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Interviews : Thy Art Is Murder – “Our fans are fucking amazing!” (An interview with Chris “CJ” McMahon)

By on January 15, 2014


Thy Art Is Murder – Chris “CJ” McMahon

Thy Art Is Murder are undoubtedly Australia’s fastest growing and hardest working extreme metal band. Where to begin?

In 2012 the band released their second album simply titled “Hate”. The album is a technical marvel which incorporates blasting technicality and monstrous breakdowns, with hints of old school death metal laden groove from influences Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse. After signing to Nuclear Blast Records in 2013, the band toured relentlessly across Europe, the UK, America and Australia. Enter 2014, Thy Art Is Murder will be supporting Australia’s biggest heavy and alternative music festival, Soundwave this February/March.

Metal Obsession had the extreme pleasure to chat with Thy Art’s frontman, CJ McMahon, discussing the band’s busy tour schedule, their fans and the Soundwave Festival.

Metal Obsession: Hi CJ. How are you going?

CJ McMahon: Good mate good, just cruising through the day, going on a fishing trip later tonight, so I’m just chilling waiting.

MO: Sounds like you’ve got a pretty hard life going on.

CJ: Ohh, it’s boring as batshit when I’m not on tour, I’m like a housewife. But other than that, yeah, life’s pretty good.

MO: Just to start off with that, what was your favourite moment from the ‘Hate Across America’ tour?

CJ: It’s kind of really hard to say to be honest, without going into too much… there’s so many good things! Like, there’s things I wanna say that I can’t say, but just the overall tour was amazing. It was our second time in the States and we were only there two or three months beforehand, and we sold out nine shows or more I think. Every show was big, the number of people that turned out for shows was surprising and the whole thing was great. We were already friends with Kubla Khan and Fit for an Autopsy, and we’ve become really close with I Declare War and Ten Seconds of Life so the only bad thing about the tour was some long drives but everything else was perfect. The whole tour was perfect.

MO: Well I’d say that’s pretty successful to be honest. Following on, ‘Hate’ has been absolutely massive here and, as you said, sold out overseas and played nearly 150 around the world.

CJ: We did play 151 around the world actually in 2013.

MO: Sorry, I thought you only did 149.

CJ: It must be only 149 then, I thought it was more but you’re probably correct. I don’t know anything, I just jump on stage and scream into a microphone bro so you’ve probably got better facts than I do.

MO: Well I checked it on your Facebook page, so maybe you should be firing someone [laughs].

CJ: Yeah I’ll have to have a word with our manager, I might have to take him down a peg or something [laughs].

MO: [laughs] Going on what I was saying, did you anticipate such a level of success when you were recording Hate?

CJ: Ahh, not really. We knew we wrote a good album, we knew we went to the best producer (Will Putney). Well, we believe he’s the best producer in the world. We were partnered with Machine Shop in Jersey as well, so we knew we had something special. We knew we had done something really special, but we didn’t know the album would’ve catapulted us this far in 2013. We’re a different band, we have different mentalities now, we have a different schedule, everything’s just blown up. It’s like a dream come true.

MO: Was it the experience of touring that made you push the envelope a bit further on ‘Hate’ this time? It seems to be a bit of step up from your previous work if you don’t mind me saying.

CJ: Oh definitely, I think with our previous stuff it was all done locally and all by ourselves. With ‘The Adversary’, we produced it, recorded it, mixed it and everything ourselves, so the quality of the production was quite low. We kind of had no idea what the fuck we were doing, so we were just a couple of dickheads from Western Sydney trying to write the most aggressive, violent death metal album they could possibly do. We didn’t really have any producing/engineering skills, so the quality was quite low. With the EP (Infinite Death) we went to the Electric Sun with Buddha and Shane, so we really stepped it up, we’ve matured and to be honest, ‘Hate’ could’ve been our last album. We said all of us, “if this album doesn’t catapult us into where we want to be, then that’s it, that’s done” sort of thing. So we literally put everything on the line, and worked as hard as we could on the album. Having Will there as well to help us along, and give us advice on certain sections and vocal melodies was really really good. But the production value that Will puts into his records is better than any producer in the world, by far.

'Hate' out now via Nuclear Blast Records

MO: Well it’s definitely worked out for you guys with the record amount of shows you just played.

CJ: Yeah it’s fucking ridiculous man. If anything, 2014 is even bigger. We’ve already booked our tour for July, it’s fucked. We’re going to be overseas for so long, but it’s good, and like I said, it’s a dream come true.

MO: I was going to ask you about Soundwave, did AJ approach you to be on the tour, or did you approach him?

CJ: I don’t really know man to be honest, our manager does all that sort of shit for us. But I do know there was talk of us being on last year’s Soundwave, I don’t really know what happened there, but I know AJ said that he wanted us on this year’s Soundwave. We haven’t directly spoken to him you know, it’s more our record labels and management who speak to him rather than us.

MO: Okay, which act on the tour are you most excited about seeing live?

CJ: Oh man, there’s a few. Most importantly, The Dillinger Escape Plan. They’ve been a massive influence on me, I’ve been a fan of them for like fourteen years. We did the Summer Slaughter tour with them and became best friends, those guys are the best dudes I know. We were lucky enough to catch up with Liam and Ben, on the Hate Across America tour they came out to a couple of shows, and we had dinner. Dillinger for sure man, I love those guys more than anything. Even if they weren’t coming to play, even if they were just coming to hang out, I’d still love to see those guys. But the other bands, we’re friends with a couple of dudes from Suicide Silence, I want to see Whitechapel, Korn especially, Gojira, The Black Dahlia Murder, there’s a shit ton of bands. I know I’ve missed a few bands that I want to see, I wish I could tell you, but I just can’t remember at the moment.

MO: Well it’s a ridiculously huge lineup, it’s understandable that you can’t remember all of them.

CJ: Yeah, it’s nuts man. A Day to Remember as well actually, they’re big fans of us for some strange reason. We’re all fans of them as well, so it’d be cool to meet those guys for the first time.

Soundwave Festival 2014

CJ: There might be a special collaboration, not particularly with A Day to Remember. We’re not cancelling it out yet, but there’s a collaboration, secret kind of thing I’ve been invited to be a part of in America, sometime this year. I can’t give to much away, but it’s hopefully going to come out soon and I’ll be on the track with a collaborating band, so that’ll be cool.

MO: It’s a shame you can’t say anything more about it.

CJ: I can’t really say too much, I know a few of the band members that are going to be in the side project and it’s an honour that I’ve been asked to, you know, even do a guest appearance on one track. It blew me away getting the email, so I can’t give anything away, it’s kind of a secret endeavor for other bands so I don’t want spoil it before it happens.

MO: That’s alright, we’ll look forward to it during the year then.

CJ: Yeah, it should be good.

MO: I was going to ask, when you perform on stage, you can be absolutely terrifying with that scream of yours, but in between songs and social media you joke around. How are you able to balance those two personas off and on stage?

CJ: Simple answer is bipolar [laughs]. We’re all kind of like that, it’s hard to be the face of the band at times. We’re all like that though, we’re all brutal on stage and then off stage we’re quite funny, open and easygoing to get along with. So it’s something that just comes naturally to myself on stage. I think it’s good because people see the human side of us and we could definitely just come on stage, be brutal and not talk and not joke, and off stage be the same. But then, there’s no fucking point. I mean, it would be fake, and we don’t want to be fake in any sense of the word, in any sense of what we do with our music. It’s a mental thing, I’m sure if there was a microphone for the other guys, they would be exactly the same on stage. I think it’s good; it’s like our little gimmick kind of thing, it freshens things, like people can laugh in between sections, like songs and stuff like you said, and then get out all their angst and anger and stuff while we play. I think we’ve achieved something, but intentionally we’ve built on a lot of emotions with people. I think that’s why we’ve done so well, and with the release of ‘Hate’ as well.

MO: I reviewed your show for Metal Obsession on the Parkway 10 year tour, and then you’d just finished ‘Whore to a Chainsaw’ I think or something like that. Then you just said “Put your hands up because I want to take a picture of you cunts”, it was just completely different. It’s just good to see someone who cares about the fans, and you don’t just care about looking brutal, you actually want to have a connection with the fans.

CJ: Oh dude, more than anything! Even when I was younger, and I was in local bands and stuff like that, I’ve always loved fans. We all do, I’d find it really strange if there were bands out there that don’t appreciate their fans and don’t respect their fans. Because really, at the end of the day, if we didn’t have our fans, we wouldn’t be doing what we do. They’re the people that buy our CDs, buy our merch, and they keep us going. They’re the financial snowball that keeps us touring. Just having them there, our fans are always really cool and it’s ridiculously hard to not be nice to our fans and I hate sitting backstage. Sitting backstage is boring as fuck, people sitting on their phones on wifi, on social networks and media, it’s frustrating to be around that all the time. My partner’s the same, my band’s the same, they’re just always fucking glued to their phone. I would rather be outside meeting new people, creating new friendships. I’ve got maybe ten or fifteen super close friends around the world just from them being fans and me being in a band. Now we have a proper friendship with these guys, we meet them as fans and now they’re our friends and I look forward to seeing them all the time. Our fans are fucking amazing, it’s ridiculous, I can’t understand why people aren’t nicer to their fans.

MO: When you say you respect your fans, I mean, you still play ‘Whore to a Chainsaw’ which is massively popular. Do you ever think you’ll drop the old songs from the setlist?

CJ: We’ve been hoping to do that for the last two years [laughs]. It kind of goes back to the fans, because at the end of the day, that’s what a lot of the kids want to hear. Even if their favourite songs are songs off ‘Hate’, we have to play these old songs because these songs were the songs that got a lot of these people first into the band. Sure, we’ve got a lot of fans just from ‘Hate’, that have never heard us before, or didn’t like us before and they like ‘Hate’ so now they’re a fan. But a lot of people relate to ‘Whore to a Chainsaw’, it’s quite an easy song to follow, it’s got a lot of parts where the crowd can get involved. People just want to scream ‘Whore to a Chainsaw!’, it’s kind of frustrating for us to a point because we hate playing it, we don’t want to be that band that’s know for that one fucking song. But you know, like I said before, it goes back to the fans and we want to give the fans what they want but, hopefully with the release of our next album this year sometime we can cut out a few of the EP songs and concentrate more-so on the newer material.

MO: I was going to ask if you had any idea about your new material, but you just mentioned you’re bringing out a new one this year, what can we expect?

CJ: Chaos. We’re only in the writing process, so stuff’s going to get changed, I can’t give a release date yet, it’s still a while off, trying to figure out what we’re going to do. We want to take it naturally, and put a lot of time into this. Because, you know, ‘Hate’ was the album that was going to make or break us, and this album’s the one that’s going to take us over that line that we need to get to. Or, it’s going to bomb. We can’t afford financially, to support our dream, we can’t afford it to bomb. We need it to be better than ‘Hate’, it’s going to be fucking hard. It’s a lot of pressure, especially for the likes of Sean and Marshy who basically write the majority of everything. They have a lot of pressure on them to write something better than ‘Hate’, it’s going to be fucking tremendously hard to top that because ‘Hate’ was so successful like you said. Now we’re around the world, we have the hard task of trying to top something we think is the best we’ve ever written. I can’t give anything away, but I can tell you it’s going to be a little bit different to ‘Hate’. It’ll still be following the same line of ‘Hate’, but there’s a few elements that we’re touching on, and lyrical content that we haven’t touched on before, so it’s interesting. Very very dark, and evil sounding, just with the preview we’ve put together at the moment.

MO: I’m looking forward to it, if you don’t mind me asking about it, you seem to have completely quit smoking weed and that seems like a massive achievement for you. Has it improved your vocals?

CJ: Ahh, to be honest, no. I find it very hard, weed was a pretty big part of my life, I don’t really drink too much at all, maybe three or four times a year. It helps with a lot of different things. But in the past couple of months, since the Parkway tour, Parkway were very inspirational to me. It’s just something I want to do, I want to live sober for a while and clean up my act. I feel like there’ll be times on tour when I’ll have a puff on a joint or something, but I’ve just gotta get over it. I have a massive opportunity with my life now, I’m thirty years old, I want to get married, the band’s doing quite well and we want to catapult the band into the future and make this our proper career so we can earn some sort of decent money off it so we can live normal lives. I have a lot of friends who smoke a tonne of weed, and I’d like for everyone to just give it a break for just a little while, even at least cut down significantly.

MO: Well unfortunately we’ve run out of time, thanks so much for talking with Metal Obsession today and good luck with your new album, your clothing line and every single part of your hectic life you’ve got going on I suppose [laughs]

CJ: Thanks very much bro, it’s hard but I’m trying [laughs]

Catch Thy Art Is Murder on tour with the Soundwave Festival this February/March. Tickets on sale now!

Soundwave Festival 2014

Saturday, 22nd February 2014
RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane
Tix: Via Soundwave Festival

Sunday, 23rd February 2014
Olympic Park, Sydney
Tix: Via Soundwave Festival

Friday, 28th February 2014
Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Tix: Via Soundwave Festival

Saturday, 1st March 2014
Bonython Park, Adelaide
Tix: Via Soundwave Festival

Monday, 3rd March 2014
Claremont Showgrounds, Perth
Tix: Via Soundwave Festival


For more interviews and reviews, check out Jonty's personal review page Play Hard Reviews. Check out his live shots via his Instagram - Jonts18