First Against the Wall
drummer/lyricist, Mark Nunziata; guitarist/vocalist, John Edwards
Interview by hutch for New Noise magazine
Is the duo thing out of necessity or choice? What does Satanarchist bring as a duo that differs from if you added a bass?
Mark: We started playing together in 4-piece black metal band Spectral Tombs almost 7 years ago, and Satanarchist was simply born from all the times that we were the only two available to practice. If the other dudes couldn’t make it, the two of us would still get together and mess around. That’s how most of the first record was written, as a casual side project. When the other members of Spectral Tombs both stepped out of the band, coincidentally at the same time but for unrelated reasons and on good terms, we just decided to keep going and focus on this. We considered finding other members for a while but settled on remaining a two-piece for a number of reasons. I’d been in a few duos before and always appreciated how easy it was to make decisions, schedule shows and practices and all that, one line of communication and no dead weight.
John: As far as what being a two-piece brings, we get a lot of feedback after our live shows that we make a shit ton of noise for two people. People are like “holy shit I can’t believe how full your sound is,” or “I had no idea there were only two of you until I got a view of the stage.” Sometimes people say we need a bass player, but those people are usually bass players.
Mark: The only drawback to being in a two-piece is that we always have to load and unload the like five people’s worth of gear we use.
How is atheism/Satanism important in 2017’s society?
Mark: As the institution of religion gains traction in politics and society, it becomes increasingly important to resist it and support systems of belief based in radical ideas such as ‘facts.’ People can believe whatever they want but not if those beliefs start creeping into policy or affecting other people’s rights. With so many people and politicians using religious arguments to push oppressive attitudes and defend oppressive actions, we have a responsibility to stand up and call bullshit. I am disgusted by the injection of religious ideals into politics and our personal lives, things like health care, science, education and equal rights for people who aren’t straight cis white men.
What strengths do you derive from these beliefs?
Mark: We don’t reference satanic imagery or atheism because it’s the metal thing to do; we do it as a means to communicate our revulsion toward the influence of religion in society. There’s a very real overlap between radical left politics and freedom from religion, and the relationship between them runs far deeper than just our name.
John: Hail Satan.
Mark: And fuck homophobia, fuck transphobia, fuck “pro-life” Christian assholes who cut food and healthcare for the poor.
In the promo – specific amps are listed, Is gear, or are specific brands, important to Satanarchist’s sound?
John: I don’t particularly care about brands and, like, boutique or vintage gear, but Engl makes the best sounding amps for the kind of metal we play… so I use two. The Ampeg SVT is pretty much industry standard and fills out the low end.
Mark: What’s almost more important than what we list is what we don’t list. We wanted to just write fun, fast, heavy shit that doesn’t rely on effect pedals or bells or whistles to make it sound good, just amps and riffs. When we started writing for Satanarchist we set a couple ground rules. 1: No doom. 2: No Pedals.
Is it a tough decision to not shop this around to labels and just release independently?
Mark: It was mostly a matter of circumstance. We wanted to have this album ready to go before our Canada tour, and we knew that if we took the time to shop it out to labels then the timeline probably wouldn’t work out. We reached out to a couple Canadian labels early on but never heard back so just decided to slam it out ourselves.
John: We’d be open to working with labels for our LP release of First Against The Wall though.
In 2017, what are the pros and cons of releasing a record yourselves?
Mark: We did our first CD and LP independently as well, gives us a lot of control and flexibility over timelines and whatnot but it is pretty expensive. Of course it would be cool to have the distro and promotions power of a solid label behind us but we’ve just kept everything as DIY as possible from booking tours to finding floors to crash on to putting our music out. I’ve never worked with a label before so I can’t really speak to the comparisons.
John: From the get go, one of our main goals was to tour as much as possible and releasing our own stuff is just easy. We just make it happen. No one’s going to do it for us so we do it ourselves.
How did recording go?
Mark: By the time this prints I will have recorded drums at Haywire studios with Fester five times between four bands so I pretty much knew what I was getting in to. The dude’s a wizard, he has a way of hearing your music better than you do, he’s a skilled engineer but always ends up lending invaluable input as a producer as well. We also booked more studio time than we usually do for this record so I didn’t feel as much pressure to nail everything on the first take.
John: Fester is pretty much the shit for recording metal in Portland. There are other people to go to… but why?
With production or mastering, ever a worry it would be too clean or polished? How much dialogue was there between you and Fester/Boatright along the way?
Mark: Brad at Audiosiege does amazing work so we pretty much just let him do his magic. Our only specifications we gave for this were a) make sure you can hear everything and b) make sure it has balls. We wanted it to sound good without compromising weight, and be heavy without compromising clarity. We feel like he came through pretty solid on both points. With Fester we spent far more time mixing it than I ever had on anything before so I’m pretty fucking stoked on how you can hear every little goddamn snare roll. We worked on the mix over a half dozen sessions over a few weeks.
How do things look for your Canada tour?
Mark: We’re psyched to reunite with our brothers in Hard Charger. We met those guys last summer when we played four shows together on the east coast of the US and have kept in touch. They did all the legwork to book the shows and we’re grateful for the opportunity to play metal with them north of the wall. I think we’re covering like five provinces and playing in some really cool towns. I grew up in Vermont and loved Montreal when I was a kid so it’ll be rad to get to play there.
John: Hard Charger borrowed my backline for a west coast tour last fall and all I got was a bottle of whiskey so basically they owed me one. Best buds tour 2017.
What is it about the TVZ cover that stirs you enough to cover it?
John: We’d been talking about it for years. Have you heard Silver Ships of Andilar? The form and content, It’s basically asking to be a metal song. It’s a story about going to war on a boat, getting lost at sea and everyone starving and killing each other. Plus I’ve been listening to Townes Van Zandt my whole life, I was raised on it. My mom introduced me to his music as long ago as I can remember. When I told her we were covering one of his songs she was like “You’re going to ruin Townes.” But he’s been one of my musical idols since I was young, so we did our best to do it justice.
Amended explanation of the title of the album:
First Against The Wall or "First against the wall when the revolution comes" is an echo of radical left sentiment toward members of the elite who will face firing squad after being deposed by popular uprising. References to the phrase or variants of it can be found scattered throughout radical and popular culture back to the 60's and 70's. We use it as an imagining of retributive violence against police, heads of state, businessmen and agents of the church who've committed injustices and atrocities against the people. It also invokes images of violence by the police which we find appalling and stand firmly against. In today's political environment, it is also intended as a a reference to Trump's border wall. Imagine Trump, Sessions, Ryan, Bannon, Spencer, McConnell et. al. facing a firing squad with their backs to a wall on the southern border. A band can dream.
Hutch would like to thank John and Mark for their time. Also Lisa Root at New Noise. Dave and Liz Brenner at Earsplit PR