Un­di­vided As­cen­sion

CJ McMa­hon quit Aussie death­core crushers Thy Art Is Mur­der un­der a cloud of des­per­a­tion and drug ad­dic­tion. Now he’s back, he’s clean and he’s swing­ing for great­ness

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Thy art is murder - WORDS: STEPHEN HILL

Dur­ing his time away from Thy Art Is Mur­der, vo­cal­ist CJ McMa­hon would get up at the crack of dawn. In­stead of head­ing to a venue or a stu­dio, he would get stuck into a day’s graft as a stone­ma­son in his na­tive Syd­ney, putting in the hours to build the kitchens and bath­rooms of sub­ur­ban dreams. He made the sur­prise ca­reer move af­ter re­al­is­ing he was on a down­ward spi­ral – and it wasn’t easy.

“It’s hard work lift­ing heavy, fuck­ing bru­tal stone,” he says. “I just needed to clean my life up, get off the drugs, detox my body, sort my fuck­ing brain out, and be happy that I’m alive again.”

CJ an­nounced his de­par­ture from Thy Art Is Mur­der via Face­book in De­cem­ber 2015, cit­ing fi­nan­cial ruin and homesick­ness as key rea­sons. It was one of the year’s most shocking mo­ments; fol­low­ing the re­lease of the sav­age, re­li­gion-bat­ing Holy War in June, the band had been rid­ing the crest of a wave. But off­stage, things hadn’t been right for a while.

“It had been com­ing for years,” CJ sighs. “I’d be tour­ing so much that I wouldn’t see my fam­ily for 10 months. Money was al­ways the main is­sue; we live in the most ex­pen­sive city in the world, so when I was there I couldn’t pay for any­thing. I couldn’t af­ford health in­sur­ance. I re­cently had an im­pacted wis­dom tooth re­moved and it cost me a thou­sand dol­lars. It’s been killing me for years, but I just had to put up with it.”

With the weight of the world on his shoul­ders, CJ turned to drugs to block out his frus­tra­tions, be­com­ing a user and a dealer. He shut him­self off from ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing his band­mates, who were forced to suf­fer in si­lence as he “just re­fused to en­gage” with them.

“I was try­ing to get that high I had on­stage, and to re­press the feel­ing of miss­ing my fam­ily and hav­ing no money,” he re­mem­bers. “It was a vi­cious cir­cle that I was spi­ralling in. I pretty much OD’d twice in that time, and one day I woke up in LA af­ter a mas­sive drink and coke ben­der feel­ing an­gry and frus­trated, and I just went, ‘That’s it... I’m not do­ing this any­more.’ And I went home.”

It’s ob­vi­ous from CJ’s tone, just as it was ob­vi­ous from his state­ment, that he was crav­ing a nor­mal life: job se­cu­rity, fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity, a so­cial

sup­port network. When he quit the band, he took Xmas off and then got straight to work as a stone­ma­son with his fa­ther-in-law and brother-in-law. The strict rou­tine not only gave him the above, but al­lowed him to block out his de­struc­tive thoughts.

“I was feel­ing com­pletely phys­i­cally wrecked, get­ting up at half five and fin­ish­ing at seven, but it was good that I could sup­port me and my wife,” he says. “I’d be so tired that I’d just sleep, so it was help­ing me men­tally, too. I was too ex­hausted to dwell on things or to en­gage with the peo­ple who’d be a neg­a­tive in­flu­ence on me.”

With a more reg­i­mented life­style in place, CJ used willpower to get clean, but soon be­gan to miss Thy Art. In Fe­bru­ary 2016, the band headed to Europe in sup­port of Park­way Drive, with in­terim singer Nick Arthur fill­ing in, for some of the big­gest shows of their ca­reer – in­clud­ing one at Lon­don’s 5,000-ca­pac­ity Brix­ton Academy. It was a huge op­por­tu­nity, yet CJ was on the other side of the world.


“I had a mate in Lon­don who sent me footage of the crowd chant­ing ‘CJ’ be­fore they came out,” he re­mem­bers. “That made me feel good, but it also made me feel re­ally bad that I left the boys in that sit­u­a­tion. Ev­ery time I saw them on In­sta­gram do­ing these crazy shows... it was like break­ing up with a girl and be­ing fine with it, then see­ing she had a new boyfriend and be­ing like, ‘He’s not fuck­ing good enough for her!’

I’d be ly­ing if I said that wasn’t hap­pen­ing.”

With frus­tra­tions grow­ing, it was a chance meet­ing with an old band­mate that sowed the seeds for his re­turn. CJ went to a house party, and Sean [De­lander, gui­tar] hap­pened to be there. The pair hadn’t seen each other for six months, and had lots to catch up on.

“I couldn’t sleep that night, just think­ing about the band. I mes­saged him the next day and said, ‘I wish things were dif­fer­ent, I wish I hadn’t gone, my life sucks – I don’t even have time to spend the money I make be­cause I’m work­ing so much.’ And he replied, ‘Fuck it, it’s easy. Just come back.’”

He joined Thy Art Is Mur­der at prac­tice and his re­turn was made of­fi­cial in Jan­uary, fol­lowed by the sin­gle No Ab­so­lu­tion. It in­ad­ver­tently sparked a war of words with Sui­cide Si­lence’s Ed­die Hermida, who ac­cused Thy Art of be­ing stuck in a death­core rut, while his own band had shunned the genre for their new sin­gle, Doris.

Thy Art re­sponded by mak­ing a set of Trump-style ‘Make Death­core Great Again’ base­ball caps, seem­ingly mock­ing both Ed­die’s com­ments and his mu­sic. Af­ter Sui­cide Si­lence re­leased their po­lar­is­ing, self-ti­tled al­bum, the beef es­ca­lated to the point where Ed­die called CJ a sell­out. “A per­son who is look­ing for money and talks about money and fo­cuses on money when they’re mak­ing mu­sic is a com­plete sell­out,” he told the web­site Live Metal. “They’re lit­er­ally go­ing, ‘Hey, we’re not sell­outs, but please buy this hat.’” “He’s try­ing to drag us down, be­cause the king of the moun­tain has lost his throne.

And the new young prince has risen to be the supreme leader,” re­sponds CJ. “He’s like, ‘Fuck this. If I’m go­ing down, I’m tak­ing these cunts with me!’ And it’s worked out the op­po­site. If I didn’t come back and I joined 5 Sec­onds Of Sum­mer or be­came an EDM DJ then, yeah, I get it. But I’m cleaner and stronger. I re­ally don’t give a fuck what those salty fuck­ers have to say about me.”

But he is hop­ing that up­com­ing al­bum, Dear Deso­la­tion, which leans less heav­ily on the ‘core’ and fo­cuses more on bar­baric death metal and hulk­ing arena grooves, will pro­pel them be­yond the death­core scene and to big­ger stages.

“We want to be able to play shows with bands like Lamb Of God, and maybe look to­ward be­ing one of those bands in the fu­ture,” CJ says. “Peo­ple like to pin the whole death­core thing on us, but we’re more than that on this record. We’re push­ing into wider metal ter­ri­to­ries, be­cause we want to be a big band, and I be­lieve that if we work hard that’s a re­al­is­tic goal for us.”

With a more fo­cused CJ McMa­hon back, they might have a chance.


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