Josh DeShazo of Stealing Axion: The Heavy Blog Is Heavy Interview

Don’t let their ‘djent’ tag on last.fm dissuade you; Stealing Axion are promising up-and-comers in the realm of progressive metal. Sure, their grooving staccato rhythms and guitar tones call back to the great progenitor Meshuggah, but this forward thinking four-piece has enough breadth of sound to appropriately land alongside fellow Washington natives 7 Horns 7 Eyes on the upcoming Dual Destruction tour. Their self-titled (and self-released) EP blew us away in 2010, and with their debut album Moments due out some time this year on Century Media/InsideOut Music, we spoke to guitarist/vocalist Josh DeShazo to speak on their new record and how they’ve been since their breakthrough EP.

So, thanks for taking a moment to answer my questions. I’ll start off gently: who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Josh DeShazo and I’m the singer of Stealing Axion.  Our vocal duties are split up amongst the three members, but I mainly contribute clean vocals to most of the songs as well as a few screams here and there.  I split vocal duties with Daniel Forbrich, who screams and growls on most of our tracks.  We both play guitar in the band with Phil, our bassist, who also sings backup vocals with a few lead pieces here and there.  Other than performance-wise, I focus on lyrics, band business, and a little bit of writing when inspiration strikes.

I remember when we first received contact from you, you were promoting your self-titled EP. How did you find that process and what was the general response?

Our EP marked the dawn of our Facebook career as a band.  We had put out a demo before releasing the EP that was very well received.  I had spammed it all over the web (hahaha) and more specifically on Tesseract‘s webpage, where Acle happened to find it.  He then contacted us about mixing and mastering an EP/album.  When I contacted Heavyblog, our EP was done and we pretty much put it out there in the same vein as the demo.  It had a few more songs and the production was entirely better (on account of Acle doing it.)  People loved it and it spread around insanely fast.  I still to this day can’t believe how many people have heard our EP.  I meet people all the time in the weirdest places who have heard it and love songs off of it.  It’s an awesome feeling, considering it’s been around for quite a while now.

So you say the EP was mixed/mastered by Acle – will you be getting any outside help for Moments?

That’s correct.  We employed Acle to mix and master an EP for us to kinda get a taste of what he could do and we were simply blown away!  We had to have him do the rest of the songs on the album.  Funny story is that he kinda “swindled” us unintentionally hahaha.  He mixed the second half of our album differently than the first EP and it just CRUSHED the production on the EP…so of course we had him remix the EP tracks to sound way better.  I’m just teasing about him swindling though, Acle’s an awesome guy and we consider him a friend now through working with him.

What does getting signed [to InsideOut/Century] mean for you guys?

We weren’t really sure for a long time what getting signed would do for us, but in the months since it’s happened, we’ve built a close relationship with our A&R guy (Steve Joh) that has just totally reinforced our choice.  He and the label are actively pushing us in any way that they can and they are planning HUGE things for us that we’re very excited about.  We’ve been really quiet as a band for the past year because we’ve kinda been sitting on this album for a while and planning its release and our adventure out into the world as a band.  We’ve had a lot of help from the label to get started and that along with a lot of advice from friends who have done it has really gotten us ready for a life of music.  We are really looking forward to having an official release come out soon and we can imagine that things will only snowball and get bigger faster from here on out.

Who do you look up to as producers?

Well Acle of course haha.  Just listening to his mixes has given us new ideas about mixing and a new approach to our mixes.  Personally I really love Devin Townsend as a producer/singer/writer/nerd/etc.  There are really so many good producers out there right now that I can really only list a few of my favorites without even really touching on everything: Dez from The Safety Fire, John Browne [Monuments], Aure from Uneven Structure, Bergstrom of Vildhjarta, Misha [Periphery], etc.  All those guys have done amazing things without huge studios and they inspire lots of people to learn on their own and DIY their music.

Is there a theme or concept to the new album? What sort of approach did you take to the lyrics?

There is definitely a concept in Moments and I’ll explain it a bit without giving too much away hopefully.  It tells a story in a very different way than I know of being done much before.  I (and Dan) wrote the lyrics to each song to stand alone with each song having it’s own narrative, however, when you think about the concepts of each song in relation to each other, you see a timeline of events and thoughts.  This is the formula for the story.  Very roughly, the story involved a man that has predicted the end of the world and has been outcasted from society.  He grows bitter and embraces the end of the world.  Of course there are many themes of dreaming and metaphorical writing that will eventually uncover what is really happening in this story.  I’m excited to see if people will look deeply into the lyrics once it’s released and analyze the messages.

The Stealing Axion line-up has been fairly fluid over recent months, with a few additions and a subtraction or two. How has this affected writing for Moments, if at all?

The writing of the album hasn’t been affected at all.  We had Moments complete before we started looking for new members to complete the lineup.  Phil and Dan did a majority of the songwriting, but remain very open to other views and opinions and in the end we all sit in a room while recording and collaborate on what the final product is.  My main job in the band is to create the lyrics, but even then we sit and collaborate on changes and melodies.  It’s a great environment for songwriting and we’re very picky about who we bring into it.  We’ve gone through some changes in the past few months, but we’re solid now and looking forward to adding the new expertise into the final product.

Any plans to tour any time soon?

We have a tour coming up in 2 weeks that will go down the West coast and into the Central part of the U.S. a bit.  This tour is called the “Dual Destruction Tour” with 7 Horns 7 Eyes.  We’re very excited about it and days at work are getting longer and longer as it gets close haha!  Other than that, we’re planning some stuff toward the end of summer that could reach the other side of the U.S.!

Exactly how many meedleys will be had?

That would take way too much work to slow songs down and count hahaha.  We meddle with meedleys mainly in metally mediums.

Wikipedia tells me that an axion is a hypothetical elementary particle that may be a component of cold dark matter, and a product of the big bang. What exactly is your interest in quantum chromodynamics, Mr. DeShazo?

Well many nights are spent staying up wayyyy too late watching science lectures and reading wikipedia.  I guess my interest in physics (astro and quantum) started when I found Carl Sagan years ago.  Something about learning what the different dimensions are left my mind hungry for more and as anyone that looks into these subject knows, the more you learn the more you realize there is to learn.  This has become a large hobby of mine in the past few years and having others around that share the interest make for some very interesting conversations and debates.  In the end all of this subject matter makes it’s way into the music/lyrics, which is awesome because it gives me a chance to explore theories and paradoxes in a fictional sense.

Following on from that, a hypothetical question: the world’s only axion is kept in a highly-secure vault, guarded by moving security beams vis-a-vis Ocean’s Twelve, gun cameras, and sharks with fricking laser beams on their heads. Stealing Axion don their balaclavas and spandex to go in and take it. Who has what role in the heist?

I think that Dan, Phil and I would all have to be lowered in on a rope by our drummer Blake.  Once inside we’d unnecessarily roll across the ground under lasers into the gas chamber.  We’d survive because we’ve been building up somewhat of an immunity to gas the past few years being around each other constantly.  Blake would then have a map on the roof guiding us to the vault using google maps.  Once there, I’m pretty sure Dan would be the one to open the vault by burping so loudly that the hinges rattle loose.  I’d go in first with a spoon as my weapon, only to find that our roadie, Ben, is already inside drinking a beer wondering what took us so long.  There is no axion.

I can’t think of any more questions, and we seem to make silly ones a theme, so just imagine a question you’ve always wanted to be asked and answer it without giving any context. GO!

Chicken brasco, buckstahoota beefcakes and creamed eel.

Thanks again for your time Josh. Anything further to add?

Be sure to come check us out on tour this year. Dates are:

5/18–Tacoma, WA–The Backstage Bar and Grill
5/19–Seattle, WA–El Corazon
5/20–Portland, OR–Branx
5/23–Sacramento, CA–On The Y
5/24–Oakland, CA–Stork Club
5/25–San Diego, CA–Eleven
5/26–Los Angeles, CA–The Roxy
5/27–Tempe, AZ–Club Red
5/28–Gallup, NM–The Juggernaut
5/29–Albuquerque, NM–Burt’s Tiki Lounge
5/31–Denver, CO–3 Kings Tavern
6/1–Salt Lake City, UT–Burt’s Tiki Lounge
6/3–Boise, ID–The Venue
6/4–Spokane, WA–The Hop!
6/5–Coeur D’Alene, ID–The Grail
Like us on facebook and support our efforts! Also keep an ear out for our single, ‘Everything Or Nothing‘ coming out May 15th!  Thanks Chris and Heavyblog!!
We’re currently giving away two tickets to see 7H7E/Stealing Axion’s Dual Destruction Tour through until May 10th. Click here for details!
– CG
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