CHIMAIRA "The Perfect Beast"

Interview by Joe Who

 The metal monster is back! Cleveland Ohio's Chimaira have returned to destroy and dominate with their new album entitled "The Infection". Just like the Greek mythological monster made of different creatures that their name is derived from, they've managed to compile an assortment of elements over a decade long career that's helped them build the perfect beast.

Over the years the band has developed a knack for mixing thrash with other influences, resulting in each album becoming it's own entity. Album number five continues this method... In fact, "The Infection" may possibly be their most adventurous work to date. Focusing on a slower, mid-tempo, groove oriented sound, the album substitutes a more heavy, melodic, dark, atmospheric approach for the speed . The contrast in styles provides them with a fresh sound, while at the same time stays loyal to their roots.

I had an opportunity to talk with guitarist Rob Arnold durning a tour stop in Mokena Illinois on Hatebreed's "Decimation Of The Nation" tour. Rob gave me the low down on the new album, spoke of his biggest regret, told me his thoughts about the metal underground, revealed some of his influences, and a lot more...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: How's the tour going so far? How does this one compare to the "Music As A Weapon" tour you guys completed earlier this year? Are there any similarities or differences between the two?

Rob Arnold: The tour is going great! The venues, fans... everything's been really cool, and we've been having a good time. There's definitely some differerences between the two tours for sure. Those earlier shows were in bigger arenas, and there was a lot more production compared to this one. But I think what you're looking to get out of it is the intimacy versus the large crowd and what you enjoy more. I like the large crowds, because that's the name of the game... playing for as many people as you possibly can , hoping to turn them into Chimaira fans. At the same time when you come back and do the smaller shows, liketonight... which was bad ass, it looked great, jam packed and shit, I think that's your indication. We have this many people from those Disturbed shows that are coming out to this... even though it's Hatebreed's tour, you know, but we've been around long enough to know how the numbers reflect reality and stuff like that. So it's cool to get those opportunities to do the big tours and add to what you have with the smaller shows.

WC: This is a question I've always wondered... Is there ever a friendly competition between bands on these package tours at all? I mean, knowing the others are gonna give a 100%, does this give you any extra incentive to push harder?

RA: I don't even think about it. I just think we're gonna do our best. I mean, our motto is to destroy any band before or after us... we try to, you know? I just focus on putting on my show and hope that it fuckin' rules.

WC: I gotta give you guys props on the promotion idea you came up with for this album. The "Spread The Infection" campaign on the internet is a cool idea. All your fans did a great job spreading the word, and in fact helped your album make it to #30 on the Billboard charts. So congrats on that.

RA: Thank you, man!

WC: I see the album is avaible in a few different formats ,too. This seems to be a necessary evil these days in order to sell albums. Do you agree?

RA: I suppose so... sure. I mean, everybody's sales are down just because everyone can get it for free now off the internet. Who knows what the percentages are, but there's a certain amount of people who still buy cd's. So you try to make it as cool as you possibly can for the people actually buying it as opposed to those downloading it. There's people that are into the special packaging, and there's people who aren't. The whole industry is crazy with that stuff. I am glad that we do have some limited edition stuff for our fans that are into it.

WC: You also have "On Broken Glass" from the new album on the "Guitar Hero" video game. You guys really covered all the bases for sure! That's a good way to bring in new fans.

RA: Absolutely! We feel totally privileged to have that song on there. We got a ton of awesome feedback about it and kids are really stoked. We'd love to have more songs on there.

WC: So is that song a bitch to learn how to play on guitar?

RA: I think so... I think it's a tough one for sure! Super challenging, real technical, you know? I've seen some dudes play it online that are pretty impressive, but they're still not hittin' the nuances, and everything like that. It's a tough song.

WC: Let's talk a little bit about the new record. First off, there wasn't a long time frame between your last album "Resurrection" and your latest "The Infection". Did you guys write this one on the road?

RA: Yeah, a lot of the demos for "The Infection" were recorded on the road. We just did it from the back of the bus one day during the last tour cycle for "Resurrection". We were like, eh, we gotta make a new album, let's try to write some riffs in the back lounge. Before we knew it, we had seven songs written like; "Venom Inside", "Coming Alive", Frozen In Time", and stuff like that.

WC: I would imagine being on the road and playing a lot of shows, you learn what people like and don't like. Does this help you focus more on a direction when you're working on new material?

RA: Maybe subconsciously but it's certainly not the focal point or what we're thinking about while we're writing. I mean, you see what's going on in the world and stuff like that... Ok, this type of genre is popular or this type of thing is working commercially. So all that stuff is gonna rub off on you a little bit. But for the most part I think we've always stuck to our guns over the years, and I think that's what has contributed to our longevity, just the fact that we've been true to it.

WC: Who came up with the title "The Infection", and What is it's significance?

RA: One day while writing those tunes in the back lounge of the bus, we brought some people back to hear those demo versions. Mark (Hunter, vocalist...) described the songs to the people as being very infectious..." you'll be singing them the next day". A couple of days later he was talking about the idea of maybe naming the album "The Infection", and the marketing we could do with "Spreading The Infection". But it really came down to just the riffs being infectious, and being able to think about them in your head the next day.

WC: You guys reunited with your hometown producer Ben Schigel on "The Infection". What would you say he's taught you over the years?

RA: He's taught me a ton over the years. I remember recording with him when I was fourteen or fifteen years old. I'd say to him, man, I wanna sound like Dimebag, and he would be like, well, Dimebag sounds like Dimebag because he is Dimebag! That taught me a lot right there. He's taught me a lot ever since then about; listening, taking your time, practicing, and just hearing what's good in music... picking up on the vibe, you know? He's also a fantastic musician and a long time friend, we went to high school together. He's just one of those dudes with an amazing ear and talent for recording bands. He's way cool and he had a great impact on "The Infection".

WC: I understand Mark used a different approach to write lyrics for this album. Can you tell me a little bit about that, and does he draw influence from personal experiences?

RA: He wanted to freestyle the lyrics this time, because that's how the music was written through out the whole thing. We just freestyled some riffs, put some drums to it, and built the songs that way. So instead of writing everything out before hand, he wanted to go into the studio with headphones on, get in front of the mic, and just feel what the music was doing to him and spit some shit out. Then later he could go back and replace lyrics in their spots and stuff like that. In terms of all the lyrics, I don't know, they're completely from his mind. He sheds some light here and there, but I personally know about as much as the fans do when it comes to his lyrics.

WC: It sounds like he wants to keep the lyrics vague, so the listener can come up with their own conclusions. You know, it's interesting because when I glanced over the lyrics to some of the songs like; "Destroy And Dominate", and "Try To Survive", for example, I got the impression that he was saying... The struggles we go through in life make us stronger. In essence you could compare this observation with Chimaira's career.

RA: Sure, yeah, you could say that. We've been together awhile, and it's kind of like we're getting in the groove now. We've tried for so long to reach whatever it is we're trying to reach, there's no guide lines on how to do this metal thing, you know? Now we're kind of at a point where it's like, holy shit, we have five albums now. Maybe we should just kick back and reflect on that... in no way am I saying we're not gonna continue to make records or anything like that. I mean, maybe we should just enjoy this for a second, jam these songs, and just take it from there.

WC: One criticism I'd make about this album is that you've scaled down on the guitar solos. However there is some really cool interplay with the electronic elements and the guitars. Was this intentional?

RA: Honestly... no, man. We didn't realize that there wasn't a lot of solos until after the songs were written. "Resurrection" had a lot of guitar solos, certainly the self titled did. "The Impossibility Of Reason" is where we started having solos pretty much. But, I don't know, it dawned on us later. I remember talking to Mark one day... all the songs were recorded, and we were starting to get into the vocals, you know, that part of the recording where I do solos simultaneously when Mark is doing vocals, like with most of our recordings. I remember saying to him on the phone one day, man, there's not that many... I'm only working on two or three solos. But there's a lot of lead parts, like for instance on "Secrets Of The Dead", Do you consider that a solo? Just the part where it goes... (Hum's a guitar part from the song to illistrate his point...) it kind of is. It's so short though, is it a solo? Or is it a lead melody thing?

I think that's what this album has a few more of, there's like four or five of those on this record. There's really only one traditional solo in "Broken Glass", and then "The Heart Of It All" has four minutes of soloing or something like that. So maybe we spent too much time ... not in a bad way, but, on "The Heart Of It All" just focusing on that song with all the guitar shit going on that we didn't even need the solos? I don't know. It literally just kind of happened that way.

WC: Do you see the music changing more as you progress?

RA: Yeah, but naturally. We have no preconceived notion going into an album. We never say we have to make it sound like this, or like this, or like this... it all just happens. A riff is written that catches somebody's ear, and we'll be like, cool, let's go with that. This could be the first song for the record, and it sets the mood. From there we come up with new riffs and things like that based around the vibe. So usually this is how we do all our records and it sparks whatever is gonna happen next.

WC: Which new songs do you think are going over the best live? I'd have to say "Secrets Of The Dead" was the one I enjoyed the most tonight.

RA: That's the one we've been playing the longest now... that's cool man, I'm glad you like it. Yeah, that song seems to be going over well, and it's good now, because, we've played it a bunch of times. So it's getting tighter and starting to feel good... it's starting to become a show regular I guess, which is cool. You know, I like playing all the new ones off this record. We played some other songs earlier in the tour that we're not playing now. We did two other songs tonight... "Disappearing Sun", and "Venom Inside", but we used to play "Destroy And Dominate" all the time. With this particular set length we've been given... like I said before, with five albums you just gotta choose, and who knows if you're making the right choices or not?

WC: What would you say has been the biggest regret of Chimaira's career so far? Is there anything you would have done differently?

RA: I don't know, man. (Thinks for a moment...) I think maybe it would be something like waiting to hire a lot of crew members and having a tour bus, and stuff like that. But it's a catch 22 because as a young band that's all you want. You see that all the older bands have a crew like; guitar techs, drum techs, sound guys, light guys, merch guys, assistants, etc... and they're on a tour bus and everything. So you want that, that's your goal, because you know it's better than what you have right now. Looking back if we would've stayed in a van longer... it just costs so much. These things (points at tour bus...) are a thousand dollars a day to operate. Over the course of a ten year career, that's a lot of money out of a lot of guys pockets.

My advice for young bands would be stay in a van for as long as you can and make a little money until it's really the right time. So anyway the whole question was,... do you have any regrets? No, but, we could have done things differently, you know what I mean? Yeah, it would be nice to have more money but it's all still part of the ride. Whether it's fate, whether it's destiny, whether it's just the way shit happens in life, who knows? Actually I probably wouldn't change anything because I'm fuckin' here doing it now, and if anything would have changed, maybe I wouldn't be.

WC: You get older, you get wiser, you learn.

RA: Absolutely! Experience is key... wisdom, fuck yeah!

WC: What's something missing in metal nowadays that you'd really like to see make a come back?

RA: I don't know, man. ... (Thinks for a moment...)

WC: Tough question. Like, for example, I remember back in the day when people would hold up banners at Iron Maiden shows, that was pretty cool...

RA: Oh, stuff like that, fuck yeah!

WC: You don't see that too much anymore...

RA: Now is that because crowds are different now? Or Is it because there hasn't been bands that are great to make that happen?

WC: Yeah, that's true...

RA: But, yeah, banners dude... we actually played this Dubai Festival earlier this year, and there were kids with
home made Chimaira sheets hanging from a rack and stuff. They were nice banners too, we were like, fuck yeah! We like to see that stuff, plus we just recently watched that Iron Maiden movie "Flight 666", and their fans were all about that shit, which is totally dope! We wish it was like how it was back in the eighties and early ninties. Chicks with the tits everywhere, all the dudes were interested in beer and having a good time, everybody's got long hair and shit, because that's what we grew up on, you know? Now things are different, so we're just trying to make the best of it. (Paper zines, tape trading, banners, and the net has killed it all...Depressed Mality)

WC: What's your thoughts on the underground metal scene these days? Back when Chimaira first started out things were a lot different. What do you think of it now? Does anything surprise you?

RA: I can't believe that death metal is as popular as it is. I was a fourteen year old kid when "The Bleeding" from Cannibal Corpse came out, then right after that "Haunted" by Six Feet Under, then there was; "Once Upon A Cross", "Pierced From Within", "Domination"... and I thought that shit was so fuckin' awesome! There was only certain kids that were into it, you know? Now for death metal to be this popular, and everybody knows it, I can't believe it. I love death metal... we have death metal elements in our sound, but, we're not one of these death metal / grindcore bands. So we just co-exist with it, glad were friends with a lot of those bands, and we're all about extreme music. So I think it's awesome!

WC: What band would you say has had the greatest impact on you as a musician?

RA: Metallica. My favorite band for sure!

WC: What's the largest crowd you've ever played to?

RA: Download Festival U.K.

WC: Did you play this year?

RA: No, 2007 was the last time. You can see all sorts of videos on the Chimaira myspace, or even on my own myspace. I think it was about 50,000 people. When you see it, you won't say, that's only a few thousand, you'll be like, Whoa! That's a lot of people! And also the first time we played with Metallica was at that festival in 2003, four years earlier. It was fuckin' sweet! A dream come true.

WC: What would you say has been your biggest "Spinal Tap" moment?

RA: We were on tour with Kittie... we were right before them, and I was in the RV at the time getting ready. I knew we were going on at... let's say 10:30, and it was 10:25. I left the RV... this was on the "Pass Out Of Existance" tour. The first song on the album is called "Let Go", and that was also the song we were opening with on that tour. So I walk into the front of the club, and it's this double set of doors. The first set of doors opens and you're kind of in a foyer type area, and the second set of doors opens into the main club.

So as I enter the first set of doors, I hear music , and I hear "Let Go" playing. I think to myself Whoa! It's weird that they're playing our cd right before were gonna go on. As I open the second set of doors, I see Chimaira on stage! Mark with a guitar on playing "Let Go", and I'm like, what the fuck? So for some reason... I'll never admit I was late, I think that I was on time. But they say that Kittie's tour manager was like, you guys need to go on now,and I wasn't there. So the band started without me.

WC: "Spinal Tap" turns 25 years old this year! 1984 was a pretty decent year for metal and hard rock. Do you have any favorite albums from that year?

RA: Would that have been the year "Ride The Lightning" came out?

WC: Yep! "Ride The Lightning", Van Halen "1984" obviously...

RA: Oh, fuck yeah! That's how I started playing guitar actually. When I was in third grade, this kid played "Panama" for me on the guitar, and right there, I was like, I gotta do that!

WC: What are your tour plans after this one ends?

RA: We go straight to Europe in the fall, come back for a U.S. tour in November / December, Australia in January, maybe the U.K. in Febuary, and we'll see from there.

WC: Thanks a lot for your time Rob. Any final words for your fans?

RA: Thanks for everything, thanks for the support, tell your buddies about us... Chimaira, let's do it!

Chimaira's Official Website