Recently recognized on the Polaris Music Prize Long List, Shooting Guns are hard at work fortifying the heavy end of the psychedelic spectrum. Hailing from the subarctic wasteland of Saskatoon, SK, they haunt the foggy moor between Sabbath-styled doom riffery (Electric Wizard, Sleep) and heavy pulse-riding kraut-rock (Neu!, Circle, Wooden Shjips). Centered around elephantine riffs, these delay-soaked songs rumble and hiss with analog synth-conjured monstrosities which surge to devour frequency ranges beyond the upper and lower ranges available to even the heaviest doom outfits.
The keystone of the Shooting Guns wall of sound is a savant sculpture of shifting timbres in wailing, layered delay. The sonic decadence is restrained only by structurally minimalist compositions ever driven by savage drumming and finely distilled, groove-locked bass. Dedicated, heavy, and simple hooks work to bring psychedelic rock music down to earth, dragged away from the breathless mountaintops of prog and down toward the fertile swamps of primordial heaviness. Hypnotic patterns evolve over time in mutating timbres and subtly shifted grooves, but the core of the songs remain dead simple, and the spinal cords of the audience nod in accordance.
This pentacle of demon conjurers formed in 2008, a band of veteran collaborators in Saskatoon's prolific music scene, each with over a decade of touring and music production experience. In addition to their debut eight-song full-length album, Born To Deal in Magic: 1952-1976, the band released two split 7”s in 2012 (with Nottingham UK’s The Cult of Dom Keller and Edmonton’s Krang) with their follow-up full length LP / national Canadian tour planned for 2013. Having played alongside Bison B.C., Mares of Thrace, Quest for Fire, The Pack A.D., Lavagoat, and Black Mastiff, as well as showcasing at the Halifax Pop Explosion and Sled Island Music Festival, the band is pleasantly surprised to find that their spectacle is rapidly attracting a cult of barbarian metal-heads, indie hipsters, Neanderthals, and nerds.
Jim Ginther - Drums
Jay Loos - Bass
Chris Laramee - Guitar
Steven Reed - Synth
Keith Doepker - Guitar
2012: Krang Split 7" / The Cult of Dom Keller Split 7"
2011: Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976 (CD/LP)
2010: Harmonic Steppenwolf/Dopestrings 7"
Not Your Mom and Pop's "Metal/Instumental/Psychedelic" Band... Or Are They?
[+ Show ]
Despite perhaps sonically belonging elsewhere, many acts have been appropriated by the metal communi...Despite perhaps sonically belonging elsewhere, many acts have been appropriated by the metal community. For example, Germantown blues rockers Clutch. Swedish retro occultists Ghost are another; progressive titans Rush and King Crimson, space cases Hawkwind… you get the point. Right now, we are adding Saskatoon quintet Shooting Guns to the mix. Although the band has played with and for dance, indie and rock crowds, they are equally at home in the metal community due to their sonically crushing brand of psychedelic instrumental tunes that utilizes elements of Kraut rock and doom metal. BeatRoute had a lengthy phone conversation with drummer Jim Ginther to determine exactly how this sound materialized.
“The shortest answer I can give you is that every member in this band is a crazed vinyl fiend,” says the good-natured Ginther, who spends most of our conversation laughing and making humble, off-the-cuff remarks. “I don’t think I’m even exaggerating slightly: I think we’ve probably been to 80 per cent of the record stores in Canada. Keith [Doepker, guitarist] and Jay [Loos, bassist], they each have record collections in the thousands.”
He continues, “We draw from a pretty big well of stuff that we like… things like [Black] Sabbath, or Neu!, those are very easy ways to relate to people, but that’s not really what we are going for. We are trying to pull from almost everything, but nothing, too, at the same time.”
Indeed, every listener would hear something different from the band’s short discography, which so far includes three seven-inches – including the Dopestrings/ Harmonic Steppenwolf EP, and splits with Edmonton’s Krang and Nottingham’s The Cult of Dom Keller – and their debut full-length, Born to Deal in Magic: 1952-1976. Swirling synth locks into hypnotic layered grooves and elephantine riffs and, unlike the droning repetition of Pelican, Russian Circles or Red Sparowes, these tracks have the verse-chorus-verse form of rock. It’s at least partially because of the drummer and his counterparts’ eclectic tastes.
“The last [record store] we went to was Audiopile in Vancouver,” says Ginther. “That is just an amazing store. I found a Dead Boys record I’ve been looking for for a long time, I found some Sparks, some Giorgio Moroder, some pop synth from 1980, my birth year. I got Slayer’s Reign in Blood. Those were the highlights. And Wire, Chairs Missing.” His recent buys run the gamut from classic punk rock (Dead Boys) to ‘70s pop/rock (Sparks) to post punk (Wire) to Italian Donna Summer collaborator/producer Morodor to the unholy thrash titans. Throw in the tens of thousands of other records owned by his band mates and you’ve got too many musical influences to parse out where anything is coming from other than the members of Shooting Guns themselves.
“We all work together, but it’s almost like there is two units. There is Jay and I, holding the rhythm side down, but Steve [Reed, synth player] and Chris they basically do what a vocalist does in terms of colouring the songs,” describes Ginther. “The guitar stuff that Chris [Laramee] does, it really hits you and brings you in, and with Steve, he hits frequency ranges that are so high and so low that it’s not that it’s abrasive, but he colours the spectrum so much that anything a falsetto singer would be doing hypothetically, the itch is already being scratched, but through synth.”
Instrumental bands constantly find themselves at the receiving end of poor sighted remarks regarding the lack of vocals. Shooting Guns is taking it in stride and has actually released their entire discography on Soundcloud to allow fans to record their vocals overtop.
“When heavy music has the right vocals it’s amazing, but if it has the wrong vocals, it can throw the whole thing off. We didn’t want to play that gamble, is what it really comes down to,” jokes Ginther. “We’ve all been playing in the scene for 10 years and we are having fun with the idea now. What we’ve done is put all our songs that we’ve ever released on SoundCloud to download for free. What we are encouraging people to do is record their own vocals over top and post back up, and have almost a user-generated vocal track.”
The band will not be recruiting a vocalist though, despite some varied offers, and is stoked to have their music resonate beyond their hometown in Saskatoon. Shooting Guns recently appeared on the Polaris Music Prize long list, which awards $30,000 to the “best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label” alongside the only other metal addition on the list, Mares of Thrace. The prize was ultimately awarded to Feist’s fourth full-length, Metals.
Seeing their name on the list came as a somewhat of a shock.
“It was actually a surprise as much to us as to 95 per cent of the panellists. We were fortunate that the jurors that did know about us, they felt pretty highly about the record, so it was just enough to add us on, it just barely made it, you know what I mean?” Ginther laughs, “We are very grateful to Polaris, and the jurors, everything about it has given us more exposure, because what we do, to describe it, it doesn’t sound like the most accessible or you know, marketable genre: instrumental pysch rock.”
Although they’ve yet to be approached by a label in the post-long list glow, the band’s increased visibility is working to their advantage for touring and recording. Their upcoming full-length has three tracks completed so far and they’re be happy to stay DIY, as they have since their inception in late 2008.
“If people are interested in what we do, fans or labels or otherwise, that’s awesome, but on the same point we’ve been a DIY thing up until this point,” says Ginther, who adds that they’ve received some grants for their work. “You know, no matter what, we are going to keep doing that, we’ll just keep keeping on.“ He continues, “We’ve got three tracks down, we are actually recording at this fantastic studio on a farm in Delisle, which is a small community outside Saskatoon, and it’s our first time we are actually recording direct to tape,” explains Ginther. “It will definitely be a full-length album, we are hoping to put it out by the spring and we’ll put it out ourselves if we have to. It’s coming out no matter what!”
And what should we expect from this album?
“We are trying to make the perfect music to crush beers to,” laughs Ginther. “Is that quotable?”
It sure as shit is.
Stoner rock at its finest straight from Saskatoon
[+ Show ]
Saskatoon's Shooting Guns' aim is true: to fill your head with sludgy, unadulterated doom metal riff...Saskatoon's Shooting Guns' aim is true: to fill your head with sludgy, unadulterated doom metal riffs, providing a sweet musical high to coast on for awhile, complete with cool-looking pentagrams, psychedelic melodies chugging away and heavy as lead bass thundering along straight to hell.
It's both familiar and challenging, and it was a happy surprise when their Black Sabbath-tinged sound landed them on this year's long list for the Polaris Prize. By now we know that Feist's soft-pop took the $30,000, but I like to think the world would have been a darker, gloomier, all-around more awesome place if Shooting Guns had swept in for the big win, bringing with them a new world order for everyone to grow their hair as long as possible, wake and bake on the reg and wear black hoodies all the time. There's always next year.
Shooting Guns w/Ampersand, Like A Motorcycle, The Pack A.D. Saturday, October 20 at Reflections Cabaret, 5184 Sackville Street, 8pm, $20
Shooting Stars - Full Steam Ahead For Saskatoon's Most Unusual Success Story (Cover)
[+ Show ]
It begins with the low squelch of guitar feedback, as the band gets ready. The only light coming off...It begins with the low squelch of guitar feedback, as the band gets ready. The only light coming off the stage is a cheap, spinning globe that sits atop an amplifier, beaming out a rainbow of lights that reach into the depths of the venue. (The globe is almost a mascot these days, on stage with the band at pretty much every show.) The rabble of the crowd starts to lower with that initial feedback, moving up to the front of the stage through the wonderful stench of beer.
Keith “Keef” Doepker scratches his biker beard and starts to methodically play the first riff, a slothful, vaguely menacing series of ascending and descending notes. After a few measures, Chris Laramee’s guitar crawls into perception, starting to fill the space with a reverberating delay-soaked drone. Things move from a whisper to a howl, finally drowning out the crowd completely — and then the rest of the band kicks in with a sonic boom.
Steve Reed’s mammoth synth lurches into being; storming, howling, unholy. J Loos’ bass plumbs the depths, scraping the bottom of an imaginary ocean and stirring up the one-eyed, prehistoric creatures that haven’t seen light in eons. Creating the spine, with a slightly drunken lean off his stool, Jim Ginther hunches his shoulders and comes crashing down on the drums, with a series of bangs and thuds that sound like a multitude of fatal car crashes happening in perfect time.
It may be the loudest fucking thing you’ve ever heard, but it’s not a violent event — it’s a pulsing, hypnotic, head-nodding state of mesmerization. The way a belly full of beer makes your head swim, the music of Shooting Guns gently holds you under like a baptism, while waves of sound pass through you like spirits. Through volume and repetition, you’re spellbound, enthralled and a slave in the groove.
Sound like something written by a record company PR hack? Well, sue me — because in this case, the words are true. Against all odds, Shooting Guns are just that entertaining — and the entire country is starting to take notice.
Shooting Guns is one of Saskatoon’s strangest underground success stories: instrumental doom rock jams are hardly the type of stuff one typically hears about when the topic of musical popularity comes up. Yet, they’ve moved beyond the perceptions of what their music sounds like to become a juggernaut that both unites the local scene and is finding a buzz well beyond Saskatchewan’s borders.
It’s hard to believe that five dudes from the middle of nowhere — and with no singer — could capture the attention of their city, then their province, and then the country, but Shooting Guns has. Need proof? Well, they were nominated for Canada’s most prestigious music award, the Polaris Prize, for their album Born to Deal in Magic 1952 to 1976.
Since their “for the hell of it” garage jams turned into an actual band a few years back, Shooting Guns has had ever-growing success, but they hit an unexpected triumph when they were nominated for the Polaris longlist. (To give you some context, the Polaris was started by former A&R man Steve Jordan and modeled after England’s Mercury Prize. It’s an anti-Juno of sorts, where the merit of an album isn’t dictated by sales, but by the actual music itself.)
The albums that make the longlist are put forth and voted on by around 200 of Canada’s most plugged-in music journalists, bloggers, and broadcasters. From there, they’re winnowed down to a shortlist, and finally the winner is decided at a gala by a special jury.
Shooting Guns didn’t make the shortlist, but the great thing about the Polaris for a band like Shooting Guns is that winning is beside the point. Just by making the longlist, they’ve been discovered and discussed by music writers and fans across Canada, and around the world.
“[We accepted early on that instrumental doom metal] isn’t for everyone, so it’s a huge honour to be in the same company as so many great artists that were also long-listed,” says Ginther. “We ultimately just want to play as many shows as we can to as many people as possible — so if the positive feedback we’ve received thus far helps us connect with new fans, that’s all the justification we need.”
The nomination came out of left field for the band, who found out while they were on the road.
“We were on tour driving up Vancouver Island when we got the news, andwe were very surprised,” says Ginther. “So were most of the other Polaris jury members! We’re very fortunate that those jury members who were familiar with us felt strongly enough that we squeaked onto the long list. I don’t think that we can ever be grateful enough for the support from Polaris, not to mention the amazing local support we’ve had from the Sask Arts Board, SaskMusic, CFCR, and of course, Planet S.”
(Oh, c’mon — we’re blushing!)
The honour might’ve been a surprise, but it’s definitely deserved — not least because of the way Shooting Guns has been able to attract a diverse audience not normally associated with instrumental doom rock. Their shows are filled with more than the requisite burners, skids and indie music geeks you’d expect to see — you’ll also find everyone from hip hop aficionados to those who prefer melodic folk music.
Maybe the reason is that Shooting Guns isn’t your typical “genre” band: most doom metal songs are endless, while Shooting Guns keep each song at a tight running time; with no singer to worry about, the band locks onto a groove like a bear trap on bone, taking the listener to the centre and back again without boring those who wouldn’t otherwise appreciate the style.
Sure, there are the obvious touch points like Sabbath or Sleep, but with the addition of drone guitars, throbbing bass, and huge synths, there’s much more going on — much of it evoking the dreamy, motorik sound of Neu!
The Guns has toured both sides of the country in their van (a.k.a. The Vantasy, which is only missing an airbrushed painting of a big-breasted warrior woman on the side). They’ve played all manner of gigs — with one of the weirdest shows happening recently in Calgary, while opening up for Cowtown’s Deadhorse.
“[Deadhorse] got us in with a fundraiser show for this group taking a giant bus to a Rainbow Gathering in Tennessee,” says Ginther. “It was a great time, but we were a little out of place since most of the entertainment [were people] playing tablas, house DJs, and meditation sessions from local gurus. When we went on, people didn’t know what to make of us.
“But once they got a feel for it, everyone started a cross between moshing and ‘magic dancing,’ both of which — together or separate — are pretty rare at our shows. It got pretty wild and as a thanks for our set, we got paid with half a box of white wine. We hit the road pretty fast after that. I think the wine might still be in the van.”
Crazy — butbusiness as usual for these guys, who remain down to earth, humble and basically just thankful to write and play music they love. Currently, they’re working on some new material and looking forward to their next musical chapter, says Ginther.
“We’ve got a lot of new material that we’ll be recording this summer, and we hope to have a new album released next spring,” he says. “We’re conscious that being an instrumental band has its limitations, and we don’t want our new material to sound like we’re repeating ourselves.
“We’re still writing songs in the same way, but we’re exploring new sounds and experimenting with dynamics, tones, and signatures that we haven’t touched before. Our new tunes are also some of our most fun to play, all of which will be played at our upcoming show at Amigos.”
That show happens August 25th at Amigos. Technically, it’s a release show for a new split single, so you can grab that, as well asBorn to Deal in Magic 1952 to 1976(if you don’t have it yet).
“We just put out a new 7-inch,” says Ginther. “It’s a split with Edmonton’s Krang that includes a free download, so this show is a release party — with two of Saskatoon’s best bands on the bill, The Switching Yard and Powder Blue. We all get excited every time we get to see them live. In short, you’ll see three bands eager to put on one of the loudest, rowdiest shows of the summer!”
One Track Mind: Shooting Guns – Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976 – Harmonic Steppenwolf
[+ Show ]
Shooting Guns are a wonderful anomaly. The instrumental, psychedelic doom metal band from Saskatoon ...Shooting Guns are a wonderful anomaly. The instrumental, psychedelic doom metal band from Saskatoon recently had their album Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976included on the Polaris Prize Long List, to my utter surprise and delight. Rather than approach the task of making an instrumental record as a chance to show off pure technical prowess or generate a dense and impenetrable soundscape, Shooting Guns wanted to just make a damn good metal record. There is something pure and classic about the sound of this album, which has all the fuzz and monolothic riffing of Saint Vitus or early Black Sabbath. “Harmonic Steppenwolf” is the lead track off this record, and it sets the tone perfectly. The song has a deep, luscious groove that lulls the headbanger into a trace, and as the spacey, psych elements come into play, it moves from sweet track to metallic meditation. At the core of this song, there is a pulsing, intoxicating throb that is delicious easy to lose yourself in.
Earshot! Review by Marsha Hignett, April 14, 2012 – Born to Deal in Magic
[+ Show ]
Hailing from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Shooting Guns are a doom-rock quintet with progressive and psy...Hailing from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Shooting Guns are a doom-rock quintet with progressive and psychedelic leanings. After an initial 7” release, this is the band's first full-length album. Their sound focuses around guitarist Keith Doepker and his Black Sabbath style metal riffs. Keyboardist Steve Reed adds to the sounds with layered analogue synthesizer, balanced with Chris Laramee's effects-soaked guitar leads. The band's rhythm section is made up of drummer Jim Ginther and bassist Jay Loos, who structure the outfit's minimalist compositions around slowly shifting grooves.
Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976 is a diverse and impressive release that can appeal to listeners across hardcore and indie-rock communities. Though Shooting Guns are an instrumental band, their textured melodies dynamically speak to the listener throughout the forty minute experience. Quiet delay and hiss escalate to monstrous levels, which then becomes a psychedelic metal breakdown with sludgy rhythmic fills. Despite its abrasive and experimental tendencies, Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976 manages to explore a variety of influences and styles that is certain to attract audiences around the globe.
Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976 Review
[+ Show ]
When you hear the words “instrumental metal” these days, chances are you’re reminded of two differen...When you hear the words “instrumental metal” these days, chances are you’re reminded of two different styles: the drone-heavy post rock sounds of Red Sparowes and Pelican, or the more technically focused style of bands like Dysrhythmia or Scale the Summit. Like any form of metal, it’s all well and good if it’s done well and with plenty of passion, but more often than not instrumental metal tends to feel a lot more tedious than other metal styles. The lack of a vocalist to make that vital connection between band and audience is a big absence for a band to make up for, and the best way to do that is to write songs good enough not to require a vocal melody on top, which, of course, is much easier said than done. While there are some very good bands working today (yours truly cites Earthless and Gifts from Enola as personal favourites), it seems there are far too many instrumental bands that forget about honing their songwriting skill and slip into lazy, tedious moments of self-indulgence.
Having heard countless “instrumetal” albums, there are three things I always wish I’d hear from such bands more often. First, a band shouldn’t be afraid to be a little different than everyone else. Secondly, don’t record an album that’s 75 minutes long; a little goes a long way. Lastly, let a good hook carry the song, not your technical ability. This year I had yet to hear an instrumental metal album that got all three criteria right. That is, until I heard the debut album by Saskatoon band Shooting Guns.
The fact that the quintet is heavily derived from the swinging doom riffs of Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus and the swirling space rock of Hawkwind is hardly new, but for such a huge sounding band, Shooting Guns’ approach on Born to Deal in Magic: 1952-1976 is decidedly restrained, which works hugely to their advantage. The key element on this album is Krautrock, more specifically the style of Neu!’s landmark 1972 album. The German band’s signature song “Hallogallo” pioneered the “motorik” beat, a steady, unwavering tempo that conjures images of a highway lines zipping past as you drive. In turn, the music was just as repetitious, its steady hypnotic groove allowing for subtle improvisations to be layered on top. Shooting Guns utilizes that influence to great effect on their album, songs like “Harmonic Steppenwolf”, “Public Taser” and “Dopestrings” locking into some serious stoner/doom grooves that become more and more trance-like the longer they go on.
Incredibly, the band doesn’t bite off more than they can chew. With eight songs over 39 minutes, tracks range from three and a half minutes to six and a half minutes in length. Consequently, while those repetitious grooves are central to the band’s sound, not for a second do the songs ever feel tiresome. Which leads us to that crucial third factor: for songs that are so simple, they are very catchy. Fully aware that less is more, guitarists Chris Laramee and Keef create straightforward riffs and let them do the work, adding slight dynamic touches here and there, keyboardist Steven Reed often playing the Dik Mik role, accentuating parts with his Hawkwind-inspired synthesizers. Everything comes together best on the final two tracks, the atonal riffs on the ferocious “Stay Awake Forever” reminiscent of Sonic Youth, while the rampaging “Cheater’s Justice” feels like Shooting Guns’ own version of “Silver Machine”, sure to be a live staple for years to come.
In a live setting Shooting Guns are an absolute force, heavy, pulsating, very loud (those synths are gloriously dizzying), and Born to Deal in Magic: 1952-1976 does a good job capturing that energy. In the hands of a producer who specializes in this style of music (this band was born to work with Sanford Parker), these guys could be capable of a record that sounds even more massive. For now, though, we’re perfectly content listening to one hell of a fun debut, one of the very best Canadian metal/rock albums of 2011, singer or no singer. Bes
Critics’ choice: The best albums of 2011
[+ Show ]
This is crushing, reverb-soaked instrumental stoner-metal doom born out of a Saskatoon basement. Bor...This is crushing, reverb-soaked instrumental stoner-metal doom born out of a Saskatoon basement. Born to Deal in Magic:1952-1976 hits with the type of intensity that hearkens back to a time when our forefathers blissed out to great slabs of vinyl on the turntable. Shooting Guns take their cues from metal pioneers of old, but with a scientist’s laboratory of analogue synthesizers instead of a lead singer. Backed by minimal, repetitive riffs, this band proves there’s no need for obtuse lyrics or Robert Plant- esque wails. These psych wizards found their stride in 2011 with their hazy, hypnotic music.
[+ Show ]
SHOOTING GUNS dopestrings 7" (somnabulist sound system) A quintet from Saskatoon(no shit) creatin...SHOOTING GUNS
(somnabulist sound system)
A quintet from Saskatoon(no shit) creating munge vistas of thug riff readymades.
Very nice instrumentals in a Sleepy direction.
By Byron Coley
There are no upcoming dates at this time.