There could have been no better producer for We Are Knuckle Dragger‘s debut album than Steve Albini: With its discordant, percussive guitars, seething, strained-yelp vocals, rhythmic twists and turns, and minimalist, no-frills recording, Tit for Tat is an aesthetic throwback to the Touch and Go/Kill Rock Stars glory days of clever noise rock — Rodan, godheadSilo, the Albini oeuvre, etc — cross-pollinated with the frenetic pace, attack, and flourishes of funkiness that characterized early mathcore. (Check out the video for the first single, “Mr. Son of a Bitch,” here.)
On the eve of the band’s UK tour with Decibel Hall of Famers Meshuggah, We Are Knuckle Dragger shared an exclusive track with Decibel and guitarist/vocalist Aran Glover gave us the rundown on “mindless neanderthal morons,” bad wee bastards, achieving that old timey stripped down sound and what it’s like hanging with the ever-irascible Uncle Steve — whose next Shellac bombshell, just for the record, is currently slated to drop “anytime between now and the future.”
Who or what is the “Bad Wee Bastard”?
I remember “bad wee bastard” as a term that was around back in Belfast, and used to describe kids that were more than a little unruly, shall we say. There’s something nice about the way it roles off the tongue and it just felt like a great name for a song. Our titles generally are just words or phrases we find amusing or pleasing. It was probably the third or fourth track we wrote for the album, and I remember it being fairly effortless process. Bunch of good riffs in the right order and the rest takes care of itself.
Talk to me about the name of the band.
The band was originally just called Knuckle Dragger, with the “We Are” being added before our first release. Knuckle Draggers are the neanderthal mindless morons that all too often frequent our world. You know a shaved ape-like character with all the charm of a bucket of shit? That’s a Knuckle Dragger.
What was it like working with Steve Albini? It sounds as if his bands were a major influence…
Steve Albini’s a great guy and we had a lot of fun during our time at Electrical Audio. His approach to live recording is nothing short of breathtaking and it was our honor to have him record our debut album. We’ve spent years enjoying his work, both as an engineer and an artist. We’re all big Shellac fans and definitely share similar ideas when it comes to song crafting, discord, and using humor to get across certain points. Big Black as well, what a band!! People who don’t know…go find out…
WAKD is definitely a genre straddling band. Is there any particular scene you see as your philosophical home?
Knuckle Dragger was born out of fun, with three mates just hanging out and running ideas we all thought were original and interesting. Next to no thought went into the classification of the band. I guess our style of approach would label us a punk band, with creativity outriding technical ability, but the outcome easily lends itself to people of different tastes. We are more than happy to play to metal audiences, but wouldn’t say we’re trying to break into any particular world as such. We love variety, and would encourage people to broaden their musical spectrum, rather than having their listening tastes bound up in only one style.
Did you have a specific sound in mind when you convened the band and, if so, how closely does Tit for Tat come to it?
We have a strong ethic when it comes to recording, which is that we want to as closely as possible represent our live sound. To often bands hide behind mass multi tracking, overdubbing, and quantized bullshit. Awful! We record live, on every recording, and only overdub vocals separately for sound quality purposes. There are no extra guitar lines, or multi-layered vocals. If we’re tight on the record it’s because we played it that tight. Through this method we are able to be completely honest with the listener and subsequently convey our ideas with clarity.
WAKD are an interesting choice to open the upcoming Meshuggah tour. Are you guys longtime fans/psyched to get in front of the “math metal” crowd?
Bring it on! We can’t wait. We are all fans of Meshuggah and what they stand for in the world of heavy, boundary pushing music. Toured with The Dillinger Escape Plan last year and found the math metal crowd very accommodating to what we do. Plus our live show is where we shine. I’m confident we’ll turn a few heads and make some new friends.
What’s the meaning behind the album title?
“Tit for tat” is a lyric from the album track “Get The Horizon Yourself,” and I guess it represents the battle of alternative music fighting back in a mainstream society. It’s important for people to work out what they like for themselves, and then support that decision.