A band's name says a lot about them. Often within a few seconds of discovering a bands monicker you've decided whether you want to listen to them. Bands starting with 'the' should generally be avoided, but 'blank the blank' or 'someone and the somethings' can be ok.
'Dog Shredder' is definitely one of those polarising kind of names. Either you rush to listen to them, thinking they're as depraved as you, or you run off scared like a granny, fearing they're one of those scary people you read about in the Daily Mail.
Apparently from the most boring place on Earth, they make hectic prog-cum-thrash-and-math-plus-the-kitchen-sink metal and so far have only released two EPs on vinyl, but have started making waves. Just who are Dog Shredder? Made up of Jeff Johnson on Bass, Noah Burns on Drums and Josh Holland doubling as vocals and second guitar, they formed in 2008 in Bellingham, Washington. According to legend, the band was founded 'after a late-night conversation over cheap beer' where they the guys decided they would learn to play Yes’ “Heart of the Sunrise.” To many this may seem foolish because either A) Yes are a bit shit or B) HOTS is a ten minute long mind-fuck. They managed it though, and you can download the results on the two-track Boss Rhino Ep for free.
This Power trio have received some crazy accolades, especially form their local press. 'downright unfuckwithable,' 'The Dillinger Escape Plan playing Baroness covers in ZZ Top's living room,' and my personal favourite, 'If you took a bottle of narcotics and got pushed out of an airplane flying to Naked City without a parachute by No Means No and land on John Zorn, you may end up as a Dog Shredder.'
Since the release of Boss Rhino they've toured the US with the likes of Melt Banana, Helmet and Black Cobra, and last month released another EP, Brass Tactics. Its three tracks clock in at almost half the time of the previous EP, and show off a more aggressive side. 'Battle Toads' and 'Battle Snake' are fast, furious and unhinged, while 'Battle 07' takes a left hand turn to slower, more psychedelic and proggy waters, complete with loads of Hammond organ. One review called it a 'schizophrenic rock explosions driven by an octopushanded drummer ' and that's pretty much spot on. It's all very retro-feeling, but sounds manic in way only today's bands are. Fucking brilliant.
So history lesson over and interest piqued, here's a conversation with vocalist Josh and Drummer Noah, who actually seem like nice guys and not people who shred dogs.
I've never heard of Bellingham, Washington. What's like there? Any music scene/interesting facts?
Josh: Bellingham is cool. It's the "city of subdued excitement". I think Stephen Colbert called it the most boring place on earth or something. It's not though. The scene here is always vibrant and ever changing.
Noah: Bellingham is a lovely little college town an hour or so North of Seattle. It's pretty liberal. The weather is nice. The music scene is very vibrant for such a small town. Lots of variety. The world famous 3B tavern used to operate here. Death Cab for Cutie (our greatest influence) is from here.
How did you guys get together?
N: Josh and I have known each other for almost a decade, and played together previously in a band called Cicadas. Jeff joined us after his band, The Russians split up. We all lived in Bellingham.
J: We met in college and while playing with other bands over the years. My band would always play with Jeff's band, Jeff's band would always play with Noah's band, etc. when everything fizzled out we got together and hammered out Dog Shredder.
How would you describe your sound?
J: Manic. People sometimes call it 'urgent' which kind of tickles me. It doesn't really make any sense but seems fitting. I like our band.
N: I think our sound is difficult to describe, and I think that's a really positive thing. We like noise, we like chaos, and we like speed. I know we also try for a certain level of musicianship, which is necessary to keep our sound from descending in audio shit-soup. I think that's where some of our "prog" labeling comes from. We're kind of techy, noise-thrash-prog-psych.
Who are your biggest influences?
J: The cool thing about Dog Shredder is that all 3 of us have such broad tastes and we decided pretty early, intentionally or not, that the band was going to be whatever we wanted it to be. Or just allow it to be whatever it wanted to be. No one single influence dominates our style and I think that's what makes it special.
N: My biggest influences are noisy, heavy bands from the 90's, like Soundgarden, Engine Kid, Rodan, etc. Yes and other 70's prog bands are a heavy influence as well. Botch, Converge, and the Dillinger Escape Plan, among other forward-thinking, newer heavy bands have also informed my (our) sound.
'If you took a bottle of narcotics and got pushed out of an airplane flying to Naked City without a parachute by No Means No and land on John Zorn, you may end up as a Dog Shredder.'
High/low points so far?
N: We've played some really amazing shows with bands that we really respect, like Helms Alee, Melt Banana, Retox, Black Cobra... it's been great. Also, our new EP has been really well received, and that's great as well.
J: We blew five tires on our old van in one year. Every time it would happen we would bury our heads in our hands and just be like, "What the fuck, why? Why us, why now? Again?"
But the highest point for me so far has been the extremely positive reaction to our new EP Brass Tactics. We've been working on our weird shit for several years and it seems people actually want to start listening to it. It's cool.
Pleased with the new EP and the reception it's got?
N: Very much so. I had no idea people would dig it as much as they have. I assumed that our music would be quite polarising, but so almost everything has been positive. There was a blog in Iceland that hated it, but whatever. Fuck Iceland (not really. Iceland Rules)
How does Brass Tactics compare to Boss Rhino? At first glance BT is a lot shorter and more hectic, was that a conscience move?
J: I think Brass Tactics is better than Boss Rhino. We've released the batches of songs on EPs because we haven't really had a strong enough full-length's worth of material. But that will change this year.
Any reasoning behind naming every song 'Battle..'?
N: We kind of flippantly named the songs, and when we saw a pattern emerging, we just went with it. So yes and no. Arbitrary Cohesion.
Any concept behind the artwork?
J: Our buddy John Overly does all of our art and he's so good at it we just try not to ask too many questions and let him run with his imagination. His stuff is all stellar.
N: Our good friend John Overly at Vessel Studios in Bellingham designed it. It is based on a Chic Corea album cover. It's really pretty.
I saw you described as 'The Dillinger Escape Plan playing Baroness covers in ZZ Top's living room.' was that sort of what you were going for?
N: We weren't going for anything, in that sense. We wanted to make something that makes us happy, challenges us, and rocks. So I guess that description is pretty apt.
J: Our music has been described so many different ways. We're not really "going for" anything in particular. We just want to rock. And all three of those bands sure do fucking rock!
How do you approach songwriting?
N: Josh writes almost everything for the band, riff wise. Jeff and I then ruin it. When it comes to structure, phrasing, etc. we try work together.
J: Usually in my underwear with an old electric guitar and a fritzed-out Roland pile practice amp.
How's the band dynamics work? Any tyrants?
J: We're all bros so we get along almost always. We all care so much about the band and are always trying to make it the best that it can be. We try not to get in each others way while trying to achieve that.
Any reason you've only done digital/vinyl releases so far? Trying to keep things old school?
J: This might bum people out but no, not really. Both EPs were released on vinyl just out of circumstance. The only labels that we've worked with are digital/vinyl only labels. So we said cool. Plus vinyl just looks so sexy.
Covering Yes' Heart Of Sunrise is a bold step, any other plans to cover long prog songs? You big prog fans?
J: We're all big 70s-ish prof fans. Doing HOTS was fun but we're really focusing on the new stuff for the new record right now. We want to write our own Heart of the Sunrise.
The only labels that we've worked with are digital/vinyl only labels. So we said cool. Plus vinyl just looks so sexy.
The name always gets alot of attention in reviews. Why did you pick it? Ever shredded a dog?
N: Josh and my old band once played a show. We thought a band called "Dog Shredder" was playing. We were really excited to see what a band called "doh shredder" was like. Gross Grindcore? Shitty bar rock?
Turns out they were called "Dawn Treader" and from that day forward we knew that if we started a new band, we had a name.
I asked some friends what they wanted to know about Dog Shredder, my response was 'Why are they so awesome?' Your reply?
N: Because we are. Oh and because we try really hard and we try to be kind people.
Plans for the future? Tour/Album/World domination etc?
J: [The] New album is in the works now, we should have some super exciting news to announce about that very soon and we're touring in September. We're having a lot of fun with the new stuff, we just started testing out this new song 'Shit Blizzard' live. It rocks.
N: We're writing a new album that someone will hopefully want to help pay for. We're touring this fall on the West coast, and yes, we will be dominating the world.
Listen to Brass Tactics on Spotify:
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