Australian Guitar - - Fea­ture -

Thy Art Is Mur­der could eas­ily have been thrown off their steady up­ward tra­jec­tory by the de­par­ture of vo­cal­ist Chris “CJ” McMa­hon to­wards the end of 2016. Lineup changes – espe­cially be­hind the mic – can rapidly change the for­tunes of a band, and for a while there, it was un­cer­tain just how Thy Art would look go­ing for­ward. A num­ber of tour­ing vo­cal­ists stepped in to fill the void, and it ap­peared that the plan was to se­lect a new per­ma­nent full-time vo­cal­ist to re­assert their right­ful place in the death­core pan­theon. Then, at the Unify Gath­er­ing in Jan­uary, McMa­hon was back, bring­ing with him a new com­mit­ment and fire. The ul­ti­mate re­sult is Dear

Desolation, the band’s fourth stu­dio al­bum. It’s their most bru­tal yet, with killer gui­tar tones and lots of great riffs and songs. Aus­tralian Gui­tar caught up with for­mer AG cover star Andy Marsh to talk about this new phase in the band’s his­tory.

Talk us through the process of how you got from the last record to here.

ANDY MARSH: It’s been a bit of a roller­coaster. There have been a lot of pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures and a lot of changes to the strat­egy of tour­ing and what­not so that we can nav­i­gate this pe­riod and fig­ure ev­ery­thing out. There’s been a lot of tippy-toe­ing around. There’s a lot of pol­i­tics in­volved in be­ing in a band, from the band mem­bers our­selves, to the crew who rely on you for their job, to the management, to the agents, the other bands, the fans, pro­mot­ers – it’s nev­erend­ing how this in­dus­try in­ter­twines. It’s kind of like the in­vest­ment mar­ket­place: a line-up change can cast doubt into in­vestors’ minds, and a to­tally ar­bi­trary thing can af­fect the price. Like­wise with us, CJ be­ing out of the band changed so many things for us. We just pro­ceeded with cau­tion and un­der­played things quite a lot, and that helped us get through the storm.

I guess as we get older, we be­come bet­ter at deal­ing with un­pre­dictable sit­u­a­tions.

MARSH: Ab­so­lutely. I think that’s my pri­mary skill: nav­i­gat­ing dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions and com­ing up with so­lu­tions. We’re all com­mit­ted to each other as friends – to this lit­tle in­sti­tu­tion and to this lit­tle con­glom­er­ate that is the band, as friends, as cre­ators, and then to the fans – and to con­tinue to de­liver mu­sic that we find en­joy­able, and that our fans will find en­joy­able as well. Tour­ing is our liveli­hood, and it is only af­forded be­cause our fans en­joy the mu­sic. Many are gen­er­ous enough to pur­chase our mu­sic and sup­port us in that way, but even if they don’t pur­chase it, if they en­joy the mu­sic, it cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity for us to tour. That only ex­ists be­cause of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the cre­ator and the con­sumer. So for us to have this as a job wouldn’t ex­ist just be­cause we like mak­ing mu­sic. If we were a stay-at-home band who put records out for the sake of putting them out, then sure, we wouldn’t need fans and we’d just keep work­ing our jobs and mak­ing records and putting them on the in­ter­net – but we love to get out and ac­tu­ally per­form mu­sic, and our abil­ity to do so de­pends solely on that re­la­tion­ship.

Did you guys have to reignite your link with CJ af­ter the time apart and the changes you’d all gone through per­son­ally?

MARSH: We’re a band of peo­ple who just get on with it. Ob­vi­ously, there was some kind of cau­tion and trep­i­da­tion about how it was go­ing to be, but we were mak­ing an al­bum any­way and we would have had an­other vo­cal­ist had it not panned out with CJ. Ob­vi­ously, our pref­er­ence was for him to re­turn. We’ve said this be­fore in other in­ter­views: we imag­ine him as the other guy in our band. We’ve been to­gether for a long time and his is the voice we hear over the mu­sic, in the same way the way you imag­ine how the gui­tar or the kick drum sounds. His voice is the one we imag­ine when we write. So we went in and started writ­ing the record, we and had been work­ing to­wards it with CJ to make sure we were will­ing to ac­cept him back, and he was ready to come back and deal with the pres­sure and re­spon­si­bil­ity that comes with be­ing in this band. But you never know how that’s go­ing to pan out un­til you get there. I mean, peo­ple bail on their wed­dings right be­fore they’re about to put the ring on their fin­ger! So if that hadn’t worked out, then Ni­cholas Arthur – who had been singing for us in Europe – would have done it. But we got to­gether be­fore play­ing Unify and that was great, like it was meant to be. CJ truly was like a healed man.

You worked with Will Put­ney again this time around. Is he a per­ma­nent fix­ture for your sound?

MARSH: From a pro­duc­tion stand­point, a lot of peo­ple don’t un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween a record­ing en­gi­neer, a mix­ing en­gi­neer, a mas­ter­ing en­gi­neer and a pro­ducer. Will is all of those things, but the main as­set that he pro­vides to the band – aside from his friend­ship – is guid­ance as a pro­ducer, in terms of song­writ­ing, in terms of struc­ture and in terms of, ‘No, don’t do that, you did that on the last record.’ We’ll have these moves we’ll make in go­ing from one sec­tion to an­other, and he’ll say, ‘It feels too


fa­mil­iar. You did this last time.’ He’s like that ex­tra mem­ber of the band that knows as much about how to play our songs as we do. But he’s re­moved that one step that we aren’t able to be by not be­ing so close to it. We feel that we have a great work­ing dy­namic go­ing on, and there’s no real need to change that up. In terms of in­tro­duc­ing new dy­nam­ics in terms of son­ics, maybe some­day we would con­sider us­ing a dif­fer­ent mix en­gi­neer to ap­ply some kind of change or evo­lu­tion – if we felt it was nec­es­sary – but in terms of the ac tual pro­duc­tion, we make our records in about twoweeks with Will. We like to work longhours and so does he.

Your con­cep­tual ap­proach is very dis­tinct, and heav­ily in­formed by world events. Given the bi­ases from both sides within the me­dia, where do you get your news?

MARSH: I think just hav­ing good per­cep­tion. I know that sounds re­ally whack to say, but I like to think I’m a pretty good reader of peo­ple and sit­u­a­tions, and I think that does al­low you to fore­cast and see the true mo­ti­va­tion. There’s this rich tapestry of what goes on be­hind ev­ery­thing. I mean, it’s not just the toi­let that you flush – there’s this net­work of pipes and levers and switches that lead that wa­ter to and away from you, and some peo­ple can see that net­work be­hind ev­ery­thing. Some­times I feel that when you see a sit­u­a­tion, you can see those ul­te­rior mo­tives that are re­ally go­ing on be­hind some­thing. So I do feel very in-tune with things like that, which al­lows me to then bet­ter un­der­stand and mod­er­ate the data that I do c ol­lect – and I do try to mon­i­tor in­for­ma­tion from as many sources as pos­si­ble. In this day and age, if you’re lis­ten­ing to or watch­ing just one news source, you’re def­i­nitely screw­ing up. Every­one has their mo­ti­va­tion for that and they have their back-door deals and agen­das, and for what­ever rea­son, the ma­jor­ity just can­not un­der­stand that that’s how the world is. Maybe it’s this thing of, ‘ We don’t want it to be that way, so we won’t be­lieve it,’ but that’s the way it is. So to an­swer your ques­tion, I try to col­lect my news from as many sourcesas pos­si­ble.

What gui­tars were you shred­ding out on in the stu­dio?

MARSH: We used an Ibanez RGD2127 with an EverTune bridge, and we recorded most of the rhythm gui­tars in three or four days. Record­ing the rhythm gui­tars nor­mally takes for­ever, sim­ply be­cause of the tun­ing: when you’re stack­ing gui­tars, any kind of mi­cro ad­just­ment in the tun­ing is bad. You’re of­ten tun­ing gui­tars for four hours a day! But the EverTune made a mas­sive dif­fer­ence. It’s our lucky pickup. There’s this vi­olin or am­ber, honey-yel­low Ibanez Pres­tige sev­en­string that they only made a few of ten or more years ago, and we used it on Hate and Holy

War, but be­cause we were us­ing the 2127 for the ex­tra scale length and EverTune, we had to de-sol­der that pickup and put it in the RGD. And I re­moved all of the other elec­tron­ics so it was just pickup to amp.

And for leads?

MARSH: I have a very lucky gui­tar, an Ibanez JEM BRMR – a mir­rored one that the TSA cracked for me. And I also used my tour­ing gui­tar, which is an Ibanez RGD2127 in Lam­borgh­ini Yel­low that I call ‘The Bum­ble­bee’. It has a Sey­mour Dun­can Pe­ga­sus pickup in the bridgeand a Sen­tient in the neck. I think the Pe­ga­sus is a great pickup. The midrange tex­ture is to­tally dif­fer­ent to a tra­di­tional metal pickup, and the su­per, su­per high-end is kind of lopped off, which I like be­cause you’re go­ing to take that off for a record­ing any­way. And we used a lot of cool ped­als – too many to re­mem­ber! The amp is a 5150, and we used maybe a Diesel as well.

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