Alex Edkins (METZ) Finds ‘Strange Peace’
Canadian rockers METZ have just released their third album, Strange Peace, and it is a distinctly giant leap for the three-piece. While their previous two records were liberal with heavy guitars, Strange Peace finds the band taking an opportunity to craft an involved, slightly more melodic sound.
This change in direction can be attributed to the album’s producer, the legendary Steve Albini, who has had his hands on some of the most essential records of the past 30 years. Guitarist Alex Edkins took the time to speak with TIDAL about METZ’ latest album.
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Is there any story behind the origins of the band?
[Drummer] Hayden [Menzies] was playing in a band in Ottawa who were about to go on a European tour. The singer-guitar player of the band bailed on the tour a couple of weeks before they were supposed to leave. They had everything booked and had bought their plane tickets, so instead of cancel the entire tour, they asked me to fill in. I had never been to Europe so I jumped at the opportunity.
I learned the entire catalogue in two weeks and joined the band. It was a life-changing event, and we played all kinds of dank clubs and squats all over Europe. I got hooked to the lifestyle.
When we got home, Hayden broke up the band and we started METZ immediately. After about a year of playing as METZ (jamming in the basement before work), we moved to Toronto and looked for a bass player. We met Chris and here we are.
Who were your primary influences as a musician and who do you think the band tends to summon in their creative process?
My earliest musical memories are sitting on my parents’ couch with the headphones plugged into the turntable, listening to the Beatles. When you’re young, you are more or less held hostage by your parents’ record collection. There weren’t any Stooges records or anything, but at least they had the good sense to have most of the Beatles’ records.
Later on, through college radio and punk shows, we got into local bands like Shotmaker, Union of Uranus, and then we found the Dischord and SST bands. That world was a huge influence and still is. East Coast Canadian stuff like Eric’s Trip and Sloan were influences, too.
How was the sound of the band established?/How was the sonic approach of the band decided upon?
I don’t think it’s ever been decided. We are still just floating in the nether regions of music and constantly trying new things. It’s really just an honest representation of three people’s musical interests being indiscriminately smashed together.
How do you know when a song is finished?
We know a song is done when we can play it for people and not hate ourselves, and then do it 500 more times after that.
What do you think is the main differentiator between the first two records?
Songwriting and production. I definitely think the first two records are cut from a similar cloth, but I hear a pretty serious growth in songwriting for II. They are just better songs. Also, the mix was done by Graham Walsh and I think it sounds more full and seems to hit in the right places.
The self-titled album sounds very alien to me. It’s a very strange-sounding record and I think that adds to its appeal. It was a sonic hangover from our early 7″s that are way more experimental and obscure. I think we are slowly learning how to record and produce ‘properly.’
What is the distinct sonic difference on this record, as opposed to the first two?
Everything is different. Strange Peace is a break from tradition for us. It does not sound like anything we’ve ever done.
We recorded with someone new, in a new environment, using a new method. It was a more spontaneous affair. We recorded live to tape with someone who has a very strong and audible aesthetic. You can’t miss Steve Albini’s drum sound; it’s iconic.
How is the music crafted/what is the recording process like?
The writing process usually happens in two parts. Most of the time I write and record some demos/ideas at home. Then, the three of us will get together and work them out.
We go to our disgusting rehearsal room and jam every day until the songs either sink or swim. We never know what’s going to work until we’ve all played it together incredibly loud.
How did you get connected with Steve Albini? What did his inclusion as recording engineer bring to the record?
We were picking up a rental van at LAX, Mclusky came on my iPod and it was really clear that the drum sound that was on that record would be a great fit for our new songs. I had been slightly obsessed with the Scout Niblett records that Steve had recorded as well, so it was in the back of my mind but seemed almost too far-fetched. We are all fans of his work. Things like Neurosis, Brainiac, Pixies, Slint, Superchunk, Big Black, Jesus Lizard are all important bands for us, so having the chance to work with him was really great. He is also funny as hell, so that always helps to set the mood.
What would you consider an ethos for your approach to playing live?
This sounds cliche but ‘pretend it’s your last show.’ Our music needs to be played loud and hard to be heard correctly. It is not in our DNA to play half-assed.
Is there anything in life that influences your writing and musicianship that isn’t music (some element of life, something tangible, emotions, etc.)?
Our surroundings. Living in Toronto has a big effect on our bodies and minds and definitely seeps into the music. I love and hate Toronto. It has a thriving arts community and amazing people I love but, also, like all major metropolitan cities, it has gun violence, crime, sexism, racism, poverty and hate.
Music is my way of working out my thoughts. It’s my medicine and I think it has helped me better understand my surroundings and myself.
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