Exclusive Interview: Godgiven talk writing and recording?

Joining our series of interviews that surround bands writing and recording processes are Budapest, Hungary based Godgiven as we spoke to guitarist and vocalist Andras Gyorffy about what goes in behind the scenes with it comes to making a record like their recently released “Not That Godly“. Something of a labour of love that was the better part of four years in the making in part due to line up changes, it saw them work with Harmed guitarist Gabor Toth from Ghostship Recordings to get the sound they wanted nailed…

What did you learn from the studio time for EP pairing “Walk on the Rope” and “Out of Box” that you took into recording “Not that Godly”? “Well, from “Walk on the Rope”, we’ve surely learned to get better prepared. Joking aside, its essential lesson was you should never go in studio waiting for someone to find out the concept for you. It’s not just playing the songs note by note, but putting your product in the final mold. The other one is almost its opposite, but I think they walk hand-in-hand: if you have a rock solid idea, let nobody talk you of it or roughen it, ’cause usually clarifying on these points lead to finding the actual concept. So this way the record might be more personalized. Of course we’re okay with that EP, but audibly it’s not as Godgiven-ish, like “Not that Godly”.

Recording “Out of Box” was a more conscious process, however we were not confident enough to be much more directive, ’cause our cleaned concept didn’t seem that clear for our producers. Technically, I realized that rushing doesn’t fit my vocal-recording methods. I had the best vocal ideas till then, but 2 days of recording was not enough to work them out on merit. Our concept, above mentioned, also had issues. That “Punk Metal” thing could work better if we’d settle it more and wouldn’t do it by force.

Both of these EP-s in hindsight were musically way too complex. I might seem unsatisfied with them or draw only negative consequences, but the truth is I’ve learned quite a lot of them by which the new album could be this self-identical in every detail”

How does the writing process of a new Godgiven track start? Melody, riff or rhythm first? “Learning from my former bands’ teethers, the first working method was like someone (usually me) bringing a sketchy song and everyone putting their parts in it. On this album, it’s been refined a bit. Most of the tracks were still built on my song-initiatives, but the ones like “Membrain” or “Geocide” were put together like a jigsaw from riffs by Attila and Norbert. The closest cooperation was on “Museic Clown”, where I’ve brought only the verse and the bridge with music and lyrics, and everyone put something in it to complete it as a full song. Btw it found its final form in the mixing sessions, so technically this is the newest song on the album. 

As it seems, we’ll also re-introduce the jamming method with the current line-up, ’cause every time we start playing, something really sexy stuff turns out! Like our latest initiative in which Máté started to jam with my riff, then continued with a decisive groove that has automatically taken a kick-ass riff out of me… As I said, there’s a hell of a good chemistry between us now!”

We’ve described your sound as being fast, loose and raw so how do you go about getting the balance right between the sound being too polished and not polished enough? The starting point was to have a live, breathing, smelling stuff, like if we were playing in the listener’s room. Not an over-compressed, edited, plastic sounding, polished thing, you know. We wanted to keep it loose, flowing and pulsatory at the same time, not fully turning on all the taps. It’s a real face-to face experience, where all the beats, notes and words are thrown directly at the listener.

There are undeniable influences, like the first Snot or Korn albums, “Roots” by Sepultura, “Iowa” by Slipknot, or even “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh” by Morbid Angel, but we used them only as inspiration, we didn’t want some cookie-cutter sound. So after all the pieces of this puzzle were all in place in mind, it wasn’t that hard to balance, ’cause everything came obvious. Talking of myself of course… Guess Gábor, our producer, didn’t find the mixing sessions that pleasure trip. But he seemed to enjoy it anyway!”

You worked with Harmed guitarist Gabor Toth from Ghostship recordings on the album; how much influence or input did he have on it and how important was it having an outside ear on the material? “It was important indeed! However his concept was to keep it as spontaneous as can be, we were always asking him for advice. Most of the time he was rather suggesting not to work out things but leave them as instinctive and powerful as possible. He’s not that talkative guy but all his few words should be considered! 

Honestly I consciously tried to challenge him to use his established methods to see how they work in the context of our music, but he always knew the point when it wasn’t a fit. He got really into creating us a unique sound that unifies the past 20-30 years’ vibe and didn’t play safe at all. Nay! At the end he got into it so that I seemed like a rule-following scout by him! 😀 You know, I wanted to have a balance of innovation and tradition. I can’t imagine what would have happened if we’d fully unleashed Gábor!”

For us gear nerds out there, can you tell us what you’re using gear wise (pedals, strings, drums etc) to get your sound? “I’ll start with the album’s most remarkable element, the snare drum, which is a hungarian custom made Figula. It’s so sick that we had to bring it this forward in the mix! The rest of the drum kit is a Sonor dunnowhat, and looots of cymbals (around 20 I guess). Aww, I almost forgot the handmade subkick with the hand-drawed Rick Sanchez design by which we just called it SubRick! That’s where the stomach-punching bass drums come from… Yeah, and as I mentioned previously, Gábor might have used the same drum mic set as on “Around the Fur” by Deftones. I’m not familiar with it, so go and google it for the details.

Continuing on with my love, my Fernandes H-80 guitar, loaded with only one PRS pickup in the bridge. All lead through an Ibanez TS-9 as boost, a Peavey 6505 amp and a shitty, tattered Marshall 1960A cab. I also used a Squier Jagmaster and a Fernandes WS-500 guitar and like to combine and exchange them randomly so to colorize the songs with their all-unique spirits.

Attila uses a Framus Diablo guitar with a killer Yeti pickup that melts all to the bones. All this amplified with an EVH head and an Orange cab. The album’s Slayer-ish tremolo-mortifying solos were played on an LTD M series and a Whammy. And there’s a Cry Baby also, which we still forgot to return to our former guitarist, Toma. 

The bass lines were played on a Yamaha TRBX and a Prolude amp.

For recording the vocals, we’ve used Shure and AKG mics, but for live performances I prefer using Shure Super55 for that sexy, rock’n’roll-ish design and its versatile sound”

One of the things that makes “Not that Godly” great is the variety vocally; how do you go about choosing which part sounds right in which style and are the other members of the band involved in that decision making process, giving their opinions on what sounds best? “Really happy to hear such feedback, thank you! Basically all these styles came by instinct, just as the music demands and a really few producing was needed. However I wanted more guidance, but most of the time all I got was that it works. So instead of guidance I rather got some technical help in realizing my ideas. Or at least trying to realize them… You know I’m that kinda guy with imposter-syndrome who the more evolves the less confidence gets, so I’m never sure whether my product works or not. On the top of that, these vocals are not that usual kind, which makes judging it way harder. So I also used to consult with my bandmates, showing them demos and they had a few comments, but surprisingly not that much, or even things that’s been overridden by our vocal producer, Bálint Csongor. 

Honestly, I’d still wanted more refined vocals with less screaming and using more tones and dynamics, like as my personal role model, Mike Patton does. But I had to realize I wasn’t at that stage then and rather needed to focus on my actual strengths. Most of my vocal tracks got still too experimental tho. 

I’m glad to hear such feedbacks on my vocals’ diversity and uniqueness, but I already await showing the next level, which will be much more refined and cleaned!”

What difference would it make to you as a band if you could land an endorsement from a gear manufacturer? “It would be damn thrifty for sure! Actually I’m not that kinda gear-collector musician, but still have a few items on my bucket list… Yeah, it would be easier if we could spare some on the instruments, but speaking of myself, I use run-out models of almost everything and insist on them, so it would be really hard to find a manufacturer that satisfies all of my needs. But if Fernandes would come out tomorrow with resuming all the old models for export, I’d be the first one to call them for some alms!”

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