Let’s face it,  there are way too many scene kids out there ripping off Gothenburg style riffs and throwing in whiny vocals and passing themselves off as a metal band. It’s hard to appreciate melodic death metal anymore (thanks a whole fucking lot, Massachusetts). And then there’s deathcore, a genre cluttered with chugging riffs, breakdowns at every turn, and a general lack of doing anything different.

But that’s not to say there aren’t good bands out there that make use of these musical styles. A lot of bands have their roots in metalcore/deathcore add their own flair of nuance and progressions that make everything seem interesting again. Between The Buried And Me, The Faceless, Arsonists Get All The Girls, August Burns Red; all great -core bands.

Sacramento based metal group Conducting From The Grave are a band that I feel don’t get enough recognition for what they do. They take the melodic death metal sound and add technical flair and subtle progression that makes for a great listening experience. I had to opportunity to interview their guitarist John Abernathy to discuss the music scene, their upcoming album, and future plans for CFTG.

For those that don’t know, who are you and what do you do?
I’m John Abernathy. I play guitar for Conducting From the Grave mainly, but also recently joined Embrace the End and a small local band with a kid I was giving guitar lessons to called Aurelia.

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To me, it’s refreshing to hear you guys. I mean, you’re smack in between deathcore and metalcore, which have been getting fairly boring in the last few years. It seems that you take the good aspects of both and you make something that stands out from the rest of the mediocrity. Do you have any comments on the scene in general?
Thanks man! I don’t have much to say on the “scene” but as far as those two genres go I definitely think its very flattering to hear someone say they think we are doing something a cut above the rest because that definitely is what we strive for. That is definitely my biggest complaint about the genres or “scene” of both metalcore and deathcore is that they are so watered down with shit generic bands yet it definitely seems like kids going to shows support some of these other bands (I’m not gonna name names) far more than they are willing to support us. We don’t sit around writing like “man bro this next breakdown is gonna be soooo br00(00×10)tal, kids are gonna mosh soo hard bro!” we try to just be passionate about writing some killer riffage that’s progressive and forward thinking and structuring it in a cohesive manner that makes sense (like put breakdowns where they will be good for the song as a whole, not just filler for kids to mosh to), whereas it seems like there are so many no talent assclown bands out there that just play breakdown after breakdown after breakdown.

Are you familiar with the term “Sumeriancore?” If so, how do you feel about that label and it being applied to CFTG?
hahaha a while back some girl commented our myspace saying “you guys sound great, but you are on Sumerian, where are the polyrhythm breakdowns?” To which I responded “Well we have been a band for longer than Sumerian has been a label and we have always just written the music we would want to hear and that is fun for us to play.” So in essence it doesn’t make much sense to lump us in that category, we were playing progressive off time metal with sweeps and whatnot back in 2003, we are just fortunate that Sumerian recognized us for what we do and wanted to sign us. We definitely don’t compromise who we are as a band to fit some stereotype of what our label wants, but I think the material on our upcoming album does have a more modern sound since all 11 tracks were written in a few months as opposed to the last album which was songs spanning over 5 years of writing. Thus our influences have changed over time since we are constantly growing as musicians, but I think we definitely still have our own touch to the sound as you said in your first question that hopefully will set us apart from the pack.

What bands do you find yourself drawing inspiration from these days? Any new albums out that you’re really digging?
I gotta give it up to Tosin Abasi/Animals As Leaders I’ve been a huge fan of his guitarwork since Reflux. The new Red Chord doesn’t seem like its been getting the love it deserves. I have become somewhat of a right hand rhythm picking nut since joining Embrace the End thanks to learning their set and jamming with their lead guitarist Spencer, so shit like what The Red Chord does really rules my face. We all are really big Between the Buried and Me Fans, and also to be touring with Arsis coming up in May is going to be a real treat for me since I’ve been a big fan of theirs since I first heard Diamond For Disease 2 or 3 years ago. Other than that as far as albums go I’ve just been listening to a lot of the realest pimp to ever to spit on the microphone: Too Short.

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So I hear you finished the new album. What info can you divulge at this point? Any surprises in store?
Hah yeah one major surprise. I’ll get to that in the next question. But musically I’d say its a bit darker and heavier, but there are still the upbeat melodic parts we are known for. There is a much broader range of dynamics with my picking, I also switch from EMG pickups to passive Seymour Duncan distortions which are far more responsive to how I pick. Spencer from Embrace the End is a killer rhythm player (and lead for that matter) and his skills passed down on to me when I joined that band so riffs aren’t so much just notes over timing as they are notes at different levels of being muted or open or picked staccato and stuff like that.  Whereas before that kind of shit was my weak point, I mean I had arpeggios for days, but now I’m slowly developing a right hand of doom. Basically there is more depth the the dimension of aggression to softness of playing. Also we used a delay pedal on a couple parts for some gnarly atmospheric stuff, but very sparsely.

I read on the CFTG MySpace that [vocalist] Lou [Tanuis] lives all the way in Connecticut while everyone else in the band lives in Sacramento, CA. How does this affect the writing and recording process? And speaking of the writing process, how does that typically go down?
Well it hasn’t been officially announced but its certainly no secret by now Lou has actually had to step down as our vocalist. We will be making an official statement on the situation as soon as a new song gets posted but you can read a statement he made with our buddy Anthony at Loudside.com regarding the matter here. Unfortunately his responsibilities as a father had to come first before the band and we wish him the best, there is no ill will between either him or the rest of the band. We already have a really killer replacement whom will be announced shortly as soon as he tracks his vocals and we can put a song up.

But prior to this we would just write the music here in Sacramento and send him pre-production recordings then he flew out to record with us and tracked. And as far as the musical writing process goes, we do shit mostly the old fashioned way: come to practice with a riff or idea you want realized and explain it, get it to work with drums, feel if it grooves or not, kinda get a general consensus on if we feel the part is good and fully realized to its maximum potential, then move onto the next part. I usually have a good ear for realizing what riffs should be repeated later and what riffs should be just a one time bridge piece. Sometimes we come up with second guitar parts in the studio just improvising and trying different things out. And then also, as much as we can, we try to record prepro before doing the real deal so we can listen from an objective standpoint and then suggest changes that might be made to make the songs better as songs, since sometimes its easy to get carried away while writing and go too far cramming too many ideas into one song or playing parts for too long. (Listen to With Passion‘s What We See When We Shut Our Eyes album for example, which the same core members of this band also wrote.)

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Your Butcher shirts are out of medium sizes. Hook an average brother up, won’t you? In all seriousness, any plans on new merch for the upcoming album?
Yeah there will be a grip of new merch soon. Check this bad boy out:

I just shelled out 200 bucks of my own hard earned money to buy that design, it will be printed soon.  More to come.

After this album is out, do you guys plan on doing any extensive touring or just some small tours here and there?
We are in it to win it man, we didn’t pay a fuckload of money for a tour van (our 3rd one actually) and a trailer for nothing. If our management and booking can keep us on the road 400 dates a year that would be great. We will gladly play 3 shows a day on some days if possible to meet that quota haha. We just love playing shows, its great to see all the hard “work” (I say that because its not really like work since its so fun) of writing music really pay off when you get a reaction out of the crowd and you get to interact with the fans. We are all really personable people and love meeting and hanging out with fans, just as long as they don’t get too gnarly fanboy on us because we are merely human, after all haha (listen to Too Short’s song “Get Off The Stage“, he rips on superfanboy dudes really hard. It’s hilarious)

Would you ever consider doing a tour diary (possibly called “Conducting From The Road”?) for a certain blog that brings the heavy? *cough*
Possibly man.

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What do you think that the future holds in store for CFTG?
Hopefully at least a few more albums of shredding metal that we can be proud of and maybe some people out there will be able to stay captivated by in this super watered down genre. I’d like to say I see huge sold out tours in our future but in my experience in this “industry” there is no telling what will happen on the business side of things. So many really awesome bands work their asses off and go no where and so many no talent ass clowns achieve superstardom (although I’m sure too many people out there think we fit into the category of no-talent ass clowns haha)

Anything else you’d like to add or mention that we might have skipped over?
I’d just like to say thanks for the interview and thanks so much to any fans out there that might be reading this and that have supported us by coming to a show, buying our album, or buying some merch we really appreciate so very much.
Also I’m giving guitar lessons via webcam, if you can pay 30 dollars for an hour long lesson and can pay me via PayPal hit me up a metaljohnx(at)hotmail(dot)com. I can teach you everything from theory, sweeps, scales, technique, gear, tone, and even if you want to learn about the music business and how shit works for a touring band, my knowledge is yours!
Oh yeah and if anyone plays Starcraft, Diablo 2, or Defense of the Ancients on Warcraft 3 my screen name is EternallyGutted on there, lets kill shit.

With their 2nd album coming out this summer on Sumerian Records and tour plans, I expect Conducting From The Grave to really make a bigger name for themselves this year. If you’re in the area, make sure you catch Conducting From The Grave at this year’s California Metal Fest, May 16th in Pamona, CA and visit Conducting From The Grave on MySpace.

– JR

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