EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SHAI HULUD GUITARIST MATT FOX
I’ve never met Matt Fox in person, but reading his answers to this all-too-brief interview I recently conducted with him via e-mail, I really, really want to. Fox comes across as intelligent, funny, and, as his band’s name would suggest, a knowledgeable and opinionated sci-fi geek; in other words, he comes across as exactly the kind of dude I’d wanna be friends with.
Shai Hulud’s latest cock punch of metallicized hardcore, the excellently titled Misanthropy Pure, hits stores today via Metal Blade, and if you haven’t heard it yet, well, you need to: it’s a vicious, wholly unique entry into a genre that seems to be growing more tired by the day, an album that genuinely doesn’t sound like anything else on the market right now. Above, watch Shai Hulud’s David Brodsky-directed video for the title track; after the jump, check out Matt’s thoughts on the writing process, the metalcore genre, and, of course, all things sci-fi.
Please tell us whatever you can/want about your new album, Misanthropy Pure. Was there a specific vision behind the album (e.g., something you wanted to accomplish, a message you wanted to get across, etc.)? Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
What to say, what to say… I always think I have so much to say until I’m asked a question; then I remember I am nothing but an ignoramus.
Anyway… let’s see…
The original plan was to follow That Within Blood Ill-Tempered with a heavy, raging, and pissed-off album, which is something we never consciously attempted to achieve before. As far as getting across a point, we wanted to, as always, illustrate our reasons for our often-negative feelings on the nature of mankind. It seems a good majority of the world is hateful and angry all the time; usually for no valid reason. Typically it’s a baseless and hollow anger, or simply spoon-fed hatred gobbled up by the weak-minded who have little to no depth, compassion, or ability to discern or reason. We always want to make it clear our disdain is not hollow, and even more importantly, that we are keenly aware of why we feel the way do – always willing and striving to not feel this way. Purging oneself of spite and bitterness is more so the path to peace than harboring it.
Our writing process is similar to most bands, I imagine. There are obviously many ways to start writing a song. Sometimes the guitar riff comes first. Sometimes it’s the theme or idea that inspires the music. Once we have a musical theme, we fashion together a rough song structure and from there tweak, re-tweak, and modify the re-tweaks until we feel we have a song that fully captures whatever we happened to be going for. At that point we probably nearly scrap the whole song and rewrite it entirely. Ha. The point I’m getting at is we know we aren’t prolific (not by any means) so we work very hard and give every song the attention it needs to make it as effective as it can be.
You’ve said in the past that you think Shai Hulud is a true example of the subgenre “metalcore.” Given the negative connotations often associated with that tag, do you still embrace it? Or do you feel like those negative connotations are unwarranted?
Taking the term literally, and breaking it apart, yes, we definitely are a true example of “metalcore,” a hybrid of hardcore and metal. When we used to joke with the term, it was just a clever (or not so clever) way of describing a metallic hardcore, metal-influenced hardcore, or hardcore-influenced metal band. My friends and I would listen to Deadguy and say “this isn’t HARDcore, it’s METALcore,” which made sense based on the music they played, combined with the attitude and ethic of the band. Same thing used to be said for Earth Crisis, Integrity, Coalesce, Unbroken, and a lot of the 90’s bands that incorporated heavier riffs and more progressive structuring and ideas into their songs. When the term “metalcore” was thrown around back then it was very tongue-in-cheek; this, obviously, long before it became a legitimate genre, it’s current legitimacy being highly debatable, of course.
“Metalcore,” the actual genre in 2008 doesn’t usually seem like a hybrid of hardcore and metal as much as it just seems like metal, only written by people who imitate it rather than love it, typically resulting in trite and shallow music. If this accurately describes “metalcore” then we clearly do not embrace the term. Conversely, if Earth Crisis and Deadguy define “metalcore, ” count us in.
I do cringe when I see Shai Hulud listed as “metalcore” these days because it implies a sound and look we simply don’t have. But at the end of the day, I don’t really care what anyone wants to call us. I’m too busy and tired to argue with anyone about how to categorize our band. What the hell do we really care? No label imposed on us will ever affect what we look or sound like. We define that exclusively through our individual personalities and music. Plus, we’re too busy fighting the battle of trying to get our name spelled correctly to worry about some halfwit who says we play polka while some other brainiac says we play “metalcore.”
Please note every time I mentioned “metalcore” it was in quotes. Why? I’m not so sure…
Please tell us about your new video, “Misanthropy Pure.” How involved was the band in the concept? Did you just let David Brodsky tell you where to stand while he took care of the rest, or were you a little more actively involved?
David and Allie [Woest, Brodsky’s partner/producer/sometimes editor/all around right hand] know how to make a professional and effective video. Far be it from us to interfere; we know when we are outclassed. The only thing we expressed was that we didn’t want an empty, meaningless video. That’s when the idea of incorporating the lyrics came into play. David had some great ideas of how to add the lyrics engagingly. We trusted him to heed our concerns and help us create the best video possible under all our time and logistics constraints. He did just that. Much respect to David and His Good Eye. Death to Ming!
Your band name betrays your love of sci-fi. Please tell us about said adoration of that genre, what works (besides Dune of course) are close to your heart, and how, if at all, sci-fi influences you as a musician and artist.
Our name gave it away, did it? Speaking for [bassist] Matt Fletcher and myself, we definitely love science fiction when done well. There are a lot of sci-fi movies now considered classics that neither of us appreciate (i.e. Stargate, Event Horizon, Star Wars post-1983) so I don’t think we unquestionably adore every aspect of the genre like some. We do love what we consider to be the gems, and even some that most people often dismiss as childish or hokey. Some of the films we love that every self-respecting science-fiction fan has to love are 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Quiet Earth, Blade Runner, The Thing, Alien, The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Road Warrior, Contact, The Time Machine (1960), The Invisible Man (1933), Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956 & 1978), King Kong (1933), and Planet Of The Apes (1968) to name but a few off the top of my head. Just for fun, here are some others we love that a lot of people might find silly (those people really need to lighten up): Tron, Flash Gordon (1980), The Last Starfighter, The Black Hole, Tremors, The Running Man, Star Trek, Krull, Communion, They Live, Phantasm, Ice Pirates, King Kong Lives, Dragonslayer, Time Bandits, and slews of others. These lists are focusing only on films, not mentioning the television shows, books, and comics we enjoy as well.
As far as how sci-fi affects us in Shai Hulud, aside from naming our band after a character in Dune that is, I’d say it would be lyrically if anything. There have been quite a few times I can think of while watching the likes of The Twilight Zone, Contact, or Star Trek, for example, where a point was made that sparked some ideas for lyrics. Any progressive, thought-provoking story, science-fiction or otherwise, always provides new avenues of thought and emotion to explore.
I feel the difference is what I touched on when answering your first question. To put it succinctly, pure misanthropy is focused and aims to make a positive change in society, or at least in oneself. Impure misanthropy is truly without foundation and means only to further spite and ill will.
Live long and prosper.
Visit Shai Hulud on MySpace. Note the page’s URL. Awesome. Simply Awesome.