Interview with Tunguska

Interview with:
Marek Banaszewski: Guitars, programming
Don Merritt: Bass guitar
Sean Gibson: Vocals, lyrics, art & design

Interview by Jessica Plumb

Hey and thank you for your time today. Firstly I hope you are all okay in the COVID-19 lockdown.

Thanks, yeah we’re doing OK, all things considered, just trying to stay busy and sane until this all ends, you know.

You’re quite a new band and only began in 2019. How did you guys all meet?

Well, me and Marek our guitarist had known each other for quite some time as we’d played in a band together back in 2013/14 and stayed in touch ever since. Having very similar interests in music and a love of the same bands it was only natural to get together and start our own project. He had some tracks written on Soundcloud so I began writing vocals for them and they started to take shape.

So we started practising, just the two of us initially, and recorded our first demo songs then put some adverts out looking for other members, we went through quite a few iterations I can tell you. I know Sonny from Secreum and he hooked us up with Don Merritt, our bassist. We are presently a 3 piece but we do have a new drummer who will be joining as soon as lockdown ends.

What is the meaning behind the band name Tunguska?

It’s based on the Tunguska event of 1908 in which an unknown explosion in the air tore apart a remote Siberian forest. It depleted 2,000 sq km of the Taiga forest in the area, flattening about 80 million trees. Sounds pretty damn heavy and cool to us so we thought it was appropriate.

Have any of you been in bands previously?

Of course, we have all been playing for a number of years in different bands of varying styles from punk/hardcore, sludge/doom to prog and djent. We love music and creating music, so for us it’s like breathing, it’s vitally important in Tunguska that all members have that drive and love for playing.

When did you first start getting into music and know you wanted to be a band?

Personally I got into music around 13/14 when I was doing a Drama play at school and I needed some aggressive music, so I started chatting to some metal kids and they gave me a tape with some punk/hardcore/rap-metal bands and it just blew my fucking mind and I’ve never looked back ever since. I met Pierre from Knuckledust around ’96 and he started force-feeding me more and more hardcore tapes so I just became completely addicted and began singing in random bands over the years. It’s all just progressed from there really.

You’ve recently released your first EP (self-titled). What is the concept behind the album?

All the songs on the EP are concerned with the darker aspects of life and a way of dealing with them, exorcising your demons so to speak without sounding cliché. Mental health is a prominent theme and an important one for the band as we all have our issues and so getting them out in a creative outlet is incredibly beneficial.

How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?

We have been labelled as progressive sludge and incredibly heavy post-metal. I won’t argue with those labels, I think they’re both pretty accurate. We as a band describe ourselves as having an organic, mechanical, emotive sound.

Who did your cover artwork? Is there anyone you’d like to work with in the future to do your photography or artwork?

I did. I was working in the gaming industry for years as an artist and animator so it was perfect for me to not only write the lyrics but design all the artwork in line with the lyrical content. In terms of photography or design, I have always loved Joel Peter Witkin’s work, if we could get something as amazing as his work on future releases that would be phenomenal.

Did you have a set way of doing things when recording your EP?

We tend to stick to the process that has worked so far for Tunguska: Marek composes the songs and ideas then sends them over to me and Don, they do there parts and I begin arranging vocal patterns and lyrics. A back and forth ensues and eventually, a song is born. I think eventually in the long term as we progress new members will contribute more and take us to new places.

Being a new band, do you have any plans to gig/tour? If you could tour with anyone, who would it be?

Absolutely! Yeah, and we can’t wait. We feel like caged animals ready to tear someone apart soon as Isolation ends we plan on playing as much as possible!

I can pretty much speak for us all and say that we would love to play with Meshuggah above anyone else. I mean who wouldn’t right?

Do you have a favourite track from the EP?

My favourite of the EP has to be our first single, “Stillborn Servant”, it’s super aggressive and has all the elements that embody Tunguska: math, sludge, progressive. I love singing over all our songs but soon as I hear the opening riffs of that I get goosebumps.

Where do you draw your influences from when it comes to producing new music/lyrics?

We listen to a wide range of music and are always searching for new bands to check out so we draw influences from all over different scenes and genres.

In terms of lyrics, I delve into a dark place I was stuck in at one point in my life and rip ideas out from it. I don’t want to go back there but for me, I treat it as my form of therapy, it does have its uses.

Your home town is here in London; what do you think of the music scene here?

I think it’s always evolving and pretty healthy, I mean the entire UK music scene, in general, is fantastic at the moment. London bands tend to stay in touch and help each other out, and that’s how it’s been for Tunguska, if it weren’t for previous bands staying in touch and doing as I said we wouldn’t be here.

Do you think image is essential when being in a band?

Not really, not for us anyway I’ve never given a shit what a band look like, all I care about is the music and the journeys they take me on. Don’t get me wrong, image is cool and if a band want to incorporate some form of identity that’s great, but it just isn’t us.

Is there anywhere you would like to play in the future?

Once life returns to normal, ultimately we aim to play all the major festivals, Arctangent, Bloodstock, Download etc. But really we just want to play anywhere and everywhere, we’re not fussy.

Is the music industry how you thought it would be when first starting a band?

Well, we all come from the underground and not much has changed in that regard. Self-promotion and self-releasing music, etc, has obviously evolved over the years with new software so we can create everything ourselves at home.

Do you think it’s essential for a band to be signed to a label to be recognised in today’s society?

It would be nice for someone to take over the PR aspect of things so the band can focus on doing what they do best and not worry about that. Labels are great for that and getting you exposure with more prominent acts, so yeah, of course they help.

What are your views on bands who give away their music free on social media? Do you think this is an excellent beneficial marketing idea, or should fans be paying to purchase tracks?

I think it’s a good marketing tool at the start as it’s exactly what we have done, I’d be hypocrite If I said otherwise. But in the long run, fans should be paying as artists need to make a living.

You have got two music videos out, where did you get your inspiration to produce them?

The videos were all done DIY so we all put our own flavours in them. In some ways the pandemic has been good to us, it’s forced us to sink into creativity, write songs ideas and work on video content. Inspiration comes from tying in the themes from the narrative in the tracks.

What genres of music do you like to listen to personally? Are there any new bands that have caught your attention recently?

I listen to a lot of post-metal, drum and bass and industrial. I found myself from time to time listening to synthwave a trip hop when I need a break from the intensity. I completely fell in love with Herod and The Moth Gatherer last year and pretty much think I’ve listened to them both constantly ever since.

Were you given any advice from other bands before starting out?

If they did I most likely disregarded it, I would only say just to be true to yourselves and play from the heart. Practice and love what you do.

What do you like to do outside of music? Any hobbies?

I have been training in martial arts and boxing my entire life, so outside of the creative aspect of my life I spend most of my time in this.

What are your plans for the rest of the year and how have you coped with the COVID-19 lockdown?

Keep writing new material and look to the future; like I mentioned earlier, we have a new drummer joining soon which we can’t wait for so the futures looking bright for us. Coping in lockdown has been fairly easy, we have all just kept busy and focused.

Thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?

Thanks for your time it’s been a pleasure talking to you. We just hope you all like the music we create and hope it strikes a chord within that makes you feel alive. See you in a post-Corona world.