South Africa’s FACING THE GALLOWS was dropped on me surprisingly but I Iiked what I heard so wanted to interview them. Answered by guitarist James Irving. Anders Ekdahl ©2018

How important is the band’s name in giving out the right kind of vibe?
-In the beginning it was just a cool a name. It ticked all the right boxes. The importance of the name then didn’t have as much weight behind it as it does now. Today Facing The Gallows isn’t about meaning, its grown into what it represents. Us as a band, our sound, who we are and what we bring to the music community in SA. When people see our name on a bill they know what’s coming. They know or have heard about what we do and how we do it. It’s like Tool. The word Tool isn’t exactly cool or stand for anything that isn’t a hammer or a wrench. But it’s grown into its own identity with the band, who they are, how and what they play. FTG is the same thing now. It isn’t about executions or final moments. It’s us as a band, It’s who we are. It’s our identity.
Having said that, you know when you read our name we’re not playing Taylor Swift covers. Even if we have a song called Bad Blood.

I wanted to start a band in the 80s but couldn’t fin d the right people to do so with. What was it that made you want to do the band?
-Bands and gigs are a big part of the social scene in this country. So when FTG formed it was from Ray, Chase and Bryan hanging out at gigs together and getting that band itch from watching others on stage. It looks like the best time, it’s part of the environment that we love to be in and it’s the music we want to hear. Once Ricki and Nem joined it was full speed ahead. Everything clicked at the right time. Over the years members have changed. But that fire and energy that started all of this still burns strong today.

With so many genres and sub-genres of metal today what is your definition of the music you play?
-This is a tough one and I was thinking about this the other day. I don’t have a problem with the whole genre/sub-genre thing. I do feel it’s important to identify with a specific style of music. But to say what style we are? I can’t really be sure. Metalcore is what we’re most associated with. It’s the era the band started out in. But with Dead Mindset I really believe we pushed the envelope and explored many many different styles of music. You can hear thrash, punk, death, doom, hardcore, rock, melodic, prog all in those songs. It’s something that was important for us was to push the expectations as a band and as writers. We’re 100% metal and that leaves room for everyone to find something they like and love.

How do you arrange the tracks? Is there a method to how you arrange the songs on a record?
-I think I drove the rest of the band mad with Dead Mindsets eventual arrangement. I probably went overboard, but I do feel the album has the right flow and balance. I also felt none of the songs cancel each other out. If that makes sense? They all have their own space on the album and flow into the next fluently. It takes you on a ride. Fast paced in the beginning and grooving by the end.

I am fascinated by how people can still come up with things that hasn’t been done before, chord structures that hasn’t been written, sentences that hasn’t been constructed before. Where do you find your inspiration to create?
-For me personally I go through swings when I’m creative. I’ve learnt to never force the moment if it isn’t there. Which is fine because when I do get that feeling or need to write or create a song. It feels like all the doors are open, nothing is distracting me and I just go on a rampage. I’ll jam on my guitar till certain things grab my attention and get me excited. Then things start connecting, you discover those parts in a song you know gives the audience that feeling in their stomach. You create that melody or hook. It just flows naturally and eventually I’ll have the foundation for a song that I’m comfortable showing the rest of band. Also if I come up with something, go to bed and don’t remember it in the morning then it wasn’t cool or special enough to begin with. I’ll also try to stay away from listening to music when I’m in that head space. It’s pretty easy to be overly influenced by something else to the point of copying. So when I’m in the groove I discover things on my own and create something that’s a part of me. I like to write music that feels like a ride. It feels like it’s moving, has its drops and twists. Makes that feeling in your stomach and gets you excited…. Maybe that’s what we write, Rollercoastercore!

How important is the graphic side of the band? How much thought goes into art work etc.?
-That’s very much Chases area of expertise. He’s very meticulous with how we present ourselves whether it’s through our merch, album designs, banners, photos and music videos. It’s what shapes our image as a band. It’s also contributes to the whole identity thing. It’s part of what makes FTG us. The way I am with the order and song arrangements is the way Chase behaves when it comes to us visually. Also the merch aspect is unbelievably important for bands in this day and age. So it has to be cared for as much as the music.

I get the feeling that more and more metalheads too are just downloading single tracks. Is the album as relevant today as it was in the 70s and 80s? Is digital killing the album?
-Definitely. But there’s very little that can be done about it today. It’s a shame because there’s countless bands here who have come and gone because there’s no viable way of keeping it going. Album sales were once the biggest pipeline for a band. Now, it’s probably the smallest. So they rely on shows and merch. It’s definitely running the whole “passion” tank dry the older you get. But there’s nothing like being on stage snapping necks. So you have to make do as best as you can!

Are we killing our beloved metal scene by supporting digital downloading or can anything positive come from supporting single tracks and not albums? Will the fan as we know him/her be gone soon?
-As long as you go to shows, buy a t-shirt or 6 and help spread the names of bands you like. Then there’s still hope for bands to have successful careers. I don’t see how releasing singles is good, it can give room for oversaturating the market. Anyone can release a single. But a collective of songs takes a lot of work and dedication. So you have to filter through all the flashy crap till you find something real. Nothing beats a new album. Going on a journey track to track, its unbeatable. If things go the way it seems like it’s going then music is going to turn into a gimmick. More about a formulated product then anything with meaning. Hopefully things will shift for the better and there’s a revival. Else you have people who enjoy music and aren’t diehard fans. It’s the fanatic that make the shows wild and doing this worthwhile. Without them there’s no band.

Is there a scene to speak of for a band like yours? Where do you fit in?
-In South Africa we have a unique music scene. Its big enough to seem like a huge community. But small enough where you know everyone in it. We definitely need to build a bridge from here to the north of the globe. We have so much talent but nowhere to really go. Once you’ve done everything here there isn’t much left to achieve or accomplish. Hopefully in next year or so they’re will be a shift in music for bands from our scene to travel further and longer. I think what we have here is pretty special and the world needs an injection of special. Where do we fit in to all of this? I hope as one of the many bands who proudly represent SA music and challenge it to improve. Pushing the boundaries of what we can do locally and blur the lines of what makes a international band “International”.

What does the future hold?
-We have a pretty busy year ahead of us. We’ve just dropped our new album Dead Mindset. So we’re planning and coming up with ideas for a few new music videos. We’re also on Tour with Secrets which coincides with our album tour schedule. There’s a few more tours dotted throughout the year and the next. Maybe hit up a few festivals. Our plan is to save up for a tour overseas and push harder in those markets. We may start work on a Doom EP idea we have. But we will see, we just dropped the new album. We’re enjoying that it’s finally out and stoked to be playing shows again. Hopefully the future just brings cool shows, amazing parties and killer memories.

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