Australian deathcore giants Thy Art Is Murder are looking at the biggest year of their career yet, including the return of vocalist CJ McMahon after a highly publicized split, a tour with Polish legends Decapitated (who recently released seventh disc Anticult) and the release of fourth album Dear Desolation.
Thy Art Is Murder will embark on a short Australian run before hitting the U.S. and Canada for a lengthy tour with Decapitated, Fallujah and Ghost Bath. Decibel talked to McMahon, who seemed rejuvenated and excited for his band’s future despite getting over the flu, about rejoining Thy Art Is Murder and the band’s new direction on Dear Desolation.
You’re back in the band. What’s it like to be back and how are things working now that you’re back?
It’s good. It was always a hard decision to leave the band but coming back is great. I get to fly out in like eight days for pre-production… I can’t wait to see the boys, I haven’t seen them since Europe which was eight weeks ago. I can’t wait, it was great to go back to the band and they’re like brothers to me.
I needed to get some shit sorted out in my life and going back, it’s the best feeling. Especially going back over and playing and having figured out parts of my life that were not really good at the time when I left the band.
You had previously said you were one of the weaker links in the band but that’s not the case anymore. What’s changed for you?
Basically, I’m trying to support myself and my wife as best as I can. I work with my father-in-law as a stone mason… I have my clothing line, and the band’s making a little bit of money as well. Financially, I’m working my ass off and I’m literally busting my ass and hustling as much as I can to be able to have somewhat of a normal life. Sydney is extremely expensive to live in and unfortunately it wasn’t my choice to live here, born and raised here, I fucking hate it. My family and my life is here.
Also, not really big on drugs anymore. I was smoking copious amounts of marijuana everyday and I was using a lot of cocaine most days. There was a couple of close calls in the US on tour when I thought I was going to die and I possibly did a couple times. Now I’ve cleaned my life up and I have a different outlook on things. Trying to manage my anger management a bit better and try to be a little bit more calm in life because it negatively impacts my family and my band.
What can you say about the new album? What can people expect? Does it sound different, does it sound similar to previous work?
I think you can expect it to be slightly different to a lot of our releases. It’s a record that I feel is like a breakthrough record for us where we’ve really found our sound. It’s something that we feel will be able to push us further in our musical careers in the future rather than just having to stem out of being in this genre of deathcore. I really don’t care what people pigeonhole us as but for some reason, the name “deathcore” kind of leaves a sour taste in my mouth after saying it. We’re showing our strengths and variety.
We can kind of move into a more modern metal phase of our lives now where we’re not going to be — not that we ever were — this generic deathcore-sounding band. This record will be more appealing to people that are into more of a modern metal, modern death metal sort of element and style of music. I think we’ve broken down the actual content of the music and instead of having ten or twelve riffs in a song, having the listener try to pick up on a few different riffs, we’ve broken the structures down so there’s less riffs but the riffs are better. The structures are not as complex as older material. It’s like taking out all the great things we’ve always liked about our band and trying to figure out what works for us in the best way and not having to add filler to everything else to make it more technical or more crazy or more interesting.
We’ve kind of broken down the way that our band writes and try to write the best of the best, rather than just writing the craziest, the heaviest, the craziest breakdown, the techiest riff. Instead of doing those things, we just try to take out what works and what we like and incorporate that into having a more modern sound that’s not so deathcore.
We’re evolving on this record and it’ll be interesting to see what the listeners think of it, that’s for sure.
I think that Job For a Cowboy did something really similar where they started to move themselves more toward death metal after their first few releases. It seems like a similar approach to that, almost.
Yeah, that’s exactly right.
You’re heading out on tour with Decapitated. We just talked about how you’re moving toward a more death metal sound but do you worry that people will hear deathcore and have a bad taste in their mouth?
Not necessarily. I just don’t think it’s what we are. I never thought it is what we were. There’s a lot of bands out there that are allegedly in the same category as us and we’re very, very different and I guess that is the reason that it’s kind of pissed me off a little bit, because I know we’re very different from these bands and yet we’re categorized as the same as these bands.
I think for sure there will be people that will see us playing, “Oh, fuck this band. They’ve got fresh Nikes on, skinny jeans, they’ve got fucking breakdowns.” I get it, we don’t all have long hair and beards and black metal shirts on from the 80’s. I get it.
We’re a very special group of people. Individually we’re special and together, as a group, as the four of us, we’re very special, so we have something that’s different and unique about our band and our personalities and the music and the control at live shows.
We understand that we’re very different and even if we were to go down the line and later records, straight death metal, we’ll always get pigeonholed as something different. I don’t know what it is with us but there’s something very unique there and it’s something that works for us. At the same time, I think it works against us.
What was the process of recording Dear Desolation like? Was it a really smooth process, was it a challenging process?
I think it was like November, December last year, Sean [Delander, guitars] and Marshy [Andy Marsh, guitars] went over to record guitars. This was just after the chatters for me coming back to the band and Sean had showed me some riffs that he’d written and it sounded cool, and I played the comeback show at Unify and a week later I’ve got a plane straight to New York with our drummer Lee [Stanton] and we met up with Andy over there at Graphic Nature in New Jersey.
The whole time I was really excited to get back into the swing of things, to do a new record. At the beginning it was going really, really fast and then we hit like a wall for lyrical content. Once we had the content to try and write about, it was getting worrying because we were working toward timeframe and me and Lee had to fly back home at a certain time.
The process was really cool. It was really different for me because it was the first time I did a record where I wasn’t partying, wasn’t using drugs, I was sleeping a lot and eating a lot of food.
Have you toured since rejoining the band?
We have done two tours since I’ve been back, but this will be my first tour in America back, which I’m really excited about. One of our biggest followings is in North America. This whole world tour we’re about to start, we picked everything. We decided that we wanted to do a co-headliner with Decapitated. We gave them the offer. We wanted Fallujah, we wanted Ghost Bath. In Europe, we wanted to take Oceano and After the Burial. We’re in a really good position because we’re mapping out what we want to do and we’re taking the bands with us that we want. When we were talking about doing this world, America was the biggest thing for us. We were saying, ‘How do we want to approach it?’
We have to take someone big, someone we like, that we’ve been influenced by and somebody that’s going to be different as well. Somebody that people are going to come out and see, that they don’t get a chance to see too much. I feel that Americans are overwhelmed with bands.
We wanted to build a lineup of legitimate metal bands. We didn’t want to have typical deathcore bands or bands that sound like us. We wanted to have what we thought was a really high impact lineup of original, talented, amazing metal bands and I think we’ve done that really well with this new American tour.
Dear Desolation is due out August 18 on Nuclear Blast. Pre-order it here.