Continuing on with our lost interviews that somehow got deleted off our blogstream has taken its toll but, we have found our interview with death metal giants Taking The Head Of Goliath featuring our long-time friend Matt Tardivo who kindly interviewed the band for us last year, in 2018.
Myself and the magazine are close friends with the band and have been following them since day one when they were practising with only three members, at the time before Luke Renno (from Crimson Thorn) took on bass duties, made his way into the band, and then with their signing to Rottweiler Records. The band released their digital live album Beyond Brutal Live (2017) with their first live show during the final U.S. tour with the now-disbanded For Today, and also their debut self titled album Taking The Head Of Goliath (2018) through Rottweiler Records. Their second full-length release Futility Of The Flesh is scheduled for sometime next year, 2020.
Matt Tardivo – I would like to thank you guys for the time that you’re taking to share a bit of the band with us here at The Metal Onslaught and firstly, I would like to ask how you guys got together, how did you meet and decide to play as a band?
Jake Martin: We formed in 2015 when our former drummer Matt Vansguard and I discussed about starting a death metal band to spread the gospel. He had played in a band with an incredible guitarist by the name of Nathan Sherman a few years prior and thought he’d be interested, which he was, so it was just the three of us for quite some time. We wrote all the songs on the EP as a three-piece and were looking to fill our lineup so we could begin playing live. We recruited local shredder extraordinaire Rob Blake, whose skills and character were exactly what we were looking for and then out of the blue Luke Renno of all people happened to message us unsolicited and volunteer his services on bass. Of course we welcomed him with open arms. After finally recording, we ended up splitting ways with Matt and brought in Steve Reishus on drums.
Luke Renno: I was the last to join at the time. I’d been trying to get members for my former band, Crimson Thorn, for so long without success that I was feeling like I’d just never be able to do music again. Then I told God “Not my will, but yours be done.” And suddenly I found this band with basement phone recordings on Facebook playing the exact kind of music I was looking to play and they were a full band except for a bass player. I contacted them and talked to Jake on the phone for a couple hours. It was a perfect match.
Steve Reishus: I was the drummer in Crimson Thorn with Luke for about three or four years, so we had worked together before. He got ahold of me to see if I was interested in stepping in as their new drummer, so after praying about it and talking to my wife, I came down to jam with the band a few times to see if it would be a good fit. Things just seemed to click on my end, and I really felt a good connection with the guys and with the music. The rest is history!
Matt – That’s brilliant! I love to see how God put things together in unexpected ways! So what would you consider be the biggest goal or dream that you guys have as a band?
Luke: We all seem to be on the same page as far as this goes, and that’s very difficult to find. We all want to balance band and family so that we can do as much as we can as a band, but in no way neglect our families. We’re not 20-year-olds with no responsibilities who can pile into a van and be on the road the majority of the time. I feel that because we do have this balance, things will last a lot longer for us and we won’t burn out.
So my dream would be to keep recording for many many years and playing shows as we can and help to encourage and be encouraged by those who listen to our music and to hopefully spread the message to non believers and lead them to the Lord. We as followers of Jesus Christ are the church and the fellowship of the church is so important. We are a band, and people do listen to our music, but when people talk to me online or in person, there’s no “Rock star/fan” dynamic going on, it’s brother or sister to brother. In times of discouragement, there’s always someone there to encourage and I feel blessed to encourage those who need are in need. While I personally don’t see a time for the rest of my life that I could picture myself saying “Ok, I think I’m done with music.” The Lord’s will be done, not mine.
Jake: Our goal is to use extreme music to share the gospel with unbelievers in the underground metal scene and also encourage those already saved to seek an even deeper relationship with Jesus. We dream of travelling and playing shows wherever the Lord may take us. As a band of family/working men, we can’t be on the road non-stop like a typical touring band would be so we are focused on playing festivals in the states and internationally with a couple of shows along those routes to and from home. We also focus on grabbing opening spots in our home town as enticing tours roll through. So far a lot of those dreams have already come true. We’ve only played live three times and those three shows were opening a sold-out For Today farewell tour date, Audiofeed Music Festival, and then an opening spot when War Of Ages rolled through town in March. Our album release will be at Audiofeed July 6th and we’ll be playing two stages this year. We also have Exodo Fest in Mexico City booked for 2019 which will be our first of hopefully many international shows.
Steve: For me personally, it’s to steward and enjoy the talents God has given me and use whatever small amount of influence I might have to build relationships with our fans and share the most important thing in my life, which is the reality of a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Matt – Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to balance band and family, and it’s really good that you all can manage that and make it work!
How did you guys decide the name and what does that mean to you?
Jake: The name Taking The Head Of Goliath was a working title I had for a song but every time I read it I could feel the spirit urging me to have it be the band name. I liked that it’s a biblical name out front but also has an element of brutality with the decapitation reference. Deeper though, it’s exactly as Luke said. That’s the precise message of the band name. As a man who wasn’t there when we took the name he deciphered the meaning perfectly and we hope others will do the same.
Luke: The band was named already when I joined, but to me it speaks of being able to accomplish and overcome things through God that I cannot do on my own. A teenager named David did not kill and behead the biggest, strongest, most powerful warrior on the planet with his own might. He accomplished what he could not on his own because the Lord was with him. The name of the band is a constant reminder to me to rely on Him. The Lord is my strength and my song!
Matt – I love the powerful message behind the name! Now talking a bit of the Christian metal scene, what are the biggest difficulties that you guys are experiencing in the current metal scene?
Steve: It’s easy to settle and not press in for excellence in your musicianship, etc. I speak for myself on that as well; it’s tough to be disciplined in not just practising, but training up your weaknesses and pushing the envelope. If you don’t truly stretch yourself and admit what you suck at, you’ll never reach the next level as a musician.
As far as in the industry, lack of professionalism seems in my mind to be the bane of bands in the Christian scene. We don’t always treat it as a craft and a business. Quality of marketing, graphics, production, etc. suffer and lead to sub-par product. Also, the relationship with the fans needs to be there. Social media is a wonderful thing when it comes to that. If you truly care about your fans, it will show. They are the only reason our music is anything more than noise in a dingy garage somewhere.
Matt – Very well put, Steve!
Now back to the band, Do you guys consider yourself a Christian band or something different?
Luke: Yes, we are a band and our message is Christian, so yes.
Matt – So, just to put it straight out there, you guys are a Christian DEATH METAL band?
Jake: Personally I prefer to get right out ahead of it and boldly proclaim being a Christian death metal band. I don’t want to trick anyone into digging us then go “Gotcha, we’re Christians!” We do of course hope all death metal fans would enjoy listening to our music, seeing us play and getting to know us. The bottom line is, with so many death metal bands out there in the secular world and the difficulty of hearing the message lyrically with this particular genre, I am proud to be upfront with being Christian, just as I am in everyday life.
Luke: A lot of people get hung up on this and I understand both arguments. To be correct, death metal is the style of music. There are a lot of different messages in the death metal community, so I would think the correct way to say it would be that we are a death metal band with a Christian message, but “Christian death metal band” is just fine with me.
Matt – Thanks for clarifying it. Let’s try to understand now a bit of your creation process. What are your main influences that you have when writing the band’s new music?
Jake: As a lyricist my main influence is my everyday life. I find influence in Bible study, with sermons and also my personal struggles, victories and interests.
Luke: I always try to do things in a new way. Besides all the bands that I listen to, I’ll put on a tech death playlist on Spotify to hear what’s out there. I also like jazz fusion and a lot of other styles of music like klezmer, bluegrass, Gypsy, and any kind of music, mostly instrumental, that takes a lot of skill. For instance, in a new song we are learning right now, it all sounds like crazy death metal and that’s at the core, but one riff in particular started as classical-influenced and warped into an avant-garde jazz-influenced riff. So, I’m thinking in terms of classical and jazz, but fitting it into a brutal death metal format.
Steve: There are so many drummers that I’ve taken inspiration from. In the metal scene, guys like George Kollias (Nile), Trey Williams (Dying Fetus), Hannes Grossman (Necrophagist, Blotted Science), Eric Morrotti (Suffocation), Spencer Prewitt (Archspire), Brandon Lopez (Broken Flesh), and the list goes on. I was out of the scene for quite a while, and when I came back and heard Lopez, I was so impressed. We need more guys like that pushing the envelope for Christian death metal bands. Broken Flesh to me is still one of the few Christian bands that I’ve heard that can truly match or better the speed, brutality, and musicianship of many of the pioneer secular death metal bands.
Matt – It’s really nice to see that you guys can find influence in so many different places and still manage to put everything together and make it sound unique. How do you see them influencing your music and in what way?
Jake: Again, as a lyricist, I am influenced by my reality and understanding. My style was influenced in my youth by things I now would rather not promote but I feel I’ve carved my own style unique to Taking The Head Of Goliath. The way I see it is that death metal is for the most part morbidly fantastical in lyrical content. The fact of the matter is most death metal bands aren’t out on murderous rampages in their free time but that’s what their music is all about. I get it, it’s make-believe and most guys in the scene are friendly, genuine folks but if what happened to their loved ones happened to the victim characters in one of their songs I doubt it would be so praiseworthy. I grew up loving this stuff and I still love everyone in the scene but I grew out of the standard death metal imagery and message. That said, our lyrical content is 100% real. It’s powerful music with a powerful message to glorify a powerful God. It’s something we actually live when we set the instruments down.
Luke: When I hear something new, it’s almost like I have a death metal converter in my head. I can hear something new in another style of music and my brain translates it into death metal and it sounds nothing like what I was inspired by.
Matt – Brilliant! Let’s talk a bit about how things are moving and what we could expect for the future. You guys also signed with Rottweiler Records about a year ago, what is your experience with the label this far?
Jake: Rottweiler Records has been awesome! We were signed in the infancy of this band so we really appreciate Shawn Browning seeing something in us, getting us locked down and giving us guidance throughout the process to this debut release. There’s so much talent on this label, we are blessed to be a part of The Pack. It was also an honour to work with Dave Requisite from Death Requisite/ Requisite Resonance in creating compositions for our record. He composed the intro and outro to the record as well as a few things throughout the album. To be label mates with him was pretty awesome but to collaborate and build a friendship with the man behind one of my favourite bands was a dream come true. There is just an awesome brotherhood in the Rottweiler Records Family all around.
Matt – So we can expect great things coming ahead! Looking back a little bit, You guys have a previous live EP (Beyond Brutal Live). How was the experience of recording a live EP and playing with the boys at For Today?
Jake: We actually didn’t record it to be a live EP. It was recorded as a series of multi-angled live videos we were just going to use for promotion. When we first were signed and as they do for all new bands, Rottweiler Records wanted to announce the signing with a corresponding studio track for free download. We were so far from being studio ready we would have had to wait a year to get announced as being on the label. Shawn Browning really liked the sound from the live videos and had the idea to release the audio from the entire video series as a free live EP. We said, lets do it! So he had the audio remastered, the cover art made up and we decided to name it Beyond Brutal. This title meaning we are more than just another brutal band, we have a message that is far more important than the music itself.
Luke: It was an incredible show to play a sold out packed club as our first show as a band. For Today was awesome and so were all the other bands.
Matt – So even without planning on doing it, you guys ended up with a really good EP, that’s incredible! What kind of lessons are you learning as you play live and with recording?
Luke: How blessed I am to be in a band with these guys! And when we did the recording, I learned how efficiently you could blast through an album because of the skills of Will Maravelas at 14:59 Studios. He’s a pro at keeping the feeling relaxed and stress-free while keeping the pace moving along quickly.
Steve: I’m still shaking the rust out personally. I’ve only played one show with Taking The Head Of Goliath, and have done no recording yet, so I’m putting most of my focus into bringing the athleticism back to my drumming. With the kind of music we aspire to push for, I feel comfortable with my level of musicality for now, but the conditioning base needs to come up to push the music where we want it to go.
Matt – That just shows that we never stop learning, even with the previous experience you always have something new to learn. Now looking into the future, You guys have a self -titled EP that is coming out. What should we expect from the band? More traditional death metal or something outside the box?
Luke: Musically, expect to be hit by a train.
Jake: This EP consists of studio versions of all the songs from Beyond Brutal LIVE as well as a cover of Crimson Thorn’s “Unearthed” and the symphonic compositions previously mentioned. We originally were planning on writing a full-length but after the additions of Luke and Rob we decided to release the stuff written as a three-piece as an EP and begin writing a full-length as a full band. You can expect this band to be at a whole new level with the addition of these guys to Nathan’s awesome writing style. On top of that, having Steve now killing it behind the kit you can expect this followup full-length record to be way beyond brutal in its own right.
Matt – Great news! I would like to thank you again for your time, and leave the space here for you to leave your final words.
Jake: We’d just like to thank The Metal Onslaught for walking alongside us from the very beginning.To have an outlet across the pond recognise us before we really did anything is pretty cool.We appreciate you guys and love what you do.God willing one day we will play a show over there and get to thank you guys in person. God bless!!!