Xanthochroid interview (by Jan Sohr)

I am proud to present an interview with a young band that took the metal scene by surprise practically overnight. Their album “Blessed He With Boils” suddenly could be seen everywhere. A storm came from California, a storm filled with black metal screams, furious riffs, strong drumming but at the same time with beautiful compositions of medieval and atmospheric instruments.They had a great ride so far, by all accounts, and it’s not hard to imagine that there is a great future that awaits these young musicians as their voyage continues. So, dear readers, enjoy!

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1. Let’s start with an obvious one, what’s the story behind the name? As far as I know it’s the word for someone with a light complexion and light hair, is there some other meaning behind it or does it mean exactly that?

Sam created the name when he was in high school. It has a scientific meaning but the reason we use it is because it is the name of a character in our lore.

2. You are a young band and there is not a lot of information about you floating around. How did it all start, were all of you in it from the beginning, that is, when the idea for the band arose did you know who will be in it from the start?

The band has been around since 2005-2006. I joined the band in 2010, Brent and David in 2011 and Bryan in 2012. Sam is the only original member.

3. I would very much like to know how your musical journey began, some twists and turns it involved and how this road got you to create this kind of music? Maybe each member can share his story.

Matthew: I started music when I was about 5 or 6. My mother taught me piano though I lost interest until the 6th grade where I started drumming in my schools jazz band and joined my first rock band. Things sparked up for me from there because I seemed to have a natural affinity towards music so that us how I spent my time, learning instruments and writing music. After highschool I went to Saddleback College and studied composition with Dr. Norman Weston who is an incredible teacher and learned much from my time there. It is there where I met Sam and he offered me to drum in Xanthochroid as they lost their drummer sometime before.

4. I hear a lot of influences in your music, one of the first things i noticed were the black metal vocals which reminded me strongly of Shagrath both in tone and the way some words were sung. Was the vocal developed intentionally this way or is it just a coincidence, or perhaps just a natural occurence after years of listening to Dimmu Borgir?

I think it is just from a desire to create things we like to hear. We all love bands like Emperor, Moonsorrow and Dimmu Borgir so I guess their music will influence us without us even trying.

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5. I also found the drumming very interesting. Many extreme-metal drummers I hear are great in the blast beat and double bass area but when there comes a time to play something soft, something lighter or to give a balanced rhythmic background to an atmospheric guitar and vocals they tend to sound very bland and boring. This was not the case here. Both parts, and the transitions between them are very well done. So Matthew, could you tell me your background concerning your drumming style, and also what is your opinion on what I have said about most of the extreme-metal drummers?

Thanks for the compliments, haha. After I joined Xanthochroid I figured that I should focus on my drumming musicianship so I started learning some grooves from drummers I have always liked such as, Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Gadd, Thomas Lang, Steve Gadd, Jojo Mayer, and Steve Gadd. I also teach drums so it pushes me to learn new things all the time. As for metal drumming, I friggin’ love it, haha. Blast beats and double-bass are such cool techniques that have evolved over the years and have entirely musical applications. I think Death Metal and Funk have had the grooviest drummers.

6. The dynamic of the drumming reminds me strongly of Opeth, very similar style concerning that area, were they one of the main influences behind your style?

I wasn’t really into Opeth until recently but the drumming on their records is really nice and has a lot of groove to it.

7. The Flute, Irish Whistle, Keyboards, Piano…how dare you put those soft instruments in an extreme-metal band :)
I still find it baffling that so many metal fans are so strongly against keyboards in metal music. Whenever I hear that black or death metal can’t be mixed with keyboards I stare at my Bal-Sagoth collection and ask myself if I perhaps imagined those great cd-s. What is your opinion and experience in this matter? Were there some people who said something along the lines: “You guys would be really good if not for those keyboards and flutes!”?

We joke about this matter all the time, there are many people who seemed almost shocked that piano, flute, cello or really any acoustic instrument can work in the context of metal. The bottom line is; If it can play notes, you can use it.

8. Tell me something about the structure in the band. Do you all pitch in for creative decisions or is it just one or two heads and hearts which create most of the music?

Our workflow has become where Sam and I are doing the majority of the writing in pre-production and then as everybody learns the songs we individually arrange the parts how we think they would better fit the music. Everyones opinion does matter though and we will all give each other advice. When we go to record I will track everyone on their respective instruments, except when I am drumming, and then we all pitch in on vocals. After that we will sculpt things to our liking after a couple of listens. I will mix it and then we send it off to mastering.

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9. Describe me the creative process behind your music, has it changed from the time of the first demo till now?

Well being as Sam is the only original member, he was handling all of the writing up until Blessed He With Boils.

10. Many of the people I know, both in bands and not, are of the strong opinion that a democracy in a band is the best way to go, but I can’t help not to remember that some of the greatest and most influential and famous bands were a dicatorship, that is, behind the music was one creative mind and the others were musicians who of course could pitch in but if they didn’t agree with the direction the “leader” was heading they were replacable. Bands, or better to say, individuals like: Death, Therion, Jean Michel Jarre, Arjen Anthony Lucassen (and all his projects), Mike Oldfield, Neal Morse, Annihilator, Darkthrone, Devin Townsend and many more. What is your opinion on these things? What is more important, cohesion between the current members in a band or a strong desire of an open mind to constantly try itself out in new directions?

I think if the entire band was trying to come up with individual ideas and then putting them together without thought it would have a Frankenstein effect. Where there isn’t an overall composition in mind, but we aren’t going to start replacing people just because they want their ideas in the music. A band is a family.

11. I know that you are fans of Opeth, what do you think of the road they took with their last album?

I haven’t even listened to it but I think everyone else has a unanimous judgement. Bad.

12. What drove you to create your own lore and a whole world for your music? Did you feel that the things you want to express in your music required a fantasy world with some different laws than ours?

Sam started the story when he was like 15 so I’m not sure what the reason is other than that it is badass! We have all taken to adding to the Lore and all love discussing it and developing it. We have many huge plans in the bands future for helping to ‘unveil’ some of the grey areas. Also, having this fantasy world to draw inspiration from helps in songwriting and making sure there is a consistent sound or mood.

13. What is the main influence behind the lore? Which books, movies, games, music influenced you when you were creating it?

Sam’s favorite thing in this world was Zelda so a lot of it started from that i’m sure. But stories like Lord of The Rings, Avatar: The Last Airbender, World of Warcraft, and Lovecraftian stories have inspired things further.

14. You now have some live shows behind you. Share some experiences, the bad and the good with us. Any special moments?

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We have had a lot of bad shows and a lot of bad-ass shows, but the funniest one I will always remember was around the time I joined the band and we showed up to play at a bar and it turned out to be a gay bar. We played and then we left. Nothing wrong with gay bar , it just ain’t our choice environment.

15. Have you started working on the next album? Are there some thoughts forming in your mind? Some riffs taking form?

15. Oh yes, we are very excited to start recording this one, we have all been busy with our personal endeavors but we will start soon. There are almost too many ideas, we have to pick which ones will stay and which ones we will save for later! We have started piecing together a few songs and It is going to be awesome. The harmony is consistent with some of our songs like “In Putris Stagnum” and “The Leper’s Prospect” drawing a lot of inspiration from late-romantic era music. It will most definitely be recognized as a Xanthochroid album so no worries about us “changing our sound.” We think this release is going to be massive!

16. An interesting debate came up in my little country a few days ago. What happened to the metal heroes of old and where are the new ones? A columnist and a metal fan wrote that he is very disappointed with the current state both with the bands and with the fans, and one of the main things he blamed was the so-called internet-generation. He said that gone are the days when a “metal god” could shock or even exist because whatever his image on the stage and in the albums you can easily find a picture of him buying food and tampons in a local store like a normal person. Gone are the days of imagination and wild speculation and with it of impossible idols and gods. What are your thoughts on the subject? Have the gods of old lost their flare? Are there no new gods who could take their place simply because today’s world doesn’t allow it?

I mean there isn’t really a “side” I could pick because the evolution of the internet is probably the only reason we are as well known as we are, though the image of the 80s where rock/metal bands were treated as divine figures that fathers keep their daughters from seemed pretty incredible!

17. What are your thoughts on how internet influenced music, and not only internet but the so-called “keyboard-warriors” that dwell in it?

I don’t know what you mean by “Keyboard Warrior’s” but I think we would all fit in that category. Jokes aside, It has done good and bad. It is good because anybody can get their music heard by others. It is bad because seriously anybody can get their music heard by others.

18. In a world of “kill-metal”, “screamo”, “explicit-dubstep-crab-core”. In a world where every day five new random metal directions pop out which have nothing to do with metal how do you fit in? Did you not grow up influenced by such stuff? How was the situation in your town, your schools? How many people ended up calling such genres “modern metal” while being completely oblivious to the place and past from which metal came?

There is lot’s of that here but it is sort of a dying scene and not many people are very into it. It is harmless, except for the people who view all metal bands as such.

19. People say that metal needed to evolve because it stagnated, so nu metal was born and all those listed above. But I don’t know, when I listen to some bands from the 80′s or the 90′s I feel that what they built still was not used or explored. Death metal, thrash metal, progressive metal, black especially and so on, I can’t help but notice that some stuff still wasn’t explored let alone surpassed.
What are your thoughts on that subject?

The whole genre thing is kind of pointless here because people can write whatever kind of music they want, if someone wants to expand on ideas that drew from 80s bands they could do just that and actually it has probably influenced all musicians alive today just like everything else we hear.

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20. Two days ago I was going down the hill where my university is located, the night already set, a chilly northern wind was blowing, “Rebirth Of An Old Nation” was playing, the fifth minute of the song and right as I looked up to gaze at the misty sea the sixth minute came up and the soft solo was broken up with an atmospheric black metal scream and I thought: “This is it..”. No other music except for black metal can give me this specific feeling. Tell me why did you choose black metal elements to put in your music, what is your connection with this kind of music?

That is a cool story, thanks for sharing. Yeah, metal is more of a dynamic than a genre. the texture of blastbeats/doublebass with distorted guitars has a wonderful sound that shouldn’t be ignored by any composer.

21. Tell me something of your plans for the future concerning labels, live gigs and recording studios? Are you happy with where you are now? Are you satisfied with how “Blessed He With Boils” came out concerning the production and the sound?

Well as for a label I think we are going to stick with our own label, Erthe and Axen Records, until the work proves to much for us. We are playing live shows here and there, you can check our Facebook page for that, but no tours planned as of yet. Recording studio? I love recording in the comfort of my bedroom more than any recording studio.
We are very happy with Blessed He With Boils, In composition and production. I am very proud of my work on the production though I find new things to pick at all the time. We are especially happy where the album took us in regards to our standing in the metal community, we have a ton of really great fans all over the world!


22. Thanks for the interview guys and I hope to catch you one day live. Any message for the fans?

For sure! Thanks for coming to us. As for a message to the fans, ‘Get excited for what is to come, big things are in the making as well as our next album titled “Of Erthe and Axen”‘

Xanthrochroid official site

Jan Sohr