Interview: Chance Garnette [Skeletonwitch]

After forming almost a decade ago, Skeletonwitch are still going hard in recording albums, constant touring, and staying just so damn sexy while doing it. My sister Megan and I were able to talk to vocalist Chance Garnette last week at one of their headlining shows of their most recent tour about upcoming plans for a new album, thoughts on today’s metal scene, embarrassing tour moments, and how he enjoys riding bikes.

Lauren: We’re gonna start this off with what’s going on with an upcoming album and tours?

Chance Garnette: Well, this is our headliner, and we haven’t done a real headliner in a long time meaning our show, our thing for an extended amount of time which you guys were at. *laughter*

Megan: All of them!

L: Yes! I saw you like three times this year!

CG: Yeah, you know, we managed to get out there quite a bit. So we’re gonna hit it real hard until the end of the year. I think this one ends like, what today’s the 20 something of September. I think we’re out middle of November so it’s about 2 months. 2 days off in 65 days.

L: Wow!

CG: So we’ll see if everybody is still in love afterwards, I hope so! *laughter* Then we’ll probably just chill through November, and then December, January, February, March we’ll write a new record, record it in April is the plan. As far as tours go, we need to get that one done first. You know, one thing at a time. If I get the offer of a century, I’ll be there, but I really need to get a record written. The attention span of people is a little bit lacking, so if you want to be a career musician, you have to work really hard and make sure you have something for people to listen to or they might forget you, and if they forget you, then I can’t pay the rent! *laughter*

M: I’ll never forget you!

L: Yeah exactly! So I know that you guys have been touring for a while now, so in the last like 3 years what’s the worst show that you played that you can think of and what’s the best?

CG: Well shit, I mean you never even thought you would go to see like Wacken Open Air, for example, much less be able to play the son of a bitch, and to behold 80,000 people at one time is amazing. So I would say that was probably just because of the history and what it actually is, biggest metal fest in the damn world, and to be a part of that and be there and to have a day before we played just to go dick around, so the whole experience, I would probably say that one sticks out the most. Other than the first show we ever did. I mean that was pretty goddamn exciting too! *laughter* I think we did 8 songs and then we did 4 with lyrics, and I think I even had a notebook on stage with the lyrics. So it’s come a long way in about 9 years. Worst show ever? I don’t know man.

M: Webster Theater? [In Hartford, Connecticut]

CG: That was probably the hottest. It’s funny man because you know that one was super hot, but two days later or the day after, it was even hotter. As soon as it was all over, Scotty [Hendrick] and I ducked out the back door and we were like, puking friends. We were like “Hold my hair and I’ll hold yours!” *laughter* It wasn’t really like that but we were definitely both were like “Oh my god, it was hotter than Webster!” and went out there and puked. I don’t know as far as a bad show you know, but sometimes you’re like awww I think I sounded like shit or maybe I was sick or one of your players didn’t really nail it like you had hoped. But in any show, when people come and see it, in my head, is a good show. You know what I mean? It’s good to know that if there’s 5 kids or if there’s 500 kids, they are there and you don’t want to short change them. You know I’m not even going to call one or other the worst ever just because those people don’t deserve that. They paid money to see my old ass *laughter* so just because it was under tended doesn’t make it worse. You want more people there obviously, but this is what I do for a living and everyone can’t be fucking going, right?

L: Right.

CG: So that was the best one and I would say the other ones, I’m glad to be at all of them.

L: That was actually a really good answer! *laughter* So people call you black thrash metal, so what influences you as far as lyrics and music style?

CG: Well when we started, we’ve never set out to be this band or that band. We kind of vary a lot in age especially back then because there were a couple of players who actually started the band with Nate [Garnette], Scotty, and myself. There’s still a decent amount of age gap between every player, but there used to be even more. So everyone had their own little group of influences. We all liked to hang out and party together and listen to the same things. You know, maybe my favorite is not his favorite, but I like what his favorite is and he likes what my favorite is. We never really started out as “Let’s be a thrash band” or “Let’s be a death metal band” or a black metal band or whatnot, but we like all these genres of heavy metal, so let’s just be a heavy metal band, and I’m going to write from my influences and what I like best and he’s going to write from his. When you put it together, you get Skeletonwitch. I guess if you really want to put it in the smallest box possible, like what does it fit the most, I guess it would be black thrash. I mean there’s a lot more going on there, I believe. I understand that there’s just so many people, journalists as well as kids, who just want to take your music and dissect it into the smallest possible little tiny piece and go “This is black thrash death post-something” and they’re like “What kind of band are you?” “Uh, a fucking metal band is what I am” *laughter* So I’m more influenced from older things. I turned 40 this year so you know my first metal show was DRI in 1989 I think.

M: I wasn’t a thought in ’89.

CG: I was in high school and it was either in ’89 or ’90, one of the two. I graduated in ’90 so it was one of the two. I was on the Thrash Zone album so that’s kind of where I start my influences from metal wise. Actually, even before then, I used to live in Arkansas and my mom for Christmas got me two records that came out that year. They were Michael Jackson – Thriller and Quiet Riot – Mental Health, and obviously one stuck more than the other. But I think Michael Jackson is still pretty brilliant.

L: I totally agree!

CG: That last DVD or video, you know, when he died, is incredible. When he’s out practicing and, what’s it called, This Is It or whatever it is. That’s killer. But probably way back from getting that first Quiet Riot cassette and watching that video on MTV when they actually fucking played videos is probably where my metal influences would’ve started and then just progressively on throughout there, man. There’s not a genre of metal that I really despise or anything like that. I mean there’s certain things that I like more than others, but we just put it all together. He likes this, I like that, you like this, he likes this, and put it together and it turns out to be Skeletonwitch.

M: Which I love!

L: Yes, which I also love!

CG: Good to hear, good to hear! *laughter*

L: Okay, so the metal scene obviously, you grew up in the older scene generation and it’s kind of evolved. So what do you think about it now? Do you still think it’s relatively the same or different?

CG: Well it’s definitely not the same because there was no internet then, so there was less bands then as far as, you know, maybe there wasn’t fewer I guess is grammatically correct. Maybe there weren’t fewer bands then. There were fewer bands that people knew of then because you either had to go to the show or you had to somehow get someone’s mailing address and send them a cassette back and forth. I think that’s the biggest difference is social networking and the internet. As far as the fans coming out to shows, other than a segregation of “I like this one!” or “I like them! I’m not going to go to it if it’s not this certain type of metal!” or whatnot. Like in Europe, it’s not that way at all. You’ll see kids that like everything. Even Canada as well. “You like metal?” “Yep.” “Do you like only death metal?” “Nope.” “Do you like only thrash metal?” “Nope, I like fucking heavy metal.” It was kind of that way then as well. A lot times someone doesn’t want to hear someone sing. A lot of times, those fans don’t want to hear someone scream, but it really didn’t matter as much then. I guess it’s less of, I don’t want to say less of a community because it’s the largest, in my opinion. It’s like the largest underground community in the world. You can move anywhere in the United States and be in a black shirt in a bar and what not. You’ll see someone else and now you met your friend for the night. Whether you end up liking them or not, you got something to talk about. I don’t know other, like, do construction workers go into bars and go “You’re a construction worker? Me too! Let’s talk about tools!” *laughter* No, I don’t think so because I’ve definitely been a construction worker and I don’t want to fucking talk about that shit when I’m not doing it! Metal is different, you know, and I’m sure you guys are the same. You guys go somewhere and you see somebody and are like “Cool band!” “Oh yeah, cool band for you!” And now you’re friends and you’re talking. So, I mean, as far as what is different, a lot of people have had babies and have kind of gotten out of it. *laughter* It’s not going anywhere. I know it sounds a little bit hokey or maybe even cliché, I wish more people got along and were just like “You like aggressive music? I like aggressive music. Just because I don’t like your bands and you don’t like my bands don’t mean we have to be fucking fighting each other.” We’re both into music and that’s the key, the glue that holds it together. So I kind of lost track of the damn question, but as far as what is different, you know it’s just obvious that some things have changed. It’s hard to get people to come to shows when gas prices are fucking 4 dollars a gallon. When we first started almost 10 years ago, gas was about $2.30. Maybe something like that? So that’s why we’re doing this tour and it’s so compact. We drove like 2 hours, and then we’re going to drive another hour and a half instead of doing the 6-8 hour drives because if they can’t come to you, then we’ll come to them. If they’re into it, they deserve to see shows too. Just because you can’t afford it like “I can’t afford the trip.” You hear that a lot from a lot of kids, so logistically that’s a pretty big difference. But it will always be, and it better be.

L: Yeah, exactly! Okay, just a couple more.

CG: Sure.

L: Again, you guys tour a lot. Any embarrassing moments that you would want to share?

CG: Sure! I remember one time, it was this year actually, it was our first time in Hungary. We actually played in Budapest which was pretty cool. You never figure you’d go to Europe and that’s a blessing in itself to be able to go fly on a plane and go some crazy places. But it’s my first time in Budapest. The show slammed, it was awesome, and some kids spilled a bunch of beer in the front and I fucking bit the dust real hard.

L: Oh no! *laughter*

CG: It was kind of like you know, I’m running to the edge of the stage to get right in their faces, hit that beer and did like a big ass split! Landed on my ass and no lie, I still cannot do a jumping jack because I’m pretty my ankle got fractured that day. So it was embarrassing but I wasn’t like if I had the choice to fall or not, I would’ve said no. I don’t want to fall! But do I lose sleep over it? Am I so embarrassed? You know shit happens. You can get online and like: “Axl Rose falls on stage.” How many times has that fool fell on stage? Like a ton! I mean it happens.

L: Or just doesn’t even show up.

CG: *laughter* Is that embarrassing? I don’t know but, primadonna or whatever you want to call it. Embarrassing things do happen, but it comes with a territory. I mean, you can do something embarrassing in the line at the god damn grocery, and if someone wants to laugh at it, okay maybe I’ll punch him for that! Probably not though. The last time I hit a kid, I went to fucking, well not the last time but not too long ago I hit a kid and went to jail for it. It’s not worth doing. Keep your hands to yourself, people!

M: You don’t want to pull a Randy Blythe!

L: Yeah exactly!

CG: That’s intense. Yeah, that’s an intense thing right there. We were over there playing that show in the Czech Republic with them, and that happened that day. It was supposed to be us, Lamb of God, and All Shall Perish.

L: Oh that’s right, you were there!

CG: Yeah we got the call in the van on the way to the show that he’s not going to make it for that reason, so that’s another thing in its own, man. It’s very unfortunate, I’m very glad he is home cause I know I’d be shitting bricks if it was me.

L: Oh yeah.

M: Especially in a different country.

CG: Dude, absolutely.

L: Okay, do you have any dorky hobbies at all? Like do you play card games?

CG: I despise playing cards. You know, people are like “let’s get together, have some beer and play some pinochle!” I’m not doing that. *laughter* “Let’s play Uno!” I’m not doing that either. The whole card game thing, I don’t like it. I really don’t like video games either. I’m not really into it. I had an Atari 2600 when I used to mow grass back when I was about fucking 10 maybe. I liked it pretty hard then. There’s a lot of cool ass things like that I just liked generationally. What I like to do now is I love to, I live out in the woods. Well not really in the woods but where I live is in the Appalachian Mountains and we have so many killer mountain bike trails, really aggressive ones. I can’t skateboard for shit but I can mountain bike the fuck out of those. *laughter* So that’s what I like to do.

M: And put it on Instagram!

CG: Yeah I like to do that a lot, man. I like to get out there by myself and just get in the woods, just me and the bike, and sometimes I’ll roll a joint and take it with me. I remember when I first got it I was like “I don’t need no helmet, I look dorky in this helmet!” No shit, the first day I crashed and hit my head on a stump.

L: Oh my god, who would’ve thought?!

CG: It wasn’t hard but I was just like “Get a fucking helmet, kid.” There’s no one out here seeing you anyway. *laughter* So I like to mountain bike quite a bit. I like to walk. I like to hike a lot.

M: You can walk for me!

CG: *laughter* I like to do those things alone. I guess, is it dorky? I don’t know. Maybe it is. But I just like to get out and disappear for 2-3 hours a day when I’m at home. Sometimes, when I’m walking especially, I’ll have one of those tiny Steno pads, the tiniest ones that you can put in your back pocket, and I will listen to our demos and construct patterns and rhythms and lyrics while I’m, I guess, burning calories. *laughter* Trying to kill a couple birds with one stone! But what’s dorky to some may be the coolest thing in the world to others so who am I to say what’s dorky or not? I guess I would say video games are. I just said I don’t like them! *laughter* But yeah I don’t really like those kinds of things. I like to ride motorcycles. I’m looking at one now hopefully which will be good to me and I’m trying to get another one, and there’s one I want to work on and chop it up and turn a nice bike into a piece of crap for some reason. I really want to do that. Pretty much the band is my full time everything: job, hobby. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and pretty much the last thing I think about when I go to sleep. I’m on the phone and emailing and just doing anything I can do to make it go a little further every day. So it’s definitely not a hobby but it’s my biggest focus. So that’s what’s going down!

L: Alright last one! You’re probably sick of me.

CG: No no!

L: Anything you want to say to your fans or haters?

CG: You know, haters gonna hate! *laughter* What’re you going to do!? I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. If you like it, thank you so much. I mean, without having fans, I couldn’t do this for a living and they’ve given me the opportunity to have the best job in the world. I want to say 100% from everyone in the band, because I know we’re all like-minded on this one, is thanks a lot for giving us this opportunity. I wasn’t in a touring band at age 23 or age 18. We started touring when I was 32 or something like that, so it kind of came late. So thanks for coming out and seeing this old man! I appreciate it! *laughter* I’m going to do it as long as they’re there and they want to see me do it, I’m going to fucking do it. So, you know, big thanks and I appreciate the opportunity. As far as the haters go, what haters? There are none! *laughter* You know, just got to brush that off! There are definitely things that I don’t like but I don’t have some fictitious screen name that I’m using saying “Fucking sucks! This is the worst band I’ve ever heard!” I’m just not going to invest any energy into that kind of shit because all it does is it gets you nowhere and if someone finds out who you are, you’re going to get punched or they’re going to think you’re an asshole, and being an asshole really gets you nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. So I guess, just thanks a lot, man, for supporting the band and coming to see us, buying the records, and wearing the shirts.

M: And the panties!

CG: And the panties! *laughter*

M: I’m sorry, I had to throw that in there!

CG: So yeah just thanks for everything because without the fans, I would probably be home probably hammering nails. Or riding motorcycles. *laughter* And thanks for the interview, I appreciate that so much!

L: Oh you’re so welcome! Thank you!

CG: Not a problem!

L: Alright, well that’s the end of that. Hail Satan and all that good shit.

[Band photo and live, red photo were taken from Skeletonwithch’s Facebook. Collage was made by me. All others were taken by Megan]

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