thegauntlet.com heavy metal

James Malone


The Gauntlet: Well, the typical question to ask is how they tour is going, since I can’t quite do that, I’ll ask how the tour was going.

James Malone: The tour was going awesome actually, was going great, until about a week ago.

The Gauntlet: And what was it that happened, exactly?

James Malone: Well, we had been having trouble with our van before we even left for the tour, but I had taken it to a dealership in West Virginia where I live—it had been in there twice—and it was supposedly repaired. But, I guess, the second time it was in the shop they forgot to bolt in the ignition coil that they fixed. So we made it to California and the same problems happened all over again, and it’s been at a dealership in Sacramento, California for over a week now. And the part we were waiting on just came in today, but apparently the warranty company sent the wrong part and the part they need is on manufacturer back order, so it could be between two days to two weeks before we get the proper part.

Gauntlet: And so the rest of the band is just…

James: Just kind of there, I don’t know what everybody’s going to do—

(Muhammed Suicmez approaches from pool table)

Muhammed: (playfully) James—you’re disturbing my concentration.

James: Hm, would you like us to move?

Muhammed: Could you please move over there?

James: Yeah, that’s fine.

Muhammed: I’ll buy you a drink if you do.

James: Yeah, yeah, that’s fine.

Muhammed: What kind of drink do you want? Jack and Coke?

James: Ah, can I get a Long Island Iced Tea?

Muhammed: …Long Island Iced Tea? Alright. What do you want?

Gauntlet: Oh, nothing for me, thanks.

Muhammed: Good.

(laughter, we move to another couch)

Gauntlet: Alright, so, what happens for you after tonight?

James: I don’t know. I think we have a couple options. Either everybody flies home and then I fly back out to Sacramento at some point to get the van, or, we just had somebody offer to lend us some money to rent a van and finish the tour. So I guess we’ll just see what happens.

Gauntlet: There’s not too much time left with the tour, is there?

James: No, it’s really kind of a moot point at this time.

Gauntlet: Well, I guess it’s good then that it broke down towards the end of the tour….

James: Actually, it was right in the middle of it (laughs)—this was about ten days ago.

Gauntlet: Oh, that far back, that’s right. I had just heard about it only a couple days ago.

James: Well, I kind of wanted to keep it under wraps. It’s not like we’re some huge draw on this tour anyway, but I didn’t want to mess up any of the turnouts. I don’t even think the promoters were really telling people at the shows until right before our set time should have been.

Gauntlet: Hm. Well, I remember we had a similar problem with our car once. Essentially, it got backed up into this muddy driveway and had to have all this stuff fixed up on it, but then they forgot to screw back the bolts on the tires correctly. So there was all this sand getting in there and such. Can certainly lay up a car for a while.

James: Yeah, that’s crazy. We’re kind of screwed (laughs).

Gauntlet: You know, I saw you guys when you came around last time—when was that, last year, with Necrophagist?

James: We came for that and then we were here with God Forbid in January.

Gauntlet: Really?

James: Yeah. God Forbid, Goatwhore, Mnemic, and I don’t remember who else was on the tour.

Gauntlet: Yeah, I think I was out of state. But last June when you guys were here with Necrophagist, I saw you then.

James: Oh, ok. Awesome, awesome.

Gauntlet: You make a good pair, the two of you, paired up against each other.

James: Oh, thanks man.

Gauntlet: So, compared to these last two times you’ve been through, have you seen a change in response to Arsis from the fans?

James: Well, I think the response was actually pretty good last year. But, actually, this year I guess it’s been better and definitely bigger, so I guess we’re doing the right thing playing shows and whatnot.

Gauntlet: And we are here [The Pearl Room, Mokena, IL] on nicely matched sofa seats instead of at Logan Square [Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago, IL].

James: Exactly.

Gauntlet: I haven’t been backstage there, I don’t know if there is a backstage—

James: I don’t think they do have a backstage.

Gauntlet: Pretty rudimentary.

James: Indeed. And there are a lot of stairs…and you’ve got to carry all your equipment up them.

Gauntlet: Yeah. Yeah. And last time there were some crowd surfers—I don’t know if you saw Necrophagist’s set that year—but a crowdsurfer fell right into Muhammed in the middle of a solo. The security guys did a terrible job.

James: Oh. Wow.

Gauntlet: But they tend to do a pretty good job here…. So, but as far as the response for you guys getting bigger, you seem to be the toast of the town for American metal. But, for all that, despite being on Nuclear Blast, you’ve only released two album so far. So, how does that transition work, coming from Willowtip to Nuclear Blast?

James: Yeah. Well, we’ve been talking with Nuclear Blast for a long time, actually. They contacted us maybe three or four months after ‘A Celebration of Guilt’ had been released. What a lot of people don’t understand is that we signed to Willowtip after playing five shows and we’d only been a band for a month, maybe. And we didn’t really know the business or…anything, really. So, we signed for Willowtip and we signed for two albums…. But, I mean, it’s really great that a label would take a chance on us that early in the game, but at the same time we just didn’t know the business. Nuclear Blast contacted us a couple months after the album had been released, along with a lot of other labels, actually, and wanted to buy the contract from Willowtip. So, talking to Nuclear Blast is something we’ve been doing for a couple years, at least. Something like 2003—well, maybe not quite then, but at least two and a half, anyway.

Gauntlet: Long enough to count. Yeah, when I was researching your history, because I’ve been listening ever since ‘Celebration of Guilt’ came out, probably in…I don’t know, a long time, and I was just surprised that you guys stepped up to that level so quickly. At first I read that the songs you wrote for your first demo were on ‘Celebration of Guilt’, but there were some, a few, before that?

James: Well, the very first demo was recorded with Mike and myself and one of my ex-girlfriends, actually, who played guitar on it as well. And it was not intended to be Arsis at all. Mike and I recorded it one Christmas Break in college, and I don’t think that Mike and I even spoke for something like six months after we recorded it, so we weren’t exactly serious. And then the next Christmas Break he wanted to do another demo and I was like, ‘Ok, cool.’ And he said, ‘You know, I really want to put this stuff up on mp3.com and come up with a name.’ So, I did. And then of all the demo songs we recorded a lot of those did end up on ‘Celebration of Guilt’, some didn’t. Some ended up on other albums in different forms, you know. But, yeah, I hope I answered the question, I’m just going on.

Gauntlet: Sure. Long answers are always good.

(Laughter)

James: Ok.

Gauntlet: So, how soon did you really figure out that what you wanted to do with Arsis was the sound you have now?

James: Well, this has been the sound we had pretty much from day one. Except that we refined it, obviously. It was just the way I wrote music, for heavy music, anyway.

Gauntlet: Did you write anything or play in any bands before Arsis?

James: Hell, I was in a metalcore band called Scarlet once upon a time when I was about eighteen. I was a composition major in college, wrote for string quartets and stuff, so….

Gauntlet: And so, it seems, once ‘Celebration of Guilt’ came out, you guys had been playing some of those songs for a while.

James: Yeah. Well—we’d only been playing them live for about six months, but we’d recorded the demos years prior.

Gauntlet: So, had you started the writing process for the next album at that point or were you just riding the wave?

James: Well…yeah. As soon as the album came out I started writing ‘United in Regret’. Actually, I think the most recent material that’s been released is ‘Diamond For Disease’. That material, or the song ‘A Diamond For Disease’, anyway, is newer than most of the material on ‘United in Regret’, actually.

Gauntlet: Really. Well, I guess that bodes well for what’s to come, because that’s one of my favorite Arsis songs.

James: Oh, ok, cool.

Gauntlet: I was hoping last time that you’d play it straight through in its entirety. (laughs)

James: Well, maybe we could do that at some point with the line-up that we have now. But I don’t know, that’d be quite an undertaking.

Gauntlet: It really would. But if you could pull it off, I imagine the response would be phenomenal.

James: Would hope so. I don’t know.

Gauntlet: Speaking of that song, I was curious how it came about. I read that it was commissioned and knew that you were performing it for Ballet Deviare….

James: I became friends with Andy online and stuff and he didn’t really come right out and ask us, but—

(A few minute’s interruption for phone call about the van. Muhammed can be seen walking around with a pool cue and tapping band members on the shoulder to challenge them to a game.)

Gauntlet: Any good news?

James: No, not at all. The part that we need doesn’t break, apparently, ever, and isn’t in production either, so it has to be specially made by Ford. And it can take two days to two weeks. In two weeks the tour is over.

Gauntlet: (pause) Made to order? As in, right now?

James: Yeah. They have to put in a request, to Ford, to get the part.

Gauntlet: Wow. That’s bad luck if I’ve ever heard it.

James: Yeah, dude. We’re screwed. That’s just the luck of Arsis. Woo-hoo. Anyway, where were we?

Gauntlet: Oh, something about ‘Diamond For Disease’, how it came about—

James: Right, so, we had been in contact with him online, and what he said was that he’d just really like someone to step up and write a fifteen minute piece that they could use exclusively or whatever, and I was just like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that.’ He said that they’d need help marketing it and stuff and at the time Mike and I weren’t touring at all, so I said why not just get Willowtip to release it as an EP to help you guys out with the promotion? So that’s how that came about with us.

Gauntlet: So, was it an issue trying to write something that long?

James: Well, I had just moved to West Virginia to be with my fiancé and didn’t have a whole lot of friends and really just wanted to get focused on writing anyway. So it was a good challenge and a good, ‘How am I going to make this work?’ sort of deal. I don’t know, I enjoyed doing it, actually.

Gauntlet: I think what a lot of people liked about it was that it didn’t really have the pompousness of a lot of epic songs, you know how they’ll have huge intro sections, massive bombastic choruses and really long outros—but this was just, ‘Hey, this is Arsis. Fifteen minutes of it.’

James: Yeah, and at that time, I wrote everything on a four-track. So I was so stubborn and old school about everything and, dude, I don’t know how many four-tracks I went through recording parts. And then, I would never punch anything in and out, so I would have to play every part in its entirety. So it was a lot of good practice, actually, doing it that way. Countless takes and hours of recording stuff and transferring it to CD, playing it back, making sure it all made sense and wasn’t boring or too long, et cetera, et cetera. It probably a month or two, altogether. I hate to brag, but it was….

Gauntlet: No, that’s fine, if it’s got the quality, then why not. That’s a great thing to have on the résumé , anyway: “I wrote a fifteen minute death metal song. How about that?”

James: Yeah.

Gauntlet: And as far as how the songwriting process has changed now that Mike is no longer in the band, has that been an issue or did you write all the material yourself?

James: I wrote everything anyway, even the drum parts sometimes. I mean, he obviously did his own take on them, but the general ideas were kept the same. So now there’s more freedom with the drum parts, with the new drummer that we have now. I’ve kind of turned over some of the stuff to him. I’d say 80% of the time he does what I would have wanted anyway, so….

Gauntlet: I’ve tried to figure out exactly what happened with Mike leaving the band, because I was really surprised to hear about it—

James: Oh, I was shocked too, because we signed to Nuclear Blast and two or three weeks later, he quit. I basically just think he was sick of touring and whatnot. I don’t think it was that he and I weren’t getting along; we’re still pretty good friends and we talk all the time and we’ve known each other for so long. But I just think it reached the point where it wasn’t what he wanted to be doing anymore. And he got a scholarship to school, now he’s studying radiology, and I think he’s more suited to doing that, you know, as far as being a homebody and having his schedule down. Everything that touring isn’t.

(Laughter)

James: So I’m happy for him, I’m glad he’s got that and has figured that out. It sucks that it happened when stuff was really picking up for is, but best of luck to him, and we had some great times with him. We’re talking about doing a power metal project, so you might hear some more Mike and James stuff in the future, anyway.

Gauntlet: I’d look forward to that, sure. I remember last year I emailed back and forth with him a couple times—and he may have forward some of this to you—just basically saying, ‘I like Arsis. Thanks for getting me into metal’, and I think last time around he said he was actually physically sick, once you guys got to the Chicago stop. So he wasn’t hanging around much at all aside from playing then going backstage, relaxing, and drinking lots of water.

James: And where was this one at?

Gauntlet: At Logan Square.

James: Yeah, he probably was sick by that point.

Gauntlet: I guess it can take its toll on anyone. Lord Worm just dropped out of Cryptopsy a few months ago for similar reasons, from what I hear.

James: Oh, dude, it’s just terrible. My voice was trashed, and when Mike was quitting I was a wreck physically, too. Playing in the winter, not sleeping well, not being able to eat well, not sleeping in a bed, it’s just—

Gauntlet: Not sleeping at all.

James: Yeah, exactly. Lots of booze. (gestures with cup)

Gauntlet: (Laughs) I’ve read in the past that a lot of your lyrics are just personal life experiences, song titles and album titles, too. Do you see that being the primary source for your material with upcoming albums?

James: Oh, yeah, probably so. I would imagine. I try to keep the lyrics and all that stuff as vague as possible so people can come up with their own ideas as to what they’re about. Maybe it’s more obvious than I like to think—

(Jody Dankberg enters, representative of Washburn Guitars)

James: What’s up, Jody. I’d like to say in this interview that I play Washburn Guitars, thanks to this man, and Randall amplifiers.

Jody Dankberg: (Smiling) Let’s give me lots of press and talk about Washburn some more.

Gauntlet: Well, then, I’ll have to plug it in somewhere, sure. It’ll be there. as you were saying, keeping things vague—

James: Yeah, I like to keep things vague, and they’re really personal to me. And I really want people to come up with their own interpretation to make them special and take the time to read the lyrics.

Gauntlet: Yeah, I certainly did that. It really stuck out to me how, even though they were really vague, they still were intimate. I got that feeling especially on the first album.

James: Yeah, there was some stuff going on in my life with that first album…that really screwed with my head a lot. Especially while I was trying to write lyrics for that album, all that stuff was going on.

Gauntlet: I knew that you dropped out of college, but I didn’t know what was what it was for. Are you going to go back, do you think?

James: Yeah. I mean, I’m not going to be doing this forever.

Jody: You’ll be working for me one day.

James: Maybe so, who knows.

Jody: For Rabies.

James: What’s Rabies?

Jody: Rabies. Metal dog clothing. Clothes for metal dogs. Tell people about it.

Gauntlet: Wow. That could work.

Jody: There’ll be chew toys like Eddie from Iron Maiden.

Gauntlet: And that would be a good one, since when it’s all ripped up it’ll still look just right. And you could get Vick from Megadeth and make them fight. See which one gets ripped up the fasted.

James: Oh, yeah.

Jody: People will be totally into it.

James: They will.

Jody: And it’d sell at Target and Hot Topic.

Gauntlet: Hah. Those two?

Jody: Well, the Target would be the more mainstream stuff like Linkin Park. And then for an Arsis or, like, an All Shall Perish one, you’d go to Hot Topic.

Gauntlet: You know, there was a metal band that had a dog as a vocalist—

James: Oh, yeah, what was it. Canine?

Gauntlet: Right, right. And then you could extend this to birds, that band Hatebeak.

Jody: Hatebeak, I’ve heard that. Hatebark I’ve heard, too.

Gauntlet: I didn’t know there was one. But the merchandising opportunity is choice.

James: Totally.

Jody: So, for the interview, it’s all about—

James: Rabies and Washburn.

Jody: James Malone.

James: Randall amps.

Gauntlet: Of course.

Jody: And, um, that’s what it should be about. I didn’t hear what you guys were talking about before, but after that, does it matter?

Gauntlet: Sounds like he should be your manager, plotting these things out for you.

James: He is indeed.

Gauntlet: And so, you are currently sponsored?

James: Yes. By Washburn guitars and Randall amps.

Gauntlet: And are they the greatest ever?

James: Dude, they are the best thing on earth.

Gauntlet: When did you get them?

James: Ah, about a month ago.

Gauntlet: And have you done any writing or new work—

James: Yes, on them. And it’s beautiful. The greatest thing ever.

Gauntlet: Is that the stuff you’re playing live with as well?

James: Yes, yes, indeed. (with thumbs up) Randall, Washburn. Greatest guitars ever.

Gauntlet: Great, now that’s done. (laughs) Well, anyway, were you going to college for composition?

James: Yes, composition, definitely. I was studying with this man named Aldo Forte who composed for the Air Force and whatnot—

Gauntlet: Was his real name Aldo Forte?

James: I believe so, yes. Isn’t that crazy? That’s a great name for a musician.

Gauntlet: A great name. Well, I’m going to school for music as well, Elmhurst College right in this area—

James: Oh, ok, cool.

Gauntlet: And the administrator of the department, his real name is Tim Hays. But he uses a pseudonym when he’s out and about: Rick Solo.

James: Ohh, that’s great.

Gauntlet: Yeah, this is the name he gives to people, like a Starbucks when he’s made an order for coffee. Rick Solo. So I guess it’s just par for the course with music people, names like these. But Solo’s not as good as the other one. What was it? Alto Forte?

James: Aldo Forte, yeah. A great Cuban dude, but fuckin’ nuts. Wrote everything out by hand…a crazy dude.

Gauntlet: I imagine that ‘United in Regret’ still feels pretty recent, but it is closing in on 2008 pretty quickly and that one was 2006, yes? So do you have the Nuclear Blast debut in the pipeline, or…?

James: Oh, yeah. We’re writing it right now, we’re slated to record in September with Zeus. He’s done Hatebreed and Shadows Fall, that guy. And then the album will be out in early ’08, sometime.

Gauntlet: And is the material then more like ‘Diamond For Disease’?

James: Yeah, I’d say so. It’s more concise, shorter songs, but more like that, yeah.

Gauntlet: Good, good. Because, for me, I know it’s all Arsis, Arsis, Arsis straight through, but the debut, EP, and second album each had their distinct feel. And while I did really enjoy all of them, I must admit that ‘United in Regret’ was probably my…least favorite.

James: Mine, too.

Gauntlet: Why’s that?

James: I guess I really didn’t try (laughs). I didn’t try very hard with it. The recording got all screwed up, the scheduling, and there were so many factors involved. I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to get it done, honestly.

Gauntlet: A little bit of that comes through, because it’s a good album—

Jody: Dude, I’m going to go hang out for a bit.

James: Hey, do you think I can get another Long Island Ice Tea?

Jody: Yeah, sure, whatever you need.

James: Really?

Gauntlet: Might as well take the opportunity while it’s there, right?

James: I don’t know how much liquor she put in that, but I’m buzzed off one drink. Do you drink?

Gauntlet: Only rarely.

James: Good, don’t start. That’s why I dropped out of Berkeley.

Gauntlet: Another one of the reasons?

James: Well, I wasn’t there when I was 23, that was at a school in Virginia, the University of Virginia. But that’s why I dropped out of Berkeley. And you can put that in if you want. But I was drunk. All the time. I had a scholarship and I was like, ‘Dude, I’m going to do all this drunk. Why not?’ And I was also anorexic and bulimic.

Gauntlet: Well, I guess that will supply you with enough creative fodder for some time, then.

James: Yes. Exactly.

Gauntlet: So, it was also interesting to read when I was going back looking at other interviews—I was trying to find more recent ones, but the only ones I saw were from 2005—when Mike was still in the band and you guys were talking about influences. And there was a lot of 80’s stuff.

James: Oh, yeah, totally.

Gauntlet: So it was really interesting to see you cite those types of bands as influences when Arsis, to the casual ear, sounds like death metal and just death metal. So, I know you mentioned something about maybe a power metal experiment, but have you…?

James: Well, I think the 80’s influences are there. In ‘Diamond For Disease’ there’s…I don’t know—

Gauntlet: Sometimes a Guitar Hero vibe.

James: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And there will probably be a little more of that on the new album. I would like to do—what was the original question, I’m sorry…(laughs)

Gauntlet: It was about…well, the questions don’t look for specific answers. I just sort of say things—

James: And you just want me to talk. Ok.

Gauntlet: Yeah, about whatever comes to mind.

James: Ok. Well, it probably helps that I’ve been drinking because I always talk more when I’m drunk. But I would really like to do a power metal project.

Gauntlet: Hm. Have you heard Pharaoh?

James: No.

Gauntlet: As far as playing American traditional heavy metal goes. It’s got Tim Aymar who was in Control Denied, the vocalist.

James: He was actually one of the vocalists we were talking about trying to get for our power metal thing.

Gauntlet: Really. Well, he sounds awesome, you should check out Pharaoh.

James: Ok, cool.

Gauntlet: And I think one of the guitarists is a writer for Metal Maniacs or something like that, and the drummer is this guy Chris Black, and he’s got his own band Dawnbringer, you heard of them?

James: I have, actually.

Gauntlet: He’s playing with them and also from Nachtmystium.

James: Oh, ok.

Gauntlet: So it’s an interesting group, but if you’re into that I think you’d really like it.
Anyway, to Arsis. I’ve also noticed through shows and just in general from the buzz about the band that people really like the artwork for Arsis. Is that something you’re going to continue, working with the same guy?

James: I love Mark Riddick. He’s like the best dude ever. I’ve been over to his house for dinner, he’s just a great dude. I would really like to continue working with him. If he’s got time. He’s just so busy at this point. Doing underground metal art is not his main gig, really. He has a great job, so, if he wants to continue working with us, I would love it. Because I just like him, you know? (laughs) Because I’m a pretty loyal person when it comes to…everything, basically, and would really like to keep working with that guy.

Gauntlet: I think we’d like to see that, too. Death metal bands always have the outlandish imagery and things, but it rarely corresponds with the bitterness of the music as it does with Arsis.

James: Yeah, it’s great. The only album cover that I ever had anything to do with myself was ‘Diamond For Disease’. I had a specific thing that I wanted for that one. But other than that it’s just been, ‘Hey, dude, go to town.’

Gauntlet: ‘Do something cool.’

James: Yeah. ‘Have a good time.’

Gauntlet: Was that the same for the merch, too?

James: Yes, pretty much.

Gauntlet: That, not sure why it reminded me, but something about the line-up. For a while you guys were just sort of a power duo, so did you have any issues bringing on people who would flesh out the rest of the live performance?

James: No, that was always what I wanted. I mean, I always wanted a full line-up. I’ve been so happy to have full-time people doing stuff. It’s been great.

Gauntlet: …And with your your little power metal project that it might not be touring?

James: No, I don’t think it would be touring at all. It would still be really cool, though.

Gauntlet: Would you do the vocals?

James: No, I can’t sing power metal, not at all, no.

Gauntlet: It takes a certain kind.

James: Yeah, exactly. I would definitely like to get that dude from Control Denied, like we were talking about earlier.

Gauntlet: Yeah. And…you used to have a website and now it’s gone. There’s a Myspace, of course, but when I went to worshipdepraved.com to just poke around and see if I could generate some questions, it was a banner advertising gay anal sex. And then I went and checked it again today and it was advertising Christian singles dating. So, is there a website that will be coming back?

James: I would like to, I just haven’t had the time, honestly. We’ve been on the road, and—

Gauntlet: You were running it?

James: Mike was running it. So that would make sense that when he left it went down. I keep up with the myspace, but yeah.

Gauntlet: Alright. It just seemed rather odd to type in ‘worship depraved’ and get gay anal sex.

James: Really.

Gauntlet: You can check it now and see what comes up. It might be one of those series of adds that says ‘click here for whatever’. I have no idea what it’d be now, but I was surprised.

James: Huh.

Gauntlet: Yeah. But anyway, as far as formal questions, I think that about wraps it up. So, thank you for your time—

James: Oh, yeah. No sweat, dude.


Read More News

Tags:  James MaloneArsis , James Maloneinterviews

    June 27, 2007

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