​Deafheaven Discuss 'New Bermuda' and Metal's Gateway

​Deafheaven Discuss 'New Bermuda' and Metal's Gateway
Photo by Kristin Cofer
Today (October 2) California black metal experimenters Deafheaven issue their highly anticipated third LP New Bermuda on Anti-. Though they're certainly an intense and aggressive force to be reckoned with, their penchant for experimentation has also seen their influence spread far beyond the metal world.
Speaking with Exclaim!, frontman George Clarke explains he has no problem with playing at large indie festivals. In fact, he's honoured to spread the word about his genre of choice.
"I think, a lot of the time, 'gateway band' has a sort of negative connotation about it, but I feel very good about that," he says. "You know, if someone enjoys what we do and goes on to explore this world of music that they never would have been familiar with otherwise, I don't see that as being anything other than positive."
In fact, the youth of today are lucky if a band as interesting as Deafheaven are their introduction to the world of extreme music. Clarke's introduction to metal was perhaps not as cool. "I'm in fifth or sixth grade, I'm in elementary school, and I'm seeing Korn on TV," he recalls. "For my brain it's edgy, and it's dark, and it's very emotional. It definitely drew me in."
From there, however, he quickly fell into a world of extreme music. "When I was 12 I went and saw Pantera, and they played with Slayer and Morbid Angel," he recalls. "After that, I bought all of their catalogues... and then I got really into death metal and the beginnings of black metal and it went from there. When I first started listening, it snowballed really quick for me and I just wanted more extreme."
To dig deeper, Clarke says he picked things up based on their album art. "I would just go to record stores and find the gnarliest looking album cover, and I would just buy that, truthfully," he says. "I mean that's how I found Deicide's Legion and In Torment in Hell and [Cannibal Corpse's] Tomb of the Mutilated and all that kind of crap. I guess that Pantera/Slayer/Morbid Angel 'Extreme Steel' tour was really my ultimate gateway into the extreme metal world."
As he dug deeper into metal, Clarke also started musical projects of his own. "I got a guitar in eighth grade and a really false sense of confidence, and I started jamming with my friends," he remembers. "We didn't have microphones so we would just yell into the air. Or really nerdy stuff like screaming into pillows and that whole thing."
Soon, however, playing music and obsessing over metal converged for Clarke. "I idolized all these musicians," he recalls. "I would look at Phil Anselmo videos, I would look at him onstage [and think], 'Man, this guy has it all....' I'm always learning and striving for that kind of frontman supremacy."
Now that he's reached some level of fame as a metal frontman, Clarke now sees the human side of his heroes. "When I was 13 or 14, I saw people like Phil Anselmo or James Hetfield and I was like 'Whoa that guy's bigger than life,'" he says. "Obviously, not that I've come close to stepping in those shoes, but when you get a taste of that you sort of realize that we're all just people doing our thing.
"At the same time, to be given that opportunity, to be able to play any size stage, and to have people recognize your band and enjoy what you do and come to see your shows, that's amazing," he adds. "It's really an interesting experience altogether."
As previously reported, Deafheaven will be taking their new album on a North American tour this fall. You can see all the dates here and check out Exclaim!'s newly published cover story on the band here.