It’s time to confess, I’m basically a metalhead. At least I think I am. No, I don’t own a battle vest, my hair isn’t long enough to whip around when Cannibal Corpse comes on, and most of my jeans are blue. However, I think as far as time in my ears goes, metal and its extreme cousins are usually what I find myself listening to most of the time. Simply put, I’m just not bored of it as there are so many brands out there reinterpreting the legacy bands and creating their own takes on the genre that it’s hard to get bored, at least in my opinion. I also try to be objective when listening to metal as well and one opinion that arrives from my glut of metal listening and attempts at objectivity is that some of this stuff can be uninspired and while maybe entertaining at the moment, fails to leave a lasting impression. That’s why, when I heard Headshrinker the first time, I was blown out of my seat.
When I clicked play on their debut LP, Callous Indifference, my ears pinned back and I could tell that I was listening to something that was completely different while still pulling on familiar threads. Being based in Denver was also a massive selling point as this city is currently home to some of the finest acts in the genre with an ever-growing list of bands and artists to check out. There was also a little more to Headshrinker than simply putting together great riffs and catchy hooks. This band was about something. I knew that I had to get them featured on our site to get more eyes and ears on what they are doing. After all, sharing is caring. I reached out to ask about a variety of things and first of all I wanted to get some insight and clarity on their mission, as they see it, and see what makes them tick. I spoke with band founder Y. Werther to get into the mind of the band and also ask some burning questions that I’ve had since I listened to Callous Indifference the first time, check out the interview below!
The first thing that I wanted to understand even though I had my hunches, is why Headshrinker was the chosen name for the project?
‘The name Headshrinker stems from a slang term for a psychiatrist, especially a psychoanalyst. The whole band’s concept surrounds mental health issues and those topics in society that have been stigmatized, un-researched, and frankly treated in very archaic ways. When thinking about the band I was very inspired by the old asylum aesthetic. It made me think some of the old treatments for mental illness – such as lobotomies, straitjackets, padded rooms, mind-numbing drugs, etc. – these ways of ‘treatment’ in today’s world seem to me as more so a form of archaic torture rather than treatment. In fact, it was not too long ago, where these types of treatment were practiced commonly in the medical field. We are not too many years removed from Freudian psychoanalysis conception and really, I feel as there has not been very much advancement in the field since. So, in that regard, it is interesting to think about as we live in an increasingly fast-paced society and there have not been lots of medical advancements since but mental health treatment’s advancement has seemingly remained stagnant. That is where the whole concept for Headshrinker as a band got its start. I personally really love the name; it was just a natural fit for my musical vision.’
Can you feel that passion? Even reading these exchanges gives me goosebumps just knowing how strongly these beliefs are held and felt so deeply. That passion is why I fell in love with this band. The very first track on their debut, “The Burn of Indifference” comes in with a gorgeously crunchy guitar tone and impassioned vocals that at times feels like an homage to the forefathers of death metal, but with its own dynamic pace that lilts between doom and technicality.
For many bands, especially those that are just getting started, it’s somewhat traditional to release some demos, maybe an EP or two, and then eventually use that experience to release a full-length debut. I guess these guys didn’t see it that way. They formed in 2017 and it would be four years before we heard a peep from them, I was curious as to why.
‘Yeah, it took a while for the band to make its debut for sure. I think many factors went into it. In 2016, I moved across the country following some major mental struggles to try to refresh my life. I was at a point where I knew whatever music I wanted to write was going to be different from what I had done in the past. I spent a lot of time in the early stages thinking about the concept of the project, as I have alluded to in my answer to the previous question. I knew I wanted each part of the record to be critically planned out and methodically considered in all aspects. Also in addition to that, I have a day job and really have limited time to spend on creating music, especially back in 2016/2017 as I was traveling often for work so my ability to get things done on the project just was not very frequent. I also had a particular vision on the sonic aspect of the record; I knew I wanted it to be crushingly heavy and emotional, but eclectic in terms of inspiration with the right type of audio production. With this goal in mind, I taught myself how to be a recording engineer to help achieve this vision. That part of it definitely took me some time. It was a process to build my studio (Dead Shed Studios) and learn what I was doing.’
And as far as skipping the normal release routine and releasing an independent debut LP:
‘Well for me this record was intended to be a concept piece. I think that was a major driving factor in the length of the record. I had plenty of emotions to express and I do not think cramming them into an EP would have done the music justice. In addition, when writing this material, things were different in terms of the music industry. Putting out full LPs was the standard. However, now with how streaming services have become so expansive in terms of their reach to the fans – I see a lot of value in releasing shorter releases to get it out quicker and right to the listener’s ears. It is one of those things where for this particular record, an LP seemed just right. EPs will be of consideration in the future for sure. As far as releasing independently, that is just my comfort zone – all the bands I have been associated with have typically done this. We would definitely be open to some collaboration with distros or labels in the future, but to me this is about artistic expression so it would have to be a perfect fit.’
One of my favorite things about Callous Indifference is the amount of variety that’s included without violating its own frame of reference. There are doom passages, grooves, riffs, and gnarly vocals. Fewer tracks display this better than “Haunted By Your Reflection.” Beginning with a downtempo atmosphere and somber mood, it takes no time at all to transition into an absolutely filth groove accompanied by vitriolic vocals to match.
It’s always a source of amazement to me when a band can pull something like this off. There’s a lot of things going on and that led Headshrinker’s PR to give it an apt description:
‘It is nuts, right? One of the first compliments I had on the record came from MindEraser PR who helped us with the release campaign for the record. They referred to the record as ‘mental’ and I was just so humbled and appreciative of that comment because that was my exact goal for this record. Shout out to MindEraser and all the hard work they did along with us to push this record! Getting back to the question though, I think that is all part of the vision I had in mind for this concept. A lot of crazy aspects of life – events, relationships, your physical health, hell, even the type of food you put into your body can affect mental health! So in a way, I think all the musical styles apparent on the record are metaphorical comments on that. In addition, I am just a music nut. I am so happy to just listen to music and absorb it. I think anyone who knows what types of things I typically listen to would not be shocked by those influences. It is fun to find inspiration in places where you might not expect to find it and I try to incorporate that mindset with my writing.’
I have been an adamant early supporter and evangelist for this band and everyone and everywhere that I have shared is met with pretty much immediate positive responses. Appreciation grows deeper still when the full picture of the band and their ethos comes into view. I have said many times that I can love music that is pure escapism, but there’s a special place reserved for bands that make music in the genre that I like but are about more than just the riff. I asked if these positive responses have been making their way back to the band and how they feel about them after all that hard work.
‘Surreal is the word that comes to mind. I spent a lot of myself physically and figuratively to make this record happen. I think about where it started in its infancy and what the final product ended up being. What a crazy but satisfying journey that was. In terms of the response, it is overwhelmingly positive from the feedback that I have received and that has been so humbling and gratifying. There were some reviews that frankly floored me with their positivity. I think that all stems from people’s relation and connection to the material. So in addition to it being surreal to finally get this record out into the world, it has been great to see the reactions and peoples connection to it. I also have a huge appreciation for all those who contributed to it. It would not be what it is without those people’s input! So thanks to all of them as well.’
Speaking of those supporters, as a collector of the music that I love, I had to ask if we were going to be seeing any physical copies of Callous Indifference any time soon, and it seems like I’m not the only one that’s interested:
‘This seems to be a burning question lately! We have gotten many people reaching out about physical copies and I just want them to know we are listening! With the response we got on the digital release, I think it is something that will happen eventually – but like all aspects of the record, I want it to be done in the best possible way that suits the aesthetic of the music. Anyone interested in physical copies should just keep spamming our socials with what media they want to see and maybe we will be able to make that happen soon – especially if there are any collaborators out there who would be interested in helping us facilitate a physical release.’
Lastly, I wanted to get an idea of where Headshinker is headed next and when we’ll be hearing from them again.
‘Curious to know the answer myself as well! Personally, I was not expecting such a positive response so I have been thinking about the next phase a lot lately. I think some exclusive live performances would be really fun! So that’s something we have been working towards. Nothing on the schedule as of yet (Denver bands, hit us up if you want to play a gig together!). From there we’ll see, new stuff could be on the horizon eventually as well – but immediately, I’m focused on some other projects I’m a part of at this point so I anticipate new material being a bit down the road.’
All of those ideas sound good to me. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Headshrinker and whatever form that takes, I’ll be there, fully supporting this incredible act.