Byzantine is working on their latest album, 'And They Shall Take Up Serpents'. The Wizard caught up with Chris "OJ' Ojeda for the scoop.
The Gauntlet: You have a very original name with a substantive meaning. Why did you choose
this moniker for the band?
Chris Ojeda: Coming up with a band name is tough. You have to find something fairly
original and something that might sum up the band. Byzantine was a choice of about 5 band names and it had a certain ring to it. We done some research and found out it meant complicated, inflexible and carried out by underhanded methods. Also, it has a reference to the Byzantine Empire. All those things made the band name even more special to us. It was either Byzantine or The Grassholes!
The Gauntlet: Lyrically, the group covers some interesting topical matter, from which
resources do you draw inspiration for the lyrics?
CO: I pull my lyrical inspirations from various topics that interest me. I am huge into the idea of extra terrestrial life (Slipping on Noise) as well as WV state history (Hatfield). So I try to find fresh topics to write about like mountain top removal (Sin Remover) to keep our lyrics interesting to those whom are interested in those topics. The new album has song topics that range from the West Memphis 3 to crop circles to the caste system in India.
The Gauntlet: I know that you guys really dig label mates LOG. What do you think of the
comparisons of the band to Lamb of God?
CO: It is all well and good since they are one of the baddest metal bands on the planet but I think most of it is misguided. Our debut album "The Fundamental Component" was written in its
entirety before we had really ever heard of Lamb of God. A lot of journalists grab onto the fact that LOG was instrumental in getting us signed so therefore we are a clone band. But the reason they dug our music was because it was different of what they were doing but kind of the same since we are both throwing up the horns to the 80's and 90's thrash bands. As long as the comparisons are genuine, then compare away. At least people don't say we sound like John Tesh or Boyz To Men, we are cool!
The Gauntlet: Your compositions average length is fairly long. Why do you prefer to write
longer songs? Do you feel that you have to put more changes in order to keep the listener's attention?
CO:We don't intend to write lengthy songs. We are just trying to make sure we finish our thoughts and it just so happens that it usually takes 5 to 6 minutes to do so. I personally love bands with longer songs like Opeth and Dark Angel. Now on our new album, there are some songs that will be under 4 minutes long because our thoughts were complete. It really is
something that just happens.
TG: Have you decided if you're going to continue touring or if you're going to
get the sophomore release finished first?
CO: We are done touring for now. We didn't really do much touring in support of TFC. We still don't have a booking agency so we basically went out by ourselves and did what we could. The
Metal Hammer UK tour we did in November was the only thing that felt like a tour. So we are moving forward and hitting the studio the first week of February. There will be much touring to do this year and we can't wait.
TG: Tell us about what happened with Ozzfest '04.
CO: We didn't play it. I wish I had gone though. It was the best lineup that Ozzfest has ever had. I did attend Ozzfest '02 and Meshuggah destroyed all. Down disappointed me. I expected better.
TG: It sounds like you have been experimenting with some out there riffs for the new album, just how much will it differ from the last?
CO: I have tried to figure out what we are good at and what we are not and learn from that. But if you dug the first album you will dig the second one. It is a continuation of the same thoughts. There are some easy rocking riffs and then there are some riffs that you need a protractor to figure out.
TG: What do you think are the best attributes to a quality metal song? What does the song have to be like for you to really enjoy it?
CO: If it has a decent groove, has a decent solo, and has at least one unique riff I usually dig it. My favorite examples of perfect metal songs are.
Meshuggah - "Corridor of Chameleons"
Dark Angel - "The New Priesthood"
Carcass - "This Mortal Coil"
Exhorder - "Cadence of the Dirge"
Fear Factory - "Self Bias Resistor"
You get the point.
TG: What are some of the bands you're listening to right now?
CO: Right now I am jamming Lamb of God "Ashes of The Wake", Soilwork "Stabbing the Drama", Opeth "Deliverance", and Jeff Buckley "Grace".
TG: What was the best venue on the last tour?
CO: We really dig playing The Odeon in Cleveland, OH. They treat us like kings there. Big props to Hardcore Marketing for taking care of us there! And The Fat Cat in Springfield, MA is bad ass as well. They have a great soundman.
TG: So, do you guys have any stalkers yet?
CO: Nope. I don't think we have any fans yet! ;)
TG: Prosthetic is such a hot label right now, can you see yourselves staying with them for awhile?
CO: All that depends on a lot of variables. We dig Prosthetic and think they are the future of American Heavy Metal. We would like to get to the point where we could pay our
bills and raise families from Byzantine. If that can happen on Prosthetic, then we will most likely stay with Prosthetic.
TG: What pushes you to write and perform this type of material?
CO: Just what comes natural. I really can't play any other style of music that well because metal is all I wanted to play and what I have spent 15 years practicing. I think we all really have a desire to play music that is challenging both technically and musically. Byzantine has become a good vehicle for us to achieve those goals.
TG: So what can fans expect from "And They Shall Take Up Serpents"? Has the band moved into a new direction with its material?
CO: "And They Shall Take Up Serpents" seems to have a much broader scope as far as song tempos and such. We have some songs that are far faster than anything on our debut. There are also a little more solos than before. The debut album had two guest vocalists on the
album doing some of the singing while all of the singing on this album will be done by myself. It is
not a new direction, just a notch above the debut album. Also ".Serpents" should have a better
production on it as well.
TG: Tell us about some of the songs you have written for the new album.
CO: Well, they are all pretty much ready to go. The cool thing is that we won't really have an idea of how the songs sound until we start tracking them. The rest of the band hasn't heard any of my lyrics and we haven't heard most of the solos yet. So, we are all excited about piecing these songs together and hearing what we have made. Right now I am most excited about the
tracks "Ancestry of the Antichrist", "Temporary Temples", and "Salem, Ark". These tracks are
TG: Where will the project be recorded?
CO: Is going to be recorded again at 101 Studios in Sissonville, WV. It is only 15 minutes from some of our homes and we like the idea of being close to home so we don't pull our hair out. We love our producer, Charles Fisher, and feel good about going back and giving him a chance to outdo himself. He just recently totally remodeled the studio and has added some great
outboard gear and a killer mixing system. Should be a blast.
TG: Any plans for the final release date yet?
CO: We are looking for a June release. No actual date has been set yet.
TG: Who do you feel are some of the innovative bands in metal right now?
CO: To me, Opeth are the most original band out there right now. I also really dig Into Eternity as well. Clutch is another band that pushes the envelope like no one else. Hopefully people will consider us as innovators with a couple more albums under our belt.
TG: Any parting thoughts?
CO: Can't wait to get to kicking ass on tour and we are bringing the serpents...