It began, as these things sometimes do, after a late-night conversation over cheap beer. The idea was simple, but somehow carried the weight of a creative imperative, even if no one realized it at the time: to learn to play Yes’ “Heart of the Sunrise.”
A random notion, to be sure, but one friends and former musical cohorts Josh Holland and Noah Burns couldn’t shake. And so the conversation was had during other late nights, over other cheap beers.
That’s the thing about creative imperatives—they can be persistent. Occasionally, they even hold up during the light of day.
But the desire to cover someone else’s song, even one as intimidating and epic as the one they had their collective creative eye and ear on does not a band make.
However, Josh and Noah were in more of a position than many to travel the road from the shadowy realm of pure concept to the concrete world of actuality, as they’d spent 10 years playing guitar and drums, respectively, in a thrashy, manic, prog-metal experiment called Cicadas, a band still beloved in their hometown of Bellingham, Wash., despite the fact that they hadn’t played a show in years.
So, now they had that creative imperative and a history of fruitful collaboration to base their burgeoning band on. All the duo needed was a bass player and a band name—and, of course, some songs of their own. The first need was met in the form of Jeff Johnson, of Bellingham band the Russians, as well as occasional fill-in bass player for Josh’s longtime horror-punk band, Black Eyes and Neckties, and providence provided the second, dropping the name Dog Shredder in their laps, and a band was born.
As for the matter of the songs, those were meticulously crafted in a dark, often cold and sometimes sweaty rehearsal space over the course of more than a year, so that when they were unleashed on a by-now anticipatory public, they would be fully formed and crackling with energy. From the beginning, Dog Shredder’s music was designed to be a jaw-dropping onslaught of sound and technique that would leave audiences in awe—and if the bands that followed them onstage were ever-so-slightly intimidated, that would be O.K. too.
Dog Shredder accomplished this then, as now, with a foundation of impeccably played metal, overlaid with impossibly fast technical guitar playing and ridiculously nimble drumming, anchored by strong bass lines, broken up by tricky time signatures and informed by a collective love of bands like Botch, Battles, and Nomeansno. Needless to say, this is a band that purposefully defies easy categorization. In short, Dog Shredder somehow manages, through sheer musicianship, to dance on the razor’s edge between innovation and inaccessibility—a neat trick they pull off with seeming effortlessness. That high-wire act, performed at their unbridled live shows, has led Seattle’s Stranger to dub them “downright unfuckwithable,” which is a description as accurate as it is succinct.
Since those early days, the band has played frequently, sharing stages with everyone from Melt Banana to Marnie Stern, Helmet to Black Cobra, earning dedicated fan bases in the highly critical and discerning music scenes of Seattle and Portland. As well, they’ve toured regularly, garnering new fans up and down the West Coast and beyond.
Dog Shredder has also put in no small amount of time at Portland’s Toadhouse Studio, the result of which has been a pair of albums, the Boss Rhino EP, as well as the forthcoming Brass Tactics, a vinyl release on Seattle’s Good to Die Records. The albums are a perfect distillation of the calculated chaos that comprises Dog Shredder’s live sound—a phenomenon that shouldn’t even be possible, but, much like everything else concerning this band, somehow is.
And, in case you were wondering whether they ever made good on the creative imperative that spawned them, yes, Dog Shredder did indeed learn “Heart of the Sunrise.” Ask them real nice and they might even play it for you. [CR]
“Dog Shredder possess that rare combination of lofty ambitions and phenomenal skill that is downright unfuckwithable.” – THE STRANGER
“…whiplash-inducing time signatures, harrowing vocals, and a blur of technical finesse that in the studio must have been like trying to pin down a swarm of cracked-out fireflies.” – SEATTLE WEEKLY
“[Brass Tactics] is refreshing and strange and a great deal of fun to listen to.” – ABOUT.COM – HEAVY METAL
“Multi-layered and tightly knit while simultaneously maintaining a level of spacey ambience and a penchant for animal references, Dog Shredder may just be the metal response to Animal Collective that we have all been unconsciously searching for.” – INVISIBLE ORANGES
“[Brass Tactics] is the mark of an exhilarating new voice that’s fun, ferocious, and ultimately exhausting in the most satisfying kind of way.” – PITCHFORK
“Dog Shredder have developed into one of the region’s most technically adept metal bands, deploying magmatic dynamics, massive textural girth, and sophisticated songwriting chops. Their songs are tsunamis of complex heaviness, as the Boss Rhino and Brass Tactics EPs demonstrate.” – THE STRANGER
“Part of the appeal of this band is listening to them as they try to make order from chaos, yet never quite succeed. It always feels as though they are about to run off the tracks, but somehow they always pull it back before making a discordant disaster.” – VERBICIDE MAGAZINE