EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CHIMAIRA GUITARIST ROB ARNOLD
It seemed like things were going so well for Chimaira – after the disappointing sales of their Roadrunner debut, Pass Out of Existence, the Cleveland sextet banded together and showed what they were really made out of with their next effort, The Impossibility of Reason. Supported by live stints on Ozzfest and alongside bands like Slipknot, Fear Factory, and Machine Head, the album went on to sell over 100,000 copies, and Kerry King declared that they reminded him of a young Slayer.
Behind the scenes, though, things were not going as smoothly as they seemed. Drummer Andols Herrick’s departure from the band, famously captured in their DVD The Dehumanizing Process, left Chimaira with a huge hole that not one but two drummers – Ricky Evensand (ex-Soilwork) and Kevin Talley (ex-Dying Fetus/Misery Index/current Daath skinsman) – failed to fill, and it’s the band’s stance that Roadrunner wasn’t supportive when they put out their most brutal, challenging record yet, 2005’s Chimaira.
In 2007, though, Chimaira seems to have found its way back to the path of success: after Herrick re-joined the band last year they recorded Resurrection, which was released this past March by Ferret (America) and Nuclear Blast (Europe) to an overwhelmingly positive reception from their fans (read our review here), and after stints with Killswitch Engage and on this year’s Sounds of the Underground festival, the band is now doing their first headlining tour in more than two years, with Kataklysm, Terror, and Divine Heresy acting as support. Axl and Vince recently sat down with Chimaira guitarist Rob Arnold just hours before the band hit the stage in New York City for the second night of the tour to discuss what fans can expect live this time out, what it’s like to play in the Big Apple, their recently canceled European trek, and the ten minute epic track “Six.” Full transcript after the jump.
How did the first night of the tour go?
Yeah. We had a million technical difficulties. I mean, the crowd was cool, everybody says that we sounded good and stuff, but a lot of bad stuff went wrong that shouldn’t have went wrong. A brand new guitar head I have – we probably took it out of the box one week ago – blew up last night. And so of course I got a back-up head, we go right into that, like normal, like we’ve trained for – and we’ve got a new guitar tech, too, so it was his first night – and so even though we prepped him for, like, switching to amp 2 and stuff, we go through all that and we’re testing it with a bad cable, we found out later. So all the tests were going through…
Then Chris [Spicuzza], our sampler, his brand new sampling unit – he came out with a completely different rig, he used to use some sample module or something like that but now he does it all with a lap top – and his whole thing just completely fried last night about halfway through the set, so we had to go get a new one of those today. Those might’ve been the only problems (laughs). Still, they were major. I missed, like, two or three songs, Chris missed, like, seven songs. So once something like that happens, the rest of the show is just kind of shot for you, y’know? You’re like, “Oh, fuck,” y’know? But shit happens.
How do you feel about playing New York? Do you feel like it’s not one of the more fun places to play? ‘Cause we hear that a lot, that the middle of the country is much more receptive to metal…
Well, yeah, I would agree with that, for sure. But it’s cool. I don’t dislike coming here at all. The thing is, I know that it’s [going to be] a super busy day. ‘Cause the moment you get out, there’s shit happening all day-
Like annoying interviewers coming onto your bus.
Nah, you guys are everywhere (laughs). Just kidding. But, in, like, Nebraska or some place like that, maybe you might have a couple of interviews, but still, you just sit there all day or whatever, and I think that’s what I prefer. I dunno, I’m just a homebody – or as much as I can be away from home.
You guys were also supposed to do a European tour earlier this year, and that didn’t work out because you wanted to lay some stuff down, is that right?
That was part of it.
Did you do that? Will that come out at some point?
We actually didn’t end up laying anything down. We just went over some ideas and stuff. And another big part of [canceling the tour] is that we honestly needed a break. Doing another tour right then would’ve kind of killed us. I know bands tour for much longer stints than we had at that time, but there were just some inner things that were going on amongst us and stuff… we just kind of needed a little break. We know ourselves now from touring for seven years that there are certain points where it’s like “Alright, we need to separate from it and come back and we’ll be cool.” But if we burn it too far, we might not be able to come back next time. But we came together after maybe a month [of taking a break] and started jamming on some stuff here and there, and didn’t really get anything too too concrete, so we decided not to really lay anything down. But we certainly have ideas for when we come back to that [material].
You guys have actually spoken pretty openly about a lot of the problems you’ve had on the last couple of tours, and especially on the tour right after the self-titled album came out. Do you feel like you’ve worked past those problems now? Do you feel like the “resurrection” of Chimaira is continuing?
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. This particular break was due purely to exhaustion, whereas with the self-titled tour, there was just a lot of animosity with guys not getting along with Kevin and feeling betrayed by the label [Roadrunner], if you will, and things like that, so it was just a general sense of, just, “Fuck this.” Whereas this little break wasn’t like that at all, it was just about taking a little time off.
This album is being really well received, it seems like. We saw you guys in New Jersey a few months ago on Sounds of the Underground, and the crowd had been dead all day, and then you guys came on and suddenly it was like – Vince got hit in the face within fifteen seconds, people were just going nuts.
Sorry about that (laughs).
So do you feel still feel really enthusiastic about this record?
Yeah. Y’know, I think people like it and stuff, and that’s cool. And really, y’know, you start out doing a lot of support tours like [Sounds of the Underground] to put in the ground work, and then you get to do a tour like this where you come and headline – we haven’t headlined since the self-titled record, y’know, ’cause we’ve been doing a lot of supporting tours, so you come out here and do a headlining tour to kind of gauge the success, to see if the work you’ve done supporting is gonna pay off or not, and whether you want to continue to headline, or go back to the drawing board and start supporting again or make a new record again and everything, so it’s kind of this month coming up that will really give us an indication of, y’know, if what we’ve done has been paying off.
So something else we gotta ask you: the song “Six.” We think that song’s a fuckin’ masterpiece, it’s just a monster. Why the hell is it called “Six?”
I can’t tell you that.
It’s not that I don’t want to do tell you, but I have no idea. I have no idea. It’s the kind of thing where maybe I asked Mark [Hunter, Chimaira vocalist] once, like “Six? What does that mean?” And he was just, like, [makes a dismissive farting noise], or something, I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.
So Mark does the lyrics on his own?
Yeah. Yeah. None of us ever contribute anything to the lyrics. I mean, we’ll talk about patterns here and there in the studio, like “Oh, it would be cool if you said that again,” or something like that, y’know, but… that’s all his mind.
Do you guys have a little Pro Tools rig out on the road to demo stuff?
Mm-hm, it’s right over there (points behind us). I mean, we don’t really write a lot on the road for Chimaira too much. I mean, if somebody has riff ideas, we’ll throw that down or whatever, but as far as trying to write tunes, it just doesn’t work that way for us. We need to hear the drums being played, and feel something, see if it feels good, rather than just hearing it on a computer and guys being like “Oh, that’s cool.” I dunno, it just isn’t the same as when you can jam it out, y’know?
Do you guys have any relationships with the other bands on this tour?
Totally. I love that Divine Heresy record, so I’m excited to see them play. And I’ve been a long time fan of Dino [Cazares] forever, I mean, when I was a young kid I’d listen to Fear Factory and stuff and loved them, and Fear Factory took us out [on tour] a couple of times. So that was real cool for us. So now Dino’s back doing a project, and I hope that goes real well for him, and it’s good to be out and be able to jam with him again.
The Terror guys – we’ve been friends with those guys for awhile now, they’re awesome. We’re glad to have them out on this tour. And we’re just meeting Kataklysm now, but they all seem way cool.
So can you tell us a little bit about what fans can expect on this tour? Like you said, it’s your first headlining tour in awhile.
Yeah, maybe two years, maybe even two and half. I know the last time we were headlining, we were touring with Six Feet Under. I can’t even remember when that was… but I, dunno, some people are like “Oh, that was July blah blah blah.”
We saw that tour the week after Chimaira came out.
I don’t even remember when Chimaira came out… ’05 is all I know. So, what to expect? Well, a night like tonight, expect to still hear us working the kinks out. We’ve been rehearsing a lot, I really feel that we’re totally solid and stuff, but there’s nothing you can do when the technical shit happens, y’know? So give us that… but even beyond that, even though we are super-well rehearsed – we’ve been practicing for probably five or six weeks now, four nights a week – but even still, nothing can compare to actually getting up on stage and doing it. There’s just so many different factors, whether it’s little things like a light shining in your eye in a certain spot where it never did in practice and having to re-focus, or just feeding off the crowd and enjoying it, or not paying attention to what you’re playing because there’s a crowd interaction – there’s just all sorts of variables and things like that get in the way of that perfect performance.
Why am I talking about this (laughs)?
What to expect on this tour.
Yeah, what to expect (laughs). I’m just saying, maybe tonight, I don’t wanna be like, “Dude, it’s gonna fucking rip,” y’know? I would love for afterwards for you to see me and be like “Dude, that ripped!” or something like that if it really did. But right now, I’m not gonna say it’s gonna be perfect. But I think it’s a fantastic set list. It’s the set list that I’ve been most excited about, ever.
You guys have a big body of work to draw from now.
Yeah, you’re right. This is the tour where we were like, “Man, fuck, oh, we don’t even have time to play that one!” We have a list of A songs, ones we definitely wanna play, B songs, ones we’d love to play, C, maybe we’ll play, D, definitely not play, and we put it all like that and stuff. But it covers all the albums, it’s got a lot of tunes on there, a couple that we’ve never even played on tour before, a lot of the hits… and we’re playing for an hour and half. Which some people will appreciate and maybe some people won’t, I don’t know. It all depends on how big a fan the person is. But for the entire career of Chimaira, I’ve always heard people say “Damn, you never play long enough!” and shit like that, ’cause we’re always supporting and you only usually get thirty minutes or something. So we decided for this tour “Alright, we’re gonna do a full hour and a half, like it or not.”
Cool. Anything else? Any parting words?
Well, for those who are interested, I’ve got my first guitar instructional DVD coming out in January, I believe, from a company called RockHouseMethod.com, you can check it out there or from Chimaira.com if you need any info about that. It’s gonna be like metal guitar playing, songwriting, riffing, soloing, stuff like that. Also, Matt [DeVries, Chimaira rhythm guitarist] and I have custom signature series ESPs coming out in January, too. ‘Cause a lot of people are always asking “Man, I love those guitars, where can I get one?” So now they’re finally gonna be available, so now anybody can buy them at any ESP dealer. So those will be out in January, too. So it’ll be a cool year for us in 2008.
Other than that, I’d like to thank everybody, from New York and world wide, thanks for coming out and supporting us.
-AR & VN