• Axl Rosenberg

etalsuckAs I mentioned earlier this week, a little while back I got an e-mail from The Autumn Offering vocalist Matt McChesney to discuss an extremely negative review I’d given the band’s last album, Fear Will Cast No Shadow. McChesney could have been a total dick about the whole thing, but as it turns out, he’s a very even headed, intelligent, and cool dude. So what else was there to do but interview him about the band’s new album, Requiem, which will come out June 9 on Victory. McChesney was even good enough to let us debut the first single off of that album, “The Curtain Hits The Cast,” for which the band will shoot a video in the coming weeks.

I still haven’t heard the new album, but I do already like this song way, way more than anything from Fear Will Cast No Shadow; it’s catchy and it doesn’t sound overly processed, which, I think, is what The Autumn Offering were striving for. Check out the song below, and then my conversation with Matt McChesney after the jump! (FYI – for fear that this was all a set-up for Matt to have me murdered, the interview was conducted by e-mail.)

As you’re aware, I gave The Autumn Offering’s last album, Fear Will Cast No Shadow, a really bad review. And I know you know this because you wrote me a very well mannered and intelligent e-mail expressing your disappointment. Where do you get off being such a chill dude when I was such a dick in my review?

Well, I’ve been a huge fan of the site for some time now and I know you guys can be pretty brutal, so it wasn’t a big deal. My main problem was that I thought you praised some albums that were complete dogshit and ripped ours, which in my mind, was a superior record. I could see where you were coming from, saying some of the chorus’s sounded like The Backstreet Boys or Duran Duran. I understood some of the bad points. However, there is some great material on the record and I wondered if you actually listened to the whole album. My only real beef with that album is it’s inconsistency. Some of the songs are kind of poppy and songs like the title track are pretty close to death metal. It didn’t, as an album, make sense. However, track to track I thought they were all damn good. Like I said when we spoke before, I was never mad or upset by the review, I thought it was hysterical. “Gayer than 8 dudes fucking 9 dudes.” Classic MetalSucks right there [Even though that technically isn’t even my joke, I’m happy to take the credit! – AR].

The cool thing is if you have no life like me, and actually looked up reviews on it, it was either journalists thought it was the greatest thing since blowjobs or a complete piece of shit. Which is great. I’d rather have strong opinions about my art then people be kind of “meh.” At the end of day, taking this shit too seriously is just stupid.

Do you often track down critics who gave you a negative review?

No, never. I probably sound like a fan boy here… like I said, only because it was you guys. I think it’s funny how bands and kids get so riled up by all this. Metal is like a soap opera… it’s really fucking gay. That being said, it’s something we all love and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Please tell me (and our readers) why I was wrong about that album. Feel free to be as harsh as possible.

There is no “right” or “wrong.” One man’s piece of shit is another man’s gold watch. It’s all opinion. You can’t please everyone… and some people aren’t going to get what your doing. It’s just the way it is. No one is ever completely happy with an album. I can sit back and listen to any record that I’ve done and wish some things were different. Yet, at the same time be really, really pleased with it.

Now that that’s out of the way: please tell us about the band’s new album, Requiem. How has The Autumn Offering evolved? And what is it a requiem for?

Requiem is a far darker album than the last one. It was a direct reaction to the MetalSucks review… I’m joking. All kidding aside, its a very personal album for me. I chose to write about things from my past that I never touched on before. On Fear Will Cast No Shadow, I was pointing the finger alot. This time I’m pointing it inward.

I think we found our “sound” on this album. Some bands go through their entire career without ever finding that. I don’t think that Requiem sounds like another band. I mean, people will brand it “metalcore” or whatever, but who cares? Maybe they won’t. As far as evolving goes, I think each time you’re in the studio you
get better. Counting previous bands, this is the sixth album I’ve done. I’m sure it’s around the same for the other guys. Myself, Tom [Church, guitarist] and Matt [Johnson, guitarist] write all the material. We are all involved with other projects and I think that helps TAO’s music evolve. I think the more you play with other players and write in different styles in helps your main band. I have a couple death metal bands and I also do some real mellow stuff. Tom produces bands and is in sothern style rock band with Jim [LaMarca] from Chairmara and Waylon and Skinny from Mushrooomhead. It’s called Tenafly Viper. Matt J dables in electroinc music….you can hear elements of all these things on Requiem.

As far as the meaning of the album goes, a requiem is collections of songs or hymns for the dead. There is a sense of dread and death over this album. Some of the songs were about my battles with substance abuse. The end result of that is death. I wanted this album to feel like I was singing at my own funeral.

What is the songwriting process like The Autumn Offering? Does one dude do all the writing, or is it collaboration?

Well, all are songs are written by either Tommy, myself, or Matt J. We all live in different states, so when we aren’t on tour, we are bouncing ideas back and forth via email. Everything always changes in the studio. We often end up taking parts from other songs that would fit better in a different song. I’ll usually be writing vocals over all of this. I end up writing at lease five sets of different lyrics and melodies for each song. Which is kind of redundant, because I often discover that my gut instinct or first idea was best.

Your last album was produced by Jason Suecof; your new album is produced by Mark Lewis, who frequently works with Jason Suecof. Can you tell us why you made the switch? Are there differences/similarities between working with the two different producers?

Well, they are both amazing guys and masters of what they do. I would have been happy with either Jay or Mark, it was just a scheduling thing. We were originally going to do the record with Logan Mader but Matt J had some family issues in Florida to attend to and living in California for two months wasn’t feasable. Mark and Jason have been longtime friends of ours. I hang out with those guys when we aren’t in the studio. That’s how this came about. Mark came to see us on tour and I told him about our situation with Logan and how Matt couldn’t leave. Mark said he had some time open, so it was perfect. We thought that both Mark and Jason were booked up. Turns out Mark had some time after he finished the new Deicide.

As far as differences  between Mark and Jay, they are quite different but equally effective. Jason is a really eccentric guy, and at times you’ll think “Where is he going with this?” Then you realize he’s right, and you feel like a moron. If you record with Jay, you have to listen to what he says. I was smart enough to understand that Jason is 100 times the musician I am, and to take his advice.

Mark is a perfectionist. Amazing musician as well. Mark is a master at getting amazing tones and I was really impressed with how creative he was musically. Mark had some great ideas, and nine times outta ten was right.

I know you have strong feelings about modern, digital recording techniques versus old fashioned analog technology. Can you discuss your feelings on the differences between these two processes? You’ve expressed frustration that you wouldn’t even be allowed to record via a less digital process anymore – why is that?

Because albums have to sound perfect now. I think pro tools has ruined music, but that’s the way it is. Kerry King recently said “If Reign In Blood came out today, no one would give a shit.” Sad thing is that is he’s right. RIB doesn’t have fixed kick drums or anything like that. It’s raw. That’s the beauty of it. People don’t want that anymore, even if they say they do. Look at the metal bands that are selling the most records now… it sounds like a computer is playing their parts, especially the vocals. Now, I’ve used auto tune here and there, but only when the take was good and the note was a c hair sharp or flat… and a kid wouldn’t know the difference, only a producer would. Some bands, and I won’t name names, rely on that shit. That’s not what
it’s for. It’s become almost an effect now, like distortion on a guitar. I love the sound of analog records… The Burning Red, from Machine Head, sounds amazing. A lot of metal elitists don’t like that album but I love
it. We did some dates on the Mayhem Fest last summer, and watching Machine Head was the highlight of my day, after playing of course. I was kinda bummed they didn’t play anything of The Burning Red… “Five” is one of my favorite songs. Machine Head made every band on that tour look like amateurs.

There’s obviously a lot of bands out on the scene right now. What, in your opinion, makes The Autumn Offering stand out from the pack?

I think we write great songs. I think as a vocalist I have more to offer. Half of metal vocalist’s I hear today suck. Flat out suck. I think so many bands grew up on fixed shit, as in pro tools. You can hear that in their sound. I’ve talked to kids in bands we’ve toured with that have never even heard Far Beyond Driven. It a bummer man… I think with Requiem… I don’t want to say it’s a throwback to that, but it has kind of a classic feel.

Can you talk a little about the departure of bassist Sean Robbins? Is it true he basically burnt some bridges for you guys?

Yeah, I don’t mind. I. That was the most rock n’ roll guy you could ever meet. He wore his heart on his sleeve. The thing is, he was just too much for most people in the scene. He would cut himself onstage like GG Allin, and do all kinds of crazy shit. He was very opinionated. If he didn’t like you, you knew it, fast. That didn’t bode well with many bands. I can understand why. He had some serious drug problems and life on tour was going to kill him. So it was for the best that he not be in the band anymore. I didn’t want someone’s death on my hands. and that’s exactly where it was going. It sucks because we would be up for tours, and booking agents didn’t want their bands out with Sean. I think he wrecked All That Remains’s van once or something… on some tour before [I was in the band]. Which sucks because I guess they were friends. I know that Phil [Labonte] sang on the first Autumn Offering record. It just sucks because it still haunts us now… and he’s not even in the band anymore… hasn’t been for years. The rest of us are the nicest guys on the planet, yet we’re painted to be Motley Crue or something.

TAO used to be signed to Jamey Jasta’s Stillborn label. What is the current status of the band’s relationship with Jamey?

Kind of a weird situation. It sucks because all that stuff went down a long time ago. I think what happened was, this band was signed too young. When you’re putting 17 year old kids on major tours, it’s gotta be a bit of a culture shock. All the sudden theres all these skanks, and large amounts of alcohol and drugs. The band probably did some immature things. The band had to learn though trial and error what to do and what not to do.

As far as Jamey goes, I don’t really know him. I can understand why he would be upset at the band for leaving Stillborn. I think he was trying to cultivate the band and show them the ropes, so to speak. Before that could happen, the band went to Victory. I’m not saying that was a mistake, but he’s a guy I wish was still on our side. It sucks because, I’m from New England and I grew up on Under The Knife and Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire. I’m a fan of his.

What really sucks is that the tours we were doing before are the ones we should be doing now. It’s been a long road trying to clean up our image. Hopefully, we can get back into some of these industry people’s good graces. I think we deserve a second chance. The band was being groomed to be the next “it” band and that never happened due to poor decision making. I think we’re actually banned from Arizona but I can’t quite remember. At the same time, we don’t kiss anyone’s ass. Maybe that’s the problem. I’m a fair guy but I’m still a man. When I first started touring and dealing with all this industry shit I remember thinking “Is this really what its like?” Everyone was so petty. This agent won’t work with that agent, this guy doesn’t like this guy, this band drinks too much, etc… Is this really rock n’ roll now? Sad to say, it is.

You’re currently signed to Victory. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the label, or more specifically Tony Brummel, has a bad reputation. Is it as bad as they say? Blown out of proportion? Any good Brummel stories you feel comfortable sharing, or will he send a hit squad to whack you if you talk about him?

Well, bands and labels have symbiotic relationship. No band or label is ever completely happy with the other. If they say they are, it’s bullshit. I think we get treated well at Victory. I’m really happy with some things and not with some others. That’s life. I met Tony once and I came away feeling like he was a good guy, and cared about the band. I never believe what I read, or make snap judgements about people until I meet them face to face.

The thing with labels is that they are in the business to make money. The industry as we know it is collapsing. We’re lucky we’ve sold as many albums as we have to still be around. I really don’t have any Tony
stories. He’s always been cool to us. I’d tell you man, I don’t give a fuck. Anyone who knows me can tell you I speak my mind. There’s always gonna be band/label bullshit it’s just the nature of the beast.

What’s next for The Autumn Offering?

Well, June 9 is the release date for Requiem. We’re going to head to Cleveland to shoot the first video in a couple weeks. We have some pretty cool tours lined up after that… I’m told I can’t metion them yet… like it’s gonna change the fucking world or something.


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