Knuckle Sandwiches: An interview with Kenny Snarzyk of Fister

TBR:  So give the people a little of the history behind the band.  How did you guys meet up? 

Kenny:  I’ve known Marcus [Newstead] for about 10-11 years now. Old bands have played together a lot, and we were in another band (Ashes and Iron) together briefly as well. We met Kirk [Gatterer] a few years back.

TBR:  Is this the band’s original lineup or were there any others who passed through before things settled?

Kenny:  Marcus and I started this band to cure late night boredom when we lived at 3424 together in 2009. We originally planned to just throw together an EP and call it quits. As the writing/recording progressed we decided we should play a few shows. Kirk was the first person we thought of when we decided to make Fister a real band. Back then our other room mate and long time friend Ben Schulte was also a contributing member. He played guitar at our first show, but he’s a touring sound engineer so he doesn’t really have the time to dedicate to playing in a band right now. Along with Ben, we’ve had a handful of other musicians contribute to the recording process, and even had a couple last minute drummers fill in when we were in a pinch.

TBR:  How’s the scene in St. Louis?  Give the people a taste of what’s going on these days and maybe a bit of “the history of the heavy” in St. Lou.

Kenny:  There are so many good bands in St. Louis right now it would make your head spin. As it is in many cities, the heavy music scene is pretty incestual. We’re all connected somehow by former members of other bands that we’ve been in. A lot of people sit in with other bands for shows or recordings pretty regularly as well.

TBR:  Fister have played with a number of great bands in the past:  Eyehategod, Weedeater, Buzzoven, Haarp, Sourvein, A Storm Of Light, Zoroaster, Nachtmystium, Tombs, Howl, Yakuza, Jucifer.  Were most of these shows at local venues in St. Lou or have you guys been out on the road with any of them?

Kenny:  All of these shows were at local venues or basements around town. We’ve only played outside of St. Louis once and that was in Chicago with our buddies in Thorlock. We plan on doing a bit more touring in 2012. It would be nice if we could jump on some dates with a bigger band, but that probably won’t be the case. We don’t mind eating mustard sandwiches and playing in someone’s living room.

TBR:  Give us a run-down of couple of your favourite shows and times that you’ve kicked it with some of these guys.  There have got to be a lot of good party action in there!

Kenny:  Most of those big name bills were a lot of fun to play, but to be honest, I’d have to say the most fun shows are usually with other locals. Often a record release or something of that nature. I will say that Rwake definitely had a good time in St. Louis a couple weeks ago and Sourvein were really cool guys too, but that’s kind of a given. These “big” bands that we play with never have egos and are all very approachable. I’m not really one to drop names so I’ll just leave it at that.

TBR:  Before even getting into the music, the imagery for Bronsonic is totally excellent:  Definitely very menacing but the element of tongue in cheek humor totally works and sets you guys apart.  Who’s the wise-guy who came up with the title and the visual theme?  

Kenny:  I don’t really remember if it was me or if Marcus came up with the title Bronsonic. I do somewhat remember the night that it happened though. The imagery is total Bathory worship. I simply photocopied a picture of Chuck over the goat’s head, and it’s our most popular design to date. Because of this we’ve been kind of stuck with that Cloister Black font that Bathory used as well. I think it’s fitting… whatever.

TBR:  Bronson’s definitely a character but was there anything in particular that drew you guys to use him as stylistic inspiration?

Kenny:  Those nights in late 2009 – early 2010 were often doused in heavy drug and alcohol use. We’ve definitely settled down with the consumption over the last year. In other words, I don’t really remember why we got so into this Charles Bronson concept. I’m sure it made a lot of sense at the time, but with a clear head I’d have to assume it’s because Charles Bronson a complete hard ass and we wanted to play some tough ass devil riffs that complimented his persona.

TBR:  Not that I make any assumptions based on the Bronson reference, but are you guys film buffs in any way?

Kenny:  I’ll buy anything that Ron Fricke is involved in. I’m a big fan of long slow pan cinematography. Not trying to come across as some art fag or anything. I just like things to move slowly. I really like how he makes monumental landscapes and makes them look even larger and more intimidating.

TBR:  What turns your crank outside of metal music?

Kenny:  Believe it or not, I actually really enjoy painting, making odd sculptures, and vegetable gardening. I’m really not that interesting. Kirk is a reptile fanatic. I think he owns like 300+ odd snakes and shit. He goes to a lot of regional reptile conventions. He sold some dude a snake for 2 grand recently. He fucking loves snakes. I don’t know. Marcus has 3 major passions. Writing music, Cardinals Baseball, and smoking a lot of grass.

TBR:  If Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris got in a fight, who wins?   

Kenny:  Chuck Norris could bring all the throwing stars in the world and Bronson would still tie that fuck-head’s dick in a knot. Have you ever seen The Evil That Men Do? The bar scene? I rest my case.

TBR:  OK, let’s talk about the music.  You and guitarist Marcus Newstead share duties on vocals.  For everybody keeping track at home, which is which and who’s who at the zoo?

Kenny:  Vocally we both sound pretty similar, which is practical. We’ve swapped parts and live we just kind of enforce each other. I’ll break down Bronsonic for you so you can kind of decipher what the fuck is going on.

1. Bronsonic – Marcus did all the vocals and Ben Schulte joined him with the “woe master” chants at the end.

2. Santabbath – I did the vocals at the beginning of the song and then Ben stepped in again and  barfed out my favorite vocals on the entire record at the end. For the record he was also shit-witched on Jim Beam and malt liquor when he stopped by the studio. We were all pretty well lit up by that time.

3. Mazda Of Puppets – That was me from front to back.

4. First – Me again (but Marcus does a good chunk of this one live)

5. Trainwrecked – I do the first 4 lines, then marcus does the second 4. Then I join him to ride out the “dimensionless” vocals

We also recorded our side of our split with The Lion’s Daughter that day. Marcus did all the vocals on Witchfucker.

TBR:  How does the songwriting typically work with Fister?  Is it a pretty easy process with you guys or do you wind up hitting each other over the head a few times before getting things done the way you want them?

Kenny:  The only person I bag on during the song writing process is myself. I locked myself in a room 3 nights in a row to write Deaf Wish only to dissect it at the next rehearsal with Kirk and Marcus. It was only then that it really took shape and became what it is now. That tends to be how we work. Either myself, or Marcus will come up with a pile of riffs that we wrote on our own time, and then Kirk starts beating away on the drums and everything changes for the better. I fucking love playing with these guys.

TBR:  Bronsonic has come out in a couple of different pressings via cassette and now, via the “Lethal Overdose” CD version.  The songs themselves are all pretty new though, right?

Kenny:  None of our stuff is really that old. We’ve only been a band since 2009. We originally released Bronsonic in January 2011 on cassette and limited it to 30 copies. That was gone within a couple days. Then we threw it up on our bandcamp page [] with a bunch of extra songs. Mostly old demos and live stuff. So many people downloaded it that we said fuck it and put out another 100 tapes with different packaging and tracks; side B being all of the original Bronsonic demos we recorded. Now that those are gone we decided that maybe we should just release it on CD and quit being so fucking difficult. We didn’t limit the release of the CD and it will never be out of print as long as people want copies. If you don’t care about the packaging and/or supporting us then you can always go download it somewhere.

TBR:  There’s definitely a DYI aesthetic going on with Pissfork Anticulture but you guys managed to get a pretty decent sound in the studio.  Who was behind that and how did it all come together?

Kenny:  We recorded with Thad Martin (drummer for Ashes and Iron). He’s a great guy and knew exactly what we were going for. We tracked everything in one day (both Bronsonic, and our side of the split we did with The Lion’s Daughter). With Thad at the helm, we knocked out nearly everything in one take. We tracked live, minus vocals and a few guitar overdubs.

TBR:  There’s actually a few interesting cover tunes on Bronsonic:  ”And Only Hunger Remains” by Pungent Stench and of all things, a cover of “Misunderstanding” by Genesis.  You guys don’t slouch as musicians, but I never took you for prog influences!  Genesis??  What’s up with that?? 

Kenny:  I remember wanting to do the Pungent Stench cover, and then I think Marcus started fucking around with the Genesis song in the same key and we decided to smash them together. We only played it live once, but we do plan on doing a better recording of it for another release. I emailed that demo to Alex Wank (Pungent’s drummer) to ask permission to do a proper recording and he told me that he really enjoyed it. He responded within a few hours with a long email telling me the history behind the song and professed his love for doom metal. It was really cool to get an email from that dude. I remember when Been Caught Buttering came out. I was 12 years old and heavily into death metal. I didn’t hear the record until years later, but their artwork grabbed my attention immediately (Joel Peter Witkin)

TBR:  Give me a few of your other musical influences, both inside and outside of metal.

Kenny:  You know…  A lot of guys in bands claim to have all of these broad influences outside of metal and hard rock. That may be the case for them, but my true love is metal. That’s what I mostly listen to. I know that seems kind of closed minded, but it’s the truth. I like classic rock a lot. I also love old soul music like Isaac Hayes and Roberta Flack. Recently my good friend Coby Ellison turned me on to Masterpiece by The Temptations. That record has so much soul it hurts. I also like a lot of old folk and country stuff a lot. Even some hip hop. The fact remains, nothing really inspires me like heavy metal and hard rock. That is where most of my influences come from and I’d be lying if I said otherwise.

TBR:  Let’s talk a bit about your label, Pissfork Anticulture.  First of all, there are a number of releases on cassette.  Help the people understand what’s up with the cassette revival.

Kenny:  I still have cassettes from my youth. The tape scene never really died with metal. Back in the early 90s I had a couple CDs but knew I could get more music for my money if I bought tapes. I used to go to the record store down the street and buy albums based on the artwork. That’s how I found now metal classics, The End Complete, Hell Awaits, Tomb Of The Mutilated, and Heartwork. I put out cassettes because I love the history that tapes have with metal, and for my own nostalgic purposes. I can’t afford to release a lot of vinyl so it’s kind of a similar situation to my youthful days buying tapes.

TBR:  Pissfork is also working with a couple of really amazing bands:  The Lion’s Daughter, Thorlock, Harkonin, Sine Nomine, Everything Went Black.  Tell us a little bit about each of them, if you would.

Kenny:  The Lion’s Daughter is a powerhouse. That’s all there is to it. They have a bright future ahead of themselves as long as Rick doesn’t go to prison for killing someone. There is a lot of hate in that band. They project it well. I don’t think they would be nearly as good if they weren’t so misanthropic as people. I’m fortunate enough to be on their good sides.

Thorlock are awesome dudes. Definitely one of my favorite bands around today. They recently played a set with all Sabbath covers. At the show I was running sound and Rick from The Lion’s Daughter was tending bar. When Thorlock started playing their version of Electric Funeral, Rick looked over at me and we both mouthed “holy fuck!” at the same time. Sabbath may have written that song, but Thorlock owns it now in my opinion.

Sine Nomine got together around the same time Harkonin did. They are beyond metal. Sine Nomine sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before and I love it. You can tell they have been playing together for a long time as it’s really hard to keep up with them as a listener, but they play seamlessly over every little pause and break. These things can be frustrating parts of songs in a live scenario for musicians and few can pull off what they do. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone even try.

Harkonin just recently broke up after 10 incredible years. Black/death/thrash metal that is played better than most well known bands in the extreme metal scene. Everyone in that band are phenomenal musicians, and their drummer, Clayton Gore, might possibly be the best drummer I’ve ever seen.

Everything Went Black is a classic example of a hardcore band that does everything right. At least in my opinion. I hate to quote influences but I think of these guys as a cross between Entombed and Integrity. Last year their guitar player and a great friend to all in the local scene here, Brian Kennedy, passed after a long and painful battle with cancer. I wasn’t sure what the fate of the band would be, but their bass player, Chris Moore picked up the guitar and they just wrote one of the meanest, most pissed off records I’ve ever heard. They actually just got signed to Prosthetic records so hopefully the world will appreciate them as much as we do here in St. Louis.

TBR:  You guys have already made some announcements for upcoming releases in 2012:  a cassette split with Iron Hills coming out next month, a Fister 7″ release and an appearance on a compilation release with a bunch of other kick-ass artists.  Beyond that, there are rumors about an upcoming Fister release in 2012.  Tell us a bit more about it!

Kenny:  I’m really excited about the Iron Hills split. I just got done listening to some of their new songs. Some great doom metal with hints of black metal. The crazy part is, the oldest member of this trio is 14 years old. They must have some cool older brothers because when I was 14 I wasn’t writing anything unique or original. These kids are going to do big things when they are old enough to drive. The comp is going to feature a lot of the bands that we spoke about earlier doing covers of some of their favorite songs. We will probably put the newly recorded version of that Pungent Stench song on there. We should hopefully be releasing our Deaf Wish 7″ in early 2012, but you know how these things go. It seems like by the time the fucking pressing plants finally get you the records the songs have been recorded for 5 months. We’ll see how it goes. Until then we are just going to keep writing music and playing shows. We are just getting started. I don’t think we are going to be hanging it up any time soon.