An Interview with Mark Williamson (Hacksaw)

Shortly after kicking off the FCU compilation project, I found myself endlessly toiling across pages and pages of recently released grindcore records on Bandcamp. Some bands were unbelievably ferocious; pure filthy bliss. Others were unbearable, near cringe inducing. It’s the nature of discovering music on Bandcamp.

I stumbled across Hacksaw early on in my endeavors. The album cover, a filtered still frame of Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2, caught my eye immediately and I took the plunge. What started with a sound clip from a horror film quickly churned into this fiendish assault of lo-fi goregrind. The vocals and bass were drowned deep in the record’s muddy production, but god damn did it have some slimy riffs. I reached out to the man behind all the sounds, Mark Williamson, shortly after surviving a few of his gore-soaked onslaughts and he was unbelievably enthusiastic to speak with me. Below is our brief exchange.

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You have quite a few releases on Bandcamp. Your experiments seem to be without limitation; I’ve heard some bluesy tunes, some hip hop and R&B infused tracks, dream-like ambient compositions, sludge metal, among many other sounds and styles. What compels you to dabble in producing music in all these different genres?

It would mostly be because I’ve had absolutely no clue what I’ve been doing for a long while. My music actually started as a joke with me forming Biscuit Bandits using GarageBand on my iPhone; it was started deliberately to see how bad of a band I could make. One of my friends Chandler got involved and it just turned into utter chaos, that’s where shit like Bendy Straws and that wisnae gear comes from. As time went on I got better and better at mixing, acquired more gear, and most importantly improved in songwriting and performing, which allowed me to start recording and making music that I really wanted to make.

Most of my drone explorations and vapourwave have been in times where I don’t have many riffs or ideas floating about my head for metal but by the time I’m finished making a drone track, etc., something will have popped into my head.

What did you listen to growing up?

My earliest bands I remember loving as a kid were Red Hot Chili Peppers and Talking Heads, and they’re still 2 of my favourite bands. By around 12, I had gotten Guitar Hero 3 and had started getting really really into metal; at that time, I loved Six Feet Under and Rob Zombie, just for how heavy they were to me and for the horror aesthetic they prided themselves on. The older I got, the more varied my listening became metal-wise and at around 17 is when I really got into goregrind with bands like Impetigo and General Surgery.

Many of your releases seem to drop within just weeks or a couple months of one another, granted these releases can be relatively short. Where do you find the time to put all these sounds together?

The main reason is I just don’t like the idea of stopping. I mean, I just dropped Necrostalgia and I’m already 5 songs into the next Hacksaw album. If I’m not watching horror movies or studying I’ll be on my computer recording. During high school, I was a really angry person and most mornings I just wanted to stay in my room and not have to deal with other people, but when I got into recording music, I found something calming for me; I started meeting people who really liked my music and in general it just makes me feel better. Music is basically my outlet, so as long as I can write music that I like, I’ll probably be recording it.

Are most of your releases solo efforts? What instruments do you play?

All of my releases have been solo efforts except for Windows 95, which was my friends fucked microphone sounds which we thought were too nuts not to release. My friend Chandler also lent vocals for a few songs on the Biscuit Bandits stuff but after my joke albums in the early days, everything has been me. Drums, guitars, bass, vocals, production, mixing and mastering are all done by me in my room in whatever time I have. It was mostly out of necessity at first since I didn’t know any other musicians, so my only option was find a way to do everything myself. You can hear from shadow over innsmouth up to Necrostalgia how my equipment and skills have improved ALOT.

Everything has been self-taught so I’m pretty sure 90% of what I’m doing is “wrong”, like I have almost zero grasp on guitar scales and I’ve been playing for 4 years, yet I still managed to make an album that people seem to love. So for any up and coming musicians out there, if you can’t do something that a book or a video tells you that you need to learn, fuck it, play what you want how you want it.

You wrote some sludge-based tracks around Lovecraft’s mythos. Are there other authors/literature that influence your work?

In terms of literature I’d say maybe some Edgar Allen Poe, he’s very direct in the way he tells his stories with very little frills, which is the way I write most of my songs, short to the point with nothing to fancy.

 

You recently dropped your first Hacksaw LP, ‘Necrostalgia’, which comes shortly after a Hacksaw EP you released just a couple months ago. How did you get into producing grindcore?

Like most things for me it started as a joke. I bet my friend that I could make a grindcore album in like a week. So I went to work and Bendy Straws 1 came out. Listening back, it’s an utter mess, man. The vocals are me screaming into my cupped hands and there’s one guitar track and one bass panned left and right. There’s near enough zero punch, but it all adds to how shit it’s supposed to sound. Needless to say, me and friend thought it was hilarious and I had no idea that maybe a year and a half later that I’d be releasing full length goregrind albums that people genuinely enjoy.

Have you ever been approached by anyone to collaborate or work on a split record? Would you take a stab at it if given an opportunity?

It doesn’t happen very often; I have been asked to do gigs, etc. for Hacksaw by several people but not many to collaborate on an album. I am looking into doing gigs for Hacksaw, which would be a dream come true. I have someone lined up to sing and a bassist lined up, but the drum situation is a bit more of a problem; stuck between finding a real drummer or playing venues with a decent enough PA to use a backing track.

For the next album though it will most likely be again recorded solo as that’s just how I’m used to working; however, when it comes to recording the album I would most definitely be open to other people getting involved.

‘Necrostalgia’ is an unbelievably caustic listen; the riffs are grisly, the vocals are guttural, and the drums crush like hammers. It’s all slathered together in this nasty, sludgy production. Is the production a call back to early goregrind releases?

Most definitely. I’m not too big a fan of the modern pig squealy 400 bpm drum things. I always try to mix to sound like shit but a different kind of shit, I’ll mix to a normal level where it’s quite heavy and everything’s audible, then I’ll just crank every knob as far right as it’ll go. My songs are so short that I don’t think I should give the listener a respite, I like to think of it as Impetigo meeting a mixing brick wall. I’m very proud of the mix for my next album as its much clearer but equally as heavy and even more lo-fi with a really early first album Carcass sound.

 

Which bands/artists influence and/or inspire your grindcore work?

My main 2 are without a doubt Impetigo and Repulsion. Impetigo for the heavy horror influence with using horror samples and the horrid pitch shifted sounding vocals, and Repulsion for the really short riff-o-rama songs and pounding drums. My next album has covers of both artists as a sort of tribute to them, which songs those will be I’m keeping as a bit of a surprise. My favourite albums would be Horror of the Zombies from Impetigo and Horrified from Repulsion.

How do you usually begin writing a song for Hacksaw?

Songs usually start on the toilet. I have my phone on me all the time and it’s filled to the brim with videos of me humming riffs that pop into my head, but most pop into my head on the toilet. Then I’ll put down a basic drum beat with the riff in Reaper (my recording software). Then when I have maybe 6-8 of those little snippets I’ll start to write riff alterations and expand them into full songs. With vocals and samples to come last since those are the hardest for me to think of.

You use a good number of sound samples from old school horror movies; it’s a nice little respite from the stomach churning onslaught of instruments. The cover of ‘Necrostalgia’ is taken from Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2. When did you start getting into gory films?

Well done recognizing the cover. I started getting into horror movies at around 6-8 when I saw my uncle watching Aliens and instantly wanted to see the full movie, but of course I wasn’t allowed to. When I got a computer, I started finding out about so many horror movies mainly thanks to Cinemassacre and Jawooshm who are 2 YouTubers who focus a lot on older horror movies.

The final nail in my love coffin was when I found a used DVD shop called Missing in the centre of Glasgow, which was packed to the brim with old schlocky horror movies for dirt cheap. Each weekend I got £10 pocket money and Missing had a 4 for £10 deal, so each week I added 4 more movies to my collection. Over 6 years with 4 movies a week, you turn into a pretty big gorehound.

What are some of your favorite classic gorefest/horror films? What about more contemporary ones?

My old favourites would definitely be Zombie Flesh Eaters 1 and 2, The Beyond, Pieces, Witchfinder General and pretty much anything that Vipco ever released. Vipco being an old label who specialised in rare or banned horror movies.

As for modern movies, I love a lot of the Blumhouse stuff, I’m also a big fan of The Void but nowadays the whole cheesy gore-soaked era of horror seems to be dying down in place of more jump scare filled PG-13 or -15 rating box office bait.

What do you want listeners to feel when they listen to Hacksaw?

I want people who listen to Hacksaw to feel the same love for horror that I do as well as feel my hatred for quiet noises. Hacksaw really is a labour of love and as long as that comes out through all the distortion then I’m happy.

******

This concludes my interview with Mark. He will be contributing a new Hacksaw track to the compilation, which will drop mid-January 2018.

Thank you Mark for your time and focus spent on my questions and thank you readers for giving Mark your attention.

You can check out his Bandcamp page here. Also, as part of the compilation project, I’m building artist profiles for each contributor; you can peruse Hacksaw’s here.

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