I honestly have no recollection of this interview, so it’s nice to know that I threw in a whole slab of context in case I ever forgot about it. I’m not crazy about my formatting or approach here – the whole “rock & roll” angle is a bit cringeworthy. Still, I think you can see me experimenting a lot through my early Hysteria writing. There’s something there, I just don’t know exactly what it is yet.
This is Hell are cool. Apparently they’re big wrestling fans. Tight. I don’t really listen to them much anymore, but I got love for them all the same.
– DJY, May 2016
Hardcore New York punks This is Hell have been kicking arse and taking names across seven years and countless live shows. Barely a year since their last album, 2010’s Weight of the World, the band have kicked back into action with a new drummer and a cracking new album in Black Mass. Guitarist and founding member RICK JIMINEZ took a break from the road to speak with AUSTRALIAN HYSTERIA MAGAZINE about touring, guitar heroes and getting to tour with your best friends.
There’s a distinct difference between being in a rock band and being rock & roll. Being in a rock band can often mean you’re taking your interview calls from the comfort of a hotel room or even your own house. Being rock & roll, however, is taking an interview call in the middle of nowhere, somewhere between signs on a Californian freeway on the side of the road as your tour van awaits repairs. “We were on our way to a show,” explains Jiminez, “and the van just started smoking, so we had to pull it off to the side. We’ve been having troubles with this van for awhile now – same as the last one we hired, and the same one before that.” He’s clearly more than a little agitated about the whole ordeal, and Australian Hysteria offers to call back another time. Jiminez declines, however – after all, “this’ll give me some time to take my mind off things.”
There’s plenty of better things to talk about than shitty vans, too. For one, the band have just wrapped up production on their fourth album, Black Mass. Storming out of the gates at breakneck pace with thundering riffs, blasts of drums and the kind of no-bullshit attitude that has gotten them a worldwide following, Black Mass stands proudly amongst the finest work the band have done thus far. It also doubles as the most versatile that the band have ever sounded, ranging from their throwbacks to proto-hardcore to a balanced diet of Bay Area thrash metal. This was not quite intentional, according to Jiminez, but more of a happy accident on the band’s behalf.
“The way we all write individually is actually quite different to the way we write as This is Hell,” says Rick, who has been a part of the band since its inception alongside vocalist Travis Reilly. “I think, with writing this album, it was a matter of going back and finding what it is that made us want to play music to begin with. For me, with the stuff that I learned guitar on and the stuff I grew up on, it was the early Metallica, Slayer, Testament and what have you. It’s interesting, because although bands like that have always been loved by me and inspired me to write songs to begin with, they’ve never really been a prominent influence on This is Hell.”
“It was never me listening to a thrash metal band and turning into a hardcore song,” he continues. “It was more to do with taking that influence of their work and just playing with it, seeing how it came out. I think that’s definitely what separates this album from our last few – it really bridges together everything we’ve learned as a band.”
Fans will also be quick to note the shift into considerably more melodic territory than what had previously been attempted in the band’s body of work. Again, Jiminez emphasises that this was simply a matter of where the band ended up musically, rather than just deciding it would sound that way. “We never kind of sat down as a band and said ‘y’know, I think this would sound better if we were singing’ or ‘maybe we should rewrite that part’ or whatever. We’re never too self-conscious about that kind of thing, it’s never something that we’ve ever really made an executive decision on. The most important thing when we’re writing and recording is that we all agree on it. In this instance, we found that the direction we took on this record was the best thing to do.”
The band have been playing a few shows to warm up to Black Mass‘ release, but the big test of its quality will come when the band take on a massive U.S. tour near the end of the year. “Yeah, we’re going out on the road with Underoath, Comeback Kid and the Chariot,” mentions Rick casually, as if this kind of mammoth bill is part and parcel of the job. “We’re really excited about heading out with those guys. We’ve toured with them all a bunch of times – we were with Comeback Kid last time we were in Australia, actually – and they’re all such great guys, super-supportive of us and what we do. It’s going to be a lot of fun.” When Australian Hysteria asks if such a bill could ever come true here in Australia, Jiminez simply laughs and says “We’ll see.” He likes the chances of the band being back in the country in 2012, however. “We had such a blast last time,” he offers. “You lot sure know how to take care of us!”
With that, it’s back to the broken tour van and the rock & roll life.