Chris Gebauer, the vocalist of Perth’s Deadspace, wrote the majority of the band’s last release, 2015’s ‘The Promise Of Oblivion’. But since that record, a more complete and well-rounded line-up has been secured, which has resulted in Deadspace’s best release thus far; the fantastic ‘Gravity’ EP. Between shows for their current EP tour, the singer jumped on the phone with me to talk in-depth about their mix of sounds and influences, the origins of the band and its moniker, his views on depression, his vocals, on being mistaken for the video game of the same name, and so much more. Seriously, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into here!
With your vocal style, Chris, the first time I heard them on the EP I thought ‘Man, that’s sick!’ which was followed up by ‘Fuck, that must hurt, though?’
[Laughs] well, it’s definitely not a very honed-in style. A lot of other people wouldn’t use this technique for death metal growls or black metal shrieks. I grew up listening to Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, so my vocal style is true to my talking voice. It’s a more a singing technique than anything else. If you came to a show and you were up front, you’d be able to hear me acoustically over the band, which does take a toll. But, if all these other guys can do it, then why not? I mean, you see Trent Reznor going nuts and then he can still talk off-stage. Of course, Manson sounds like he’s been choking on cum for the past ten years so who knows, I may end up like that.
Good to hear man, but god, let’s hope not!
Well, I have definitely noticed that my talking voice has gotten lower since doing this. But no one ever said it would be easy. So yeah, it’s different but there is a lot of diaphragm control, of course, and I do delve into a gravelly sound live. We did two shows back to back last week, with no sleep in between, and it held up just fine. I am yet to see what a five-day bender will do to it.
I find it interesting what you hear about singers like Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley, who doesn’t get any pain or issues after a big tour or after playing really long sets.
Oh, Keith is actually one of my favourite vocalists, and that band is one of my favourites. There’s a similarity there between us and that’s that we both go off our talking voices. Of course, you get used to the pitches and the vocal delivery live. But I find what actually fucks up my voice is all yelling over people and the band being idiots after the gig, that’s the hard part; all the laughing and talking. But hey, what fun is being in a band if you can’t yell at the other members? And if I can’t sing anymore, I’ll just go back to playing drums, so I’m not worried.
Oh, a drummer Cool. I’m a drummer myself and with your drummer, Herb, he really plays to the songs instead of trying to steal the show, which I really like.
Yeah! This is actually the first release of ours that he’s played on. We borrowed him from another Perth band and we used to have Ben [Stanley] from Sanzu, but he picked Herb to fill his shows as he had to move on as his band got busier. Herb is exactly what you want in a drummer; he’s super humble, always there when you need him, so solid, plays to the song and he gets really involved.
Exactly, and you can never take that for granted! Now, I wouldn’t say that Deadspace is a super eclectic band, but I find that you are so much more than your average death and black metal bands, instrumentally and structurally. With the long song lengths and how each of the four songs flow, is that just a matter of creating a cohesive sound and theme or for you guys as a band to not be thought of as just one sound, to not be pigeonholed?
I think that with any musical creation, anything that we do is going to be slightly different. The Gravity EP was the first thing we’ve done with a full band and a line-up that’s ready to tour. As concisely as we could, we wanted this to sum up what’s to come next. Our guitarist, Oli, has a Bachelor in classical piano, and some of the writing he’s doing for our next album – a split release – is just nuts. There’s always a theatrical vibe to our music, with the moody piano for instance. The concept of the EP is birth, life, death, and rebirth; it’s a life cycle. You get born into this world that you didn’t ask to be born into, and it’s the song Life that has the most eclectic mix, as it has shades of light and dark. That’s the entire point of the EP, that we aren’t just this group of miserable shits [laughs]. We are all good and bad, we are nothing without struggle and we will all be worm food at some point.
So for the musical style, it was concept born. I felt it needed the piano parts, and we all play the piano actually. This is also our first release that everyone has vocal parts on, something we’ll hopefully be exploring on further releases. Sometimes in band practice, we’ll just put down the instruments and sing barbershop quartets for fun. In fact, a lot of the sound for the EP was built around Shelby’s bass playing and tone, which is what I am the proudest of. We all play different instruments and I can assure you that Shelby was not the only one who played bass on the EP. Nish [guitar] wasn’t the only one who played lead guitar on the EP and Herd didn’t play all of the drums either as I played some too. That’s just how it is with us; we all make it work for the record and then we create that live in our own roles.
That’s so cool! I felt that all of the instrumental parts work towards the EP’s theme and they create a really good flow of it as well. Also, where did that final audio sample in ‘Rebirth’ come from?
Oh, that’s actually from Alan Watts, one of my favourite philosophical speakers. It’s a talk in which he discusses death and how we need to let go of things we can’t change. This EP’s concept is the simplest one that we’ll ever do and that’s one of certainty. But it’s funny; the fucked thing about that track was that I actually recorded it when I was sixteen.
I suffered from a dissociative disorder for a while, and I found out that I am missing a few litres, permanently, so my whole body is fucked. That’s why I got off of the drums too, my legs would get messed up. So there were a few things wrong with me and there was a six-month period when I was younger that I thought I was practically dead; I couldn’t feel anything, I was pale white, I couldn’t talk to anyone so I’d just write and record. The interlude between Death & Rebirth are exact recordings from that time period and they weren’t re-recorded. I just pulled them out and they fitted with this release so perfectly.
Dude, that’s so cool, and it really shows the consistency in your writing that certain parts, written years ago, are just so appropriate for what you write now. Also, I think that knowing about your personal health issues does make a lot more sense about Deadspace’s overall vibe and tone now.
It’s strange, with your review of the EP and how you likened the concept to the nature and flow of the game [Dead Space], as I hadn’t heard of the game until then. The band’s been called Deadspace since I was sixteen. It was an ambient project named after that time in my life; this “dead space” that I was living in. When putting the band together, it was much like the atmospheric stuff I wrote but now I had more musicians and can play it live. When we put out ‘The Promise Of Oblivion’, a lot of reviewers mentioned the game and I realised that all of our search results on Google came up down the bottom. But whatever, we weren’t going to change the name and apparently, it’s a sick game [laughs].
Yes, yes it is [laughs].
And I do hope that a lot of people have maybe stumbled upon our band cause of the game, but you win lose some in this music industry game, and it is a game. I mean, I haven’t made a cent out of doing this band.
But you wouldn’t have it any other way?
Absolutely! I live in Perth, like come on. My mother and I were talking about this the other day, and I said ‘Mum, I live in Perth. It’s either a musical project or a crippling heroin addiction; this place sucks!’ That’s why I live about two hours south of Perth with my partner and it is just so awesome here. I didn’t really go to school as I dropped out to play music and all I’ve ever wanted to do is write music. When you reach that point where you’ve played this many shows and written so much, if you take it too seriously, you’ll be disappointed. You’re living the life, playing shows, drinking with your best friends, and having fun. But with the style of music we play, how many people do you think are going to get into our sound? [Laughs]
Oh, it is a niche sound for sure man, but that’s what’s so cool about it. As far as Perth goes, the only experience I have there was when I was five or six and almost drowned in a swimming pool. It’s never happened anywhere else so it may just be a Perth thing.
I actually pulled my sister out of a pool when she was a kid, and she almost drowned. It’s a good place to drown; I’ll give you that.
Well, I guess there’s the artwork for your next release! With that review I did, I found it interesting how music – especially metal – can be so contextualised to just the album, the art, the band but how in the other instances it can become a fitting score for another medium or piece of art. In this case, a video game. Do you have a take on that at all?
I think in terms of music, the Internet has done some good and bad things, but mainly good things. The best it’s done has been able to share combinations of visual and audio, such as music videos. The videos that Tool did were really creative, where the visual is based around the music. We did a little experiment the other day where we got shitfaced and put on a bunch of ambient black metal to Mr. Bean videos. It was one of the funniest things I have seen in my life! I suppose it’s like combining a good wine with a good meal, or like beer with nuts at a bar or whatever you’re into. It gives you options.
With the audio being separate it can mean whatever it means to you, but the visual element can help you really connect you with something in your mind. I also think that what’s really important is what you’re watching, doing, or digesting when you are creating that art. If any band is going to put out a record or a few tracks and have no music video of some kind, they tend to do very poorly. We’ve put more money into the videos than we do making the music because it’s good to feel that connection with the band. Especially with this black metal genre, there’s a strong sense of obscurity and anonymity, but we’re not about that; we’re more or less of a rock band in that sense. So whether you listen to our music while you’re swimming, watching Mr. Been or fucking your partner – it doesn’t matter – it just has to be real to you and that’ll make it real for others.
For sure! That added context of songs, depending on where you are in your life, is so important. If you listen to a breakup song while you’re in a happy relationship, you may not relate to it as strongly when that relationship goes sour. Also on the visuals, I wanted to talk about the video for ‘Death’, which reminded me so much of Whitechapel’s ‘The Darkest Day Of Man’, and I wanted to ask about how much of that story and the visuals came from the band and how much was the director/artist?
Everything I do is very spur of the moment. I was sitting down with my partner and saying that we’ll do an animated video and we spent about twenty minutes writing the story. Zac Andrews from Sanzu put us onto this guy from Melbourne called Davide [Eklipse Media]. This is the first video he’s done where there’s been no lyrics involved, and the first thing he said to me when I explained the concept was ‘fucking calm down, Tim Burton’ [laughs]. For that song and the video’s story, it’s the entire story of the EP in one song.
Davide went above and beyond for this video and us. He did not sleep for months. Everything that came back was just exceeding all of my expectations. But in my version, there was no alien, no spaceship, and no giant preying mantis; that was all him. He would just say to me ‘Just trust me, my friend’. Even three weeks after he sent me the final video, he couldn’t go back and watch it as he was just so tired of it. The dude worked so hard and he was so professional about it all, and he was so innovative too. But to answer your original question, I would say half-half and it feels good to have something that if anyone asks what our band is like I can just send him or her that!
Sweet! With a music video like that, in this style of music, it was really refreshing to see. Plus, it sounds like Davide was a real catch.
Oh yeah, we really lucked out with him. He comes and sees us every time we play in Melbourne. If there is someone that does really good work for you, you really look after them. So there are definitely other bands we’ll put him onto and we’ll get him to work with us again when we’re ready to go. He understands musicians, he gets in our headspace really well. Because he understands what it is to be worthless to some and the whole world to others, it really reflects in the video.
You know, this EP really feels like a release where there should be a video for each song.
Oh yeah, it does. The only one we don’t have a video for is Rebirth. Well, not yet… that’ll come out soon, I’m sure.
Sick! I think that that’s because there’s such a strong concept behind it to back it all up. But over this interview, you’ve mentioned a lot of intense, personal stuff, but I wouldn’t label you as a depressed or pessimistic person, even with the EP’s concept.
Yeah, it’s a weird thing. I don’t think a lot of people will like what I have to say about depression, but I don’t think that it’s a disease. I feel like it’s a symptom. I think it comes with other factors, like a chemical imbalance or what your environment is like, and I feel many things are misdiagnosed about the human body. But as far as depression goes, we’re all fucked, really. We’re all depressed but depression is not an excuse to go to work or play music. So the big picture is more important than just being locked in this one spot, and that’s the one phobia I have had my entire life; being stuck in one place with nothing to do.
We’ve all dealt with things in the band, but so has everyone else. You can turn things around that are terrible. One of our biggest fans lost his leg to cancer and he’s always up the front banging his head like crazy. That is just so inspiring, and not in an elitist way, but I don’t have time to deal with people who mope around. I’ve been a type 1 diabetic since I was four and I’ve had weird family shit, but now I am in a great place. I’m sitting here on a beach, talking to you, drinking beer, it couldn’t get any better than this. Nish said it the best once, ‘people that have chaotic minds need to find chaos in solace’, which is so true; sometimes tranquillity is not invigorating. If I looked at my bank account and based my whole life off of that, I wouldn’t be playing music, but it gets me through my day.
Very well said, man. It’s how you deal with shit that counts and how to deal with one’s own perspective. I find that depression is, sadly, such a relative thing, and perhaps that’s why I appreciate your music so much, is that it’s relative to so many people, both musically and thematically.
Well, we’re always and fair to ourselves and in our music. We actually cop a lot of shit from other death metal bands in Perth because we’re considered soft or whatever. But many things in life don’t need to be so confronting. Sometimes, it’s the least obvious things that are the most confronting to people. I know people who have terminal cancer and they come out and party so hard that you wouldn’t know any better, but there are others who can’t leave the house and there’s nothing wrong with them. Nine Inch Nails have an album called The Fragile, and it’s built on fragility. Somewhere along the way in this industry, fragility got squashed out and people, especially in Australia, have this “man’s” attitude of just bottling shit up. People don’t look inside enough and I think that’s why there are high divorce rates, why there’s a climbing suicide rate, but that’s just me.
Well, as a fellow male in his 20’s, I also find that that overbearing “male” mentality is such an odd one. It’s very…Neanderthalic, I feel and it quite limiting.
And that’s what I love about music and about playing in Deadspace. I am a dude with multiple health issues, who works in an office, but by the way, here’s my depressive black metal band that I play in. Total curveball! So I think that we can do anything on the next release. We could release a jazz record and people may hate it, but if it saves me from feeling mundane than that’s what has to happen. You can be assured that whatever we release next will be true to us. I remember when I showed my parents Gravity, they said it sounded like me, just with some friends.
Of course man, and I hope that this line-up stays the same as you’re onto something here. I am excited to see where you go with this new split release or on future releases.
For sure! That split is actually almost finished. Some of the songs were written after Gravity and some were written before, so it may be even more eclectic…
Well, I look forward to it as you’re really on my radar now. See if you stick to the “blackened post goth-rock band” sound [laughs].
[Laughs] yeah, it’s weird. It was hard naming our sound. We called it a depressive black metal sound to be approachable to people that like emotional music. Then we got Shelby in the band who is massively into Goth rock, as I am, and we eventually became this shitstorm of influences. If you go on our Facebook profile now, we’re just called “bi-curious” as we don’t really know what we are. We’ve been called melodic death metal and many others, and whenever someone asks what band I play in, I just say it’s a rock band. Nish hates it, though, as he says that we’re a metal band but metal is just a perverted style of rock.
Good point, and I suppose it is the easiest comparison to bring up to people!
Yeah! It’s basically a mix of what we listen to, like Placebo, Nine Inch Nails, AFI, and then mixed with Enslaved, Dark Tranquillity and a heap of other black and death metal bands. But I think if you took the song structures of Sister Of Mercy, the ambience of God Is An Astronaut and Mogwai, and turned it black metal, that’s what we are. I loved that in your review you said it’s really fitting for us, as it ridiculous [laughs].
Oh yeah, it is! But some genre labels don’t really roll off the tongue well.
You’re not too far off with it being the joke, but isn’t the music industry a joke anyway? As then people may go and listen to us and find out what it [the genre] means. That was the thinking behind it, plus Facebook was whining at us leaving it blank and that we weren’t legit or whatever.
I think it’s apt and it gets the job done. In a way, your music is whatever the listener wants it to be.
For sure. I mean, how upset would you be if you were a DSBM fan and were into bands like Shining, and if you listened to us you’d think we were soft as fuck if we labelled ourselves as that. We don’t want to shallowly promise people what we’re not hence why we’re so androgynous about it.
I think that that’ll be good for the band in the long run. But with our discussion of genres, I think we’ll wrap it up there Chris. We’ve been on the phone for an hour or so now, definitely one of the longer interviews I’ve done! Thank you so much for your time tonight!
[Laughs] no worries Alex, this was good fun. Thanks so much man!
Saturday, October 15th – Enigma Bar, Adelaide
Sunday, October 30th – Incursion, Perth