[Feature Interview] CJ McMahon


It’s a small rural town in New South Wales that as far as I can tell, has an abandoned Peter’s Ice Cream factory and the “Big Oyster” to its name. But apart from the local sights and landmarks, it’s also where newcomers Diamond Construct hail from.

Comprised of vocalist Kynan Groundwater, brother & guitarist Braden Groundwater, drummer Adam Kilpatrick and bassist Will Mills, this outfit has only been kicking around for only two years now. Which makes their immensely solid new EP, ‘Event Horizon’, an even greater accomplishment. It’s eight tracks of intense, technical metalcore and a big step up from their debut. I happened to really love this new EP, and when listening to it, one of the standout songs is ‘The Complex Thought’, which also has a video dropping in the coming weeks.

However, the big eye-catcher of the track (and its forthcoming film clip) is that CJ McMahon, the former Thy Art Is Murder vocalist, lends his powerhouse vocals to the tune.

As you might imagine, it’s absolutely killer, both his section and the song as a whole. Excluding ‘Holy War’, the last time fans witnessed his almighty screams sitting atop the mix of a blistering metal was with Thy Art’s latest single, ‘They Will Know Another’. And goddamn, is it good to hear those vocals in heavy music once again!

“Jonathan Peters [Diamond Construct’s engineer] had these guys in the studio and they were all massive fans of the Thy Art boys and myself. I don’t normally work with smaller bands, but when I checked them out, I really paid attention. Their music is really fucking tight and they’re a great young band from an area of Australia that doesn’t produce many musical talents” McMahon tells me over the phone while filming the music video in Sydney. “So I fully jumped on this, and I felt that I could really help these guys out too. Plus, their music is killer!”

That it is! ‘The Complex Thought‘ clip was filmed and edited by Mitchell Harley, directed by Jono Peters & Kynan Groundwater, the clips will star alternative model and actor, Philip Bottenberg, as well as CJ McMahon.

Now, aficionados of the Australian metal scene should fondly remember Sydney’s Resist The Thought, whose truly kick ass song, ‘Resurrect The Reaper‘, also had McMahon lending his signature screams to the track. When watching the video for that song, if you pause it at just the right moments, you’ll be bequeathed with some of McMahon’s best mid-vocal faces; psychopathic expressions and all. After all, there’s even a damn Facebook page for his facial expressions.

‘Resurrect The Reaper’ shot. Now, that’s the face of a very happy man.

Turns out, it’ll be a very similar case for this new video.

“There are some pretty crazy faces in this one, for sure. It’s kind of my signature thing now. I’ve got these big googly eyes that I can roll around and do all of these crazy facial expressions”, chuckles McMahon.

And is that not what we all want – hectic facial expressions that’ll give you nightmares, as well as a good laugh or two? Well, that and good music, of course. Thankfully, I was able to grab an early shot of the film clip for your viewing pleasure…

Still from ‘The Complex Thought’ clip. “When the riffs are on-point”.

Just as it was back in 2010 with ‘Resurrect The Reaper‘, I know that there are countless other bands out there, Australian or otherwise, who’d love to have the vocalist on board with their music. On’The Complex Thought‘, you can expect the same consistent delivery. But of course, to appear physically in the music video and with recording his own vocal parts, that takes up McMahon’s time, and as such, his money. That kind of thing doesn’t come cheap or for free.

“Without sounding like a cunt, I did charge them for this. After all, it’s my gift and it’s my talent. I worked my ass for it, and because of the success of my career with Thy Art and other bands; they do have to pay for the privilege. As arrogant as all that sounds, that’s just me being honest. You don’t get shit for free. I was never handed anything in my career.”

Well, that’s just basic commerce, after all. Do you want a particular product? Cool, you can pay X amount for it. But we’re talking about a vocalist in which you can’t go past most reviews of his prior band’s albums or live performances and not have someone mention the sheer power and skill in his voice. But it isn’t just a monetary matter for McMahon because as you’d expect, he’s got to dig the music, and he really digs Diamond Construct.

“It’s not just a money thing, I’ve gotta enjoy the music, and this band is doing some ridiculous things! Maybe even a little too ridiculous for their age”, the vocalist cheekily states. He continues, “I get hit up once or twice a week from bands, even now after seven or so months since leaving Thy Art, and I treat it all the same way. I mean, I work two jobs, usually six or seven days a week, so it costs me money to go the studio, to take time off from work and it costs me my time to do these things.”

Well, time is money so if he has to charge for his feature spots, then hey, so be it. In fact, the ex-frontman has dipped his toes into the vocal coaching realm over the years (both in-person lessons and those done through Skype) as a way to generate extra income on the side.

“Unlike a lot of vocal coaches out there, I feel like I have a lot to say and a lot of experience in this field. I’ve worked with a fair few hundred people since. Of course, I’ve worked with The Amity Affliction, In Hearts Wake, Chelsea Grin; just so many bands over the years. It’s something I’ve worked on trained with for the past eighteen or so years of me singing.”

However, as we all know, there are only so many hours in the day and finding all of that time can be hard.

“At the moment, I’ve got a magazine, a podcast, a full-time job, and obviously preparing for my wedding. There’s just a whole bunch of things going on for me right now that I can’t really organise those lessons. If I had more hours in the day, I would do more lessons for sure.”

Amen, brother. But now, let us address the big fucking elephant in the room now: leaving Thy Art Is Murder. I was really glad to hear that McMahon and his old band mates are now on good terms and that there’s no vitriolic feelings or hatred from either party.  Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s going to be an on-stage “reunion” anytime soon. Rather, just that the kinks of that interpersonal relationship are being worked out and are sitting in a better place than they were when he left the band last December.

“They actually played in Wollongong recently and I went down to meet them and catch up. There isn’t any bad blood between us at all now. Back when I first left, yeah, there was a lot of tension, because I practically fucked the band over at the time. But it didn’t come from any of my family; it came from my own choice to leave. There were so many reasons, not just for money”.

“I was a substance abuser of several different drugs for the longest period. I really needed to clean my life up and I couldn’t do that in that touring lifestyle. I do miss the band and I miss what we did together, but if I didn’t leave, there was a good chance I may have died while on the road.”

Heavy stuff indeed, but while leaving at such a crucial time was an incredibly difficult decision to make, it’s great to see the vocalist back on track and having cleaned up his life since leaving.

Of course, his time with TAIM is going to be inescapable from here on in. I know it, you know it and he knows it too. But thankfully, it’s almost a matter of brand recognition now for McMahon, and he tells me that there will indeed be more guest appearances down the line.

“From time to time, you may hear me again. But you will be definitely hearing my voice on future releases”, he concludes.

Well, until then, keep your eyes and ears open for this new film clip from Diamond Construct & CJ McMahon.

Event Horizon’ is out now & stay on the lookout for your friendly neighbourhood CJ providing brutal guest vocals in a song near you!

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