EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ROB ARNOLD ON JOINING SIX FEET UNDER (AND, OH YEAH, THE NEW CHIMAIRA ALBUM)
Rob Arnold is a busy dude. As lead guitarist and one of the principal songwriters for Chimaira, he’s been one of the leaders of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal for more than a decade now; in 2009, he launched The Elite, a new project, with Bleed the Sky drummer Austin D’Amond; and then, just yesterday, it was announced that he’s the new guitar player for Six Feet Under, original Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes’ legendary death metal band that has long been known as one of Arnold’s favorite acts. Phew! Can’t accuse Rob Arnold of slacking off, that’s for sure.
The very first thing I did when I heard that Arnold was the latest addition to SFU (along with new drummer Kevin Talley, who, coincidentally, was in Chimaira from 2004 to 2006) was shoot him an e-mail to see if he’d be down to answer some quick questions about his latest creative endeavor. Luckily for us, he agreed! After the jump, read about how Arnold came to join Six Feet Under, the new material he’s working on with SFU, the band’s future touring plans, and, oh yeah, that new album that Chimaira is currently recording…
I know this is a silly question, but just to calm some anxious fans — are you still in Chimaira, or is Six Feet Under your new full-time gig? And what does your joining Six Feet Under mean for The Elite?
This whole thing has just happened so fast, and I know there must be a ton of questions…Hell, even I have questions! But to set the record straight, I am 100% still in Chimaira, and am waist deep in the creation of a badass new record. Well, two of them to be exact, but currently the SFU material is still in the demo stages, where the new Chimaira record is in full-on recording mode.
Concerning The Elite, I’ve always wanted it to be the project I’d have simmering on the back burner until I really felt it was ready to serve. I never had plans to try and build it up in the traditional new band fashion by touring relentlessly. How could I? Chimaira consumes a gigantic part of my life and is my pride and joy. But I’ve always thought that at some point down the road, there might be a point where Chimaira takes some time off… Like after a successful album cycle or something. Maybe a nice little two-year chunk, where all of us could individually have some time to work on some non-Chimaira related things for fun. That would be the time where I would strike with The Elite. And since I’m the type of guy that plans ahead, I went ahead and got the music ready in advance. Hopefully until the time is right, word of mouth alone can spread the WW3 EP around the globe.
And so now with three bands, I’ll be splitting my time up even further, finding new ways to make it work, and taking things one day at a time. I look forward to these challenges… And while I have bitten off more than I could chew in the past, you can’t get ahead in life if you don’t go ahead and take a big bite.
How long have you been working with Six Feet Under? How did the collaboration come about?
One day after a Chimaira/SFU show back in ’05, Barnes said to me, “Rob man… we gotta do something together… Me, you, and Talley! I want to do some fast shit again!”
Just him saying that to me was as good as actually doing it. Even if we never even got together to strike a single note, I could be satisfied knowing that Chris fucking Barnes asked me to play music with him. The Bleeding [Barnes’ final album with Cannibal Corpse] is my second favorite album of all time (after …And Justice For All, if anyone is interested), and [Six Feet Under’s debut album] Haunted is in my top ten. And so I think for ANY musician out there, having a guy from two of your top ten albums of all time ask you to make music with him is definitely something very special and unique.
Anyway, for years, nothing ever really came of it. In the music business, everything takes longer than you’re expecting. But this past December I got a text from Chris letting me know that he hadn’t forgotten about me and was wondering if I’d be into collaborating on the new SFU record. I guess he thought that maybe I could be a great addition to his band. He knows how big of a fan I am, and saw me on the side of the stage every night of that ’05 tour jamming my balls off during SFU’s set. I think he was looking for just a little something or someone to spice things up a bit, or just a different perspective on things. In these times, I think you’ve got to constantly be evolving and trying new things. Much easier said than done I know, but the guy certainly deserves credit for trying. You can either be proactive in life, or sit around and let it pass you by. Obviously you can see what road we’re taking. And I’d also like to mention the other guys from SFU, Terry [Butler], Greg [Gall], and Steve [Swanson]… I love those guys and had a great time with them on tour and each time we’ve hung since. Of course, I now feel this massive burden that my entrance into the mix may have had something to do with Greg and Terry’s departure. Whether that be the case or not, I want them to know that I never had even the slightest ill intention, and innocently stepped into a once in a lifetime opportunity. I really hope we’re still cool and wish those guys the absolute best luck. And Steve, I’m really looking forward to jamming with you brother.
Without using the words “heavier,” “more brutal,” etc., how would you describe the new SFU material you’ve been working on?
Well, when Barnes first hit me up this time around, another thing he mentioned was that he wanted to bring back that “Remains Of You” vibe, which happens to be my favorite SFU song! Knowing that, and knowing that he wanted to do some fast shit again, I decided I’d try to mix it up and pay homage to each style throughout everything I’d write. So there’s fast stuff, there’s slow stuff, and everything grooves…. super hard. We actually only have three songs completed thus far, and so the best material probably is yet to come. But we’re all very excited about these first few tunes and know without a shred of doubt that we’re definitely on to something spectacular. Honestly, each time I hear a song for the first time right after Chris lays down his vocals, I just laugh out loud, openly, because of how awesome it sounds. I’m so pleased, and so excited that this thing has come together, and I love the songs more every single time I hear them.
What’s it like being back in a band with Kevin Talley?
I always knew we would play together again. We’ve always clicked really well. I think we really respect one another, and we share an enormous respect for the music. I love speaking technically about music, and Kevin and I can sit on the phone for an hour or more just talking about or debating one particular note or part.
Growing up, like sixth through twelfth grade, everyday was about getting together with dudes to work on music. I hung out with other dudes who also couldn’t wait to get home after school so we could work on “Orion” or “The Call of Ktulu” or something. I think of Kevin as the type of dude that would have been around with us for all of that, had we known him at the time. He eats, sleeps, and breaths drums, music, and jamming… and I like people like that.
Have you started to discuss touring plans at all? I think the last time Chimaira toured with Six Feet Under was in 2005… any plans to pull double-duty on one bill, Zakk Wylde-style?
I think that really, I’m just going to cross each bridge as I come to it. Right now I have no tours set in stone for this year. There definitely will be tours this year, but they’re not yet booked. But the cool thing about that, and why I even mention that, is because at this point of the recording of Resurrection, we had no idea that our first tour of that cycle was going to be the amazing No Fear Tour supporting Killswitch Engage. And at this same point of The Infection recording, no one knew that our first show of the cycle would be in Dubai!!! The frickin’ Middle East!! And that our first tour would be supporting Disturbed in arenas across North America! So my point is, nothing is set in stone at the moment, but ANYTHING can certainly happen! (Including double-duty! Ha!) Bottom line, like any musician, I just want to do the absolute best tours possible.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you… how’s that new Chimaira album coming along? Anything you can tell us about it?
I’m actually sitting here right now in the brand new Spider Studio, and it’s beautiful. The newness of the environment and workspace has given the music a new feel, a new style, and perhaps a new punch. There have actually been quite a few other things we’ve changed up as well. In the past we had always recorded things in stages… First all the drum tracks, then all the guitar tracks, then the bass tracks, and then the vocal and sample tracks. This time, though, we’re doing things on a song-by-song basis… Pretty much finishing an entire track before moving on to the next. Its really cool, because now instead of waiting for weeks before I had songs to listen to in my car with vocals, I’ve already got six, and will have another six by next week. I’m constantly listening to and analyzing the recorded tracks in preparation for the mix. So the more time I have with completed tracks, the better. So far I’ve been recording the bass tracks, and it’s been pretty fun! The guitar tracks have been going great too… lots of killer riffs!
Another cool new thing we’re doing is with the guitar tone. We actually haven’t even attempted to get a guitar tone for the record yet even though we have a bunch of songs tracked. We’ve been tracking the songs with my normal live rig (Peavey 6505+ thru a Mesa 4×12), and simultaneously recording a direct signal as well. The direct signal is the signal that comes directly from my guitar, but it isn’t put through an amplifier. Later, we can create a unique guitar tone for each individual track based on what we think the guitars should sound like for that particular track. We do that by replaying that direct guitar signal throughany amplifier or amplifier combination… Commonly referred to as “re-amping.” Most albums these days have the same guitar tone throughout the entire album. So we decided to change up the game. Let your ears decide!
We’d like to thank Rob again for taking time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer our questions. Visit Chimaira’s official website, Six Feet Under’s official website, and The Elite on MySpace for all the latest on Rob’s various projects!