Exclusive Interview: Wade MacNeil on becoming Gallows’ new singer
Fans of U.K. hardcore stalwarts Gallows and Canadian post-hardcore vets Alexisonfire have been dealt some serious blows in recent weeks. On July 8, frontman Frank Carter announced his departure from the former, while the latter announced their breakup late last week. In a twist, AP can exclusively, officially confirm that Alexisonfire guitarist/vocalist Wade MacNeil has been tapped to be Gallows’ new frontman—just in time for the band’s participation in the Fall AP Tour. (Get all the details about that here.)
So how did this come about? How will MacNeil’s enlistment change the Gallows dynamic? And what is their new music sounding like? AP got some clarity from MacNeil a few weeks ago, before Alexisonfire announced their split, but not long after he touched down in England to do some recording with his new bandmates. “[We’re] recording with some friends of theirs in their garage five minutes up the road from where we’re rehearsing,” MacNeil says. “We’re moving at breakneck speeds. I wouldn’t want to make any promises, but hopefully people will be hearing some new stuff really soon.”
The first thing everyone wants to know: How did you come to be in Gallows? Alexisonfire have toured with them; is there anything else to it?
After the boys decided they were going to keep going, my name kind of popped up, and they all thought it made sense. It didn’t overcomplicate itself. I talked to Steph [Carter, guitarist], and I said I was definitely interested. He pretty much said, “Okay, let’s do it,” and I got on a plane and we’re writing right now.
How long ago did that conversation happen?
Everything’s happened within the last couple weeks.
What did they like about you as a musician and a person?
I don’t know; I don’t think we really got into too much of that. But if you grew up listening to Black Flag records in Canada—or you grew up listening to Black Flag records in England—you may have a similar outlook on the world. You know, I think there’s a lot of parallels to the way those dudes grew up, [which was] in a small city, in the shadow of London. [It was] the same thing with me, growing up in a little town in the shadow of Toronto. There’s something a little bit desperate about growing up in a place where you feel like you’re not like everybody else, and you kind of know it. All the weirdoes find one another; you find each other through music, especially in a small city where I think people end up resorting to ruining themselves with drugs or alcohol and other escapes from finding nothing to do. Kids find music, and that’s something that takes over their lives. That’s something that happened for me, and something’s that happened with all these men.
And that feeling is something that never goes away, no matter how old you get.
Yeah, for sure. And especially growing up and going to punk shows and hardcore shows, it’s a certain way… I think a lot of those records we got when we were younger, those Dead Kennedys records and those Crass records, kind of informed the way you view the world and some of the ideals you carry. So I don’t know—from growing up miles apart on the other side of the ocean, we definitely have a lot in common.
You said you’re writing right now with Gallows. Is there any music done at the moment?
[Laughs.] You know, I showed up, flew over here and got here in the morning two days ago. I didn’t sleep on the flight; I was listening to the first two Gallows records and writing lyrics, trying to get the right headspace for it. We showed up, and I wasn’t really sure what the guys wanted to do, if they wanted to run the old stuff. I said, “Let’s just jump into some new stuff,” and they played me some tracks. We arranged stuff a little differently, and I told them some ideas where I wanted to go with stuff. The first day, we wrote something that I think is the most brutal thing the band has ever written. It’s just the harshest, heaviest song that’s, like, thirty-five seconds long. I think that’s going to be the first thing the band puts out.
That’s saying something that a new song is the most brutal thing Gallows has done.
[Laughs.] I don’t think anybody was really sure how it was going to go, but that [song] came together really simplistically. I wrote the lyrics on the spot, I had some ideas, and it came together in five minutes. Sometimes you don’t need to overcomplicate things. Obviously, we’re trying to write music that’s chaotic and is going to be something that comes across vicious-sounding live. I think in doing that you rip the guts of the songs—you don’t repeat it four times, you do it once, and you don’t have a bridge. You just don’t let up.
How do you think the band is different with you in it?
I definitely think I have a very, very different voice than Frank—and I mean aside from yelling, I think just the tone of my voice is going to be the one thing that’s really, really different. Even though I’ve spent a lot of the last 10 years touring England in various bands, I don’t have a British perspective for everything, so whereas the last record was definitely focused on Britain specifically, I think everything we’re going to do in the future will definitely have more of a worldview. That’s something everyone in the band can relate to, because we spent the majority of our youth traveling the world playing punk shows.
How do you think fans of both bands are going to react to the change?
I think when you really care about a band, you build this relationship with them. You get to know them, and they’re a big part of your life. There’s a lot of bands that are like that for me. So whenever you hear something changing, your immediate reaction is that it’s the end of the world. It hurts, because you identify with their music and there’s something about it that’s really personal, right?
So with a change like that, it’s going to upset some people. But at the end of the day, we just have to almost selfishly write music that we are happy with and we’re passionate about, and push forward the only way we really can.
That’s exactly the only thing you can do. You have to make it your own and make it this new configuration.
We’re looking at the future, not the past. That’s the one thing when Steph called me and I said, “I think this is something I can do and something I really want to do, but I’m not interested in coming on and replacing anybody. That’s not me; that’s not what I want to do. So if we’re going to do this, it’s going to be me joining the band, not me being someone’s replacement.”
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