As you may have noticed, over the past month or so we’ve been interviewing a series of Australian artists, and we’ll continue to bring those to you this month as well. Today we’re lucky enough to be joined by Andy Marsh, guitarist in Australian deathcore outfit Thy Art is Murder. The band have been making waves on the international scene for some time now and are one of Australia’s more successful exports. Vocalist CJ McMahon has recently reunited with the band and a new record is on the way, so we spoke to Andy about that, their split EP with Fit For An Autopsy and The Acacia Strain (available here), Australia and more. Enjoy!
Hi Andy, it’s awesome to be able to speak with you again after my colleague Matt interviewed you in 2015, thanks for your time. Back then Holy War had just come out and you were about to start touring it. Now that you’ve had some time to sit with and play that record extensively, how do you feel it stacks up with your previous work?
We are still proud of the record. It’s our highest charting one so obviously on that front the record and release were very rewarding, but artistically we still love it. I think it is a great representation of where the band was at in 2014 when we wrote it, and I don’t feel it has aged or lost its relevance.
Sounds good. Metalcore bands like Parkway Drive and The Amity Affliction have managed to hit #1 on the Australian music charts, whilst you guys managed to hit the top #10 with Holy War. That’s a pretty crazy result given how heavy and extreme your music is, but how much attention do you pay to that kind of stuff? Do you interpret those kinds of results as evidence that metal is doing really well back home and that it has a strong following, or is it more a case of mainstream artists finding a lot less success due to the nature of the modern music business?
We don’t pay too much attention to those kinds of things. Obviously, it is super rewarding that our fans are so insanely amazing to help propel a band like ours up to such great heights, but the chances of a band like ours reaching number one, or winning one of those awards are pretty slim. You have to start getting into the politics and people behind the scenes if you want to win something like an ARIA [Editor’s note: Australian equivalent of a Grammy]. We just play music the way we know how, and if we are rewarded or recognised outside of that, then that’s just a bonus. We aren’t in Australia very often these days, so, to be honest, we don’t have too much of an idea of how metal is doing IN Australia. We can tell you that heavy Australian bands are doing amazingly outside of the country, though.
Yeah, I think a lot of bands in your position can relate to that. Last year saw the release of The Depression Sessions, a split EP with The Acacia Strain and Fit For an Autopsy. We know you’re all great friends with Will Putney from FFAA, so was this just an opportunity to have fun and collaborate with some mates, or was there a larger goal and motivation behind it?
The Depression Sessions was just something to do for fun, and obviously the message behind any release of ours was going to be rather misanthropic. Will and I had been talking about doing a split for a long time, as our bands are both great friends as musical entities, and as people outside of music. He had been recording The Acacia Strain at some point and spoke about it in front of them, and Vincent said they would love to get involved.
The original song from the split is awesome. At 5 minutes it’s one of the longest songs you’ve ever released, and I feel like it placed a greater emphasis on atmosphere than your previous output. The solo on that track is fucking great too. Is that a sign of what we can expect from you guys in future, or is that just the sound you thought would work best on this EP?
Thank you, it’s one of our favourite songs as well. Sean had the opening intro motif and then just continued to build the song around that, and then I came in at the last minute and arranged it to streamline it a little better with the lyrics. I think his brilliant approach to atmosphere really directed the lyrics that I wrote, and they really combined for a powerful impact. That song definitely gets to me more than anything we have ever done, especially when you watch the clip we made for it. I don’t know if we can replicate the vibe from that song, it’s really a unique thing, but I would like to think we can capture that emotional power again.
Let’s hope so. Since CJ’s departure you’ve had Nick Arthur (Molotov Solution), Monte Bernard (The Kennedy Veil, ex-Alterbeast), and Lochlan Watt (COLOSSVS) fill in as live vocalists. What was it like having so many people go through the position? Was it exciting and fun to get a fresh face in there, or did it start to get a bit draining as time goes on?
As you know now, the Prince of Darkness has returned to the fold after a year off. Having such great vocalists and friends step into the role throughout the year was a great experience for us. It was fun to see their interpretations of the vocals as well as to have new people to tour with.
Yeah congrats on welcoming CJ back into the fold, you guys certainly are a great musical fit for one another. When can we expect to hear the next record?
Well CJ is back and we have finished writing a new record, and that’s all I’m going to say. Once we start recording I guess we will have more info for everyone.
Over the last 15 years or so I feel like Australia’s reputation within the rock/metal community has soared, and we keep seeming to get more and more amazing bands coming out of there. Why do you think that is?
Isolation and struggle. There isn’t a heavy touring circuit and only the cream rises and can afford to get out onto the world stage. So what the rest of the world sees is only our best, and I think that distorts the view that everything that comes from Australia is amazing.
It’s tough to survive as a touring band from Australia given its small population and geographical isolation from major markets like Europe and the US. Last time we spoke with you, you guys had taken an all-Australian lineup overseas with Aversions Crown, Feed Her to the Sharks and Earthrot playing beside you. I thought that was a super cool thing for you to do, so what are your thoughts on the role of larger bands? As a relatively successful band with an established sound and reasonably large fan base, did you feel a responsibility to try and help out up-and-coming acts from your home country?
I don’t think we owe anything to other bands particularly, but I think we do owe it to a scene that supported us and lifted us up to a place where we could go on to make records and tour the world. I see it as our responsibility to find other talents in Australia and help them out by taking them on tour internationally so they can see that exposure, and make new working connections that can assist them in taking it further themselves.
Well said. Speaking of the financial difficulties of touring, what do you think about campaigns like that of Ne Oblivscaris’ Patreon, and do you think these types of funding models can remain sustainable as more and more bands (like Allagaeon and Shining) begin turning to them? Would you ever consider doing something similar yourselves?
That is not something we will ever do.
So I did some research of Australian bands, where in the country they come from, and the style of music that they play, and I got some interesting results. I found that NSW had a relatively strong metalcore/deathcore scene compared with other parts of Australia. Not to say there aren’t awesome bands coming from other places, there certainly are, but three of the biggest bands from that broad category are yourselves, Parkway Drive, and Northlane, all NSW bands. Having toured extensively, can you pinpoint something specific or unique about Sydney or NSW that makes it so conducive to producing the style of music that you play?
Well TAIM is basically a Queensland band now. Everyone lives in Brisbane except for me (I live in the states). The Amity Affliction is also from Brisbane, and Parkway Drive might technically be from NSW, but they’re from Byron, only two hours down the road. I think the Brisbane market really helped cultivate these talents way back in the day.
This is a tough one, but is there a characteristic about the music coming from Australia that really stands out to you? For example, a lot of people familiar with melodic death metal might hear a song and go ‘this sounds like it’s from Gothenburg’. So is there a certain sound that you hear and think to yourself, this sounds like it’s Aussie?
I don’t think so. Look at a cross section of the bands that are successful coming out of Australia. In Hearts Wake, Parkway Drive, The Amity Affliction, Thy Art Is Murder. All very different takes on heavy music.
Did you want to highlight a couple of Aussie acts that perhaps don’t get the attention they deserve?
Disentomb, who are smashing it on the world stage in the underground brutal death metal scene. Psycroptic, truly one of the world’s best tech death bands. There are quite a few.
Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us today, we really appreciate it and wish you the best for all your upcoming endeavours.