And here it is, the final installment of our Q&A series with A CONSTANT KNOWLEDGE OF DEATH who are set to drop their fourth and final album of the year – ‘Vol. III.d: Impermanence’.
Here, we chat to the main writer of the record – and newest member of the band – Mike Gardell.
WHAT IS YOUR MAIN ROLE IN ACKOD?
I play bass, and occasionally scream when needed.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE IN RELATION TO THE OTHER MEMBERS, AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE DISTANCE?
I live in the middle of nowhere California. I’m not too far from Aaron in Santa Monica, but I am on the opposite side of the country from James and Connor. We have a Discord server that we use to manage the distance. We’ll usually send ideas back and forth, and when it comes to time to record something, I’ll probably fly out to James and Connor since they have a sick recording setup now. Meeting up in person is the only real issue due to scheduling and things like that.
HOW MANY BANDS WERE YOU IN PRIOR TO ACKOD, AND HOW DOES THIS ONE DIFFER?
I used to play guitar for DMP (now Restless Spirit) for one of their tours, and before that I was playing bass for Extinction AD for another tour. Both Connor and I went to school at the University of Miami (where we met) and played in each other’s bands. I played bass in Connor’s post-metal band Vivid Illusion, and they played guitar in my hardcore band Pariah. The only real difference with ACKOD is the distance, but Connor and I had a project when they first moved to Boston, so we’ve worked in this sort of setting before.
DID YOU WRITE ALL OF THE SONGS ON IMPERMANENCE YOURSELF OR ARE THERE ANY COLLABS?
I composed 95% of the music. Connor and James added some additional instrumentation and vocal melodies on each song.
IMPERMANENCE AS A WORD HAS A LOT OF CONNOTATIONS. DO YOU BELIEVE OUR LIVES ARE IMPERMANENT? HOW DEEP DOES IT GET AS A CONCEPT?
Impermanence is an eastern philosophical concept regarding change. It’s very prominent in Buddhism, and essentially states that everything goes through changes and is an undeniable part of existence. I’m sure I butchered this rather complex subject in my simple definition, but yes, I do believe our lives are impermanent, as much as we try to make things otherwise. Your body changes, you grow old, you die – everybody goes through some form of change in their life. It’s inevitable. I tried to incorporate as much of that philosophy as I could in my lyrics, especially in the way we are trying to escape impermanence. It’s fascinating, and something I think more people should look into, as they might find some solace in it. The title of the album was also an homage to the last band Connor and I had in Miami, called Impermanence, as the music was written in the same style as that project.
A LOT OF THE CONTENT ON THIS RECORD IS INSPIRED BY SOCIETY’S ADDICTION TO SOCIAL MEDIA. ARE YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA YOURSELF, OR ARE YOU TOTALLY AGAINST IT?
I am completely off social media. I still have my Twitter because I wasn’t able to deactivate it, but I don’t check it or post anything. I’m still bound to social media, since I just deactivated my accounts like a coward instead of deleting them in case I ever want to go back, but for the most part, after being off social media for a while, I am definitely against it now. My mental health has greatly improved since going off the grid. Instead of worrying about who’s liking or seeing my posts, or worrying about whether my life isn’t as good as someone else’s, I just don’t care anymore. It’s liberating, in a sense. Some people enjoy the apps, but I think deep down, most people realize how toxic these platforms are.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL THE MAIN DIFFERENCES ARE BETWEEN OUR CURRENT GENERATION AND THE LAST?
It’s the memes. Boomer memes are lame as hell.
DO YOU THINK THERE’S ANY HOPE FOR THE FUTURE, AND CAN WE BREAK OUT OF THE TRAP WE’VE FALLEN INTO?
There’s definitely no hope. It’s too late for humanity. I have nothing more to say.
AT THIS POINT, SOCIAL MEDIA IS NEVER GOING TO GO AWAY. HOW CAN WE USE IT FOR THE GREATER GOOD RATHER THAN LET IT TAKE US OVER?
You can’t. Delete it. But seriously, I hear time and time again from my artist friends that they need to use social media, like it’s some necessary evil now. Social media isn’t inherently good or evil – that’s not what I have been saying, nor trying to say. How you use it, and for what end, is up to you. I think people need to keep in mind is what these platforms are doing with your information, and what good they are doing for you. Social media is merely a symptom, not the cause of the theme of my album. It’s about the disconnect between people, and how we are seemingly more connected than ever but feel more disconnected, and lonelier. Unfortunately, at this point I think it may be too late, and that it has taken over almost every facet of our lives.
ASIDE FROM THE SONGWRITING, WHAT ROLE DID YOU HAVE IN THE INSTRUMENTATION AND PRODUCTION OF THE RECORD?
Since I composed most of the material, I had the biggest role with the instrumentation. I wrote these pieces by myself in my room on my computer, so I had to work with what I could in Ableton. I had guitars, bass, electronic drums and various synths and noises. We didn’t change much from the original compositions, except for some length cuts. I wanted Connor and I to do vocals on the album, like we did in our previous band, so I wrote most of the lyrics with our vocal styles in mind. James also added in some vocals, and that shit was fire. Even Aaron, who hadn’t done vocals previously on any of our projects, did some backup parts. I didn’t intend to make a vocal-heavy album, but somehow it turned out that way. Like I said before, James and Connor also added some extra instrumentation to bring the compositions to life. We also had Aaron record the rhythm guitar parts, since he’s a much better guitarist than I am. Even though I wrote everything, everyone is on the album playing something. Connor also played a huge role in the production of the album because they mixed the thing, as they do.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO MAKE THIS PARTICULAR ALBUM FROM CREATION TO RELEASE?
I worked on these songs throughout all of 2018. The first song I wrote was the last song on the album, “Thereat My Leader With Great Strides Went On,” which I wrote in January of that year. I think I was done with everything by November or December of that year, as we were working on pre-production mixes of it all by then. It wasn’t until this past summer that we trimmed some of the songs, added some instrumentation, recorded vocals and did the final mix to finish it.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL FAVOURITE SONG ON THE RECORD, IF YOU HAVE ONE, AND WHY?
How can you ask that? That’s like asking a parent who their favorite child is.
It’s definitely the last song, “Thereat My Leader With Great Strides Went On.” It’s how the vocals came out that makes this song slap.
THIS IS THE FINAL ALBUM OF 2019 FOR ACKOD. IT’S BEEN A BIG AND BUSY YEAR FOR YOU ALL. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS MOVING FORWARD INTO 2020? WILL YOU BE WORKING ON MORE ALBUMS?
I have no idea what’s in store for us, besides a B-sides record in early 2020, I think. I hope we continue writing music and hopefully play some shows. I know Connor and James are working on a live ensemble on the east coast, as are Aaron and I out here, so it’s possible that there will be two ACKODs existing at the same time, on two different coasts.
WHEN YOU’RE NOT DOING ACKOD, WHAT OTHER HOBBIES AND INTERESTS DO YOU HAVE?
I like to sleep.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS ALBUM, AND WITH ACKOD IN GENERAL?
I hope that someone listens to this album, or any album from this project, and enjoys what they hear. I hope I can continue to make music with my best friends and eventual play live as a group. We’ll make it happen.
‘Vol. III.d: Impermanence’ by A Constant Knowledge Of Death is out FRIDAY: