Published Jun 23, 2009Steph Carter is having serious chest problems. "I've been told that for the next week that I'm not supposed to play guitar or leave my house. We leave for tour in less than a week," he says. "If it doesn't get better in the next few days I have to go back and have chest x-rays." The guitarist has reason to be concerned; as one-fifth of British hardcore giants Gallows, he makes his living by brutalizing his body in a band as notorious for their live intensity as their recorded output. Their second full-length, Grey Britain, reflects the band's shambolic live presence.
"We're not a performance-perfect band. When we play live, we can hit all our notes, but we spend as much time jumping around as concentrating on our instruments," he says. "We don't want a record that sounds perfect." While Grey Britain doesn't sound perfect, it does sound monstrous; after the phenomenal success of their debut full-length Orchestra of Wolves, released on UK indie In at the Deep End Records (it was eventually picked up by Epitaph in North America), the band made the jump to Warner.
"When we started writing, we knew we were going to get a lot of shit from a lot of different people," Carter says. "We signed a deal for a million pounds from Warner Records. All the kids from our scene thought we were selling out. This is how I see it: If someone's going to give me a million pounds and let me keep doing exactly what I'm doing, but I'm going to get paid to do it, I'd be a fucking idiot not to take their money."
Not only did the band keep doing what they were doing, they surpassed it ten times over; where Wolves is an intense, passionate document of a new band finding their feet, Grey Britain is a full-blown, calculated assault on par with classic modern hardcore records like The Shape of Punk to Come and Relationship of Command. Says Carter, "We knew the second someone gave us a chance, we could come up with something twice as good as Orchestra of Wolves." Aided by veteran producer GGGarth Richardson, the band has taken full advantage of the time, money, and exposure afforded to them and made one brutally heavy record full of fucked-up ideas. It's a record that, despite all its extra bells and whistles, ultimately sounds like a band simply playing their guts out.
"Stu came in to recording wanting to see how far we could push things, and told GGGarth, 'I want my bass to sound like a sledgehammer crashing over a granite tombstone, while it's breaking, with dead bones and coffins and shit at the same time,'" Carter says. "We're all laughing and GGGarth is like, 'Okay, we'll put heavy-gauge strings on your bass and have you play with a penny and run it through...' Working with someone who knew how to get the sounds we wanted was amazing. You can't ask for much more than that when you're on a major record label. Working with someone who doesn't want to change your sound, just wants to capture it. You're just trying to take a picture and make it look right."