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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Interview: Matt Devries of Chimaira

Originally posted at

When I was researching for this interview, I was on Wikipedia and you are on there; I don’t know if you know that, but every person in the band does and it has zero information about anybody, just your name, birth date and how tall you are, which I found out you are five foot ten. I’ve never seen anything like this for any other band. Which brings up the question, are your fans insane?
Um, to a certain extent, yes [laughs]. You know you run into like, I guess they’re more… I can’t even pinpoint certain cities. It depends on where you are; like they are more tame in the States than in the U.K. or Europe. We’ll play in the U.K. or Europe and kids will be waiting at like 10 a.m., and you’re just waking up, wanting to brush your teeth, and they want autographs. It’s kind of crazy, overwhelming at first. It’s cool though; it’s cool to be like that, but kinda weird.

Do you think that is because they don’t get to see tours as much?
Yeah. I mean, now it seems metal is pretty huge, especially over there, but yeah, I think they just appreciate it more.

Why do you think metal fans feel the need to classify every band and make sub-genre after sub-genre?
Yeah, I don’t get that. People ask me what I play; it’s just metal. You know, people call us Metalcore, and that kind of pinpoints you. It makes people have a preconceived notion of what you sound like before they ever hear you, so that’s why I hate it. There’s a bunch of labels out there, but I don’t know, I don’t know why.

Any band that ever achieves any level of success, the base fans start calling out names like ‘sell-out’ and bullshit like that…
You’re right, there are a lot of bands out there that have been doing it for years, that have just… um… haven’t gotten the notability of other bands’ first record or what not, so maybe that’s why. Underground fans get pissed because these bands get big or whatever. I just think to each his own, some bands get bigger than others right away, and some bands have to work at it. I think the bands that actually work at it are the ones who are around much longer. Not one hit wonders or some of that, where it goes to their head right away because of one big record right away.

Your old record label Roadrunner, their press machine is saying that Resurrection may be one of the best records in 2007; which is your favorite album, if not this one?
It’s definitely this one. I think with this one, we did a lot of interviews for the last record where we defined it as Chimaira because we thought of it as Chimaira; that was our definition of who we were. But it was at the time that we think we this is the perfect line up with heavy metal back in the swing of things and we’re heavier than we’ve ever been and the album reflects that in my opinion. We had a lot of fun writing it and I think the music is a lot better, quote/unquote than the other records.

Why the switch from Roadrunner to Ferret?
Pretty much, honestly we’ve been trying to get off the label for about a year before we even signed to Ferret. And the reason being is we just didn’t think they pushed the last record enough. You know, kids were complaining that there wasn’t enough records in stores, we didn’t have the press we thought we deserved, we toured nonstop to really push that record and they kind of dropped the ball and put us real low on the totem pole so we want someone that’s going to show us the love and there is a lot of people at the label that we actually appreciated and we appreciate the label for getting us where we are and we owe them a debt of gratitude for that, but they just kind of stopped, stopped working, and there is a lot of people who tried but their higher-ups wouldn’t let them do what they wanted so Ferret approached us right away and we had already been friends with them and talked to bands on their label about how impressed they were with all the press and all the market push and uh, it was a given that we were going to sign with them.

Like you said earlier, you’re on tour all the time. Do you write songs on the road or wait until your done touring?
We pretty much wait. This record was a little bit different because we had some time off in February when we got rid of Kevin and Andols back playing drums so we had some time off just rehearsing because we still have a tour cycle to finish up. Mark, myself and Rob have Pro Tools at home so we wrote some songs, just mp3’s, sent mp3’s back and forth, we didn’t really focus on the writing right there be we did have a jump start when we did finally focus on the writing when we got back. Cause there’s twelve dudes on a bus, a lot of distractions on the road… maybe one or two riffs have been written on the road and that’s about it.

The artwork on your last three albums has been really cool; I really liked the chaos star on Impossibility of Reason.
Right on

Who decided on the direction of the album art and who makes it?
The last two was friends of ours, Todd Bell, and his buddy Garret who’s done a lot of art for us, art direction stuff like that. And um, we’ve pretty much, I don’t know, have a collective thing. They pretty much approach us with ideas, or Mark will approach them with an idea and they collaborate and we all give them our two cents. But the last two records it was like, whoa that’s the cover, you know what I mean? And this one too, we’re just thoroughly impressed with the guy. Mark and Chris actually found him online and the art was just sick and we felt that this record, just like the last two, was not too busy; was something cool, that would look cool on a shelf and really defined our record just like the last two. Yeah, we’re real impressed with the last three covers.

Does the mutant-thing have a name?
Uh, no. I don’t think anyone’s named him yet [laughs].

As a guitarist, what’s going on in music that pisses you off right now?
I don’t know, actually to be honest I think some of the best music out there could be written on four chords, you know what I mean? I think there are a lot of bands now that are really showing off; and I appreciate a lot of those bands and look up to them talent-wise, but at the same time I don’t think a lot of them are really writing songs. I like good bands who are writing good songs; you don’t really have to shred or show off. Show a little bit of your talent, show maturity, but if it isn’t a good song to back it up then it’s just kinda like “look at me, I’m shredding.” I guess that doesn’t really piss me off, too each his own, I’m friends with a lot of those bands, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Going back to writing songs, how do you guys come up with stuff? Is it one person comes up with a cool riff and everybody adds on to it, or is it more that everyone just comes together?
Somewhat, I think it is a combination of that and just bringing the whole song to the table and everyone putting their two cents on that and building onto that. This record we kind of, for the first time ever we kind of combined songs, you know what I mean, that were already written. Usually you have a riff and then you kind of write while you’re in the rehearsal studio, but this one we kind of combined things here and there and uh, like I said before, we had a such a jumpstart on things so it was pretty much easy.

What were the differences in making Resurrection as opposed to the previous albums?
Pretty much what I said, everything else has been pretty much standard. We’ve found our formula working together so many years that it’s a good experience I think. Writing and recording is tedious to me, I’d rather be playing on stage but it was a good process and we had a good time doing it. The last record was kind of bumpy, new drummer, new voice, kind of a different way of doing things, but this record was just like, easy.

On your DVD, did you have any creative control over that or involvement in the making of it?
I didn’t, Mark had a lot of creative control like sound edits, Mark would be like “ah, take that out” but at the same time we didn’t want to do that too much with that one or on this DVD, cause we wanted to record a truthful DVD, more reality like a documentary than “we’re a cool band” type thing.

On the Roadrunner 25th Anniversary (Roadrunner United: The All Star Sessions) album, you go to play with guys like Rob Barrett (Cannibal Corpse), Steve DiGiorgio (Death, Testament), Glen Benton (Deicide), and Joey Jordison (Slipknot). Was there any disagreement on what you should play, or how you should play it, or did everything just mesh up real quick?
Everything was cool, Joey had already written everything with the exception of the vocals on both songs I did. It was just a cool experience for me looking up to these players for years; I was kind of like the young dude compared to them, they were the veterans of metal that I had been listening to as a kid. It was just awesome; the whole experience was real cool. Joey is just a good friend, we toured together in ’04 and it was just a cool experience, it was fun, and he was real accepting towards any of our, any of our two cents like “maybe you should do that different,” “ah, good idea.” That was just a fun experience; it wasn’t any work at all.

Annihilation By the Hands of God; that had the coolest title out of every song on there, and is just a kick ass song, too.
Thanks! I was really stoked on our two songs, I liked the record but was real stoked on that, that I got to be part of the real brutal songs.

Some of the songs on the new album go towards a more Death Metal sound. Was that a conscious decision or did that just come about naturally?
Uh, it’s subconscious. Like me, Rob, Andols, Mark every one; we have big influence by old, old school Grindcore and Death metal, so I think it was a given that we were going to use it more and more. You know, I love death metal and Grindcore, but I also love the fact that it has to groove. And I think that’s what we do with it. As opposed to just blast beats all the time, which I like too, but ya know.

Do you think the new Transformers movie was made to bring kids into Transformers, or for people our age to reminisce about the good old days?
I don’t know, but I’m stoked! Cause I love Transformers; I still have Transformers: The Movie at home. I’ve got the soundtrack too on vinyl. I’m wondering how it’s going to turn out, have you seen a preview? I saw one but they didn’t show anything.

There is that one and they just came out with a new one where they show the Transformers from weird angles, but there was definitely Optimus Prime.
I’m definitely stoked, I don’t know if kids are going to be like “who the hell’s that,” but I think it’ll be a big movie cause there is a shit load of people like us who grew up on it.

I asked this next question to Mike Justian of Unearth, but you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want.
No it’s fine.

Ok, is there anyone in music right now, whose ass you want to kick.
Um... I don’t start beef usually. Right now I can’t think of anybody, that’s a hard question though. We just started a tour cycle so maybe there will be someone along the lines on the tour. But I got nobody right now; I got no beef. What did Mike say?

He said, oh I can’t think of the guys’ name now, the drummer of Walls of Jericho, but then he immediately said he was kidding. Then he switched it to any guitarist who thinks they can play drums
[laughs] That’s great! Really good answer. That’s funny.

Which do you think is a better town to play in Ohio, Columbus, Cincinnati or Cleveland?
It’s Cleveland just because we have such a strong fan base. But at the same time when we come down here and play the Newport or down to Cincy and play Bogart’s, it’s always great shows. But if I had to choose, I’d have to take Cleveland anyway, only because there seems to be more of a, not a local scene but more, well, what we didn’t have growing up cause it was always hard to play. We’d have to rent out halls in Kent and the YMCA shows and anywhere like that, but now it seems like in Cleveland you can play in actual clubs, being in a band that’s unsigned, and that’s real cool. I don’t know the scenes that well, the underground scenes in Columbus and Cincy, but it seems that Cleveland supports music really well.

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