Archspire will release a crushing new record following the insane Relentless Mutation (2017). What can we expect about it? How did the band manage the pandemic and their plans? Tobi Morelli tells us more!
With this pandemic going on since last year, in which way did it affect your plans? Even if you worked on a new record, you went into the studio. How did you manage to adapt at the best regarding the situation?
Tobi Morelli (guitar): Yeah. Basically when the whole world went to shit (laughs), during the pandemic, we actually had a bunch of tour plans for the year. And we obviously had to cancel. We were booking a headline Canadian tour, and we had a plan to go to Australia and a couple of other tours as well, and we had to cancel them all. So, that put us on a rough spot, like every other band that makes a living from touring, but it did give us more time to work on writing for the album. Basically, for the first little bit of the pandemic, like yourselves, we couldn’t really hang out or interact physically, and when we write music, we all write in rehearsal space. We all work together, record parts and listen to them, so it’s kind of an old-school approach to writing. It’s really a team thing. So because we couldn’t do that, I guess we had more time to work on parts for ourselves and ideas. And then eventually, gave them to everybody else.
First, it was a bit strange, not being able to go and jam with the guys I’ve been playing with for the last ten years. Aside from the touring plans and stuff being canceled, it did give us more time to work on the details of our album and writing, and then once things start hopping up a little bit, and that we actually can interact and get together again, we were able to spend a lot more time fine tuning our album, before we went to the studio. I think it’s like a blessing and a curse at the same time. It sucks because everybody in the world got screwed over by this, but on a selfish note, it helped us focus a bit more on writing. We weren’t touring in between, because it can be really hard to write while on tour. So, we only had one goal. (laughs)
If you had done the tour you were supposed to do, this album would still have been released this year, or later?
Tobi: The plan was to release an album in 2020-2021, and it took two and a half years to write. That long, especially when we’re on tour for the reasons I mentioned. We expected maybe to have it released earlier, to be in the studio earlier, but I mean, with everything said and done, it worked out well, we still met the early target. At least, we didn’t push it too far, like the middle of 2022, and it’s at the tail end of 2021, so hopefully, it will set us up for a better 2022.
At least, we didn’t release it like January 1st of 2021, and not being able to go on tour to promote it properly which is a very important part for the genre we’re in. And about cancelling tours as well, we were able to cancel in time we’re we didn’t lose tons of money. A lot of bands that we know, friends of ours, had all these tour plans booked, flights, venues, buses, merch, etc.. and then the pandemic happened, and they lost tens of thousands of dollars. We got lucky, because we didn’t lose any money up front, just future income.
This album is very effective, length-wise, clocking at 30 minutes, like the previous one. Does it mean that only the perfect/excellent ideas were in, and a lot was thrown away?
Tobi: Basically, like everything, in this album, that’s the best that we possibly could write. We filter everything, so, every riff, every vocal part, drums, we all have input and we all, as a band, are all satisfied. The end product is absolutely the best that we could possibly have. There’s not like twenty awesome sections we just cut to clock the album at thirty minutes. If anything, we’re always fighting to make a full length album, with super long songs, but it’s very intense music. It could be too much for the listener with a one hour album. (laughs) We don’t want the listeners to be confused or bored. Hopefully, you want to listen to it over and over again. We like it, short and sweet.
Wow, it could be your next album title, ‘short and sweet‘! (laughs)
Tobi: (laughs) Yeah we will just release one song. (laughs)
Can we say that, even if it’s still Archspire, this album is more accessible? Almost catchy at times, even in the Archspire sense of the term. There’s a sense of melody that is really present, you can hear it in front, but even in the background, like a layout throughout the song. For instance, it’s almost symphonic metal with the intro of ‘Acrid Canon’, there’s also some acoustic intros.
Tobi: Yeah, we really wanted to push more for like, more hooks and melodies for this album. I guess we always tried to have that in our music somewhere, something catchy and memorable. Something that would be stuck into the listener’s head. Even if it’s really crazy at times, I think that we tried to have more of that on this album. Not necessarily traditional song structures, but sort of. We obviously didn’t want the pop song stuff ‘verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc’, but more the idea of having a repeating melody that can be catchy to the listeners. We repeated this kind of melody more on this album, compared to before maybe.
So yeah, our music is as extreme as it can be, fast and crazy, but yeah, I guess, more accessible, as far as technical death metal goes. (laughs) Of course, we have to love the music we’re writing, but we also have a great fan base, and we want them to clearly enjoy our music. And hopefully expand to more people.
Do you think that it’s sometimes a hard balance to find? To please at first you, the band, and then, the fans?
Tobi: Yeah, totally. It is, because, you don’t know what people, their taste may have changed over time, people can get bored with what you’re doing if it’s the same, or if it’s not crazy enough. You know that you’ll eventually disappoint somebody, but as long as we’re not disappointing ourselves. (laughs) And I speak for myself but I’m extremely proud of this album. We don’t release something that we’re not all excited about anyway. I know that a lot of bands are saying ‘oh this is our best one, etc‘ each time they release a new album, but you know that some albums just don’t work for everybody.
But, as we don’t release albums very often, I think we have the time to be really really picky and critical of our own stuff, so. But yeah, it is a challenge because you wanna get new fans, you grow as a band, but you also want to keep. We don’t wanna sell out, we won’t gonna start to have operatic vocals or flutes. (laughs) It’s just not us. We stick to our formula but we’re open to experiment, as long as it sticks to the genre.
For this record, you also used an 8-string guitar, which is a bit new for you. What did it bring to your writing and to the association with Dean’s guitar parts?
Tobi: It made things heavier. When it came to writing for this album, we were already experimenting with different tuning, like drop-A tuning, which is cool. Tuning one string down, and instantly it makes things heavier. Playing 8 strings never gelled with me at first, it never appealed to me too much. But then, I was like ‘let’s give it another chance‘ and the result is really cool for the heavy parts that Dean (Lamb) and I are playing in the same register. We already had to split things up, sometimes I play higher, an octave up and stuff, and it worked pretty well for us, but I want to match up with the kinda low end of things, and make things even heavier.
We’re endorsed with Kiesel guitars, and they were kind enough to lend me one for a bit. And I thought, if I like it enough, maybe they’ll build one for me, and if I don’t, at least, I didn’t waste their time with something I’m not gonna use. I used it for a year and a half and started writing with it, trying different tunings, and it worked fine and opened me up to different ideas. So, I’m going 8-string for this album, only 8-string, and Dean is using it from the beginning. It’s not like our music is super 8-string heavy oriented, it’s just given us an extra lower register, but we’re not gonna become a djent band or whatever. It’s not permanent, but I think doubling up with two 8-string guitars on this album gave something definitely heavier. Sometimes it’s for convenience too, I could be playing in a higher register, and just because I have that extra string, I can play just notes without moving my hands everywhere. Despite how crazy it might look, it helps a little bit, making the playing easier.
Once again you worked with Dave Otero to record and produce your new album. Was he an obvious choice considering the great work you did with him? Is he the best to capture your sound and what you’re looking for with your music?
Tobi: Yes, I would say so. (laughs) I mean, when we went with him for the Relentless Mutation (20xx) album cycle, it was great, like we wanted to have a different producer and someone that would be a bit more hands on, and someone that not everybody was using at the same time. Especially with our genre, there’s a lot of really great engineers, but sometimes, when you go to the couple of guys that everyone goes to, the production may sound kinda the same as others.
We knew his work with Cattle Decapitation, Cephalic Carnage and all those bands have a different sound. They sound how they are supposed to sound. This guy really brings something to your album. This time, he was a little bit more prepared for recording with us, and knows all our strengths and weaknesses. He made everything almost seamless, and we knew what his work ethic was like. It was obvious for us to go with him again, because he did such a great job for us before. We already had this chemistry between us, and he understands our sound. To start with a new producer could have been hard, starting from scratch, he would have to learn how we interact as a band, everyone’s technique, but Dave knows our own specificities, and brings new ideas. And he’s an awesome guy to hang with too, so that helps.
Oli’s vocal flow is still very strong and fast. We received the lyrics PDF file which is 19 pages long for an album of only 8 songs!
Tobi: (laughs) Yeah, it’s like a short story, a novel.
The intro of the last song was from a recording of a German friend of his? He says to ‘bring back danger into music‘, is that your new motto?
Tobi: (laughs) Actually, it’s one of Spencer (Prewett, drums)’s friend. Spencer lived in Germany and in the Netherlands for a while, a long time ago, so he has a lot of close friends from there. And so one of his friends, is a very strong metal elitist, you know, he’s very, he doesn’t like a lot of stuff. He likes his metal to be very specific. And I guess there’s times where he’d messaged him from time to time, and he’d complain about our band to him : ‘it’s too this! You guys tryin’ too much to do that! It’s too technical, etc’. It’s funny because he’s complaining to him and it’s like, our band, it’s a buddy, and so one day, he sent this voice message and he was talking about just like our music in general ‘I don’t care how fast you go, how technical you are, it’s too flashy, I want tome pure metal…. bring back danger into music’.
And when I heard that message, I couldn’t stop laughing. (laughs) And then we got the idea to use it as an intro for a song, we’ve never done intro like that but it might just work. It’s really funny and it’s a cool surprise. Then we had to find the song to use it for. We didn’t want to use this at the start of the album, because it might throw people off, and neither for a single. So we used it for the last track, and it’s the fastest song too, which is perfect. You have the fastest song with the intro of a guy complaining. (laughs) It’s pretty rad that this guy, who technically hate our band so much, he made it on our album. (laughs) It’s pretty ironic.
Even if he gave his permission, did he listen to the track?
Tobi: No, because we haven’t sent the album yet to people. I don’t know if he’s actually heard it yet. He knows that he’s on the album, but well, it’s so funny, and he’s an old friend of ours. (laughs) Our music is serious but we like to goof around, on stage and everything. So we threw a little bit of the band’s humor on this album.
During/in-between/after the COVID period, a lot of bands streamed live concerts, and some of them released them on Blu-ray. Were you tempted to do the same?
Tobi: We talked about it, and we’ve been asked to do a full live stream. But you have to find a place to organize, it just seemed a lot to put in, and in addition we were all confined for a time, and then able to be with two people, etc. It was always changing. It was probably too much trouble, and maybe it would not have worked out the way we wanted to, or not turned out very well. You need the right sound for those things. If we have to put something out, it mustn’t be bad audio quality. Doing guitars is one thing, especially today where you can track guitars very clean, but the drums is another story. To have the drums perfectly tuned, find a good place to do that. And you have to hire people to record everything. It seemed to be too big of a project to take on. And that’s why we were able to do music videos stuff, instead, for promotion. Maybe we will do a live stream type of thing one day, if we can get it done right. Quality’s definitely important.
A live Blu-ray would be cool, though.
Tobi: Yeah, that would be cool. It would be awesome one day to have some kind of live recording and footage. We talked about it, so I can see it in our future, for sure.
Once you ended the Relentless Mutations cycle, which did pretty well for the band, you started writing for this record, so a few years back, in between tours, was it in a way, hard to not repeat yourself?
Tobi: You never want to repeat yourself, for sure. Our main goal is, the least we can do is not to put out the same record, and not drop the bar. We toured the last album for a long time, and it gave us time to get fully inspired, to experiment a lot with our instruments, to take the time to not get back at it right away. So, when it came down to writing, a lot of ideas started to be different. And during the COVID, where we didn’t jam at all with each other, we just had Skype meetings. We recorded ideas and sent them like a group chat. We definitely could work on these ideas. And we could finally jam together, we had a lot of time in our hands, so we decided to do it every day. So we were rehearsing and writing for five days a week. And it became super stressful in the end. We found out that it wasn’t the best solution. It ended up being frustrating because someday we came with nothing, no fresh ideas, it was too much to be always inspired for hours.
It clicked a lot better three days a week, after a period of calm (second wave of the pandemic). We started piecing the song together, just like as a band and then, it went fine. We went from playing a lot to editing the recordings we did, and that went crazy as well. I guess that’s just what happens. Basically we go into a room, we argue for 4 to 5 hours and eventually we come up with something we’re happy with. (laughs)