Chimaira are just about to drop their new album ‘The Infection’ and we were lucky enough to catch up with guitarist and all round nice guy Rob.
Cam? This is Rob from Chimaira?
Caught me by surprise mate, normally we have to deal with the token useless operator before we get to shoot the shit?
(Laughs). Nope, that’s how we do things man.
Awesome. I know we’re on a tight schedule today man so let’s get right into it… The “Music Is A Weapon” tour kicks off this week, who are you excited to share the stage with?
Everybody man. We leave tomorrow and everybody’s just doing their last minute packing and trying to get ready for the tour and it’s been a long time since we’ve been on the road – almost a year in fact – so it just feels good to get out there, especially to kick off our first tour on our brand new album as a part of this tour with Disturbed, Killswitch, Lacuna Coil… man, all those bands are great friends of ours, especially Disturbed who we’ve been friends with for all these years and they’ve built themselves into this gigantic band.
We’ve been friends with Killswitch for a long time too so there’s a lot of respect there and Lacuna Coil are another group we’ve hung out with before. It’s going to be great dude and I think the package will blow everyone away.
As you mentioned, you’ve been away for the live scene for quite a while so hitting the road with those bands is a fairly huge way to launch your new record and make some kind of statement…
Well if we didn’t believe in it we wouldn’t put it out… we’re not that kind of band if you know what I mean? But man… this one is HEAVY, and I think people are going to catch onto that pretty quickly!
Moving onto something a little different, Chimaira recently played the Dubai Desert Rock Festival. Can you tell us a bit about the event, how you got on board and what it was like playing a metal festival in the Middle East?
It was a surreal experience man. First, just being asked to do it was weird enough because the promoters handpicked the bands every year and we were the ones they wanted over there. It was awesome because I’m sure a lot of those middle-eastern rock kids don’t get the chance to see heavy American bands very often, so to go over there and play for those kids is awesome for the both of us.
Aside from the long-ass flight, we were taken care of in every way, everybody was very gracious and respectful and they just wanted to make sure we had a great time. The production and stage was great and I heard there was something like ten thousand kids in attendance and we were really well received, so we couldn’t really ask for much more.
The following day we did a lot of sight seeing and rode some camels and hung out with some belly-dancers and all sorts of stuff like that, and then jumped on another long-ass flight home (laughs), so yeah… it was just a great experience and something that we’ll all share for a long time to come.
What was the crowd response like compared to the US and Europe?
Into it right off the mark man… they were a great crowd and they were just so excited that we were with Arch Enemy, Opeth, Motorhead and all the other bands.
I don’t think they get that sort of treatment very often so they definitely made the most of it.
Sounds like an amazing thing to be a part of mate. Back on point man, your new record “The Infection” is set for a late April release, apart from being incredibly heavy, what can your fans expect this time round?
I think they’re going to hear something new and something that they weren’t expecting. Sonically the record is our best effort yet and in terms of production we’re always trying to find ways to step it up. There’s something about the tones on this record that really make it stand out, but beyond that, the special edition comes with a full-length documentary and making of the record which we saw a couple of weeks ago and it looks great and was shot in HD, and yea… so you’ve never really seen a metal band record their record in this high-quality (laughs).
You can really see everything we’re using and working with so it’s really cool and we’re super proud of it. So yeah, our fans should expect an awesome album.
Did you guys have a set sound or goal when it came to writing “The Infection”, or was it more a case of just taking it as it comes?
Well, at the end of our last touring cycle Mark (vocals) and I were just like, “I guess it’s time to do another record”, so we set up a portable studio in the back of the bus and started jamming and smashing out riffs just to see what would happen. We didn’t have anything in mind of how we wanted to sound and we wanted to be and the first riff that came out was the main riff of the song “Try To Survive”, which is number nine on the album. When we heard that riff man we knew we were onto something and yeah, that totally set the mood for the rest of the record… just that slow, chuggy, groovy, drag you through the mud type of riff.
So from there Mark and I wrote seven or eight more songs just jamming out before or after shows and then we brought that batch back to the practice space after the tour and proceeded to write the rest of the album, which was pretty natural because we’d sort of already mapped out where we wanted to go with those first few riffs and songs.
Like I said, nothing was preconceived or planned out, it just came out man.
As the band’s lead guitarist are you the dominant songwriter or is Chimaira’s music usually born out of collaboration?
I’d say I’m the most dominant, although Mark and I usually get together on ideas… but I contribute the majority of the riffs and arrangements and song ideas and things like that.
Mark does one hundred percent of the lyrics, so the two of us are the main-brain so to speak, but everyone else in the band makes Chimaira what it is as well. It wouldn’t be the same without Matt’s input and the riffs he contributes, and Andols beats and fills put his own flavour on everything he touches, along with the layers that Chris adds… it just all adds up and makes the band what we are.
Ultimately our music is written in layers, from the first skeleton to when we finally nail the song together, so our approach definitely works.
A lot of bands become stagnant after a certain period of time, but Chimaira are able to keep progressing and coming up with fresh ideas. What keeps you guys motivated?
Definitely just the chance to try again. Every record we write we put everything we have into it, and every ounce of musicianship that we have and all our emotions man. We make every riff, part and note the best it can possibly be and when that album is done and we tour on it we can see how it’s accepted.
Once that tour cycle is over there’s really no reason to stop, just the chance to say, “ok, this worked well and this didn’t, so let’s focus on these strong points and make a killer record”. After every tour we can sit down and be like, we’re stronger, we’re faster, tighter and we’ve gelled more together and grown as a group and as individuals and yeah, it’s just a new opportunity to try again, write a new record and see if we can make our band bigger and better than before.
Ben Schigel once again oversaw the productions duties for the record. What is it that allows you guys and Ben to work so well together?
I think it’s because Ben knows us so well. We all went to high school together – even the guy that does our filming and photos and helped make our documentary – so we’re just a family and unit. We’ve been recording with Ben at his studios since 1994, so we’ve always had fun experimenting with him and getting our heads around the new technology and working out new ways to record and come up with crazy sounds. You know, our career was going well and his career was going well so it makes sense to keep growing and working together man.
We just have a good vibe together you know, he knows what sounds good and hears great things and he’s an amazing drummer and singer and a complete wizard behind the desk, so that’s the type of guy we look for.
Is Ben the kind of producer that assists with arrangements and writing or he is more there from a sonic point of view to pull sounds?
We’re always really prepared man… the songs are written as much as they can be, so we’re at the point that we think they’re the best by the time we get to the studio. By the same token we trust Ben, so if he says that we should do this vocal line differently or approach something in another way or move something around then we’ll definitely listen to what he has to say.
He’s extremely involved in the overall process and really helps us give the songs a new lease on life when we’re in the studio, but we’re still incredibly well prepared before we even enter the studio. There’s always going to be times that we’ll disagree and argue but our relationship is good that we can work out it and get the best possible result.
Looking forward, the musical landscape has changed a lot since Chimaira first started out – and will continue to do so – is it harder to function as a full-time metal band than it was 10 years ago?
That’s hard to answer man because I’d say it’s easier to function because we’ve become more successful. As a younger band the future is so unclear – not that it isn’t now – but it’s far more unclear when you’re a younger group, you know… how many albums will you make? Will we continue to get good tours? Will guys stay in the band? Are we going to make it? There’s all those questions man, but now we know that this is our career and that our jobs are to make music it’s a little easier to function… and we’re definitely far more organized than we used to be.
We’re a business now and we have a Chimaira chequebook now (laughs), so every little thing is in place. It really just solidifies the fact that we made it and all our hard work has paid and will continue to pay off. This is our life so we can take advantage of that and keep trying to take things to the next level without the worries that a young band has.
I was going to say that although the landscape has changed, heavy music seems to have maintained a level of commercial popularity over the last half a decade that many genres can’t compete with, why do you think that is?
Why metal has perceived while other genres have perished?
Yeah man. Things definitely move in waves as far as popularity goes, but metal seems to have the most consistent presence…
I don’t know man. Every genre probably goes through its ups and downs, but the metal world… who knows (laughs)!? When I was born in 1980 hair metal was super popular, and then that continued in the nineties but things were starting to get a bit heavier with the influence of grunge etc…
That whole time, death metal bands and legitimately heavy bands were bubbling under the surface and picking up some steam and then when the year 2000 rolled around and nu-metal had started to die out labels started to take chances on these heavier groups. Marilyn Manson started getting commercially popular so people were becoming more aware of that look and heavier sound so I think the underground really benefited from that.
I think the effect of that mainstream success inspired a lot of kids because they saw a future in heavier music and it’s produced a generation of great musicians who have the chance to make the most of what they’ve got.
Ultimately, regardless of what popular trends were coming and going, the metal underground is ALWAYS there, and as long as it’s there and producing great bands, those bands will continue to pop up and flourish and succeed.
That’s about all we’ve got time for mate, is there anything else you’d like to add?
I think we’ve covered it all man. Just spread the word that after our cycles throughout the US and Europe we’ll be looking to hit Australia in the last part of the year. We’ve had so much fun and success down there previously so we can’t wait to get back and really solidify our fan base down there.
Sounds like a plan mate. Good luck with the upcoming tour.
Thanks so much man.
Chimaira release their brand new album ‘The Infection‘ on Monday 27th April via Riot! For more info on the band head to their Myspace page.