[2013.09.01] Tom Hollingworth, for NARC Magazine.
On a quiet Thursday evening, I was warmly greeted by Aran, Shaun and Peter of We Are Knuckle Dragger at the Brew Dog pub, where a few months previous I had seen them blitz the same space (that time filled with sweaty supporters) with their unique cast of metal.
WAKD formed five years ago out of friendship and some productive jams. Within the first three practices, three of the songs on the first EP were written. The chemistry was natural but it is the hard work and commitment that has fashioned their exponential success.
The last year has seen WAKD work with some internationally acclaimed producers.
Firstly, on 2012's 'Tit For Tat' record, WAKD travelled to Chicago to work with Steve Albini (producer of In Utero by Nirvana and Rid Of Me by PJ Harvey to name a couple of classic examples.) Aran, the guitarist and singer of the band, expressed how the making of this record was "a very different process" to their latest. He said they are "hugely proud of the first album, but if people are expecting our second album to be the same as the first, it's not! Straight from the start its still us, very clearly us, but it's a completely different approach in terms of the style of recording and the way we went about it."
This time they had the honour of working with Ross Robinson (who produced seminal metal albums such as Roots by Sepultura, Slipknot by Slipknot, Korn by Korn etc...) "He did one the biggest albums of my teenage years, At The Drive-In - Relationship of Command" Aran gushed "and the fact that we were there in that place, and to know those vocals were cut for that album there... that was getting me excited already."
Robinson's approach to recording with WAKD was much more interactive and severe than Albini's. Robinson would always be looking for the band to "go deeper'" into the meanings of each song. Aran explained Robinson "wanted to know what the lyrics were about and he wanted to know how each of us was going to convey that." Sometimes he would use physical violence. Peter, the bassist, recalls "he grabbed me by the hair and shoved me into a wall!" Shaun, the drummer, modestly summarises, "The intensity was just there in that room, and it got laid down."
On the forth day of recording, after days of continuous screaming and singing (which was demanded by Robinson even through the tracking process!) Aran recalls, "I step up to the microphone, and my voice was f**king shot... I'm screaming, but there's no control, it's broken up." Robinson then put the band in his Ford Raptor and drove them to his friend, Dr. Sugarman, who issued Aran a steroid shot, along with various medicines. By the afternoon, the WAKD's singer was back in command of his voice and the recording could continue. The boys glow recalling working with Robinson and each agree he is a "life-changing guy."
The band site two inspirations for the name of this latest record, The Drone:
The first is a girl who they were introduced to by Robinson in LA, whose altruism and spirit made her "one of the most incredible people [WAKD] had ever met." Her charity was ceaseless and unbounding. At night she would collect her thoughts night-swimming, six miles out and twenty feet down in the sea. She claimed this is the only place she found true peace. In the day she would ride a Harley-Davidson. Robinson referred to her as Jackie Del Taco, or Jackie 'The Drone.' Aran explained this nickname was formed because she was like a drone "dropping bombs of awesomeness on people."
The second is WAKD's despair with the "monotony of the day-to-day life" and the mindless media such as the likes of Geordie Shore, and the X Factor which "people seem to think is so f**king important." It is this everyday drone and mediocrity with which WAKD wager a battle against. By putting on one of their songs, or going to one of their shows, you will certainly find such bland treatise evaporated from your life, and replaced with a generous catalyst for catharsis.
Consistent with the bands focus on continually evolving, The Drone is a wonderful mix of ideas that rarely repeat, allowing a wonderfully linear listening experience. Time-signatures and dynamics are constantly changing. Never knowing where the music will go we are constantly thrown amongst the crashing waves of WAKD's sea. Vocally, we are treated to desperate screams, spoken sections, and half-melodic phrases supporting the heritage of techniques in some of Robinson's most successful records. Aware of the potential for vocal styles to be easily pigeon-holed, Aran goes to great lengths to consider each sung phrase and looks for various ways to perform the lines. The Telecaster sound goes from the bass roar in songs like Sucker to the itchy sounds in Bunch of F**king Mutants and Learning By Doing. The drums and bass sync seamlessly, moving like a Blue Whale under the panic. The Drone plays for just under thirty minutes, but by the close of the record, you feel you have been shown the sites of Phileas Fogg's voyage.
It would take a special type of cynicism to denounce the splendor that WAKD offer. This humble trio have worked tremendously hard, with great passion and talent, and over a short period of time have journeyed for international talents to carve their music to perfection, and bring it to their fans. They "would like to thank everyone who has played a part in getting [them] here." In spite of such heights, WAKD promise not rest on their laurels and acknowledge that if they find themselves not evolving, then that would be the time to call it a day. With such inspired individuals, I cannot envisage this day arriving, and I remain excited for the next step. In the mean time - The Drone is a gift.
We Are Knuckle Dragger's latest album The Drone will be available from 21st October 2013. They will be performing two shows in celebration of the release: the first here in Newcastle on 25th October 2013 (with support from Rivals, James Joyce and Kings & Queens Opening) and a follow-up gig at The Hope & Anchor in London, on 26th October 2013.