What You've Become

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In this ‘journalism’ gig you run across hundred of people and bands. I’ve done countless interviews, got countless emails and Facebook messages and so forth, but you rarely make a connection. Something more than just the grinding wheels of music and reviewing/interviewing. However, sometimes you do make a deeper connection and dare I say, friendship. I like to think I made one such connection with Nathan Gearhart, the vocalist for the re-activated Arizona Death metal band, Vehemence.

I gave the band’s second album, 2004’s God Was Created a (embarrassingly) glowing review, though I stand by it and consider the album one of my top 25 albums of all time — hailing it a new classic. I caught them on tour and hung out with them, at the time, just young men on tour, on a big metal label and care free. But after the follow up, Helping the World to See, the band broke up and were without a label.

I was out of contact with the band for a while, but I heard rumblings of a reunion back as far as 2007,  and have been in contact ever since, and finally here in 2015, it has finally occurred. With 4/5ths of the lineup back, the band is back with a new album, Forward Without Motion and it is a killer. Displaying the melodic brutality and gnarly lyrics of God Was Created, with the polish and confidence of Helping the World to See, the  album is a glorious return, so once again chatted with Nathan, though not over beers as i would have liked….

Man, it only seems like yesterday we were sharing beers outside the Creepy Crawl in St. Louis listening to the new Nile album… how time flies! Here we are both balder and older! Back then, you guys were young, on top of the world with a critically received album on Metal Blade, touring. Looking back, that had to be a good time.

It was an absolutely incredible experience and opportunity that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

When did things change? It seems like after Helping the World to See, the band dynamic changed and then you were no longer on Metal Blade. What happened?

I had to take a promotion at work which meant that I had to stop touring. I knew how much it meant to the other guys, so I encouraged them to find someone to fill my spot.

I heard rumors John Chavez wanted to be a rock star — was that one of the issues for the band splitting up?

John changed his musical taste and artistic direction and that did not align with the Vehemence formula. We (the rest of the band) had to fall back to realize how important we were/are to one another. Our friendship and musical compatibility are fantastic.

So right after the break up, Adam Cody and Sean Vandegrift did vocals for the band while they were in a limbo. How did that affect you watching others do your vocals?

I never saw this live. Saw a video, and was comforted by the fact that they didn’t fit the way I did. So glad they only did that briefly!

How did the reunion come about? It seemed on again off again for a few years.

Once the guys were in town and we were all on regular work schedules there was no good reason to not jam together. We have always been great friends, so it’s an open ended partnership. As long as we live close together, we will jam together. We’ve been friends since high school.

Was John (Chavez) ever part of the reunion conversations? Are you guys still in touch? 

Haven’t been in touch, but hope he’s doing well!

So here we are now finally and officially reunited and with a new album — how good does it feel?

So powerfully awesome. I am proud of what we managed to create, and I look forward to bringing it to our friends!

The song “Jim the Prophet” is on the new album, and that song has been floating around forever since like the band’s first reunions in 2007, right? How much of the material on the new album is new new, and how much was written over the last few years?

This material has been evolving since 2005. A few of the songs are more recent, but when you are working with no deadline, you can hammer stuff until its air tight.

Your vocals seem much more raw and less processed/layered. Old age catch up with you or a band decision? 

I wanted a more raw and aggressive attack from the vocals. We’ve all heard grunting. I wanted to be more intelligible than ever but keep the passion and anger. I think the goal was achieved. And less layering means more anger from less voices. That’s tougher. I’ve improved with age, haha!

You seemed to have found perfect production too. Did experience with GWC’s production help?

Yes! All mistakes taught us lessons leading up to this. It did result in our best production.

The album is released on a smaller local label. Did the experience with Metal Blade drive the decision to not use a ‘proper’ label or did the ease of access to things like GoFundMe drive the choice?

We aren’t the right fit for Metal Blade. They want touring bands. We are limited with our professional careers. We can’t be the band that goes out on every tour. Battleground has been incredible. I really appreciate their partnership.

Did any other larger labels come sniffing around?

There were options, but Battleground was the best choice.

Your lyrics are as topical as on God was Created. Did you reach back to that album to pull things out like “She Fucks Like She’s Alive” or “There are so many reasons to give up on religion”?

Still beating that drum, but when you see the context you realize that the message is more direct. I’d say “She Fucks Like She’s Alive” is the closest lyrically to a GWC piece, but it is a standalone nod to passionate necrophilia.

Has having kids and being a father changed your outlook on life? Do they know about Vehemence and songs like ‘Christ I Fucking Hate You”?

Being a father defines me. The experience drives me to succeed. For my family. Still don’t believe in religion. I don’t hate as much though. I have a much more mature view of others. I don’t want to force my opinion on others. I just hope they figure something out for themselves that makes them comfortable

Is there a deeper meaning about the band and/or yourself with the title Forward Without Motion?

You are picking up the vibe correctly. I have been in the same relationships for 20 years with my wife, my work, my band, etc. As I get older I learn that time progresses, but stability is important on a family life. That fact holds us back from going off the deep end and living like lunatics. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Forward Without Motion is sustainable existence

We are friends on Facebook, and you seem to enjoy your family time. Is the fact the kids are relatively grown up now part of the return to Vehemence? More touring etc?

My youngest is two. Dad mode for at least the next 16 years. That puts me into my 50s, so that might happen when I’m an old dude. And I really adore my wife and kids. They are my true purpose.

Is there a high point on the album, you just makes you beam with pride?

I couldn’t call it just one point. The way it all works so damn well from the art, to the lyrics, and the production and musicianship. My high point is how well every piece fits so perfectly.

Will we see more Vehemence albums or is this a one off Reunion album?

You never know, man. I’m excited at the thought of more new material…

What do you think Vehemence’s legacy will be once the dust has settled? With both old albums and this new one?

I think our legacy lives in the stories I hear from our friends. Out last two shows I got to hear so many folks tell me about how our music helped them through a difficult time. That is the ultimate payoff. I would like for people to remember me as a great man that told a great story that made you think. I think the new album fits into our catalog perfectly. It’s the perfect progression.

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