Black Peaks

With their sec­ond al­bum, All that di­vides, Black Peaks have united an army of fans from prog, metal and alt-rock alike and as­serted their sta­tus as fu­ture fes­ti­val head­lin­ers. Gui­tarist Joe Gos­ney dis­cusses his un­con­ven­tional six-string jour­ney so far

Total Guitar - - CONTENTS -

There are few UK bands more hyped than alt-prog­met­allers Black Peaks, but in this in­stance, the fer­vour sur­round­ing the Brighton four-piece is very much de­served. Sec­ond al­bum, All That di­vides, so­lid­i­fies the Mastodon-meet­sMars Volta ideals of its pre­de­ces­sor and chan­nels it into nine tracks of metic­u­lously crafted heav­i­ness, which pro­vides an ar­rest­ing show­case for gui­tarist Joe Gos­ney’s mer­cu­rial play­ing ap­proach, which spans ev­ery­thing from pun­ish­ing de­tuned riffage to ethe­real ex­tended chords.

Black Peaks first rose to promi­nence with the re­lease of 2016’s Stat­ues, a de­but that came fully formed with the kind of sin­u­ous song struc­tures that can only come from an unadul­ter­ated ded­i­ca­tion to the craft. The band’s au­di­ences and idols quickly took note, with a series of UK and Euro­pean tours, a head­line po­si­tion at this year’s 2000 Trees fes­ti­val and sup­port slots with Architects, Sys­tem Of A Down and Prophets Of Rage.

Yet none of this phases Joe, who points out that what seems like a me­te­oric rise has been the cul­mi­na­tion of years of col­lab­o­ra­tion and hard graft.

“It’s al­ways funny when peo­ple say it seems like it’s been a rapid as­cent,” he muses, “be­cause for us, we’re so in­volved with it, and on a day-to-day ba­sis, on ev­ery de­ci­sion that’s be­ing made, whether that’s a poster for a gig, or the rout­ing of the tour… Ev­ery lit­tle thing we’re think­ing about and talk­ing about.”

Like the band’s mu­sic, Joe’s jour­ney to the gui­tar took the road less trav­elled. He may be the man pulling the strings now, but it was his back­ground as a drum­mer that lent Black Peaks their idio­syn­cratic riff clock. It played a big part in shap­ing his ap­proach to play­ing then, and con­tin­ues to fuel the cre­ative process to­day.

“The fun­da­men­tals lie in rhythm for me,” he con­sid­ers. “I used to down-tune the gui­tar to drop D and just play barre chords, but I feel like my left hand has al­ways played catch-up with my right hand, be­cause it’s al­ways been about rhyth­mic play­ing, as op­posed to be­ing re­ally dex­trous with my left hand, which I’m still learn­ing.”

It was Joe’s de­sire to ex­plore more melodic sen­si­bil­i­ties that first drew him to the elec­tric, as well as a love for gui­tarists who stalked out their own paths: Mastodon’s Brent Hinds, Tool’s Adam Jones and Omar Ro­driguez-lópez of The Mars Volta. Like those as­pi­ra­tional play­ers, Joe is never stand­ing still, and nei­ther are his com­pa­tri­ots.

At­tack Of The Drones

“When Black Peaks first started, we were play­ing a lot more weird shit like The Mars Volta,” he re­calls. “We orig­i­nally played as a three-piece with­out Will [Gard­ner, front­man], so it was just in­stru­men­tal. And then when we got Will in, that’s when the band started to take on some of the heav­ier sound, es­pe­cially with his scream­ing. But it’s still chang­ing now; we’ve al­ready started writ­ing bits of new mu­sic, and that’s al­ready sound­ing dif­fer­ent to the sec­ond al­bum. We want ev­ery al­bum to be dif­fer­ent from the last one, as much as pos­si­ble.”

Pro­ducer Adrian Bushby – whose past cred­its with Muse and Foo Fight­ers give a hint at what could lie ahead for Black Peaks – proved to be key in com­mit­ting the band’s dy­namic and rhyth­mic shifts to record, know­ing just when to step in and when to ease off. It’s an ap­proach that in­spired Joe’s per­for­mances on the new al­bum.

“Adrian is the hard­est-work­ing per­son I’ve ever worked with in any ca­pac­ity,” Joe en­thuses. “He’d be up at 6:30, 7am ev­ery morn­ing mak­ing ev­ery­one cof­fee, and then he’d also be work­ing un­til 2 in the morn­ing. When you see some­one work that hard, you just want to give them your best.

“He was also very hands off when it came to gui­tar sounds, which I found strange at first, be­cause I’m not a mas­sive tech-head or any­thing. But Adrian would sit back and let me just dial ev­ery­thing in, so what you’re hear­ing on the al­bum is very much Black Peaks sound­ing like Black Peaks, and I think you’ll find he does that with all his records; he’s got a way of mak­ing those bands sound like the best ver­sions of them­selves.”

Aside from fir­ing up a cor­nu­copia of liv­ing-the-dream amp heads, in­clud­ing a Mar­shall Plexi, Diezel VH4 and Orange Thun­derverb, Joe’s other great dis­cov­ery on Allthat­di­vides was a quick-fire al­ter­nate tun­ing. While he usu­ally opts for D stan­dard, with the odd drop-c sledge­ham­mer thrown in, he ex­plains that one small tweak was be­hind a num­ber of the al­bum’s high­lights and his now-trade­mark chord drones.

“The first string on Home is tuned down half a step, then on an­other song on the al­bum it’s tuned down a full step from D stan­dard,” he re­veals. “I play a lot of open pick­ing stuff, where I’m al­low­ing those strings to ring out and be quite chimey, so I play around a lot with tun­ing the first string to the key of that track. It just makes the gui­tar sound dif­fer­ent, and makes it more fun to write with some­times.”

This think­ing-out­side-the-box men­tal­ity also found Joe em­bold­ened to turn his hand to some head-turn­ing melodic lead mo­ments, de­liv­ered via his ar­se­nal of Te­les and SGS, although so­los are def­i­nitely some­thing he had to build up to in Black Peaks.

“I think we did avoid it to start off with,” he pon­ders. “I’m not the best lead player or any­thing, but I’m try­ing to serve the songs as well as I can. And Fate I&II, the last song on the al­bum, we de­moed that be­fore, and it never had that part; it felt like it needed an ex­tra layer on top of it, so we just put it on and it’s ended up stay­ing there, which I’m stoked about.

“I think peo­ple shy away from it too of­ten; I’m a sucker for all that old stuff. It can be a bit cheese, but I lis­ten to bands that will just rip so­los, so why not? I’m only gonna get to make that al­bum once, so I may as well throw down as much as I can!”

Peaky blin­ders

Speak­ing of throw­downs, Black Peaks are one of those fine breeds of band that bring as much to the stage – maybe more – than they do the stu­dio. Their live show is a dizzy­ing dis­play of ebb and flow, with dev­as­tat­ing bull­dozer riffs and dream-like tex­tures de­ployed in a for­mi­da­bly tight for­ma­tion. The se­cret to Joe’s im­pec­ca­ble life per­for­mance lies in his past six-string life as a wed­ding­band gui­tarist – an out­fit that ran con­cur­rently with Black Peaks dur­ing the group’s for­ma­tive years.

“You know what, you have to play a lot of shit mu­sic, but it gives you re­ally good dis­ci­pline, be­cause you have to be play­ing 20 songs a night – and play­ing

“i lis­ten to bands that will just rip so­los...”

joe Gos­ney

three or four times a week, you know, it re­ally helped me get used to any sort of trou­bleshoot­ing on a show,” he ex­plains.

“Es­pe­cially when it’s some­one’s wed­ding; it’s the most im­por­tant day of their lives and you can’t be like, ‘Oh shit, this pedal’s not work­ing!’ It helps you fix things and learn stuff quickly as well. I think it was a good thing to do; I had to stop when I did, only be­cause it gen­uinely started to kill my love for play­ing gui­tar – there are only so many Ra­zorlight songs you can play!”

wall of sound

Although years of hon­ing abil­i­ties are in­te­gral to Black Peaks’ sur­gi­cally pre­cise per­for­mances, that doesn’t ex­plain quite how they sound so un­com­pro­mis­ingly gar­gan­tuan live, par­tic­u­larly given Joe’s role as the lone gui­tar-slinger. When ques­tioned on how the band re­tains such a wall of sound even when he takes a lead break, Joe re­veals the an­swer doesn’t lie with him at all.

“It’s Dave [Larkin], the bass player,” he laughs. “At the mo­ment, he’s us­ing my old Orange combo amp, and he’s send­ing an oc­tave-up [sig­nal] to that, and so what we’re do­ing at the mo­ment is when I go to the lead stuff, he’s kick­ing in the oc­tave-up, so we’re try­ing to fill out those fre­quen­cies. We’re not quite there with it; it’s al­ways a work in progress.”

The same goes for Black Peaks as an on­go­ing en­tity. They’re one of the shin­ing ex­am­ples of suc­cess sto­ries in an in­creas­ingly frag­mented and chal­leng­ing in­dus­try; heavy gui­tar mu­sic isn’t usu­ally a lo­cale for role mod­els, but it feels fair to call the Black Peaks boys just that. Ac­cord­ing to the band’s gui­tarist, though, it’s only just the be­gin­ning.

“You wake up ev­ery day and it’s like, ‘I’m go­ing to do ev­ery­thing I can to make this the most suc­cess­ful thing it can be.’ And that’s it; it’s just inch by inch,” Joe as­serts.

“To us, I think it feels like… not a slow thing, but a steady thing that hope­fully we can work on for the next 20 years, rather than just be a flash in the pan. I’ve been in bands in the past where it’s just one per­son that’s re­ally try­ing to drive it, and I don’t think it’s sus­tain­able and I don’t think it works. Some­times there’s a leader in a group, for sure, but you need to have ev­ery­one will­ing to put in the work to make any­thing of it.”

Words Michael Ast­ley-brown / Pho­tog­ra­phy Olly Cur­tis

field mu­sicJoe Gos­ney shot for To­tal Gui­tar by Olly Cur­tis at Arc­t­an­gent Fes­ti­val

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.