Vital Vinyl: Godhunter’s Charlie Touseull Opens Up About Debut LP ‘City of Dust’
Earlier this year, Godhunter celebrated the release of their debut studio album, ‘City of Dust.’ It’s a disc that highlights all that is good with Godhunter: heavy and sludgy songs with memorable and dynamic melodies throughout. While the initial release was available in CD and digital formats only, ‘City of Dust’ has finally been pressed on vinyl, giving the Arizona sludge rockers another cause for celebration.
The vinyl edition of ‘City of Dust’ includes a 12-inch by 24-inch full-color poster and lyric sheet, but the most eye-catching part of the release lies in the record itself: 300 copies of ‘City of Dust’ are pressed on clear vinyl with a rose-red splatter. Loudwire recently caught up with Godhunter vocalist Charlie Touseull, who took us on an in-depth journey into the experience that surrounds ‘City of Dust.’
Congrats on everything surrounding ‘City of Dust.’ How does it feel to have your first full-length studio album out to the masses?
Thanks! It felt so great when we finally got our hands on the CD version of ‘City of Dust.’ When it was all done we could not have been happier. We recorded the album in the late summer of 2013 at Arcane Digital in Chandler, Ariz., and the album finally dropped in February 2014. The vinyl version came out in May. Also, we just released it on cassette as well! We went all out on this one. It was a long and challenging road to get to the final product.
What was the writing and recording process like for ‘City of Dust’ compared to the 2011 EP ‘Wolves’?
‘Wolves’ was a fun album to write and record. Since releasing ‘Wolves,’ we had some new members join the band. Jake [Brazelton, guitar] and Andy [Kratzenberg, drums] were not a part of that recording process. So that alone created a different process of how we approached songwriting.
The writing process for the album was pretty intense. We spent a lot of time crafting the song structures and sounds in the jam room over the course of about a year. We spent a lot of time crafting the lyrics and themes we approached, way more than we had previously done. We wrote these songs to be consumed as a whole album and not just individual songs. We wanted the vibe to be one that conveyed a sense of hope and despair, from start to finish. Some of the songs blend together via Theremin or spoken word bits. Along the way we went through several different variations of a few of the songs that ended up on the album, each one way different than the previous one. It was one of the most challenging and exciting things that I have personally ever done. Ultimately, we think that extra time in the jam room and studio really paid off well. We are satisfied with the way the album came out and happy that it has been received well.
What’s the significance to you of the spoken-word intros for songs like ‘Despite All’ and ‘Brushfires’?
Lyrically, the album addresses the injustices and shortcomings facing society while paying special attention to those issues facing the residents of Arizona. The spoken word bits that we used were by Christopher Hedges, Howard Zinn and Edward Abbey. They are all persons whom we admire philosophically. They are thinkers and writers who are not afraid to speak truth to power. Also, we wanted to confront the listener with some of the thought that we have about politics in this age where apathy and ignorance seem to all too often reign supreme.
It seems like this sort of doom, sludgy, stoner metal fits perfectly on a turntable, and fortunately for vinyl fans, Godhunter are all about the format. Why is vinyl important to the band?
We are all very fond of playing and collecting music on vinyl. I have been buying records on vinyl since I was a kid. S–t, the first music I ever bought was Kiss’ ‘Alive!’ I was around seven, I used money my dad gave me to buy it at Montgomery Ward. Think about it. Vinyl has outlived formats all designed to kill it. Eight-tracks, reel-to-reel, cassette tapes, CDs, MP3s, streaming music. All of those formats were said to be the end of vinyl. Now, look at it. It is coming back, big time. Also, it sounds way better. The bass is fuller and the sound overall has a way warmer feel to it. If given the choice — I think that other formats are cool, for different reasons — I personally would buy most anything on vinyl before another format.
When we decided to make our record we wanted to do something unique, so we went with the red splatter on clear vinyl. It is different than what most other releases look like. I think the solid black label makes the vinyl design look like an eclipse. It is pretty rad. We are all really stoked with the way it came out.
A big part of the vinyl experience is obviously the cover art — it looks so much better on a 12-inch jacket than it does on an iPhone screen or CD booklet. Can you talk about what the cover of ‘City of Dust’ means to you and how you think it connects to the music?
I think it is rad to hold and look at the way larger art format that vinyl offers over other formats. A band can put more design and detail into the art and lyric sheets than CDs can offer. We designed the cover to represent what the album sounds like to us. The album addresses themes of pain, suffering, despair, heat, death, survival and hope. I think that the art that we came up with addresses these concepts. Also, there are six of us in the band, and if you notice there are six rats on the album art. We also included some peyote on the cover, as well as other flora and fauna that represents the desert we are from. The ‘City of Dust’ is Tucson, and that city smoldering in the background is representative of where we come from. The main figure on the cover, she is the Plague Widow, the focus of the last song on the album.
What was the process like working with artist Rudy Flores? How did you get hooked up?
Rudy is a longtime friend of mine. We worked closely with him on this project, as well as the cover for ‘Wolves,’ and some shirt designs. He is an amazing artist and he puts a lot of his soul and his demons into everything he does. He is a great guy to work with.
How important is vinyl to you personally?
I have always been a huge fan of the format. A record collection looks and sounds way better than any other type of music collection. A quick look at someone’s vinyl collection can tell you a lot about a person. It can disclose what their passions are. It can show what trends or fads they experimented with and/or survived. It can also reveal what their guilty pleasures are. Also, it is relatively cheap to go out to buy used vinyl; you just have to know where to look. You can build a pretty good collection for not a lot of money if you are smart about it. My grandfather’s records still sound as good today as when he bought them decades ago. Also, I place a higher value on the printed format over a virtual format any day. If my hard drive crashes, I may be up s–t creek when it comes to work and personal data, but I will not have to worry about my music collection because it is sitting safely on a shelf and requires no operating system updates in order to function.
How important do you think vinyl is to the metal community as a whole?
I think it is very important now and growing in popularity every year. Just take a quick look at what labels like Relapse or Deathwish are doing to see how vinyl is making an impact on sales in a big way. All sorts of old albums are being constantly reissued and at a premium price because people value the quality sound and format of vinyl to what can be experienced digitally.
What can fans expect from the split LP with Secrets of the Sky?
It was so cool to release something jointly with those guys. We each released two new songs on a release called ‘Ghosts.’ The release is 40 minutes long and it contains four songs. Each band wrote a heavy song for the release as well as an atmospheric and experimental song. It is a release that will showcase the diversity of each band and some of the newer directions that we are taking. Our song ‘Pursuit/Predator’ — one of my favorite songs we have ever recorded — features our bass player doing some creepy spoken word segments that were inspired by the Zodiac Killer. The cassette version is out now. The vinyl version will be released in October.
Have you guys started thinking about studio album number two yet?
Yes. We have begun writing what will be our next studio project. We hope to record some new material this fall for a spring 2015 release. The wheels are always turning.
Pick up a copy of Godhunter’s ‘City of Dust’ at this location.
Godhunter, ‘City of Dust’