Early Graves’ Chris Brock Talks ‘Red Horse’ Album, Late Vocalist Makh Daniels + More
Before Pig Destroyer took the stage at their recent Brooklyn, N.Y. show, there were three opening acts to warm up the eager crowd. Of the three, San Francisco metal band Early Graves delivered the most memorable performance, taking the stage with an unrelenting, blasphemed assault.
Shortly after the release of Early Graves’ second full-length album, ‘Goner,’ vocalist Makh Daniels was killed in a tragic van accident. With the band’s booming and lyrically skillful singer deceased, fans mourned while questioning the future of Early Graves, as did the band. However, on a Thursday night in Brooklyn, Early Graves put those queries to rest, delivering an incredibly sturdy performance with new vocalist Josh Strachan.
After the band’s set, we spoke with guitarist Chris Brock to discuss the band’s newest album, ‘Red Horse,’ what the future holds for Early Graves + much more.
When you went to write and record your new album ‘Red Horse,’ how did that feel going back into the studio without Makh Daniels?
Going in to write music again was difficult. We had to lick our wounds physically and not physically, but you just do it and you play guitar and you play drums and you start to write. I do this band because I have to do it, I don’t do it because I just want to be in a band or something, I like to play riffs and I like to play music loud so that’s why I do it, so there was never any question that I was going to play for myself or that I was going to want to play with Dan or Matt or Tyler.
As far as the actual recording studio, it was a little strange because we recorded with the same guy that did our previous record, ‘Goner,’ with Makh. By that point, it had already been almost two years. In fact, we finished recording the record two years to the date that Makh died, but there wasn’t any sort of weirdness about that. We told stories and s–t but it wasn’t weird.
The whole situation is just so bizarre because in ‘Goner’ a lot of the lyrics are about death and suicidal thoughts. Do you feel like ‘Goner’ hits the fans harder now since Makh died?
I think that’s maybe looking into it too much. The name Early Graves and the album ‘Goner,’ songs like ‘Mayday’ and ‘Trauma’ and ‘Give Up’ … I’m not a superstitious person but I’ve never looked at it like that. Maybe somebody else in the band has but I don’t believe in any sort of ‘supposed to happen’ or ‘meant to happen’ or anything like that. If people do look into that, it’s fascinating that they would think there’s connections between Makh dying and the song titles and the lyrics, but Makh didn’t foresee his death, no one did.
More on the lyrical side, I know for me, I heard ‘Goner’ and I loved the record, but then after Makh died, a big change happened; it shifted. I already had that love for the record, but when that happened, I put the record on and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Yeah, I can most certainly see why with all the dark s–t that happened, but such is life, I guess.
Well, I’m glad you guys kept going. Was there ever a point where you thought this band was not going to exist anymore?
Yeah, certainly. I mean, Makh is very difficult to replace as a contributing member of the band; that goes without saying, but he’s also our friend, so it was hard to imagine, outside of his contributions as a band mate, it was hard to imagine being in a band without him. It’s kind of like I said earlier, it’s one of those things where you kind of wake up one day and you do the things that you did before the accident, you know? You have to do the things that you did before because otherwise you’ll find yourself stuck in this weird paralysis of life and I don’t want to be afraid of that kind of stuff, so being in this band, I don’t wanna be afraid to play music because something really terrible happened.
Both you and your new vocalist are members of the Funeral Pyre. Are there any updates with that band at the moment?
We’re writing a new album as well; it didn’t get put to the back burner or anything like that. The other dudes are actually still working on songs while I do Early Graves and John does Early Graves. We also do Funeral Pyre at home. We did a tour last year, shortly after our accident because they were in the van as well. We just did a tour with the Secret and that was good. We’re just writing a record and doing that whole thing.
You guys mentioned onstage that you drove all the way from Arkansas to New York just to be a part of this Pig Destroyer show. Was two days worth of driving worth the 30 minutes of stage time?
Oh yeah. I mean, if you would have told me 10 years ago that I was going to play with Pig Destroyer in New York and it was going to be a sold out show and my band would be playing, I would have told you you’re a liar, so it’s worth it. The show was great and New York’s always been great to us. I love playing here.
Does Pig Destroyer influence you guys at all?
Certainly, I mean, when you think of pinnacle grind bands, they’re definitely up there. Obviously, you know, Napalm Death and all the other stuff too, but Pig Destroyer are great and they’re one of the heaviest grind bands. They’re not just fast, they’re also really heavy and they have groove, so certainly they’re an influence.
‘Red Horse’ sounds very different than ‘Goner.’ What was the mindset of getting away from a cleaner sound to something more dirty and raw?
The songs call for it. If we ever wrote an album that didn’t call for it, we would maybe record a little bit cleaner, but the songs are dirty songs and they need to sound filthy. We never went into the studio and said something to the effect of, ‘Can you make this sound dirtier?’ It’s just that the riffs lended themselves to this, and not just the riffs, all of it did; the bass, the guitar, the drums … all of it did.