INTERVIEW: Northlane (AUS), November 2011

www.benclementphoto.com Copyright BenClementPhoto 2011

I have no issue in claiming Northlane as one of my favourite Australian bands these days. I might not be in that mosh/metalcore scene – and I don’t feel like I’d be particularly welcome if I was – but I admire the growth and the evolution of Northlane’s sound. There are few heavy bands in this country that can step to them; and them’s the facts. I knew something big was on the way when they put out their debut, and that’s where this interview takes place.

Adrian was a talented vocalist, albeit a bit of a brat – he once blocked me on Twitter because I corrected his your/you’re usage. Still, he was a kid. He was growing up as Northlane were exploding, and he couldn’t handle it. No-one’s holding that against him. In fact, it ended up being a blessing in disguise – with Marcus on board, they’ve been able to reach their full potential. Anyway, this interview’s fine. It’s fun, even. Adrian was a good kid to interview because he was just so stoked on his own band – and you can’t really blame him.

– DJY, May 2016

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Names are a formality worth skipping, according to Adrian Fitipaldes. To the twenty-year-old, everyone is either “mate,” “man” or “dude” – variations of which we are constantly given throughout our interview. There is one name, however, that Fitipaldes wants to engrave on every mind he encounters – the name of Northlane, the band he has fronted for the past couple of years and the band that have finally delivered a huge debut album in the form of Discoveries. “We’ve been working really hard on it,” he enthuses on the line from Melbourne. “What we really want it is to make an impression; to impress everyone. This album’s been in the mix for awhile, man.”

“We went over-time a bit at Electric Sun studios,” he continues, discussing the developmental stages of Discoveries. “John, our guitarist, is a bit pedantic and can be a bit crucial with his lead tones. He ended up re-recording a lot of his parts just to perfect them. We had to do the vocals for ten tracks in two days – which was brutal on me! Then we kept going back and forth with our mixes and mastering, just to continually refine it and make it the best we could.”

Electric Sun Studios, a popular recording studio in Blacktown in Sydney’s west, wasn’t actually the band’s first choice. Adrian reveals that the band initially wanted to head overseas to lay down Discoveries. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in their budget to do so, which ended up being a blessing in disguise. “If you want to save money, you’re gonna have to do it in Australia,” explains Fitipaldes. “The thing is, though, we really love everything that’s come out of Electric Sun – and, in my personal opinion, it’s the best studio in the country. They have so much experience in the industry, they’re so easy to work with and they have such great ideas. Y’know when you have an idea of what you want something to sound like? They showed me exactly what I wanted to hear.”

Needless to say, a lot of effort has gone in on the band’s behalf to make Discoveries as bold and ambitious as a debut record can be. It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t be expecting more of the same in relation to the band’s first release, the six-track EP Hollow Existence from 2010. According to Fitipaldes, the respective contexts surrounding each of them could not be more different. “On the EP, we were working off a budget,” he says, “and we just wanted to get our name out there as soon as possible. We didn’t really give the production aspect much attention, so that was something we really wanted to step up when it came to this record.” He then adds, with an out-of-character ocker drawl and tongue placed firmly within cheek: “Jus’ wanted to show ‘Straya that we’re not f**kin’ around, ‘ey?” He cracks up, before shouting “don’t put that swear word in there!” in mock-horror.

The differences between Hollow Existence and Discoveries increase when discussion turns to the musical direction taken on the LP. “The EP has got different elements to it,” says Fitipaldes, “but I think the record is really honing in on our musicianships, and setting us apart from other Australian bands. We really want to stand out, and show that we’re not just copying other bands – we’re actually formulating our own ideas, and we’re doing stuff that’s different. I mean, you still want to please your fans and be a part of the hardcore scene – you still want to have the energy and the passion that the hardcore scene is all about. But, at the end of the day, you’re not going to please everyone. Not everyone’s going to like it, and you have to accept that.”

For what it’s worth, Discoveries is an impressive record. Not content to stay within a mould or a limited set of ideas, the album is a strong collection of material that has its foundations laid in hardcore but has no issue with expanding into territory that’s more melodic, heavier, darker and even more electronic – sometimes within the same song. Northlane make no apologies for it, either – they refuse to compromise integrity for popularity, or to get rid of a more out of place section to make way for another boring breakdown.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more of it really soon,” comments Fitipaldes on the topic of hardcore bands in Australia breaking free of generic structure. “Especially in Sydney. I feel it’s been really over-saturated with generic genres. It’s getting tougher and tougher for bands to stand out from the rest. Hopefully, in the next few years, we’re going to see some really cool bands coming up. I mean, there already are some cool ones coming up – I just want to see some more!”

INTERVIEW: This is Hell (USA), October 2011

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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

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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.

INTERVIEW: The Chariot (USA), March 2011

I had never heard of The Chariot before I was asked to interview their vocalist and mainstay Josh Scogin. I’m forever grateful to Australian Hysteria Magazine, as by writing for them they introduced me to a band that would become one of my absolute favourites over the next few years. Even beyond their untimely split, I still love them. No-one delivered a set quite like them, or put out music with the kind of vessel-popping intensity. I fell for them utterly and completely, and I may well draw that back to when I interviewed Josh. He was a really interesting and intelligent guy, particularly when we got talking about how his faith correlates with the music that he makes. His new band, ’68, are fucking great, too. 

– DJY, January 2015

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They go through band-mates like you go through hot dinners, but Douglasville natives The Chariot are never ones to give up or lose momentum. A relentless beast of touring throughout their native U.S., the band will finally make their maiden voyage down under this coming April, bringing along fellow American metalcore stalwarts Oh Sleeper with them. Ahead of this exciting double headliner, the voice behind The Chariot, Josh Scogin, was on the line to discuss life on the road, tourism and what faith really means within his music.

Hey Josh, thanks for talking to Australian Hysteria Magazine. Whereabouts are you at the moment?

Hey man, no worries at all! We’re actually in Indianapolis, Indiana. Haste the Day are about to play their final ever show, and we’re on the tour with them. It’s kind of awesome, and kind of weird – it’s emotional for a lot of them. A lot of their families will be coming out for this show. Ultimately, though, it’s been really awesome – they’ve been really great shows, and they’re great dudes. It’s been a really pleasant touring experience.

How long have you guys been on tour now?

Well, we’ve been on this tour for about a month, but we were on a tour before this one. We’ve been gone since about January, I think – quite awhile! We’re pretty excited about playing this show and then getting on home.

And these shows have been with your new guitarist, Brandon Henderson – is that right?

Yeah, he actually used to be in a band with our other guitarist [Stephen Harrison]. He’s been playing with us for awhile now.

It’s well-known that the band has gone through a lot of line-up changes. Is it hard to keep things cemented as a touring machine?

I guess it should be hard, but it’s actually been a very easy process. It’s always been friends that we’ve known for awhile – it’s always made a lot of sense. It’s never been weird, y’know – the last change we had before this one was with a guy who toured with us for a year and a half, doing the lights and guitar tech stuff. When our guitarist at the time left, it just made sense – it was obvious that he should join because he’s our good friend, he’s like-minded and he knows where we want to go with the band. So, I guess it’s supposed to be a daunting task – but, like I said, it’s always just made sense. We’ve never had to do auditions or anything like that.

Yeah, so there’s been no Chariot Idol!

[Laughs] Yeah, yeah! Exactly!

It’s also pretty remarkable that you’ve been able to keep a consistent flow of new material coming – for example, the proximity of Long Live [released in November 2010] in relation to Wars and Rumors of Wars [released in May 2009]. How important was it to get that album out as soon as possible – did it come naturally at the time?

We wanted to put one out pretty quick. We thought we had a lot of good material, and it was better than just sitting on it. I write a lot of stuff, so there’s the common ground of being able to move forward even when certain members change. It was just one of those things where we were trying to get on a couple of tours, and we thought “Well, we could stay at home this summer – or we could record.” It all just fell into place – we were all writing, anyway, so it wasn’t like it snuck up on us or anything. We just went with it, y’know?

Are you the type to write material while you’re on the road at all?

I personally don’t write anything on the road. I’ll some times write down some lyric as a little separate entity or something, but I’m usually really busy on the road – it’s hard to just sit down and pick up a guitar and write. When we’re at home, though, it just comes naturally. It’s a really easy process to just hit Record on a computer and lay down a couple of ideas. So, we write a little on the road – I know our guitarist writes a bit, anyway. I think it’s when we’re at home, though, that a lot of the ideas tend to come to life.

Do you think the environment of home assists in achieving the right state of mind for creating music?

Maybe. For me, it’s funny, though; I come up with a lot of ideas that I like at the worst of times. [Laughs] Like when I’m driving, for instance. I’ve gotta just keep remembering, or I’ll just forget it, y’know what I mean? It’s kind of one of those things, though, when you’re always writing – things can come naturally. I never really have to sit down and go “Okay, I have to write a song today.” You just go for it; and when you’ve done that enough times, you don’t have to force anything. It cuts out a lot of the forcing, making it a more organic process – that’s we thrive on.

Definitely. Are you and the band looking forward to your Australian tour?

Oh yeah, of course! After this tour, we go to Europe for a couple of weeks, and then we’re headed for Australia. We’ve been trying to come down for, like, three years. I don’t know, man, it’s always just been one thing after another. But we’re so excited to finally come down there and learn about the culture and the people. Hopefully the shows are cool – that’s obviously a part of it. For us, though, it’s the ability to learn new things, and see the country. That’s what drives this band – the ability to do stuff and see things that we would have never gotten to see otherwise. That’s just brilliant to us. It’s something that we’re just too excited to do.

Are you much of a tourist, or more of a sight-seer? What kind of traveller are you?

I’m kind of both. I’ve done Europe several times, and I like seeing the tourist-y stuff that most of the locals probably take for granted. But I also really enjoy meeting someone and getting to know them – being, like, “Hey, how are you doing? What do you like doing? Where do you like to hang out in your country?” To be able to do that stuff is really cool. If we weren’t in a band – like, say, we just said to ourselves “We wanna go to Australia and visit” – we would probably only get to see the tourist stuff. Being in a band, you get to meet new people, meet locals and find out where they hang out, what they like, where they go to eat. To me, I like both. I love the tourist stuff, but in Europe we get to experience stuff that we wouldn’t get to otherwise.

Oh Sleeper will be joining you guys on this tour, as well. They’re regarded as a Christian band, as are The Chariot. Is there ever a conflict of bands that associate themselves with Christianity performing what is traditionally regarded as “the Devil’s music” – i.e. rock music and heavy music? Or is it liberating to be able to do that?

I get the reaction to a lot of earlier bands within the genre, but I don’t really get exactly why it became known as “the Devil’s music.” With that said, I don’t also necessarily get why Christianity receives its own genre in the world, either. To me, it’s funny that it would be attributed to one side or the other. Unless you knew the lyrics were full-on in talking about Hell or Satan or what have you, I don’t see how music all by itself can be Christian or not. To me, it’s just music. Just because I’m a Christian, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like heavy music. It’s just a form of expressing yourself – it’s like art. Like, I love art, and as a painter you’d never think that “these painting are Christian, these paintings are Satanic.” If it’s just a painting without connotations either way, how can you associate it with anything? Music’s the same: just because it’s heavy, it’s referred to as “the Devil’s music.” I always think that’s pretty funny, to not necessarily have any background on it and claim it as such.

You’d think the stigma would come from rock and heavy music having that history of sex and drugs and that kind of lifestyle, as far back as Elvis and moving on to Sabbath and Ozzy and what have you. At the same time, though, you’ve got bands who are trying to break that premonition and move away from that stereotype.

Of course. I mean, I didn’t grow up in a Christian household – I’m at where I’m at today because of my life’s path and what’s brought me here. It’s not like I’m riding the coattails of some pastor or one of my parents. It’s a very mutual respect that I have with people who are either believers or non-believers – I can relate to both. I know where they’re coming from in either direction. It’s cool to just play music, to play rock and roll; and maybe one day be able to bridge the gap and make people realise that it’s just music. Hopefully, it can even be a blessing of some sort. Just because the media throws “Christian metal” or “Christian-core” on it, doesn’t mean it’s exclusive – that’s not what we’re about. It’s silly to throw a whole genre on something just because the band is from a label, or because you might tour with a band or two who are affiliated with what you’re affiliated with. You just can’t think about it that way, y’know?