Exclusive Interview: CAR BOMB’s Greg Kubacki

After listening to their debut release, 2007’s Centralia, I knew that Car Bomb was on to something special. Their rhythmically complex and psychologically devastating brand of heavy music is something you have to experience for yourself to believe. Car Bomb’s deconstructed, chopped and screwed instrumentation combined with psychotically eccentric vocals are the band’s essential tools to make them stand out among the rest. Car Bomb released their long awaited sophomore record, w^w^^w^w earlier this year and was met with a enormous amount of positive praise, as it should. I recently caught up with guitarist Greg Kubacki to get the scoop on the new record and the band’s endeavors.

-Lane Oliver 

Car Bomb have put out their first album in five years, w^w^^w^w. Does it feel good to finally put it out?
GK-Yeah it feels great, but most of all it’s a huge relief.  Everyone in the band wanted this record to come out as good as we could possibly make it so we all put in a lot of time and effort.  I’m glad we did, but after a few years we really got sucked into the process.  I definitely had “tunnel vision” towards the end, so it’s nice to just relax and focus on other things for a change.

The new album was in development hell for quite some time. What exactly held you guys back and was there ever a point where you thought you would never put this record out?
GK-I will admit during the last year and a half of tracking it did feel like it would never end and in fact the process didn’t officially end until a few days before the release.  We finished vocals, final mixes and mastering all three days before the record was posted on Bandcamp.  But we really wanted everything to sound right before we put it out.  To us it doesn’t make sense to put something out unless we’re 100% happy with it.

Could you explain the title w^w^^w^w and how would you want people to pronounce it? Personally, I think “w caret w caret caret w caret w” is a bit of a mouth full.
GK-The one thing that we were always unhappy about with Centralia was the album title. This time around we purposely picked something that didn’t have any literary or thematic connotation but instead represented what is going on in the music itself. It’s more of a symbol than anything else. In the band we call it “w click w” for short, but a lot of people are now calling it the “waveform record,” which works too. After a few listens it becomes pretty obvious what w^w^^w^w is actually referring to.

How would you view this record in comparison to Centralia?
GK-For me personally as a guitar player there’s a lot more going on in a melodic sense.  Jonny[Modell, Bass] and I are actually using are left hands a lot more this time around. We always write the rhythmic ideas first and they’re definitely the backbone of our music, but on this record the tonal “layer” on top of those rhythmic ideas are more developed.  It was easy…we just put bends everywhere! 🙂

What are some of the themes touched upon in this record?
GK-For most songs we really tried to stick with one musical idea and then tweak that idea in as many ways as possible to create a song. It’s nothing new for us: we’re totally guilty of taking a riff then cutting it in half or slowing it down.  But we really tried to take it further than that and tweak riffs in ways that you might not expect.  The process provides a type of vague continuity throughout the song. That’s what makes Meshuggah so great. It takes you a month to figure out all the little nuances they do and how it all adds up to one simple idea. At first you hear a song and you’re like “what the fuck are they doing?”  Then once you know the “trick” (as we call it) you’re like “oh shit it’s just 1-2-1-1-2 the whole damn song.”  That’s the real genius behind that band.

I noticed that “Auto-Named” features the closing line from “Rid”; “Rid yourself of all thought”. Is there an underlying theme between the two songs and the two albums in general?
GK-There is actually a direct musical correlation between “Rid” and “Auto-named” besides being short in time. There are also some links in other songs on the record to older material from our previous bands. You’ll have to figure out what those are for yourself though.

I also noticed a reference to the film There Will Be Blood on the track “Third Revelation”. I want to give you guys props for that. But was the film a real influence on that song and what meaning where you trying to convey?
GK-We’re all huge movie buffs, and that’s easily one of our favorite films. The level of creativity along with the emotional ferocity of that film has definitely influenced all of us in a lot of ways. Even the soundtrack by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is amazing: I never knew violins could be so violent and heavy. With “Third Revelation” specifically, Mike thought it would be a good idea to construct lyrics strictly from the dialog in the movie. So him and Joseph Duplantier picked the angriest lines of that film that fit along with the music, which resulted in this sort of concentrated Henry Plainview hate serum.

You did the artwork for w^w^^w^w. How does the dizzying artwork tie in with album’s title and lyrical themes? Or is there any real correlation at all?
GK-We’re fans of a lot of the stuff Warp Records puts out and they always have the sickest album covers. Google “Autechre album covers” and you’ll see what I mean. Their artwork is never anything more than a simple minimal design idea, but they’re always something unique about it. We wanted something that paid homage to that while at the same time differentiating us from other heavy bands. Again, we didn’t want anything specific: like an exploding castle on top of a fiery mountain with dragons flying out of it or something. We want our band image to remain somewhat neutral so that people focus on the music more than anything else.

What made you guys release the new record independently rather than through Relapse or any other label? Was it a financially based decision?
GK-No, Relapse made that decision for us when they dropped us (haha.) We’re still great friends with those guys and they had every right to let us go: we were just taking way too long to make the record. But honestly we didn’t really care because we weren’t going to rush it, and actually got excited about putting it out ourselves and seeing what would happen. Websites like Bandcamp, YouTube and Spotify make it really easy to get the album out there and so far we’re doing pretty well.We’ve gotten a few other offers since the release from other labels, but for now I think we’re pretty comfortable releasing material independently.

You guys have cited Meshuggah as an influence in the past. What is your opinion on the recent influx of similar sounding groups that are a part of this so called “djent” movement?
GK-First off it’s awesome that Meshuggah is finally getting the recognition they deserve. I remember when Elliot[Hoffman, drums] let me borrow his “Destroy, Erase, Improve” cassette way back when it first came out and I have been a die hard fan ever since. It’s great to see that they’ve influenced so many other bands and that a whole genre of music came out of their sound. But Meshuggah really opened the floodgates to those types of bands when they collaborated with Toontracks to create the “Drumkit from Hell” virtual instrument. Anyone can sound like Meshuggah now for around $200. I’d go as far to say without that instrument I don’t think the whole djent thing would have happened. Besides providing an audible inspiration for that movement I think Meshuggah also provided a practical tool that really gave the genre legs. But as much as those bands try, I don’t think anyone will ever sound quite like Meshuggah: not enough thrash parts!

How do you view complexity in music? What do you think complex music brings to the table?
GK-As a music fan I always look for and lean towards complexity in music, but as a songwriter I think it’s easy to get carried away with it. Music can’t just be complex for the sake of being complicated: it has to have some sort of continuity to it. It’s really easy to string a bunch of random parts together and make shit sound crazy as fuck, but then there are no dynamics to the song all of your songs start to sound the same. It’s how all those crazy parts relate to each other in the song that really gives a song it’s unique signature. As a band I think we’re still learning how to do that.

At what point during your life did you gravitate towards complex forms of heavier music? Were there any records that really pushed you in that direction?
GK-Right when I was around 19 or 20 there were two records that influence me: one being Destroy Erase Improve as I mentioned above and another was Coalesce’s Functioning on Impatience.  My friend Liam from Dillinger Escape Plan turned me on to that record on a road trip and I was blown away.  Coalesce used odd time signatures and tempo changes on that record as weapons: it made the breakdowns that much heavier and the faster parts that much more insane.  Like when the chorus of “My Love for Extremes” kicks in and it makes that giant black hole with the slower tempo AND the time signature shift…man that shit makes me want to start throwing people every fucking time. It was the most jolting yet emotionally dense record I’ve ever heard, and from then on I knew I wanted to write music that just pulverized people like that.

Michael [Dafferner, vocals] recently made his documentary, Why You Do This, available online. How has the reception for the film been?
GK-That was another reason the record took so long: instead of tracking vocals Mike was making that friggin’ movie….haha. (The inside joke was always “hey Mike, why DON’T you do this?”) No, I’m only bustin. That’s been a side thing Mike has been working for a long time whenever his job and the band gave him free time. In the end it came out great and we’ve actually gotten a bunch of new fans from it. Mike made that completely on his own and with no intention of it promoting the band in any way, so it was a nice surprise.

Has the band’s financial situation improved since the events within the film took place?
GK-Not really. We spent a lot of money on recording equipment for this record and since we’re releasing the record ourselves we had to pay for the CD and Vinyl pressings. We had no idea Vinyl was so expensive…and to boot we had order a double vinyl since the album is 50 minutes long! But that’s fine with us, we feel fortunate that all of us as a unit can put out this record ourselves. As Randy Blythe said Mike’s documentary “Anyone who gets into music with the idea of making some sort of living out of it is deluding themselves.” We’ve definitely learned that lesson, and at the same time it’s giving us freedom to really make the music we want to make.

What’s the future look like for Car Bomb?
GK-Right now we just want to play out as much as possible. We had a taste of that this summer on another great tour with Gojira, so we’re hoping we’ll get more opportunities like that. Then…we start this whole recording process all over again.

Any last words of wisdom for the readers?
GK-If you’re in a musician or are in a band, don’t worry about how you’re gonna promote something or whatever…just focus on the writing the sickest shit possible. Getting music “out there” is the easy part these days. Like Bandcamp, man that site made “releasing” our record a 30 minute process.

Car Bomb on the net:

Official Website

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