Interview by Parisa Eshrati
I had a chance to connect with Grant Netzorg of In the Company of Serpents before he headed out to Southwest Terror Fest. We discussed the evolution of his guitar tones, spaghetti western films, battle wounds from touring, and what we can look forward to from the band.
You recently posted a picture of your pedal board saying that you have created the heaviest tone you've ever gotten from your guitar. How were you able to achieve this sound? Have you been actively searching for a heavier sound, or did it just come up from experimenting while playing?
So, a big part of our sound is predicated around splitting my guitar signal out to a variety of different amps. For the past few years and on the last two recordings (Merging in Light & Rendered Unto Ash) my backline has basically consisted of a full stack of 4x12s pushed by a 100 watt guitar head, an 8x10 bass cab pushed by a 300 watt bass head, and a 2x15 bass cab pushed by a 100 watt guitar head. This has given us a pretty thick sound, but we have inevitably never had the full low end that you might get with a bass player. The change that came recently was that I’ve added an octave pedal to just the 8x10/bass rig which allows me to drop that signal down a full octave, which really helps round out the low end. It’s added a lot more punch to our sound, and has really helped give it some extra weight.
You've mentioned how for your last two releases you had been playing the material live for a year before they were recorded. Are there any songs that you're currently playing on tour that have not yet been released? If so, tell us a little about those songs and when you expect to record them.
We have been working on new material, but none of it is quite ready for a live setting. I’m hoping to polish one of the songs up enough to debut it later this year either at Southwest Terror Fest or perhaps Denver Black Sky. The ultimate goal is for us to return to the studio by the end of the year to record another full-length. A big part of the challenge is how long it takes to get vinyl pressed. If we have a full-length recorded, mixed and mastered by the end of 2015, it still could realistically take until June or July of 2016 before we would have copies on hand.
You posted a gnarly picture back in March at the end of your tour of your hands covered in blisters. What are some of the best battle wounds you and Joseph have conjured up while touring?
Joe definitely bears the brunt of the battle wounds, and tends to tear up his hands pretty badly when playing. I occasionally split open the fingers on my strumming hand, but it’s never that bad. I just end up scraping dried blood out of my pickups the next day. I don’t know if it could be considered a battle wound, but during our tour last March I managed to fall over like three times during our last song in Portland. The first time it happened I just pulled a Chuck Berry and kept playing from the ground until I was able to get on my feet, but we ended up calling it a day after the 3rd time it happened. Word to the wise: mourning the loss of a beloved pet by downing many shots of bourbon is best saved for after your set.
You guys have always been really creative with your merch. You've made metal and enamel pins, screen prints, etched and colored vinyls, rolling papers, and other paraphenelia. What kind of merch do you think you'll come up with next? Perhaps an ITCOS strain of weed?
Hahaha, if a grower wanted to name some weed after us we’d be honored. As far as new merch is concerned, we have been having a lot of fun experimenting with different embroidery combinations that our friend Bex Hootman creates for us. My favorite thus far is a black thread on black pleather patch of our cross sigil. We also have a new shirt design in the works, which is being illustrated by Christina Hunt. Beyond that, most of the weird stuff I’ve been dreaming up has been focused on what the packaging for our next record will look like. I intend to include a die-cut sleeve with some spot gloss coating tricks, but I won’t spoil the surprise beyond that.
When your former drummer, JJ, left to pursue teaching you had originally planned on disbanding the group. What were some things that kept you motivated to keep playing as ITCOS?
Well, I really liked the material that JJ and I came up with, and would have ended up forming another band to play similar music had he not given me his blessing to continue under the same name. Since he and I formed the band together, I felt it would’ve been weird to replace him and keep the name, but he encouraged me to do just that. I’m glad he did, as the name is directly in line with the aesthetics of our music, and is appropriate for a lot of the symbolism I invoke in what we write about.
I read that the name of the band came up from a dream that JJ had. Have dreams since then played a role in the band's influences whether it's lyrics, imagery, etc?
I may have used the phrase “dreamed up” or something figurative like that in describing how we arrived on the name, but the name itself was not derived from a dream JJ had. In any case, it’s an interesting question, as I definitely draw on my dreams for the material I write about. I’m in the practice of keeping a dream journal, and some of the newer material is directly culled from dreams I’ve had. About a week ago I woke up with both a melody and a phrase running through my head, and I’m excited to see where we take that one. Channeling the subconscious & tapping into what lies there is a recurring theme for us.
You stated in another interview that the new material you're working on has a more eerie and atmosphereic feel and explores some spaghetti western sounds as well. I'm curious if film has been playing a role in developing your atmospheres. If so, what films have been crucial in inspiring those moods?
Film has a huge impact on me personally. Really good film scores have an amazing ability to create atmosphere, which is something I strive for in our songs. Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western stuff is both eerie and triumphant at the same time, and that’s something I aspire to with our music. Another filmmaker whose work always has outstanding soundtracks is Jim Jarmusch. He typically has a mix of perfectly chosen popular songs and original scores, and his recent film “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a great example of that. The original score material for that one is really haunting and spare. Another classic example here would be Neil Young’s score that he wrote for Jarmusch’s “Dead Man.” The guitar work on that is so haunting and atmospheric.
Do you have a favorite Ennio Morricone score?
Everything he did for the “Man with no name” trilogy with Clint Eastwood was amazing. “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” is easily the best known, and from that, the piece “The Ecstasy of Gold” from the final showdown is my favorite. Another really cool one is “Death Rides a Horse.” I love the way he’d pair these driving, martial drum beats with eerie, twangy guitars drenched in reverb. Our songs “Blood from Stone” and “A Union of Opposites” have drum intros that were inspired by that pairing, and the latter we even called “Ennio” as a working title until we landed on a name for it.
I read that you guys have been working on some splits and collaborations. Could you tell us who you've been working with, or other bands you hope to work with in the near future?
So, we had been saving some material for a split with one band, but that didn’t end up materializing, so we ended up just releasing it as a single (“Rendered Unto Ash”) with the help of our friends at TRVE Brewing and Flatline Audio. We’re not opposed to doing splits, but I think all of our new material at this point will go towards the next record. I would love to do a split with our friends in Primitive Man, but I don’t know if we can muster anything that would hold up to the sheer sonic bludgeoning that they’re capable of! They have a gift for coming up with the filthiest heavy shit around. Another newer band that I could see collaborating with would be our friends in Idre from Oklahoma, and if we ever wanted to explore our noise/industrial influences, I wouldn’t mind pairing up with Echo Beds, who are another outstanding Denver band.
Southwest Terror Fest is coming up in just over a month. Who are some bands you're most looking forward to seeing?
I’m stoked that we’re playing the same night as The Body & Thou. We’ve had the pleasure of opening for the Body a couple of times, but I still haven’t caught Thou, and I can’t wait to hear them playing their collaborative material together. We got to see Brothers of the Sonic Cloth a few months back, and their new material is nothing but riff after crushing riff, so I’m excited to see them again. Our friends in Call of the Void will be there as well, and I’m looking forward to set & seeing them for the first time since they’ve shifted up their lineup a bit. Of course, Sleep is always going to be at the top of the list for us, so I’m stoked to see them again. We were lucky enough to open for them a few months back with Primitive Man on 4/20 in Denver, and watching them soundcheck for what seemed like 45 minutes to just us and an empty room was practically a religious experience.
Finally, please tell us some things we can look forward to from ITCOS for the rest of the year.
New tunes soon! It is our goal to have a new full-length laid down by the end of the year, which should slate that one for release sometime next summer. Beyond that, we will only be playing another handful of shows this year, and hope to see many friendly faces in the crowd:
10.15- Southwest Terror Fest @ 191 Toole, Tucson AZ
10.22- @Mutiny Information Café w/Fister, Khemmis & Yung $tar Diamond$, Denver, CO
12.5- Denver Black Sky festival @ The Gothic Theater, Denver, CO
+1 more special show TBA.
For more information on In the Company of Serpents:
For tickets and information on Southwest Terror Fest:
All interviews posted before October 2015 were originally recorded for KAMP Student Radio.