EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS ARP OF PSYOPUS
My interview with Chris Arp of Psyopus at New England Metalfest last month came off more like a personal therapy session for Arp than a proper interview. The dude had a LOT to say about his band, its role in the current metal scene, music critics, and the reception his music gets from the Internet haterade mafia. Arp was incredibly articulate and intelligent with his answers, and he’s clearly the kind of guy who spends a lot of time thinking about every facet of his art. He’s the ultimate tortured artist, if you will; 100% confident in his work yet frustrated with the inability of the public to grasp the enormity of what he’s trying to accomplish.
Arp started talking before I could even get the tape rolling so we missed some interesting stories about the band’s recent trouble finding a permanent bassist, but the interview as a whole is definitely one of the most interesting I’ve done in the life of this website, and certainly at New England Metalfest. My chat with Chris Arp, after the jump…
You just came down from Canada?
Yeah. I came down with Canada. I was infected with Canada. They don’t have a cure for Canada yet so we’re just going to keep robbing their oil. I wouldn’t wish Canada upon anyone.
So, fucking Metal Fest in Massachusetts. Have you guys played this event before?
This is our third New England Metal Fest performance. The first one we filled in a canceled slot. It was right when we got hooked up with Black Market and basically the guy pulled the strings. The day before the show they brought down Scott Lee. They all play euchre together or something. He’s just like “Scott where are you going to get a band of a national touring caliber within 24 hours.” So he fucking hooked up Psyopus. We came and everything got adjusted. We opened the fest the first year that we played. I think it was 2004. It was a little nerve wracking. You go on the road, the doors are opening at 12 and you go on at 12:15. There were probably about 100 kids. When we were done with our first song the place was fucking packed. Back then we were so hungry. We were like “oh my God, we’re playing this festival!” We were at the top of our game because all we did was play together. We lived together. It was fucking awesome. The second one was like direct support to Animosity on the small stage. That was a good time to be had by all. Tonight was fun.
So is this the highest of billing that you guys have done?
Actually we were direct support on the last one. I think we were direct direct support.
It feels like things are going pretty good for you guys. You guys are definitely getting a lot more of the press, and your records are getting a lot more visibility. You have this record deal now. Does it feel good to, after plugging along for so long, finally be getting some recognition?
I think to justly answer that question for Psyopus, I started the band and most of it is my vision. I’m pretty burnt the fuck out right now. I guess I have to sit back and have an objective analysis of where we are and find gratitude in it because the lineup changes have been horrible. You can find a lot of shitty press and kids aren’t getting it. I have to remind myself of what the fuck we’re doing. We’re all about a shift in the paradigm. It can get a bit intrusive on people’s ideas of what music is. It hurts. I work hard, and like so many other musicians, you’re very sensitive to what people say about your music and shit. I’m very proud with what we did, and people not getting it fucking blows. In metal, the elitists are pissed off. We did this interview the other night, and we’re supposed to explain something that we just hate about life. Mine was that I hate critics whose job is to be thoroughly critical with cause of intention and they just shortcut the thinking with our band. I’m not full of myself, but I know our band demands more from a listener than say the typical metalcore breakdown band. With that, someone who is going to interview Psyopus should understand that and honor that if they are going to review. I’m not saying that anyone has to suck our dick. I can say that you can hate us all fucking day, but a lot of these reviews that we’re getting is like “dude are you fucking taking the time to really listen to the album”. We’re not the type of band that you listen to once and do a review. Case in point: we got this review from some fuck face who was like “dude these guys have got to grow up and learn how to write songs. All they do is write about hating women.” There is a song called Medusa on the album which is about the ex that you just want to get the fuck away from, and she’s everywhere you fucking go and you just want to move on. Every time you fucking see her and look at her, you’re seeing Medusa in your emotional fucking continuance.
I’m fucking burnt. You don’t fucking progress. You’re like stunted. Your ability to move on is stunted. I’m not saying that it’s good, and I’m not saying that it’s positive that you can’t move on. It is what it is, and it’s an ugly scenario and so is Medusa. I lived through that. Yeah there’s anger in it. Fuck, it’s music. It’s dissonant. It’s fucking disturbing. “Fuck you” is a theme going on with it. We’re not trying to write books with Dr. Phil and solve all those emotional fucking scenarios. We’re just fucking pissed. That one song is it. Then the song “.44” is about Son of Sam. “Duct Tape Smile” is about snuff films. “The Burning Halo” is about exorcism. “X and Y” is about sex changes. The list goes on and on. That’s it. There is one song that is about post-relationship obsession where someone will falsely ruminate things that have happened to make them think that the relationship was something that it wasn’t. That’s not hating women. It’s about being insane. “Ms. Shyflower” is about being buried alive. The thing is, none of the other songs on the album are about being pissed off at women.
Are kids on the internet saying Psyopus sold out because they wrote a song about women?
No one says we sold out. They just say that we don’t know how to write music. I’m like “who the fuck are you to tell me what music is?” At the most primitive form it is the organization of sound. We’re a band playing together whether you fucking get it or not. Who the fuck are you? The reason I’m even speaking about it is that I read so much of it. I realized that I was getting defensive about this shit and that sucks. I’ve been around. I know people aren’t going to like us. I just can’t believe how many people have like two brain cells.
What do you think it is about your music that is so challenging to people?
We go on tour. At the time I was 28. The audience is a predominately 15-17 year old age group. Here I am at 28 and blessed or doomed to write music like this, to have this perspective and keep pushing the envelope. I’ve been playing for the song for 16 years, and I’m at a tour where no one is fucking getting it. I realized that I’m expecting 15 year old girls who can’t even spell “guitar” to understand what we’re doing. We got to realize that there is a certain attitude that we have. Other people kind of have it, but the people are lazy. A lot of people just play music in the background and just want a sound. We’re an acquired taste. We’re for someone who thinks a lot and who wants to think about their music and follow that trip. For someone who wants to put in the time and effort to getting to know us and inquiring what we’re about, I think in the long run our music provides a more vivid experience. There’s more to offer with this band. Once you figure out our trip, I bet you could 20 years down the road go “wow, there is a vivid experience to be had here.” There is so much involved. There is so much more involved, and I don’t think that people want to challenge themselves that much. I realize that.
Do you think that’s part of today’s culture or do you think that this is something inherent in people in all places and time? That there are those sets of people who just want simpler music.
There are some who are like that and some who are looking for change. I think that we’re looking for change. I don’t have to wear our shirts. Jason Newsted already made it look really horrible.
He wore one of your shirts?
No Jason Newsted wore his own band shirt every fucking night. He got paid to do that.
The only band that can do that is Maiden. They can pull it off. No one else is allowed to. Did you see the Maiden movie yet? The Maiden 666 movie?
No. What’s that all about?
It’s Bruce Dickinson piloting a plane around the world on the Maiden tour. I don’t know if you’re a Maiden fan or not.
I’m 31. I grew up during thrash and all that stuff. I know more Maiden than I would give myself credit for because I lived through that. I had the album Live After Death, Seventh Son of the Seventh Son, Somewhere in Time and Number of the Beast so I could sing along with a lot of it more than I think I could. I know Bruce Dickinson’s name.
Are there any bands now that you guys like or liken yourselves to stylistically?
In our genre?
In your genre or not.
I’m all about the artsy fartsy side of the world with music that I can draw an emotional connection with. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors is one of the best albums of all time as far as I’m concerned. If you dig the album and dive into what was going on when that album was being created, it’s amazing that that group of talented people had the facilities available for them to write that album through all that turmoil that they were going through. That is one of the most emotionally charged albums that I have ever been able to get through. Jeff Buckley is the man. I’m so jealous for his conviction and voice. That’s really cool to be able to express yourself like that. Metal wise, Trap Them gets me stoked. I’m just getting into Converged, so that’s kind of cool. They are still a little more noisy than I would like. I’m getting into Yes. I just picked up Fragile and Relayer. I haven’t heard the Relayer yet. I picked it up and haven’t had much time to listen to music. It’s all fucking rehashed death metal in one way or another. I can just talk a lot of shit right now.
You should start a fucking blog. You got a lot to say, dude.
I’m burnt out dude. I don’t have the time. I was doing the Decibel column for a little bit. I just got burnt out doing it and no one was getting what I was talking about anyway. I don’t think it was all that popular. So whatever.
What’s next in the Psyopus line of business?
Hopefully we get home and have 9 days off. It’s worth it to have time off. Then the Young Guns Tour.
Why is it worth it to have time off?
The lineup changes and touring and shit. I haven’t had a break since March 2007. Our December break was finding a new bass player. We toured from January 5th to March 3rd. We had 3 weeks off. That time was spent finding a bass player. When we’re doing it, it’s not like we can do press releases and shit because there is so much going on. It’s like big Metal Blade showcase tour, Young Guns Tour, headliner Psyopus, and by the way we need a bass player. They don’t want us doing that. So we can’t. We get home and hopefully take a fucking break and get some energy back. Then we do another month of fucking dates, doing the Young Guns Tour. Unless we have to fix our bass or another lineup change, or our van breaks down (hopefully it won’t), I’m going to take a bunch of sleeping pills and sleep all through June. That’s all we have going on in June. July we’re doing the Atheist reunion tour with The Faceless and Gnostic. That’s a short tour. Nothing after that. That should be cool. The Faceless are a good band and Atheist too.
Have you ever seen The Faceless play?
Are they good live?
Cool. So I am excited to be associated with them. They’re probably one of the most rewarding bands on the Sumerian roster right now. The Sumerian roster is definitely making its presence in the scene.
It really is.
Like no joke. The guy in charge of booking likes to take care of his priorities. His priority is to sell albums of the bands that he has on his roster.
He’s nailing it.
He’s got it on lockdown. Veil of May,a I dig what they’re about. The Faceless are fucking open to going somewhere with death metal. They are a little better than the deathcore thing. They have a little more going on. They’re not generic. To me so many bands sound like that. It probably doesn’t help that the guy records so many of the bands so that they have the same sound, for me. I guess it works for everyone who buys shirts at Hot Topic. After the Burial are some good players.
Yeah we saw them today.
They’re some really good players. I’m psyched to be playing with The Faceless.
Yeah that’s a good tour for you guys. Hopefully some kids get it.
Hopefully they get it.