by RS Frost
Blackened grind steeped in cacophonous doom, enshrouded in dense dripping tar. To coincide with the release of the ‘Towards Extinction’ EP, MUNT’s Spud Robertson offers insight into the band’s formation, a muse of vagrant origins, and the work ethic needed in order to hit the ground running.
- I like to think I've always had a very open mind to a lot of music. Someone once told me there are no bad genres, only bad songs, and I kinda like that. Obviously, I've always leaned more towards the darker and heavier side of music, I feel those genres are right at the centre of emotionally driven music and that's what I've always loved about metal. I feel like you either get it or you don't, you either have that thing inside you that means you enjoy it, or you fucking hate it. But I remember when I was about 13 and hearing IRON MAIDEN, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE and SLIPKNOT, and that was it for me, I was infected by it.
I'm originally from near Edinburgh, Scotland, and I spent my teen years in the Myspace era (pre Spotify) which was one of the first great social platforms for unsigned bands from all over the world to expose their music to a wider audience. I spent many hours at my computer listening to college brutal death bands from Texas. This also opened up my music world to a lot of Australian bands. I always felt Australian metal had its own “voice”, as do some other countries (Swedish death metal etc.). I remember going to see bands like I KILLED THE PROM QUEEN and PARKWAY DRIVE when I was 17 on their first ever tours in the UK, which were floor shows in front of 30 people. Crazy to think about that considering where some of those bands are now.
I came to Australia in 2015 whilst travelling, but found my feet pretty fast and have now been here for four years. I’m currently in the process of applying for permanent residency.
Given the musical influences you have mentioned are nothing like the music you create, I’m curious as to when your journey as a musician began and what the driving force was that led you to write the style of music that you do?
- I started playing guitar in high school, pretty quickly found a love for learning covers of songs I liked and found a love for the instrument through that. I started playing songs with friends as well which would lead to my first band. We would meet up in my parents’ garage and play 36 CRAZYFISTS covers (we didn't get into our high school talent show because we were too “heavy”... we auditioned with a BILLY TALENTcover…). Pretty soon after that my curiosity for making my own music started and I began to write “songs” and riffs. I got into bands from a pretty young age as well (I think my first was 15), and have always been heavily involved in the writing process of most of my bands since then.
Throughout my late teens and into my twenties in Scotland, I played in various projects such as THE COLOUR PINK IS GAY (tech death), THE PARADIGM COMPLEX (progressive rock) and HORRORS THAT YOU'VE SEEN (stoner doom).
Underground metal would be absolutely nothing without the loyal people that dedicate their time and money to bands like us. I think the way things are going, sometimes it feels like it's harder and harder for bands to achieve the goals they want for themselves, and that less and less people are going to shows or supporting music. But then every time I go to a show I see people there moshing and buying records and doing what needs to be done and it’s obvious to me that it is alive and well. I think the world is going through a lot of very intense change right now, and it's not easy for a lot of people. Now more than ever people need to be turning to music and art as a creative outlet from the insanity that we see in our daily lives. The people that come out to shows and buy records and go crazy because they had a shit day, or start their own bands and keep the music alive - this is what it's all about.
The first release to come from Munt was the ‘CAGE’ EP (2016), which consisted of seven tracks and clocked in at just over ten minutes. These tracks were a chaotic amalgamation of black metal and grindcore put together in a way I had not heard up until this point.
- I started Munt originally as a studio project, after being in Australia for about a year. Our first EP I recorded and produced myself here in Melbourne, and had the drums recorded by the drummer of my previous band in their studio back home in Glasgow. I never really expected it to become a live act, but one day I met Seb, our drummer, and we got talking about things and before I knew it we were playing the songs in a practice room. We had agreed from the start that if we started doing shows, we wanted them to be a step up from anything any of us had done before, creating the energy that we knew the music deserved. Over time we added other members, released two new singles as a full band, started playing some shows, and over the space of the last year or so have forged ourselves into what we are now.
In 2018 Munt released two singles, ‘Striges’ and ‘Seeds of the Machine’. These tracks were released two months apart and both feature artwork by Unexpected Spectre. The visual counterparts for these songs, along with the overall audible offering, would suggest conceptual ties.
- These songs were some of the first I had written since the band had become a physical entity. Playing the songs from ‘CAGE’ with people in a room had already begun to change the dynamics of the songs naturally due to the influences of the players that became involved. I decided to let it evolve itself and try not to put too many constraints on the creative side of things. I loved what I did with ‘CAGE’ but I wanted to take the elements of grind and black metal I was already using and expand on that with elements of death metal production. This is basically how ‘Striges’ and ‘Seeds of the Machine’ were born. Both songs were recorded in the same session with our friend Jamie Marinos (WITHER) who also recorded and produced ‘Towards Extinction’. We were originally only going to record ‘Striges’ as this was our first time recording with Jamie, but the process for that song went so well we decided just to smash out another song, which was ‘Seeds…’.
It's a similar story with the artwork from Unexpected Spectre. We found Rosario who did the art for ‘Striges’, and loved the style so we decided, since we were going to do another song, that we should get another piece done in a similar style, but almost as if it's telling a different story. The concepts for the songs aren't linked directly though, think of it more like Black Mirror or The Twilight Zone; short stories that are in no way tied together but have similar themes.
The newest offering, ‘Towards Extinction’, seems to follow a clear and concise narrative. The track titles, when read in sequence, could be seen as a single literary offering in itself. The artwork suggests thematic affiliation with the slow, inevitable destination of decomposition en masse, and the sonic assault one is subjected to touches upon death metal, doom metal and black metal, all whilst being propelled by savage grit.
Are the music and lyrics still of your own creation, or is the band now writing as a group?
- I started writing the songs that would become T.E almost immediately after we released the two singles. As a band, we all really liked the sound we were starting to develop through those singles, and we wanted to build even more on that sound. It was around this time that our then vocalist Joe Throwe (UNCLE GEEZER) stepped down from the band. I had, at this point, already written about three-quarters of the EP, so I wanted to get someone in as quick as possible so we could finish writing and begin recording. It was also around this time that I started to think about joining the concepts of the songs and the EP as a whole, so I saw it as an opportunity to find someone that was going to look at the music in a deeper sense. Our bass player Ronnie knew Tim from growing up in the Melbourne music scene and suggested he come and meet with us about filling the spot of vocalist. After a few conversations, I knew Tim was the one that would bring all of these concepts together for this EP. We wasted no time and got him on board immediately - playing some shows we had booked got him warmed up pretty quick - and with the ideas for the concepts I had given him, he began work on not only writing all the lyrical content, but also a large part of the actual songwriting and riffs for the fourth track of the EP.
After Tim had been on board for a few weeks, I began having loose conversations with the guys about bringing on a second guitarist. Tim was friends with Sol through some of our other mates and knew he was into similar music and was looking for a band. Tim introduced me to him one night at a show I was at after a night at work, so I was pretty pissed and tired. I basically told him to come to my apartment on Monday morning and to bring his guitar. I almost forgot about this conversation and didn't expect him to turn up, but there he was. He walked in and learned almost every song I'd written for Munt in one day...so that was that, we had a second guitarist.
Can you shed some light on the lyrical and conceptual themes surrounding the fabled Four Horsemen that are present throughout this release?
- The story these songs tell is not one of hope. They are about the end of our species’ existence. They tell the stories of how we murder each other, the planet, its ecosystem and its inhabitants. Instead of treating the world’s sick or hungry, our governments buy weapons and bombs, all under the lies of protecting our freedom. We value profit over people and morals, and as a result, millions suffer at the hands of a few. Continuing the way we are now will absolutely lead to humanity’s demise. Almost every expert from every environmental field of science, in countries all over the world, is telling us this. Some are saying that if changes are made we can save some, but for a lot of people, the end has already begun. ‘War’, ‘Famine’, ‘Plague’ and ‘Death’ are all major contributors to these events, and the intensity of the songs serves as a way to bring the listener into that topic.
Over the past two years, Munt have been one of the most active newer bands on the Australian touring circuit, playing seemingly every extreme metal mini-fest over the past 12 months and landing support slots for the likes of PRIMITIVE MAN and HEXIS, amongst others.
Do any events along the way stand out for you in particular?
- Being a part of Deadzone last year as well as Filthfest this year! Tim Jacka (AKAZA Tours /BOG) is a great guy and does so much for bands and underground music in Australia. Some of our favourite bands from here played both those mini fests and it was such a pleasure being part of them and getting to watch all that talent!
Even though it’s a slightly different circuit, playing with RESIST THE THOUGHT last year was a personal highlight for myself, only because I listened to them a lot in college and it was just cool to be over here and playing a show with them. No shame *laughs*.
Getting to play with bands we love in general is a big high! Primitive Man, Hexis, YLVA, CONVULSING, IN TRENCHES, SUMERU, CORDELL and LO! are definitely all huge highlights for us.
Playing Techfest 2014 with my old band (The Colour Pink is Gay) in the UK was a creative career highlight. That was my first festival show and I remember the line up being crazy! That was the first year SIKTH returned after their hiatus, as well as VILDHJARTA, GOROD and THE OCEAN playing. We stayed the whole weekend and made some great friends for life with the guys in NOISE TRAIL IMMERSION.
To be completely honest, the whole experience of coming over here and being able to play music has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I wasn't sure when I came over here whether I would get back into it - the idea of starting everything from scratch again, in a completely new country, was very daunting and I just thought I'd never do it. One of the first shows I attended when I moved to Melbourne was Invasion Fest with bands like JUSTICE FOR THE DAMNED, JACK THE STRIPPER, I VALIANCE, SHE CRIES WOLF, DAYBREAK and OCEAN GROVE. Just like that, my love for Australian metal was rekindled and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. It's the experience that keeps on giving.
Given your involvement with various genres and bands in multiple geographical territories, I’m interested in your view of the industry and general lifestyle that comes with outsider music.
- I've pretty much always tried to involve myself with as many aspects of music as possible from as early as I could. The live aspect of music has always been a huge part of it for me. I've always played in bands that have put a lot of work and energy into the live shows, and I've probably been drawn to those groups of people because I enjoy it so much myself. You can't beat a sweaty dark basement venue where it’s just a wall of sound, but I also love big shows with time put into the production of the performance. I guess my goal is to incorporate a little of both elements into what we do in Munt, just trying to build on it a little more each time we do a run of shows.
I've always believed that nobody is going to take your band’s interests more to heart than the members, so I think it's pretty important that management is handled internally. I know a lot of bands struggle with this aspect and this is how you can end up with “too many cooks in the kitchen” (or not enough). Fortunately for us, I'm also involved in management in my work outside the band, so it comes pretty naturally to me and I enjoy it.
‘Towards Extinction’ comes out today. How are you feeling in regards to the new release and general band activities in the immediate future?
- This is a very exciting time for us as it's the first music we have released since taking on a new vocalist and a second guitarist last year. The addition of Tim and Sol definitely changed the dynamic of the music we were writing as a four-piece and allowed us to open up more aspects of it. The riffs have become a lot darker, and we've added more atmosphere to these songs in an attempt to create a deeper sense of dread. For this release, we've gone deeper into the lyrical themes and concepts as well. As previously mentioned, the EP is based around the concept of humanity’s looming extinction, and the four songs take the idea from the four horsemen of the apocalypse; War, Famine, Plague, and Death. Although we are by no means a religious band, we felt that these titles paint an accurate reflection of some of the events that are happening around us in the world right now and are causing a great deal of suffering. Following that, we'll be announcing a run of shows in support of the release, which I can't really talk about now, but I will say October. Moving into the new year, we're looking at recording a split with some good friends of ours who also play dark, heavy music.
This article is an excerpt of the full interview conducted in which Spud delves into musical inspiration during his formative years, the sacrifices one must make in order to pursue one’s passions, at home or abroad, and further discussions on future prospects and the multi-faceted appeal of extreme music and a DIY approach.
The full interview will be available in a later print edition of Inner Missive.