JJ ‘Shiv’ Polachek of 7 Horns 7 Eyes: The HBIH Interview

[Photo by Chris Collins]

To the relief of fans everywhere, 7 Horns 7 Eyes released their highly anticipated (and delayed) album Throes Of Absolution through Century Media Records earlier this year and have received numerous positive reviews on their new musical direction. I interviewed frontman JJ Polachek after finding that we share a mutual likeness in slam metal, but we also talk about the new album, touring, and JJ’s numerous side projects.

With the release of Throes Of Absolution, you’ve already gained tons of critical acclaim. How do you all feel about the positive reactions?

Pretty surprised, actually. I was expecting it to mostly get reviews saying it’s a 7/10 and “we have potential” but a lot of people genuinely like it as a whole, and really seem to understand what we’re going for. It’s encouraging because it means our next album will have an accepting audience, so we can just keep building on and improving the sound we have.

What was the single or collective move that made you guys want to create the atmospheric progressive top heavy masterpiece of Throes that is wildly different from the metalcore days of the self-titled EP of 2007?

Well I’ve only been with the band since 2010, so I just assume they grew up and realized that no one cares about Gothenburg riffs anymore.

Back in 2010, you posted that you already had the entire album done. Is this true or did you guys rework a new album? If there was an album done and it’s not this one, are you guys thinking of eventually releasing it or is it scrapped all together?

It was done, then Kyle left to get married, and I took his place and rerecorded the vocals. Musically the album was the exact same. Maybe someday in the future the tracks with his vocals will get leaked, but we have no plans of releasing those officially.

What does the album title actually mean to you guys? What were some of the lyrical motives, ideas, and stories behind the album?

The album title is just about the struggles involved in the process of redemption. Nothing specific. It should be noted that I only rewrote the lyrics to 3 songs on the album (Phumis, The Hill Difficulty, and A Finite Grasp of Infinite Disillusion). I can’t and won’t speak for Kyle regarding his lyrics. Those are his and only he knows what was going on in his head and his heart when he wrote them. I just felt the vocal parts fit the songs well so I kept them because I liked them so much.  Regarding my lyrics, I just dealt with the inherit struggle in coalescing a faith-based worldview to reality. The driving motivation of knowing that not everything is black and white, and it’s not as easy as “all faith is false in all ways” or “only this faith is true and all the others have no value”.  It’s a complex universe, and I think there’s more depth to it than a lot of conventional worldviews acknowledge.

Do you feel that when you joined 7 Horns 7 Eyes that it ultimately fueled the change in musical direction for the band?

Haha not at all, vocalists affect musical direction almost never. They knew what they wanted to do long before I joined, and I’m happy to do it with them now.

Tell fans about the writing you do for No Clean Singing. How did that come about? 

OH damn I should get back to writing those. Basically our publicist just hooked that up and they told me I could write whatever I wanted so I just pimp my favorite slam acts from time to time. I like to hype bands that other blogs don’t write about, because they aren’t nerdy enough (via actually having balls in their riffs and no dumb solos. Solos are so dumb). I like doing it, I’m just lazy. I think I’ll get back on that now that Pathology is putting out a new one, so it’s ushering Slam Season back in.

From what I’ve seen and heard, you also do vocals for a few other projects. What are they and when are you releasing new material for those? 

This is the perfect time to ask because I have a ton of non-7H7E-related shit coming out the next few months. I’m in two other bands that play live, both based in Florida. One of them is a death metal band called Monotheist that I’ve been with for years, and we have an EP slated to drop in December. The other is a more symphonic tech whatever band called Ovid’s Withering, that basically sounds like Septic Flesh but with more polyrhythms because that’s what the kids want I guess. Ovid’s has a full-length and an EP we’ll be finishing up in the next few months, which will altogether amount to around 2 hours of music. Beyond that I’m organizing a Slipknot tribute EP with a bunch of different musicians. So far I have Johnny Plague, Jamie Hanks and Chris Fugate (current and past members of I Declare War, respectively), Paul from Chimp Spanner, and Cameron Argon A.K.A. Big Chocolate involved. It’s gonna be super fun. We’re trying to do the more fan-favorite songs and avoid the low hanging fruit like Wait And Bleed. The only other thing slated is a fun little slam project with my buddy Jared from a badass Washington moshcore band (Navigator). He’s describing it as “non-vegan guttural sickness” and calling the project Bloodmouth, so this will be one to watch. That’s about it in total. I keep myself busy.

What are some tips you can give fans about how to hone your voice?

Trial and error is the only way to learn. Everyone starts by mimicking their favorites (in my case Dan Weyandt and Nate Johnson) but the only way to make yourself a vocalist of any value is to produce noises that other people can’t. So just keep pushing and crafting it into something unique, not just something brutal. Also don’t fall into the amateur trap of doing more high screams than low growls, there’s enough of that and it never sounds good ever. High screams should be saved for the actual intense parts, not just the damned verse riffs. Let Trevor Strnad sound like Trevor Strnad.

What gear was used in the recording of this album? Are there any brands that you will use in future endeavors and that you will always stick with?

I have no clue, I just growled. The mic was like $300 though.

To me, it was every bit worth the wait. But what was the reason behind it taking so long for the album to finally be released?

Nothing more than what I already said about rerecording it and whatnot. Besides that it was just the label’s decision to wait until when they thought it was appropriate and we had a tour to support it.

Did fans react positively to 7 Horns 7 Eyes live when you played on your latest tour with The Contortionist and Jeff Loomis? Are there any future tours coming soon for the band?

Yeah actually, but that tour lineup was a very appropriate one for our music. Obviously we stood out as being a heavier band on it, and he had no clean vocals or jazz fusion parts to speak of, but kids seemed to really respond well. We got significant mosh most nights, and a lot of kids who had never heard of us even dug it. As far as future tours, we’re looking at a few things. We have something slated in February, but it’s not in the US. We’re still pretty much doing things DIY in terms of booking, so it’s tough to say anything specific, but we’re shooting for some cool ones, and there’s talk of hitting up the UK next summer.

What are some of the musical influences you guys’ had while writing Throes?

I think they’re pretty obvious on the album. Lots of Meshuggah, Decapitated, Swallow The Sun, Opeth and Katatonia going on. Vocally my biggest influences are rooted in death metal. Vocalists from bands like Immolation, Aborted, Devourment, older Opeth, Disgorge and the like. By far my biggest influence overall is Dan Weyandt from Zao though. The man is a legend.

Any last words?

BDC 420 kickflip double pits to chesty pick up Real Steel on DVD and Blu Ray in stores now.

– RB

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