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Campfire Stories: An Exclusive Interview With CONNOR GARRITTY Of ALL HAIL THE YETI

By Geoff Ketler, Cleveland Contributor
Thursday, February 25, 2016 @ 8:58 AM

“I want to write a song that would scare the shit out of you if you told it around the campfire”

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Live Photos By Geoff Ketler/Aces High Photography

For a solid decade now, ALL HAIL THE YETI has been telling tales and captivating audiences everywhere. They have carved out a niche for themselves with their groove-oriented, heavy music and chilling stories. In an industry dominated by drab, flaky, shallow lyrics, vocalist Connor Garritty has poured his artistic ability into songs that would put Hollywood’s best horror writers on edge. With the pending release of their first record in four years, I got the chance to chat with Connor about all things YETI.

KNAC.COM: Let’s talk about the new album, shall we? Screams From A Black Wilderness is due out April 8th on Minus Head Records. What was it like working with producer Matt Hyde (DEFTONES, SLAYER, SOULFLY) on this record?

GARRITTY: It was unbelievable man, it was, for me, definitely a dream come true. He has produced a lot of my favorite records. He came in and instantly became like part of the band and just have nothing but good things to say about him. He quickly understood what we were trying to do and being his next record right after doing the new DEFTONES was pretty cool too.

KNAC.COM: I should also mention that Minus Head has re-released the 2012 self-titled album. What were the circumstances surrounding ALL HAIL THE YETI getting signed to them – did they approach you? Did you shop around the new record?

GARRITTY: We talked to them a while back when we were still on the old label, he was just always very interested and a fan of the band. When it came time to start looking we got off of the last label that we were on just because we weren’t happy with what they were doing, just to be honest. We shopped around with some bigger labels and at the end of the day, it sucks to say that money is an issue, but it definitely is and [Minus Head Records] is very understanding of the finances and also the things they wanted for us and saw for us in the future were lined up with what we saw and he is a fan of heavy music.

KNAC.COM: This is your first album since the 2012 self-titled record and like with many bands ALL HAIL THE YETI has endured some lineup changes, specifically with the departure of guitarist Craw and the addition of new guitarist Alan Stokes. What were the circumstances that brought Alan into the fold?

GARRITTY: You know what, Alan is a good friend of our new drummer, who joined the band in 2014 when we went out with IN THIS MOMENT, when Steve decided he didn’t want to tour anymore and Junior (Ryan Kittlitz) is a good friend of mine; I’ve known him since we were pretty young doing music up in Canada and well, Alan and him had a band together for a lot of years and when Craw left, Junior thought we should try Alan out in the band since he is his friend and he wants his friend close. But Alan came in and like right away and it was like an instant connection and we soon became friends and him and I started writing right off the bat. Craw never wrote any of that first record or play on it so, when it became time to start writing it was kinda like ‘you’re a guitar player, so we need songs’. And he wanted to do some different stuff and we are all still good friends – there isn’t any bad blood between us. Alan came in and the writing process was just song after song after song and we went into the studio with Matt with like 19 or 20 songs and that was just the best 20 that we could pick and we narrowed it down to 12 for the record. It’s been great; these twelve songs were written by the four of us. You know with the first record there was a bunch of different writers; there was a few lineup changes. It was all part of being like this local band for 7 or 8 years.

KNAC.COM: I have had the opportunity to hear the new record and right off the bat, I have to say that there seems to be more of Nick’s (Bassist Nicholas Diltz) haunting clean vocals and vocal harmonies, would you agree?

GARRITTY: Yea you know, like I said when we were doing the first record a lot of those songs were written, some of them were written before Nick was even in the band. Then when he joined we wrote “When The Sky Falls” and “Bloodguilt”. I asked Nick, I said ‘You know, why don’t you sing some stuff on this’. And we were just like blown away. It was perfect mix and even on my vocals on the new record I try to do less guttural screaming and more of like a yelling and even in key in some spots so you can understand what I am saying. The old record was a lot heavier - vocally heavier. It wasn’t anything that we planned on, it just worked out for the songs. It would be safe to say that we had everything written out and planned before we went into the studio would be a lie. If I couldn’t come up with some vocals for a certain part Nick would step in and have something. That was just kind of how we wrote. I feel like it is a lot more of a mature record for us as far as writing and things like that. We wanted to do something different but still keep it in the vane of what we do and I think we captured it.

KNAC.COM: Lyrically you have been able to convey haunting stories and campfire tales of sorts. In modern metal there are very few bands that can pull that off the right way, IRON MAIDEN comes to mind. What are you greatest inspirations, lyrically?

GARRITTY: For me it would probably have to be Dax Riggs of the band ACID BATH. When I was in my teens to early twenties he was a huge, huge influence on me. He would definitely be the top of the list. I would even say Tom Waits to Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx, I mean, I grew up listening to MOTLEY CRUE and stuff like that, I mean I wouldn’t say that they are more lyricists than just rock n’ rollers. It is hard, but I have kind of stopped trying to emulate what other people are doing and have tried to start finding my own writing style. But growing up and when I was first getting into music and getting into bands, I would say that Dax Riggs from ACID BATH, Mike Williams - EYE HATE GOD - his writing style for sure is super super cool and very…almost spoken wordy and it doesn’t really make sense, but if you dig into it deeper then it really does. There is Pepper Keenan from CORROSION OF CONFORMITY too, but Dax Riggs is definitely by biggest influence.

KNAC.COM: This isn’t really a question, but a few years back I had the opportunity to photograph your show at the Cleveland House of Blues while you guys were on tour with HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD. That short opening set was all it took; I was hooked. Your delivery and the fact that you are able to convey stories of monsters, legends and things that make people feel just a little uncomfortable was so refreshing because after a while you just get tired of the same mundane songs about feelings, politics and ex-girlfriends.

GARRITTY: That was such an awesome show. Exactly man, it has always been a thing for me, but you know when you are growing up and you are at the angst-ridden age of being a teen you want to connect with some one who is singing about when you get picked on and your girlfriend, but I am in my thirties, you know, I can’t relate to that shit…I just don’t. I did at one point, but not anymore. I don’t want to be that band that is forcing my emotion into somebody’s ears. I want to write a song that would scare the shit out of you if you told it around the campfire. They don’t have to guess, or know exactly what I meant – whatever they can take from it is good enough and that’s awesome because they are using their imagination to make their own story and that’s what my goal was…and its always been, since we started this band.

KNAC.COM: What role did growing up in Canada play in your style? For instance, you reference the Wendigo in a song on the self-titled album…is that something you heard about while in Canada or did you come across those ideas later in life?

GARRITTY: Most of that was later in life. The town I grew up in in Canada is no different…it was a small town outside of a big town. I grew up outside of Edmonton, Alberta, which is almost a million people. Life is different there for sure, but no different than like a suburb of Cleveland…it is the same kind of vibe. But we did a lot of traveling. I spent a lot of time in the mountains and stuff in the summer time and on vacation. I think that the woodsy – mountain thing was just something that I connected with because of how much time we spent there growing up. The folklore and stuff too…we were always read those stories sitting around a camp fire…wendigo and the Bigfoot…stuff like that. “Deep Creek” was kind of loosely based off of an experience that one of my cousins had happen in a place called Deep Creek in Idaho, that we used to spend a lot of our summers at. Their claim is that they…they saw Bigfoot…they still claim it to this day. This was back in the early 70’s and they still hold to their story. My parents were there when they came running down the mountain and they were terrified and wouldn’t go back up there. So that story passed down to the next generation, so every time we went there we were like ‘we’re going to find Bigfoot’. So it is just one of those things, whether it is true or not, it was true in their eyes, but I believe. I think it is out there somewhere.

KNAC.COM: I want to ask you about the 2-part “After The Great Fire” and “Before The Flames”. The new album features the prequel of the haunting epic “After The Great Fire”. Was this story of the abusive orphanage your original story or was it based on actual events? Where did that idea come from?

GARRITTY: Honestly, the story is completely made up. But that’s the cool thing about it. There are so many things in history that it can relate to. It has definitely happened. We know that that kind of thing where people were mistreated in mental asylums go way back, but even in the 60’s, 70’s, event he early 80’s when Geraldo went into that sanitarium and blew the whistle on all of them about how horrible they were treating kids there and even back to when people were going to Catholic school in the 50’s and 60’s people were not nice to be around if you did anything wrong, you’d get a whipping or a ruler across the back of the hand, so it was kind of based on that. It ended up being actually a three part thing. The first part would be “Daughter Of The Morning Star” on the new record. Basically this witch…I guess you could say she is a good witch who lives off of the land. She is just kind of this pagan woman who does not harm who lives by herself and lives by her own rules and back in the old days when Christianity was rampant with the Puritans and all of that stuff that was it or it wasn’t. If you weren’t Christian back then, you were a witch. You would get persecuted. This woman basically lives on her own, doesn’t bother anybody, but the people in the village nearby are terrified of her. She’s the scary witch that lives in the woods. The men in the village are all wanting to do something about it. They are sick of hearing about how terrified everyone is, so they go to her house and they basically rape and beat her and leave her for dead. They think that she is dead and she isn’t and in the time that she is left there, she turns from good to evil. Summons this demon inside of her and it basically overtakes her and she seeks revenge on the village. So that would be the first part. The second part would be “Before The Flames”. So you flash forward into this era almost like a vampire tale, you know, how vampires live through all of these different ages. So now she has taken on this role where they pretend they are these nuns and we are going to use these children for our sacrifices behind closed doors. And we want to get rid of them when we are done with them, so we set the building on fire and move on to the next thing. Well, they screw up and end up killing themselves and the children at the same time which leads into “After The Great Fire” from the first record. So after the great fire it would be them, the building and the women and the children have now come back to haunt the building and it has kind of taken on a life of it’s own. The building is actually alive with the spirits of all of these people.

KNAC.COM: A little while back there was rumored to be a tour documentary in the works. There was even a teaser released to YouTube. Is there anything new to report on that?

GARRITTY: Yeah, that’s still in the process. We started that on the HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD tour and we thought we would have enough footage and all of that stuff and with Craw and Steve leaving it just kind of threw a wrench in it. But it has kind of taken on a whole other thing. It is going to be about the band, what it takes to do this from the start to now and with the lineup changing – how hard it really is to do this. Probably in a year it will come out, maybe with the next record.

KNAC.COM: So besides releasing the new record, what else is in store for ALL HAIL THE YETI in 2016? Can we expect see some live dates announced soon?

GARRITTY: Yeah, we are going to be touring pretty extensively. We are in the middle of waiting on a couple of tours right now. Yeah it’s going to be pretty extensive – North America and all over Europe, most of the world so.

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