Ahead of their fast approaching March tour with Meshuggah, I recently spoke with Thy Art Is Murder’s guitarist/lyricist, Andy Marsh. In our brief but insightful chat, the longtime member answered my questions about the behind the scenes plans of CJ McMahon’s return at this year’s Unify, how the band’s going now that their brother is back on board, the creation and intention behind new single ‘No Absolution’, as well as briefly talking about their next album (which I expect will be dropping this year via UNFD).
Marsh also shared with me his thoughts on the recent controversy that surrounded Ne Obliviscaris last month, with their bassist Brendan Brown leaving amid some very serious allegations and that group’s (pathetic) legal threats against I Probably Hate Your Band.
You can read it all below.
So, tell me Andy, how long in advance was the plan decided that CJ would return to the band for this year’s Unify?
Well, I wouldn’t say that we had a concrete plan but we started being open to formulating one about six months ago, about halfway through last year.
What most people don’t really understand is that we see each other on tour basically every day for 250 days a year. That’s not your usual 9-5, Monday to Friday job; it’s 24 hours around the clock, in a small bus, out onto a stage, and then back to a bus. None of us spoke with CJ for around four or five months, which was very abnormal for us, when you think about what I just said to then going to no calls, no texts, no speaking. We called him a few times. A couple of the guys even visited when they were in Sydney. When we would talk, we’d talk but not about the band, but just about life; how he’d been, what was he up to, and such. Then slowly, the discussion came up about he missed the band, how he missed being with his friends. From there it grew, and things like that – mending broken friendships – just don’t happen overnight.
Oh, for sure. It takes time. CJ mentioned to me last year in an interview that towards the end, he was having troubles with various addictions and his own mental health. Now, that that’s all been sorted out and he’s been in a better place, it’s great to hear.
Now, with the latest single, ‘No Absolution’, I found it to be a very safe release-
-A safe release…? What was safe about it? [Laughs.]
Well, for one thing, it’s a song that came from the ‘Holy War’ sessions, and everything from CJ’s vocal delivery, the religious connotations tackled in the lyrics, that breakdown – which was sick – was all stuff that I expected when I first heard the song start. Still a good song, though!
Oh okay. Well, I think that whatever anyone may think that those songs lyrics are about are wrong. It’s rather personal stuff, really. They’re actually about CJ leaving and returning.
Musically, yeah, it follows the mould of what we do, as it was meant to be on ‘Holy War’ – we just ran out of time and had to drive three days away to start a tour in the States. We also didn’t have enough lyrics to finish the song, so it just sat there. We paid to record, it was mixed and ready, it just didn’t have the vocals done. And we really liked the breakdown. We actually wrote that particular breakdown like six or seven years ago, which some fans guessed correctly about it coming from ‘The Adversary’ era.
Yeah, I found that to be the case too. So, is a song like ‘No Absolution’ what people can expect from this next record?
No. It’s not really what you’d expect from the next record. We also didn’t do anything “new” now as we’d been writing the new record and we didn’t want to rush into that, and instead just have our full creative perspective focused on this album. We also didn’t have the ability to go and record something new anyway – CJ and Lee [drums] are in Australia, I’m in the States, and Sean [guitar] is in Europe. We couldn’t pump out a song together in the studio, as it’d cost an arm and a leg to fly everyone out to one place. So it made sense to use that song. I wrote the lyrics for that song a year ago, which I also used for the auditioning purposes, shot them over to CJ and he recorded it in Sydney.
So, I’m sorry if you thought it was a bit stock but we had bigger fish to fry, as the new record was our focus.
Hey, fair enough! With this new material, have the vision or the theme of these new songs changed since CJ has rejoined or have they maybe remained the same?
Nah. We actually wrapped up recording the music about a month and a half ago [early January]. The lyrics for ‘No Absolution’ were about him leaving and then returning in this premeditated manner, as everything’s a metaphor for us. But we’ve been developing these song’s lyrical ideas into being less literal and into more…interesting ideas. We’re actually going to be finishing the lyrics today I hope.
But no…. there has been little input from him, as I handle that department of the band. That’s just how it’s been for the past three records. It’s weird. It’s like being a director. Our producer Will [Putney] coaches him through it all and CJ gives these very theatrical performances and that’s where his creative element comes in. It’ll be very cool to hear that again as fans of the band expect us to sound a certain way, and we in our own band, expect ourselves to sound a certain way.
That’s really interesting about the lyrics and Will’s input, and good point about the band’s sound (though, I’m sure that Suicide Silence would think otherwise.) Would I be right in saying that CJ has really slotted right back into the band’s work and structure and now it almost feels like he hadn’t even left?
Yeah, I’d say so! Obviously, we haven’t spent an extended period of time on the road together, and that’s when you find out if someone’s in a dark place or not. Which has happened to all of us in the last five years. Once you hit that middle of the tour, you see whether someone’s been having a rough go or if someone is really enjoying life. But CJ’s been really enthusiastic lately and it’s good to see him be so comfortable in his own shell again.
The first time that we spent any real period of time with him lately was the Unify rehearsals we had a couple days before the festival. It was weird, though, as we never rehearse together. Literally, we’ve maybe jammed as a full band like five times in the past seven years, which is hilarious. We got together in Brisbane and went to rehearse in a mate’s studio. We set everything up and then we just looked at each other thinking, “How do we get out of this?”. So we just went to the pub, and it was exactly the same as it always was [laughs].
[Laughs] that’s great to hear. Will the fill-in vocalists that stepped up to the plate during the past year, do you think that they may get guest spots on the next Thy Art album? Because to me, that would be really fitting!
You know, we have actually talked about this. I think it would be a great tribute to the service they did for our band for us as friends. In one way, we’re a creative output, and in another way, we’re a business. So for those guys to step up and help out for our touring commitments was huge of them to do it. Can we logistically do it and get them into a studio? Do they have time? As those guys are all very busy people.
As you said, it’d be a great tribute to those dudes. And hey, if you can’t get to them or they can’t get to you, maybe just shoot ‘em the tracks and they can record in their neck of the woods, much like you guys did with CJ for ‘No Absolution’.
Yeah, I hope so – I think it would be great!
Finally, Andy, I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on the recent controversy surrounding Ne Obliviscaris and their removal of bassist Brendan Brown amid allegations of assault?
I don’t have enough intimate information on it to offer a very deep comment, but look, domestic violence is no situation to be taken lightly. I did notice that that band made a big statement and did the obligatory ‘call those people, call these people’ thing. Of course, before going public with certain things, its better that they wait and sort their story out first. But domestic violence is definitely a big culture problem here as well. I know it’s a thing that police in Australia have a tough time figuring out. It’s not a well-known fact, but the police won’t act on domestic violence because quite frequently someone will make a complaint and then the parties involved will reconcile their differences privately. They then don’t want the police to press charges, as someone apologises and the family or the family’s stay together, and it’s not always physical violence – it can just be a verbal disagreement. Police won’t often act on those matters, and I have a pretty well-informed knowledge of that culture.
But I think that with that band making statement after statement and doing all this back and forth, they’re trivialising the matter and so it won’t detract from or negatively affect their band. That’s how I see it as an outsider. But the root of the problem is a very serious problem and I think they should shut up and resolve any issue privately.
Yeah, well said! Making statement after statement, seemingly not doing anything about it apart from Brown leaving and then threatening to take legal action against IPHYB for their articles doesn’t help anything or anyone.
Yeah, the whole ‘we’re going to take you to court’ thing is stupid. Like, shut up! Obviously, someone else has to be taken to court here – not that website – just so we can have a final judgment. Besides no statement is creating a result, it’s just…making a fucking statement. So fix the problems first then you can tell us then. Until then, I don’t want to hear about it. As I said, it just keeps on trivialising the problem.
And as for their Patreon, I’ve got nothing to say about that because I think it’s a bit of a joke, really.
Yeah, Patreon can be done very well (see: Jim Sterling) but I think that that band’s Patreon is pretty contentious. Anyway, we’ll leave our chat there, mate. Thanks for your time, Andy, talk to you soon.
Yeah no worries, thanks mate!
Thy Art Is Murder will be supporting Meshuggah around Australia next month. Check out the full tour dates below and you can grab your tickets for these shows right here via MJR Presents.
Header PC: Savage Photo/Film
Body PC: Jordan Tan.