INTERVIEW: Gatecreeper – Eric Wagner
After reviewing the mighty Gatecreeper’s newest banger, Deserted, I was contacted and asked about the potentiality of interviewing them. I have never interviewed anyone outside of a class-setting before; I know to ask a broad range of questions that are serious, but with so many serious interviews, I considered the idea of throwing in a few silly questions toward the end. I was happy to interview Gatecreeper’s guitarist Eric Wagner and he was very receptive to the silly questions. Pick up their new album, Deserted, now!
First off, how is everything?
Everything is going great! Deserted is finally out and the response has been really good.
It’s been three years since the release of your debut album, Sonoran Depravation. How has life changed in the last three years?
Over the last three years we hit the road hard and gained a bunch of new experiences. We have shared the stage with a bunch of badass bands like Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus, and Iron Reagan and that has had an impact on me as a touring musician. Watching those bands every night and seeing how they manage on the road has really inspired me and the rest of the band. I feel like those experiences have helped shape aspects of the new record.
Are you excited for your upcoming co-headlining tour with Exhumed?
We are all super excited for the tour [Figure 1]. Exhumed is such a legendary band and their music and live show is so sick. Necrot and Judiciary are also bad ass and we can’t wait to hangout and watch them do their thing every night. All of the bands are super fun and have their own unique styles. It’s a cool showcase of grind, thrash, death metal, and hardcore. I love when bands on tours have styles that are different but mesh well with each other. I think that each of the bands will add to the energy in their own ways and it will make for a great show. Exhumed’s new record also rules and so I am looking forward to seeing that material live.
What is your pre-show warm-up routine?
I need to eat before the set. Most people don’t like to eat before but I need to. I play so much better if I do. About forty-five minutes before the set I get my guitar out and just play. Sometimes I play our songs, sometimes I write riffs, and sometimes I do finger exercises or work on technique. I basically just play about twenty minutes before the set the adrenaline starts flowing and I start to feel crazy. Playing live is my favorite part of being in a band and the anticipation before the set gets me going. I will slam an energy drink and play something like Savatage, or W.A.S.P. on a Bluetooth speaker. Right before the set, I sometimes ask someone to slap me in the face really hard; Spencer from Full of Hell knows all about this. Then I go play my ass off. I try to give 110% every night no matter how I feel.
When it comes to being one of the charging leaders of the death metal resurgence, do you feel like there are big boots to fill? To rephrase, do you feel pressure in maintaining the “old school death metal” ideal surrounding the band’s name?
I don’t feel any pressure to fill any boots. We are just participating in something that has been going for decades. Regardless of the band’s success, I would still be writing this stuff. So many people talk about how we are just an old school sounding death metal band. We are a current DM band that plays the songs that we write. We are for sure influenced by OSDM bands, because that shit rips, but we are not a OSDM cover band! We write what we feel as artists and this is how it sounds. Everyone in the band has their own styles and the songs we make are the combination of those styles. Our musical standards have nothing to do with maintaining an “OSDM” sound… they have to do with song structure, riff quality, and how hooks in the songs hit. Death metal is such a massive part of my life that it has influence on everything I do. It has been such a strong force in my life since sixth grade. My riffs are influenced by Obituary and Cannibal Corpse because those bands are a part of me. My riffs are written for kids to mosh to because I fucking love to mosh. My songs have hooks because I love songs that get stuck in my head or riffs that can be hummed for days. We are not trying to sound like anything in particular. We are just writing what we feel and what we write is influenced by the DM in our lives and that includes Old School shit. I am stoked to be a part of a resurgence of raw ass DM. There are so many bands writing what they want and expressing themselves. If you’re a nice group of people having fun, then fuck yeah! Play whatever you want. Shred, bang your head, and have a good time! That’s why I do this. I’m not focused on being the BEST band. I’m focused on playing sick riffs, playing shows to people that love metal, and being away from 9 to 5 work as much as possible.
In the newest release, Deserted, it appears to take a much slower approach than the previous record. What inspired the slower aggression this time around?
The slower pace of Deserted wasn’t intentional on my part. For me, I wanted to write a record that sounded more epic then the last one. I think the tempos were just a consequence of the desire to add melodic flavors and more epic qualities.
When starting Gatecreeper, did you all anticipate getting as big as you are today?
When we started the band my personal goal was to just have fun, record music, and make sure that everything we did was the best it could be. I had been trying for a decade, or longer, prior to Gatecreeper to make music my full time gig. It never worked. When we started doing GC I was doing it for the pure pleasure of writing and recording music and so I really didn’t think about how people would like it. We focused on the quality of the music, the quality of the production, the quality of the merch and the art. That is still our motto. We create things that feel good to us knowing that we are metal heads and that if we like it others probably will too. But no… I had no idea we would be where we are today. I feel super fucking lucky, but we have also worked really hard to get here and so it’s been more than just luck.
In the past few years you all have been on several tours – which one has been your favorite? Do you have a favorite memory of a show?
My favorite tour was Cannibal Corpse, Power Trip, and Gatecreeper [Figure 2]. The first DM band I ever heard was Cannibal Corpse and so they have been my favorite ever since I was little. Touring with them was a dream! I went from seeing them religiously every-time they came to AZ to seeing them every night for a month and getting to know them. I moshed to CC almost every night on that tour. No matter how tired I was I would go mosh. I couldn’t help it… I would get sucked in because they fucking crush and I know every song. My favorite memory/thing from that tour started happening about a quarter of the way through the tour. It all started with Rob Barrett. He would point at me mid set and then point to the pit, telling me to mosh. When that happens you have no choice but to pit. Eventually Corpse Grinder and Pat started doing it too. Eventually I was obligated to mosh every night. That was super fun.
What was the first concert you went to as a kid?
The first metal show I really remember was Slayer, Slipknot, Hatebreed and God Forbid. I had definitely gone to metal shows before that, because I remember being mad that slipknot was headlining over Slayer, but for whatever reason that’s the one that comes to mind.
A common question is what got you all into death metal, but a less common question I’d like to know is what bands outside of the metal realm do you all thoroughly enjoy?
My favorite musician is Chris Ledoux. Its real ass cowboy rodeo country and I’m addicted to it. I’m sure the rest of the band gets annoyed with me because I can listen to his songs for 10 hours in a row. I’m also always talking about his music. Check it out!
Are there ever disagreements about what music to play in the van, or do van rides tend to be chatter and/or silence?
I usually drive when the sun is up and Nate drives when the sun is down. When I drive everyone usually has their ear phones on and are in their own world. They usually let me listen to whatever I want. the unspoken rule is that if you don’t like it put your headphones on. The person driving is working and so they can listen to whatever they want. We are all open to whatever though. We support each other usually.
Do you have a favorite pair of socks to wear during a show?
I wear low cut black socks always. On stage and off stage.
Final question: if you’re going to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner after a successful tour, what flavor of cheesecake are you all getting?
I’m skipping the cake and getting another order of Avocado Egg Rolls.
Catch Gatecreeper on tour with Exhumed, Necrot, and Judiciary!