It’s been almost three years since Heaven’s Gateway Drugs’ last album, 2016’s Rubber Nun. The band is now readying their newest LP titled Slab City.
HGD’s lead singer/guitarist Derek Mauger sat down with Whatzup and talked about how the last two years have been for the band.
The Blur of busyness
“The last two and a half years were a bit blurry,” Mauger said. “Good blurry because we always stay busy, but maybe also a little bad blurry due to some tumult.”
Despite that, Mauger added, “But all the topsy-turvy got us to today and we’re in a really great spot now and we’ve got a new album coming out. We made it!”
The new album was done in chunks of two to three songs at a time at local studio Off the Cuff Sound.
“Go in and track the songs one weekend and mix them the following weekend,” Mauger said. “That was how it started, but things fell apart. It was a real Best of VH1’s Behind the Music experience.”
So who was involved with the making of this Behind the Music record?
“Appearing on the album are Ben Carr, James Wadsworth, Brandon Zolman, Jason Davis, and myself. We also had Kyle Morris come in and do pedal steel guitar on two songs. He was a saint and a master of his instrument and really made those songs special.”
Pulling from every genre
Despite the tumult and struggles to get the album made, Off The Cuff Sound was a world of creativity for the band.
“Jason is a professional,” Mauger said. “We’ve developed a great friendship as a result of working together over the years, but when it is time to record he keeps things on track and is always there with suggestions when things get balled up.
“In all seriousness, Jason is the reason this album finally got finished and is now seeing the light of day. There were a few moments I was ready to shelve it and move on, but Jason was able to talk some sense into me.”
Slab City is a further evolution of Heaven’s Gateway Drugs’ sound, expanding into Stones-like country and pastoral pop courtesy of the Kinks.
“Kinks are a massive influence for me,” Mauger said. “I just saw Dave Davies in concert and I got a little emotional when he played ‘Young and Innocent Days.’
“We have always sort of pulled from every genre and filtered it through psychedelia and I think that especially shows with these songs. We bounced from really heavy fuzzed-out songs to slow acoustic, almost country-sounding stuff with pedal steel guitar.”
What is the significance behind the term “Slab City”?
“Slab City is essentially a squatters’ paradise in the middle of the California desert where, due to some legal quirk, no laws apply,” Mauger said. “That’s the story the locals like to tell anyway.
“It is a hotspot for artists, snowbirds, transients, and generally people who just want to be off the grid. The album was written during the run up to and immediate fall out from the last presidential election and I, like a lot of people, was doing a lot of soul searching. The songs are told from the perspective of someone going through some sort of dilemma, so the song ‘Slab City’ became the unofficial tourist jingle for somebody who is leaving it all behind and needs somewhere to go.
“In essence, we created an existential crisis road trip concept album.”
Record Release party
The new album is coming out on May 3 along with a party that night at the band’s favorite venue, the Brass Rail. Local surf rock band Strange Waters will be opening and our friends from Nashville, Ttotals will be coming up for the occasion.
“Come dance!” Mauger said.
With the HGD heading into nearly seven years of existence, Mauger said the group is in the best spot they’ve ever been.
“Josh Elias, who was our original bass player, has returned, and now Jason Davis is playing drums,” he said. “Everyone is totally on point when it is time to work, but we have a great time working together.”
The rest of 2019 looks busy for HGD.
“Since it took us so long to put this record out, we have a mountain of new material we are going to start playing out,” Mauger said. “This might not be the only HGD release this year, but I’ll stay coy about that for now.”
Slab City will be available everywhere digitally Friday, May 3, and you can grab physical copies from the band’s Bandcamp page and Neat Neat Neat Records.
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