Interview with Anciients: Writing Their Own History

Every year, we are introduced to new acts, new albums. After previously releasing a two-track EP, Vancouver’s Anciients released their debut full-length in April. Whether you want to call this band progressive, stoner rock or doom metal, one thing is for certain: They’re heavy. Their debut album was well received by critics and is one of my personal favorites of 2013. They have been embraced by the metal community, playing shows with Lamb Of God, Death, Scale The Summit, Sepultura and others. They have also been confirmed to play 2014’s Roadburn Festival along with some of their favorite acts.

I had the opportunity to discuss with guitarist Chris Dyck the band’s recent success, their involvement in the Vancouver music scene, and their upcoming tours with Sepultura and Scale The Summit. He also talked about the inspiration for some of their lyrics and the ability of crossing genres in live shows. Check out what he had to say below:

For those who are hearing about Anciients for the first time, would you like to explain what you guys are all about? What brought the band together?

We kinda wanted to do something a bit different than our last band, which was a bit of a Turbonegro, party rock-type band. Me, “Boon” [Aaron Gustafson, bassist] and Kenny [Cook, vocalist/guitarist] were in that for a while. We just wanted to do something different. We didn’t set out to do prog/stoner rock or anything like that. I just wanted to do something a little more creative, challenging and artistic. We just wanted to do something more different and not have to write about Satan, sex and drugs all of the time. We really like history, archaeology and stuff, so lyrics tend to come from that.

Are you guys are involved in other projects in Vancouver?

I don’t play in any other bands currently, but I am heavily involved in the Vancouver music scene. I’m a promoter and put on a lot of shows—local bands and lots of touring ones as well. My company put on about 70 shows last year in Vancouver.

Kenny plays in Black Wizard, which is probably the biggest stoner rock band in town. They’re a good local draw with a new record out, and [Mike] Hannay, our drummer, plays in M16. We have been friends with them since we were younger. They started out as an early thrash metal band and are evolving. Boon’s not in any other projects currently.

I read that Canada may charge $425 per international artist per performance in Canada. Will this affect you in any way?

In Canada, there are two types of venues you could play at: exempt, and non-exempt. A bar that serves food and is open all day is technically not a concert venue. It’s a bar, so that is a non-exempt venue. If you want to set up a show for a touring band there, yeah, you’re going to have to pay extra money. It should just be a one-time fee like there was before. An exempt venue is something that is open only for entertainment at night. Something like a nightclub, a hall, theater, or venue—all for that purpose—is exempt.

The reason people are freaking out is because people can’t get touring artists to play at their small pub or place that isn’t an exempt venue. If you’re a legit promoter in Vancouver and you work with exempt venues, then there’s no real problem. It mainly affects smaller touring bands, but there are ways around it like I said. In terms of bigger bands, I believe it is still business as usual, kinda.

You have done some pretty big shows so far in your short career as a band, and now you’ll be hitting the stage with TesseracT and Scale The Summit. What has it been like to introduce your music to new followers?

It’s been pretty cool. In Vancouver, we are kind of spoiled obviously because we get asked to play with some of the bigger bands coming to town. We first noticed things were different when we would be playing second in Vancouver and people would leave after our set. It’s like, “Whoa, that’s weird. They’re not even going to wait around to see the other band?”

It’s just cool to see people get stoked and be able to tell. The Lamb Of God thing was cool too. Obviously, we were going to do it, but we expected a tough crowd. We didn’t have one shitty show. As we progressed on tour, we just got more confident. There have been super good experiences all around and the Lamb Of God crowd really helped us learn how to ramp it up in terms of preparing for a show like that.

What is the songwriting process like?

We started writing two or three songs. It was like Kenny’s riffs and my metal sensibilities kinda worked together. I’ve listened to so much metal over the years and I’m such a know-it-all about it, I could be like, “No, here’s where the double-kick comes in” or “Here’s where we chunk up the chords and play the same riff with fast-picking.”

For the last record, it was mostly my lyrics and Kenny’s riffs. I mean, the band still puts together things like a regular band would. Kenny came in with one or two songs that came in pretty much finished on how they’re going to go. The rest we would arrange together as a band. We’d sit down and figure out if we needed to play a riff six times or the next one eight times. It’s pretty similar to how any band would do it.

I think on this next one, we will have a lot more involvement as far as riffs and stuff, and Kenny will have more involvement as far as lyrics. Last time, it was probably me 75 percent lyrics and 25 percent riffs, whereas Kenny it was 75 percent riffs and 25 percent lyrics. I think we will meet in the middle a little bit.

Anciients somehow mesh all of these different forms of music and genres into one album. Do you try to stay away from being labeled in a specific genre?

Kenny’s whole thing with the band is mixing all of these different styles of music together. I personally don’t hear it in our music, all these different styles that other people hear. Our music just sounds like a metal or stoner rock band to me. I guess because it has like, Nirvana vocals, Opeth riffs, black metal parts, it all falls into heavy music, but we would like to have various different sounds. It’s great because then we can do what we’ve been doing, which is playing with death metal bands like Death, and then we can go out and play with Lamb Of God and Decapitated. We also can go out with TesseracT and Scale The Summit, who are like, interesting, new school prog music, and then we will go out with Kataklysm and Sepultura.

Next year, we are going to Europe to do Roadburn and play with bands more like our vibe. We just keep it this way so we can play with anyone that wants us on tour with them. Your booking agent has way more options and it lets us do what we want musically. I also think that kind of music appeals to everyone. If we sounded like one style, it would appeal only to people that like that one style. I think people that like prog, death metal, black metal, hard rock, psychedelic or whatever, everyone can find something they like in Anciients’ sound.

Are you looking forward to seeing any acts at Roadburn?

Oh yeah (laughs). We’re good friends with Yob and they’re playing twice. They’re one of our favorites so we will get to check them out for sure. Our buddies in The Shrine will be playing, so that’ll be cool. Opeth’s one of the best all-around bands I’ve seen live. There’s also tons of bands that I am just getting into or haven’t seen before like Inter Arma, A Storm Of Light, ASG and a lot more. We are stoked.

Do you guys have anything planned for after the Sepultura and Roadburn shows?

We might play a few local shows in British Columbia. We trust the guys over at Seasons Of Mist to help advise us with what we can do. They’ve made so many bands’ careers legitimate like Mastodon and Baroness. I think by the time we’re done with Europe, it’s a pretty good album cycle for a first record. Personally, I would like to tour Europe in spring, something big in the summer, chill out a little, and get back to recording for fall. By this time next year, I would like to be writing again.

Anciients will play at Saint Vitus bar on Oct. 29 in Brooklyn. They will also play at Dingbatz on Nov. 2 and the Gramercy Theatre on Nov. 19. Heart Of Oak is available now. For more information, go to