BrA'Zine: Alright. Um, if there’s anything on here that you don’t feel like answering, that’s cool. Like I said, I just jotted these down real quick, so…
Chris Ojeda: “As long as it’s nothing about my like, my homosexuality or anything like that…anything will do.
BZ: (laughs) Alright. Umm…Ok, first question--I noticed that your latest album “…And They Shall Take up Serpents” was recorded at Studio 101 with Aaron Fisher?
BZ: How was it working with him?
OJ: “All in all, Aaron became a really good friend of ours. We recorded our first album there. On the first one, we really didn’t know what limits we could push on each side, you know? So the second album came around…we were able to actually have him produce and have him push us. We were actually able to push him as well, you know--push our own opinions, what we wanted, what we didn’t like because we’d worked previously together. He’s got a phenomenal ear, he’s a good engineer, and we had a really good time recording there. Our label wanted to send us to Z Studios, in Massachusetts, which is out of D Studios. But we kinda didn’t want to do it. We wanted to do it (at Studio 101). Also, it helps keeps the money that we are spending in the state. We think in some small way that spending the money there kinda helps rejuvenate the state a little bit, as opposed to spending the money elsewhere. We did about everything we can there.
BZ: We were definitely curious about that, because there have been a lot of local musicians looking to him. I was just wondering what your experiences with him were?
OJ: “We were on it. I know some other people had went in there, and were like ‘well, he’s this, that, and the other.’ But he pulled no punches with us, and we like that. We don’t want someone to sit there and keep their mouth shut, and let us do what we want. He’s very opinionated, and I think that makes our music even better. So, it’s pretty fun. Plus, it’s only ten minutes away from where I live. So, I can spend the day in the studio, and come home and sleep in my own bed--as opposed to sleeping somewhere else.
BZ: How does your newest album constrast with previous recordings?
OJ: “Ummm…the only thing we really changed is that we didn’t have a bass player on this last album. We had just left our bass player before going into the studio, so we recorded “…And They Shall Take Up Serpents” as a three-piece. Tony, our lead guitar player, did all the bass tracks. It was kinda weird, because we didn’t know whether to make the bass sit in the back, or at the front…. In the end, we ultimately made him sit in the front a little more, and thought it made it a heavier album--being more bass-driven. And that’s pretty much all we’ve changed. That’s the only difference in anything we’ve done, is that we did it as a three-piece. Now, this new album we’re getting ready to do, we’ve got a new bass player. So, it’s gonna be interesting to see what he brings to the table and how much it changes the sound. Because we know we have a little bit of a different sound since the first album. So, hopefully it will evolve.
BZ: So, have you guys written any new material for that? How much?
OJ: “We haven’t had any luck with any good tours, so we’ve just been keeping our asses home and writing on this new album. Actually, right now, we should just now be starting demo-ing stuff out, but Tony and Skip, our new bass player, and me…we only have like fifteen to twenty different ideas, you know, already demoed out. We’re already half-game on this one, so it’s gonna be fun to try to narrow this shit down, as opposed to what we normally do--which is to have only nine songs, and scramble for a tenth one. This one I think we’re gonna have twelve or thirteen, and have to cut them back. It should be good.
BZ: I hear that. I remember the first time I heard you guys play was in Huntington. What was it…X-Fest?
BZ: How was the crowd response different from having a drum machine, vs. having a drummer come in?
OJ: “Oh, much better. People just kinda stand there and look at you like, ‘What the fuck are you doin?’ when you have a drum machine, you know what I mean? But we didn’t wanna just sit on our asses, because we were looking for a drummer, and we thought it would be the perfect way to try to find one. If you go out and play without one, and somebody hears you, and says ‘Hey…I can play that shit!’ You know?
BZ: Yeah, it’s hard to find a drummer around here.
OJ: “Oh, it is. You know, we had to find a…our drummer was a guitar player for fifteen years. So, we had to take our guitar player and mold him into a drummer, because we didn’t find one. So, it was crazy. But now, the reactions are all awesome, because you actually have fun when it’s a full band, and the drums are actually kicking, as opposed to having the drum machine coming through the monitors. So, it’s a lot more energetic.
BZ: A lot more involved, huh?
OJ: “Yeah. Plus, I mean, the drum machine would skip, and we’d be fucked. (laughs)
BZ: (laughs) Yeah.
OJ: “So, if our our drummer misses a beat, he picks right back up. He doesn’t start back over at the beginning of the song like the drum machine used to.
BZ: You guys played Europe?
OJ: “Yeah, twice (I think)
BZ: How do you guys feel about the metal scene in the U.K.?
OJ: “I think the metal scene over there is fuckin’ awesome. I think, during the nineties, the metal scene dominated everybody--with the Bay Area scene, with bands like Metallica, Testament, and Forbidden…shit like that coming out. But right now, I know that there are a lot more bands in America getting signed, but I kinda think that some of the better stuff is coming from Europe with some of the Swedish-Melodic stuff. Bands like Soilwork, and then you’ve got Messhugah and Opeth. Also, some of my favorite bands are coming from over there. So, they kinda have one up on us right now as far as originality’s concerned.
BZ: How was playing out-of-state and overseas different from playing here in West Virginia?
OJ: “Playing at home can be hectic. Playing out-of-state, you may have three or four people come up to you before the show, and go ‘Hey, man. I know who you are!” But around here…I’m from fucking Logan County. So I’ve got half of Logan County coming up, and you gotta hang out and talk to everybody. Really, it’s like a family reunion--only, with metal. Playing out-of-state is a little more low-key--you can get on stage, play, sign some autographs, get in the van, and go to the next show. Here, it’s an all-day thing to prepare for local shows. But we do better here, so we try to play here once every two or three months somewhere in the state. So, it’s fun.
BZ: When and where would you say your best show experience was?
OJ: “I would say this past year, New England Metal Fest. We played NEMF in 2004, and it went really well, but we were scared. We sounded like amateurs, and we were sandwiched in between the Red Cord and Unearth. So, we got our ass kicked back then. But this time we got to play the main stage. We did really well, and we got to put our game face on and the whole place kinda erupted. So, that’s been my favorite show to date.
BZ: You like festivals, vs. say other venues, like bars and such?
OJ: “Yeah, festivals are cool. I mean, anything can happen. But the good thing is, when you play festivals, the PA’s are always top notch. You play in clubs, and sometimes you don’t have monitors. You can’t hear what’s going on. Also, when you play festivals, and you have bands like us that don’t have a huge fan base, you get to play in front of other people’s fans and kinda win them over. Like if we play certain festivals, Clutch may be playing, or Disturbed, God Forbid…anybody. We get to play in front of their fans, and it’s always good to win over their fans--as opposed to playing the clubs, where there may be only thirty or forty people that show up, because that’s all the people that know you in that area. So, I kinda like the festivals a little better. Plus, it’s all a big party. You get to hang out with bands that you normally don’t get to hang out with.
BZ: Has touring the world and playing with different acts influenced your writing style at all?
OJ: “Nope. (laughs). Not really at all. We watch other bands. The only thing that’s really influenced us is how (other) people act on the road. We’d learn ‘OK, you can’t start drinking at twelve o’clock in the morning.’ ‘You can’t go out without bus money.’ ‘You can’t go out and just be…stupid.’ But as far as writing goes, we listen to bands and kinda let it go in one ear and out the other, and try not to let it influence us too much. We kinda just stick to our own guns, and if anybody likes it--they like it, and if they don’t they don’t, you know? We try not to deviate too much from what we started with.
BZ: Just trying to be original, right?
OJ: “Try to be original. It’s really hard to be original, but we think if we can just stick to our own writing style…. We’ve got three or four guys in our band who write music--if we can just draw off of those guys instead of other bands, we can be somewhat ‘original’--as opposed to sounding like this metal core band, or that death metal band. We try to do what we do.
BZ: What do you guys think about the local scene here in West Virginia?
OJ: “The thing about the local scene here is that there’s a lot a talent around here. But you’ll have a lot of bands playing around for half a year, and people will break up. It’s hard to keep bands going around here because there’s not a lot of national interest in West Virginia. So, you play for awhile, and somebody might drop out of a band. But I think West Virginia has just as much talent as anything we’ve seen. We’ve been pretty much all over the U.S., and there’s people here that are just as talented as anybody else. So, I’m very proud of my West Virginia metal boys.
BZ: Which local bands would you say you enjoy playing with the most?
OJ: “Around here? I really enjoy playing with Nuestra Familia, Hillbilly Deathride…. There’s so many bands around here we like. Downstate, Split Nixon. We just don’t get a chance to play with them all the time. But those are probably my favorite right now.
BZ: Split Nixon played the Sound Factory not too long ago…
OJ: “Yeah, last week.
BZ: Last Friday, I think.
OJ: “Yeah, that was for that Josh Boggess boy--the boy that got killed. They donated all the monies to that.
BZ: I just have one more question--you guys played with Kittie, right?
OJ: “Yeah, we just got off a tour with them.
BZ: I just wanted to ask--did you manage to get any of their phone numbers?
OJ: “(laughs). No, we really didn’t ask. It was much more professional than a lot of people thought that we would be like. Kittie is professional, and we tried to be professional. When we hung out with them, they were really cool. And…there really wasn’t too much sexual attraction going on. A lot of guys in metal bands aren’t attracted to that type of girl. The ‘metal chick.’
BZ: Kind of an opposites attract sort of thing?
OJ: “Yeah, all of our girls are non-metal chicks. I’m engaged, our drummer’s engaged…. So, it was really along the lines of a professional-friendly relationship. Every once in awhile, they email us, and see what’s going on. They were really cool. But…no hook-ups. (laughs).
BZ: I definitely look forward to hearing what your new material sounds like. Are you guys going to be playing in Charleston any time soon?
OJ: “Yeah, we’re playing the fourteenth [July 2006]. ‘Adam fest?’ It’s for this boy that has had cancer. And they have a festival every year for him. So, we’re gonna play a short thirty-minute set for that. And after that, we’re putting out a DVD in three months, called ‘Salvation.’ After that, we’re gonna go into the studio, and probably start working on this third album.
BZ: OK, cool. Well, I look forward to hearing you guys soon. Thanks for your time.
OJ: “You too.
Byzantine: www.myspace.com/byzantine, www.byzantinemusic.net
- Derek Wilkinson - [Myspace]