by Ryan Meehan
In the winter of 2009, former members of Bruised, In All Its Glory and front man Jacob Gregory converged to create an original metal band that they would later name My Pal Trigger (MPT). The bands’ influences and style consist of old school thrash riffs, blast beats, dissonant chords, tech metal guitar riffs, heroic/triumphant, dual guitar harmonies and devastating groove oriented breakdowns. After experimentation with different guitar tunings, the band opted to tune to drop C for clarity and definition of notes which proved especially critical in live applications. Vocals range from medium/high death screams, to hardcore and lower guttural growls. The lyrical content/subject is imaginative, creative, and powerful. MPT can be summed up as a no nonsense, honest grind-core band that chooses song writing as key importance to its success. We’re pleased to have them as our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: How did the formation of My Pal Trigger come to fruition? Had any of you previously played in bands before, and if so which ones?
Jacob: MPT started with the band In All Its Glory. James and Tony played guitar in this band and James really wanted me involved in that project. I went to a few practices and sat in with Tony and James a few times during writing sessions. The music was good, but I never really felt like I was the right fit for the band vocally. It ended up being a blessing in disguise. In All Its Glory had a decent run, put out a full length, and played some cool shows. Eventually, things fell apart with that band, and James and Tony carried some riffs over that were never used with IAIG. They continued to play together and write more and if memory serves, connected with Ruben (Drummer) shortly thereafter. James invited me to a practice and I was blown away, and equally nervous, as I grew up watching Ruben and Tony in their former band Bruised. After a few practices of me sitting there writing and feeling the songs out, we got a little PA. Finally, on a very drunken Sunday afternoon, we wrote Grab A Gun, and Stick It In Your Mouth, and its been a crazy rollercoaster ride since then.
James: Tony and I played together in In All Its Glory. One night after a show, he and I met at Denny’s and basically decided that we were going to break the band up. It had stopped going in the direction that we needed it to in order for us to keep our interest in the music. Ruben and Tony played in Bruised together about 10 years ago, and I was in that band for a short time too. Ruben had been to several IAIG shows and we had discussed the possibility of jamming with him at one point. When we started playing together we were writing mainly southern/bluesy influenced metal, and we just thought it was a waste of Ruben’s talent. That was when we decided that we just need to write way more brutal music than what we had previously been doing. The brutal stuff just felt way more natural with him anyway. The band was originally called something else when we started playing together too. I think it was Paint The Walls or something like that. Tony and I were at Best Buy one day looking at old western DVDs, because we love all of that spaghetti western stuff, and came across a compilation of old western flicks. Tony just looked up all dramatic like and said “I know what we’re gonna be called”, and My Pal Trigger stuck. At this point Jacob hadn’t sang for us yet and I kept nagging him, telling him that this band was right up his alley and he just needed to get up there and do it. Finally, after about 8 Fat Tires, we got him to unleash the beast. Here we are 3 years and some change later.
Tony: James and I played together in a rock band called In All Its Glory. We had some minor success working with a good producer, cutting a full-length record and landing some licensing deals with MTV. After that had reached its end we decided to continue playing together and approached a long time friend Ruben Villegas to see if he was interested in jamming with us to the unwavering tune of “absolutely.” Later we had carried riffs over from IAIG and wanted to experiment with the southern metal sound that James and I still love to this day. During probably the 5th or 6th practice Ruben would warm up and play brutal beats and double bass which wasn’t even remotely what we were trying to do but we looked at each other and simultaneously decided that we would be hate.
FOH: What is the typical songwriting process when it comes time to create your music? Are most of the ideas for specific songs based on the same instrument, or does it change depending on the idea? In what ways has the songwriting process evolved for you so far?
Jacob: Most of the time, James and Tony write the riffs, bring them to practice, and Ruben and I pick up from there. With some of our newer music, i’ve been trying to write lyrics first to set a “tone” for the song if you will. Its something completely different from what we are all used to, but I think its important to try as many different methods of creation as possible.
James: Tony is the main song writer in the band. He writes most of the riffs. I write a lot of them and do some arranging too, but mainly I just augment what Tony already has written. I write a lot of the harmony stuff, most of the techy runs and difficult riffs. He’s like the meat and potatoes, and I’m like salt and pepper I guess. Once we have a complete layout on guitars I write the bass line, then we record the guitars and bass. We then give that recording to Ruben and Jacob. Ruben will listen to it for a week (typically) or two, and then we get together and play it. Jacob usually has ideas about what’s going to happen with the vocals almost immediately, but is typically last to add his part to the equation. We have actually been trying some different writing techniques lately though. We’ll see how it works out. I’m always excited to try different things.
FOH: Could you talk about “The Damned” EP that is currently available now? How was your whole experience working at Reel Trax, which is a very high-end recording studio?
Jacob: The Damned EP was a pretty smooth process to record. Ruben was able to get all drums tracked in one day at Reel Trax. The rest of the recording was done at Jose Urquiza’s home studio. From a vocal perspective, I have always loathed recording. Don’t get me wrong, recording is fun and exciting, I’m just a much more live show oriented performer. Jose made it very comfortable though, and was open to many ideas. He also brought a lot to the table in regards to production ideas. It was an interesting process, and I think in the end, we both came away a little stronger at our craft.
James: Tony is the main songwriter in the band. He writes most of the riffs. I write a lot of them and do some arranging too, but mainly I just augment what Tony already has written. I write a lot of the harmony stuff, most of the techy runs and difficult riffs. He’s like the meat and potatoes, and I’m like salt and pepper I guess. Once we have a complete layout on guitars I write the bass line, then we record the guitars and bass. We then give that recording to Ruben and Jacob. Ruben will listen to it for a week (typically) or two, and then we get together and play it. Jacob usually has ideas about what’s going to happen with the vocals almost immediately, but is typically last to add his part to the equation. We have actually been trying some different writing techniques lately though. We’ll see how it works out. I’m always excited to try different things.
Tony: The whole experience went rather painlessly because we laid down the ground work by doing our own pre-production with our own Protools rig. So the songs were already mapped out with the proper tempos and formats saving us countless hours and headaches in the studio. It’s the most efficient way of doing things. It is crucial to be efficient and cost effective given the dismal state the music industry is in. Jose Urquiza did a fabulous job with our demo and exceeded my expectations. That guy is incredibly talented.
FOH: I made a comment in the review that I did of that EP that it seems to me as if American metal bands that play extreme forms of speed metal such as black or death metal have sort of an underlying groove to their songs. If anything I find that to be the case definitely on a comparative level, when American metal is played next to some of the Scandinavian black metal bands such as Satyricon and Mayhem. Would you guys tend to agree with that? If so, why do you think that is?
Jacob: I would definitely agree with that. I think a lot of things go into that, but I think the biggest is American listeners vs. European listeners. We here in America are very fickle and always opinionated. On the right day, I’m one of the worst offenders on this too, as a listener. Though I have never toured in Europe, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have and they all say the same thing. European fans are much more dedicated and loving. Here in the states, you’ll see one band be criticized for trying to do something different on one album, and then in the same breath, a person will criticize another band for always sounding the same. Maybe one kid doesn’t like a band because their music don’t have enough breakdowns, or because the band dresses a certain way, or because their singer is a dick. I definitely feel that is a contributing factor, while most European death and black metal bands simply don’t give a fuck. Can you imagine At the Gates, in their prime, sitting in the studio writing Slaughter of the Soul and going, “I don’t think this album is heavy enough for our fans, we need to put more breakdowns in here, more palm muting here, and stick to a defined amount of time signature changes.”?
James: I think a lot of that has to do with the culture and environments that exist in both places. I mean, we do all of the America stuff like cookout and go to baseball games. We drink light beers like its a point of pride and we watch cars go around in circles for hours at a time. Plus, I think the real thing here is that the blues was born here. I think a lot of people are heavily influenced by that and tend to gravitate toward that type of writing maybe. I know that’s definitely true with me. Some of the first stuff I ever learned was blues licks. I think it’d be hard to find a guitarist that doesn’t at least know a couple little blues licks. That’s exactly what that underlying groove is. It’s blues and it’s feeling. I think a lot of the black metal from Europe is written devoid of any groove so to speak because its not supposed to have that warm feeling too it. American black metal gets drunk and eats burgers and passes out in ditches while pissing its pants. European black metal eats lutefisk, rides a Vespa, burns down thousand year old churches and has really long and shitty winters, you know? At least that’s the way I see it.
FOH: Where do you think the music industry stands at the moment when it comes to how they view heavy bands? Using three words or less, how would you describe your music? Do you feel like there’s too many subgenres of metal these days?
Jacob: I love this question, truly. My thoughts on the recording industry, as far as big labels are concerned, is that they are always two steps behind. I think metal is becoming much more acceptable, but I also think there is a hesitance by most larger labels to put a lot into the heavier side of metal. I also think a lot of larger labels aren’t necessarily looking into the bands music as much as they are looking into their marketability. A lot of heavier bands that do get signed by the big name labels end up having their image defined and their music changed. I realize this is the nature of the beast though. Its a big reason that I keep my music dreams small. Where most want to get a lucrative contract, get the tour bus, and tour all over and play huge shows, I’d rather get in a beat up van with my best friends and drive around the US, playing wherever we can. Keep it as DIY as possible, you’ll make more money as a band, and youll appreciate what you accomplish that much more.
James: Not good for anyone really. There are a few bands that are doing it, but there are a lot of really good bands that end up breaking up because they can’t afford to be in a “successful” metal band. I have no delusional aspirations of being a signed artist on a major label. There is literally no money in music unless you’re a pop artist, and I’m 33 and chubby. I’m not gonna be the next Bieber anytime soon, and frankly, I could care less. I like everything just how it is. It’s more real than it’s ever been right now. As for the third question, I used to have a couple buddies that would correct me if I called something metal, “Dude, that’s math metal bro”. I never gave a shit. I grew up with Metallica, Pantera, Slayer, Megadeth, Testament, Anthrax, S.O.D., and Sepultura. All of those bands were always metal in my book and I never cared to categorize any of it. I think it’s more lax than it used to be though. In a nutshell, I hate the subcategorization of metal, yes.
Tony: The music industry doesn’t stand is where it stands. It’s a hopeless peg-legged pirate pan handling on some slum ridden street behind a dark alley and metal is the idiot duped into giving it [the pirate] money. Too many? I’d say not really it’s a good thing too have too many choices than not enough. Somewhere in there there’s something for somebody.
FOH: Using three words or less, how would you describe your music?
Jacob: Heavy. Metal. Catharsis. (both as individual words and as a three word phrase
James: Doom. Gloom. Broom.
FOH: As a band, do you set personal goals for yourselves or are you most concerned with putting out art that you love and that other people can relate to? Why?
Jacob: I think with anything, whether it be a band or otherwise, its good to have some form of concrete direction. As far as goal setting is concerned, I think we set small goals like having new shirts for a big show, or have a new EP done within a year. My goals for this band at the beginning of the year were just to book two shows myself and to get another EP recorded. I think for all of us though it is more important to create the music we love and to get it out to as many people as we can that want to hear it.
James: Typically we set realistic goals. Mainly short term and behind the scenes type of stuff. It seems to always be related to getting new merch lined up. Although lately it’s been about finishing the writing of a few really difficult songs. Jacob is very good at balancing work/life/band, which helps big time. He has basically been running the band lately and has done a really good job. Tony is incredibly goal driven and is instrumental in what success we have as far as behind the scenes stuff. He’s the guy that looks at a problem and figures out a solution. Ruben is the guy at the top of the mountain offering you his hand. He’s the drill sergeant and basically the quality control inspector of everything. I’m just me. As far as goals and setting/meeting/exceeding them, it’s a natural thing with this group.
Tony: My personal goals aren’t very lofty given the tired state of the music industry especially in metal. My personal goal is to continue to excel at what I do or else I wouldn’t do it. My goal is to not become complacent and learn new things and grow with the group however ever long it lasts. For the record the reason this band is so good for us is because we don’t tell each other what to play or how to sing. We take ownership in our crafts to create and collaborate original art that has impact, heart, rawness, emotion and what we feel what’s the best for the song. That’s why people can relate to what we do. We do this because we’ve always done it, it’s in our blood to create and improve.
FOH: Looking ahead to the next twelve months, what’s on tap for My Pal Trigger?
Jacob: The sky is the limit at this point. First priority is getting our new EP, “We Coalesce”, mixed, mastered, and pressed. I have a good friend of mine working on art for that release, and once that is done; we will be coming out with all new merch as well. Aside from the EP, we are starting to write new music that is taking this band in a great direction. We are still My Pal Trigger, but we are all looking to step up our games individually. Tony and James are writing riffs unlike anything I’ve ever heard them play. Ruben is improving his playing every time we jam, and I am trying to take both my vocals and lyrics to a level they’ve never been. Hopefully at this point next year, we will have official MPT tour stories. Though I am not disillusioned into thinking we will be huge by this time next year, I’ve never been on a tour and that’s my biggest dreams.
James: The only things I’m ever really sure about are the things that are right in front of us. We have a new EP coming out very soon that will be mixed and mastered by Jose again which is awesome. It’ll be a lot heavier than “The Damned” and a lot tighter too. I think I had about 2 and a half hours to record “The Damned”, and this time around I think I took about 14 or 15 hours just to record my parts. It’s very exciting. We will continue to play shows and write as much as possible too. Beyond those things, it’s a safe bet that we’ll be recording again inside of a year.
Tony: 3 song demos as long as we can. Shows, website, new merch and hopefully a video.
Make sure to catch my Pal Trigger on November 17th at the River Music Experience in Davenport with The Easy Mark, Snogulated Pig, and Kings; as well as November 21st at Rascals Live.
My Pal Trigger on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/My-Pal-Trigger/135274723160715?fref=ts
My Pal Trigger on Reverb Nation: http://www.reverbnation.com/show/8733227#!/mypaltrigger
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