Exclusive: Baring Teeth Present a Track-by-Track Deconstruction of Ghost Chorus…
In case you hadn’t realized, I and several other writers here at the Toilet have an unhealthy, borderline denko-stalking-esque obsession with dissonant death metal. In fact, one of the biggest ToH meetups we’ve had in real life was at a show for our beloved Texas pals Baring Teeth. While watching their set with my buddies Stockhausen, Leif Bearickson, Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple, and David, I kept thinking to myself, “How do three people with such a small set-up make such an amazing sound?”
Well, much to my delight, our friends in Baring Teeth actually reached out to us with an answer. Below is a track-by-track breakdown of their triumphant 2014 album Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins, directly from guitar wizard Andrew Hawkins. So enjoy this Toilet-exclusive look into how baby skronks are made as you listen along to the album.
An Illusion of Multiple Voices
About halfway through the writing process I created a work-in-progress running order for the album, using blank spaces to stand for songs that needed to be written to make a complete, “whole”-feeling album. It really put a spotlight on the points we wanted to hit on this one, and the idea of having an intro to kick the album off came from this process. The idea behind it was to both draw in the listener and repel them, haha. The construction is pretty simple. I used three guitar tracks, playing the same chord at the start of the song and then gradually building onto it. I wanted to create a wall of sound that was incredibly harsh and dissonant, and thankfully the effect came across in the finished product.
The majority of this song is built off of a pretty simple idea: take a three-note chord and fuck with it as much as possible. The chord falls in between consonance and dissonance, which creates that “warble” effect when it’s arpeggiated. The inspiration for using that type of chord came in part from the Scott Walker 30 Century Man documentary, in particular an interview in it with Walker’s longtime orchestrator. I really love the drawn-out two chord progression we hit halfway through the song; it’s something we probably would have shied away from on Atrophy. This was the song that really opened up our approach to writing that sustained itself throughout the rest of the album.
This song features probably the most obnoxious chord I’ve ever used, haha. I was listening to Daughters a lot at the time, which is where a lot of the grating aspects of this song came from, I imagine. The sludgy part in the middle was pretty challenging for us to write; it has a lot of tricky variations in counting, mainly to make the section a little more disorienting and lurching. The crossfade that comes in at the end was Scott’s idea. We were struggling as to how to finish the song, and the crossfade worked out really well. The guitar line I play at the fade out is very much inspired by Robert Fripp and King Crimson, a huge influence on all of us in the band.
The Great Unwashed
This song took us about a year to write. Granted we were playing shows at the time (this was right after we recorded Atrophy), but it still highlights how difficult this song was put together. I think we realized about halfway through that we might have gone a little over our heads in terms of technicality, but the end result came out great. This song works out well on Ghost Chorus because it stylistically ties the album together with Atrophy; it has a very similar feel to a song like “Distilled in Fire” from that one. The breakdown towards the end of the song is a particular favorite of mine; Jason’s double bass on that part makes it sound crushing.
This song is the second section of a three-song suite (for lack of a less pretentious term) that ends with “Dripping Sun”. I really love the synth playing on it, provided by our friend Sean Kirkpatrick from Nervous Curtains (and formerly The Paper Chase). We sent him the guitar chords, and he knocked the part out in less than 30 minutes; pretty incredible considering we hadn’t practiced the part with him beforehand. One of the hardest parts on the album for us to really feel comfortable with playing comes at the end of this song. For some reason it was just really tricky, but I love how it punctuates the song and really heightens the aggression before “Dripping Sun”.
People always highlight Jason’s drumming performance in this song, and for good reason. It gave the song a completely different feel than it would have had with a more static drumbeat, definitely for the better. This song is one I would point to as highlighting the differences between this album and Atrophy. Scott’s main vocal at the end of the song, in particular, gives the track a little more color and variety than anything off of Atrophy, which was a little more monochromatic. I really enjoy the switch down to the really low chord at the “In that instant” line. It sounds heavy as hell.
We knew we wanted to keep some of the slow stuff on Atrophy when writing this album, but we wanted to approach the slower material in a different way. The slow songs on Atrophy were much more melodic, whereas this one is very focused on heaviness and creating an oppressing atmosphere. We wanted to make it very aggressive towards the end of the song, and Jason’s use of double bass about halfway through it really drives home the shift in feel. We also had the idea of using this song as a “false ending” to the album, to lull people into thinking we’d end our second album the same way as our first: on a slow, droney part.
Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins
This was the last song we wrote for the album. I was listening to a lot of Malignancy, Guttural Secrete, and Maruta at the time, which would explain all the pinch harmonics, haha. I wanted to translate the way slam/brutal death metal bands use them and integrate them into what we do, and I think it gave a pretty cool effect to the song. Like “An Illusion of Multiple Voices”, we wrote this song with an intent in mind, namely to make a straight ahead, to-the-point punctuation for the album. The breakdown at the end is probably the most straightforward thing we’ve ever written. It works really well in context, though, and I think it’s a great way to end the album.