Exclusive Interview: GAIA talk NEW ALBUM writing and recording sessions!
Having given us a pair of singles in “The Crawling Chaos” and “Key and Gate” in 2021, Brighton Progressive Metallers GAIA have a debut full length album inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft in store for us in 2022 and on the evidence they have so far put forward to the jury, the verdict is that they could well be guilty of setting a fretboard or two on fire with their riffs and burning the studio down. In this, the second of two exclusive interviews with them, we talk all about what went in behind the scenes…
What did you learn from the studio time for your self titled debut EP that has helped make recording new songs better? “I would say for the most part that our recording process has remained fairly consistent between our debut EP and our new material. We have continued to try to prepare as much of the content at home as we can, ensuring that we have as much time as possible to get all of our takes up to standard without the pressure of spending excessive time and money in the studio. We arrange all the instruments in a DAW project on our end so we have an almost complete idea of how things will sound. From there, we leave all of the audio files in the hands of Wynter Prior to re-amp the guitar and bass stems, add samples and other pre-production if necessary. In hindsight, refining this workflow process while working on our debut EP was crucial to be able to keep producing content during the coronavirus pandemic, as it meant that we could all collaborate remotely from home and still manage to get everything done with very little compromise”
How does the writing process of a new Gaia track start? Melody, riff or rhythm first? “The songwriting process typically starts with a main riff or a chord progression. If the idea came from inspiration then a song can get written in one sitting, if not then a GAIA track can take over a year to write. This is due to the mindset of GAIA as songwriters, we don’t want to rush the creative aspect of the band as it’s the main reason we are in GAIA, we love getting to write and perform such an intense form of metal and putting out material that isn’t (in our eyes) as good as possible just seems like a waste of time”
When you recorded single “Key and the Gate“, how did you go about getting the balance between the wide ranging vocals so perfectly balanced? “Getting the balance right takes a fair amount of demoing and exploring. Sometimes the first idea will be golden but others you have to hunt a little deeper for and try different things. As our writing process is extremely collaborative when it comes to vocal writing, there’s no point becoming too attached to any one idea. James demos are recorded with melodies and vocal techniques in mind. Lyrics are either place-holder or complete gobbledygook, giving the impression of intended rhythms and melodies. James; philosophy is it’s easier to cut back rather than add, so he does like to provide as many ideas as possible. James then shares his ideas with the rest of the band and everyone says what they like and what they’re not as keen on but we also try and say what might work instead. James then goes off and demos more ideas and it’s a back and forth until we’re all happy. James initial demo for “Key and the Gate”; started life with a completely different chorus from what you hear now for example”
The single “Key and the Gate“; was mixed and mastered by Sphynx Studios (Woe Betide, VoidWeaver); how did you go about choosing them and what were they like to work with? “We first discovered Sphynx Studios (Wynter Prior) way back when we were preparing the EP –Wynter put out a video to meet new clients, he took submissions and picked a winner who he wanted to work with. Needless to say we won and our relationship started on a great note. When working on the EP it was apparent there was a complimentary rapport between GAIA and Sphynx studios, as people we jelled. Wynter is a wonderful person and would go to extremes to meet any requirements, this is a huge part of our relationship and for that we are thankful. Our work flows helped each other and we could quickly identify things that weren’t working, not to mention the quality of his work and his continuous ability to improve his craft is something unseen elsewhere. At this point GAIA and Sphynx studios have a fruitful relationship and to have this so early on in our journey is amazing; for this reason we fully recommend Sphynx studios to anyone looking for the best heavy mixes in the UK today”
For us gear nerds out there, can you tell us what you’re using gear wise (pedals, strings, drums etc) to get your sound? “For our new material the bulk of the guitar parts have been recorded using Olly’s Ibanez M80M (the Meshuggah signature model) which he bought shortly after recording The Crawling Chaos. Not only did he need an 8 string for some of our new songs such as The Key And The Gate, but also he was having difficulty with intonation for the 7 string material when using his Mayones Regius 7M that Olly and Jamie recorded the majority of our debut EP with, which the 30 inch scale length of the M80M really helps with improving the pitch and clarity of the lowest strings. Olly still uses the Mayones for solos and clean sections as it has a really pronounced midrange for cutting through dense mixes, as well as having a neck pickup and coil split options that the Ibanez lacks. Olly also uses his Martin DX1AE for doubling any clean guitar parts to give a piezo-like sound similar to bands like Tesseract and Vildhjarta, that has become an integral part of our sound during ambient sections. Jamie Clark uses a tired but loved Ibanez RG1527 and a recently acquired Ibanez RGMS7 for his guitars. For tones he uses an Axe fx standard using a diezel vh4 amp emulation for live use and for strings he uses Ernie ball. Picks are Dunlop Jazz IIIs grippy bois. Our drummer Jack uses Meinl cymbals, pro mark sticks & usually a pearl masters snare Bass player Nicholas uses an Ibanez BTB 1835 plugged through a Darkglass B3k and Boss GEB-7 equaliser into a Gallien Krueger Mb-500. This is mainly to produce an aggressive tone to sit on top of the guitar tones. However, in quieter sections, the Darkglass goes off and the sound is still full and meaty”
What difference would it make to you as a band if you could land an endorsement from a gear manufacturer? “An endorsement for guitar and bass strings would mean the world, we change our strings as much as possible which is part of our sound, and bass strings are a bit on the expensive side! Not to mention, a drumstick and cymbal endorsement would have a huge impact too. Jack, our drummer, goes through sticks as well as cymbals too often and we can see the pain it causes him, so if possible please help drummer-boy jack out as cymbals are not cheap. Regarding guitars and basses, we would love an endorsement from our favourite gear manufacturers for the reason of potentially picking our own specifications. Jamie and Olly would lap up the opportunity to make a couple of gnarly guitars”