BY STEVE HALLO
Here’s the thing about the Canton rockers inSuper Predator: For the most part, they actually are super predators. This became abundantly clear about a half hour into our conversation as guitar player Eric Blankenhorn and drummer Dan Meinhart laid out their zombie contingency plans.
The moniker also suits the band’s sound — a creeping, prowling sludgy rock, that veers off into metal and blues regions, throwing the listener off the fact that they are being stalked until Super Predator pounces into full-force crushing sonic territory. Equal parts Fu Manchu, Sonic Youth and stoner metal, the group’s eclectic tastes make it nearly unclassifiable. The only particular way to really describe it is Super Predator.
The group started with Blankenhorn and bassist/guitar player Steve Engel, who had both been in a number of local groups that had all played together. While the nucleus of the group had been formed, they had some trouble hanging on to drummers, as none seemed to quite work out. When the band found Meinhart, it was something of a serendipitous moment, as the drummer and Engel had been in bands with the same players. “It’s crazy how small of a world it is,” Meinhart said.
“Maybe, but I wouldn’t want to walk around it,” Blankenhorn added, not missing a beat.
Prior to joining Super Predator, Meinhart was playing in, from what I could gather, pop-punk bands of some sort — or as he describes it, “Breaking Benjamin radio bullshit” — when he took up with Engel and Blankenhorn. He said that initially he didn’t quite understand the direction the two pre-existing members were trying to go.
“We had a list of, like, 20 songs, and he didn’t understand any of it,” said Blankenhorn. “Then we played ‘Rocktopus’ and he was, like, ‘Finally I get it!’”
Meinhart explained that was the moment he finally realized that Super Predator didn’t have the same goals in mind as his previous groups. “They weren’t into trying to make it sound like the radio and I wasn’t used to that. I just got it: It was Super Predator, and it wasn’t supposed to be some other band.”
He said that he just kept coming back, eventually dropping his other musical commitments to focus on Super Predator. The more he became ingrained with the group, the more he was exposed to different and new music, something that eventually informed his playing.
While Meinhart was the last to join the band, he seems to mesh right in with the what could be considered the bizarre sense of humor and interest in strange news stories the rest of the band has. These two things seem to be primary fodder for the group’s lyrical material, and it seems Super Predator is always finding something new to consider as a story for a song.
While many of the band’s songs are about real stories that could be construed as offensive, Blankenhorn said that they often use humor and the unreal to help translate their viewpoint.
“I almost think it’s like a Frank Zappa approach,” Engel explained. “We just kind of look at things, talk about it, and kind of make fun of it.”
For example, the group’s song “Buried in the Walls” is about the Anthony Sowell murders, but told using a technique similar to that of Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” with the storyteller switching between characters.
“Some of the lyrics are from the point of view of the hookers that he killed, and then we’re outside of the song too,” explained Engel, adding that a similar approach is taken on “Jerry’s Kidz,” which touches on the Jerry Sandusky case, and is sung from the perspective of the accused and someone observing it from the outside.
That’s part of our sense of humor,” Engel said. “It’s more like Monty Python, the kind of real setting with the crazy dialogue. Some of the songs can be rocking, but just talking crazy stuff.”
During our interview the band began kicking around the idea of writing a song about the recent Miami bath salt/zombie case, suggesting lyrics about delicious creamy faces and “I want to eat your face, because I like the taste.” The band says this process of discussing bizarre occurrences is how many of the lyrics get written.
Speaking of zombies, Blankenhorn said he preferred eliminating the undead by “blowing off their heads,” while Meinhart explained: “All perpetrators should be shot in the chest.” At least, I think they were talking about zombies. I hope. Given their position as Super Predators, there was not much room to argue, though.
Another point the band made that is infallible is the wave of amazing new bands coming out of Canton and Akron. Engel says it feels like a momentum is starting to build in the region, spurred on by the fiercely local venues and the Downtown Canton art scene.
“It seems like there’s just better and better bands at places like Annabelle’s on a nightly basis,” explained Blankenhorn. “Even like a Tuesday is a good night to go down there, because there’s four rocking bands playing.”
The band recently finished recording their latest disc with Jeremy James of Attaboy Studios, the first time they worked with an engineer. The group found the process different from past recording experiences, something the members say comes through in the record.
With the record ready to come out, the band members said they’re planning to work on some new songs and hit the regional circuit before heading out on a full-blown tour after the first of the year.
Super Predator will be going ham and releasing their latest disc, “Between Man and Monster,” out on Canton Records, as part of the massive Boozarama, held July 14 at the Buzzbin Art & Music Shop. Definitely come down