or otherwise, that’s awesome, but on the same point we’ve been a DIY thing up until this point,” says Ginther, who adds that they’ve received some grants for their work. “You know, no matter what, we are going to keep doing that, we’ll just keep keeping on.“ He continues, “We’ve got three tracks down, we are actually recording at this fantastic studio on a farm in Delisle, which is a small community outside Saskatoon, and it’s our first time we are actually recording direct to tape,” explains Ginther. “It will definitely be a full-length album, we are hoping to put it out by the spring and we’ll put it out ourselves if we have to. It’s coming out no matter what!”
And what should we expect from this album?
“We are trying to make the perfect music to crush beers to,” laughs Ginther. “Is that quotable?”
It sure as shit is.
Run towards the Shooting Guns at the Palomino on Saturday, October 27 with Witchstone and Chron Goblin.
By Sarah Kitteringham