Gay Witch Abortion
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Gay Witch Abortion

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
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Music: Five times the duo with Gay Witch Abortion

By Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune

November 16, 2007

When a band has five gigs booked over seven nights at four different reputable venues, I take that as a sign that things are happening for 'em. Shawn Walker, however, gave a lower-key explanation for his duo Gay Witch Abortion's pileup of gigs two weeks ago.

"It means we don't know how to say no yet!" the drummer said, minutes before taking the Turf Club stage for the first of those five performances.

An ear-splitting, floor-stomping punk/metal/noise-rock band with Jesse Bottomley (ex-Chariots) on thundering guitar and occasional vocals, Gay Witch Abortion's ewww-inducing name was on five different posters hanging on the wall at the Turf Club, touting fall shows. They have another one there tonight.

The two mid-30s Minneapolis musicians earned some mad respect this summer when they rushed from club to club to play six of the seven venues that took part in the 7/7/07 festival, each time performing from the back of a van. Then in September, they landed at No. 2 on City Pages' Picked to Click poll without an available recording to their name.

GWA is indeed a happening band, and its five-show run proved it. Here's an account of that marathon.

Gig 1: Turf Club, Oct. 25

As GWA hits the stage, Turf Club booker Ryan O'Rourke is at the bar recounting how he, for one, pushed hard to get GWA to change its moniker. Knight Heat came up as a name. So did Moon Calf. "Anything is better," O'Rourke says.

But Bottomley defends the name: "It's just a string of words that sound bad together, but there's nothing specifically offensive about it."

Walker and Bottomley's set follows the promising stage debut by Count Vesuvius, a five-piece sludge-noise band featuring members of Blackhearted Force and the Bridge Club. Going on after a bludgeoning-style quintet like that would be a daunting prospect for any other duo, but Shawn and Jesse somehow sound louder and more powerful.

Like most of their shows this week, they kick things off with "Down With Giants," an instrumental fire-starter. For 30 more minutes, they uncork a raging flood of raucous but rhythmic, sadistic but sexy jams, where the drums are as much a part of the riffs and solos as the guitar. Their big closer, "Church Buffet," leaves me wondering if Black Sabbath ever even needed Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler.

Gig 2: Turf Club, Oct. 27

The main reason for agreeing to tonight's gig is to celebrate the CD release by their pals in the Seawhores, a band that Walker and Bottomley have thought about joining. Walker also performs with Chooglin', the F-Yeahs and Shovelfight, so he can't really fit in another band.

The fact that the Seawhores are on to their second album, while GWA has yet to make even one, begs questioning.

"We just haven't been able to pin down a time" to record, Bottomley says. "When it finally does come time to do it, I'm pretty confident we can crank it out in three or four days, do it really quickly."

Gig 3: Whole Music Club, Oct. 28

It's a disappointing turnout for a well-devised but poorly promoted Sunday-afternoon show called Duopolis Now, so Bottomley and Walker leave the crowd of 15 or so people behind to go hang somewhere with alcohol (the Whole is inside the U of M's Coffman Union). They miss most of the other duos on the bill, including the Awesome Snakes and Mute Era. They also miss their own slot and have to play one band later.

Walker and Bottomley didn't necessarily set out to create a duo, but every time they thought about adding an extra member, "it just never panned out," they say.

"It's very comfortable the way it is now, but who knows, we might still wind up playing with someone else," Bottomley says.

Gig 4: Stasiu's Place, Oct. 30

Smart enough to throw a Halloween bash the night before Halloween -- and to use their kitschy upstairs bar to make it a nonstop, two-stage affair -- the folks at Stasiu's probably would have been wiser to put GWA downstairs. On the ground floor, anyway, there'd be less fear of the floor caving in from Walker's hard thumping, and more room for Bottomley's guitar to bounce off the walls.

The duo takes the upstairs "stage" -- actually a small, wooden dance floor straight out of an '80s wedding video -- dressed up in sock-puppet costumes, complete with tails and penned-in eyes. They look cute and creepy at once. Their first loud roar sends a handful of patrons fleeing toward the back of the room. The more sadistic attendees, however, move up closer. Among them: Lori Barbero, who marvels at Walker's lead-instrument drumming style, and Chooglin' frontman Brian Vanderwerf, who isn't quite sure how Bottomley gets such a low-bottom sound on his guitar. "It's some kind of metal tuning thing," Vanderwerf guesses.

Bottomley does tune down his guitar, but he also plays through a bassist's effects pedal called the Octaver and an old, beat-up bass amp - Startribune



Hunting Down the Heebie-Jeebies
Gay Witch Abortion’s Skin-Crawlin’, Witch-Birthrate-Declinin’, Hauntin’ Rock ‘N’ Roll
By Christopher Matthew Jensen
published: September 19, 2007

*
Craig Lassig

A year ago, if someone had come up and asked me, "Have you heard of Gay Witch Abortion?" I probably would have guessed it was a reference to some kind of occultist midnight séance. I would've imagined it taking place at the former sanitarium in Shakopee known as the Hell House, or the old rotting carcass of an Eden Prairie dwelling we called the Insulin Den, or maybe the Bunge Building, that recently demolished grain elevator complex next to Van Cleve Park. All three were dangerous squatters' nests, intriguing shitholes ripe for violence, narcotic abuse, fire, and some seriously effective artwork. In some way, they're also the best points of comparison I have for the pale moon hoodoo laid down by the Twin Cities' heaviest new duo, Gay Witch Abortion.

Whether or not Gay Witch Abortion qualify as a new band depends on your beliefs regarding point of conception. Neither member is new to the Twin Cities rock scene. Guitarist Jesse Bottomley has had a hand in numerous past projects, including Chariots and Ouija Radio. Drummer Shawn Walker currently plays with Chooglin', Shovelfight, and the Fuck Yeahs. Both are also rumored to be in cahoots with members of Seawhores. The name Gay Witch Abortion may have only started showing up on bills about a year ago, but the project spent a few years in the womb.

"We talked about other instruments we wanted, and having a revolving group of people play with us. But I think it got to the point where we were getting sick of trying to wait to find somebody," explains Bottomley.

Embracing minimalism, they decided to move forward as a duo. Vocals were not a priority for the new group, and they still only use lyrics in about one-third of their songs.

"I like a lot of stuff with vocals, but sometimes I just wish people would shut up, too," says Bottomley, the duo's reluctant voice. "I think people identify with whoever is opening up their mouth, because everyone can sing. They really identify with the schmuck that's up there going blah blah blah."

"I ain't got the balls to step up there. No way. No fucking way. I've got a drum set to hide behind," Walker says enthusiastically.

While Bottomley does step up to the mic now and again, he clearly wants nothing to do with the spotlight. He likes to keep the vocals buried in the mix, and he rarely talks to the crowd. Onstage, he exudes an ominous stoicism, letting the audience members thrash about much more intensely than the band does.

Locked in as a drum-and-guitar attack, the two are able to feed off each other and make spontaneous changes that would be impossible to pull off with other players. The band has spent the past year boiling adrenaline with a heavy math whomp reminiscent of East Coast noise icons Lightning Bolt. GWA, however, execute this trick with far greater control. They are precise rather than cacophonous. The effect of their sound is more akin to a sleek bloodletting than a hideous bludgeoning.

Playing guitar with the lowest string tuned a whole step down (referred to as drop-D), Bottomley jabs staccato rhythms and deploys various delay and distortion effects to create a swarming, ethereal fullness. Melody comes in clicks and hisses. It's like the sound of a fresh deck of cards shuffling in the middle of a cathedral, or boiling grease in a frying pan doomed-out with cavernous reverb.

"A lot of it is accidental—the combination of effects and the amp, and however I attack the string. It breaks up a lot; accidental things happen," he confesses. "I like when things sound different or damaged. A lot of times it's like you record an idea on something like this [pointing at the large, outdated tape machine I brought to record our conversation], and you can't ever get it to sound like that again. It sounds all damaged and mumbled."

Whether out of apathy or purposeful obscurity, Gay Witch Abortion have no merchandise of any kind. They recorded four or five songs last winter, but, suspiciously, never got around to mixing a record. A DVD they shot this past summer during the citywide 7/7/7 free concert event has been similarly delayed.

Setting up with a generator in the back of a friend's black conversion van, the band toured the city from the mobile unit, performing outside of six of the seven venues involved in the event (they even serenaded the line of people waiting for Prince tickets outside of First Avenue). Cody Weigel from the Seawhores filmed the spectacle from inside the vehicle, yet no physical product has thus far been produced.

What Gay Witch Abortion does put out is a sickly grooving vibe. It's like a soundtrack for the prickly tingles that strike the nape of the neck on sojourns into abandoned buildings and subterranean drug dens. It's a vague and haunting mood, equally - City Pages MPLS/St Paul


How can a band named Gay Witch Abortion stir any more controversy? Simple. Take forever to release an album, then make one and call it Maverick. That word, and the initials ‘RNC,’ aren’t taken too kindly to by folks in these parts. Maverick could be considered the protest soundtrack to the Republican National Convention, setting a tone reminiscent of Trans Am’s Liberation, an album released in a post-9/11 Washington D.C. Envision protesters marching on the State Capitol to “Down With Giants,” then getting run down and tear-gassed by the “Action Cop.” In keeping with post rock form, Gay Witch Abortion minimizes the human element behind the guitar and drums. Songs with vocals used as experiments in sound. The lyrics don’t matter, what does is the final product, what each song builds into by the end of its progression. Some songs are easier to digest, like “Unblinking Sun,” that sounds just as the song’s title suggests. But this kind of rock isn’t about making it easy on the listener. This is art rock, music that forces the listener to intellectualize what’s going on, without providing any answers. - cluturebully.com


Maverick, Gay Witch Abortion's debut full-length, is the soundtrack to snow-blindness, and to death by black hole—the auditory lifeline to some sightless beyond where the laws of the waking world are gruesomely atomized. This is no temper tantrum or tirade. The brutality here is intensely musical, and is directed not at the listener but in on itself. As it speeds through its 13 tracks in just over half an hour, Maverick is a planet in its volcanic age, gurgling and glowing with a heat so terrifying, it just might produce life.

The opening track, "Down with Giants," perfectly foreshadows the music to come—on it, drummer Shawn Walker and guitarist Jesse Bottomley exchange devastating haymakers, fighting for supremacy in the mix. It is a perfect overture for the following songs, eroding colossi in miniature that feel infinitely more expansive and fearsome than their average two minutes suggest. Luckily, a handful of abstract interludes, which feature mooing cows or looped, modulating drones decaying, break the often unbearable tension that builds from song to song and give listeners just the precious minute they need to recuperate for more punishment.

Like a planet in infancy, a few minor things are still a bit out of order. Bottomley's vocals are a distraction. He's mad to compete with his own virtuosic guitar work (anyone would be), and his voice somehow seems mixed, when present, to overpower the music. "Your Own Militia," a mid-point track, droops ever so slightly, falling into a mid-tempo that seems to reference Broken-era Nine Inch Nails. But these hairs, once split, don't last long in this heat. Maverick is an album hewn from living stone. It's just a pity it wasn't released in time to make our Best of '08 issue—it surely would have topped the list. - City Pages


Discography

Maverick LP/CD Learning Curve Records
Halo of Flies Sessions 10" Learning Curve Records
Dope Guns and Fucking in the Streets Vol 12 Scale 117 Amphetamine Reptile
Butcher's Waltz - Various LP LCR035-1 Leraning Curve Records

Photos

Bio

Brutally vengeful art formed in the bowls of the Twin Cities. Gay Witch Abortion’s debut album “MAVERICK” jams itself into that sort of a classification. Like a unicorn spearing it’s prey, having so little patience it completely shreads the kittens into tiny morsels of sweet bloody pulp candies. The taste of blood has ruined many a creature, there is a simplistic aura surrounding the violence, drawing you in, just close enough to feel the power, but still leaving an unconquered taste in your soul. So you go back and try it again and again. Getting your senses tugged and thwarted back and forth by the punishing beauty of the hunt.
This duo of Shawn Walker and Jesse Bottemly combine together to puree a gigantic rhythemic stew of guitar and drums. If you close your eyes, you might find yourself imagining your childhood, putting you fingers in to the ceiling fan, it hurts, but it brings a sense of power and risk. Doing the wrong thing, instead of the right thing. Perhaps drawing blood, breaking something. Getting in trouble. This is your sound track. Punishing and aggressive, a tornado’s ballad. Lighting and thunder rain down from the speakers without regard for shelter or comfort. Real power, natural power, the sounds of Gay Witch Abortion.