Kicking off 2015 with a solid debut album release, this is one band fans of modern heavy music should have on their radar. Förstöra play a brand and style that draws elements from a variety of subgenres. Raw, Aggressive, Doom, Groove infused Hardcore, from the underground, Australia.
We chat to Ben Lockhart, the mastermind driving the sinister guitar sound, intervals and compositions of the debut album ‘For All That Will Save or Destroy Us’
What does your new release, ‘For All That Will Save or Destroy Us’, mean to you?
Förstöra have only recently put out our debut full length album, so it’s still pretty new to us. And by new I mean old as hell, because it took us nearly 2 years to get the whole thing done, but new perhaps in terms of the relief of finally getting it out. So I guess it means quite a lot to us really; it is the culmination of a lot of hard work and organisation on our part, and by those whom we’ve collaborated with to help get it done. It’s certainly something we’re all really proud of. For me personally, I’ve been in a few other bands along the way but have never been very prolific with releases, just a couple Ep’s really. When you grow up being super into music it’s all about ‘albums’ – or at least it certainly was for me growing up in the 90s, that’s what ‘real bands’ do, they put out albums – so to finally put out a full length of my own feels like something has been completed, like I can breathe a little easier within myself, feel a bit more at ease with my peers who have all put out great albums themselves, or something. I’m not sure if it means the same to the other dudes in the band, but it certainly has that real ‘tick it off the bucket-list’ thing for me.
It’s a solid album so congratulations on the effort. I love the dynamics and flow of the track listing and often find myself listening to it in its entirety. Do you have any favourite or standout tracks?
Cheers! Yeah cool, it was certainly written and recorded to fit together like it does so that’s cool to hear, we definitely wanted it to be ‘an album’, not just a collection of songs thrown together. I actually like all the songs on the album for the most part, but I guess a standout to me might be the track ‘Final Day Beneath a Dying Sun’, just because the drum sound is pretty different to the other tracks and how we pulled those sounds. It’s actually two separate kits – each panned hard either side – which were these crazy huge pieced-together kits using two bass drums with the heads removed from one side and placed end-to-end to create a single massive double-length bass drum, all the toms were big floor toms. Pretty much all the sounds are overheads and room mics too, it’s a bit different but it came out pretty well and gives the track a different vibe from some of the other songs. We actually played it live for the first time at our album launch with Drew from Karnivool playing as the second drummer, just trying to capture that vibe.
live footage courtesy of Bayou TV
How and why did you first pick up the guitar?
You know, it’s funny, I actually have a picture of myself holding a little toy guitar at about age 3 – it’s really strange, I’m actually strumming with my right hand like I’m holding an invisible pick, and it’s the exact same grip I use to this day, pretty weird. I had piano lessons and whatever growing up but I didn’t really pick the guitar up again until I was like 15. My first guitar was an old acoustic, I played that for like a year before I got an electric, trying to learn Nirvana songs. Finally I picked up an old Ibanez EX series (not very cool in the 90s) and a Peavey Rage 15 (always cool at all times). God, I hated that Floyd Rose bridge. My first pedal was a Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion – terrible pedal – because Kurt Cobain had one. I’ve actually found myself wanting one again recently.
I don’t know why I picked it up exactly, it kinda just felt like something I had to do. I can remember watching guitarists growing up and thinking ‘I’m going to play that’. I probably picked it up to be cool, and that didn’t work of course. It was the 90s so there was that whole ‘anti-guitar hero’ thing going on. I’m pretty glad I came up in that time period in some ways though; I kind of feel like there was a bit more philosophy and ethos behind why you played rock music and how you went about it, than there is today. I mean, there was a lot of posing and bullshit like there always is, but there was definitely a spirit in the kinds of approaches people were taking in rock and metal. Maybe everyone than comes up in a different musical generation says that because they felt connected to the culture and the meanings of that time, it’s probably pretty overly-nostalgic really. Actually, if I think back, I actually thought most of the music was shit back in the day, and here I am praising it.
Live pics courtesy of Samuel Christopher Allen
First album you purchased?
The first album I bought with my own money was probably Kick, by INXS on cassette, but I got John Farnham’s Whispering Jack first. Def Leppard’s Hysteria couldn’t have come too much later. Improved taste in music, however, clearly did. I would just listen to tapes on my Walkman endlessly.
“Improved” taste is subjective. So what are some albums that have impacted your songwriting and guitar style?
Haha, this is true. Wow, there’s been so many. I guess initially it would’ve been Nirvana albums, although I am an unashamed In Utero guy, such a gritty album with so much nastiness in the guitars, but the imperfections kinda defined the character in the sound. Maybe that was what I was getting at a bit earlier, you just don’t see that anymore because everyone has DAW’d everything to perfection. But it just didn’t matter on that album because the songs are so great. I guess Rollins Band’s Weight was pretty important for me; Chris Haskett was probably my most influential guitar figure growing up, just the scales and melodies he would use, it became my DNA. Tom Morello – I’m an Evil Empire guy – just his riffs and sense of structure, the way he’d build his parts and write songs. Mastodon were really big for me, a friend gave me Remission when that came out, that redefined a lot of things for me. Meshuggah’s Chaosphere changed things the most for me; I was already pretty into prog and odd-time but the way they oscillated odd phrases through 4/4 and made it groove, it was a revelation. Drew and I were obsessed with that stuff growing up – we all were. It’s funny watching what has become ‘djent’, having grown up on Meshuggah before anyone knew what that style was. Modern metal actually resisted going that way for quite a while, all things considered, but it was inevitable that it would eventually go down that road. Those guys are like the AC/DC or Black Sabbath of modern metal in my mind. Dillinger’s Miss Machine, that still holds up. In the last 10 years it’s been more of that metallic hardcore thing. Obviously Converge, Trap Them, The Secret’s Solve et Coagula was really huge for me. They’re the sounds that are more obviously influential in what Förstöra does, but I’d like to think we have our own vibe going on, it all gets in there somehow. It’s funny, you can write music and know where you’re coming from, and then people will hear it completely differently and say it sounds like this or that, so it’s all relative.
I would say though that one of the most influential factors on my playing and writing has been my peers in the Perth scene along the way. There’s so many things my mates do better than me that I’m totally jealous of, or see things that I don’t see, it’s been really inspiring over the years. Their respect still means much more to me than anything else.
What kind of attributes do you look for when choosing an electric guitar?
I guess I’m a bit guilty of liking custom guitars, it’s pretty wanky really. I’ve got a couple First Act Sheenas, a Wild Customs Savage One, and a GCI. It just means you have a little more control over materials, design/style etc. I prefer shapes/brands that are a little unique and have a bit of flair to them, probably a bit of a retro styling, shapes that reference old Mosrites, Rickenbackers, Gibsons etc. – don’t like ‘metal-looking guitars’ really – but actually sound pretty modern. I probably lean towards mahogany bodies because of having played an LP Custom for so long, but 24.75” is a little short to handle some of my lower tunings these days, so most of my guitars are 25” or 25.5”. I go for a pretty standard C shape neck, I can’t do those super-fat D shapes, too chunky for me, but I’m not into those super flat or wide shreddy necks either. But I do prefer the action to be pretty low and playable. I generally throw an EMG 85 in the bridge and keep the pickup pretty high to get the attack. Most of my guitars actually only have a bridge pickup; I almost never use the neck pickup and always loved the Spartan quality of that style, although I think I first saw it when Korn did it back in the day and thought it looked sick, so that’s pretty embarrassing.
Having said all that, the best made guitar I own is a G&L ASAT Classic, it’s just rock solid, so the idea that custom is better isn’t necessarily true in my mind. I’ve told myself that I’m going to take a break from buying guitars, my mates take the piss out of me about that one.
HaHa… can definitely relate to that! G.A.S (Guitar acquisition syndrome) should be a recognisable mental illness!
Oh God, it should be. I’ve been smashing the Wildwood Guitars Greg Koch demos, leaves you wanting all the Custom Shop Fenders. There was this one Jazzmaster with a relic’d seafoam green over a sunburst finish, best looking guitar I’ve seen. It’s an illness.
Live pics courtesy of Baz Kundabuffer Harvey
Can you describe your approach to songwriting — how do you decide which riffs are good and which are bad?
I tend to write all of the band’s music on my own initially – I like to try to take finished songs in – so things are generally pretty solid to begin with, but if our drummer Roundy has good ideas we certainly make some edits. I am such a luddite, I’ve never written in a DAW, the only way I know how to do things is just bashing it out on guitar – over and over. It’s actually pretty ineffective in many regards, but it’s the only way I know how to do things so it is what it is. I definitely subscribe to the whole ‘slow construction’ model of composition; just treating each song like it’s a big slab of granite and just slowly chipping away at it, refining things, not being too particular about the whole thing at once, just keeping a general sense of what you’re working towards in your mind and making little tweaks here and there, just letting it grow organically, until it all seems to fit together. The worst thing any artist can do is rate themselves against the totality of their previous work, because there’s a good chance you’ll end up saying “how can I ever do that again?” when it was probably actually just achieved by slowly chipping away without any grand design in mind. If you judge your future production off your final results you’ll be crippled by self-criticism. I don’t know how it is for other songwriters but for me there’s a certain amount of ‘blind faith’ that it will just ‘work out ok’ when it’s finished, that’s probably because I don’t write in a DAW though, so I can’t monitor progress as tightly along the way because if I want to hear it I have to play it myself. Deciding which riffs stay and which ones go can be hard, there’s usually ones that are central to the song and obviously need to be there, but it’s the ‘connective’ ones that can cause issues. It’s pretty easy to get attached to certain ideas that actually don’t really help the song; you have to learn to be ruthless and let things fall to the cutting room floor. I reckon it takes me about 20 hours to write a song, most of the time I’m just mindlessly playing the same things over and over again, occasionally I’ll go “oh, hang on, maybe I should do that.” Obviously I’ve got problems.
Tone-wise, what was your recording setup like?
The album was engineered and produced by our drummer Roundy (Adam Round). When we recorded the album, we quad-tracked all the guitars with a Bad Cat Hot Cat 30 and an old Hiwatt on each side. The Hiwatt was actually a bit broken, like the caps had gone or something and it was a little crackly, so we chucked an Amptweaker TightRock in the front and used that for the gain, it was just super gritty and loose, and seemed to blend well and leave enough space for the Hot Cat. All the guitars were eq’d with the AA Esquilax, just to add some edge and give it a little HM2-ish midrange. We also threw some guitars up the guts at times. Quad tracking does create some phase issues though, and you need to blend the tones together well to help them sit right, Roundy’s pretty onto all that stuff though. When it comes to guitars, I have a sense of the kinds of tones I like and how I want things to sound, and then Roundy helps me realise that I don’t actually know what I’m talking about and that most of what I think is really just a figment of my imagination and not even a thing, so I’ve learned a lot from him in that sense.
How do you recreate this live?
As far as live guitar sounds go, I’m definitely not trying to ‘recreate’ the tones off the album, more just pull solid sounds that work well in a live setting and get me in the ballpark. I’ve recently started using a dual amp rig: I’m running a 5150II through a slanted Orange cab with V30s (I only ever use the crunch channel for that hot-rodded Marshall sound, I’ve never used the lead channel, not even once), and also a Budda Superdrive 30 combo. It’s not exactly replicating the album sound per se – on the album, the Hiwatt was loose and gritty, while the Bad Cat was tighter and more mid/upper-mid-focused. Live it’s almost the opposite; the 5150 is pretty scoopy – even on the crunch channel – and not that textured, while the Budda is really mid-focused and more direct, but also really grindy. It’s like some weird about-face from the album, but seems to work strangely enough.
Personally, up until recently, having only being accustomed to hearing Förstöra live, I was a bit worried if you guys could faithfully capture your live vibe on a recording, but you guys definitely came through and delivered! Fantastic job!
You recently released ‘For All That Will Save or Destroy Us’ at Amplifier Bar, what’s next for the band?
Now that we’ve released our album, we do hope to play some shows over east in support of it, there’s nothing finalised at this stage though. We also played a festival in Indonesia last year so we’d love to try and get back there again, or maybe some shows in Japan, we’ll see what comes up. Other than that, we’ll continue the writing process and working towards a second album.
Our next show will be supporting our good mates Chaos Divine to launch their new album Colliding Skies at Amplifier Bar on March 20. I’ve known those dudes forever, I’ve known Simon since he was 12 and he’s 30 this year! I actually gave him his first guitar lessons if you can believe, it’s embarrassing because now he shreds his dick off and I’m still the same. I’ve played on a basketball team with those dudes for the last 10 years too, they’re more like brothers so it’s pretty rad to finally play a gig with them. Their new album is incredible, too, easily their best yet.
You guys sure do a good job representing Perth WA talent. World class acts. It must feel great to not only see your friends, but peers do well.
For sure, Perth has such an amazingly talented original music scene across all genres. It’s definitely rad to see locals doing well, but it’s certainly pretty special when you see your peers and homies doing great things out there.
Live pics courtesy of Baz Kundabuffer Harvey
Thanks for taking the time to give us your insights. To finish off…
Give us your best “wtf” live show experience…
Oh man, we’ve had a few! We’ve had amps turn on and off, cymbals falling over or flying off the stands, Denis falling over, Roundy’s drum stool literally breaking and him falling over whilst still playing, Danny (bass) and I have both cut our hands and bled on our guitars. And then there’s just gig stuff, like I’ve played half a song with a bloody delay pedal on and half-wondered, “I wonder why everything sounds so washy?”, and when you realise you’re just like “HOLY FUCK!” I’ve done that a couple times actually. You have gigs where it’s just the best and everything is flowing, and gigs where you just cannot get shit together in your head, keep having brain-farts and messing up like you barely even know how to play, or you just never get into a groove for whatever reason and you’re just thinking “why do I even do this? I think I may have wasted 15 years of my life. Oh God, what’s this next riff again, I think I might be about to fuck it up. I AM FUCKING IT UP!” It’s a mixed bag, that’s half the fun I suppose.
Listen, support and keep up to date with all things Förstöra
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/forstora?fref=ts
Band camp – http://forstora.bandcamp.com/releases
Additional bonus! Anarchy Audio were quite lucky to put together this collaboration clip demo video featuring Ben Lockhart (Förstöra) and Simon Mitchell (Chaos Divine) showcasing the now sold out/temporarily discontinued Anarchy Audio Esquilax EQ pedal (released in 2013). This was one of a few pedals Ben has been involved in testing and prototyping, along with the Abominus and HM2 clone.