It’s no secret that California’s Fallujah have become one of the most exciting and forward-thinking groups within the new crop of death metal. They solidified themselves as serious contenders with The Harvest Wombs, soared to new atmospheric heights with The Flesh Prevails, and they’re about to drop their highly anticipated Nuclear Blast Records debut with Dreamless. Things seem to be as lethal as ever from the few tracks that have emerged over the past few weeks, but now the band seems to have really found a new sense of confidence thanks to the huge leaps in production quality the band has been provided with their new label. I got a chance to speak with guitarist Scott Carstairs on the heels of their tour with The Black Dahlia Murder and Disentomb about what fans can expect from new material, upcoming tour plans, working with Mark Lewis and a whole lot more!
So you’re at the Nuclear Blast office right now, that’s fucking sweet! How’s that working relationship been? I know it’s been about a year or so now.
Yeah, you know, when we signed to them we had just released a record. So they saw us on tour and heard our record that we just put out and said “yeah, we want to work with this band.” We talked to some people and decided pretty quickly that we wanted to work with them, and then they were basically just like “give us a record!” So we’ve been signed for a year, but we’ve spent that whole time working on it, but now we’ve got it all done. It’s all fully recorded now, and we’re about to release it. It’s exciting and it’s really cool to work with such professional people. We went from like a DIY label, which was really cool, but now we’re with something that’s bigger and has more resources. It’s cool, and they’re really into the music too. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to work with them, just because they seem to be passionate about the music. They’ve got to have a good business sense, and we like to see both good business and passion.
Speaking of resources, you guys worked with Mark Lewis on this new album. What was that experience like?
It was awesome! He’s just so talented and professional, and it was really cool to see him work. We’ve already recorded so many records, so we just went in and did our thing, so it wasn’t too stressful. It was cool to see the way he does things differently. We went and lived with him in Florida for a week basically while we were recording and it was cool to see him in his own environment watching him listening to music and talking about music. He just knows so much about recording. He’s just super talented. Like we’d be listening to some record and say like “man, that china sounds dope!” And then he’d be like “oh yeah it’s this china and he’s recording it with this mic and this is how they mixed and mastered it.” Jeez, man, you nerd on this stuff like I nerd on music!
You said you guys had worked with him for a week. How much did you prepare by yourselves before you went in there, and did he have a hand in not just the technical aspects but as a producer type role?
No, he was saying that he likes to do that with bands and wished that he did. But with the way we did it, that’s not how it was. We came in with completely finished material and just kind of got to work. You can tell though that if he had the chance, he’s got the mind to help produce music and to help see things that you didn’t see. For us, we recorded all of the guitars at my house beforehand. We recorded the DI channels and then we went to reamp those. We also reamped a lot of the cleans and distortion with Zack Ohren. Then when we ended up meeting with Mark, he decided that he wanted to do something different. That’s the beauty of DI tracking; you can do reamps as many times as you want! I think we ended up reamping it a third time and went with a 5153. It’s weird, because depending on what I was recording with at home, like if I’m playing with a 5153 with the way my hand tone works, it’s just not the same.
I’ve only gotten to hear the new song “The Void Alone” and I also saw this bootleg from a French show that actually had some pretty good audio quality. Whatever that song is…
It’s called “Abandon.”
Well that song fucking rips, man! I also noticed that it doesn’t seem quite as blisteringly fast as some of your previous work.
Thanks! Those songs are definitely two sides of the spectrum. With the single that we put out, that’s like trying to make everybody happy with some melodic lines, intense fast riffing and other really melodic lines with the girl vocals. Stuff like that. Then there’s the sci-fi style clean section, you know what I mean? And then like you said with the other song that was really there to push the idea of atmosphere so we weren’t just trying to do these huge, thematic, almost 2001: A Space Odyssey style in terms of progressions.
Would you say that those two help summarize maybe the spectrum of the album, or is there a whole lot that we just don’t even know about yet?
I wouldn’t say that. With the last album, we kind of wrote in pairs. Like we had a Part 1&2 kind of thing where they carried a similar vibe but one was more intense and the other was kind of soft. I see the last album where the whole thing gives you a vibe, whereas I feel like with the new stuff each song gives you a vibe. They each have their own individual characteristics. Each idea was so separate from each other, so we took each one to its fullest. With the song we released, “The Void Alone,” that was supposed to be pretty intense. Instead of trying to make everything similar, because the “Fallujah tone” is already going to sound the same, especially being all from one session because we wrote it all at once. It wasn’t like old songs mixed up with new songs. We wanted each song to have its own feeling to it, as opposed to just feeling like a group of songs on an album.
So would you say lyrically that the songs are pretty separate as well? Or is it more of a cohesive thing?
Each song is super individualistic, both musically and lyrically.
So you guys haven’t left to go on the Black Dahlia Murder tour yet, but you guys have toured with them before, right?
Yeah, we have! Awesome band to tour with!
I still haven’t gotten a chance to see them yet, but they’re finally coming near where I live! I live in North Carolina, and Chapel Hill is where I grew up.
Absolutely man! We don’t fuck around with that.
(laughs) No you don’t, dude!
Do you have any expectations going into this? For Black Dahlia, it seems like slightly smaller clubs than what they’re used to. That should make for some crazy nights.
Expectations as far as the people go? They’re really awesome and welcoming people. They make touring really fun and they take it seriously too. We take it pretty seriously when it comes to set times and getting everything done, but at the same time being friendly with everybody and being helpful. With certain bands, they take it really seriously but then they also take the backstage thing so seriously that it’s uncomfortable to be with them, you know what I mean? They’re all like “make sure I get my dinner first” or some bullshit, but these guys are so chill. They’re just out there to do the same thing that we’re doing. We just want to push our music and do it in the most efficient way without wasting a bunch of money on bullshit stuff like a bus. As far as expecting crowds, you’re right. They’re purposefully doing smaller clubs and smaller drives, so I’m totally expecting a super wild tour! Each show is going to be totally packed with kids just going crazy.
The venue that you guys are playing in North Carolina is…I’d guess about 200 max. It’s going to be fucking sick!
(laughs) Yeah! I have students all across the states, and they’ve all been saying to me “wow, the venue you’re playing is a lot smaller!” It’s just going to be crazy. Two months of insanity.
What are you guys planning as far as the set goes? Are you going to heavily focus on the new stuff, or do you want to give it more time to breathe?
You know man, I’ll say some stuff, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually going to end up the way it is! We are definitely going to play a lot of new songs, just because we’re in the direct support slot so we’re going to have some more time. We’re definitely going to play at least half of the new record if not more, and then some of the favorites from the old ones…maybe even a surprise!
Do you guys have any other plans coming up after that? I figured you’d do something for the summer.
We’re going to go to Europe as soon as we get back from that. We’re confirmed for a couple festivals; we got Tech Fest in the UK, With Full Force in Germany and then Hellfest in France.
Hellfest looks pretty fucking insane from all the videos that I’ve seen of it.
Yeah and I’ve never done festivals like that! We’ve been to Europe a bunch of times but never done festivals so I’m really excited for that. And to see the bands, because there’s legendary bands on these bills.
Earlier you said you’re a total nerd about music the way Mark Lewis is about cymbals…
Were there any new albums last year that really popped out to you, or anything that you couldn’t stop listening to? Whether it inspired you or not doesn’t matter, but what stuck out to you?
I always pay attention to what my friends are doing just because they’re my buddies and it’s always cool for everybody to help each other out. Rivers of Nihil, they put out an album last year…
Yeah man! That was my favorite album of last year, hands down.
Entheos is putting out an album; they’re really awesome guys too. The Zenith Passage, since those are old members of this band and friends, they’ve got a good record coming out. Those are the ones that come off the top of my head. As far as influence, I don’t know, I’m so bad at listening to new music. All the music that influences me is like, years old and not worth promoting! (laughs)
Thanks for taking the time to talk! I’ll totally shoot you a message when you’re in town in a few weeks, and we should hang out!
Yeah, we should definitely hang out! Show me some barbeque or some beer!
Dreamless is out April 29 via Nuclear Blast. You can pre-order it here, and you can see them on tour with The Black Dahlia Murder and Disentomb across the US starting next month (visit their Facebook page for dates). Watch the lyric video for “The Void Alone” below.