Premonitions of War
Daniel L. Mitchell
Premonitions of War is a band that represents, in a word, power. Their music is thick, layered, driving, and incredibly dense. While they’ve been compared to Neurosis, Soilent Green, Unsane, and Godflesh, they have a sound that is uniquely their own. Fans of metal will only require a single listen of their most recent full length, Left in Kowloon, to be impressed.
I recently had the opportunity to have an e-mail chat with Brad Wharton, whose Cookie Monster impersonations provide the vocals for Premonitions of War.
How do you describe Premonitions’ sound to a novice music fan?
Premonitions blends elements of metal, hardcore, grind, sludge, and noise. We don’t sound much like any one band, but have been compared to Coalesce, Burnt By The Sun, Soilent Green, a pretty wide variety of bands.
Your music is unrelentingly aggressive and destructive; is it hard to play a tour’s worth of shows without completely exhausting yourselves?
It is impossible. We come home completely exhausted, and I attribute at least part of that to the ever-evolving line up. We need time at home after every trip to recharge before going back out. If we don’t, we end up burnt out.
What is the most bizarre reaction that you guys have gotten during a show?
The most bizarre thing to me is getting asked for autographs. That happened quite a bit on the last tour.
What towns were not impressed with Premonitions of War?
Baltimore, Indianapolis, and somewhere in NM. Easily the worst shows we’ve played as far as crowd reaction. We will keep going back to Indy since we have a lot of friends there, but I think the entire band wouldn’t be too bothered if we didn’t go back to some of the other places.
How hard is it to recreate the wonderfully full sound on Left in Kowloon live?
Not difficult at all. There is not a lot of layering on the record, and we use full stacks and play pretty loud live. We are not a thin sounding band.
Who writes most of your music?
We work on songs as a whole. Usually someone has an idea and they bring it to practice. Everyone else gives their input and we work on it until it feels like a song. Playing it at rehearsals usually fine tunes the structure and even after recording it, it usually continues to change.
Is it difficult to put songs together at practice, being that your music is based so much on mood, dynamics, and repetitive plodding?
No. The mood at practice is usually pretty chill, and sometimes we indulge in some of the finer things in life which can sometimes help the creative juices flow.
Songs like “Citizen” rely on perfect timing between guitars and drums; how long did it take you to get that song perfectly recorded in the studio?
Not long at all. That was the first song we wrote of this batch and originally we were going to put it on the split 7″ with The Red Chord (coming out on Relapse), but we decided it fit well into the album. We had been playing it for some time, and it went pretty smooth in the studio. The only aspects that really took a long time were getting the drum sounds we wanted and getting the vocals done.
Your drummer is incredible: any thoughts?
He hits harder than any drummer I’ve ever played with and we constantly push him to play harder. None of us are satisfied with the way things go, and so we are always pushing to write harder, play faster, louder, heavier.
What type of set-up do you use to get the scathing, scratchy guitar sound?
We both play Mesa heads, dual and/or triple recs. Les Paul guitars thru Mesa or Marshall cabs. A noisegate and a tuner, and that’s it. It is more how you play than what you play.
So, you’re on Victory; are you guys straightedge?
Are you guys old enough to remember when Victory was all about chugga chugga bands, and little else?
Of course. I am 26.
If so, how do you feel about having the likes of Taking Back Sunday and the Reunion Show on the label?
Everyone needs a little diversity.
There was an interesting quote in your press bio: “We’re not a metal band; we don’t have long hair and we don’t wear bullet belts.” Do you have a problem with bullet belts?
I don’t have a problem with bullet belts, Viking helmets, panty hose, or Harley t-shirts. I just don’t wear them. What I meant by that statement was that we are fully aware of where we stand musically and we are by no means trying to pose as a “metal” band.
What’s your least favorite metal cliché (i.e. corpse paint, bullet belts, Flying V guitars)?
After touring with Satyricon, I would have to say corpse paint.
If you could choose one album for Premonitions of War to cover, in its entirety, what would it be?
Black Sabbath, Masters of Reality.
You guys look pretty serious in your press photo; do you ever want to make an orgasm face for those things (or some other non-standard press photo face), or would that mess up the band’s image?
Eh. Our image is not having one I guess. We don’t spend a lot of time getting dolled up for shows or pictures. I think we went to that particular photo shoot rather grubby from tour. We’re just jeans and t-shirts kids. I would rather people based their opinions on us from our sounds and not our looks. That’s why there’s no photo of us in the record, and very few online.
What does the near future hold for the band?
Touring and more touring. A couple of limited split 7″s, so please keep an eye out for them.
Premonitions of War: www.victoryrecords.com/premonitionsofwar.html