Things appear to be going from strength to strength for Thy Art Is Murder. Off the back of their well received latest album ‘Hate’ they have just finished 26 dates in the US for the ‘Hate Across America’ Tour, are playing a string of predominantly sold out dates across the UK and with a multitude of festival slots already locked in for later in the year, these guys are busy.
Guitarist Andrew ‘Marshy’ Marsh from Thy Art Is Murder very kindly agreed to spend some time with Birmingham Live! before their sellout show in Nottingham to talk about Kangaroos, Curries and Crowd Killing, amongst other things.
BL: Thank you for taking a few minutes out to talk to us.
A: No Problem.
BL: Looking online, you guys seem to do quite a few interviews, is it a conscious decision for you to do so much press or is it more just the type of guys you are?
A: It’s not really a conscious thing, but from a business perspective, it’s just smart marketing, Lottie [Nuclear Blast PR] works really hard and thinks it’s important for our label to do that, and I think it pays off.
BL: You all seem to come across well in interviews too, do you think that comes from practice?
A: [laughs] …well I tend to do the written and audio stuff and CJ [Chris ‘CJ’ McMahon, lead singer] is the face of the band, so anything that’s videoed, he does and tries to undo my work. [laughs]
BL: The Hate Across America tour finished in December that must have been big for Thy Art Is Murder?
A: It was great. A lot of the rooms were selling out so they were getting up-sized, so that was awesome. Whereas here, a lot of the rooms are selling out so they down sized, it makes no sense. We had a show that sold out three months ago the other day, and they refused to upsize the show. It makes no sense.
BL: I’ve just heard that tonight has sold out.
A: It’s a good feeling.
BL: You guys played Birmingham about a week ago now, how did that go?
A: Awesome, that one was sold out as well. It was good, the crowd was good but it was a little bit weird. I heard that a girl broke her neck in the venue or something a while ago, so now there are very strict tolerances what crowd dancing can occur. So they don’t do anything because there is security everywhere. But we did have the best Indian food that we’ve ever had in our lives in Birmingham!
BL: That will be awesome news for the people of Birmingham; they do pride themselves on their Indian food.
A: Actually it’s the best that I think I’ve had, and I used to live in South-East Asia.
BL: That’s great. I read online that you asked the crowd in Manchester to wear their team colours in the pit, did that come off?
A: I’m not sure because I didn’t really pay attention. I never do really; I just kinda look without really looking at anything at all.
BL: Is that because once you’re onstage, you’re in that moment?
A: No, just in general, I don’t really pay any attention to things [laughs] I’m very tunnel vision, so I’m focused on what I’m focused on and when I’m on stage is when I don’t really focus on anything at all. We were having this discussion back stage yesterday actually about what we think about while we play and I think about absolutely nothing, or just the most random stuff, like ‘is there milk in the fridge’. But, no they definitely went crazy, CJ made them split up and Man U fans were on one side and Man City fans were on the other. We play like a lot of FIFA on the XBOX in the van, so we all love soccer.
BL: So Thy Art Is Murder are all soccer fans?
A: No, CJ is a soccer fan, no one else really gives a shit at all.
BL: No rugby or Aussie rules in there?
A: I used to play rugby union in Australia and Sean [Sean Delander, Bass] played rugby league and Lee [Lee Stanton, Drums] did as well. CJ played soccer at some point in his life, so he loves it and with playing a lot of FIFA in the van, we know all the teams, we know all the players, we know all the stadiums but it’s all through the video game. But it does get heated and we do hate Man City, because CJ always plays as Man City [laughs].
BL: So is that a dislike of CJ that you guys transfer onto the team he plays? [laughs]
A: Yeah, we don’t like CJ playing… he’s like Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore, just a bad winner and a bad loser, so we tease him about Man City.
BL: So, going back to Birmingham for a second, it’s considered by a lot of people to be the birthplace of metal. Bands like Sabbath and Priest, were they influential to Thy Art Is Murder?
A: To me, probably almost definitely not. I guess the closest to being influential to Thy Art would be Napalm Death, who I think were from Birmingham as well.
BL: Yeah, they were.
A: But Sabbath, in a round about way I guess. Everyone has to pay homage to Sabbath because they started this shit really like 50 or 60 years ago [laughs]
BL: …and created you guys some jobs?
A: Yeah! People thought what they did back then was extreme, it’s not extreme any more, but then extreme is only in the context of the period I guess.
BL: I’ve read that you guys don’t really like bands being pigeonholed into sub-genres of metal?
A: Yeah, I think it’s bad for most bands, I mean a lot of bands like to see themselves as a marketable product, especially with the new wave, not anything against Rise Records but people call it Risecore, like it’s the sound of that label and most bands are here and they’re huge for the minute and they go away pretty quickly. They have no problems being labeled as that, but bands like us we don’t care because we don’t label the music that we listen to so we don’t expect to label ourselves.
BL: I respect that. We were talking before about crowds and dancing, we’ve seen an increase in the UK of hardcore dancing in the pit rather than moshing, is that something you guys have seen too?
A: I can’t really say anything bad about violent mosh pits or hardcore dancing or fight dancing or whatever you want to call it because I’m from an old school hardcore band before Thy Art, where that’s what it’s about. It’s part of the culture and people generally know that if you don’t wanna be around that stuff you should stay away from it. There is a new kinda thing, I don’t know if there is a word for it but basically going into the pit and blindsiding other people and that’s not cool at all.
BL: I think here in the UK, it’s being called ‘Crowd Killing’.
A: This, ‘Crowd Killing’ is absolutely not tolerable at all and if CJ or anyone in the band spots it we generally stop playing and ask for them to be removed from the venue. Hardcore dancing it something that is part of the music culture, certainly the aggressive music that we play and we have nothing against people that want to take out that aggression in a pit with other people that don’t mind getting knocked around a little, I mean to a certain extent these guys are almost sparring and they know that they are probably going to get hit and they’re probably going to hit other people and that’s fine. My ex-girlfriend is five foot one and she would go to the most insane hardcore shows, we’re talking like Brutality Will Prevail, very, very hardcore kinda stuff and she knew well enough, because she loved the music, she was like, I don’t wanna get punched in the face, so I’ll go stand somewhere else and not be an idiot. So it’s one of those things that unfortunately comes with the territory but the going around and just punching people in the face, or sucker punching people is definitely not cool at all and unfortunately it’s become trendy in Australia as well. Like the thing where people run up in the street and film it and try to knock someone out in one punch, it’s all the same kind of attitude I think.
BL: So you’re seeing the same thing in Aussie crowds?
A: Definitely in Australia there were a few bands that tried to make it a thing for a little while, and I thought that was stupid. We told them that they were never going to play with us, that we don’t tolerate that and a lot of the clubs banned them as well. In America I see it as more of an issues because of the gang affiliations within the hardcore community. But in Australia, hardcore is taken very seriously by the people that love it but not to the extent that they form gangs that go around beating people in pits.
BL: There seem to be a lot of successful bands coming out of Australia right now, as well as Thy Art, the likes of Parkway Drive, Northlane, Amity Affliction & Deez Nuts seem to be doing great in the UK and Europe, is there anything you think has led to that?
A: I don’t really have a clue to be honest. It’s one of those things where I’m a bit out of touch with the local scene. When I’m at home I’ll go see one or two shows a week without fail, but unfortunately I’m never at home anymore.
BL: Your schedule does seem to have gone crazy.
A: Yeah, I think I’ve got 8 days until the end of August where I’ll actually be at home in my own bed. So, for the past few years I’ve lost a little bit of touch with how things generally are going. But certainly, when we were getting established to jump to the next level where we’re at now, shows were really good. We were playing with Northlane, Amity, Parkway and all of those bands were touring quite a lot and so there was a lot of cross-pollination I guess you could call it. Like, I think one of the guys in Northlane used to play in another band from Newcastle that we were friends with, I think they used to jam with some of the guys I play with in Thy Art as well. So everyone’s been friends and played deathcore, hardcore, pop-metal, and eventually you find your little clique of people where you feel that synergy is at the right point and you make that music. You know, it kinda goes back to labeling, we still don’t label ourselves but we’re not exactly known to go and play an ambient section in one of our songs, but constraints are engines for creativity and inspiration so we definitely set boundaries around ourselves. I like to liken it to that New England metal thing that happened like 10 years ago, all the guys in Killswitch, Shadows Fall, Unearth were all friends, they all played in like twenty different bands with rotating lineups and then eventually they settled on their little combination that just worked for each, and they went onwards to success. I think the last five or six years that happened in Australia, I’m not sure if it’s going to happen again or if it’s still happening, but I think that we owe a lot to that. I played all of my first shows with Parkway Drive, I played guitar on tour for Amity Affliction for a few tours and those dudes are really good friends of mine, and Northlane and Thy Art definitely did a lot of stuff together.
BL: I’ve got to mention some of the artwork that you guys use. I thought Hate had awesome artwork.
A: It’s OK.
BL: Oh, are you not a fan?
A: No, no one in our band actually wanted that artwork. Our Australian merch guy summed it up; it looks like a giant rock with caterpillars coming out of it!
BL: [laughing] I thought it at least caught the mood of the album. How about the tour poster for this tour, what are your thoughts on that?
A: You mean this one? [showing tour laminate]
BL: Yeah, rabbits are they?
A: It’s a kangaroo with a koala eating its intestines.
BL: Oh that’s my fault; I totally missed the Australian connection and thought they were rabbits. [laughs] I guess a lot of the wildlife back home is pretty much out there to kill you, I wouldn’t have thought that of kangaroos though?
A: Kangaroos don’t actively try to kill you, but with the amount of driving we do, if you hit a 250lbs, 7ft tall kangaroo… it’s probably going to kill you! [laughs]
BL: So, how about that artwork?
A: I think CJ picked this one a year or two ago for a t-shirt design and it’s just been recycle. We all actively select our artwork and then it just sits in a DropBox folder on my laptop and eventually we’ll pick one. We’ve probably got an army of designs that our fans would love, or hate, that we have never used.
BL: But you’ll be staying away from rocks and caterpillars in future though?
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah [laughs]. There was actually another design. The guy started off with like eight designs and we filtered it down to four and then to the final two, and we were like no, that’s terrible, definitely do this one. Then our old guitar player hated everyone else’s idea so emailed the guy after we told him, just saying, ‘oh they changed their mind, we want the other one’ …so now he’s not in the band anymore. [laughs]
BL: [laughs] Maybe best we leave that one there then. The production on Hate was awesome, it sounds amazing.
A: It’s stellar.
BL: How are you guys doing with replicating that sound live? I read somewhere that you spend a lot of time personally with the sound engineering at gigs, are you happy with the sound?
A: It’s getting there. It’s always a work in progress, we’ve got a touring guitar player with us at the moment [Roman Koester] which, I guess once we work on that side of things, then we’ll be able to be a little more consistent in terms of performance and then sound wise, it’s something that I’m super conscious of. I own a recording studio in Australia, so it’s kind of my other passion outside of playing guitar. Attempting to recreate that production live while still making enough compromises to be a real band. A lot of bands play with a track and we do as well, but it’s not like it’s playing for us. It’s a lot of the extra harmonies and we did a lot of stuff with guitars where we were trying to replicate ‘synthy’ kind of sounds with a lot of delay pedals and that’s in the track because I can’t be bothered bringing 20 different delay pedals on tour [laughs] we’re a metal band and we just like playing with an amp and a cab. Unfortunately my pedal board is growing, it’s now like 32 kilos, attempting to replicate all of the sounds, but we’re certainly getting there. I’ve gone out of the way to get amplifiers we used on the record, I’ve gotten Lee to get better at tuning his drum kit to better match the sound that we hear on the record and so on, it’s a never ending process, I’m a perfectionist so I want it to be as close as possible. It’s trying to get the right sound guy as well; we’ve got one at the moment that’s kind of on a trial.
BL: Oh really, so this tour you are travelling with your own sound engineer?
A: Yeah, he’s really, really good so I’m just punishing him every day, making him get it closer and closer every day to the kind of sound that I want.
BL: It’s great that you take such pride in the live sound, it seems that not all bands do.
A: Yeah, even if I didn’t know as much as I do about sound, I still would. It would be a more frustrating experience because I wouldn’t be able to communicate what I’m trying to get him to do; but I would still think it’s important. Not enough bands do, I don’t know whether that’s because of DIY or low budgets or because they are just used to getting up on stage and playing, but now that we are at this level we need to deliver for our fans. They hear the record and if we’re not comparable then it looks shitty. I think more bands should take pride or responsibility for how they sound front of house.
BL: Soundwave is coming up a t the end of the month, you guys must be looking forward to that?
A: Yep, two and a half weeks until the start of Soundwave, which sound be fun.
BL: Some of the names at those kind of shows are huge, are there any bands that would cause you a ‘fan boy’ moment?
A: I don’t know, I’ve been touring for a long time now and so I guess I’m more used to it, or maybe desensitised. I’m not sure, I guitar teched for quite a few bands in Australia, one year I was doing All That Remains at Soundwave and the British band playing before them was Rise To Remain, While I was setting up Oli Herbert’s guitar this guy comes over and pats me on the back, and says “Oh, how you going mate”, just being friendly, and I turned round and it was just this small older man, and I was like ”Oh, G’day mate” or whatever. Then he and was talking to his son and I was like “that’s the guy who’s dad’s the singer from Iron Maiden!” I’d just had a run in with Bruce Dickinson and didn’t even acknowledge him!
You’re at these festivals and pretty much anyone you’ve ever seen in a music magazine in your whole entire life is there at catering, in the line just like you, and you realize that they are all just part of the same sub-culture, probably for similar reasons that you are. It becomes less of a looking up to, and more of a camaraderie I guess. Even the top bands approach you in a friendly and open way.
BL: Do you think that’s because those guys have been on the same journey as you’re on?
A: I think so, because whilst we’re not anywhere close to the top, I’ve got friends in younger bands that look up to us and I know that I felt how they feel now five or six years ago. I don’t think that’s a lesson or a journey that you’ll ever forget, trying to pursue the dream of playing music full time for a living, or at least as something to do full time [laughs], the living might come next year.
BL: Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us.
A: No problem, hope we play good.
Review & Live Photos – Steve Kilmister