Over the years that I have been at this, I have managed to print a lot of cool stuff for a lot of great people. Sometimes you meet someone and even though you only have a few minutes to talk to them, you know that person is cut from the same cloth as you. One such instance was meeting and getting to know Sean from Gatecreeper. Sean and I come from a similar background and mindset with a distinctly similar taste in music. I have worked for Sean for years now directly with his band Gatecreeper but via the mighty record label Crown and Throne I was able to work on two of his other prominent musical entries, Territory and Languish. I enjoyed taking this time to get to know my friend Sean better and hopefully you will enjoy reading it.
Photos by: Pablo Vigueras
HMP: Remember when Gatecreeper and Territory opened stores at the same time at Holy Mountain and I was stone cold sure Territory was about to take the fuck over. How’s that for a first question!
SEAN: Hahahaha oh man that’s a pretty good one. I wish that band had done more than we ended up doing.
HMP: I loved both bands but as a betting man I had my money on Territory. There were no losers in this bet though because of course Gatecreeper fucking rules! Which band started first?
SEAN: Thanks man, I’m glad you liked it. Territory was first by a few years. We started practicing with our line up at the end of 09 and started playing shows as a 5 piece in ‘10. For a couple years we were playing all the hardcore shows in Tucson and Phoenix, and we did a couple of small tours and got to play Power of the Riff and Rain Fest. After that we just kind of slowed down and Gatecreeper started up and quickly became Matt and I’s focus.
HMP: My first introduction to Territory was through Garth from Crown and Throne contacting me to print the 7” covers for Blowback. Of course, I checked it out because it came with not only Garth’s seal of approval but that killer Give Up art, so I was fairly certain this was going to be good. How did the relationship with Crown and Throne and Give Up come about?
SEAN: Hahahaha I had to ask Ryan how we got connected with both of them. I didn’t meet either until well after the 7” came out. Ryan had met Garth while on a road trip with some friends from New Mexico up to Denver for a Of Feather and Bone show. He isn’t sure if Garth or Mike from Escapist Records had reached out to Give Up for art first. We had a shirt design by him and the 7”. I’m not really sure either it was so long ago. I would always book our shows with Sam and set up our practices while Ryan and Sam did the art and release stuff. I’ll have to dig those up this week, I haven’t looked at Territory stuff in a long time now. That’s Ryan Bram of Homewrecker studios who’s recorded all of the territory and Gatecreeper music, plays(ed) guitar in Territory.
HMP:I loved Territory because although my true love and starting point in heavy music was metal, I also spent a large portion of time in the hardcore scene and Territory has that perfect blend of hardcore and metal that is very much of my era of hardcore. So, before we go forward let’s go back a bit. What was your introduction to heavy music?
SEAN: That’s exactly why the 4 of us wanted to do a band like Territory. We all love straight forward traditional hardcore and pummeling double bass and blast beats, so we put them together. My introduction to heavy music feels pretty standard for people that were kids in the 90s, Korn and Marylin Manson on MTV when I was about 10-11 years old. They were both getting heavy play then and I just fell for it. Then a couple of years later Slipknot self-titled came out and that’s when I fell in love with double bass and trying to find more extreme music. I had an older cousin tell me about a few bands and I just kind of went from there until I found hardcore in the early 2000s.
HMP: We all came into heavy music from somewhere. Me being a bit older I was brought in from glam metal, but I really dug Ratt and Motely Crue because they had that harder and darker edge to them. Even though once I found Metallica I was moving harder and faster at light speed I still have a special place in my heart for those bands. So, I know you have a love for Earth Crisis and in Territory I heard that love for hardcore in the songs. What were the bands that brought you into that musical spectrum?
SEAN: Yeah exactly man. I’m sure if I had grown up in the 80s, glam metal would have been my gateway to the good stuff. I was already listening to the Earth Crisis album Slither because it was marketed to the Nu metal crowd, but when I heard Hatebreed’s Satisfaction album and heard a Tucson band called Gat Rot’s Conflict album is what drew me in. I was into a lot of those bands coming out in 02, 03, 04 before I went back and really got into mid 90s hardcore/metalcore. Early Dillinger Escape Plan, Poison The Well, Zao, Terror, Converge, Throwdown, Most Precious Blood, Sick Of It All were definitely some of the first bands I remember getting really into and making hardcore something I wanted to be a part of.
HMP: Metal and hardcore do not always mix well but when it does like in the case of Earth Crisis, Merauder or Burnt By The Sun there is little that can touch it for intensity! So, for me the hardcore scene is definitely where I derived the do it yourself mentality is that where you were motivated to pick up an instrument or start a band or did that happen differently for you?
SEAN: I agree! I love those bands! Burnt By The Sun doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. A Life Once Lost was another great band that mixed the two. I was already playing guitar for a few years by the time I found hardcore and knew that playing music is what I wanted to do. I pretty much picked up a guitar when I got into metal in middle school. The hardcore scene is what made it clear to me that I wanted to play DIY extreme music.
HMP: Burnt by the Sun is criminally underrated! That might be the single greatest melding of hardcore and metal. The message and brutality of hardcore with the precision and playing of metal. All those records make me want to tear the world in half! Hardcore and that DIY ethic is what allowed me to start Holy Mountain. Without my years in the hardcore scene I may not have travelled this path. I think it was that steppingstone for a lot of people for opening up the possibilities. So, we talked hardcore what were the first more overtly metal bands you got into?
SEAN:I think you are right man, hardcore has been a great stepping stone for a lot of people to live out their dreams be it traveling, photography, shirt design and printing etc. I think the DIY attitude and confidence to create are the best things you can get out of the scene. Pantera, Anthrax and Slayer were favorites that have always stuck with me since I first started listening to Nu Metal. Once I moved past Nu Metal, Cannibal Corpse, Meshuggah S.O.D. and Nile were early favorites. I was obsessed with cannibal corpse immediately!
HMP: When I was a kid my little old catholic as could be grandma would go to the local record store and buy me metal shirts. Specifically, she got me the root of all evil Slayer shirt and the Anthrax State of Euphoria shirt. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when she was in there talking to the staff and buying these shirts haha. Slayer along with Metallica changed my life and I mean that literally. Those bands changed everything for me. From there on my quest for all things faster and heavier few had the impact Cannibal Corpse had! I got Eaten Back to Life at 16 when it came out and now almost 30 years later, I still listen to them regularly! You must have lost your mind when you found out Gatecreeper would be touring with them? What was that like?
SEAN:Dude that’s awesome your grandma would do that! Hahah I could only imagine how fun that conversation must have been. I guess Hatebreed and Sepultura were the bands for me like that. I was getting into all of it around the same time in early high school. I had never heard anything like Satisfaction or Chaos AD and they just blew me away when I got them. Same as when I heard Gallery of Suicide for the first time. I needed more immediately. Man, when I found out we were going to tour with them I was so excited. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would play a show with them let alone tour with them. It was everything I hoped for. Great crowds, good times hanging out with them, their crew and power trip. It’s still my favorite tour we’ve done and a lot of those shows I’ll remember for a long time.
HMP: Jesus man I remember when Sepultura’s album Arise came out, it just fucking floored me. It was so fucking heavy. Then Chaos A.D. came out and it was so different and still just a crushingly heavy record. Sepultura is a gift to the world for sure. Getting to work with people that inspired you is such a special thing. For me getting to work with Earth Crisis, Integrity and Jef from Leviathan were my versions of your Cannibal Corpse tour. That is amazing that you got to go out and tour and have that experience with a band that so inspired you. So, I want to ask a little bit about Gatecreeper. How did you guys end up working with King of the Monsters and were you aware of the historic significance of their back catalog? Also, as a toy and kaiju guy you had to be stoked to have a release on a label called King of the Monsters haha.
SEAN: Dude the integrity shirts you’ve put out the last couple of years are awesome! Territory actually got to play with EC in Phoenix and in Tijuana, that was surreal to me! it’s a real special feeling I don’t really know how to describe. Honestly, I’m not too sure how working with KOTM came about. I think Mike approached Chase after we put the EP up on Bandcamp and was excited to do it. I hadn’t met him until that time, but we had dozens of mutual friends. The EP was co-released with Protagonist records and I’ve been friends with Brendan from that label for a long time, so it was cool to keep that release all in AZ. And no, I hadn’t actually heard of the label before but when I looked into it, I saw he had put out a bunch of stuff I liked. Hahaha man I wish I knew more about Kaiju. I’ve watched a few Godzilla movies and Ultraman and I have a Godzilla toy from when I was a little kid, but I never actually followed up with the whole genre. The toys are so awesome! I could stare at them all day.
HMP: Yeah, I knew you had commented on a lot of the pictures I have shared of toys, so I knew you had some connection to toys there. So, you guys have now done two full lengths with Relapse, a label any fan of death metal would consider legendary. How did you guys end up on Relapse and how has that relationship been?
SEAN:Yeah man your toy vault is awesome! So initially Sonoran Depravation was going to be put out by a389, but around the time we were doing the record, Dom was closing down the label. Dom showed the album to Relapse and they got in touch with us to put it out. I was so excited to get that call! They’ve been awesome to work with, and fun guys to hang out with too. Like you said, they’re a legendary label!
HMP: I’ve never heard anything but good things about Dom and that was a solid thing to do on his part for you guys. a389 has its own legacy as a great label also. I met Dom recently when he was here with Integrity definitely seemed like a good guy. Relapse has such a long history of killer records and my interactions with them as a label especially with Rennie have been incredibly cool. What would your top three Relapse releases have been before signing to that label?
SEAN: I agree a389 was awesome! I always made sure to check out stuff he was putting out so I was already stoked to be working with him before I even knew Relapse would be a thing. I actually first met Dom in like, 07 when I got to book his old band Pulling Teeth here in Tucson. Pig Destroyer’s Prowler In The Yard, Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity and Rotten Sound’s Cursed are my favorites. That label has had so many good bands put out so many good records, but those are the three I’ve easily spent the most time with.
HMP: Whew that is three great picks! When I got Prowler I couldn’t believe my ears. That album got played nonstop. That Rotten Sound album is far and away their best. I was just listening to that one while running a week ago. So funny story I ran a DIY venue in Winston Salem NC for a year and the final show that got the place shut down for good was a Dillinger Escape Plan show. It involved police shutting the power to the building off and a cop walking out on stage to a packed house chanting fuck you at him. What a way to go out haha. So those influences should bring us to talking about Languish. First off, I want to say that Languish absolutely fucking crushes. So, in this band you’re handling the front man position instead of playing bass. I would imagine this position in the band, artistically scratches a very different itch?
SEAN: That’s an awesome story! Probably the last time I saw Dillinger Escape Plan in the mid 00’s, at the very end of the last song their vocalist threw one of their stage boxes in the air and it came crashing down on their guitar players head when they hit the last note! It was insane! And it’s probably pretty obvious but both Pig Destroyer and Rotten Sound we’re huge influences on Territory. And thank you man, I appreciate all the kind words. It does scratch a different itch. I get to state my feelings about whatever, or I get to write stories about disemboweling people. Trying not to sound too corny, but it’s fun to me to get up there and growl and yell.
HMP: Not corny at all I am sure that the department of front man and lyricist comes with a whole different level of expression that isn’t tapped into with an instrument. I can see it would be a lot more personal. Languish I just noticed also has me printing for 3 out of 3 of your bands as I did the tape covers for Crown and Throne! So, I figure we should wrap this thing up so let’s throw in an ender question. I saw you talk about Brutal Truth’s Need to Control in a different interview. That is an A+ motherfucker of an album that I do not see talked about enough. What is it about this album that grabbed you? I was going to ask for your top death metal picks but fuck it lets worship this album as it rightfully should be!
SEAN: It really does. It brings on a whole new set of feelings while performing live too. You feel like it’s your job to get things going with the crowd, where while you’re playing an instrument that comes second, and being tight with the other guys comes first. I had thought you printed the tape covers but I wasn’t positive about that, that’s awesome! I’ve followed Holy Mountain on Instagram for years now and it’s great seeing it grow to what it is now! What a great ender! Dude, when I read this question, I had to run home and throw on Need To Control, it’s been too long since I’ve listened. What a killer album. It really doesn’t get talked about enough, and I feel like Brutal Truth doesn’t get talked about enough in general. Such a solid discography! What grabbed me about this one was how the opening of Collapse creeps in with all the noise and static and having it drag out into the main riff... man it forces you to grit your teeth and bang your head! I love the pacing of the album too. It’s in your face full throttle then pulls back with the samples and noise tracks. I love when grind albums do that, and I think Full Of Hell are masters at this style of grind. They have a little bit of everything mixed into their music so it’s never boring. And man, the individual performances are something else. It’s like you’re being attacked by music! Kevin Sharp sounds like he’s going insane on every track. Like he is genuinely going psycho berserker mode on every song. It really is a perfect grind album.
HMP: Man, I could not agree more! I would be as comfortable referring to Need to Control as high art as I would metal. It is a genuine masterpiece. You’re absolutely right about the vocal performance and pacing of the album. Kevin Sharp sounds bat shit crazy and the pacing is more like a movie which ebbs and flows like a story with the tone and mood always changing. The expertly placed inclusion of noise at a time that wasn’t commonplace also sets this album in its own class. If I had to pick one grind album this would be it. I also agree the guys in Full Of Hell are really doing something special. They tossed out the rule book and are paving their own path. Sonically they don’t sound like Neurosis but as artists paving their own path and staying true to their art, I see a lot of similarities between the two bands. Well damn man thanks for taking the time to do this! We’ve now worked together for a long time and of course we’ve talked but I definitely feel like I learned a lot more about you than I knew before this conversation started.
SEAN: Dude yes! It really is an album to listen to start to finish. I’ve felt that way about Prowler In The Yard since high school. I get that comparison between Full of Hell and Neurosis. Both bands really letting out a lot of emotion in their music, and both bands are really sonically abrasive to the audience in their own respects. Thank you for chatting with me man, it’s great to actually get to know you too and talk some bands and albums for a while! It is always so quick when we stop by. It’s great we’ve been able to work together for so long now and I love how hardcore/ underground music can bring everyone together one way or another. Now I’m going to spend the next week re-visiting some old grind and 90s metal-core favorites!