Interviews

Wade MacNeil and Laurent “Lags” Bernard of Gallows

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On November the 24th 2012, I interviewed Wade MacNeil (vocals) and Laurent “Lags” Bernard (guitar) of Gallows. Being the second interview I had ever done in my life, that was nerve wracking enough… Add to it that I’ve been a fan of Gallows since 2007 and had formed a personal relationship with the band through the many lovely people I’ve met over the years, due to our combined passion for the band that has breathed new life into the modern punk/hardcore scene.

Being that I had met the band a few times previously, when I arrived to the venue for the interview, I chatted up a few of the guys before getting into the interview room. Lee Barratt, the drummer, was setting up his kit, so we exchanged a few words before their tour manager, Jesse, came over to bring me upstairs to the top level of the Rickshaw Theatre. I asked him if he’d like a cupcake, and as most people (although, not all) love cupcakes, he did, so I gave him some rainbow cupcakes with vanilla icing and red nooses, in honour of Gallows. The icing had all melted from each cupcake to the next, so they were drenched in sweet goodness and you couldn’t fully make it out, but I’m sure it tasted the same. He took them into the green room for the guys to munch on and afterwards, I followed him up the stairs. On the way, we passed Stu (bass), who seemed as far removed as possible with his head in his hands, and Lags, so Lags decided to join us. Steph (guitar) was sitting in the lobby, distracted on his cell phone, so we scurried by him quickly. Wade was already doing an interview in the muggy room at the top of the stairs and since it was a radio interview, we couldn’t wait for him outside. Lags and I went to the level below, where the upper level of seating in the venue was, as well as coat check.

KN: “Glad to be back in Canada?”

Lags: “Oh yeah. It’s better than being in America. You know that our following is much bigger here.”

Being that I worked on Warped Tour in 2009 while they were doing the whole tour, I knew firsthand what he meant. The fans in Canada knew the words, ran in the circle pits and moshed their hearts out, as well as the fact that roughly 4 times as many people would show up for their set. I hadn’t witnessed this tour, but I could imagine the passion he was glad to see in the great white north. KN: “Yeah, I definitely know what you mean. But I’ve always thought that British people understand Canadian music and vice versa.”

Lags: “Yeah, exactly. I’ve always thought that with Cancer Bats and Alexisonfire. The fans out here get it.”

KN: “It’s a nice time of year to be here, too. Canada is really beautiful in the fall.” Some of the guys in the band are avid Instagram users, and being a photographer, it’s my ultimate time-waster these days. Lags and Steph especially had been posting stunning images from across the country, mostly from their tour van. Maybe it’s a guitarist thing.

Lags: “Yeah, but it’s fucking cold. In some places it was -14, but with wind chill, it felt something like -22. I’ve never been that cold in my life.”

KN: “I don’t think I’ve ever been that cold either. Wait, except when I went to Toronto when I was a kid. That was nuts.”

Lags: “See, Toronto wasn’t even that bad. Winnipeg and Calgary were freezing, though.” At this point, we spotted Lee come upstairs and take a spot in one of the seats with a laptop. “Always on a quest for wi-fi, that one.”

KN: “I’m exactly the same when I’m travelling. In Canada, the mission is to find the nearest Tim Horton’s.”

Lags: “Oh, I’m sick of Tim Horton’s. I liked it at first, but we went there soo much and I can’t stand it anymore.” Personally, I’m a huge fan of Tim’s, so I couldn’t relate. But then the subject of food came up, so he mentioned being starving.

KN: “They don’t give you food breaks?”

Lags: “We were just driving today. I had some breakfast before we left, then we got here, and then I had sound check, so I just had breakfast.”

KN: “The Ovaltine Café across the street is pretty good. It’s cheap, and it looks a bit sketchy, but it’s safe.”

Lags: “That’s what they keep telling us. Apparently it’s really dirty, but nothing ever happens and the shows are always good.”

KN: “Yeah, exactly. Nothing ever goes down, it’s just weird walking through the sketchiest part of Vancouver every time you want to go to a good show. They fixed the sound, though, which is really nice. It used to just be cement everywhere which wasn’t the best. It was renovated, too.”

Lags: “It’s a good venue. Just the location. Where was it that we played last time we were in Vancouver?”

KN: “Well, the last time you were here was in 2009 for Warped Tour.”

Lags: “But we played that little place…”

KN: “Before that was 2008 at The Plaza Club. That place doesn’t actually exist anymore. It’s called Venue and it’s a real “club” club now. I haven’t seen punk there in years.”

Lags: “Aw, I liked that place. It was a good spot, good size.”

I wanted to tell him about the dire state of the punk rock and metal community in Vancouver, but their simply wouldn’t have been time. If you have been in this city for long enough, and have consistently gone to heavy music shows, you’ll notice a few things. First of all, the venue locations have gotten more and more dire. The Rickshaw Theatre has been one of the best locations for a 600 capacity show for over 3 years. Countless metal, punk and hardcore legends have used this location on their tours, between local bands and touring crews alike. This venue is mere steps away from the corner of Main and Hastings, the epicenter of the downtown east-side’s “drug haven” for lack of a better word. Between heroin addicts, crack heads and hookers, it’s a really horrible side of Vancouver. I always wish that I had a vehicle so that I could park at Crab Park down Main St, so that I wouldn’t have to walk down Hastings to get to my bus stop. On this particular night, after they played the show, I received a few cat-calls, some guy called me a bitch and an admitted crack head tried to sell me hash.

One of the other fantastic venues in town for metal and punk, although for a much smaller show, is Funky Winkerbeans, which funnily enough is on my walk between Main and Cambie (Cambie being the location of my bus stop). Although the pits of Hastings stop a block or two before reaching Funky’s and the infamous Save-On Meats, it’s still not a great place to be. I want to know WHY this city disrespects punk and metal so much that it is shunned to the same corner where they leave their broken, their blooded and bruised. Wendy Thirteen, who has been putting on shows in this city likely before I was even in diapers, used to own the bar attached to the Cobalt Motor Hotel on Main St, between Prior and Milross. Not exactly the nicest place in the city, but far from East Hastings on that stretch. She’s the one who puts most of the shows on at Funky Winkerbeans under the pseudonym Punky Thrasherbalts. We get the same shows by the same fantastic lady, but she was kicked out of her own bar by the powers that be. But before I get too far into that, I digress.

Wade made his way down the stairs so I stopped him to inform him of our interview. Lags had since gone to use the bathroom, so I told him we would have to wait until he returned, but as soon as I mentioned this, Lags appeared from the lower staircase, and the three of us continued up the upper staircase, up to the room when we sat for the actual interview.

KN: “So I was asking Lags how tour was and he mentioned how cold it was. You’re from Canada, did you find it to be as cold, or are you sort of used to it?”

Wade: “I’m not one of those Canadians that pretends it isn’t cold. I mean, it’s freezing, you know? Especially being from Toronto, you know what I mean, or being from anywhere else. Everyone thinks it’s colder in their city. You go to Winnipeg and it’s like ‘It’s not cold.’ Either you’re stupid, or… There is no or, you know? I live in Toronto. I don’t live in California, you know what I mean? I know what it’s like to be cold. So yeah, that’s my bitch about the cold.”

KN: “I feel like you’re both okay since you’ve got beards. It must protect you at least a little bit.”

Lags: “That’s the only reason I’ve got this. I grew it especially for the tour.”

KN: “That’s awesome. What’s been your favourite stop on the tour so far?”

Lags: “I still think London. Ontario. It was quite a show.”

Wade: “It was pretty good, and not for the obvious ‘London is the Reason’ jokes. Which there was a lot of.” (Lags laughs) “I liked Toronto. It was cool to be in my hometown. We got to spend a bit of time a bit of time in the city too, we stayed at my house for like, 4 days. It was weird but cool to be at home with the band.”

KN: “Did you show them around town, showing them what your city is like?”

Wade: “A little bit.”

Lags: “We were so busy, though. We were playing shows at the same time. It wasn’t just hanging out, you know. We’d have to stay awake for the drives and play London for example, or Hamilton. But it’s cool, it was a lot of fun. I love Toronto. It reminds me of London. All the cool parts of London.”

Wade: “The parts that Lags goes to.”

KN: “So who smells the worst on tour?”

Wade: “I don’t think we’re a particularly smelly band.”

Lags: “Yeah we all smell pretty good. It’s cool. We’ve got a good thing going for us.”

KN: “What are the top 3 best and worst things about touring with Gallows as opposed to Alexisonfire?”

Wade: “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t want to answer this question.”
KN: “None? Okay. Any specific reason you guys wanted to leave the album self-titled instead of giving it a name?”

Lags: “I think we’ve said in quite a few interviews, just to make sure that people know that this is the definitive Gallows record. I mean I’m really, I know that everyone in the band is really happy with the songs and the way the album flows so it makes sense to give that name. I think everyone, with the other records, people had doubts, d’you know what I mean? We this one it was like, ‘This is fucking awesome, this is it.’ like we made the record we wanted to make.”

KN: “Was there a difference in the writing process when it comes to the actual between the first two albums and the newest EP and the newest album?”

Lags: “I think there’s always, like differences. I think this time around, we kind of like had a few ideas sketched out to some mp3’s and stuff, you know what I mean? We recorded a few riffs and sent them around and you go in with an idea and then it’s up to us to go take these ideas and you know fill in the pieces of the puzzle and make a complete pictures, you know what I mean?”

Wade: “I think there was definitely an excess. It was more like, ‘These are the songs, let’s push it in this direction.’ And I guess working through all the ideas, we kind of gave ourselves a short amount of time but we had this massive wealth of ideas to sift through. But the way we did it, too, we were kind of, like, I think, like, military in the way we did things. It was yes or no. If we started doing something, it was like, ‘This is working,’ or if, like, you know, working out the kinks, ‘How can we make this more ‘Gallows’?’ we’re just like, ‘This is it, this is it.’”

KN: “Is there anything that you’re looking forward to when it comes to touring with Alexisonfire, when you are back with them for the farewell tour in December?”

Wade: “Yeah, it should be funny to get everybody back together in a room. I’m looking forward to being with (Chris) Steele (bassist of Alexisonfire). He’s one of my best buddies ever. I played hockey with him when I was like, 7 or something.”

KN: “Good old Canadian boys.”

Wade: “Ha, yeah, good ‘ole Canadian boy. So mostly Steele related things.”

KN: “Do you prefer performing songs Gallows has written before your arrival, or the newer songs?”

Wade: “Definitely the newer songs, but definitely there’s some jams, you know what I mean? I like playing the old songs, but the new stuff feels more sincere. It’s tough not to feel that. It works better with the 5 of us.”

Lags: “Yeah, for us, we’ve been waiting for a long time to play the new songs, so for us as well, the newer stuff is what we’re about.”

KN: “Yeah. This is where’s you’re at right now.”

Lags: “Exactly.”

KN: “Cool. So do you guys ever find that there is slang that you misunderstand between you?”

Wade: “Definitely.”

Lags: “I’ve mean, like, Wade knows all our slang now, do you know what I mean? We were chatting about it the other day and –“

Wade: “I’ve got it now!”

Lags: “Yeah, Wade was saying he could listen to us speaking to each other, using all the stupid words we do, and he knows exactly what we’re saying, where-as when he first joined the band –“

Wade: “Yeah, when I first joined the band, if Stu had come up here a year and a half ago and said, ‘Hey, you guys have to stop doing this interview and come see this butters Doris!’ I’d be like, ‘Do I? What?’ but now-”

KN: “What does that mean?”

Lags: “Basically, uh… It’s so, like, small amount of people use these words, as well, which is really funny. It’s just words that kind of that people in our friendship group make up, and but we all use them. So butters is ‘ugly’ and ‘Doris’ would be like, woman or girl. So it’s like, itreally stupid, but it’s just kind of the stupid words we use. And he knows them now.”

KN: “That’s awesome. One of my favourite songs on the album, and one of the coolest videos I’ve seen in a while is ‘Last Jane,’ and I was just wondering if any specific events inspired you? I have some ideas about what those might be, but enlighten us.”

Wade: “I mean, yeah, it’s 100% about the G20 Summit in Toronto. And a lot of the footage is from the Toronto G20 Summit as well. I was in the city for the first part of it, and then I had to leave and go to the airport, which was an equal nightmare, to fly out and do a tour during the second part of it. And yeah, I mean, it’s not, like, a purely, from a, you know, it’s not a completely anti-police song. It’s just kind of dealing with everything that was going on in that city at the time. It was a real nightmare. I mean, the city got turned into police state, but there was also a lot of people there who, there was a lot of Black Bloc anarchists out to destroy Toronto, you know what I mean? Everything that was happening was bad, across the board, and that’s what the song is about.

KN: Looking to Lags, “Did you guys find relation to it with what happened in London shortly after?”

Lags: “Yeah, exactly. I think it’s not just focused on London, you know? It can happen all around the world. Which is why the video has footage from all different locations. So yeah, we understand it. I think a lot of people can familiarize with it.”

Wade: “Yeah, I find that usually, where ever I go, people think that; people breathe into it that it’s about a riot in their country. Which is cool, I mean, people can relate to that. Like Lags said, those things have been happening all over the world.”

KN: “True. Like here, even. What’s each of your favourite songs to play?”

Lags: “’Odessa’ for me. It’s my favourite song on the album.”

Wade: “For me, it’s probably ‘Outsider Art’. You know, you write songs imagining what’s going to happen live, and you play them, and exactly what I imagined when I wrote that song in the rehearsal space happens every night when we play it. It’s a really cool feeling. Because you write songs in rooms like this, that are like, cold and wet and miserable to be in. It’s really not an inspiring place to write music, but for some reason, bands always practice in shit hole’s. So to get up on stage and have people get up and sing along to that, is like, it’s cool. It’s really cool.”

KN: “Has it become one of the classics that you guys play now?”

Lags: “Yeah, I think so.”

Wade: “I think people go off. There’s a few songs, you know, that people definitely go off, like ‘Last June,’ or ‘Outsider Art.’ I think people go off as harder or harder than the old stuff, which is really cool.”

KN: “I have been curious about this since you guys released ‘True Colours,’ but I have to ask. What is the relevance of the 4th of July, considering that no one in the band is American?”

Wade: “I guess there’s really no relevance to it. Um…”

KN: “It’s just one of those references that people understand?”

Wade: “I wrote that down on the flight to England. I just liked the idea. People know, people understand that holiday. I don’t think anybody really took the time to think about it as a reference. People just took the time to cut it down as a thing because I’m not American. As a reference, it’s this big celebration, it’s this big over-blown thing, with fireworks and everything.

KN: “I’m curious as to what let you guys to create your own label. I read a little bit about it, but if I remember correctly, a company called PIAS helped with the distribution.”

Lags: “Yeah.”

KN: “Tell us about that. How did they contribute?”

Lags: “We had a few record deal offers going around and for one, that seemed the best idea, for us to just kind of do it ourselves and have someone distribute it for us. So we could start a label, choose a name for it, do everything. I designed the logo and all that. And that’s about it. And obviously would could put out other bands as well, so we did the Marmozets 7 inch. It seems like a really cool thing. It might seem like a stupid idea to do it in a time when people aren’t buying records, but at the same time, if you put out a decent, you know, something good, people will buy it. If it sparks interest, at least. And Marmozets, they’re like, some of the dudes in that band are like, 16 years old and they completely smash it. They’re going to do really well and it’s really good to get in there and be supportive of them.”

KN: “I heard you guys met them on tour and that’s what made you sign them.”

Wade: “I think that’s probably the way it’s going to keep going. We played with them a few times in the summer. They’re just, like, really young and they’re real big fans of Gallows, so they’re always watching us play. Yeah, and I met them and I think it got hashed out over beers. I think the same thing, hopefully, in Berlin, we played with this riot grrl band called Candy Cunt, and saw them and we’re like, ‘ Gotta put your record out.’ Just hashed it over some backstage beers. And hopefully we can just keep doing that.”

KN: “Is there anything you want to say to people who don’t already listen to vinyl and you want to convert them because it’s so much better?”

Lags: “I dunno.”

KN: “Are you guys vinyl listeners at all?”

Lags: “I’m not.”

Wade: “I am. I don’t know, I just think it makes a lot of sense. I think that if you’re a really big music fan, you end up there at some point. For me, I like it the most because it’s this process. You sit down, and it forces you to actually listen to something that is really cool. It’s not really easy to play a record. It’s awkwardly big disc.”

Lags: “Oh vinyl! Oh sorry, I didn’t know what you said. I thought it was like, a band or something. ‘… I’ve never heard of them.’ Okay, vinyl, yeah, yeah.”

Wade: “So, yeah, It’s more engaging, you know what I mean? You’ve got the artwork that’s, like, 4 times the size and I think bands care about it, too. They put a lot more into it, like the etching and the colours, and just the art in general. Every time I get a new record, I go home and put it on side A, listen to side A twice, flip it over and do the same with B. It’s just something I love. It’s an extension of how much I love those bands.”

Lags: “Yeah, what Wade said. I completely misunderstood.”

KN: “You get it now!”

Wade: “I thought you listen to vinyl.”

KN: “That’s it for my questions because I was only given 15 minutes and we’re about wrapped up. Is there anything you guys would like to plug, aside from the record?”

Lags: “Dunno, check out Marmozets.”

KN: “Yeah, I actually met them at Hevy Fest in Port Lympne in 2011 and during Dillinger Escape Plan, I asked one of the guitarist if I could go in front of him to take a couple pictures on the barricade and he let me keep his spot for the rest of the show because he could see well above my head. They played at the festival the next day and seriously blew my mind for how young they are… The girl is wicked!”

Lags: “Yeah, they smash it. They played with us in London and they put on such a wicked show. We’ve had this band, Feed The Rhino, tour with us and they’re a really great live band as well, so when we put Marmozets on the main support when the next album comes out. We’ll see how this goes down. And they completely smashed it too. And they’re something like 16 years old. I keep going on about it, but it blows my mind.”

KN: “Are they one of the youngest bands that you’ve toured with?”

Lags: “Yeah, like, I think they are the youngest people I know. I don’t know anyone younger.”

KN: “You guys have lots of tattoos… Any good stories to go along with them?”

Wade: “I got this terrible “DEATH PUNK” tattoo on my wrists in Victoria, like a sewing needling and india ink from Jay from the Cancer Bats. Everyone was really partying and we’re like, ‘This is going to be awesome.’ And we was pretending he wasn’t drunk, like he turned his hat around backwards and was like, ‘You ready?’ Drew it on terrible, like, the worst tattoo ever. And then he started and did the ‘P’ and I immediately regret this. I was like, immediately sober. It sucked. I woke up the next day, just like, never been more hurting. It’s just the worst, like the ‘U’ on punk, the ‘H’ on death, ugh.”

KN: “Wrist tattoos aren’t the best for sticking, and with a stick n poke, it’s even worse. Best of luck with that one, at least it’s funny. That’s about my time and thank you for taking the time out to chat with me. I really appreciate it.”

Check out the full photo gallery of Gallows and the rest of the bands on the bill from the Rickshaw show in Vancouver on November 24th 2012 – here.

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