March 7, 2009
Hey Vaughan , How are doing my friend? Let start off by tell us a little about how the band Grave Forsaken got started?
The band began in September 2004. I had been playing in a band called Katara with a couple of friends, Matt Skipworth being one of them. The guitarist was a guy named Chris Grieves, and he introduced me to Elias Salmela. Elias was a very good guitar player, and I pressed for him to join Katara. Chris was reluctant at first, but when Elias moved into his house as a boarder, it moved things along. Elias began jamming with us at around the same time as our drummer Luke Battistessa quit. Elias knew this drummer called Tim Steadman, so he suggested we call him up to replace Luke. Overnight it was virtually a new band. We were still very raw and amateur, but we got this chance to perform at Matt’s church. At this stage, I was only doing vocals, but for reasons still unclear to us, Chris rang me the afternoon of the gig saying he wasn’t going to play. I called the other three and we decided I should have a go on guitar, as I could play, just not as well as Chris. The gig went OK and the four of us really enjoyed playing together. Again, for reasons still unclear to this day, Chris called about two weeks later to say he was quitting. When I say reasons unclear, I’m not trying to cover anything up. My friendship with Chris has suffered since this time, and I want to publicly state I’m not sure what I did to upset him. In any case he quit, leaving Elias, Matt, Tim and myself in the band. After this upheaval we decided it really was a new band with a new guitar sound and a new drummer. The only common link to Katara was Matt’s bass and my vocals. We literally started again and refocused our ministry goals. So Grave Forsaken was born out of turmoil, but we all felt it was the best path to take.
How did you come up with the name for the band?
It was Tim who came up with the name. The four of us were proposed all kinds of names for the new band. I favored “Eternal Destiny”, which ended up being a song title on the second album. When Tim suggested “Grave Forsaken” on a list with many others, it just seemed to work. We were playing this battle of the bands type event, and we still didn’t have a name. The announcer asked us what we were called, and we just looked at each other and said “Grave Forsaken”. It just stuck. It refers to Jesus dying on the cross to save us. Through Jesus, our grave is forsaken.
Who is currently in the band?
The current line up is myself, Vaughan Gregory on guitar and lead vocal, Elias Salmela on guitar and backup vocals, Matt Skipwoth on bass and backup vocals and Dave Kilgallon on drums. Tim switched to lead vocals when Dave joined in 2007, but found he didn’t really have the time to commit to the band anymore. Some of Tim’s performance was left on the new album “This Day Forth”, and he appears in the photo’s in the booklet. Tim remains in close contact and will sing guest vocals on some songs on future albums.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you play before?
It’s so hard to describe your own music. Most people describe us as mid tempo thrash, a cross between Mortification and Tourniquet. On the new album we go for an old school influence taking cues from Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. Whether it actually sounds like any of those bands is up to the listener, but the early feedback has compared the album favourably with those kind of bands.
You are about to put your 3rd album “This Day Forth” what we can expect? How did the recording go on this album? When is the release date?
We definitely went for an underground raw thrash feel on this album. We went into the studio for about a week and a half and nailed most of the tracking. Those people who are familiar with the first two albums will notice the improvement. We’ve gone for thrashier riffs and more lead guitar work. This album definitely represents our best work yet. We still have the multivocalist approach that has served us well so far, however I do the majority of the lead vocals. So I would say expect an old school thrash vibe with gang vocals, lots of lead guitar and intense rhythms. We’re excited to put it out.
The recording went quite well. We recorded it in a much shorter timespan this time, so there wasn’t as much time to over think things. It is very raw and direct as a result – the exact feel we were going for. Tim Steadman, who was doing most of the vocals on this album, left midway through the mixing, so I had to go in and recut most of his vocals. That presented difficulties, in that we had be diplomatic with what we cut and what we left. I’m pleased to say that the split with Tim was friendly, and he will still perform some guest vocals on future releases. Sometimes splits can be very messy, but this went about as well as you could hope for. It was a difficult time for the band none the less. Aside from that setback, everything else ran very smoothly. We have put together a 100 minute documentary covering the recording of the album from start to finish, and this will be available as a bonus DVD-R with the first batch of albums ordered from Soundmass. We would obviously recommend anyone interested in the recording process to order the album from Soundmass to get the documentary. We are very pleased with the overall package Soundmass is offering. The album will be out in May – but I can’t confirm the actual date yet.
I see you guys are with Adam of Soundmass how this working out for you? Is this the first time Grave Forsaken been on a label?
The deal with Soundmass is going very well. Adam is a professional, and he does his job very well. He brings the best out of people, because he doesn’t settle for second best. I have had a 5 year association with Adam that has always been mutually beneficial, so signing with Soundmass was something I’ve always been interested in. As long ago as 2005 I was sending Adam demos, and he has always been very helpful and honest with his advice. When we supported Mortification in Perth at the “Live Humanitarian” show in 2006 I struck up a close friendship with Steve Rowe. He is very supportive of the band and he released the first two albums and the “Horror And Sadness” single on Rowe Productions. Rowe Productions is distributed by Soundmass, so we actually worked very closely with both Adam and Steve on those releases. Steve was highly supportive of our move to Soundmass, and we actually discussed the details in person last year when he was in Perth for the transplant games. We have been very lucky to work closely with 2 excellent labels.
Is there a big following for you guys in Australia? How is the Metal scene there?
I wish there was a big following but the reality is in Perth we are an underground band. We have a faithful group of supporters who come out to the gigs, and our reputation is improving every time we play live. The problem with Australia is we are so spread out. We can’t just go over to Melbourne or Sydney to play – those places are 4000 km from where we live, and there is literally only one major city, Adelaide, on the way over. Touring is expensive and time consuming. The metal scene in each Australian city is reasonably strong. A gig with all the top Perth metal bands might draw 300-500, and we are doing what we can to push into that area. I’m not making excuses, but being a Christian band makes life tough. We got a reputation early as “that Christian band”, and it didn’t help that we weren’t particularly good. We feel like we’ve really had to battle hard for respect amongst the metal scene. Gradually, people are starting to get used to us being around, and recently we opened for The Furor, a very popular black metal band in Perth. That was a lineup that wouldn’t have happened even 2 years go. Pleasingly, we got some great feedback from some very hardcore black metal fans, and it was a great night. We will just keep plugging away and improving and I’m sure we’ll move up the local ranks. We have the goal to one the premier metal bands in Australia, so we will just keep working hard like we always have.
How important is the Christian aspect of the band? Do you consider Grave Forsaken to be a ministry?
The fundamental principle of the band is Christianity. It is the entire basis for our existence. We consider it extremely important because we are presenting an alternative view. Our very existence as a Christian band in Perth gets people talking about Christianity within that scene, and that is half our battle. The single most common thing I hear from metalheads is “I respect you guys but I hate organized religion”. I hear that all the time. We are doing what we can to present a different face to Christianity, because people get really surprised when you agree that organized religion has a lot to answer for. By no means are we anti church – we all go to church regularly, but we completely understand and relate to people’s grievances with the church. It is so hard, because at the first mention of Jesus a song is labeled cheesy, but we are firm believers that good music is good music. I’d be the first to admit we still have a long way to go, but we always have given our best. To be relevant in the scene, you need to cut it musically, and that is a huge challenge.
We do consider Grave Forsaken a ministry in that we are the representation of Christianity in our area. We are who these people will judge Christianity on. We wouldn’t walk into a gig and say “we are a ministry”, but we would never, ever play down the Christian aspect of the band. We are a Christian band presenting the gospel to non Christians through music, but even if they don’t go for that, hopefully they can enjoy the music regardless.
I know you hear this a lot that you sound like Mortification .. But What would you say are some other musical influences?
I was a massive Mortification fan in high school and through uni. There Mortification comparisons really don’t bother me. I can honestly say we never sat down to write and song saying, “let’s make this one sound like Mort”. I was initially flattered when people made the comparison, because they are my favourite band. I hear it so often now that it must be true! The other 3 big influences on the band are Tourniquet, Megadeth and Iron Maiden. Everyone in the band loves those groups, so we take a lot of inspiration from them. I wouldn’t say we sound like any of these bands, but a song like Warriors Of Light was my best attempt at a Maiden style song. A song like Perish The Thought is Elias plugging into a Tourniquet vibe. Paradise Lost are a big influence on Elias, but not so much me, so a lot of slower tempo songs come from that. The other huge influence on me is Kiss. Many of my choruses are inspired by Kiss. Not that they sound anything like them, but that is the place the inspiration comes from. To me Kiss are the rock band who have made the most consistently catchy choruses throughout their career.
Thanks again for taking the time Vaughan. Any final thoughts for the readers?
It’s been great answering the interview questions. It really gets me thinking about what the band stands for. I always like to let people know that we are serious about what we do. We know our limitations, but we work hard to overcome them. We have always tried to be honest, and to be a band you can rely on. We hope to put out an album every year and we are constantly working on new songs, recording new demos and just trying to be the absolute best we can be. We want to be a career band, with every intention of still being around in 20 or 30 years time. In a scene where so many bands come and go, we are determined to stick around through thick and thin and release quality Christian metal. I hope you’ll join us for the ride!
God Bless and Rock On!
Grave Forsaken website