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  INTERVIEW WITH DEREK NEIBARGER, THE ONE MAN MAESTRO BEHIND GODLESS ANGEL

jools green

Jools Green



godless angel

MetalTalk caught up with the one man death/thrash machine behind Godless Angel, Derek Neibarger, about his newest release out on Inverse Records, 'Harvester Of Shadows', his third offering following the independently released 'Year One' in 2013 and 2014s 'Dying Dead Unholy' EP.

Derek - thanks for taking the time out to chat to MetalTalk. Firstly, how do you manage such high speed shredding? It's insanely impressive!

"Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk to you about Godless Angel and 'Harvester Of Shadows'! And thank you for the compliment, as well!

"There are thousands of Metal guitar players out there who play much faster and with way more precision than I do. Although I've been playing for about thirty years I never attempted material this fast until 2012, when I created Godless Angel, and I really wasn't sure if I would be able to pull it off. I think that lack of confidence is partly to blame for me waiting so late in life to chase after this musical dream.

"I got my first taste of thrash when a friend of mine loaned me his copy of Slayer's 'Hell Awaits' in 1985. I was hooked instantly, but Metal was not a popular style in the small college town where I was born and raised. So I had to compromise if I wanted to be a part of the music scene.

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"I've been in bands covering every style from punk, indie rock and grunge Metal to blues and hard rock. Flash forward to 2012, I was tired of the music I was writing being completely different from the music I listen to every day. I had attempted to write thrash and death songs sporadically for several years and the results were disappointing, which led to me giving up too easily. But I had reached a point where continuing to write in my accustomed style would've been disingenuous and uninspired.

"I'm not getting any younger, so I decided I was simply going to have to unlearn everything I knew about playing and writing and rebuild the machine from the ground up. It was slow going at first but eventually things began fall into place and I found that as I pushed myself to play faster and more aggressively, and to write increasingly complex riffs, I began to see considerable growth in my skill and technique.

"At forty-four years of age I'm playing better now than at any other time in my life.  That doesn't mean there aren't kids half my age out there who can run circles around me, but I never dreamed I would be playing and writing at the level that I currently am. Nobody wants to think that their best days are behind them, so it feels awesome to still be learning and improving on my instrument. My passion and excitement for music has never been this strong, you could almost call it an artistic rebirth. Or you can just call it Godless Angel."

There's a bit of a Kerry King influence going on I think? Who else inspires and motivates you?

"Slayer is my all-time favourite band and Kerry King is most definitely a big influence! I even own a Kerry King Signature Metal Master V and I used it extensively in the recording of 'Harvester Of Shadows'. Bands like Exodus, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse and Six Feet Under have also been very influential.

"I love old school thrash and death, it's dark and ominous and most of all fun! The horror, fantasy and sci-fi lyrical themes, the huge riffs and chaotic guitar solos, drums that sound like they're trying to murder you, even the wonderfully cheesy yet awesome artwork; for me that's everything that is great about Metal.

"I love music as an escape. I have nothing but respect for songwriters who choose to tackle serious social or political issues in their songs, but when it comes to my own music I want the listener to have fun. Scary, gory, violent and a bit twisted fun, like a good horror movie with a death Metal soundtrack."

godless angel

You are responsible for all duties on the releases, is this how you prefer to work or was it circumstantial?

"I've been writing and recording on my own since about 2001, prior to that I played in several bands as either the bass player or vocalist, sometimes both. I had a lot of great experiences playing shows, recording and touring, sharing the stage with bands like Neurosis and Green Day. But over time it can be very draining, especially if you're squeezing all of that in around a full time job. Add to that the inevitable drama that comes from hanging around musicians on a regular basis and all the time I wasn't spending with my family.

"When my last band broke apart I decided I was done with being a part of a working band. But I could never stop creating music. The day that I bought my first bass guitar, at the age of fourteen, as soon as I got it home I started writing. And I haven't stopped since! I'll continue to write music until I'm physically unable to do so, and I'm pretty happy doing it as a solo artist. It's very time consuming when you're responsible for every single note but I would absolutely be lying if I said I didn't enjoy every second of it."

Being totally in control of the whole process, what's your personal approach to writing and recording, what do you begin with?

"When I first started writing music I used an approach based on what I was hearing in songs by some of my favourite bands at the time, such as Judas Priest, Dokken and Iron Maiden. All of their songs shared a similar structure; intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus. That pattern generally repeated three times with a guitar solo in the third repetition. I figured out that pattern on day one and used it for every single song I wrote up until late 2013.

"I had recorded about fourteen songs as Godless Angel and it was really starting to come to life, but there was one thing that was kind of eating away at me. I felt like once I had run through the first verse and chorus the rest of song was just copied and pasted. Nothing really new or interesting was happening, like you could just listen through the first chorus and skip to next track without really missing anything. I wanted the songs to feel new and interesting from start to finish, so I decided to throw out the whole idea of verses and choruses, all together. Now I write all my songs in sections, typically seven to eight in a song. All the sections are unique and never repeat.

"There's no rule on how many guitar solos can be in a song or where they should be placed. Now when somebody listens to a Godless Angel song they can't really say they've heard the song unless they've listened to the entire thing from start to finish. And with this new format comes a slightly different way of recording as well. What I used to do was spend a few days writing the song on guitar. Then I would create a drum track and record the bass and guitar on top of that track.

"The way I do it now is I begin by choosing a tempo and creating a click track. Then I sit down and record the guitar tracks and bass track as I write them, one section at a time, an entire song in one sitting. Then I go back and create the drum track around the guitars and bass. After that comes the guitar solos. Once I'm satisfied with all the instrument tracks I begin writing lyrics with the help of my wife, Chrissy. She always has awesome ideas for my songs and I love working with her!"

You must have been pretty stoked to get Inverse Records to release 'Harvester Of Shadows', how is it working out for you?

"It's an amazing experience! I spent my teens and twenties dreaming of being signed. Most musicians would probably agree that at that age a record contract is like the Holy Grail. But I let go of that dream when I went solo, and it was the furthest thing from my mind when I started Godless Angel. Joni Kantoniemi from Inverse contacted me shortly after the release of 'Year One' and said that he liked what he was hearing and wanted to know what my plans were, going forward.

"I was just wrapping up work on my EP, 'Dying Dead Undead Unholy', and I felt like putting those songs out there as a free download would be a better option for building my fanbase, at the time. We kept in touch and eventually agreed on a package for my next album in August of 2014. I didn't realize until the paperwork was signed just how much it would mean to me.

"It was exactly thirty years ago that my Mom drove me down to Mass Street Music with a hundred dollars in cash that I had made from selling off my childhood toys. They had a used Ibanez Rickenbacker bass for $125 and she paid the difference so I could get it. She used to drive me to band practice and I vividly remember her dropping me off for bass lessons once a week. She would sit in the car and read romance novels while I took instruction from a local jazz bassist. I knew my Mom didn't care for Metal all, but would always tell me that she loved my music. She passed away in 2010, but I know she would have been insanely proud of what I've done with Godless Angel.

"So my deal with Inverse isn't just my victory, it's hers as well. And Inverse has been fantastic to work with! They've been able to get my music out there in ways that I never could have. Godless Angel has been featured on radio shows in Poland, France, the UK, the Netherlands and here in the USA. I've been able to do several interviews which is always fun.

'Harvester Of Shadows' has also been reviewed on several blogs and webzines and the reception has been overwhelmingly positive! I'll be the first to admit that wasn't exactly excited about asking people to pay for my music, I had grown very accustomed to just giving it away and I was worried about being seen as greedy. But the exposure that Inverse has given Godless Angel has simply been fantastic and I would be very happy to continue working with them!"

godless angel

Any plans to expand from a one man project to a band for live performances or future releases?

"There are currently no plans to perform live as Godless Angel, but never say never. Whenever I'm writing music I like to imagine a chaotic pit erupting to one of my songs. That would be an awesome thing to see, and who knows? It might happen! But one thing I'm sure of is that the creative process will always be just me. I've never felt like I have to write and record new music, I get to write and record new music. And I love every second of it!

"Working as a solo artist and recording in my home studio gives me tremendous freedom. I don't have to wait until band practice to work on new songs, or book studio time to record. I can do all of it anytime I want, whether it's for a few minutes or a few hours. I spent six months making 'Harvester Of Shadows'. You can't do that as an unsigned band who has to purchase studio time. What's next in the pipeline for 'Godless Angel'?

"I'm still promoting 'Harvester Of Shadows' and will be for the foreseeable future. I'm always looking for fun ways to engage my fans. I'm selling Godless Angel guitar picks on my Bandcamp page for one dollar. For that price you get one pick and a signed colour print of the album art from my new album. Recently I added an additional offer; if you add another dollar to your order I'll post a personalized video of me shredding with your specific guitar pick, signing the artwork and putting it all into the envelope to mail to you. It doesn't sound like a huge deal, but it's something different than the norm and it's also a lot of fun! I'm hoping to have more typical merchandise, such as t-shirts, in the near future, as well.

I'm also getting ready to begin writing the next Godless Angel album. I took a short break so I could focus on the release of 'Harvester Of Shadows', but I'm itching to get back to work! I'm wanting the next album to be longer, maybe around fifteen tracks. And the new riffs I've been playing around with are sounding absolutely killer! I'm aiming for a late 2015 or early 2016 release date."

Excellent, I look forward to that! Any last comment you would like to add?

"Chrissy recently overhauled my official website, https://godlessangel.wordpress.com/, so be sure to check it out! You can find all my interviews, reviews, music links and more collected in one place! You can also listen to all nine tracks from 'Harvester Of Shadows' on Spotify and ITunes. Thank you!

Click here for MetalTalk's review of the Godless Angel album, 'Harvester Of Shadows'.


25.3.15















 


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