SUBTRACT

Some of you might know of New Zealand’s SUBTRACT. Those of you who don’t will find out everything by reading this interview. Anders Ekdahl ©2011

At first I thought your band name was cool but the more I thought about the less I understood it. Please explain to me the meaning of it.
-We’ve always been a ‘less is more’ kind of band, both musically and stylistically, and when we came up with the name we were trying to keep it short and sweet, so it was easy to remember. As far as its definition goes, I think it references the dark, angry sounds, and heavy political lyrical content, without being a negative connotation. Anyway, I think once its established as your band name, it’s just a name. It’s defined by this band.

You’ve been going since the 90s. What is that drives you to not call it quits
-Calling it quits has never been an option. It’s a pure love of metal. We are musicians, we are all close friends, and we will always be Subtract, in whatever sense that might be. As long as we can play our instruments (and we can stand each other!) we’ll be Subtract. We’ll still be Subtract when we’re 60, I guarantee it!

Having released records over a long period of time does it feel like you are back a starting point each time a new record is out or do you have a following to build on?
-A new album always feels like a fresh start. We like to try and develop our sound, and progress technically each album we release. Our fans have stayed with us throughout, and we continue to find new fans all the time. We tend to approach metal from an older school, thrash kind of vibe, so a lot of younger fans, who maybe have only heard emo/deathcore kind of stuff, really respond to the music’s groove and style.

When touring New Zealand extensively how many shows does that include and what kind of crowd do you attract?
-It depends on what sort of tour you do. For the first couple of albums we would try and play everywhere we could. Our longest tour was 16 shows around New Zealand. It’s so sparsely populated here that doing the smaller shows isn’t always commercially viable, so after about 4 or 5 full national tours, we now tend to play only the main centres, which is about 5 or 6 shows around the country. New Zealand metal fans are some of the most passionate. Our scene is small, so the fans will support most bands. When we played with Opeth a few years back, they told us some of the Kiwi fans were a lot like German metal fans. Rabid beer drinking maniacs! But that is just part of the scene. There are bands and fans playing all sorts of metal in New Zealand from Goth/Black metal styles, technical/Djent music right through to us at the old school thrash/death end of things. As far as OUR fan base goes, we tend to occupy a crossover point, where we attract alternative music fans, as well as manic metalheads.

New Zealand is a small country far away from the rest of the world. I take it that not too many international acts come to tour the country. How do you build a national scene when so few outside bands come to play? How many times can you play with the same bands before people tire of you?
-That’s not actually the case. We get a lot of internationals coming to Auckland at least, if not other cities. There aren’t many international bands we haven’t seen here. If they go to Australia, they will generally play Auckland as well. The list of internationals we’ve personally played with is pretty long, so here’s a few of them. Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer, Fear Factory, Helmet, Trivium, Whitechapel, Lamb of God (twice), Opeth, Children of Bodom, Arch Enemy, and just recently, we did and Australasian tour of 5 shows with the mighty Exodus. As far as playing with local bands, we do have favourites we like to share the stage with, but there are always so many new bands coming up that we never get stale by playing too much with any one band. We also play with a few Australian bands either here in NZ or when we tour there on a fairly regular basis like Psycroptic, Frankenbok, The Amenta and Days End. We do have to be careful not to play too often in one city, or with one band repeatedly though, because it is so small here.

How do you get out of NZ and onto an international metal scene?
-We’ve made the trip across to Australia a few times, and further afield we use the internet for a lot of promotional stuff. There are bands from New Zealand who have done really well in the States and Europe by just dropping everything, emptying their bank accounts, and jumping on a tour. Most recently our friends in Ulcerate signed to Relapse records in the States, which is thoroughly deserved. They work really hard internationally. Basically it has to be an ‘all or nothing’ approach, because lets face it, they aren’t gonna find you down here in New Zealand, unless they really look hard!

How much of DIY attitude is there to Subtract? Is it better to do things yourself than to sit around waiting for things to happen?
-Totally. Like I said before, you can’t sit back and wait for it to happen, because it won’t. We’ve self funded everything we’ve ever done. Tours, albums, videos, the lot. Along with our management company Subtract is 100% a DIY band. It’s the only way to be in this country if you want to achieve any kind of success.

How much does it play a part that you’ve built a reputation on your own when it comes to attract label interest?
– Well, attracting label interest has never been a huge priority for this band, especially as labels in this country generally don’t have a clue about the metal scene! For the first 4 or 5 years of Subtract, we had our own independent label ‘Ultrasound Recordings’, which we released everything through. The last two albums were released through smaller independent labels in Australasia. But our reputation has helped us with landing larger shows, international supports, festivals etc. We pride ourselves on being a low maintenance, professional band tha always put on a tight, killer show, and I think that has opened a few more doors for us.

When it comes to art work and everything else that comes with releasing a record, how do you go about sorting that stuff out?
-We approach it like we do the music. It’s a collaborative effort. We’re quite lucky that one of the band is a graphic designer as well, which helps. We come up with a collective idea, and he makes it happen. We have a management company that do a lot of leg work for us on the business front, which is great. But after 4 albums we’ve got the process pretty sorted!

Tell us what you like the future to hold for Subtract?
-Well, that’s easy. Lots more of the same! More albums, more tours. We still love this band as much now as we did in 1997 when we started, and we’ll continue to make the heaviest music we can, and take every opportunity that comes our way. Our latest album ‘Talk – Action = Nothing’, will be out in the next few months, and it is a huge progression again for us. I think this will be the best sounding, heaviest album we’ve done yet. Our first priority is to get back to Australia, then US/Europe to promote it. And we’ve already started writing the next one, so stay in touch y’all! There’s much more to come!

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