NEURAXIS: "As The World Burns..."

Interview with: Rob Milley

By Joe Who?

People come and people go, it's the nature of the music business. Particularly when band lineup changes occur, they're never easy for musicians to go through, but unfortunately they do happen. Sometimes it's a blessing in disguise and other times a member's departure can be a mistake depending on the chemistry. Ultimately when all is said and done, the question on everyone's mind is... can they still deliver the goods, or not?
 If you've followed the history of Montreal Canada's tech-death-metal veterans Neuraxis, you'll probably notice that they've always been like a phoenix rising up from the ashes. Their ability to resurrect, reconstruct, and produce quality albums through all the trials and tribulations of their career is a testament to their perseverance.
 The groups latest release, (sixth full length effort...) entitled "Asylon" is no exception. Thinking outside of the box, they're created a dark psychological thriller that spits out emotional venom and cleanses itself of all the issues built up within.
 I caught up with guitarist Rob Milley on the Chicago stop of their whirlwind U.S. tour opening for Deicide. A long standing member of the band, Rob was gracious enough to share his knowledge, experiences, and wisdom with me for the following interview.

Wormwood Chronicles:  I understand Neuraxis went through a lineup change going into this new album. What happened with the previous lineup of the band?
Rob Milley:  Well, you know how things go with touring, you encounter problems with members sometimes. When we did the touring cycle for our last album "The Thin Line Between", we had to do a switch with our drummer (Tommy McKinnon) and our bass player (Yan Thiel) informed us that he could no longer tour. Then we made the decision to find a new drummer and bassist, auditioned a couple musicians, and found our new members Oli Beaudoin on drums and Oli Pinard on bass. So it worked out really good, these guys were the best fit for us.
WC:  How are Oli and Oli different players than Yan and Tommy?
 RM:  Oli on bass plays a six string bass, and he's actually a lot more versatile. When I showed him all the stuff that I was working on for the album, I didn't tell him you have to follow what I'm doing. I showed him what I did and he came up with his own bass lines... plus he's not the type of player that shows off by doing a bunch of leads. He knows what to put at the right moment and at the same time keeps a good foundation. That was the thing with our previous bass player... very solid player, but he would always just follow what I was playing on the guitar.
And our new drummer Tiger... we like to call him Tiger, because, he's vicious, he's a beast!  Probably the best drummer we've ever had. I mean, no disrespect to any of the other drummers we've had, but I definitely feel the most confident playing with Tiger.
WC:  With all the lineup changes you've endured, do you think it's given the band longevity?  I mean, a new outlook for each album has to bring forth a different approach on how you create.
 RM:  Yeah, that's the best way to describe it. We've been around for fifteen years, had numerous lineup changes, and each time it's kind of like a renewal of the band. I mean, I can understand when some people give up on us because there's no original members left, but we always gain new fans with each new album. It's been interesting, each album is different with each lineup... it's like, they all have their own perspective. So it's been really cool, every album has been an evolution for Neuraxis.
 WC:  How long was "Asylon" in the making?
 RM:  After the touring cycle for "The Thin Line Between", we got back in May 2009...
WC:  Was that after the Cannibal Corpse tour?  I remember seeing you guys open up for them that year...

 RM:  Yeah, right after the Cannibal tour we knew we had to make the switch with the lineup.  So we took a few months off to get our shit together.  Around that time I started writing and as soon as we got the new members, we started working on the new album.  I'd say it was probably a good six to eight month process of writing and then we went into the studio after that to record it. The album has actually been ready since the end of the summer of last year. We've been sitting on it impatiently just waiting to get it out, and now it's finally out, you know?
WC:  I read the explanation for the title of your new album. You guys were going for the ancient Greek meaning of asylum. I actually looked it up online and I found a Dungeons And Dragons wikapedia page that described "Asylon" as a "Great Sanctuary". It went on to describe an island with heros, villians, celestial creatures, and vile monsters. When I read the lyrics to the album, I saw some similarties. There's words used like; reptiles, serpents, and vermin, plus the artwork ties in with that as well. My question is... did this play a part with the theme of the album?  And was Alex going for fantasy based lyrics or reality based lyrics?
RM:  You made a very good point with that. He actually based all the lyrics on personal issues, but like you mentioned reptile, vermin and that all kind of tied into it. Alex came up with the concept of the album, and I guess you could say that is a underlining theme to the album. The term vermin... I don't wanna necessarily say reptile itself, but, we had the song "V", and we didn't wanna specifically have one meaning to it, so then that way you could interpret it in different ways.
Going back to the "Asylon" thing, yeah, it's ancient Greek and initially it was gonna be called asylum, but we found out there were other albums with that title. So then Alex did some researching, found "Asylon", and we decided to use that because it sounds more mysterious... plus simplicity wise "Asylon" just rolls off the tongue easier!

 WC:  I read the theme for this album came from the first song written. This was also the case for your previous album "The Thin Line Between". How does Alex come up with his concepts so quickly?  Does he write stuff in advance then go back to it? Or Is it just luck?
RM:  Well, Alex is inspired by a lot of movies. I don't want this to sound cheesy, but, he's very inspired by the latest series of Batman movies, like, "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight". He was also inspired by personal issues throughout the last few years, you know... everyday type of things, relationships and stuff like that. So he was writing lyrics very rapidly and he probably had some lyric concepts throughout that last touring cycle we did, and then when we had that break there, he really started developing the concept of "Asylon".
WC:  You know, it's funny that you mention movies, because, I got that vibe when I listened to the album. From start to finish, each song seems to progress more. It's kind of like a movie where each song is a different scene. Was this what you guys were trying to achieve?
 RM:  I guess that was just pure coincidence. I mean, each song that we wrote would probably inspire us to do something different for the next one, but it wasn't in a clear way, like, we gotta do it like this. I think subconsciously you just automatically focus on something else, you know?  Then when we had all the songs down, we fiddled around with the order, and it just so happened that the order we picked worked out really well. It's like a journey, it's very intense, then goes darker...
WC:  Dynamics...
 RM:  Yeah, I mean, that's what we hoped for, you know?  We wanted the album to be dynamic and not just be monotone or whatever you wanna call it.  With some bands it's very one-dimensional or it's too multi-varied and you just get lost. So hopefully what we did is something that flows very well.
WC:  Durning the creative process, did you and Alex collaberate on ideas?
RM:  We kind of did things more individually on our own sides. Alex had his lyrics and I had my music and we were both going through some ups and downs in our personal lives. We both knew from the experience we had on the last album that we would have to step it up a notch on the intensity. I had music that I was working on and when he heard it, that inspired him to go even further into his lyric concepts. So, like I was saying before, it was just pure coincidental luck that we were both on the same page, and from there everything just morphed into what it became. 
WC:  You mentioned before that Alex was inspired by movies, I was wondering who some of your influences are?  Because I can hear an influx of different sounds in your style.
RM:  Yes, there are specific bands that I listen to.  If we're talking in terms of brutality, it's Suffocation.  If we're talking in terms of melody and epicness, I still revert back to Emperor and Dissection. And when we're talking in terms of dark creativeness, I was listening to Gorguts - "From Wisdom To Hate" a lot... I love that album!  Those were the main bands that inspired me.
WC:  As far as the technical aspect of your style, would that be Suffocation as well?
 RM:  They're definitely an inspiration. I don't try to go too technical, if the song calls for something simple, then it'll be simple.
WC:  I noticed that. I like how you incorporate melody into the arrangements. You know how to make the song intense, but at the same time you understand  that without melody in there, you have no song.

RM:  Yeah, big time, man!  This reverts back to my influences again. Maybe the more traditional heavy metal bands like; Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth, Testament. You know, bands like that.
WC:  Did you use the same gear in the studio for this album?  Or  did you try some new equipment?
RM:  I used my main guitar, which I've been using for a long time now a BC Rich Eagle, and I believe we had four Peavey 5150 Amplifiers that we worked with.
 WC:  This album has a thicker sound compared to the last album...
RM:  Yeah, well, that's the difference between the two producers that we worked with. I think Chris Donaldson the current one, brought out a more natural "live" sound versus what we had on the last album.
WC:  I notice you only play solos on four of the songs. Are your solos improvised?  Or do you come up with them in advance?
RM:  I come up with a basis of the idea, and what happened was, I didn't focus too much on the solos because I had the task of writing music for the whole album... or 90% of it. Our bass player Oli actually contributed two songs, which was cool. So the solos were kind of secondary.
My opinion on solos is that there's too many players out there nowadays soloing for the sake of just soloing. If I'm gonna do a solo, I want it to mean something. When I went into the studio, I had my ideas for the solos, and Chris Donaldson our producer helped me to bring out the best ideas possible for the ones that I had. So it was a cool experience working with Chris.
 WC:  Bill Robinson from Decrepit Birth makes a guest appearance on the song "Saviour And Destroyer". How did this collaboration come about?
RM:  We toured with Decrepit Birth a few years ago on The Faceless tour and we became buddies, you know?  We're big fans of Decrepit Birth and Bill's vocals. So when we were ready to do the demos for pre-production, we asked him if he wanted to sing on the song, and he was down for it. So it worked out.
WC:  Was he actually in Canada with you guys in the studio?
RM:  No, their guitar player Matt Sotelo recorded Bill's vocals at his studio in Califorina. So it was through the computer.
WC:  Any other musicians you'd like to collaborate with in the future?
RM:  Good question!  (Thinks for a moment...)
WC:  I got a good one... Lord Worm! (kinda fitting, considering you write for Wormwood!--Taskmaster Mality)

RM:  (Chuckles)  I don't know, I think he's done with music, I'm not sure.  Well, speaking of Cryptopsy, their former guitar player Jon Levasseur who was the basis of all the classic albums like; "None So Vile" and "Whisper Surpremacy"... I would love to work with him.
WC:  What would you say has been your biggest "Spinal Tap" moment?  I mean, other than revolving musicians!
RM:  (Chuckles)  Shit!  That's a good question!  (Thinks for a moment...)  I don't know man!  (Laughs)  I haven't even seen that movie yet!
WC:  (Laughing)  You gotta check it out some time, you'll get a kick out of it!  Ok, How about good tour stories?
RM:  We've had some scary incidents when we were driving. The more you travel, chances are your going to have an accident. But we've had a lot of cases with hitting deer. So for any touring bands out there reading this, watch out on over night drives!
WC: How much touring do you plan on doing for this album?
RM:  We hope to tour as much as we can. We have this Deicide tour and then we have Sepultura coming up. After that ,we're gonna look into touring again later this year in North America. We're gonna do a Canadian headliner, and hopefully we'll head over to Europe.
 WC:  I was thinking a good tour for you guys would be Summer Slaughter.
RM:  Definitely!  I think it's too late though... I've inquired about that, but I don't think it's gonna happen for us. We actually did the Summer Slaughter Tour In Canada back in 2008 with Necrophagist and Dying Fetus and it was amazing!
 WC:  With the price of gas going up, it's gotta be tough on bands expenses. How do you guys manage?  Do you budget things or scale things down in order to keep the tours going?
RM:  Yeah, we definitely have to scale things down. I mean, we don't stop at any motels, we sleep in the van or if we can sleep at someone's place we will. Yeah, we have to budget things out, it is rough being a support band. But you can't complain because you're traveling, you're playing music, you're meeting friends and fans... it's what we wanna do.
WC:  What do you think every beginning musician should know?  What kind of advice would you give them?
RM:  Well, music- wise get your chops down, practice as much as you can. You're obviously gonna have influences in the begining, but always strive to do something of your own. This will enable you to have something unique about yourself instead of being a part of all the clone bands out there.
Business- wise, try to meet as many people as you can, make contacts, and get as much advice as you can from trustworthy people. Always have a lawyer when you're doing contracts and stuff like that with the labels and hopefully you won't get fucked over.
 WC:  Facebook, Twitter, and all that stuff can help a lot too, especially with promotion.
RM:  Yeah, of course social networking is the most important thing nowadays.  Downloading and stuff like that... I mean, it's unfortunate that the artists suffer the most. Labels are financing the albums and when the lack of sales occur, they give less support to the bands. Downloading is cool for visibility, but in the end you're still stealing. People don't even realize this because nowadays it's become part of our culture.  So you just gotta deal with it and find ways to work around it, you know?
WC:  Thanks a lot for your time Rob. Any final words for the fans?
RM:  I hope everyone enjoys the new album "Asylon", pick it up if you can and catch us on tour with either Deicide or Sepultura. Cheers!