Gift Horse is the latest release from the metal band Mose Giganticus. The CD is heavy and melodic with a lethal mix of heavy guitars, catchy riffs and growling vocals all adding up to an auditory battering of unbelievably straight ahead metal tunes. The man behind the project, Matt Garfield took a moment to discuss the band and the writing process behind the new disc, Gift Horse.
The name of the band Mose Giganticus is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
Matt: Ahh yes, the story of the name “Mose Giganticus.” Here it goes [deep breath]… Way back in 1999 I was finishing up high school and becoming increasingly enamored with playing music. I was in a few bands with my friends, but as high school was coming to a close and people were making plans for college, no one wanted to commit to being in a band anymore. It was maddening for me since all I wanted to do was play music. Out of this conundrum, I came up with a concept for a band. I wanted to arrange different combinations of musicians, each focusing on writing just one song. Out of 20 or so musician friends, I hoped to pull together 10 different line ups, each with a unique sound using myself as the common thread. I’d hoped to finish a 10 song record by 10 “different bands” consisting of 20 musicians — making it the “Most Gigantic-est” band. (Keep in mind, this is pre-Polyphonic spree.) From that intentionally poor grammar, I shifted it to the more imposing, Romanesque character of Mose Giganticus. As it turned out, keeping 20 people focused on a short term project was just as difficult as keeping 4 people focused on a long term band. The concept quickly developed into my solo project. As I continued to write music and tour, however, I began working with various friends in the studio and filling out my touring line up. Over the years, I’ve performed and recorded with 25 other musicians in Mose Giganticus, so the idea has really come full circle!
Now that your brand new CD, Gift Horse, is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Matt: Absolutely! The great thing about Gift Horse is I had two shots at it. Before I was working with Relapse, I recorded an early version of Gift Horse that was intended for release on the label that released my previous record, Slanty Shanty Records. The folks at Relapse heard that version and we started talking about working together with the release of Gift Horse. That gave me the rare opportunity to go back into the studio and re-record Gift Horse armed with the perspective and hindsight that comes along with having a second chance. The first time through, I was focused on song writing and performance, but once that foundation was laid down, I was able to give more attention to production the second time around. We nailed exactly how I envisioned this record.
What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
Matt: The songs start with me locked in my room for a couple weeks in winter. I’ll lay down a scratch track of bass synth to solidify the structure of the song and start building onto that. Then I’ll layer on a rhythm synth track and leads while the song structure evolves. Once I have a good skeleton of a song, I’ll head into the basement to lay down drum tracks and come out with a demo I can bring to my guitarists. I have a basic idea of what I want the guitar tracks to be doing, but I encourage creative input and criticism from them at this point in the song writing process. Each guitarist will capture the essence of what I wanted, but add his own flair to the song. When the demo has all the musical elements in place, I’ll start working on lyrics last. I’m usually writing and tweaking lyrics up until I’m standing in front of a mic in the recording studio. All elements of the songs evolve considerably from the time we finish the scratch demo to when we’re in the studio, but that’s the most exciting process to me because that’s when the song starts growing organically, on its own.
When playing together and ultimately recording this CD did you find that you could express yourself creatively enough?
Matt: Absolutely. Most of the song writing process is a very solitary, stressful, and eventually cathartic process. Each song starts with an idea of what I’d like it to achieve sonically. Then the challenge is to craft something that attains that goal to my own satisfaction. That struggle to satisfy my own standard is what creates the stress that eventually gives way to catharsis. I can’t consider a song complete until it’s become everything I imagined it would be, which to me is the ultimate creative expression; to satisfy one’s own creative goals. Then the process starts again with the next song.
Is there any significance to the title, Gift Horse?
Matt: The record is about the struggle between opposing forces. More specifically, the mythological clash between the Christian gods representing, so-called, good and evil. I don’t consider one to be preferable to the other because each side has its costs and benefits – they are simply in opposition. In Christian mythology, the end of this struggle comes at the Battle of Armageddon. It’s said that “good” will triumph, but I like to think it would result in a neutralization of the clash where both sides lose. The struggle is over and nothingness results. This nothingness is ushered in by four horses – pestilence, war, famine and death. Each is a necessary step to end this struggle. Rather than fear and contest these inevitabilities, I’m proposing with the title “Gift Horse” that we should accept them for the role they must play out in this story and be grateful.
The first thing that struck me about this record personally is how well it flows. It’s a very natural sounding album and the songs just seem to complement each other supremely well. Was this a conscious effort of something that came about in a more natural sort of way?
Matt: I strive to write an album as a cohesive collection of songs that complement each other and further a concept. My first record was about humanity’s relationship to technological progression, my second record was about the life and struggle of Nikola Tesla and now with Gift Horse, the motivation is an epic mythological struggle. Before I start writing anything, I need to have a concept in mind that is rich enough for me to be inspired to delve into deeply. It sets the tone for the record and gives me fodder to draw from lyrically. Arranging the songs to flow well is important to me as a way to further the album as a complete set. It’s a deliberate decision as part of the writing process.
What can fans expect when they pick up a copy of Gift Horse?
Matt: Gift Horse is departure from the previous sound of Mose Giganticus by evolving toward something heavier and darker. Past fans will be surprised by how Gift Horse can sound so different from earlier records, and yet so recognizably “Mose.” To new fans, Gift Horse sets a new benchmark in what to expect from Mose Giganticus in the future. It’s a heavy, driving record using gritty synthesizers as a fundamental song writing tool, not simply an after-thought or garnish. The songs are well crafted and deliberate, like a well written story; every movement contributes to and furthers the overall vision.
The artwork is quite interesting. How is it tied to the albums title?
Matt: I love the artwork for Gift Horse. Coming into the project, I had a concept in mind and I discussed this with artist Orion Landau. Orion really took it to the next level and what he came back with far exceeded by expectations. We kicked ideas back and forth for a while and tweaked the art to its current form. The cover art depicts the opposing forces in the form of horses – one light and regal, adorned with ornate dressing, and one dark and skeletal. They are overlaid on a baroque cosmic background to hint at the mythological scale and setting of this struggle.
Do you have any touring plans made yet?
Matt: Always. Mose Giganticus will be touring US for the summer and fall. We’ll be in New England in early August, the northern Mid-West in September, the southern Mid-West in October and the South-East in November. We’re scheduled to play the Fest 9 in Gainesville, FL on Halloween weekend. We usually break from touring over the winter, but I’m sure we’ll be playing some one-offs and will be hitting the road again in early spring.
Any closing words?
Matt: Thanks for the opportunity to interview with you here! These were great questions! It’s an exciting year for us since teaming up with Relapse (who have been amazing!), and we’re hungry for what’s to come! [ END ]