MIKE “GUNFACE” MCKENZIE IS THE LATEST MEMBER OF THE RED CHORD TO PUT UP WITH OUR DUMB QUESTIONS
If there’s any justice in the world, The Red Chord’s excellent new album, Fed Through the Teeth Machine (read my four out of five horns review here), will cement Mike “Gunface” McKenzie’s status as one of his generation’s great guitar gods while introducing his truly unique playing to scores of new fans. Now The Red Chord’s sole axe slinger, Gunface really steps up his game on Teeth – the riffs and solos on this album are easily some of the year’s very best.
That being the case, I was very, very excited to have the opportunity to e-mail some questions to Gunface earlier this week. He follows bassist Greg Weeks and vocalist Guy Kozowyk as the latest member of The Red Chord to humor me by answering some truly idiotic (and hopefully a few intelligent) questions (I’m sure we’ll get to drummer Brad Fickeisen sooner or later). After the jump, get Gunface’s thoughts on the creation of Fed Through the Teeth Machine, writing solos, his various side projects, the value of the Death Star, and more.
Fed Through the Teeth Machine is out October 27 on Metal Blade.
A teeth machine is a nautical device that allows ocean water to flow freely through a type two micro-organism trill filter without the need for adhesive injectors. Gunface is a state of being, outside of the material realm.
Musically, how, if at all, do you feel Teeth differs from past TRC offerings? Did the band go into the writing process with a vision for how you wanted the album to sound, or did it just evolve a certain way?
We did have some ideas ahead of time, as always. But I feel that this record is a bit more focused than Prey for Eyes. We kind of streamlined our writing process by keeping to a system. Just about all the songs went through the same stages: the idea stage, the demo stage, the “play it together” stage and the finished version.
The Red Chord are now a four piece. Did that affect the songwriting process at all? There are places on Teeth where you have multiple guitar parts – are you at all concerned about duplicating that music live?
When we’re writing, the record is the most important thing at hand. How we’re going to perform it live is something we figure out later. Between Greg and I and our gear, we’ll figure out how to make it all work.
Why did the band decide to self-produce Teeth?
We are control freaks.
Can you please discuss your approach to writing guitar solos? How planned-out are they in advance of recording (as opposed to being off-the-cuff)? Are there influences you aspire to emulate in your solos?
They are somewhat planned out. During the demo process, I recorded all the solos and guitar overdub ideas that I had. Some of them changed in the course of the few months in between writing and tracking. As for my approach, I try to write solos that are interesting, rather than noodly. Sometimes some guitar wankery is appropriate, but ultimately I feel that our music is too technical to have technical solos splattered all over it. I like the solo section to be a brief respite from the frantic nature of the song. I’ve always been a fan of the way Emperor’s keyboards sort of float calmly over a frenetic set of riffs. I try to accomplish that idea in solos. I also feel that solos should be heartfelt, which doesn’t always fall in line with shredding.
I don’t want to emulate anyone really in my solos, but some of the players that have inspired me are: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Vigna (Immolation) and Paul Masvidal (Cynic).
You also helped write lyrics on this album for the first time. Can you talk about that process a little bit? At any point did Guy just tell you, y’know, “How ‘bout you shut up and go play your gee-tar?”
Well, it started by accident. I was recording demos for one of the songs (I think it was “Embarrassment Legacy”) and I needed to track vocal pattern ideas. I wrote lyrics for the song as placeholders, but ended up liking what I wrote. Some of the other stuff I wrote (lyrics for “Demoralizer” and “Mouthful of Precious Stones”) was written because I felt like they fit.
Guy didn’t have a problem with it. He and I brainstormed on quite a few lyrical concepts this time around. It was a joint effort.
Dude, when are The Red Chord gonna make one of those nifty DVDs like all the other bands are makin’?
At some point. We want to release a DVD, but we want to do it right. Eventually it will happen.
Guy once told us that you and Greg have many side projects, including Tit Beard, Mt. Fuckasaurus, Dirt Mistaken for Weed, Mun… and we were privy to an incredible performance by Ladder Up An Ass. Can you please discuss these side projects? Will you ever record with any of them?
I’d like to record material for all of them. Mt. Fuckosaur was the first to perform live, in Belgium 2003. Ladder up an Ass has plans to tour at some point, as well as Plant Vochestra (Greg and me with Tommy from BTBAM). Other projects to come include: Piece of Shit Family, Snake Cakes, Font Dust, Science Rooster. Also some others that aren’t as ridiculous: Secret Cupcake, G and C Music Factory, Unraveller, Stomach Earth.
Have you ever thought of starting a band with Tracii Guns called L.A. Gunface? If yes, then what’s the delay? If no, then why the heck not?
I was going to, but then something happened.
Who would win in a fight, Gunface or Murderface?
Murderface has the resources to make things happen. He could hire murderfaces.
Would you rather ingest the ash or have a mouthful of precious stones?
Ingest the ash. Having a mouthful of tooth problems would be a more long- term affliction.
A little birdie told us that not only do you hate weed, but you hate the very smell of weed. Dude… what the fuck? Are you aware that the enjoyability of all albums by The Red Chord immediately increase 6,000% if you listen to them on weed?
I don’t know who would have told you that. I don’t hate anything! I love life!
And I’m asking you this last question just because I also asked Greg and Guy, and I don’t see why you should be spared the stupidity. My ex-girlfriend insists that during “Send the Death Storm,” Guy is, in fact, screaming “Save the Death Star.” Pretending for a moment that she is correct, please let us know why the Death Star should be saved.
Because the Rebel Alliance would have been much better off stealthily infiltrating the Death Star and hijacking it. Sure, it’s more of a challenge than just blowing it up, but imagine what they could have done with resources like that! I’m sure there were large amounts of food and supplies that they could have used. Especially since so much had been lost in the battles against the Empire! And the thing was really cool.
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