“We’ve done sludge, we’ve done doom, and we’ve done drone. And that’s fine. That’s awesome,” Zoroaster drummer Dan Scanlan begins explaining the shift on the band’s newest and more hypnotic album Matador. “We’re just trying new shit. We just don’t want to do the same album over again.”
Many expected the trio of Scanlan, guitarist/vocalist Will Fiore, and bassist/vocalist Brent Anderson to go for a faster output on their E1 debut (a huge step up in the metal game sharing a business space with High on Fire and Hatebreed).
The previous effort Voice of Saturn hinted at more tempo but each song was slathered with Moog knob twisting and dissonant textures. Matador (named after a car and not the Oakhurst Mexican restaurant) takes those audio experimentations, confining and polishing them into songs, rather than continuing the long Zoroaster staple of epic movements. “Fuck it. We’ve never done an album where we had song/break/song, starts and finishes. That was something new for us as well,” Scanlan smiles, his flower tattoos swallowing a hand and embossing his neck by far the brightest sight at our bar meeting spot.
Zoroaster was actually the drummer’s first true gloomy metal band. Previously, Scanlan had manned the kit in a local ’70s styled psych band. When he joined he thought the transition to playing at a stoned crawl would be easy. “It was hard as shit for me,” he contends.
“Luckily Will and Brent gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted in the songs. Even when they were playing slow they were like, ‘Do a bunch of fills, make it interesting, jazz it up.’ Playing slow gave me a chance to do some abstract shit.
“If I start playing a beat and I can predict what I’m going to do next that’s where I’m going to try and change it, just to break up any monotony.”
Originally slated to record in Chicago – location of producer Sanford Parker – the band opted to fly him to Atlanta, fearing they would lose the relaxed atmosphere they created by focusing on writing and staying off the road.
“Here if we needed something everything was accessible. We had multiple studios and we could call friends. We could go home and sleep in our own beds. If we went to Chicago we would probably get shit wasted every night and sleep in the studio bunk beds ”
He continued, “This was relaxed. Show up at ten in the morning, have some coffee, get your day started, and cut out around eight. They were still long days, but they were chill because we were home.”
That atmosphere led the band to make one song a full experiment; the self-titled track a result of recording a long mushroom trip.
“That was one of those last fun things in the studio,” Scanlan laughed. “Everybody is tripping balls and playing anything that’s laying around. It could have turned out really bad.”
The next day brought with itself a fear that the song wasn’t as good as they championed it to be. “Everything sounds good when you’re trippin’. We were like, ‘What if we get back in there and it sounds like horse shit?’
“You go in the next day holding your head and hoping its okay. It turned out good so we kept it.”
Matador is out now and Zoroaster has new track “Witch’s Hammer” on the free Metal Swim Compilation.
Photo Credit: Tim Song