An Interview With Mark Hunter of CHIMAIRA!

An Interview With Mark Hunter of CHIMAIRA!

How has the Mayhem Fest been going so far?

It’s been great. It’s definitely, without a doubt, one of the best tours we’ve ever done. We’ve had a great response every single show. Yeah, it really feels like the hard work we’ve put into it, the past 10 years, 12 years of touring and touring is starting to pay off.

 

You guys have a new two disc DVD and live CD set out?

It’s a 2 disc DVD set and a live CD. It’s called Coming Alive. It’s a documentary following us through the writing and recording process and touring process with our latest album, The Infection. Different (inaudible) making our DVDs and videos throughout the years, spent another year and a half with us and just another moment captured of our lives and stuff that we’d like to give to our fans.

The first DVD is a three and a half hour movie about us. The second DVD, which a lot of fans have been asking about, which is a full live concert, which we’ve never had captured yet, and a headlining one, at that.

And then the CD, is an audio presentation of that DVD. So, it’s a pretty cool package for all the fans, and there is some extra footage and etcetera.

 

How do you feel the DVD captured your live performance?

It’s great, you know? They had thirteen cameras there to try pretty much cover all angles you could possibly be at in that venue. From being on the stage, our perspective, and a good panoramic perspective of the audience. I think it’s intense, it’s cut really well, sometimes where it’s so busy, you’re headbanging still. I think they did a really — the best job anyone could possibly do.

 

What about on the live CD? How do you think the energy translates onto the album from your live performance?

I like it. Actually, I think the mix of it is a little drum heavy, a little sample heavy, just like it would be if you were in the venue, you’re always going to hear the drums a lot louder when you’re performing live and whatnot being a live band. So, I think that captures the energy, simply because the mix on certain things are turned up and it kind of makes you feel like you’re right there, and it’s high-paced and everything. So yeah, I definitely think that it’s a good representation.

 

What do you think your fans have loved most about your last release, The Infection?

It seems to be, when we interact with fans about it or look online, seems to be that most fans are happy that we continue to evolve and make music we want to make without compromising anything and the music is for them to enjoy. A lot of them seem to put it as their favorite record of ours, which is cool. It’s definitely my favorite record of ours, of course the sadist that I am, has to hear flaws in it now, which I didn’t hear a year ago. (laughs) So, I’m always trying to improve as an artist, so I think, you know, it’s just like every record, you learn from all the great things, and we start to see blemishes, and learn how to improve on those for future material; I think our fans realize that and just really respect us. A lot of them lately have been saying we spoil them, so it’s a pretty cool feeling.

 

What do you think is your biggest improvement you noticed you’ve made as an artist over the last few years?

Realizing that a live performance is not all about the performance you’re putting on. You know, it used to be like, “ok, that wasn’t the perfect style on stage” or something that goes wrong, get really irritated and frustrated. Fans don’t really understand that, you know? They came to see us play, they don’t know that you’re having a problem on stage. And, (laughs), even the days they do, they want you to get through it, they don’t want to sit there and watch you complain about it or (inaudible) about it, they just want to have a good time. Realizing that really helps a live show, it basically creates this filter that even though we’re having an awful time on stage, we now know how to use that to our advantage, as opposed to being crippled from it.

 

Are you guys working on a new studio album?

Not heavily. Yes, we’ve started the process of writing material and demo material and sending each other the songs, seeing how we like it. It’s not like really focused. During the down time, we’d write the music and now we can kind of sit back and listen to it and reflect on it. We’re not really heavily, heavily working on it. We’re still putting a lot of our energy into our live shows.

 

I saw you guys in Denver and in Camden for the Mayhem Fest and I saw your fans go absolutely insane during your set, how does that make you feel when they go crazy for you guys?

It’s great. It’s unexpected. It’s obviously desired. It’s unexpected to just think whenever the intro goes on that the crowd is going to love us. Sometimes you have to work at it, sometimes you dont succeed. (laughs) Mayhem has definitely been something special for us, every show has been filled with Chimaira fans. It definitely gets where you can obviously tell that a lot of people came to see us. It’s a great feeling that just helps us grow as artists, you know? Other bands see that, other managers, the people that put on Mayhem. Its only upward from there and that’s a good feeling to have accomplished. I mean, I’m like, “wow, we can come into a festival finally and really be worth our weight in tickets.” and make sure we give everyone there a great time and make sure we pick up new fans and are accomplishing that and then some.

 

What do you think it is about Chimaira that drives your fans’ passion to go absolutely insane?

Hmm. I think that it’s, well obviously the music, it’s energetic, it’s in-your-face, it’s heavy as hell, and we always have a very good sound guy that helps (laughs) translate what we’re doing and make sure it’s clear and powerful. The energy in the band itself, we don’t sit there and (inaudible) on our instruments, we’ve come to kick the crowd’s teeth in. (laughs) We’re not there to be in a knitting class!

The band’s energy, it just translates. The crowd gets more energetic, we get more energetic, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

 

Yeah, but a lot of bands have that energy but some I’ve noticed that their fans don’t go as crazy as your fans do.

(laughs) Well, we’re… We’re… (pauses) I can’t explain it. There are great bands on the tour, all have a good show. But yeah, like I said, there’s a lot of people that feel it though, just something special every day.

 

What is the one lyric that you always have your fans come up to you and say they love?

(laughs) Well, this is going to come as a surprise… But the “I hate everyone” from Pure Hatred seems the be the– even if you’re not a fan, there’s people that come up to the merch stand and see a t-shirt that says that and they just want to buy the shirt because of that. (laughs) So, it’s like I don’t necessarily hate everyone, but there’s times that I definitely feel that way, especially when I was writing the lyric, or writing the song lyric. But yeah, that would definitely be the answer to that question.

 

Would you say that is your favorite lyric you’ve written?

Oh, definitely not! (laughs) Yeah, definitely not. I don’t necessarily have a set of favorite lyrics or– I guess I go through songs, like how the songs make me feel, singing them is fun, and I’m really not focused on the lyrical content, except for when I’m writing them. But yeah, as far as like fun songs to play, I really like playing off the new album, Secrets of the Dead and Disappearing Sun. They’re just fun songs to play, there could be one person there or a thousand and I’m still enjoying the song itself. It’s a good feeling where, Pure Hatred, I’ve sang that song so many times, it really– it’s really hard to feel that! (laughs) I still get a kick out of it, just a different vibe, you know?

 

I saw you guys back in 2005 at the Sounds of the Underground tour, a lot has changed since then with metal, what do you think has been the biggest change?

Hmm. Well, I don’t know if it’s really changed, it’s just more of the same. I think that there are still a lot of great bands out there, but I think a lot of blood letting has happened, I think that a lot of bands should go away. There’s so many of the same, you know? I mean, check out the whole deathcore genre, ok? Well, you got two or three bands that do something a little different, but then you have a hundred and fifty bands trying to sound like those two bands. It’s like a subgenre that comes with the territory, you get a flood of bands that sound identical to each other. And you know, they have their little popularity for a moment but, the bubble will burst. I’m just looking forward to a mass execution! (laughs) I just think there’s too much of the same, I think there’s too much, you know? We need a new artist to come out and do something a little different and change things up for a little while. That’s my only complaint, but I think that the fans are just as loyal, I still think that heavy metal is fully alive, the Mayhem Festival, a heavy metal festival, look at the bands that are on it, it’s the highest selling tour of the summer, hands down, period. That doesn’t say that the genre is dead, the limited CD sales in this world, a strong amount of them still belong to heavy metal. Labels are still finding bands, but they’re mainly finding awful bands. So, it’s got a loyal fan base. We’re a band that, for the rest of our career, we’ll always sell a set amount of records, and we’re lucky enough to have a career of this because the way the (inaudible) and they make great albums that our fans expect. We’ve never been lazy, don’t intend to be lazy, and just intend to keep maintaining that relationship. That’s kind of where I’m angled at, I still love it, I still think it’s the greatest genre, but we need to weed out the millions of copycat bands that are just flooding the internet, wasting people’s time.

 

With the reasons you just listed off to me, do you think that those are the reasons why Chimaira is so different from every other band?

Hmmm. I don’t necessarily think that we’re reinventing the wheel, I think that we’re definitely an unique sounding band. We have our own sound, people know who it is when they hear us. We obviously have influences ourselves, it’s how you use those influences; if I hear a Slayer riff that I like, I’m not going to try to recreate the Slayer riff and song, I might have an influence or be in the same key, or something like that. (laughs) It may sound Slayer-esque. We’ve never had a song where you’re like “hmmm, is that Slayer?” We’ve never had a song like that, like you cannot tell who the band is. And that is something that we take pride in and do effetely. What confuses me is that ok, there’s a band like As I Lay Dying and there’s a band that might be very similar sounding (laughs) and you cannot tell them apart! That’s when it gets to become a problem. If you put on anything in deathcore scene, I dare anybody really, unless they’re (inaudible) to the scene, to tell half of those bands apart. Impossible.

Put on 20 seconds of a Chimaira song, you know what it’s going to be. You put on 20 seconds of a deathcore song, you’re lost– who is this? What is this? What are you listening to? So, that’s — if we’re responsible for that genre, I’m proud that we’re a band that influenced a lot of those bands, but lets keep the four or five that are different, are doing something different, and are good; get rid of the rest. Same thing with the metalcore bands, same thing, etcetera, etcetera, keep going on. I don’t want to sound specifically targeted towards one genre, but it’s just kind of what it is, you know? And labels sign, that’s the problem why they’re going to go away. They spend all of their money signing ten to fifteen bands that all sound the same and only one of them is going to do anything, so why not put all of your money and all of your eggs into one basket (laughs) for that instead of– that’s just how I look at it.

 

Was there anything that happened with your time in Chimaira that changed all of you as artists?

Hmm. I’d say something happens every week that changes us as a band. I mean, there are so many things, it would be impossible to pinpoint anything. I’ll say that the most major things to happen to us were losing our drummer for a couple of years, that was annoying. That’s the only word I can use to describe that whole time period. (laughs) And… Dealing and learning with the trials and tribulations of record labels and how they work. We had a great relationship when we were on Road Runner Records when we started, then our relationship with the US department started to fade and fade, and we lost out on being on Road Runner on the rest of the world, who were great over seas, but we gained by not being on the label in the US. So yeah, those are giant things that definitely affected us with the band. I think, had we been forced to stay on Road Runner in the US, it might’ve resulted in a less-than-stellar album because of frustration and anger and confusion and a lot of things that were happening in the band and we didn’t really know why. So, taking a backseat to it now, we’re like “ok, maybe we didn’t really need to be so problematic towards Road Runner.” But at the time, we needed to blame somebody and we didn’t want to blame ourselves, no one ever does. It’s the same thing with the band, you just got to learn from what you do, make the best of everything that you do, and resolve how you handle all situations, and you can’t change the past, so you’ve got to learn from it.

 

What would you say is the difference between your label right now, Ferret, and Road Runner?

Well, right now, Ferret doesn’t really exist anymore. Back then, when we signed, Ferret was an up and coming label that started to have some success with independent bands with In Flames and Every Time I Die, and they started to be able to sell a good amount of records, and weren’t such a small label anymore. With Road Runner, we were little fish in a big pond, but if we went and made the switch to Ferret, we would’ve been arguably the biggest or one of the biggest acts on the label. So, our mentality was that they’re going to have to protect their investment, there’s going to have to be a lot of time spent on us, and also a lot of time and a lot of care spent on us, will result in more record sales. And it’s exactly what happened. We had released our album, our self-titled album, and then after that was on Road Runner, and then Resurrection was after. Resurrection across the board, across the world sold more copies than the Road Runner release, especially at a time when record sales had gone down 10 percent. So, they definitely did their job. When The Infection came out, a few months into our cycle, Ferret was bought out by Warner Brothers and ILG and the deal didn’t go so well because mainly everyone at the Ferret label, left. They had one person on the staff and being bought out by a company like Warner Brothers, they didn’t give a fuck about us. So albums selling kind of hit a brick wall because no one was there to work it. And of course, we were dehumanized, demoralized, and hate the record industry again. But! The good news is (laughs), we’re completely free agents. And we’ve kind of planned it in our defense to be here in 2010 in the summer free and clear of everybody in the music industry. We have no ties to anyone and being from Cleveland, I’ll make a joke, we’re like the Lebron James of metal, in a sense, (laughs) where we’re complete free agents, and we have all of this freedom now with people wondering who we’re going to go with, where are we going to go. But, I can assure you, we’re not going to punk out and leave Cleveland! (laughs)

 

Do you have any idea of which label you’d like to go with, though?

Not sure. You know, labels really aren’t that awesome anymore in America. Europe’s a whole different story. Mainly, you’ve got to figure out if you can find a balance between Europe and America. Right now, we’re weighing our options, we’ve met a lot of people, a lot of people that are interested, which is a great feeling, you know? Right off the bat, there’s a ton of people interested in what we do and we’re just making those decisions right now.

 

What are you looking for in a label right now that would be good for Chimaira?

Attention and passion and believing in it. That’s basically what we give. There definitely are people out there like that, we’ve already encountered some of them. Road Runner was a passionate label, I can never say they weren’t, a lot of people in that company believe in this band still to this day. We have a relationship with them, they did a great job working us, it’s just different times now. Obviously, we don’t want to be a part of a label that’s just sitting under a giant corporation who doesn’t even want to play the price matching game with the rest of the world that refuses to lower their prices of CDs. We don’t want to be involved with something like that.

 

Would Chimaira, as a band, rather live for the moment or live for the Future?

I think it’s a little bit of both. I think we’re forced to live in the moment and to make decisions in the moment because the record industries are like a year cycle and it’s really hard to plan. Most businesses and at the end of the day, this is a business, plan three to five years ahead, but in the music industry, we can only plan one. So, we’re kind of forced to live for the moment, we’re always planning for the future. We always have to be a year ahead of the game and know what we’re doing. You have to prepare for it, you can’t just throw stuff together, and if you do, you’ll see at the end of the day what happens.

 

I’ve noticed that you talk about Pantera a lot, are you a huge Pantera fan in general?

Yeah, definitely! I think they’re the shit! They were definitely the greatest live band, without a doubt, I’ve never been to a concert, any time that I saw Pantera, I never saw such an intense live concert. From the opening note, people in the arena were running from their seats, jumping from the walls just to get on the floor, it was insane. (laughs) You’ll never see anything like it again. Their influence today is just as strong and relevant as it was years ago. It’s just really cool to be a fan of the band, to be able to see the band in small venues to arenas. We learned a lot and they definitely helped shape me as a musician without question.

 

What is your favorite Pantera album?

Ummmm… I think I got to say… Far Beyond Driven. I think Vulgar Display [of Power] is a masterpiece. I think what comes down to me with why Far Beyond [Driven] is like, a different time in my life where I was really focused on an album, I definitely loved the recording and production of it, and at the time I had never heard something so heavy, yet so catchy in my life. And, I still think to this day that it’s one of the heaviest albums, ever.

 

You are into Jiu Jitsu and MMA, right?

Mmhmm.

 

Are you planning on becoming a fighter or do you just do it for fun?

I have zero aspirations to become a fighter. (laughs) ZERO. I like to train and lately I’ve been lazy on that aspect. Yeah, it’s fun more than anything. I grew up doing martial arts, I grew up– when I was 5-6 years old, I started taking karate because I loved Bruce Lee and loved watching Kung Fu movies every Saturday growing up. I wanted to what all of those people did. Fast forward later in life and I see Tony Jaa and I’m like, “I want to do Muay Thai.” So, I started learning that and really fell in love with it and figured “Well, hey, I can– I have an opportunity to get into Jiu Jitsu, as well.” I’ve only done about a hundred hours of that, nothing really crazy, but enough to know some of the basics. And, my kind of philosophy as a Thai fighter is that you really don’t think a fight will go to the ground. (laughs) Your goal is just to knock them out! Yeah, it’s good, I like Muay Thai. I’ve had “the bug” recently because Alex, from Atreyu, he’s real gung-ho about it, the guy is training two times a day on tour, which I don’t know how the hell he has the energy for! But yeah, I definitely want to hit it up again and one of these days I’ll reignite it. My back injury forced me to become a little lazy with it, the back injury has been long healed. (laughs) Once you stop doing something, it’s kind of hard to start the boat up again. Yeah, I’m definitely still interested in it. But more/less I really like the art, I really like the training aspect, and I like the confidence that comes along with training Martial Arts. You feel a little safer walking into a situation.

 

Do you ever watch UFC or Strikeforce?

Yeah, I’m into the matches. I kind of lost a lot of interest in watching pro-MMA in the past year, strictly because it’s starting to become WWF-like; not with the matches or the fighters so much, but like the audience– they’re kind of ruining it for me. (laughs) Which, I shouldn’t let it, but being busy, being on tour too, is kind of hard to keep up. It’s not like we can get– we can get the pay-per-views on the bus, but it seems to be a hassle or we forget or this and that, we’re on the west coast, started at a different time– there’s always something that winds up making us miss it. We have to watch it live or the excitement is just not there. It’s kind of hard, but hopefully now that touring is going to wind down a little bit, we’re still going to tour this year, but not nearly as hectic, I’ll be able to get into it a little bit more and watch it. My favorite fighter too, is starting to suck, I need to find a new favorite fighter. (laughs)

 

Who is your favorite?

Wanderlei Silva, the axe murderer, I loved him in Pride, I thought he was the shit, but once he went to UFC he kind of tanked.

 

What do you think about Brock Lesnar?

I really don’t. I don’t think Brock Lesnar is a fighter at all. I think he’s big and moves people around like a bear. He’s definitely improved, but in the beginning I thought he was just awful. I’m definitely not into him because a lot of people were into him because of the WWE factor or they think he’s a cool fighter, I think he has zero MMA skills, he’s a great wrestler, but versus kicking at least and everything else (laughs) I don’t buy into the hype.

 

What do you have planned for Chimaira after all of your touring is complete?

Just working on music. We’ll continue to do it til the last show, work on the music in the meantime and try to make the best album we’ve ever made.


 

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