It seemed like a long time coming. I remember requesting an interview with Chimaira months ago, but for various reasons it just wasnít meant to be. Being a fan, I followed the band's tour blog as told on their Web site and I knew that they recently came off the road and would be enjoying some well-earned rest. So you can imagine my surprise when Roadrunner Records called and offered an interview with vocalist Mark Hunter.
Over the past year and a half, Hunter and the band has relentlessly toured with many of the larger names in metal, including a stint on Ozzfest. With a schedule like that you would have to expect more than a few bumps along the way. Three different drummers bore witness to the ravages of life on the road and even with all that internal upheaval, Chimaira still managed to play more than 300 shows and sell 125,000 records. How did they do it? Well then, thatís the point of this interview isnít it! But there is a short answer and it can be found on a just released DVD/EP titled "The Dehumanizing Process." Now, before you jump up from your computer and run down to your local video store, read on -- I worked hard for this interview and you might just learn something too.
I caught up with Hunter as he was driving to rehearsal. Thatís right, I said rehearsal. I teased him a little about not taking any time off. But the truth is Chimaira has never been a band that rested on its laurels. After the tour, they took a two-week vacation and then began writing the new record.
Hunter seemed almost jubilant about being back to work. Excited about the freshness of writing new music he confided, "We hope to go into the studio in January and would like a summer tour in 2005, maybe with Ozzfest."
I asked how the new music was coming together, but Hunter decided to hold that information a little closer to the breast. "We have a couple things worked out but weíre just starting," he replied. I continued to press him for insight, but was eventually forced accepted his wait-and-see response.
I do need to mention that at press time no official dates have been set for either recording or touring.
I have to admit I was astounded by the immediacy of writing a new album. Most bands just want to be away from each other after spending that much time on the road, but Chimaira is more driven than most bands. I asked Hunter if he considered Chimaira a road band.
"Certainly," he quickly replied. "We spent a year and a half on the road supporting ĎThe Impossibility of Reason.í We played 320 shows. Our job is to play music."
Chimaira ended its Road Rage tour with a 2Ĺ-week stop-over in Japan and Australia. It was their first visit to these countries and the response from the crowds surprised everyone in the band.
"We were aware of our record sales in Japan and Australia," Hunter explained. "But we werenít prepared for the fans. Before going on stage we could hear the crowd chanting ĎChimaira! Chimaira!í In Japan they sang along with our music and they would call out for us to play some of our more obscure songs, songs we didnít typically play on this tour."
I asked about the subject matter of the last record. Perhaps the overall concept of the album resonated deeply in those parts of the world.
Hunter was quick to point out, "'The Impossibility of Reason' was not a concept album. We werenít trying to tell a story. The record has three prevalent themes: rejection, revenge, and repercussion. As I sit here, I donít think I could call out an example of a concept album." Hunter continued, "Our record has three main themes that coexist; a concept album is one large story."
As far as concept albums, I reminded Hunter of bands like Dream Theater.
"Yeah, youíre right," Hunter agreed. "But I wouldnít have caught that. I donít listen to Dream Theater for the vocals. That band is all about the insane music!"
I asked about the new DVD.
"First of all it was suggested by a friend of the band, director Todd Bell, almost two years ago. It was weird at first having cameras around all the time, but their presence got comfortable as time went on. Todd didnít film every moment of the tour, he would join us on the road a week at a time. From the beginning we told Todd that he had complete control over the content. The band trusted him, but there were times we also worried about the content. Having now seen the final product weíre happy with the result. We feel that itís a great portrait of the band and its members. The DVD is different than most in that we show all aspects of life on the road. We show the business side as well as the crazy stuff that happens on tour."
Itís an obvious line of questioning to ask bands about their influences. Hell, to be honest itís a padded question with an all too rehearsed answer. With Chimaira, I reached for a different take on the age-old annoyance and asked about the hidden influences, meaning the little tips that a band picks up from other groups but never obviously transcends to the record. It could be anything from song structure to drop tuning. Hunter was immediate to answer, "Death metal. Itís not obvious to most fans unless you bring it up, then they will all see it, or pretend to. But thereís a narrow segment of fans that love death metal and they see it right away. They recognize the influence immediately."
With the obvious
background noise of Hunterís drive suddenly coming to a
stop, I knew the interview was coming to an end. He had
reached his rehearsal space and was parking the car. There
was a momentary blast of music as he was shutting off the
What are you listening to, whatís in your CD player?
"Slayer, 'Season of the Abyss,'" Hunter replied. "This is great music to get me warmed up for rehearsal."
I laughed and thanked him for the interview.
Chimaira is a band that refuses to stand still. In a state of perpetual motion I suspect they struggled with their well-earned vacation. Although they were physically off the road, I'm sure that their minds were already writing the next record, mentally setting the bar at least another notch higher. Expect good things from this band in 2005... expect good things and know that they wonít disappoint.
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