Folks, if you’ve had your ear to the ground over the past few months you might have noticed that there has been some rumbling coming out of the dark underworld of hardcore. There has been so much hype swirling around the crusty, grimy beast known as Meth Quarry lately, that the band has reached a nearly mythical status — without having played a single show yet!
But all of that is about to change, because these guys are finally ready to come crawling out of the dank cellar of Pittsburgh’s underground and expose the good people of the Steel City to their grim “dirge” hardcore style. Last weekend I met up with the quintet (guitarists Chris Smith and Kevin Hogue, bassist Aaron Kaczynski, vocalist Adam Joseph Bailey, and drummer Brandon “Fluffy” Baker) to talk about the story of the band’s formation and what sort of things they’ve got on the horizon — I joined them at one of their rehearsals, which took place in the basement of Kevin’s house, so when I say “crawling out of the cellar” I actually mean it literally…
VOS: So guys, since Meth Quarry is brand-new, and you’re planning to reveal yourselves to the outside world very shortly, why don’t we start off by talking about how you all met, and how you ended up forming a band together?
CHRIS: Me and Kevin met — actually me, Kevin, and Aaron met at an Innervenus show —
CHRIS: Moshing together. I lost my keys — which were later found outside by Chris Pratt, but Kevin helped me look for them all night —
CHRIS: Both of us in a drunken stupor. And then, we met Aaron while moshing there.
KEVIN: Just bumped into him.
CHRIS: Kevin and I started the band; the name actually was developed at Taco Bell (which we’re pretty much sponsored by).
[They all laugh.]
[I later learned the significance of this: not only were the first seeds of the band’s formation sown at a Taco Bell, but apparently the guys ‘make a run for the border’ quite often. Somebody claimed that one time they had gone to a different restaurant after a band practice, but no one could remember what it was called or when that might have happened.]
CHRIS: Aaron wasn’t in the band at this point; it was just me and Kevin and Joe Maccarone from Moths. Joe was talking about, I don’t know, meth being distributed out in the suburbs, and I just said they’re mining meth in a meth quarry or something. So that’s where the name came from. Basically, Joe went on to just do Moths, since he was busy with that. So me and Kevin just kept jamming, and the direction of the band just kept changing, because we didn’t know who was going to be in it, or —
KEVIN: It started out, we were going to have a lot more electronic stuff in it.
CHRIS: It was going to be electronic, industrial, hardcore, mixed with all kinds of stuff.
KEVIN: It was going to be slow at first.
CHRIS: Well, yeah. We went from fast to slow, back to fast, and we just —
KEVIN: Kept writing.
CHRIS: Once we finally — I mean, it took us almost a year to get the band going, or half a year anyways. And we went through countless people, especially for drums. Aaron came in on bass, he was the third member to join.
AARON: I actually met Kevin through my dad when I was sixteen, because he was my dad’s partner, and Kevin was the new guy at work. And —
KEVIN: Partners at work, not in life.
AARON: Yeah, sorry.
[They all laugh.]
AARON: And so, he knew me as an angsty teenager. And then we didn’t talk for years, and ran into each other at the Rock Room. Which was pretty fun. [To Chris:] Continue your story.
CHRIS: So Aaron joined on bass, we tried him out and he was —
CHRIS: He hadn’t really played bass for — what was it, a long time…
AARON: Yeah, since high school.
CHRIS: So he was a bit rusty, but he shook off the rust, and definitely has gotten a lot better. He got some more equipment, and is sounding a ton better.
KEVIN: [Applauding:] I’m proud of my boy.
CHRIS: So, we would just practice without a drummer, unless we were trying somebody out. And everybody pretty much just failed miserably, at least for our needs.
KEVIN: [Name redacted], he was doing pretty good for a little while.
AARON: From [band name redacted].
CHRIS: Oh yeah, we did have a drummer. Aaron walked around, meeting drummers, asking people randomly on the street. So we found a drunk frat dude from Cincinnati and he agreed to play, but he kept splitting his head open crashing his bike.
CHRIS: And he was a cool dude, but he just, we didn’t — you know. And so after that, we were still practicing by ourselves. We got Adam, I was hounding on him as a vocalist, trying to get him to try out at shows. I got introduced to Adam —
AARON: And he said no.
CHRIS: — by Chris Woodford. He was —
AARON: At first.
CHRIS: After we finally got him in here, he completely nailed it too.
KEVIN: Nailed it.
CHRIS: We had definitely wrapped up most of the band. So we were still looking for a drummer, and Aaron said he knew Brandon “Fluffy” Baker previously, or had met him before. And he tried out — I came in, and Kevin and Brandon were already going through the songs, and he immediately nailed it and he’s been getting better ever since.
KEVIN: Hell yeah, Fluffy!
CHRIS: And now we’re complete, and we just got our setlist down and —
KEVIN: Brandon, you complete me.
AARON: Yeah, he’s here, he just doesn’t know how to talk.
CHRIS: He’s here, you won’t — if you want to have Brandon’s statement, just put “dot dot dot.”
CHRIS: He’s lurking in the background.
CHRIS: But, yeah. As for material, we just completed our setlist. We added one new song onto it, so we have a good thirty minute setlist for our first show. We’re really pumped to be playing with all different types of bands here in Pittsburgh.
KEVIN: Congenital Death.
CHRIS: Yeah, that’s our first show with —
AARON: Yeah, I’m a Liebestod and Unstitched fan. Former Barren Scepter.
CHRIS: We definitely fit into more of the Pittsburgh hardcore and punk, or crustpunk scene, mostly. But we have no qualms about playing with other types of bands. Death metal bands, metal bands, hard rock bands, whatever. But we’re just open to play.
KEVIN: Yeah, we’ll mix it up.
VOS: I noticed that one of the earlier logos for the band included the phrase “Pittsburgh Dirge Hardcore” — what does that mean, and was this maybe during the slower period you referred to?
CHRIS: It’s like a funeral dirge, that’s where that word comes from. It’s more because we’re a darker hardcore band. In reality we’re a bunch of goofy assholes, but the music seems a little more serious. That name still stuck, it just sort of was developed when we were slower, doing some more sludgey stuff. But I still describe us as that, or I came up with the slogan for when I was making the patches “Grim Hardcore Assault,” so that was another title that came up. That’s sort of what we roll with.
KEVIN: A dirge is anything that’s melodic and emotional, dealing with death. Anything that you could play at a funeral, so I think we have some of that grim —
CHRIS: And not to mention, we will be practicing back at a funeral home anyway, so that’ll definitely complete the look.
VOS: So just out of curiosity, what sort of a timeframe are we talking about here — from the time you guys first met, through today?
CHRIS: It was in February when me and Kevin first met, and I think it was the end of February when we had our first practice with Joe from Moths, and we were fooling around with stuff. But being a whole band, I think it was probably late summer, probably August, maybe?
VOS: So less than a year, a little less than a year, then?
AARON: I think I joined the band in May.
CHRIS: Yeah, so we were still steadily gaining members, but now it’s definitely complete.
VOS: I’d also like to ask where each of you are coming from — musically speaking — before this. Have you been involved with any other projects, other bands?
VOS: I mean, Aaron obviously I’ve seen you perform with your other band, but as far as the rest of you: have you worked with other people before this (or are you currently)?
VOS: Okay, thanks.
ADAM: No, this is my first band.
CHRIS: Yeah, Adam’s first band. Aaron’s in Jericho Theory with his father, and Kevin’s been bands in the past as well —
KEVIN: I was in Lo-Fi Deluxe with Aaron’s dad, and Jericho Theory —
AARON: Yeah, I took his place in Jericho Theory.
KEVIN: And I was in a band called Not for Long for a little while. And then I also do electronic music, I have a project called The Blood Still Stains.
CHRIS: My previous band was called Gigantus. I practiced at the same funeral home where I live in Lawrenceville. After that broke up, they went on to form Vega. They still practice downstairs, and I do a lot of their artwork —
AARON: Yeah, Vega practices at Chris’s house but we practice at Kevin’s house.
[They all laugh.]
CHRIS: So I had Gigantus, and I also have an electronic music project, sort of a different vein from Kevin’s, but it’s called Crust Requiem. I’ve been doing that since probably 2001. So that’s what I’ve been doing.
KEVIN: Check that shit out, it’s bad ass.
CHRIS: Brandon — I think Brandon’s been in more bands than all of us.
AARON: Yeah. [To Brandon:] Why don’t you come over and tell him —
CHRIS: Just talk loud.
ADAM: [To Brandon:] What bands have you been in, I’ll say it.
AARON: Okay —
AARON: Brandon’s a superstar, but he’s a ghost.
ADAM: He’s played at impressive venues.
VOS: So… numerous assorted musical ventures, then?
ADAM: And he does his own stuff and it’s freakin’ awesome.
AARON: Yeah, he’s really talented, plays every instrument.
CHRIS: I just heard one of his songs, I had no idea, he plays guitar, plays bass, puts his shit together, it sounds great.
AARON: And, of course, plays drums.
KEVIN: Really well.
VOS: So how does your writing process work?
CHRIS: It’s OVER-working.
KEVIN: It never stops.
CHRIS: It’s in overdrive at all times.
KEVIN: It never stops.
CHRIS: One thing this band does not have a lack of is creativeness, and it’s pretty much on all fronts — we have stuff covered. And we have probably multiple albums full of songs already. Me and Kevin are constantly playing, and everybody’s coming up with ideas. So we have tons of merch that we probably won’t even get printed. In my spare time I just write and design stuff for Meth Quarry.
AARON: It almost always starts with a random riff we’re jamming on, with Chris or Kevin, and then I usually try to mimic what they’re doing and then make slight changes. And the same thing with Kevin, Kevin does a lot of really cool stuff to do harmonics with Chris. And it’s cool ’cause all three of us will be playing different parts.
CHRIS: We complement each other really well.
KEVIN: Chris and I play off each other really well.
CHRIS: So if he makes a riff, I usually put a lead, or sort of a “lead” — if you see my hands doing quotations — I don’t really do leads, but if I had to call it something, a “lead riff” over it, to complement it.
KEVIN: A “melody”.
CHRIS: Or vice versa. So we play off each other really well, and Aaron fills it in on bass. And Adam’s vocal patterns have just really stuck everything together. A lot of the stuff you’ll hear right now on our Bandcamp page is —
KEVIN: Just awful.
CHRIS: “Chris Quarry,” because I — [To Kevin:] Thank you.
AARON: Lots of compliments for that, actually brought in some money already.
CHRIS: I put the songs together from scratch tracks that we had, and I just programmed the drums and did initial lyrics and vocal patterns, because we were just then getting Adam, and we wanted to — we had no drummer so I wanted to get an idea what the songs would sound like with all instruments. So we’re definitely going to going to replace that with Fluffy and Adam, and Aaron on bass —
KEVIN: And me.
AARON: Yeah, it’s not going to be “Chris Quarry.”
CHRIS: They were just to get some ideas to —
KEVIN: I recorded them, but —
CHRIS: Yeah, he recorded the tracks and I just went ahead and made them. And they were helpful, now we can just sort of pattern the songs after the demos.
VOS: I can’t remember right now what it was called, but I know the very first track you had on Bandcamp, I downloaded at that time and it didn’t even have any vocals or anything, just a demo version —
CHRIS: It was probably the first version of “Grimewave”
KEVIN: No, that electronic one —
CHRIS: Oh, yeah, was it electronic sounding?
VOS: Yeah, it did have some electronic stuff —
CHRIS: Yeah, that was REALLY early.
KEVIN: Holy crap.
CHRIS: I took that off, because it was just something — I needed something to start the Bandcamp page.
KEVIN: As a placeholder.
AARON: Save it, though. It’ll be rare.
CHRIS: It was just, it was like half an hour of just — something or other, because I needed a placeholder. But the first song that was up with vocals was “Grimewave,” which is one of the stand-out songs; it’s sort of an emotional-sounding song. It might have been up without vocals first, and then I added vocals.
KEVIN: It’s kind of our single.
CHRIS: Yeah. The t-shirts that we’ll have available at the shows, at the first show or at least the first couple shows, have a “Grimewave” design.
VOS: Another question for each of you individually, as well as for the whole band collectively: what kind of influences you bring into the group, what other stuff you listen to, or what inspires you as a writer or as a performer?
CHRIS: Who wants to start?
[They all look at Chris.]
CHRIS: My influences are probably — I grew up listening to a lot of death metal and hardcore, and stuff like that. My influences are just almost countless. If I had to pinpoint — I do listen to a lot of jazz, but that doesn’t directly influence me, it’s just that I do listen to a lot of other stuff besides metal and hardcore. But in the heavy music world, I guess some of the stuff that influenced this band is probably Integrity, Tragedy, um —
KEVIN: From Ashes Rise.
CHRIS: Yeah, he loves From Ashes Rise. Complete Failure and Heartless, to name some local bands. Geez, there’s so many of them, but those are definitely some of the bands. Harm’s Way… If you want to just copy and paste our various influences, you can look on the MQ Facebook page in the “About” section. There’s a shit ton of bands I name-dropped in the “Influences” section.
[Excluding those that are been mentioned elsewhere in the interview, that “shit ton” of bands includes: Deadguy, Bloodlet, Assuck, Deadguy, Bloodlet, 7 Angels 7 Plagues, Disembodied, Xaphan, Prosperity Denied, Faith No More, Therapy?, Kerbdog, Tomahawk, Fantômas, One Life Crew, Anguish, Enemy Mind, Acacia, Anaal Nathrakh, Rotten Sound, Enabler, Invader, Gehenna, Jig-Ai, Severe Torture, Disavowed, Hard Stance, Buried Alive, Strife, Unbroken, Bad Religion, Carcass, Coalesce, Converge, Pro-Pain, Helmet, Unsane, Martyrdod, Negative Approach, Darkthrone, Shai Hulud, Deftones, Tool, The Jesus Lizard, Corrosion of Conformity, Jesu, Godflesh, Iroha, Earth Crisis, Harvest, Morning Again, Meleeh, Misery Loves Co, Engines of Aggression, Cruel Hand, Wolfbrigade, Despair, Weekend Nachos, Unbroken, Have Heart, Arkangel, Congress, Liar, Burnt By The Sun, Discordance Axis, Gridlink, Overcast, Cave In, Entrails, Revolting, Dismember, Grave, Entombed, Ringworm, Vulture, Verse, Disembowelment, Acme, 16, Illdisposed, Ribspreader, Gorefest, General Surgery, Masakari, Cop Problem, Pray For Teeth, Protestant, Cynarae, Abhinanda, Absvrdist, Ingrowing, Contrastic, Nostromo, Mumakil, Extermination Dismemberment, Cock And Ball Torture, The Day Everything Became Nothing, Code Orange Kids, Pigsty, Homewrecker, Adamantium, Ahumado Granujo, Trial, Rollins Band, Shelter, Obscurus Advocam, Prong, Nails, Bone Dance, Old Wounds, No Escape, Neon Warship, By Way Of Sunstorm, Naysayer, Mouthpiece]
CHRIS: How about you, Kevin?
KEVIN: I’m influenced more, I guess, on the traditional side of hardcore, it comes more from heavy, more aggressive punk. But I also have other influences in other areas that kind of round me out.
CHRIS: Definitely Snapcase.
KEVIN: Snapcase, yes.
CHRIS: It might not sound like it, but it’s definitely a musical influence for us.
KEVIN: Yes, love that band.
AARON: I’m kind of a lost soul when it comes to music. I’m all over the place. But what I listened to most, coming up as a bass player back in high school, was really cheesy pop-punk. It definitely comes out on some songs, like “Flatline Divinity” for sure — I have a really poppy background bass part that kind of sticks out compared to the rest of the song. But I — some of the first heavy bands that I really loved growing up were Underoath, who were a huge influence on me. Rest in Peace.
AARON: They’re dead, they’re dead, and it makes me sad.
[They all laugh.]
AARON: They’re dead, and it makes me sad. I don’t care. Oh, and Nirvana, of course. [He indicates the tattoo on his forearm.] But yeah, I actually didn’t know a lot about underground music until I started hanging out at shows with these guys. So I’m sort of still a disciple of them, learning a lot. It’s fun.
ADAM: I’ve always just had a huge death metal background. That’s all I really ever listened to.
KEVIN: You look like a death metal person.
ADAM: I —
CHRIS: Clean-cut, mild-mannered Johnny Quest over here likes death metal. Don’t worry, I’m with him too, because I love death metal. I love the old-school death metal —
ADAM: No, well, up until like three years ago, a little over three years ago, my hair was all the way down to my ass.
CHRIS: He looked like John Tardy from Obituary.
ADAM: I, yeah, I looked like John Tardy.
CHRIS: And we both love Obituary.
ADAM: And then a couple years ago is when I started listening to hardcore.
KEVIN: And then he cut his hair and shaved his face.
CHRIS: Mm hm.
AARON: Hipster hardcore.
CHRIS: What about Brandon?
CHRIS: [To Brandon:] What do you listen to? I don’t even know what he listens to.
AARON: Progressive metal.
ADAM: Progressive metal.
VOS: Anyone in particular?
BRANDON: Um, Mastodon, Between the Buried and Me, stuff like that.
CHRIS: We’ll get into some different stuff. We like to, we’re going to probably start melding — so I’m going to try to get some more groovy material, just mix it up, you know. [Laughing:] Couple slams.
AARON: A lot of the material was written before the vocalist and drummer came in —
VOS: So just between the three of you?
AARON: Yeah. Mostly those two [points to Chris and Kevin], and then I kind of jumped in.
CHRIS: We definitely have a kind of D-beat backbone, like faster hardcore —
KEVIN: Very strong backbone.
CHRIS: But we like to break it up, though, probably with the next batch of songs we’re going to have some instrumentals, we’ll have some straightforward harder stuff, maybe some death metal and grind-influenced stuff.
KEVIN: More grind-influenced.
CHRIS: Yeah, a lot of grindcore stuff. You can add Nasum and Magrudergrind and Napalm Death to that list —
CHRIS: Shitstorm, stuff like that.
AARON: How many songs do we have written now?
CHRIS: Well, for us playing right now, we have —
CHRIS: Nine songs, but I have countless — I have like a whole book full of songs. I just write songs in my spare time, and so does Kevin, so —
KEVIN: Yeah. Always.
CHRIS: It’s just fun to do, we just like what we do. So, we’re just trying to — rather than some bands, we’re not afraid of melody either, or catchiness. I think that makes songs memorable, too. Just keeping it heavy and kind of interesting, aggressive, fast, whatever it might be —
KEVIN: Chock-full of heart and emotion.
KEVIN: [To Adam:] No, none?
VOS: Yeah, it seems like —
KEVIN: From everybody except Adam.
VOS: If everything stays at exactly the same level of aggressiveness, or, you know, the same —
CHRIS: Yeah, we try to put it in waves. That’s sort of how we organized the setlist, too. A lot of the stuff here, you’ll find a lot of the —
ADAM: Ebb and flow.
CHRIS: Yeah. There’s an ebb and flow. But there is a lot of D-beat, faster hardcore, but we’re definitely adding a lot of grind, blastbeat type of stuff. Some straightforward, uh, not-shitty-metalcore breakdowns.
KEVIN: [Laughing:] we have some shitty metalcore breakdowns.
AARON: Yeah, we —
KEVIN: No, we don’t, I’m just —
CHRIS: I’m talking like generic, djent, deathcore breakdowns.
KEVIN: I know what you mean. We don’t have any of that.
VOS: It’s weird now, because so many different things can be described as having “breakdowns” but it’s almost become like a swear-word —
CHRIS: Yeah, I know, and it’s been so over-used and made generic, it’s just — use it sparingly, or just, where it’s supposed to be. So —
VOS: Well I don’t want to take up too much of your time, I know you guys need to be —
CHRIS: No, it’s alright, if you —
KEVIN: Or if you just want to hang out, listen to us play for a little while —
AARON: Yeah, if you want to —
VOS: Well, off the top of my head, that’s pretty much everything I wanted to ask. So you’re planning on running through the setlist for next week’s show?
ADAM: Yeah, so we have this show coming up on the 26th. We just got confirmed for a show on February 16th that’ll be in McKees Rocks–
VOS: Right, the double-release show.
ADAM: Yeah, that’ll be Grisly Amputation and Lycosa with Storm King, Victims of Contagion, Lythem, and —
AARON: We have another big show coming up that hasn’t been announced yet —
ADAM: And then — well, we’ve already been announced for Winter’s Wake —
CHRIS: Yeah, he [Jon Leone, Allure of the Earth Productions] just didn’t announce the final —
ADAM: Yeah. So we’ll be on day one for Winter’s Wake, but he’s still finalizing that day.
CHRIS: There might be a Gopher Hole show in January —
AARON: Yeah, we might do a nice house show sometime.
CHRIS: Which is in Lawrenceville, like a hole in the wall.
AARON: We’re going to try to do at least a couple shows in January, we’re trying to do a Gopher Hole show with Liquified Guts and Cerebral Apophysis, which is like the house band there. It’s a two-piece crusty doomy grimy thing. They’re kind of super-underground around here, no one talks about them except the people that go to their house. We’re just trying to do a lot of stuff. We want to stick to mostly all-ages shows, house shows, and dive bars.
CHRIS: Or — yeah, dive bars — we just like the basement, dive, all age environment. It gets more people exposed to it and we don’t — I’ll play in a bar, that’s fine, I don’t care, but it’s a bit little more fun once people get, you know —
VOS: Just has a kind of different energy to it.
CHRIS: Because that’s how I got involved at least, when I was in the hardcore scene back in Buffalo. Firehalls and basements and stuff like that.
ADAM: P.F. Chang’s.
[They all laugh.]
[Shortly afterwards, without saying a word and almost without pausing, the guys proceeded to run through their entire nine-song setlist. I later mentioned that it was hard to believe they had only been working together for less than a year — and for just a few months in the case of some of the members. All the songs (even some that were written fairly recently) seemed perfectly tight. And definitely dark, grim, crusty, and sludgy, exactly as advertised.]
You can listen to the demo version of a few of those songs here (plus a remixed version of “Grimewave” by Kevin’s The Blood Still Stains project). Again, bear in mind that these are just basically scratch tracks, but they can at least give you a hint of what the full band will sound like…
To get the full experience, though, I encourage you to check out their debut performance at the Congenital Death show on the 26th of December, one week from today (get the full details here).
As mentioned, they will also be performing at the Grisly Amputation and Lycosa joint CD release show on the 16th of February (details here), as well as the first day of the Allure of the Earth Winter’s Wake festival on the 22nd of February (full details have yet to be announced for that, but here is everything that we know so far!)