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Tasmania’s Psycroptic may be one of the most iconic death metal bands to emerge from Australia.
Formed in 1999, it’s been close on twenty years and now with latest release As The Kingdom Drowns, Psycroptic have levelled seven killer albums. In March this year, our death metal icons announced American-based live member, bassist Todd Stern, as the newest official member of our own mighty Psycroptic.
Now as the official Psycroptic bassist, Stern certainly stepped into some big shoes, those of longstanding bassist Cameron Grant. The announcement came through while Psycroptic were in fact in Tasmania, filming for the Directive music video. “Yeah it was amazing,” bassist Stern reflects. “I was only in Hobart to film the video. It just so happened that Cam was not working, I was only in Hobart for a few weeks and I got to meet him and hang with him on multiple occasions, so it was almost like … ceremonious … kind of pass the buck, right [laughs].”
While Stern’s role in Psycroptic was made ‘official’ in March this year, his is certainly a familiar face to the band’s live audiences. Stern explains, “Oh yeah, I have been touring with the band since November 2015 so I’m coming up to three years of working with the band, but for the first bit I was filling in for them when they needed someone to tour … Everyone sat down and had a chat, and decided that Cam couldn’t do tours and they needed a full time member who could be playing all the shows with them and they gave me the offer, so it just worked out … it’s an honour and a privilege, you know.”
I think it’s the way Joe writes riffs. He likes certain scales and certain modes, guitar-wise, that are instantly identifiable, you hear and you say, ‘ah, that’s Joe Haley’.
[ Todd Stern ]
After three years of touring with the band, the transition from ‘live member’ to ‘official member’ has been a fairly smooth one. “To be honest,” Stern continues, “it hasn’t changed my approach to how I think about what I have coming up with the band, but what it has done is given me unique appreciations for playing in a band with people who are total legends … So now, I think with the guys about what we are doing next. We’re going to build this band even greater than it already is … it’s just so exciting to be a real member of the team, you know?”
The latest album, As The Kingdom Drowns, developed Psycroptic’s sound in noticeable ways, but Stern feels it’s not a dramatic shift from their core sound.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a very new direction,” he begins, “it’s a new take on something they’ve already kind of established as an identifiable sound of their own, so if you were to go back to, say, their most recent album, 2015’s self-titled, you can see how the newest record is a configuration of that, of those type of ideas, but the songwriting, to me, is way more … dark … it’s a matter of where the songs take you. The cool thing about Psycroptic is that you can really tell when its written by these guys, Joe [Haley, guitarist] and Dave [Haley, drummer] have a very signature sound, in my opinion, which is hard to have.”
On what makes Psycroptic’s ‘signature sound’, Stern offers, “I think it’s the way Joe writes riffs. He likes certain scales and certain modes, guitar-wise, that are instantly identifiable, you hear and you say, ‘ah, that’s Joe Haley’. It’s unmistakeable. He has a style where he does that kind of noodling, and he does some fast runs, but he never does guitar solos, so, he squeezes like a million notes into one riff, but only in a certain section of a riff, so it still has flavour, a groove, something to latch onto, something that’s simple to digest, to remember, but it also has a bit of flashiness to it, that kind of blows your skirt off a bit as well. And that to me, is what makes the band sound the way it sounds.”
Psycroptic are gearing up to tour Australia at the end of this month. Australian death metal fans show huge support for Psycroptic, and nothing beats meeting their hometown crowd on the stages of Tasmania, as Stern has recently experienced. Reflecting upon his first show with Psycroptic in Hobart, Stern recounts, “Australia responds to Psycroptic with the most intensity, in my opinion, so I think Australians have a lot of hometown pride, I don’t know if they realise it or not, but going out there … I’ve only been to Australia four times now but I’ve certainly noticed that they are very excited about being … for the first time in my life I did a show in Hobart, back in August this year, it was at the Brisbane Hotel, it was with Archspire, it was sold out, I think it was on a Friday night, and it was such an awesome, killer experience … wow this is where it all started, in this town, … I’d been to Hobart earlier this year for my first time but I never played there, it was just an honour, it was so cool, to do the hometown show, and the fans … it was one of the best shows we’ve played … in their hometown, with just a couple of hundred people going crazy for it.”
PSYCROPTIC AS THE KINGDOM DROWNS AUSTRALIAN TOUR:
Wed 28 November // Geelong // The Barwon Club
Thu 29 November // Ballarat // Karova Lounge
Fri 30 November // Adelaide // Enigma Bar
Sat 1 December //Melbourne // Max Watts
Sun 2 December // Warrnambool // The Loft Live
Thu 4 December // Wodonga // Eligins
Wed 5 December // Canberra // The Basement
Thu 6 December // Newcastle // The Small Ballroom
Fri 7 December // Sydney // Factory Theatre
Sat 8 December // Hobart // The Brisbane Hotel
Sun 9 December // Launceston // Mode
Wed 12 December // Gold Coast // Shark Bar
Thur 13 December // Byron Bay // Byron Bay Brewery
Fri 14 December // Fortitude Valley // Woolly Mammoth Alehouse
Sat 15 December // Perth // Bad Lands
Sun 16 December // North Fremantle // Swan Basement
Tickets at www.Eventbrite.com.au