This is the third of a 5 part series of interviews with Gus Watkins (featuring Peter Kenyon this month), a local music artist. He is a member of five different bands, all with different members, all of whom are releasing a CD over the course of their collective residency at Gamut Gallery this summer and fall. They’re calling the series of shows Genrebeast.
The Genrebest manifesto is as follows: We believe music is about art movement, not genre; community, not scene; playing, not partying.
Patch will perform July 30 to celebrate the release of their new album “Meridians,” and will be joined by Mary Bue and the Holy Bones along with Blood Cookie.
Q. How did Patch come together, and how did you decide what you wanted your sound to be?
Peter: As a kid, I was floored by the projects of Trent Reznor and his status as a rock star/entrepeneur. I always wanted to make my version of a Trent Reznor band, meaning there is a sole person in charge writing the material, recording it, producing it, playing it live under their vision. As I got older, all of the other names in the credits of Trent’s records started to make sense. Having sole control meant having a stale product (since nobody told you how to improve) whilst being in a position of benevolent dictator. The backing band wasn’t just a puppet show, they had meaningful input and I relied heavily on them for all of the ideas that were popping up in my head to be realized in an awesome way. After a couple years of playing live, I started writing songs in the style of each member. Songs they could take and embellish on their own under an overall end goal. After trying out the initial Peter Kenyon-centered industrial rock and multiple drum sound, I realized that lead guitarist Jeannie’s surf rock tendencies would be good to try out. Drummer Gus Watkins’ progressive math flourishings worked well for heavy sea shanties and drum lines. Max Lewis’s bassing was very slap heavy and smelling of Les Claypool, so I’ve been writing more funk metal lately. A list of projects based on the band members’ tastes within an overall loud, electronic-backed dark landscape has started lining up in my brain that hopefully will see the light of day.
Gus: I was a fan of the band before I joined. When I heard they needed a drummer, I knew I wanted the job. I love Peter’s intensity, enthusiasm, and songwriting chops, and I wanted to be around that every week. I also knew I had a strong enough personality to help the band better by adding ideas, or just encouraging Peter’s strongest ideas for things like parts, or lyrics, or rhythms, or arrangements. I’m super proud to be in this project.
Q. Did you start writing “Preclusion” with the intention of it being a 2-part concept album?
Peter: I’ve always intended Patch to tell an overall conceptual story about an artist’s entry into a zeitgeist, becoming overwrought by its dark corners, and one day finding peace with his/her place in the world. This started out as a 4 album story arc, and it has since turned into 10 or more. “Preclusion” was the beginning – the prologue. It started out as an EP, but it slowly became a multi-project storyline due to too many ideas coming to fruition. “Meridians” is a bridge between Preclusion I and Preclusion II. Songs from both albums appear as both closure to the previous album and a teaser for the upcoming album.
Q. Say 3 nice things about Mary Bue.
Peter: The first time I saw Mary Bue she was dressed as a masked white demonic fairy while playing for The Electric Witch. The woman takes you by surprise and captivates you. She’s like a siren. You become transfixed with her singing and stage presence. And once she gets off stage, she’s the nicest woman you could meet. Calm, positive. Someone who has a bunch of know-how within the music scene of Minnesota yet is super approachable when you want to make conversation/ask advice. I’m super grateful to have met her.
Gus: 1) Her live band has a ginormous sound to it. 2) You can tell she puts her whole soul into being a good person. 3) She answers her emails in a timely manner.
Q: This is the 3rd part of Genrebeast’s series at Gamut Gallery. Have you found out any secrets about the Gallery during your time there?
Gus: I know where they hide their Red Bull, but I’m not telling where! But seriously, the women at Gamut are absolutely incredible. I can’t say enough great things about their enthusiasm for great art, their ability to create community, their willingness to try new things, and their unbelievable work ethic. They are a case study on how to do it right. I wish I knew those secrets!
Q. How do you know Blood Cookie, and what factored into you inviting them to participate in this part of the series?
Peter: We’ve played in bands with the members of Blood Cookie, and have been a part of the scene with them for five years. Gus initially suggested them for this show, and I was immediately for it. One of the members of Blood Cookie, Tom Mooney, even played with us at a Nirvana tribute show a couple years back. Good people, loud band: when you get down to it, that’s the formula Patch strives for, as well.
Gus: Genrebeast is about building great bills with great players, and ignoring genres. I felt like Blood Cookie’s punk and DIY and lo-fi mindset and sound balances out Patch’s industrial deathpop leanings, and Mary’s singer-songwriter leanings.
Q. If you could only listen to one Nine Inch Nails album for the rest of your life, which one would you choose and why?
Peter: The Fragile. This was the bridge between Trent’s early industrial work with Pretty Hate Machine/Broken and his later found instrumentation on With Teeth/soundtracks with Atticus Ross. A double album that shows all of the little crevices Trent likes to poke his musical nose into. It’s got a little bit of everything.
Gus: I’m a more casual NIN fan. I like the hits, or the heavy-hitters on the albums. But I thought a lot about this, and I realized that the NIN album I keep going back to the most is Pretty Hate Machine, oddly enough. It’s a little dated sometimes, but I think that’s cool.
Q. What’s the most important lesson Max Lewis has taught you since he joined the band in April 2016?
Peter: How to value every band member’s opinion despite the project being someone else’s baby. His inclusion was very passionate on his part. He showed an enthusiasm for all of the old material, but I could tell he was really itching to put his own spin on everything. Over the past 6 years we’ve been a live band, I’ve slowly relinquished my totalitarian-esque control over Patch, and Max gave me my final push into being relaxed and open about ideas and new directions. He’s been a blessing since you know he’ll come knowing how to play something the old way, but he’ll have all of these extra ideas to throw at you that are all well-thought out and tasteful. Plus the guy’s a whiz at engineering and recording. Every band should have a reliable, enthusiastic idea guy, and that’s Max. In fact, every one in the band is the reliable, enthusiastic idea person. I’ve been very fortunate to have them in Patch. It’s because of them, really, that Patch has gotten as awesome as it is.
Gus: Max inspires me with how hard he works to be an excellent player and engineer. He gives a shit, and works hard to execute well. I’m constantly re-learning how important that is.
Q. What aspects of your music do you most hope people will connect to?
Peter: I hope people see that we’re trying to add a little something extra to all the facets of a live show and recording. We want to put some more theater into it. Instead of just screaming into a microphone, we want to shake and pour sweat until our faces turn purple while pantomiming rowing the boat being talked about in the lyrics. We don’t just want to make a simple setlist or record tracklist, we want to make a beginning, middle and end story that starts small and gets huge at the climax with all kinds of different sounds and instruments. And I hope the audience and listeners see that extra oomph we strive for. So far, it’s made people really bond with us afterward at shows and online. I think it’s working.
Gus: I love how tight this band is, how hard everyone works to execute Peter’s vision. Patch might be the tightest band I’ve ever been in, and I think people enjoy how strong our live show is. We put a lot of care into a lot of facets of our show, so hopefully everyone comes away with something that speaks to them.
September 2: Qaanaaq
October 29: ACTN
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