Updated: Mar 18
Just this week, I had the opportunity to chat with Ancient Teeth's primary songwriter Adrian Mottram about the band's eccentric new album Deathbed and a little more about their future plans. Ancient Teeth is a Canadian supergroup that blends rock, grunge, and shoegaze together to write powerful, emotive tunes. The band is comprised of a lineup of incredible musicians, including vocalist Adrian Mottram (Sights and Sounds, Seas), guitarist Chris Huges (Moneen, Seas), bassist Jahmeel Russell (Red Vienna, ACTORS, KEN Mode) and drummer Mike Duffield (Beams, Flowers From Hell). Each member brings a slew of accolades, experience, and individual character to round out the astounding musicality of the outfit.
Let’s jump right into discussing the new album. How does the music on Deathbed differ from anything you’ve ever released with your various previous projects? Adrian: Hey! First off, thanks for taking the time to listen to the album and want to do this interview. It means a lot to me, and thank you. This album is different in a few ways. I wanted to approach it as a songwriter and not a guitarist, so the arrangements and vocal melodies were the main focus, and then naturally, I kept building the guitar parts, and eventually, it turned into a guitar record. But initially, it was intended as a process to develop as a songwriter and singer.
How was it working with both Jay Dufour and Darren McGill on the record? A: Astounding! Jason heard the demos, and he was right into it. He is a master engineer, so I described what I wanted, and he sculpted the sounds. When I left the studio with the masters, we didn't have to use any further processing on the drums and guitars. The way you hear it on the album is exactly how they were when we left the studio. Those guys are gems. Can't thank them enough for their talents.
I’m having a hard time pinning an exact label on your genre. In your own words, how would you describe the band’s music to someone who has or hasn’t discovered it? A: Oh, this is tough! I did a radio interview recently, and the interviewer coined the term "Dream Noise," and I'm going to go with that from now on. Ancient Teeth is a rock band, but each album is a little different, and the sound keeps expanding. It's a full spectrum experience like a dream. Like dreams, sometimes the songs are dark and heavy; some songs are light and poppy.
For those who aren’t aware, Ancient Teeth is a supergroup with 103 years of musical experience between the four of you. How did the band come about and formally become a unit? A: Supergroup, that's very nice. Yes, we are vintage people, I suppose. I've been close with Mike Duffield since we were 17, and we never had a band together. At the time, these songs were ready to record. Chris and I were playing in Seas together, so when I booked the studio time, I asked both of them to help me record the material. I called Jahmeel as well, but he was away with ACTORS and had to do the bass at another time. I think the band really became a band in December 2021 when we all met up to record our second record called, Humanizer. That's when it kinda glued itself together. I feel so lucky that I get to play with these guys. Both Jahmeel and Chris are lead singers in their own bands, and the fact they are by my side to help me work through this is such an honour, and I don't know how to describe my gratitude properly. I hope they feel it every time I thank them. I'm in awe of all of them and their talents.
When did you four start writing for Deathbed? A: Hmm... For this particular album, the songs were collected over time, from about 2015 or so. I started "All That you are" while working on a film in Laos. In 2018 I had a really cool space in Vancouver overlooking the pier, and songs like "Look the Part," "Galvanised," and "Foolish Afterthought" were written there. "A Way Out" was written right before the album session in an Air BNB in Toronto. "Close to You," "I Guess So, Whatever," and "Out of Time" were written a little earlier in.
Most bands and artists typically have a direction they want to take when starting a band or writing an album. How did a band of four people who have performed several different genres settle on the mix of rock, shoegaze, and grunge that make up the foundation of the album? A: That's a great question! Thank you so much for actually listening to the material. I'm not sure how to answer this correctly. Mike, Jahmeel, and Chris have been influencing me with their taste for 25 years. Moneen was one of my favourite bands. Deathbed sounds the way it does because they brought so much of themselves into the songs, and it took its shape naturally. So I guess what you're hearing is the blend of our personalities through my optics as a songwriter. Similar to listening to Seas, which would be through Chris' optics, or Red Vienna being Jahmeel's voice and vision.
Do you have a profound moment from writing or tracking Deathbed that still sticks to you to this day? A: Yes, this question specifically is a difficult topic to discuss because I feel like I'm dangerously riding a very thin line as I never intended this album -which is essentially a memoir to be exploited publically. The album was ignited by a massive event that left me no choice but to make the album. Our daughter was born, and my father-in-law passed away within a 48-hour window. A lot of the lyrics are taken from the experience. That experience galvanized the notion to make this album happen. So I would say that sticks with me.
So was there any songs on the album that you personally had trouble writing then? A: "A Way Out" was challenging, and I was stuck trying to land the verses. So I called Ryan Dahle [Limblifter], and he introduced me to Jordy Birch [Pure], and Jordy helped nudge me along. I feel very grateful for the time he took to help me over a hump. Those are two stand-up individuals I am so lucky to know.
What are some of your favourite tracks on the album? Any that stick out to you that you can’t wait to test out on a live audience? A: "Close To You," "Look The Part," and "A Way Out" would all be fun to play. Just to be able to play as a band is such a huge thing for us that I would be happy playing anything.
Who was the one who had the idea of including a french choir in “All That You Are”? A: Me, thanks for noticing! My family and I moved to Montreal during the pandemic, and I wanted to incorporate that part of my life into what I'm doing.
What do you hope people can take away from your music? A: If these songs resonate with anyone going through a tough situation, this album is for them. Beyond that, don't wait until it's too late to do the things you love to do. Just go for it.
I suspect you guys are going to hit the road this year to tour the new album? A: Not sure. We are going to play Toronto on April 6th and Pouzza Fest in Montreal on May 19th, 20th, and 21st. Hopefully, some more dates in the summer. Most of us have kids and are very busy with our families. We were planning to go to Europe in the fall, but if that falls through, maybe we can do something on the west coast. Who knows! We live to play live, so sometime soon we will hit the road.
Are there any more plans for the rest of the year? A: We are actually going into the studio to record our third album in a few weeks in Toronto with Ian Blurton. I'm so excited that it's hard to comprehend the thought of the opportunity some days!
Thanks for taking the time to talk about the album, Adrian! Before you go, is there anything you would like to add? A: Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to the music and want to do this interview. It means so much to us!