Spasmodic, spastic splutterings, shreds of Satan's semi-digested supper (ah, alliteration) retched-up and sprayed across 12 inches of circular black vinyl, solid but for a small round hole at the centre. Welcome to Warser Gate's world, a realm where guitars scrape, scorch, clash and rub themselves raw on shards of granite; the drums clatter polyrhythmically, fall down, fall off the edge of a cliff and fall over each other; and where my man Kevin shouts himself hoarse, pouring our great cathartic streams of pseudo-nonsense organised by his subconscious into very nearly coherent lyrics: meaning elusive, comprehension prevented by the fluxing instrumentation and noise. On "Endless run", their 2nd LP (Catatonic/Very Good records), limited to 200 copies, Warser Gate are slightly more melancholic and reflective than on the previous "All my hates, all my hang ups" record. Tracks crawl rather than lurch, the bastardised Beefheartisms only occasionally rupturing and setting free a scalding, noisy onslaught. For the most part, it's a slower, more intimate trip. The usual reference is Slint, but that's just not the full story so we got Kevin in to tell us more...
Who's in the band and who does what?
The mainstays of Warser Gate are Keith Wardley on guitar, Rick Stokes on drums and me (Kev Flynn) on vocals. Presently no bassist, they disappear in the night and never return...Keith is in charge of all the recording side of things and mixing, I'm responsible for adding non-sensical lyrics and vocals and Rick pounds our heads continuously. Someone once described Warser Gate as trying to represent in musical terms the torment of a serious migraine [it was Soul Junk fanzine--Jim]. We do, I hasten to add, have our lighter, less warped and less disjointed moments but few and far between. These days.
There's obviously a big Slint influence---but who else?
Although the three of us are/were really into Slint, I can't see any obvious influence from them. But I'll take that comparison as a compliment nonetheless. We listen to a really diverse range of sounds: Can, Beefheart, Wing Tip Sloat, Jesus Lizard, June of 44, Dawson, Mazey Fade, Walking Seeds, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Polvo, Come, Grifters, early Truman's Water, Drive Like Jehu, Ligament and loads more. I'm currently getting sent loads of great sounds from Finland like Larry and the Left Handed who are great and the fucked-up sounds of the Can Can Heads. I really love Dead C's harsh 70's reality of the moment. Rick is still heavily influenced by the sounds of Jesus Lizard (and who can blame him) and Keith worships Shellac. I think I'm the one listening to the stranger sounds at the moment: Pelt, Sun City Girls, Jolly Jumpers (again from Finland) and Mote (from Belgium). Basically a lot of stuff that the excellent Ptolemaic Terrascope talks about. The best zine around in my book.
You release a lot of material and I know you often record your rehearsals. Does that mean a lot of your stuff is played once and recorded in one take only?
Improvisation plays a huge and essential role in Warser Gate's make up. We record all our tracks direct to 4-track (Keith has just invested in an 8-track digital set-up. Watch out for a much improved sound. Possibly.) Our music is recorded live and usually in one or a couple of takes, depending on the feel at the time. Mistakes and skewed sounds to me make music interesting. Often the best results are the first takes---they hold on to something unique. Reading a recent article on Can (PT 25), Can described their music as not be improvisational in the classical sense, but as "instant composition'. Like a football team, you know the goal but you don't know where the ball is going. Permanent surprise. To me that is very close to how Warser Gate conduct themselves in a musical sense. Our professional studio encounters, the results of which are too horrific to talk about will remain forever buried in the Warser Gate archives.
How do you ever remember the songs? How do you work out a set list for playing live?
Not as difficult as you would imagine. They come quite naturally as long as Keith has a reasonably good idea of where he's going the rest just flows. For live gigs, we all pick a few favourite tracks, usually the more dynamic, in-yer-face type of songs and then rehearse them. Because we've got so many songs we usually have to be ruthless in selection.
You do a lot of work yourselves---writing letters, mailouts etc---is that important to the band?
Yeah, I'm the networker of the band. I tend to do all the letters, the distro, contacting labels, zines, radio...in fact, the lot. That's my department. Keith does all the mixing and Rick sorts gigs. I love doing the promotional side, it seems at last to have really paid off. I get labels contacting us, releases appearing everywhere, letters from all corners of the globe. It's all pretty exciting. The latest most exciting news is the possibility of a third album on Australia's Camera Obscura label. I sent several WG records to a small distro in Australia, they made it to some record shop somewhere. PT featured Warser Gate on a compilation CD, and featured us in their pages, Camera Obscura bought a copy of our LP after reading PT and then contacted us with the idea of an album. Great eh?
What level of success are you aiming for?
I don't know. To continue putting out loads of releases. Our next big major step is this Australian release which has big US distro and that would get our music over there. Up to now I've had to really work at finding an audience but equally I've loved that process. As long as people are happy putting out our music, I'm very happy.
These last four questions tie in with the label feature in this issue: Why start a band?
To let off steam after a day at work. It's good for people to have a set time each week to go mad---controlled mayhem should be prescribed. We always feel better after a couple of hours of forgetting about everyday things. Warser Gate Therapy!
Which release are you most happy with?
I think our best release will be the split 7" with Can Can Heads when it's out in November. The Warser Gate tracks are a cross between Blonde Redhead and Shellac: short dynamic pop. "Shut eye" on PT is my favourite disjointed, warped, skewed helter skelter Warser Gate ride at 6 minute and more. HOLD ONTO YOUR HATS!
Dream cover version/guest singer?
My favourite cover song was "Cars" done by Polvo a few years ago. Steve Malkmus singing "New York, New York" would be nice.
Tip for anyone starting out?
Prepare to dig in and stick it out. Make music for you. Audiences are hard to come by and need to be nurtured.
Warser Gate Therapy, I like the sound of that. Imagine Jane Fonda trying to hop and skip along to the sound of a post-industrial nightmare: "...1, 2, 3...OH MY GOD". Ha ha ha!!! Warser Gate make superficially ugly music, the beauty is in the detail. In the same way that a pile of mud is highly uninviting until you wallow, so the magic of "Endless run" will elude you until you play it loud enough that total immersion is required and its majesty is revealed. If you're interested in the processes that create these sounds, I can recommend the WG interview in issue 3 of Step Right Up.
Contact Warser Gate at:41 Kenrick Rd, Mapperly, Nottingham, NG3 6HQ, UK or www.geocities.com/sunsetstrip/birdland/1392/
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