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Tour Spotlight: Q&A with Thy Art Is Murder

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Tour Spotlight: Q&A with Thy Art Is Murder

After seven years trawling the nation with blistering metal and the type of misshapen lyrics that make your room spin, Sydney’s Thy Art Is Murder are finally turning the necessary heads. Last year, sophomore album Hate charted at #35 on the ARIA chart, making history for the death metal genre; the five-piece later signed an international label deal with Nuclear Blast and earlier this month released the album in North America and Europe. Now, after months of globe trekking, the band are back on home soil for a twelve-date tour kicking off in Bunbury on May 31. We chat to guitarist Andy Marsh about their increasing popularity and what that means for heavy music in Australia.

Your press releases peg your sound as ‘extreme metal’. Genre-boxing can be a convoluted and sometimes damning thing for a band; do you agree with the tag or do you have a better description in your mind?

That's a welcome change - normally it's deathcore. I don't know what sums up our sound because I don't listen to enough music to know what all these genres actually sound like. To be fair though, deathcore probably sums it up. We play death metal, but... we have breakdowns.

The release of your sophomore album Hate marked the highest debut of any Aussie death metal band - bands like Northlane and The Amity Affliction have also been given high-charting nods in recent months - how does this make you view ARIA?
To be honest I've hardly an opinion of ARIA. If anything, the past year has been an indicator to me that Australian heavy music fans are getting behind the bands and maybe Lil Wayne sold a few less CDs.

What do you make of Australia’s increasing recognition of heavy music?

Parkway Drive and The Amity Affliction, aside from being bands that I started out playing shows with, Parkway really pushed the word of Australian heavy music overseas and Amity really made heavier music accessible back home in Australia. We can’t forget I Killed The Prom Queen and Deez Nuts repping Australian metal and hardcore overseas. It's awesome to see those guys still killing it, with guys like Northlane, House vs Hurricane, Make Them Suffer, and us starting to be moderately successful overseas.

Your U.S. success has been piling up of late, since signing to Nuclear Blast Entertainment for a global deal in January, Hate debuted at #2 on the US Metal iTunes chart and you were added to The Summer Slaughter Tour through a public vote. How much of your overseas success do you think contributed to your success here in Australia?

Well we were successful here in Australia first! I certainly think touring overseas and having your releases come out overseas really legitimises a band to its fans. It justifies the belief they had in them, the enjoyment they got out of their music, like its nice to know people on the other side of the world listen to and enjoy the same music as you. It’s a real punk kind of ethos that still prevails in metal.

The band always had a strong Internet fan base presence and I don't think that was so dependent on our being Australian. We're about to get overseas on our third international tour in eight weeks time so hopefully the years of cutting laps around Australia has developed and hardened us enough to really make a success of international touring. Australia is a tough place to tour.

You were actually runner-up to the spot on the Summer Slaughter tour before promoters felt forced to add you after an outcry from your fans. Does the weight of public opinion concern you?

Well in this case I guess so because it really helped us to get onto a really great tour package with some of my favorite bands! We try to cater to the fans as much as possible: printing merch they want to see, playing shows where they want, and soon we'll be teaching lessons on the road after so many requests. Musically though I don't think we've ever felt pressured to write a certain way because of fan pressure, or for any other outside influences for that matter. The divided opinion on the progression of the band is well documented on the Internet.

Your lyrical content ranges from body mutilation and downright grotesque imagery to more dark, poetic themes - can you tell us a little bit about what powers these descriptions and ideas?

I cannot speak for the bands two previous releases, which entailed four other contributing lyricists and another vocalist, but for Hate I wanted something more poetic; sad even. Sean (Delander, bassist) and I had spoken long before preproduction even started in our lounge rooms and spare bedrooms. We wanted something dark and depressing to add a sincere level of heaviness to the band. I hope the lyrics reflect that. They encompass a lot of things close to me. Child abuse, global warming, political corruption, the declining state of education, religion...

Why does religious iconography show up in your lyrics?
It plays a hand in everything I do. It's not that we try to be profound at all with the use of anti-theistic notions in our lyrics - it's just a part of who we are. If you can look past the metaphors, the meaning of the songs really should pop out at you.

Your 2012 tour of Australia completely sold out and you’re soon to embark on another stint, what can fans expect on this tour?

We shall see. The preproduction for the tour hasn't begun and we haven't settled on a set list either. We'd like to play more songs off of Hate than we got to on the last Australian tour. The songs were just as fresh to us then as they were to the listeners. We've had a chance to trial some out around Europe, New Zealand and Tasmania and ironed them out. Hopefully we can include a few others. Some better lighting, venues and production would seem to be in order too for such a great occasion as (San Diego band) Cattle Decapitation finally touring Australia.

Can you tell us about one formative record in your life?
There were a few moments in my life where band’s releases really came out at the right time for me and had a significant impact on the musician I would become. I spent a lot of time growing up abroad in non English speaking countries so music as we know it was something that only appeared to me relatively late in life, and as such, had quite an effect on me. The records that come to mind are Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins, Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Significant Other by Limp Bizkit, The Shape of Punk To Come by Refused, Lateralus and Aenema both from Tool and Absolution and Origin of Symmetry both by Muse. The musicianship [on Muse album Absolution] is absolutely astounding on every song and the way the lyrics are carefully intertwined in the music really pulls the listener in. Ruled By Secrecy gets a special mention. When that piano bit hits at the end... There's nothing heavier.

I was drawn to all of them through the common thread of originality and an uncanny knack of blending the emotional and the technical, something that has struggled to come forward from classical music. Being able to capture raw sadness and aggression with over the top technique is something that is rarely executed well and certainly the prime aim of any songs I have ever, or will ever write.

As a producer and engineer those records have all influenced me greatly from the performance I seek to obtain from the artist and the sounds that I strive to achieve. They've all pushed the art of sound capturing some of the best real sounds I've heard. 



- Poppy Reid