Q&A: Gallows Hold its Ground on “Desolation Sounds”
When Wade MacNeil entered roaring UK punk outfit Gallows in 2011, he was coming into a band of buddies that had momentum on its side, but was in need of a new voice after original frontman Frank Carter exited the fray.
MacNeil would soon go from being a part of arguably Canada’s most commercially successful post-hardcore bands (Alexisonfire) to being the singer of a band that’s revered in a scene that he grew up heavily influenced by.
Desolation Sounds, MacNeil’s second full-length studio album with Gallows, arrived this past April and is a beast of a recording. The hardcore/punk elements that brought Gallows early notoriety is still here, but the sound has evolved incredibly over time to one that’s far more multi-dimensional, paced, and yet equally as powerful.
Riffyou.com recently spent some time on the line with MacNeil to discuss Gallows swimming in its own waters; becoming a member of the UK music scene; and one major adjustment he’s had to make for this band.
RY: The quick classification that people give Gallows is that it’s a ‘punk’ band. But listening to this album, it certainly feels like you have no problem going beyond that classification. Is that the product of a band that isn’t concerned about fitting in a specific scene?
Wade: “I think it’s the product of a band [that’s members] have been making albums for a really long time – it also has a lot to do with the last record we made. We wanted to make this short, snappy, violent, direct record, so we were very considerate about how we wrote it. If something was getting too indulgent, we just abandoned it right away. This time, we just wrote what we wrote. The four of us have very eclectic tastes and we didn’t stop ourselves from doing anything [on Desolation Sounds.]”
RY: I’ve heard Lags (guitarist for Gallows) say that a lot of this album came from ignoring the outside world. Is it easy for a band to fall into the trap of listening to other artists and have them play too much of an influence on future albums?
Wade: “It’s hard to say. I’ve always looked to the past for inspiration and try to process that in a certain way that’s unique. But, I don’t think I’m ever too influenced by current musical trends – and Gallows doesn’t focus too much on what punk or hardcore has to do with anything.”
RY: Fans of course know that your roots are Canadian, but being with Gallows has brought you deep into the UK music scene. What has that trip been like?
Wade: “It’s been really great. When I first started spending a lot of time over there, we’d rehearse, then we’d go out, drink beers, then I’d see Charlie Harper from UK Subs standing at the bar and I’d think, ‘This is fucking crazy!’ [My band] would be like, ‘Ah, that fucking guy? You don’t want that guy talking to you. He’ll talk your ear off!’
“I’ve always loved British punk and hardcore – that’s probably the stuff I’ve loved the most. Maybe I romanticized it a bit more [growing up] because I was so far away from it, but it’s been really interesting. It’s hilarious when you go play in Bristol and there’s a bunch of guys from Chaos UK bartending a guy from Discharge is doing your sound – those are bands that were influential to me coming up. It’s a bit of a trip.”
RY: Have you felt your artistic perspective shift thanks to all your time in the UK?
Wade: “The main thing is that Gallows is a pretty unified front. From day one, since I joined the band, we’ve had this idea about what we want to do with it – but we’ve [evolved] musically and visually from the way we present our artwork to having a very uniform, stark look. It’s the first time I’ve been in a band where everyone is very much on the same page, artistically. So yeah, my perspective has had a total shift.”
RY: With that in mind, do you ever have time to look back at how your relationship with the guys in Gallows has evolved since you entered the band?
Wade: “I spent quite a bit of time touring with them before I was asked to join the band. They were my buddies, but you don’t really know anyone until you start living with them every, single day. At first, for me, the guys seemed very subtle to me. I think they were just happy to pick up the pieces and move on – and they were very, very sure of themselves. But for me, it was a huge change. “[Also] at first, I was used to playing guitar in bands, so it was a long change for me [to not do that live.]
RY: How big of a shift was that for you? To abandon the guitar?
Wade: “It definitely felt very strange at first. But, I think we play that kind of music that doesn’t really lend itself to a band having a singer that’s attached to the stage with a guitar cable. Early on I’d have the moments of ‘What the hell am I doing?’”
RY: Considering that not all of you guys live full-time in the UK and have outside commitments abroad, how does Gallows continue to function as it should?
Wade: “We have these songs that we feel the need to write – music a very important part of all of our lives. While we all have our outside lives that take us away from the band, it doesn’t mean that the band is any less important to us. [Making music as] Gallows just kind of happens.”
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