Andy Williams is a busy dude. Not only is he a guitarist and founding member for long-standing, metalcore pioneers Every Time I Die, but he also recently made his pro-wrestling debut, as one-half of the tag-team duo ‘Pythons’. It only takes a quick Google search or social media lurk, to realise that he’s probably the kind of guy you don’t wish to fuck with. Ring-side dominance aside, when we recently got Williams on the phone to talk about the release of ETID’s eighth studio album ‘Low Teens’, he was anything but hostile (read: hilarious). Andy talks about how sick it would be to be in Metallica, writing fucked-up riffs and on polishing turds.
Hey Owen! How are you doing?
I’m good dude. It’s 9:30am here, and I just finished gym, had some breakfast and now I’m on to my second coffee. So it’s all happening here. How about you Andy?
Oh hell yeah! Early birds are my kind of people. I just got out of the gym, though. I just did like a dinner time gym, instead of a morning gym today.
Yeah, right. I always go for runs in the evening. I don’t like doing proper gym in the evening, it’s too much.
Yeah, well yesterday I had a wrestling training session all day. So like, from 6am till 10pm, I was in a ring being thrown around, smashed up and stuff. I did a bridge yesterday, and took the skin off the top of my head.
Jesus. That sounds brutal dude.
Yeah, it happens [laughs].
So, let’s talk about the new ETID record. I’ve had a promo copy of ‘Low Teens’ for a few months now, and I have to say, it fucking rips dude.
Thanks man. Thank you so much.
You’re welcome dude. I’ve been a big fan of ETID for years now — since I saw you guys play in 2005 when I was still in high school — and I’ve really enjoyed every record, and seen the band play close to eight or nine times all up. Now, when you guys were starting out, did you ever think that ETID would carry you through as a career band, gifting you eight full-length records, and staying strong for almost two decades?
100% not [laughs]. One, I never been a goal-oriented person in my life; and two, this band has never been goal-oriented thing. So like, our main goal when we started the band, was maybe getting a weekend with Converge. I’m not shitting you. And then that happened, and we were like, ‘Hhmm, well maybe if we did like a two-week tour.’ And that happened too. So it became, ‘Let’s do a full U.S. tour.’ And then that happened as well. But Japan was like ‘it’. Everyone in the band was like, ‘If we make it to Japan, we’re like the best band ever.’ Then we went to Japan, and it was like ‘Ok, well, what’s next?’ [Laughs.] So still to this day man, every tour is just a wonder to us. It’s like ‘Oh my god, we got another tour? Cool!’ We’re always very excited just to play music.
I think that makes a lot sense. And I would say as an ETID fan, and maybe speaking for other fans as well, one of the things that people love about ETID is that you guys seem like a bunch of grounded, normal, everyday dudes. I think if you just start out making music with your buddies, and you’re not trying to be fucking Metallica from the very first show, you can kind of evolve the band naturally, and just keep moving that goal post ever so slightly forward. And then twenty years later, you’re still doing that.
Yeah, I tell you what, I wish I fucking played to be Metallica. Damn. That would be sick. You know what though? I think that’s the thing about us. Not one time, or did one of us ever think that we’re ‘Mr. Fucking Rockstar,’ or ‘Hey, I’m a fucking D-list celebrity. Cool.’ You know what I mean?
[Laughs.] Yeah dude, I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Still, at the end of day, if I met Sean Penn, Sean Penn would be like, ‘Who the fuck is this guy? Get him away from me!’ You know what I mean? If I met Keith Richards, he’d probably ask me to go get him a coffee. And I’d be like, ‘Ok. Thank you. Yes I will Mr. Richards.’ I don’t know… We were fortunate enough, to come up at a time where we saw bands that tried to take that route, and fail miserably at it. It just is what it is. This summer man, we toured Warped Tour, and it’s like… This fucking, stupid band with… There’s all these fucking dumb bands, that, in the grand scheme of things, you’re going to last four years and then you’re going to go away. That’s just the way it is. And we’re just fortunate enough, that we found that stream of people that really like our band.
When major labels came calling, we kind of kept it scaled back, and we were like, ‘We saw our friends do this… and it failed.’ What are the chances that we’re going to write that one song, that’s going to get us another record on a major label? So we had Ferret records, who really believed in us. We literally had a guy, who was putting himself on shield for our band. That feels fucking great. I guess, once that pond got too small, and that point in time they were disbanding the label anyway, Epitaph came calling. Epitaph is the biggest not-major label, or the biggest indie label, so it was like ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’ It was just perfect.
I always thought Epitaph would be kind of the perfect home for ETID. I mean, I remember years ago when they made the transition from having those very traditional, punk rock bands on the label, and then they started snatching up very respectable bands, but also bands that had a variety of different sounds. Like ETID, Thursday and Parkway Drive. I was like, ‘They’re definitely on to something here.’
Yeah, we’re on the same label as Converge. It’s like the coolest thing in the world. There’s no ceiling that’s cooler than that. It’s fucking awesome.
Now, this one is a bit of a longer question, so stay with me. I did an interview with Keith [Buckley, vocals] back in July just after ‘Low Teens’ was announced, where he said:
“I remember walking out of the sessions for ‘From Parts Unknown’, being like ‘I don’t know how we’re going to top this.’ I really didn’t know where we could go from that record, and it was really the best thing we’d ever done … but I think we put out a far superior record this time around.”
What’s your take on that Andy? Do you feel the same, or different?
I can answer this perfectly. It’s funny — and this isn’t throwing Keith under the bus — but Keith is kind of the barometer of like… every single time we do a record, something like that happens. Where he’ll say something like that, and go ‘I don’t think we’re ever going to top this.’ And then, there’s kind of like this weird thing, where the band is like ‘Oh shit…Does this mean he’s done? What are we gunna do?’ But it’s not like we write out of fear. There’s no way we’re thinking ‘Oh, we really need to impress Keith on this one, because he said the last one was the best thing we’d ever do.’ We go in, and I think every single time one of us goes into the studio, we have that chip on shoulder, where it’s like, ‘What’s the point of writing music, if it’s not as good as the last thing you’ve done?’
Right? So if we’d done something that was far less superior than ‘From Parts Unknown’, then what the fuck is the point? At that point in time, you’re just going through the motions and it doesn’t mean shit. And there are so many bands out there, that are totally happy with writing the same record, over and over again. Yeah, a lot of those bands are way bigger than us. But looking back at my career in ETID, I know that I’ve put 110% in to every single release we’ve ever done. I’m proud of every release prior to ‘Low Teens’. If you always want to check out what the best is from ETID, always pick up the newest record. And 100%, we will always do that. The minute it falls back, is the minute where we go, ‘Ok, you know what? You’re right. Let’s call it a day.’
I like that dude. And it’s funny you mention that, because I was watching some studio videos that Epitaph had up on their Youtube channel, of the sessions with Kurt Ballou [producer/engineer for ‘From Parts Unknown’, Converge guitarist], where you seem almost kind of antagonistic.
Yeah, I remember that.
You directly address that kind of ‘media anticipation’ and say, ‘Has ETID ever let you down? Each record is as good as the one before it, or better.’
That’s exactly it man. I’m always going to have that chip on my shoulder. If I wrote a rock song for ‘From Parts Unknown’, and I know I wrote three rock songs on this record that are better than that one. ‘El Dorado’ was great, but there’s three rock songs on this record that I know are better than ‘El Dorado.’ It’s like, ‘Oh, we got heavy on that song?’ Then I’ll give you ‘Fear and Trembling,’ and tell me there’s a heavier song than that. Or like, ‘Most fucked up riff.’ I wrote a riff on ‘Fear and Trembling’ that is, by far, the most fucked up thing we’ve ever written. Actually, there’s three riffs in that song that are the most fucked we’ve ever written.
I guess that leads in to another question I had, around another studio video, but this time from the ‘Ex Lives’ sessions with Joe Barresi. It’s only a really short, 50 second clip, but in it, you succinctly describe your writing style as “I’m gunna put as much fucked up stuff in it as possible.” So I wanted to ask you Andy, for ‘Low Teens’, did you manage to get as much fucked up stuff in there as you wanted? And where did you pull that inspiration from musically?
I absolutely did on this one. I remember finishing ‘Fear and Trembling’, and all of our jaws were dropped, and were sitting there thinking ‘What the fuck is Keith going to do?’ There’s a specific bit I’m talking about. There’s an intro I play, which is this really weird-sounding guitar riff by itself, and then it comes in and there’s this ‘Bump bump bump’ or series of ‘bumps’… There’s absolutely no timing to it [laughs]. I remember writing it, and then going ‘Ok, here you go Daniel [Davidson, drums].’ And he was like ‘Ahhh ok, just play it. Loop it.’ I played it like a 100 times, and he plays three separate drum beats, for three different parts, of that one part. It’s fucking insane.
It tripped me out when I wrote it, and I remember the guys trying to figure out when the ‘bumps’ come in, and I had to write it out. And the style of writing, to write those weird, fucked up riffs out, using like empty circles, circles with black in the middle, and then circle that were just outlined. So I’d write it out and be like, ‘These notes, are this hollow riff, these black ones are palm mutes, and these outlined ones are slides.’ The dudes were just like ‘… What the fuck?’ [Laughs.] It was kind of like this fucked up, table of characters for them to understand my brain, because I don’t know music notation at all. But then, dude, to top it off, Jordan [Buckley, guitar] had riffs on this record that were insane too. There’s a riff in the last song on the record, I can’t remember the name of it…
Yeah! That’s it! It turns into this weird, minstrel-sounding thing, where if you played it on a clean guitar, it’d sound all ‘DUDUDUDUDU.’ It would sound fucked up, but you play it with distortion on it, and it’s the heaviest riff ever. There’s a part where, I don’t know, it’s like an empty space, and then that riff comes in, and it’s fucked man. In musical terms, it sounds like it’s on a minor scale, but it’s not. It’s just the most fucked up thing ever.
Now in terms of the recording process, I understand that Will [Putney, producer/engineer] came to Buffalo to record the album with you guys? What was that like in terms of familiarity and comfort, having the producer come to you this time around, and being able to record in your home town as opposed to Salem or Pasadena?
Yeah, but the secret is: we really wanted Kurt [Ballou, GodCity Studios] to do this record again. So basically, to put Kurt over, he really sticks to his guns. It doesn’t matter if you’re a big band, or maybe a not-so-enormous band, or a band that’s just recording a demo; if you’re booked, he’s going to record your record. We tried everything we could do to get him to record this record, but he just said ‘Nope, I told these guys that I was going to record at this time, so we’re recording at this time.’
That’s fair enough, I guess.
Oh dude, it’s so fair. But after that, we had to figure out something else to do. I really liked Will’s work, with some other stuff that he’d done. So I brought it up and said ‘Hey guys, this guy Will Putney; I know none of you are really familiar with his stuff other than Stray From The Path and Counterparts, but this guy does really good work.’ Steve [Micciche, bass] and I don’t have kids, but Jordan and Keith now have kids, so we always kind of think of the kids. So we said, ‘Why don’t we just do it in Buffalo?’ And those dudes were actually kind of bummed, ‘Wait, we can’t go anywhere and record this. Why would we do it in Buffalo?’ Jordan can bring his kid and his wife out here, and their grandparents who live on the East Coast can finally come and hang out with their grand kid. Keith can be at home with his wife, so we were like ‘This will be rad.’ So I think, once they thought about it, they were like ‘This is a great idea.’
Then it was just selling them on Will because does a lot of stuff where it’s all just down-tuned; stuff that’s very popular right now. Everything that just sounds like a watered-down Meshuggah.
Will and I have had this conversation before, and he really polishes turds. That’s what he’s really good at. These bands, who really can’t play their stuff… there’s definitely a fine line. Like Northlane are great and they go and can do that, and Will makes them sound the absolute best that Northlane can sound. You know, not naming any other names — I only mentioned Northlane, because I know those dudes and I really like that band. But there are other bands that Will does, that are fucking horrendous man, and Will makes them sound like a million bucks.
So I was like, ‘Let’s take this kid, take him out of his element, put him in a huge studio and see what he can do.’ And he even came to us, and was like ‘Yo, I grew up on ETID. This is a huge honour for you guys to even think of me’. He was just so hungry for the recording, that it was a no-brainer. And that dude, if someone out there is reading this, and you’re in a band and Will Putney is on your agenda: just fucking do it. He’s going to make your band sound fucking crazy; he’s so good. We’ve dealt with producers in the past, and Kurt was one where he just gets ‘in to’ the band. He just turns in to the sixth member, and he’s not afraid to tell you something sucks, or afraid to tell you if something rules, and Will was the same exact way. He turned into a sixth member of ETID, and he just got us. It was really great.
That’s so sick, however, I think we’re almost out of time Andy.
Oh man, I can just talk and talk. I’m so sorry.
[Laughs.] It’s all good dude, that’s what an interview is for! But it’s been awesome catching up with you today Andy, and I wish you all best with the new record.
Thank you, man. Are you gonna come out and see us?
Absolutely dude! I’ll see you guys in January.
Awesome man. Come out and say what’s up! And if you want to do a second parter to this, we can do it that day.
[Laughs.] Hell yeah dude, I would love to. Take care Andy!
‘Low Teens’ is available now through Epitaph, and you can read our glowing review of that excellent record here. ETID will be touring Australia in early 2017, as part of a headline tour with letlive. and Counterparts, along with an appearance at UNIFY Gathering. Tickets are available here, and here respectively.