In the ever-evolving realm of alternative rock, some bands dare to venture where few have gone before, and among them stands Edmonton’s sonic powerhouse, Degenerator.
Led by the indomitable Barrett Klesko, known for his work with All Else Fails, and the immensely talented drummer Jonathan Webster, formerly of Pass of Era and ex-Striker, Degenerator is poised to unleash a formidable debut album, “The Abyssal Throne,” on November 24, 2023. This promising release takes listeners on a wild and relentless journey through the various shades of stoner, sludge, grunge, and goth rock, pushing the boundaries of sonic exploration and alternative music.
The band’s first single, “Eternalism,” serves as the gateway to this exhilarating adventure.
Interview With Degenerator and Dylanna Fisher from Switching Styles
In an exclusive interview with Dylanna Fisher of “Switching Styles,” Degenerator opens up about their remarkable musical journey and the creation of their highly anticipated debut album, “The Abyssal Throne.” This candid conversation delves into the band’s influences, creative process, and the unyielding passion that drives their sonic exploration. Stay tuned for insights and revelations as Degenerator provides an inside look into the making of their boundary-pushing music.
What’s the story behind the name Degenerator?
The meaning of Degenerator that the band names references is a person or thing that causes moral or social decay. For example, a Degenerator can be someone who corrupts others with bad influence or something that erodes the values of a society. I sing about how we are living in a time of chaos and confusion, where everything is falling apart, and nothing makes sense. This is then filtered through an existential lens, exploring themes of material vs immaterial, the mutability of time, and the coping mechanism of disassociating from a life we don’t understand.
What sets your band apart from others in the local music scene?
Something that differentiates my writing from others is a level of introspection that transcends the genres I work in. I make a great effort to have every word or note carry meaning and to be truly honest in my writing, something I have noticed is difficult for many people to do. That isn’t to say that no other bands do this, but I simply focused on that as a primary writing force.
What are your thoughts on Edmonton’s music scene?
Edmonton is an interesting place for music in that it has an incredible selection of world-class musicians, but its venues have always struggled to keep their doors open. I can’t really explain it; there are tons of music fans here, but they just don’t seem to frequent the venues enough to create lasting music communities.
How do you see Degenerator fitting into Edmonton and Canada’s evolving alternative music landscape?
As a studio band, we are forging our own path in relative isolation from the rest of the community. As such, we have no constraints on style or schedule and answer to no one but ourselves in the creative process. I hope that we are creating a sound that will appeal to others, and who knows, maybe it will inspire musicians to create in a similar manner.
How would you describe your music to someone who’s never been on the internet before?
We sound a lot like heavy grunge bands from the late 90’s but with a modern take. Our music has huge drums, heavy, warm walls of guitars, and melodic vocals. Everything is dark and sombre but not necessarily downbeat.
How did you navigate the world of music with various bands like Striker, All Else Fails, The Order of Chaos, and Tyler Dory Trio to meet and form Degenerator?
Jono and I played together for a number of years in The Order of Chaos, which is how we met musically. Since then, finding an opportunity to work together again has been in the back of my mind, and when I started this project, he was the only drummer I could see fitting this project. We do this between our other projects as a chance to create music that doesn’t fit into the catalogues of our primary projects.
How are you pushing the boundaries of alternative music?
We push these boundaries by being unafraid to incorporate other styles of music, unusual tones and effects, and deeper lyrical content than a lot of alternative bands. Mixing grunge, progressive rock, metal, stoner, and ambient elements has given us an unusual sound, but our unusual structures and melodies push that even further.
Can you describe the creative process behind “The Abyssal Throne”?
Absolutely, our writing process here was very unique. I started out with a sound that I spent about 3 months creating with a variety of musical gear setups. Once I had that part figured out, I approached Jono with the idea of writing a new album and asked him to send me some drum tracks to write over. It turned out that he was in postproduction on an album for a band he was involved in called “Pass of Era,” so he sent me the takes from that, and I wrote the first 7 songs around his drums.
It was an unusual process and led to some creative work since Pass of Era is a very different genre band. Once the music and vocals were done, Jono went back and redid the drums to then fit them more around the newly written material. It worked out great, honestly, to the surprise of both of us.
Barrett, you mentioned that this project was a way to unleash the noise haunting your mind. How did you capture that essence in the music, and what emotions or experiences did you want to convey to your listeners?
I have always been drawn to heavy music for its rich, warm, and saturated sound. The high gain guitar tones create a thick wall of sound that soothes my ears and mind. But I wanted more than that. I wanted something so dense and warm that it would melt away all my stress. I searched for it in albums like Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream or Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf, but they were not enough. So, I decided to experiment with my own gear and tones and create the sound I was looking for. Degenerator is the outcome of that experiment, and I think it is a huge success.
Can you highlight specific songs from “The Abyssal Throne” that hold special significance to you or that you’re excited for fans to hear?
There is a lot of variety on this album, and each song has special moments that I am excited for people to hear. The first single, Eternalism, has a massive punch when the instruments kick in that I think would get anyone’s blood pumping. Hiraeth has an aethereal weirdness and depth that I really love, Darkness Prevails has a huge soaring solo section that really stirs emotion, and the Spiral goes has a weird mix of Deftones, pop punk, and doom or death metal. There are a lot more moments that I really love, but I’ll leave that to the listener to explore.
Any memorable or unique experiences during the creation and recording of “The Abyssal Throne” you’d like to share?
Outside of the writing process, this project was actually pretty safe or tame. It required a lot of deep thought into the writing and recording, and it really brought a new dynamic to the way I play, but it didn’t kick out a ton of interesting stories per se.
What can fans expect regarding promotion, live shows, and engagement after the album’s release?
I am doing a lot of online promotion for this, including interviews like this one, review collaborations, and music videos. I hate social media, so I do my best to avoid it. So, it is unlikely that I will build socials for this project, but if anyone wants to reach out to us, we have a contact on our Bandcamp page. As we are currently a recording project, we have no immediate plans for performing live, but I’ll never rule it out in the future. Fans of this project could always catch my primary project, All Else Fails, live.
What advice would you offer new artists looking to break the mould with their music?
Do it for the right reasons. Take some time to really think about what you want from the music industry and then pursue it with everything. There is no level of half-assing that will get anyone anywhere, so if you want it. Create the opportunity, then seize it.
Do you want to convey anything to your fans or newcomers discovering your band?
Just that I hope they find something they like in the music, and if they do, reach out and let me know. I love hearing about the way my music affects others.
Degenerator’s “The Abyssal Throne” is more than just an album; it’s a testament to the boundless creativity and unwavering dedication of two musicians driven by a shared passion for sonic exploration. With a fusion of stoner, sludge, grunge, and goth rock, their music is designed to engulf listeners in a whirlwind of emotions, from seething rage to cathartic release. Their relentless pursuit of innovation and their remarkable accolades, including a JUNO Award and a Canadian Music Award, have set the stage for what promises to be a revelation in the world of alternative rock. As the album release date of November 24, 2023, approaches, Degenerator invites you to embark on an unforgettable musical journey, promising an aggressive and captivating sonic experience that will leave an indelible mark on your musical soul.