When most people think of Tucson, they don't think of metal. Well, maybe literally they think of copper or iron, but not sludge or doom. Recently, though, that seems like it could change. With the local metal festival Southwest Terror Fest's lineup getting more solid each year, fans nationwide are taking notice and planning their vacations accordingly. Wooden Tooth Records is stocking (and spinning) a healthy amount of metal LPs, stoking the curiosity of the townies and keeping the real 'heads sated. As for actual bands playing the music, North is at the top of the heap; adding further validation to the claim that Tucson is more than just saguaros, Calexico and the Gem Show.
"Most people just go 'Oh, you're from Tucson? I have a cousin there!' Everyone has a cousin from Tucson," says drum/synth player Zack Hansen.
"Tucson really birthed this band: the heat, the culture, the way the youth here is just ignored and written off by the city. It all led to this moment really," Hansen adds.
That moment finds the band on the brink of releasing their new album, Light the Way, a solid slab of well-oiled sludge not unlike fellow veterans Yob, and their first as a streamlined trio.
"It was the first time we had really buckled down and focused on making a cohesive, finished product," he says. "We wanted to reintroduce ourselves to the world. It was the final step of the re-birth that had begun the year before when we became a trio. We wanted to set a guideline for the future and a path to follow."
North did not emerge from the void as the fully formed behemoth it is now, but rather after Hansen and bassist/vocalist Evan Leek declared they wanted to start a post-rock project. The formation was then "made official with a dropkick."
"Wel,l we didn't really start out in the metal scene, and that's what makes the progress of this band so interesting. We came up playing Skrappys and The Living Room with ... bands that we were friends with and, like us, seemed to be a combination of different styles, with metal only being one element of it."
However, through the band's inception and eventual direction change, they've scene seismic shifts in Tucson's music scene as well.
"We've witnessed the rise and fall of basically every band to do anything here in Tucson, our longevity has made us spectators on the sideline," Hansen says. "We leave for a tour and come back and all of a sudden everyone is in a different band. It's unfortunate because persistence in the face of adversity is the only thing that has kept us going—the fact that we're too stubborn to quit."
After 11 years of paying dues, that stubbornness seems poised to pay off. Clutching a newly minted deal with Prosthetic Records and bearing down on a dense year of touring, the band seems on the verge of making some big moves, though no one is quitting their day jobs just yet.
"We are fortunate to be at a point in our careers where the band doesn't cost us anything, but it doesn't make us anything. We've all adapted and found different jobs that fit into our touring schedule better though," Hansen says. "To get to that point, we'll needs years of hard touring and who knows if we'll ever get there. I don't think we mind the way it's going at this point."