Welsh brutalists Intensive Square released a brilliant album earlier this month. We asked Barnes all about it. And he talked about Englishmen farting, as well as all things metal.
1. You guys have backgrounds in plenty of bands; tell us how Intensive Square came to being?
Rich (drums) and Joe (guitar) used to play in a thrash band together. They originally played covers – Slayer, Metallica, that kind of stuff. As they got into writing their own stuff, they asked me (Barnes) if I’d be up for doing some vocals and writing lyrics. I was up for it, but said that I’d prefer to play guitar. We roped in the vocalist from my old band. That was good for a while, but as we’ve perfected our sound over time, we’ve been through a couple of singers and a bass player. Chris joining was a big deal for us, as the vocals were the hardest part of the sound to get right, but he turned out to be exactly what we were after.
2. The recording process: Obviously, Chris Fielding was involved. What does he bring to the mix?
We had a great time working with him. He really nailed our sound and made the album sound better than we’d imagined it could. He paid ridiculous attention to detail at every stage, whilst retaining a good vibe in the studio, which we think is really important in that scenario. He was flexible and up for trying different things out, which was also great. He also held his own in the fart department, for such a thin Englishman. No naked flames in the studio.
3. What of your future plans – where do you want to take Intensive Square?
In the immediate future we want to play some shows and get to some parts of the UK that we haven’t played yet. We’d like to do some festivals and maybe go and play some shows in Europe. Long term, we’ve already started writing material for the next album and we’d like to get back in the studio as soon as possible. This album took ages to make and we don’t want the next one to be anywhere near as long in the tooth before we put it out.
4. What can we expect when you guys play live?
We love this music, so playing it loud through big rigs and a decent PA is the one of the coolest experiences I can think of. We don’t do backflips or jump around, but we have a good time.
5. The video for “Vegetarians” is pretty distinctive, shall we say, who came up with that?
I did. I had a couple of ideas for the video that were way beyond the scope of what we could realise on a meagre budget. They were quite specific to this song, but maybe we’ll get a chance to implement them in the future, if it’s ever suitable. I wanted our first video to have a narrative and the one we ended up with is closely linked to the lyrics. A couple of days after we’d filmed all the scenes inside the house I had the idea to do a saxophone blood bukakke in the woods. Jody Cusack shot and cut the video for us. I told him about the idea, and he was up for trying it. Once me and my old man had solved the issue of how to get a stream of blood firing out of my saxophone, we took the girls down the woods and gave them a face-full. We’re really happy with how it came out.
6. On a similar point, when did you decide that crushing metal could mix with saxophones?
It must be about ten years ago now. I got given a sax as a gift not long after joining the band, and I took it along to practice. It sounded wild so we stuck with it. We like jazz, and despite the aesthetic differences between jazz and metal, some jazz music can be just as heavy as metal, so we don’t see the sax as a gimmick. Some of the most intense music I’ve ever heard was played on a saxophone, and so that’s probably what led to us trying it in the first place.
7. Underground metal seems to be booming with an absolute proliferation of Sludge/Doom bands right now. Any thoughts as to what this might be down to?
I dunno. It could be a reaction to the wider metal scene becoming saturated with tech bands. It could equally just be that that’s what’s trendy right now. Or there could be a number of other reasons. People’s individual tastes are strange and unpredictable enough as it is. Expanding that out and attempting to explain the leanings of a collective part of the scene without making silly generalisations is impossible. Whatever the case, I’m just glad that there are some great bands around at the moment.
8. Finally, have you come across any bands that we should be keeping an eye out for?
Not necessarily new bands, but some of these are new to me: Centurian, Vektor, Lord Mantis, Khost, Famine, King Death, Hogslayer.