Interview with Matt Person (guitar)
Interview by Svetlana Likhacheva
Social Media: www.eclipserecords.com/band/shotgun-facelift/
SHOTGUN FACELIFT was formed in Grand Forks, North Dakota (2012). The band plays an infectious blend of melodic power groove spawned by the New Wave of American Heavy Metal of the early 2000s. The band’s second full-length album due out later this year is called Dakota Blood Stampede and it is appropriately titled. It is anthemic, topical and relentless—nearly as if the entire album is making up for lost time. We caught up with their guitarist Matt Person to know more about the record, and the band’s life on Dakota’s music scene.
Greetings Matt, I hope you are having a great day! Thanks a lot for this interview. Shotgun Facelift isn’t quite a new band, and there have been many changes among members over the band’s lifespan. How do you feel about the current band line-up?
I truly believe the current line-up is the strongest it’s ever been. There is a power that this line-up has . . . It’s built from the original core of Damian on Lead Guitar, Curt DeCamp on Bass, and the addition of John Huber on Vocals; who has the presence, charisma, vocal prowess, and crowd work that wasn’t really present in the previous iteration. All that is met with the chemistry that Jody Smith (drums) and I have established over 17 years of playing with each other. I feel that all just took the band to another level. Jody and I have a tightness and a general solidarity that has helped kick Shotgun Facelift staples like “Bury Me” up a notch . . . taking an already great song and making it even better.
How are band members getting along? Did you have any troubles during the writing/recording process?
I think there was a natural feeling out process when we first came together, seeing if we’d all gel properly, but I think it was a quick transition. Writing has been pretty seamless so far. Since we recorded the record “live”, there were definitely trying times as we did take after take, everyone has to be “on-point” from start to finish of each song, plus it was REALLY hot in Red Dot Recording at the time we recorded, but I think that helped us capture an energy that’s raw, and visceral.
Your local music scene of North Dakota is said to be one of a conservative culture. Have you had to deal with hostility towards the band? Has anything in its attitude to heavy metal changed over the years of the band’s existence?
It’s mostly having to explain what kind of music we play, because most people’s ideas of heavy music is Metallica, AC/DC, Five Finger Death Punch. At least out here, anyway. So many people are oblivious to “original” music being in this area and being open to it. The amount of “cover” bands that are preferred is tragic. If I were to think of a change over the years, post-covid shut down, it seems as though there is a renewed love of live music, people coming out and supporting live bands. Because turnouts have been solid and overall reception has been much better than pre-covid!
Have you ever gotten into trouble because of your musical tastes and creations?
Not yet! We all have similar tastes, yet we have differences as well. As we continue to write songs, more of each member’s varying tastes will seep in and I think that will create some interesting song arrangements in the future.
You’re releasing the brand new record called Dakota Blood Stampede. Tell us more about the album’s concept and kind of journey we should expect from it.
We live in the midwest. The weather can be harsh and particularly brutal. At times, there is a massive feeling of loneliness and desolation. This record is a culmination of taking all that desperation and purging it in ways that will let the listener know they aren’t alone. This is the way we keep above ground, purging negative weight through dark, grooving, honest lyricism, with hook-laced riffs, butted up against bluesy leads, primal drum patterns, and thick bass lines.
The attitude you put into the record is worth respect. The ultimate honesty in the lyrics and your way of recording is a rare case in the modern music scene. How did you find the bravery to open up this much?
Thank you! That’s really a question best answered by our vocalist, John. My take is . . . I think the way John approaches song writing, being open and wanting to be ‘real’ and not just, “what rhymes with time” piecing together of lyrics, was of the utmost importance. He has often spoke openly that he needed to write lyrics with ‘purpose,’ and that that was necessary to be able to deliver vocally show after show, night after night, with conviction.
How would you describe the sound of Dakota Blood Stampede to someone who has never heard your music?
Imagine taking vocal elements of Lamb Of God, hook and groove riffing of Killswitch Engage, and the bluesy leads of Pantera. We love a lot of different bands, but we wear a lot of the attributes of those particular bands proudly.
Do you have a favourite track from the album? One that has a deeper meaning or the most interesting one to work on?
“Suicide Eyes” is a favourite of mine. It was one of the first songs I worked on as a new member of the band. John brought in a demo for a song and shared it with us. I discussed an arrangement of that recording with Damian and Curt and we put the ideas into motion. It’s an important song, not only in subject matter, but also tempo-wise. It’s the slowest song we have and features a “clean” guitar intro, with a lead over the top right out of the gate. It’s a different dynamic for the band, and it shows we can dial it back without losing the gravity/intensity of our sound.
How did the recording process go? As we know, you have been recording all together, as if the band was playing live. Did you spend significantly more time than if you were recording separately? Do you think the result is worth the efforts?
The recording process was intense because of recording together! It’s like trial by fire! There were frustrating moments for sure, but nothing that was defeating. We saved a ton of time by recording it live, and it created that push/pull feeling that you can only get without running to a metronome. We still had to play tight and couldn’t get too loose. The ultimate payoff, what you hear on the record, is what we sound like live. I feel that you lose some of the organic qualities from clicking in and multi-tracking. Don’t get me wrong, that method has its place, but this process was invigorating for us.
How do you like working with Eclipse Records so far? Did they support your unusual recording plans?
So far, Eclipse Records has been great to work with! They’ve been supportive since day one, and they give us a ton of creative freedom; including our method of recording.
I must say, I really like the album cover. Was it a creation of one of the band members, or did you collaborate with an artist/photographer to create such a great image?
We hired a photographer named Craig Winter. He worked with us on an initial concept. When we started, just before we signed with Eclipse, the idea was an illustrated cattle skull. And while it’s a nice image, it didn’t stand out enough as an album cover for Chris, and he suggested we take things a little deeper. He wanted us to give him the idea of a ‘metal band in North Dakota,’ and really lean into that idea. So, we got an actual bison skull, travelled out into the soy fields where we live and Craig just worked the photography with the North Dakota landscape until we got the shots we wanted. Craig has such a great eye for lighting, and it ended up being a perfect moment in time because of the sunset that day, and because you can see so far in every direction where we live, the skyline does very pretty and interesting things as the sun goes away. So, it was a digital image taken by our photographer, then John worked it through some levels of editing in post-production to make it look a bit more like a living painting. The idea was really cool, and it comes across well. You want to know what it feels like to be a metal band in North Dakota? It feels like being an outlaw in outlaw country. We were pumped on the new cover, and it worked out perfect because the original album cover is now our official logo and people love it.
What genres of music/bands do you like to listen to personally? Which of them has affected you as a musician the most?
I grew up with a hard leaning on Grunge and Alternative. I love Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam (Ten), Alice In Chains, Silverchair, Bush . . . But it was my brother that turned me on to Metallica (pre-Black album), Megadeth, Motley Crue. I didn’t really start shifting my interest in direction with guitar to Metal until I saw Rob Zombie, Monster Magnet, and Fear Factory in ‘98. What a mix of music. Hellbilly Deluxe had just dropped and Rob brought the whole theatrical show with. Monster Magnet was the definition of Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll. Fear Factory had this industrial mix that was crazy to me at just 17 years old. Up until then, I didn’t know drums and guitar could be played that fast . . . just sick staccato stabs, ripping at your auditory senses. After that, it was on!!
What do you like to do outside of music? Any hobbies?
I like to spend time with my son, travel to new places, watch UFC, read music biographies, and play video games.
What are the band’s plans for the rest of the year? Do you plan to play Dakota Blood Stampede live in the nearest future?
We are booked pretty solid right up to our album’s release and will play tracks from Dakota Blood Stampede. We will continue to write new material, and just might break out a new track at a future show!
Thank you so much for your time and the best of luck for Dakota Blood Stampede! Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
YOU ALL ARE WHY WE DO THIS!! We love you all so, so much. Thank you for the support.