Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack: Texas’s Giant of the Mountain
Because every day another band records another song. Because 83% of those songs are unlistenable and you can’t be bothered to sift through the dreck. Because metal is about not giving a shit and waking your own personal storm. Because music is universal, expression is boundless, and even indie labels (whatever that means these days) don’t know everything, Decibel brings you Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack.
Genres are useful denotations of style most of the time, but bands who defy easy categorization are always welcome in the Decibel universe. Enter Dallas, TX trio Giant of the Mountain, who sound a little like early Mastodon dressed up as Skeletonwitch with occasional forays into sweaty, gusty Americana a la USX or Across Tundras. None of that is totally accurate, though, as the band definitely radiates their own style. They’re three albums deep since forming in 2008, and their latest, Moon Worship, bears a title that sounds like a stoner jewel but mostly ain’t one. The highly evolved songwriting weaves jagged black metal, sinewy Southern riffage and both harsh and clean vocals through some fantastic journeys in its time-warping 40-minute run time.
We shot some questions at guitarist/vocalist Cody Daniels so he could clue us into his band’s genesis and traveled paths. Lose yourself in lunacy!
What is the driving force behind Giant of the Mountain? Do you peruse the musical and conceptual peaks or do you simply love to rock the fuck out?
I would say the driving force behind GOTM is an insatiable love for music. It seems like everything we do in our lives circles back around to it. Whether it’s looking for new music or going through the catalogues of bands we’re already digging, it always seems to be like a thirst that is unquenchable.
Our songs are usually pretty well planned out, and a lot of thought is put into them, but a lot of our tunes begin being built off of riffs that “rock the fuck out”. I subscribe to the idea that heavy music should be loud and kicking ass, but I also love music that challenges me. It’s hard to pick one direction musically when both have so many attractive traits.
You started recording early in Giant’s life, and you’ve maintained a pretty steady release schedule. Does the music flow out of you pretty consistently and easily, or do you feel like the songwriting process is hard work?
Yes, I would definitely say the music flows easily. In fact, I’ve even tried holding off at the risk of putting out too much new stuff too soon. One major factor behind us recording so early on, is that my wife (Randi, the drummer) and I actually met at Mediatech, an audio engineering school, and have always had a love for recording. We don’t have much equipment to work with but for us, recording is part of the fun. I usually don’t have a problem coming up with riffs, but I do go over them and make sure they’re the best they can be. There are always a million different ways to play something, and I like to be sure I chose the right one.
What has your live performance experience been like? What have been some of your favorite shows to do?
Without a doubt, the live performance aspect of being in a band is the most rewarding. I started playing in cover bands with my dad at 17, and ever since then I’ve had “the bug”. There’s nothing that beats getting on stage and playing your heart song for people and bearing everything you have and getting a positive reception. It makes you feel like all your hard work is worth it. You always wonder if your creation, your “baby”, is actually worth a damn, and having that confirmed is incredibly fulfilling.
My favorite shows are out of town shows. I love hitting the road and making new friends and playing for people I’ve never met. Living in constant motion is hard and taxing, but so incredible. Every time I get home from a string of dates I feel like I’m wasting time not going to a new city.
Was the writing/recording process for Moon Worship particularly different than other recordings you’ve done?
Yes, it was definitely more thorough, and having someone else laying down vocals was new as well. We rehearsed the songs as a band more before recording than in the past also. We didn’t just accept every riff, and threw away quite a few that weren’t up to snuff. We wanted to make sure our songs were as strong as we could make them before we laid them to tape, and the other albums we spent less time nitpicking over the songs. “Cult of the Moon” and “Call to the Depths” were new experiences as well. We don’t usually have “clean” songs that last as long as “Cult.” The keyboards on “Call to the Depths” were something we’ve never done, and we were new to playing in a tempo that slow also. I wanted to do something outside the usual GOTM sound, and I was pretty stoked that it came out so well.
What drew you into heavy music? What keeps you here?
The energy. I’ve always compared the feeling of jamming out some awesome metal to going down a crazy rollercoaster. It’s intense and exciting. When I started playing guitar, I was listening to Korn and Limp Bizkit (this was when they were “popular”) and my dad bought me an Ozzy tape and showed me what real guitar playing was like and I became obsessed. Ozzy turned into Pantera (I’m from Texas so there was no avoiding that), Pantera into Opeth, Death and Emperor and so on.
What keeps me here is there is always something new that catches me off guard. It’s not a predictable genre in the least; it keeps me guessing. No matter how much I listen to, there are always bands I haven’t gotten a chance to check out. There’s so much good metal out there, on the local level as well. There are some incredible local bands all over the US that are so talented.
What non-metal do you think has weaseled its way into your playing/writing style?
Most metalheads would be ashamed to admit this, but I’m really into pop. Lady Gaga, Kesha, Nelly Furtado, and lately Cher Lloyd. To be honest, I’d be more embarrassed getting caught listening to Hellyeah or Five Finger Death Punch, but you’d never catch me doing that. I also really dig Imogen Heap. She is an incredible songwriter and musician, and her singing voice is not of this earth. I’m super jealous of what she can do. Of course GOTM doesn’t have any obvious pop elements, but it has influenced my singing quite a bit. The main attraction of pop for me is that you can just shut your brain off. It’s pure dumb fun. Metal is so intricate and deep. The emotions it conjures are dark and intense and sometime I just need a breather. Pop is something I can just shut my thinking off, and bounce around like an idiot too. I’m also a huge Rent fan. That musical is straight up genius.
Moon Worship is a monstrous fucking album, and you have two other full-lengths under your (one must assume large-buckled) belt… how is it that you remain unsigned?
Thanks, monstrous was what we were going for! We’re pretty into DIY, we record ourselves, we make our CDs, posters, tapes, and pretty much everything but the shirts and we pay for those all ourselves as well. We’ve had a few offers, but we’ve held out for something to come along that can help us do something we haven’t been able to do yet. We have been discussing the idea of shopping Moon Worship out to get picked up for a vinyl pressing (if that’s even a thing), because that’s something we definitely can’t do ourselves (Until they make do it yourself vinyl pressing machines of course). The one negative aspect of DIY is that it’s harder to book in cities you’ve never been to when you don’t have that label name to make promoters and venues take you more serious. So while we are definitely open to offers, we have no interest in sitting around waiting for a label to come and help us out. We like to get down to business and do what we can, so label or no label GOTM goes forward into the abyss and never stops.
You seem to have run through several bassists. What is so dangerous about being a bassist in Giant of the Mountain? How did you get hooked up with Alexander?
One of the hardest parts about being in a band is finding people who live within a reasonable driving distance, and whose schedule lines up with yours just enough to get in regular practices. Randi used to be the 2nd guitarist in the beginning, but after our former drummer moved home to Vermont and having so much trouble finding a replacement, she switched to the drummer position. That’s always been the biggest issue as far as member turnover. We first saw Alexander play in his former band, Megatherian, and we were instantly impressed. The dude is such an incredible bassist and vocalist too. We asked him if he would be interested in filling in for a tour we did last year, and much to our delight, he said yes! Now he’s our bass player. It was love at first sight. He’s so dreamy <3.
Do you have any particular thoughts about musical or lyrical things going on in the new album that you’d like to talk about?
Moon Worship is an amalgam of feelings and reflections on my life experiences cloaked in a veil of Lovecraftian and Elder scrolls lore. “Moon Worship” is a call to Dagon, “Spiral of the Serpent” refers to Yig, “Cult of the Moon” and “Call to the Depths” are expansions of the “Moon Worship” concept lyrically. “Flesh Divinity” is about the worship of the two moons, Masser and Secunda, in the Elder scrolls lore (yea, it’s from the video games Oblivion and Skyrim). Next time you play one of those games, look in the sky at night and check the moons out. I’ll leave the listener to interpret their own meaning behind the lyrics, because I want there to still have that element of mystery. I do recommend listening with a beer, and a nice fat bowl.
Upcoming big things for Giant of the Mountain?
We’re definitely excited about the future. We will be hitting the road again in the future. We did quite a few dates back in April, so we’re still in the discussion phase of what our next move will be tour wise, but we will be touring, so keep an eye out for us. We’ll be playing a city near you soon! We’ll of course be playing for our Dallas family regularly so be sure to come out to a show if you’re ever in the big D!