Interview by Jason Williams
Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, technical extreme metal quintet Archspire, their music lovingly coined ‘tech-space’, have only been a band since 2009 and have one EP and two full-length releases to their name. But with spark-igniting technical brilliance in vocals, guitar play as well as the rhythm section, they’ve caught modern extreme metal fans’ attention and are rising rapidly through the ranks. They recently concluded a short US run on their way to Denver, Colorado to record their third full-length album with Dave Otero, who has worked with the likes of Cobalt, Cephalic Carnage, Cattle Decapitation. As part of this run, they played a headline show at DiPiazzas in Long Beach, CA, and our writer Jason Williams was in attendance. He sat down with new bassist Jared Smith for a chat on all things Archspire. Enjoy it below and be on the lookout for album and tour announcements from the band in the immediate future.
So, to those who do not know, you are the newest member of Archspire and you joined very recently this year. With the rest of the band together since Archspire started, talk about how you got the gig with them and how has everything been going since you started?
I knew those guys from the Vancouver scene, playing shows with my other band. I was a guitar player, and we opened up for Archspire a whole bunch over the years. They reached out to me while they were on tour with Revocation last year. And they asked me to audition, and then my band broke up, and I was sort of in between projects. I never played bass (laughs), so I was like, “I don’t play bass!” But fuck it, I’ll try. So it’s been going really well. They’re really a tight group of guys and we all really get along, and it’s been going awesome.
This would be considered your first headlining tour in the US, a short stint before your new album that’s coming out. How was the band able to tour in the middle of the US, while getting prepared to write the new record?
I guess it’s just a short run and the goal was to kind of get our road legs underneath us for a short week, and to get tight as we can, kind of get that touring tight, and carry that into the studio, just to sort of hopefully help with that process.
Archspire was on tour with Revocation, Aborted, and Fallujah, bands that are highly regarded. With Aborted being around for so long, and Fallujah, Revocation making their marks in the US, has was Archspire received as an opening act?
I can’t speak on that so much, because I wasn’t there. But I guess from the sidelines, I’ve watched Archspire just start from a local band and grow into getting all of these sick tours all over the world, touring Europe, touring all over the States with Revocation, Fallujah, Aborted and all that stuff, and it’s been sick. I’ve just watched them climb up and I wasn’t a part of that. So hopefully, we’re going to carry that forward. Onward and upwards, we’ll keep carrying it on.
Archspire released a trailer about the new record coming up. Is the new album currently being worked on or under pre-production? What’s the status or information you can share about it?
We’ve got a few songs pre-pro-ed, we got everything written, so we got kind of scratch tracks for ourselves that we’ve been working with for about as long as I’ve been with the band. And we work from that and obviously we’ll make changes as we enter the studio, working with Dave Otero who’s done some really great stuff. He did the last two Cattle Decapitation albums, and we’re really hoping we can get a little bit of that magic for our stuff. So, I’ve imagined what we’ve got will hopefully evolve a little bit more in the studio. Should be sick.
Despite the fact that you’ve said you and Archspire were really good friends before you started out and everything, since you are the newest member, how much are you involved in the process for writing the new album? Did the rest of the band have the music and songs already made? Or will this be a whole collaborative effort?
There was one song that the entire structure was written before I was there, but then I wrote and added all my parts to that. And it’s one of my favorite songs, I really like how it all came together. And it was kind of different to just take essentially an almost finished product and then add my part to it, and see how that changed, which was really cool. And everything else, I’ve been a part of, from the first riff all the way to the completion of the song. It’s completely a collaborative effort on everyone’s part. We’re all in the jam spot grinding it out, until the song’s done.
Techspace. It’s the signature quote of the band, and when I hear that term, I hear the incredible speeds and the musicianship that it takes for the band to do what they do, going to 290-300 plus BPM. It’s amazing how we break barriers constantly in metal, from the ’80s and ’90s to now, and still continue finding new techniques and new skills. What does it mean to you as a musician and someone who loves extreme music, to continue breaking barriers and staying true to where it’s happening for the sake of technicality?
Metal to me has always been this really cool genre, because I think it sort of takes everything from everything else, swallows it up, and builds it into something else … turns it into metal. So I studied jazz for quite a while and I really love taking elements of that. I was always studying jazz like, “This is a cool sound.” And take that and apply it to metal, and sort of expand the harmonies or put cooler chords in there. So that’s sort of what I really like, and that’s what’s kind of starting to happen now, as bands like Revocation and Animals as Leaders, are really pushing that sort of idea. It was neo-classical stuff in the ’80s, and it’s just going to keep growing, and it’s really exciting. Whether it’s how fast you can play, or what kind of crazy chords, or whatever else is going on. It always changes and makes you wonder what’s going to come up next.
What do you say to naysayers who feel that technical metal is just more of, as they say, “wankery”, in terms of being considered ‘robotic’, and not having a lot of meaning? I believe you can get a lot of meaning from a 3-chord song as well as an extremely technical song too, if both are done correctly. As a fan of metal and musicianship, how do you find that balance within yourself and the band to make sure you expand on those barriers, as well as remember for the emotion and meaning of the music to be clear too?
I think a 3-chord song can be very effective, if that’s honest and that comes from you and who you are. If that’s great, then that’s great. There are some absolutely amazing 3-chord songs that I love, you know? But that being said, this is what we do and it’s honest. This is the music that we love. We love pushing the speed boundaries, we love playing as many notes as we possibly can, and that’s what we like to do. And it is a passionate thing, it’s not like we’re purely doing it for the sake of “wanking”. This is an honest, artistic thing that we’re doing.
Very sentimental and true. Being all the way from Vancouver, Canada, can you let the fans know here in Southern California, how the metal scene is in your town and the cities or states around there? As many know, California, New York, Texas, Oregon, are great metal states, but what other states have surprised you for having an underrated metal scene?
There are a lot of sick bands that I know locally in Vancouver. Edmonton is a great city for metal. There’s really cool bands from Alberta too. We played with this band in Seattle that absolutely blew me away. So there’s a ton of sick bands out there.
What about the fanfare and the fan support itself in those other states and areas, more of the actual “metal scene”, if you can share your thoughts and observations?
Edmonton’s crazy. Vancouver is awesome with a really supportive scene, it’s like a family, you know? Everybody knows everybody. Everybody plays in a band, it seems like, which is rad! We’re all there for the music, and all there to support each other. So it’s great.
I’m not sure if you heard what happened the other day, with Black Crown Initiate just having had their van raided, passports, equipment, gear, laptops, and money all stolen on their way back from their successful tour with Ne Obliviscaris. The band started an online crowdfunding campaign to help fund for the lost items and for their upcoming European tour in a few weeks, and reached their donation goal, which is really amazing. It’s really astounding how difficult it is for bands to get off the ground. I talked to Andy Thomas of Black Crown Initiate in an interview on their last show of that tour, and he discussed how it was their best tour financially and crowd-wise. With any tragedy like that, which can occur at any moment for a band who is so close to moving up the next tier, what can you say about what you know and what you’ve learned about what it takes for any extreme music to really get something going?
(long pause) (laughing) I don’t know, that’s a heavy question, for me. Obviously tragic what happened to them, but it’s really great that the fans stepped up and helped them get back on their feet.
In one day.
Yeah, in one day, it’s amazing! This is a really amazing community of people that we get to play music for. You have to work so hard in this style, because it’s such a cult thing and underground. You know, the reality is, a lot of these bands that are really well known to these people, most people have no idea who these bands are, which is too bad. So I feel like you got to work harder. And then you try to avoid these situations, but you really can’t help it if you get ripped off like that.
What can fans, promoters, and venues do, the little things, to really help out the metal scene, even if it means to bring in 10 per cent more fans to each show? What do you believe would work, as in a simple idea, or anything you’ve ever thought of?
A simple idea to bring more people out… build a community. You see so much of music as just electronic based these days. People aren’t playing instruments as much, you know? Get your kids in music, get people stoked to play an instrument. I think music should be taught in school more than it is. There are some places where they want to get rid of that, and it really needs to be taught. It’s an important part of being a human, I think, to play music. And I think if more people had a greater appreciation, or playing it themselves, they would have a greater appreciation for what we do. And maybe that’s the idea, I don’t know (laughs).
Any ideas are better than no ideas at all. After this short US stint and after the album is recorded and eventually released, are there any plans of any tours already booked planned forward?
This is what we’ve been really focused on, the new album. We will see what the future holds for us, as that unravels. But right now this is our focus, getting the album out after doing this tour. It’s going to be a really intense month in the studio. We’re living in the studio for a month (laughs), so that’s where we’re at right now and we’re ready for whatever happens after that.
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