A METALSUCKS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: KRIS NORRIS ON A CANCEROUS AFFAIR, CORY SMOOT, THE KRIS NORRIS PROJEKT, AND MORE
First, a little backstory. Back in 2006, Darkest Hour was making the promotional rounds for their latest disc, Undoing Ruin. I was working for my shitty college paper, doing a show preview for DH’s show in Omaha, Nebraska and emailed Kris requesting an interview. He called me five minutes after I sent the email. That’s how cool of a guy he is.
Besides being one hell of a nice dude, Kris is an extremely talented musician, and his new project, A Cancerous Affair, has completed their lineup and is starting to produce what will most definitely be some killer tunes. Check out my interview with Kris below.
You’ve been working with JamPlay.com for a while now making instructional videos. Tell us a little about how that came about and what it’s like being an online guitar instructor.
Well, the guys approached me when I was still in Darkest Hour at one of our shows and basically told me the idea of the website. I had done a ton of teaching before, but just at stores and in home lessons. And this was something new that I had not really considered or even seen too much of at this point, you know, the whole online lesson format. We started keeping in touch, and then I ended up flying up there to film a series of videos, but at this point I was no longer in DH. I think they have a great format with how they do the filming and arrangement of lessons on the website. I love teaching for the website. Since it’s basically a paid membership thing, the people I teach on there (I also do live lessons on the site) are pretty respectful, and since they are paying, that means they are truly there willing to participate and learn. It’s an awesome thing! Anyone can check it out and get a free trial by going here.
What’s in the future for The Kris Norris Projekt?
Dead in the water, man. Dead in the water. That was really something for me to branch out and start a new band, not a solo type thing. I wasn’t comfortable trying the whole solo route just yet, but due to other circumstances, I wasn’t allowed to have vocals on the CD. I pushed and pushed and got at least two songs with vocals, but in talks for a second CD there was this NO vocals approach. I wasn’t happy with that. I write like a guy in a band, thats just how I am. Nowadays, with teaching so much and constantly learning and evolving with newer styles and scales, theory etc., I think I could really do a more “solo” type thing ala Satriani or something and have it actually come out decent. But like I said, I’m totally more comfortable in a band setting, and that whole first approach to being a solo artist put me in such a sour mood towards that kind of situation that it’s something I’ve stayed away from.
You recorded Icons of the Illogical with Cory Smoot. Is there anything you want to say about the experience, or about Cory himself?
What can I say? Cory was one of my best friends. I actually lived with him for awhile when we were younger. We grew up together playing music in bands together, different bands together, going to shows together. At one point, we lived on the same street and we just started jamming because he really wanted to work on learning to be a better drummer and I had all this music written — that’s how Locus Factor came about. That’s Cory, always trying to evolve and better himself as a musician. The guy had this undying passion for all music that is really hard to find in this day and age. He was just a genuine person, man, I could really go on about his character for pages.
As for the solo CD I did there, it was tough. We scheduled it when we could based on when the record label wanted it done, and during that time Cory had other things he was doing, so I knew going into it that he was going to be unavailable for a portion of the time. But Dave Gibson, who did the drums, is also a great engineer, so I was left in good hands. I think the record could have been something alot more, but there were so many factors. The small budget, the time frame, just various factors. I didn’t have hardly any time to write the music and what I did write was written to be a “band.” Then to have no vocals on it. I mean, I had lyrics for every single song. I had this theme of conspiracies. And then when I heard “no vocals,” it just made everything so unfitting. I think for the lack of resources we had at the time, Cory made it the best he could, and I loved the experience of working with him again.
When The Godless Symphony was announced, a couple demos were posted, then another few, but still no album. What is the timetable for an album from TGS?
That was just another project idea I had. To do something akin to Arcturus, which is one of my all time favorite bands. I always tend to take different styles and genres of music I like and write a few songs in a similar vein. Most of these are just going to never make it past the demo stages, that’s all they are ever started to be. I get emails all the time from DH fans asking what I’m doing, if I have any new music, and so o,n and I love writing and sharing the music I make. So when I get those ideas, I just get ’em down and put them up online, never really intending to take them past those computer home recorded demos. When Dan Malloy sent me some of the songs with his vocals on it, I was amazed as I think some other people were. I would love to do a full album for TGS, but that one would take a ton of work. It’s cool because I get to put my music school training to work, but having to arrange and orchestrate for choir, strings and a bunch of exotic instruments combined with metal, well, it’s just a nightmare to find time when you teach and have a family for a living.
You’ve worked with James Murphy at his studio, Safehouse Productions. How was that experience, and what did you learn from working with James?
It was one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me. James is such a nice, down to earth guy. He’s just a genius when it comes to the production side of things. I really learned from him the patience it takes to edit and meticulously work on things in the studio. I saw that from Devin Townsend, but from the other side of the fence. This time I was other the other side, so to speak. I have always loved the production side. I’m not a great engineer. When it comes to the actual audio part, that’s what the engineer is for. I think I’m better left to the songwriting and arrangement stuff. I’m working with this band right now, and that’s the stage we are in. Taking the ideas and putting them together, and that’s where I’m the happiest. Without the push and help from James, I probably would have left along time ago. He taught me to persevere and push through the shit, that there is always light at the end of the success tunnel guiding you there, but at some times it can also blind you and stop you in your tracks. Sorry, I love shitty analogies, my students make fun of me for it all the time. I know James hasn’t been in the best of health lately, and I just hope him the best and a speedy return to normal.
You’ve also done production work for Condemn The Infection, Locus Factor, Fierce Allegiance and The Kris Norris Projekt’s first record. Do you have any other producer’s chair gigs lined up?
I’m working with a band from Orlando right now. They’re insane in terms of technicality. I mean over the top, but in a good way. It’s not just showmanship, there’s some great melodies and songwriting going on. I can hear all of the influences in the songs and thats the step we are at right now, is trying to get more of their identity to come out rather than the other bands. I don’t think it’s necessarily a terrible thing when you can hear the influence directly within the song, but I love the more indirect approach where you sit back and listen and say man I can tell these guys were influenced by Soilwork rather than “Oh, these guys sound like Soilwork.” I wouldn’t say I did production on the other stuff.
Those were learning productions, if you will. With Fierce, everything was already written and tracked but only one guitar part, so I simply came in and wrote and added second guitar lines. Then we chopped up and edited and moved around things in ProTools so it wasn’t really a producing kind of thing, just more or less is there anything you can add to the music that we already put down. Now that I have more experience under my belt and access to more gear, I would really love to get more work, but I haven’t really tried to put myself out there or market myself as a full-on producer just yet. I wanted to make sure I had a good grasp on the concepts before jumping into it. I do take smaller stuff from time to time, and without mentioning any band names, they are shitty, horrible bands. I think you need to do those types of gigs to better yourself at it, and if you can take a pile of just garbage and turn it into something great, then you have outdone yourself. Of course, music is so subjective, and what I consider shit someone else can think is a gem of an album. Then I turn around, and what we come up with, that person says, “What the fuck happened to the good record?” So it’s all just a learning experience.
How did you find yourself joining Straight Line Stitch? Are there any plans or news for another record soon?
The SLS thing just started out as a fill in spot. They needed a guitarist for a tour. I met them at a Condemn show actually. I was producing them and went to the show to seem them live on stage, and capture what the band was about, so we could bring that into the CD. We started talking and things moved towards me doing this tour. I hadn’t toured in a long time and was itching to play out again, so I said of course! I loved the personalities and got along great with them. When he had the first rehearsal, the drummer, Kanky, just instantly clicked with me. I even texted Ryan Parrish and was like, “Man, this is eerie, it’s like jamming with you again.” I missed that connection with Ryan, so when he talked about me joining full-time, to me it wasn’t so much about the music as it was that connection you get when your jamming with someone who shares the same passion you do. I had started writing a lot of stuff for a new CD and with each riff it started to hit me more that this was stuff I think Ryan and I would love and do some killer things with. That led eventually to me starting this new project with Ryan, and since then I have left SLS to concentrate on this. Seth, the other guitarist, and Kanky had both quit, and it just seemed fitting that I do the same.
Which brings us to your new project, A Cancerous Affair. How and when did this project take shape and come together?
Whoops, I guess I just answered this one. But, you know, it started as just an idea. Ryan had talked to me when I was in Europe about starting something together, just a project, nothing serious, just getting back together and creating the music we love. This was basically just born out of that original idea and the music I had been writing for SLS that I thought didn’t fit the band.
What are the future plans for A Cancerous Affair?
Well, now that we have a full line-up, the idea is to get together and hash out all the music I have written. Kind of do some production on all my ideas. Ryan is amazing at that. We recently got into a rehearsal space and took two of the songs and re-worked them. Now they have an identity, an actual sound of their own since it’s more than one brain working on the stuff. We’re demoing all of the material right now in hopes of someone picking it up. It’s become an actual “band” now, with everyone contributing their own ideas. Everything Ryan and I do together we believe in, and love just sharing that music whether people dig it or hate it. It’s one of those cases where I wish I was mildly rich so I could just dump money into this and get it out to everyone, but I’m a broke ass dude. We are not opposed to touring for this at all, we will just have to see where it takes us and even enough interest is there in the music, then hell, it would just be amazing to share the stage with him and the rest of the guys we have in the band.
Anything else coming up we don’t know about?
Not really, I have always been doing too many things at once, so I’m really focusing on the Cancerous stuff. I have been writing for a long time a solo acoustic CD kind of in the Buckethead Colma-type stuff. I want to get that done. It will probably be just something I toss up on the internet for free, so I really haven’t spent too much time into it, but it’s stuff I’m really proud of. It started out with, when I put that record [Colma] on in the car, my son would fall asleep. So I wanted to do a CD like that for him, that was my own music. Hopefully, it’s peaceful enough that it does the same for him and that it wasn’t boredom that put him out!
Thanks again, Kris. Can’t wait to hear the new jams.
Thanks, man. Can’t say how much I appreciate it. I’ve always loved the website. You guys write with honesty. It’s one of the rare sites where you guys can say positive and negative things about the same bands and music without resorting to all out trash talk, and I know you’re always busy so I appreciate the time!
A Cancerous Affair is Kris Norris on guitar, Ryan Parrish on drums, Kristen Randall (ex-Winds of Plague) on keyboards and vocals, Dave Sheldon (ex-live bassist for Annihilator) on vocals and Pat Kavanagh (Threat Signal) on bass. You can check them out at their official website and on Facebook.