The Infection of Chimaira
By Dave Schwartz
 
Cleveland, Ohio? No band comes from Cleveland, Ohio! Donít tell that to Chimaira. Matt Devries and the rest of the band are Cleveland and theyíre proud. Oh yeah, and their music will tear your face off!

A couple of weeks ago Devries called in from the road to talk about Chimairaís new record, "The Infection," Cleveland and hockey. OK, I asked about Cleveland and he brought up hockey, but thatís not important-- there are only two things you need to know: New Record from Chimaira and Face Torn Off. Makes sense?

DB: Hi Matt. Iím really happy that you had a chance to return my call so we could talk today.

MD: I appreciate your patience. Iím at the Jobing.com arena in Glendale, Arizona. This is my first time in this arena. Iím a big hockey fan so Iím stoked to be here.

DB: You canít be referring to the Phoenix team as hockey, can you?

MD: Oh no, Iím a Pittsburgh Penguins fan! I just think itís cool be in any hockey arena honestly.

DB: Ahhh, good times! Pittsburgh is a good team. There isnít a team in Cleveland, is there?

MD: No, we got screwed. We have every other sport but the good one!

DB: I feel your pain. We have every sport except FOOTBALL! Well, I have a few questions to run by you today and if youíve heard these all before, please let me know.

MD: Oh no, it will be just fine. This is early in the record cycle for us and Iím sure anything you ask will be just fine.

DB: And speaking of the record cycle, you have a new album coming out. What can you tell me about it?

MD: Umm.. We are very stoked to have an album coming out. We are very proud of this record, It's an album that we really focused on, took our time with. Honestly, the last record and specially this one, we just wrote something that was brutally honest. You know, not really caring what the label or a producer might say. Weíve always been a band that does what we want and that didnít change at all on this record. But I can tell you this much,--  the fans are going to be a little bit surprised. This record is a little bit different than the last one. Itís a little bit darker, but this is our best record to date, without sounding too clichť.

DB: This is very cool. Iím excited. I havenít heard any of the tracks yet, but Iím looking forward to it. You worked again with Ben Schigel, I know youíve worked with him in the past when you were with Roadrunner, what was it like to reunite for the new record?

MD: Awesome. Weíve always been great friends, like our whole band has recorded with him since early to mid-'90s and we recorded with him for Roadrunner Records and the only reason we tried Jason Suecof for the last record was to try something different. We were really happy with how "Resurrection" came out, but Mark mentioned to us, "Letís go back to the beginning, work at home and really take our time with this." We thought it was a good idea and we canít be happier with the outcome.

DB: Now is he a hands-on producer in the sense that he gets involved in every aspect or is he a guy that just sort of captures your sound and goes with it?

MD: Heís a little bit of both. We respect him as a person and a musician, so we listen to everything that he has to offer. But heís also laid back to the point where he understands where weíre coming from if we say, "No, I donít think so." And heíll be like, "OK, I understand." But most of the time it will be something both simple and brilliant that he comes up with as simple as "why donít you switch the chorus and the verse?" And weíll be like, "Ahhh, I donít know." But weíll switch it and realize that it makes a lot more sense. Whatís great is that he thinks outside the box and we sit on a song for two months and think itís perfect, but then we really hadnít tried other options. So heíll suggest those options and nine out of 10 times heís right.

DB: When youíre so close to the music itís easy to get caught up in the forest for the trees situation where you donít see the obvious and thatís where an outsider can walk in and help the most.

MD: For sure. I mean weíre lucky that we have six individuals, but sometimes you need some more.

DB: I know that youíve started playing a few of the new tracks or at least one, "Destroy and Dominate," how has the response been to the new songs?

MD: Actually real good. Weíre playing that one and "Secrets of the Dead" on the tour so far. The kids are stoked. The kids are moving to it and thatís all we can ask right now. So people do know the track because it was leaked a little bit online and "Secrets of the Dead" is on our MySpace. "Destroy and Dominate" is a pretty heavy song so theyíre definitely going off to it and thatís great.

DB: Thatís very cool. Iím sure you know the challenges first hand of introducing new material that people havenít heard. Youíre bound to get a fresh response from the audience whose ears have not grown to the music.

MD: For sure. You never know what to expect from the audience, so the response has been real cool.

DB: How much of the new record do you think youíre going to end up playing live?

MD: You know what, weíll see. Weíre limited on this tour. Weíre playing a half-hour set. We might keep it to two songs or we might alternate some of the songs. You know, we still want to play the old stuff, what we call our hits, we want the fans that do know us to be happy. So at the moment we will keep it to two songs, but when we headline we will be putting more and more in the set list.

DB: I did take a look online to check out the tour dates youíve booked. So far the dates listed are with the tour youíre on right now. What do you have planned for the future? Are you heading to Europe?

MD: Actually, right after this tour weíre taking a couple weeks off and then weíre heading to Europe. The dates should be posted shortly, maybe within the next couple weeks. Weíre doing all the festivals and a few off-dates as well. Theyíre booking all of this as we speak.

DB: I took a look at your Wikipedia page and I need to acknowledge that Wikipedia is great for some things, but itís always a hazard when researching a band. A person is never certain how much involvement a band has had with the details that are often quoted as fact. So with that, Iím giving you my source and weíll see where this goes. The page mentions that Chimaira went through a little bit of a rebirth when you left Roadrunner Records, actually they called it a "rejuvenation". If thatís true, why do you feel that happened?

MD: Actually thatís pretty true. The situation was that when we were in Roadrunner we didnít fully appreciate what they had done for us. They really had done a lot for us and got us to the level we were at at that point, but to us, it seemed like we were way low on the totem pole. So we went to Ferret Records and now we feel like weíre at the top of the totem pole and that they listen to us. We just werenít the right band for that label and thatís just the way it was. We were happy they let us go because, honestly, we owed them more records. We approached them and they were nice enough to say, "You know what, thatís fine. Go do your thing." But with Ferret, itís like one of those label where you give them an idea and theyíll either do it or say no. They wonít say maybe and dick us around in any way. Theyíre cool and theyíre hands-on and they love music.

DB: So it really wasnít a question of big label /small label, it was more about the personalities of the label.

MD: For sure and nowadays there are metal bands on majors and metal bands on indies that do well. Itís just all about how the label pushes the music. To be fair, an indie label can do everything that a major can do for a band like ours, so weíre real happy.

DB: Just to change directions for a moment, I read that Chimaira hails from Cleveland, Ohio, whatís the scene like there?

MD: When we were growing up there was a pretty good hard-core scene. People were putting on DIY shows and just renting out halls, but whatís nice nowadays is that clubs will have bands sell tickets to play; it gives small bands an opportunity. Plus weíre in a big enough city where no matter what style of music youíre into, that type of band is going to come through. Weíre happy to be there.

DB: Iím originally from Milwaukee and was lucky enough to spend a short time in Cleveland recently. I was impressed with how familiar the city felt to me from not only a musical perspective, but others as well. It reminded me of growing up in a city with a great scene happening and the connection that a fan got to feel to the music.

Over the years Chimaira has had its share of personnel changes, but youíve always managed to keep a consistent sound. You listen to the records and youíll hear the growth of the music which is always important, but what is more important is the quality of songwriting always remains. To what do you attribute that consistency?

MD: I think weíre just lucky. I think that right now is our best lineup. I mean with Andy (Herrick) leaving and then coming back, itís like having our best lineup from 2001 back again. Itís tough and, to be honest, when he left we were just bummed out. We had a couple drummers that were into the playing the music, but the personalities werenít right. Before Chimaira I was in at least a half-dozen bands where people grow up, they get jobs, get tried of touringÖ Weíre just lucky to have six individuals that are 110 percent. But as far as the music, we all come from very similar backgrounds, but with a little bit of difference. So when it comes to music we all feel the same thing.

DB: You make a great point. Many people donít realize that the personalities within a band are equally as important as the music and a personís ability to play.

MD: Thatís for sure. When you live on a bus with a dozen people youíve got to get along with everybody.

DB: So I guess itís time for my easiest question, Whoís going to win the Stanley Cup this year?

MD: Oh, the Penguins of course. We almost did it last year. They went through a slump, now theyíre coming back, new coach and theyíre just on fire. At the very least theyíre going to make it to the finals. Thatís my prediction, Iíve got to stay positive.

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For those of you keeping track, as I write this, the Penguins have won their first round series against the mighty Philadelphia Flyers in six games. Iím thinking Brock Lindow and the rest of 36 Crazyfists are pissed because theyíre big fans of the Flyers. You know, maybe these two bands should tour together next April. Iím thinking stick to the East Coast, maybe just a stone's throw from Pennsylvania so they can catch a game or two!

I want to thank Matt Devries for a great interview. I donít have to be the one to tell you that Chimaira kicks ass. Youíve heard the music and read the interview-- now see this band!

www.chimaira.com/     www.myspace.com/chimaira

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