For the last year, guitarists Chris Catharsis and Mark Hawkins have been toiling away on their melodic metal project Soul Cycle. Their album is finally ready to be released, making it’s debut here on HBIH today at 6!
I had the pleasure of talking with the guys to get the skinny on the creation of Soul Cycle and what else those two very busy and talented dudes had going on. CHECK IT.
Alright, so SOUL CYCLE…
Mark Hawkins: Ahh, those guys suck.
Chris Catharsis: Yes, the NY funk band who stole our name! Before we had it!
I SAW THAT! I was on last.fm today and I all, “What the hell is this jank?”
Mark Hawkins: yeah they totally had it before… I hope there is no legal battle
The last.fm had all of 12 listeners. Fuck em. Hell, one of the 12 was for me listening to your album. Or something, shit I don’t know.
Mark Hawkins: Haha yeah, that’s what I figured when I saw their MySpace… like shit, I don’t think this band has really done anything in a long time, plus our music is wildly different.
So… How did you two guys meet?
Chris Catharsis: It’s a metal kind of romance story, actually.
Mark Hawkins: Ahhh yes, the story of me and Chris. We go way back. Enchanted lovers from past lives… haha but seriously, Chris was about to release an EP and he was looking for a guest solo on a song and posted a status about it
Chris Catharsis: I had a track up for an EP I was working on at the time, and Mark sent me a MySpace message asking if he could drop a solo on one of the tracks. I said of course and we hit it off from there. We went on to create two more music projects, Kongregation and Rape the Dead, before we finally met earlier this year at a Cannibal Corpse show in Jacksonville.
Mark Hawkins: Yeah, Kongregation was the first then Rape and now the Cycle. So Chris and I have only met once to celebrate and have beer.
Chris Catharsis: Hopefully many more beers to be shared lay ahead in our future.
Mark Hawkins: I think we should have beers whenever we release something…we are about due for more beer!
Chris, what was that project you were working on at the time? Was it a solo thing or something else?
Chris Catharsis: It was a solo thing, I was doing stuff under the name Sonorant, which is actually pretty stupid because the name came from my Intro to Foreign Language class and it has absolutely nothing to do with metal…whatsoever. But I thought it sounded cool.
What does it mean?
Chris Catharsis: In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant is a speech sound that is produced without turbulent airflow in the vocal tract. (thanks Wikipedia!) So I guess that sounds like…a fart. One of the silent but deadly variety.
Mark Hawkins: Farts are metal
I’ll remember that and use it for my “Things that are fucking metal” column. So Chris, I was wondering… What’s your REAL last name?
Chris Catharsis: Everybody asks me that like I’m fucking Batman…which I am.
Mark Hawkins: Chris leads a very exciting double life. I don’t think either of his groups know about his alter-ego
Chris Catharsis: But seriously, it’s Miller. Catharsis is the artistic bullshit name I came up with.
Awesome. So you guys mentioned the other projects, Kongregation and Rape The Dead. How did those projects pan out chronologically, and what genres did they encompass?
Mark Hawkins: Kongregation was the first one. We started working on it in ’07 and it’s kind of a progressive thrash metal sound. We got some pretty sick guest appearances from vocalists for that one including the dude from Mors Principium Est
Chris Catharsis: Soul Cycle actually came about out of something we wanted to do with Ville from Mors Principium Est. He helped us out with a little vocal demo on one of the Kongregation tracks and then wanted to try and do a project with us. Soul Cycle was supposed to be it but it never panned out stylistically.
Chris Catharsis: Rape the Dead is just…fun. We wanted to go full blast with a dirty death metal project that was old school inspired, so that’s what we did.
Mark Hawkins: Yeah and Rape the Dead was something we wanted to do for a good time! And it definitely was
Chris Catharsis: So chronologically, Kongregation, Rape the Dead, Soul Cycle.
Why not just put it all out under one project umbrella if it’s basically just you two shredding? Make it sorta progressive and diverse through the course of an album?
Chris Catharsis: I thought about us converging our names at one point. Hawktharsis!
Mark Hawkins: haha it is…but there are definite styles we were going for. That’s something Chris is exceptional at with the songwriting and keeping focus. Sometimes the dude would send me like 3 songs in a weekend, all of them sound great…and I’m like “wtf man?” haha
Are those other projects still kind of alive or is it a “been there, done that” sort of thing?
Chris Catharsis: I wanted to resurrect both of them, and that may still happen. Had a lot of great ideas for Kongregation recently, they just didn’t translate well to actual songs.
Mark Hawkins: We haven’t been actively working on either of them for a long time. Rape The Dead put out 4 songs semi recently, but after that it’s been straight Soul Cycle. Yeah, I still really dig on some of the old Kongregation stuff…that music is one of the more progressive sounding projects we have so it’s more of a melting pot. You will hear all kinds of influences in there, but like… Rape the Dead, that is death metal… Soul Cycle, that is melodic death metal… they just scream it at you.
In my opinion, I say you throw all your pieces in one box, that way you both can collectively put out more music and keep focus on one big picture instead of compartmentalizing, being all “This music goes here, and this goes here.”
Chris Catharsis: We may very well end up doing that, to be honest!
Mark Hawkins: I definitely see your point… makes it easier for people to find if it’s all in the same place. That would also be pretty overwhelming though…”Oh, hey let me check out this band. 62 songs, are you kidding?!”
Chris Catharsis: Maybe just house it all under one production label. I’m telling you, Hawktharsis Productions has a good ring to it.
Speaking of finding you guys, what other projects do you guys have going on (read: what do you guys do when you’re sick of each other?)
Chris Catharsis: Haha
Mark Hawkins: HAHAHA
Chris Catharsis: Mark has WAY more going on than me for those times.
Yeah, I keep saying he’s a whore
Mark Hawkins: lol, let me check. Actually, I have kind of a list.
Mark Hawkins: Eating Infinity, Crypteria, The Global Warming Extravaganza, MKULTRA, Soul Cycle, Kongregation, Rape The Dead, Cunt Amputation, MMB, DECAGON, Northern Darkness 666, 27 South, Haunted in the Abstract, Resolving The Origin, Mark Hawkins Acoustic, and Assimilated Mind Phase with Kevin [Suter]
Chris Catharsis: See? I told you! I wish I could say music is my life, but right now it can’t be. I’m just a senior in college trying to finish things up and get out into the real world and find a music production job.The only other project I’m doing now is one with Martin Debourge. He and I are working on a couple things, kind of a tandem release of a heavy power album and a metal re-working of some world music.
“Cunt amputation” wat
Mark Hawkins: That is a joke band I have…Gay Satanic Black Metal, you will like it. haha
What do you guys do when not writing music? What do you do for a living?
Mark Hawkins: I do music non-stop, it is my hobby and my profession. I don’t make a lot of money, but I am extremely happy doing what I do. I give guitar lessons and do session work and mix/master sometimes…anything that has to do with making noise, I’m on it.
Chris Catharsis: I don’t work while I’m in school, but I used to drive shuttles for a Hampton Inn near the airport. Worst job ever (so far) was working on a liquid natural gas plant construction site. Jumpsuits, sweat, and no chicks. I felt like I was at a Slipknot concert circa 1999. And that concert lasted all summer.
Mark Hawkins: I have also done work in advertising as a voice over actor. I don’t get that work very often but it’s one of my favorite things to do.
No way! Anywhere we can hear this?
Mark Hawkins: I will upload something here
Chris Catharsis: I have a college radio show.
Oh? What’s the format?
[7:40:19 PM] Chris Catharsis: Morning show. My dad has been in radio doing morning shows for 30 years now, so I guess it kind of made sense.
Mark Hawkins: http://www.mediafire.com/?y2v57c1i22oorcy
Chris Catharsis: Jesus Mark, you and I will do a radio show one day, I’m calling it. I didn’t even know about this shit until just now!
Damn Mark, your voice is sexy
Mark Hawkins: Dude, I love doing ridiculous voices… hence the global warming extravaganza, it’s like my favorite thing ever. Chris do you make people listen to metal on your show? Let’s do radio and git moneh
Chris Catharsis: I want to but since we are campus-wide and the only morning show, we just focus on the talk and let the music program do whatever. Every now and then I pick some 90’s G-Funk rap.
Jimmy Rowe: Throw in some metal one morning. Just play whatever’s on TNOTB’s Morning Wood column
Mark Hawkins: I agree with Jimmy
Chris Catharsis: Last day I will do NOTHING but Napalm Death.
Mark Hawkins: “… and this next song, enjoy this tasteful selection by the Napalms of Death.”
Chris Catharsis: “You Suffer”, over and over again, for 2 hours!
Mark Hawkins: I have a question for the Tharse! Tharsenuts!
Chris Catharsis: DO IT.
Mark Hawkins: What originally got you into bedroom producing?
DONT HIJACK THIS INTERVIEW. I WILL END YOU. So, Chris, what he said.
Mark Hawkins: What got you into writing Jimmothy?
Mark Hawkins: OH GOD I CAN’T STOP!!
Mark Hawkins: WHAT’S HAPPENING!!
THE PLANTS ARE KILLING US. (directed by M. Night Shyamalan)
Mark Hawkins: hahaha
Both of you guys, what got you into bedroom producing?
Chris Catharsis: Fuck M. Night. But seriously… I was taking lessons from Steve Gerard, who used to play in a small metal band called Eternity X (and yes, they practiced down the street from Symphony X in Jersey), and I started writing riffs for him to analyze since I didn’t really know what the hell I was actually doing. Then I started writing so many that they became their own songs, so I bought a USB connection that had no amp modeling whatsoever and I recorded stuff line-in to GarageBand. No drums, just guitar. Then, after a while, I started using drum samples and just kept practicing until I found sounds that weren’t terrible. And that’s when I started releasing my stuff to the public and actively TRYING to get people to listen. I cut my chops in audio production and mixing all through trial and error by recording my own stuff.
Mark Hawkins: For me, I think the first one-man-army kind of band that I ever heard was Luke Jaeger with Sleep Terror. And that just absolutely blew me away that one person could do all that. I was just practicing my balls off on the guitar and decided I wanted to give that recording/songwriting thing a shot. I was already playing live music a lot in various cover bands and whatnot, but just never had any clue about recording it…now I know an INCREDIBLE amount of people recording themselves and I think that is fucking awesome.
Chris Catharsis: Knowing that we are part of that “movement”, so to speak, is kind of cool.
Chris Catharsis: Although our part is pretty fractional right now, haha.
Mark Hawkins: hahaha goddamn Bulb eatin’ up our fame!! j/k he’s alright
So as for Soul Cycle, what were your main influences when writing?
Chris Catharsis: I kind of made a decision at one point when I knew this was just going to be our thing that we were going to take a more “accessible” approach to our songwriting. The first song I wrote for the project was “Soul: Extinct”, the last one on the album, and it came about after listening to a lot of Sikth, Sevendust, and Devin Townsend. We took elements of melodic death metal, djent, and even classic rock to make this thing what it is now. It’s a grab bag that all makes sense put together.
Mark Hawkins: For my leads, I just try to let each song influence me and do something that definitely has a little bit of wank, but with other tasteful passages and carefully chosen notes
Chris Catharsis: Mark really made these songs complete, to tell you the truth. His lead playing is a highlight of every track and it gave our sound that technical edge. Chris sends me great ass sounding shit, I can’t turn down a project with this cat.
Does Mark play all the leads or do you both do a fair share of wank?
Mark Hawkins: Chris does a good amount of wankage on here!! He added in a lot of stuff to accent riffs as layers and those couple sicky solos too
Chris Catharsis: I have a few things on there. Most of my lead playing is just accent stuff in certain passages, but the biggest sections are in “Soul: Extinct” and the solo in the clean part of “Rising Defiant”.
Mark Hawkins: We trade off a lot in “Soul:Extinct” actually.
The thing I noticed in Soul Cycle is that, unlike a lot of guitar-centric records, you guys write actual songs, not just semi-structured wank. What is your songwriting process like, considering you’re an internet based band?
Chris Catharsis: We really set out to make an actual album, not collections of riffs thrown together. We wanted each song to make sense and to keep the listeners attention.
Mark Hawkins: Chris is the man with songwriting! Always super focused. The riffs are all his…we definitely discuss the direction of the project before diving into it and send each other all different kinds of mixes, but I basically get super sick sounding songs in my inbox to put wank all over. So life is good.
Chris Catharsis: I write and record the rhythm stuff and program the drums, then send it to Mark and he applies leads where he wants. Sometimes I get all Jewy and move his leads around to places in the song where I think they make the most sense, but he seems to be okay with that haha.
Mark Hawkins: hahaha yeah, if someone else is handling production you have to keep an open mind, but most of the time I am surprised in a really good way
Chris Catharsis: The main goal behind Soul Cycle was to make an album that doesn’t sound like the djent guys or anything else that is coming out from internet bands/projects lately. We wanted this to be a sophisticated, professional sounding record of fist-pumping catchy songs where if they came up in shuffle on your iPod you wouldn’t skip over them because they don’t have any direction or identity.
Mark Hawkins: and BALLS too, we wanted to have balls. And be undeniably catchy at the same time.
Chris Catharsis: Yes, must not forget the BALLS.
Chris Catharsis: Melodic metal is too whimpy.
Mark Hawkins: Yes, balls. We have balls
Can the ladies still listen, then?
Mark Hawkins: ONLY IF THEY LIKE BALLS!!! Actually I totally hope ladies listen to and enjoy this.
Chris Catharsis: If the ladies like to groove, we serve it up on a silver platter with this record.
Who played the bass on this album?
Mark Hawkins: Chris did all the bass, also shoutout to Max Karon who mastered the album.
Chris Catharsis: I recorded all the bass with my guitar because I don’t own an actual bass guitar. It’s actually kind of funny the way I have it set up. I play a clean tone into the computer and then process it in Logic with a pitch shifter knocked down an octave to simulate the bass, then I send it through a bass amp modeler that completely blows but somehow gives me a passable sound. I finish it all off with a compressor that has the biggest threshold imaginable, because if I don’t have that anything that isn’t played on the 6th string just kind of dies out, and then I do some noise gate stuff to cancel out the excess distortion.
What gear did you guys use on Soul Cycle?
Mark Hawkins: I used my line 6 toneport along with their modeling software to create tones and tracked all leads with my trusty Dean Cadillac that I’ve owned for about 12 years now.
Chris Catharsis: I used a Line 6 PodXT (surprise surprise) for all my amp modeling and I used an Ibanez s470 that I have had since high school. It was my first guitar and it still plays pretty well.
So you guys are looking for a vocalist! What are you looking for?
Chris Catharsis: Shit, anyone who is good and fits the music really haha. We’re not even sure we will actually find one that can sing over these songs.
Mark, tell me about that recent Kevin Suter collaboration. How did that come about and how did that go down?
Mark Hawkins: I first saw something about Kevin on HBIH…so you guys played a part in this madness!!! His shit was sick, and very well produced for such a young bloke. Turns out Kevin and I know and talk to a lot of the same metal people. We got up on facebook and He gave me a little sample track (what became Breeding Insanity) to throw down some leads and the response was pretty overwhelming when it got dropped! We decided to make it a full blown project and do a lot more songs….Yet another E-Band haha….Kevin and I have known each other maybe 3 weeks still. He handled all production for the EP. This cat’s output is really pretty incredible. We ended up putting this together in only one week and we kept the whole project a secret until it came out. One more interesting thing about that EP…all the stuff you hear that sounds like synth or weird samples and noises…that’s a guitar!! Kevin is truly wicked with the post processing and that’s how all those crazy noises are achieved.
What are your favorite songs on the album?
Mark Hawkins: My favorite tracks would probably be “Rising Defiant”, “The Routine” and “A Declaration”. “Rising Defiant” just kicks your ass right off the bat. “The Routine” has this weird skank groove along with some sweet tapping riffs from Tharse that I like a lot. “A Declaration” is just badass, probably our longest, proggiest song on the album. Killer spacy riffs that stick in your head like glue and an epic shred off with me and Vishal. Very stoked about that track.
Chris Catharsis: I really love all these songs, but I have to agree with Mark, those 3 are definitely my favorite. “Rising Defiant” was our “single” track, if you will. It’s short but very involved. “The Routine” has some funk elements and at times it’s even danceable! With “A Declaration“, I wanted to have this monster main riff and that’s pretty much exactly what we ended up with – along with 6 and half minutes of extra stuff that just happened to kick enough ass that the song worked. Vishal’s solo in that compliments Mark’s perfectly and is definitely one of my favorite parts of the album.
You guys are fairly technical players. Which riffs or licks were the most difficult?
Mark Hawkins: I’d say my single most difficult lick is a string skipping diminished run comes in about 4:37 in my solo to “A Declaration”. Most of the solos have some pretty ambitious stuff, but that one is a little ridiculous. The sweep/tapping/legato/string skip/clusterfuck lick at 3:55 in “Soul : Extinct” is also extremely hard to pull off cleanly. It’s total finger death. BETCHA CAN’T PLAY THIS!!! lol
Chris Catharsis: My most difficult stuff, at least for me, pales in comparison to Mark’s work. The main riff in “A Declaration” is pretty involved, as far as remembering what notes to hit and how to hit them, plus there’s this damn tap drag thing a la Dimebag’s solo in “Walk” that connects the first half to the second half, and that can be tough to get in time. And “Rising Defiant” is mostly all about getting the syncopation right, there are some odd chords thrown in but those aren’t bad. I think riffwise with these songs, I didn’t want to bombard the listener with technicality but rather create a vehicle through which Mark’s playing could really shine through as singularly shred-a-riffic. Also, he’s a far better player than me, so that kind of speaks for itself!
So what’s next for you guys?
Mark Hawkins: For me, I’m going to continue staying as busy as I possibly can! New AMP stuff is already in the works, I have lots of session playing gigs lined up. Currently tracking some stuff for an acoustic project with Vishal J. Singh and Luke Jaeger. Also, depending on the success of this release, I’d love to do more Soul Cycle or maybe even resurrect one of our older projects with some ass kicking new material. Chris is an excellent, talented producer to work with and even with something like 35 songs we have produced together…it’s just getting started.
Chris Catharsis: I don’t know what’s next for me. Several people have mentioned through Mark and through my buddy Martin that they might like for me to do drum programming for them, which would be cool. I’ve also got whatever Martin and I decide to get into ahead for us. But yeah, Mark and I will continue to write and record stuff together, whether it be for any of our current projects or (God help us) if we decide to create a new one. Soul Cycle took almost a year to finish so this is by far our most focused and legit attempt at doing the “Internet band” thing, but like Mark said, depending on how well it’s received, I’d love to start working on the next SC installment whenever the time comes. I’m extremely proud of how this album turned out, and hopefully everyone who takes the time to download it will bang their heads a little. And big thanks to Max Karon for mastering the album, you for the cover, and Vishal J. Singh from Amogh Symphony for his awesome solo in “A Declaration”.