On June 29th, Ottawa thrash legends Annihilator will be performing at Café Campus here in Montreal, as part of their first Canadian tour in over twenty years. And whom did they select to play alongside them on this tour other than Montreal’s own Mutank? A couple of years back, Mutank won The Road To Wacken battle of the bands competition and got a chance to play in Germany, at Wacken Open Air, planet earth’s largest metal festival. Now prepping for their first ever tour with Annihilator, I got hold of bassist and vocalist Stephen Reynolds to discuss mutants, rejected livers and bleeding growths forming in the back of the human throat. And heavy metal, of course.
KL (Kyle Lapointe): So what exactly is a Mutank? Is it a mutant army tank? Is it a tank of toxic waste?
SR (Stephen Reynolds): It’s all those things. It’s a portmanteau of “mutant” and “tank,” but it’s also to imply heaviness and thrash metal. The mutant aspect is the ’80s thrash aesthetic and the tank is just heavy. It’s less military; we don’t really get into Slayer stuff where we would talk about dying in war all the time. You know you can only die in war once. We’ve got to save that song for later.
KL: Unlike war, mutation lasts forever.
SR: We create sonic abominations.
KL: You guys have been making waves in the local scene over the last little while. I was speaking with Jordan Barillaro of Montreal-based band Venomenon, and he has a question for you. He asks, “Mutank, how you so smooth?”
SR: (Laughs) Umm, I don’t know man… Lots of lotion. That’s it. Lotion.
KL: Do you find there’s a good amount of camaraderie between bands in Montreal’s scene?
SR: Honestly, not as much as I would like to see. This might just be a sense, but I sense a lot of — not jealousy, but of a few people up their own asses a little bit too much. I’m sure I’m guilty of that to a degree but… Maybe people will see that we’re doing something a little bigger now, and hopefully that will give shine to a Montreal thrash scene, and everyone can benefit from it, not just us.
KL: Has the scene turned to other types of metal?
SR: A little, the money isn’t in thrash metal the way it used to be. But at the same time, it’s deeper than that. This is a culture that engenders us with a sense that we’re special from a young age. “You’re different, you deserve to be famous.” There are a lot of people who want to be a big name and be remembered but they don’t want to work for it. They think it should just come to them.
I always heard growing up that Montreal is the heavy metal capital of North America. But, having moved here, I see the metal scene is very splintered. The different styles are pretty opposed to each other. There’s a lot of elitism where people won’t want to play a show with us because it’s not the same style or something like that.
KL: Is it really that important to have sonic consistency among bands at a show?
SR: It’s a problem if it comes down to it being the only thing you want to do. For us, we just play music that we like. If the punks like it, then great. If the death metal people like it then great, you know? But we only really care if we like it. We play the music for ourselves.
KL: Do you think Annihilator’s fans will like you?
SR: I think so. We’ve had some line-up changes pretty recently; we have some pretty killer musicians in the band.
KL: How is it bringing new voices in?
SR: What’s the term when you put a new liver in someone and the body just rejects it? We’ve had a few rejected livers, for sure. A big part of it is personality.
KL: How do you break up with someone?
SR: It’s usually pretty obvious to everyone, and then something breaks. Because when it’s working, it’s so good. When you’re playing music and enjoying it, you know how that feels. As soon as that goes away you question why you’re doing this. You can find some causation. “We’ve got a new guy — and now we’re not having fun.” Maybe that’s a part of my Megadeth influence; we just keep changing line-ups.
And we’ve never toured together; we’ve just played a few out-of-town shows. This is gonna be a real test for us.
KL: How was playing Wacken Open Air?
SR: It was absolutely crazy. What you don’t see on the tape is that I had some sort of weird growth on the inside of my throat. I felt like if I were to hit any kind of high note or anything, my throat was gonna start bleeding. We were playing at 2 p.m. in Germany, which is 8 a.m. Montreal time, so we were definitely a bit jet-lagged there. The stage manager, this giant dude, says, “Good luck up there.” He shakes your hand and crushes your hand. I just thought, “Okay, so THIS is how it is.”
KL: What was that moment like, coming onto the stage and just seeing Wacken?
SR: It was very surreal. It was like jumping out of a plane. It was an absolute blast, but after you get off, it’s absolute adrenaline. It’s like, “What do I do now? I need to go fuck.” And us, being forever pessimists, we’re questioning, “Is this gonna be the biggest thing we ever do? Is this our peak?” But it was great; we played right at the beginning of the festival, then for the rest we got to eat Frankfurters. Then thank God Jeff from Annihilator messaged us.
He E-mailed me telling us we were his top pick. We questioned why for a moment then said, “Whatever, just let us come with you. Just let me touch your hand and see if we could get some talent.” It still hasn’t sunk in for me. Before this tour, we were struggling to get all our ducks in a row preparing stuff, but nothing urgent. We work best under pressure.
KL: So what should we look out for from Mutank?
SR: We’re going to have an announcement pretty soon for a new release. And the release after that is already in the works. In fact, it’s almost done. If we’re able to sustain ourselves as a band in the long run, then you’ll see a lot of Mutank in the future. My favorite thing to do in the world is to sit down and just write guitar riffs. I like to call it mining for riffs, because really, I’m just sitting down fiddling to find something cool. Just combining notes, trying to find something on the fretboard. The best thing is when I find a riff and think, “THAT is Mutank.”
KL: And what is that Mutank sound? Is it an energy mixed with a riff?
SR: It’s really something I’ve never tried to put into words… It’s got to have attitude… It can’t take itself too seriously. It’s got to have that feeling of like… like I want it to sound classic, but not a reference. Not nostalgic, but you know when you’ve seen an old movie you’ve never seen before, but it gives you nostalgia?
KL: It seems really like it’s a feeling for you more than anything. It reminds me of when you mentioned jamming with members and the music coming out of a specific feeling. Do you find that a lot of your music career has been based off of feeling?
SR: I think so. When you think of the business aspect of the music industry, that’s pure logic and rationality. You can rationalize what strategy you have as a band. But when it comes to the actual artistic side, if the feeling is not there, you’re not gonna go anywhere. You need to become an integral part of someone’s life. That might sound kind of cocky, and I’m not saying that’s necessarily what we’re trying to do. I’m just thinking of the bands that inspired me, and that’s what I want to give to other people.
Check out Annihilator and Mutank at Cafe Campus on June 29 in Montreal. 8 p.m. $29.50. Tickets HERE.