Chris Aitkens is a Concordia student by day and a rockstar by night
Behind the screaming vocals of the heavy metal-punk band Gutser is Concordia undergraduate student Chris Aitkens. Aitkens is currently pursuing a BA in the Journalism program. The singer-songwriter founded the band in 2014, and said he feels he has finally found his place in the music world. “I think this is the band that I was meant to play in after all those years,” he said. “I finally found my voice. I finally found my sound.”
Aitkens first got involved in the music scene at 14 years old, after going to an all-ages Halloween show at Club Lambi. “I saw these incredible bands and I just really wanted to be part of what they were doing,” he said. “The first band that I saw was Trigger Effect, which to this day is still my favourite band, even though they dissolved a few years ago. I started going to more shows and started to develop my taste in music, and then wanted to be in my own band.”
At 16 years old, Aitkens formed his first band with high school friend James Armstrong, and went on to start other bands after that. “Most of them were terrible to begin with,” said Aitkens, adding that Gutser actually took off by accident. “It started off with myself singing, James Armstrong playing bass and James Thomas playing drums,” he said. The bassist, Armstrong, has been with Aitkens since the very beginning of his musical career. “I’ve known him for half of my life, so we’re really good friends,” said Aitkens.
Aitkens then started talking with Thomas, the drummer, who at the time was playing with the band Bearmase. “I kept on annoying him, [saying], ‘Yo, man, we’ve got to be in a band together,’” Aitkens said. They were still missing a guitar player, but, according to Aitkens, when Thomas brought along guitarist Paul McWhaw, they immediately hit it off. “We’ve been playing, every single week for almost three years now,” he said.
Aitkens said he feels he can fully rely on his Gutser bandmates, a connection he never had with previous bandmates. “It’s often very difficult to find people who are as enthusiastic [about music] as you are,” he said. “It took me a while to finally find a band that was stable enough [to play with].”
However, being a Concordia student by day and the frontman of a heavy metal-punk band by night does have its challenges. “There’s this whole lifestyle of staying up very late and drinking. But when you have school the next day, then it’s kind of difficult to maintain that rockstar lifestyle,” said Aitkens. What makes it all worthwhile is the fact that he loves performing on stage. “I’m a bit shy in real life, but when I’m on stage, I’m the centre of attention and I can say anything, do anything,” he said. “It just feels really good. I don’t have to be such a lonely person all the time. I can be part of something bigger than myself.”
The band is set to release their first EP titled Gutser Sucks within the next month. “We still have a bit more recording to do and there’s the whole technical aspect of mixing, mastering and getting our CDs together. Hopefully we’ll get that done in about a month,” he said. While they are not sure what venue they will be having their launch party at, Aikens said he would like for it to be held at Turbo House in Saint-Henri. It is run by his favourite band, Trigger Effect, so he said that there is a certain sentimentality about that place. Aitkens said that he hopes people will enjoy their new songs. “I want people to listen to our music and think, ‘Oh wow, this is a really intense and energetic band. I would love to go see them live, and I would love to party with them,’” he said.
According to Aitkens, their music has an in-your-face tone that’s also humorous. “The way I like to describe it is: it’s painful for us to play and it’s painful for people to watch, just because it’s so fast and so demanding. It takes every ounce of our energy to get through one song,” said Aitkens. A theme that is present in their EP is disillusionment. “[It’s about] being pushed to be a certain way and then snapping out of it all of a sudden and just realizing, ‘Wait a second, I can think for myself, I don’t have to do what the television tells me to do, I don’t have to do what the church tells me to do’ or anything like that,” Aitkens said.
On Feb. 4, Gutser will be performing at On Rock Community Services in Pierrefonds, an annual benefit show for the homeless. Aitkens said this could be a very good opportunity for the band. “There’s most likely going to be children there, so I’m wondering if I could inspire any young kids to pursue music the same way I was inspired 10 years ago,” he said.