Archspire drummer Spencer Prewett is far away in Canada. Skype would have me believe that he’s trapped in a box, such is the poor quality of the audio but we are professionals so we push on.
I start by referring to a vague (and possibly incorrect) fact about him having got his first kit when he was eight years old but he never really progressed with the kit until he was seventeen. True fact or big lie? “Uh…yeah! Where did you hear that?!”
Ha! I have amazed him with my powerful dirty journo skills – So why did you leave it eleven years before picking up the sticks? “I got into Slayer and Megadeth and shit when I was sixteen and then I saw Flo Mounier‘s drumming (Cryptopsy) and it fucking blew me away.” So what was it about Flo’s style that inspired you? “It was just extreme. If you’re familiar with old Cryptopsy…that shit was unreal. Nobody could touch that guy. It was just so mind-boggling that the human body could pull that off, and it was such a bizarre concept to me that drums could be that fucking crazy in a song.”
I mention that often in technical death metal there’s more of a focus on the technical abilities of the guitarists and/or bassists before referring to the drumming on A Dark Horizontal (from the band’s 2017 album Relentless Mutation). There’s a bit about mid-way through the track that made me laugh out loud with glee – the drums are almost inhuman. “Yeah! That was the last song on the album and that was the last one we wrote, and basically I’d just studied a technique that allowed me to bring the blast beats up to three hundred and seventy (per minute), and I took it to the guys and said ‘Hey, I can do this now so let’s write this song at this speed’ and yeah; that was that.”
I ask if Spencer has managed to go beyond the three hundred and seventy BPM mark but he points out that he’s “no spring chicken anymore” – this in itself is an outrageous statement; he’s only thirty six for fuck’s sake. He highlight’s the fact that an Archspire set is around fifty minutes long, and as a drummer “it’s like sprinting for fifty minutes – it’s physically demanding as fuck to play like that”. This is a point that I don’t think enough people consider; Spencer can’t be getting on the lash every night – he’s eating healthily and exercising so you can get the joy of his wondrous blast beats. He adds that while he’s always keen to push the boundaries of drumming “Sometimes it’s more about writing smarter. This was something I was very conscious of with the new album; putting together parts that still flowed together and still sounded cool but would utilise different muscle groups for me so I could give different parts of my body a break – and that’s what writing smarter is about – so that ten years from now I don’t have to stop.”
Archspire’s been going since 2007, when it was called Defenestrated but the name change occurred in 2009 because when Spencer moved to Vancouver he struggled to put a band together. As he puts it: “It seemed like everyone in the Vancouver scene at that time was more interested in partying and doing drugs than practicing…” after several non-starts, he ended up finding Dean Lamb (guitars) who, according to Spencer, “did have his shit together”. They gave the party-dudes the flick and started Archspire, and the rest is brutal technical death metal history though as Spencer says (probably for legal reasons): “None of the songs from Defenestrated were ever used in Archspire.”.
I often ask musicians whether they prefer playing live or recording, and it’s generally the former that’s preferred but Spencer admits to a passion for recording process. “I do enjoy playing live – I do love it, and I love touring because I love travelling. I love seeing different parts of the world and meeting great people but my favourite part is definitely recording. I enjoy hearing the thousands of hours of work that we’ve put together and it’s a super-satisfying feeling when it all comes together.”
I ask about the band’s recent success at the 2018 Juno Awards (Canada’s top notch music awards) with the band taking out the Metal/Hard Music of the Year award. He does seem slightly bewildered by this turn of events but admits that “It was a game-changer for us. The Junos are a pretty big deal in Canada so we were definitely surprised that the mainstream recognised such an extreme band. It really helped to put us on the map more in Canada, and the whole experience of the awards ceremony; to see how rock stars live…” He starts laughing “You know; us living in a van and drinking cheap beer so for us, it was awesome.”
And of the seven tracks on Relentless Mutation, what’s your favourite to play? Without a pause he says “Remote Tumour Seeker; it always gets the biggest crowd reaction. It’s got the big hook that everybody loves so that’s fun, and it’s also one of the least physically exhausting songs for me so when we get to that, I can kind of take a deep breath. But I also love playing Involuntary Doppelganger because that’s the fastest one that we play live,” – he gets a kick out of looking at the crowd’s faces – though how he manages to look at anything while bashing the kit at that speed, I have no idea…
The band kicks off a Canadian tour before heading our way for a series of dates in Australia and New Zealand; do you see the Canadian tour as a warm up for the Aus/NZ one? “Yeah, in a way. We’ve been off the road now for almost three months; we just finished a Japanese and US run so it’s been a nice little break but I’m looking forward to getting out on the road again. I think we only have ten days off between the Canada and Australia tours so I feel that we’re gonna be super-warmed up for the Australian crowds, for sure.” You’ll be touring with Psycroptic and Hadal Maw; what’s your view on those lovely chaps? He likes them, no doubt, as he pours forth bountiful praises, giving Psycroptic’s Dave Haley special kudos as “super-nice, extremely smart, organised, and reliable” – it’s going to be a hot time in August for Australian tech death fans. Oh yes.
My final question is around the band’s future plans. Spencer reckons there’s another solid year of touring – though they are writing new music even as I write this interview up – Spencer says “We’ll probably go into hibernation for about half a year for some intense writing, and then we’ll record, and then we’ll be back on the road. Though we do currently have tours booked until February 2019 so lots of shit coming up!”
Archspire hit Australian shores this August with Psycroptic and Hadal Maw:
16.08.18 – Brisbane – Crowbar
17.08.18 – Sydney – Bald Faced Stag
18.08.18 – Melbourne – Max Watts
19.08.18 – Canberra – The Basement
24.08.18 – Hobart – The Brisbane Hotel*
25.08.18 – Adelaide – Fowlers*
26.08.18 – Perth – Amplifier**
*No Hadal Maw