Friday 21 June 2013

20 Questions w/ Armed For Apocalypse

Armed for Apocalypse

SL) So what better way to spend the remaning two hours of Father’s Day, then to interview one of my favourite bands.  I wanna say a new band, but Fuck, Armed for Apocalypse have been around for at least 5 years. But with their new record, The Road Will End, this is the first new choice cuts of Sludge meat for four years, yes, four long years, since their debut ‘Defeat’, which got me instantly hooked on these heavy fuckers.

Armed for Apocalypse have a heavy pedigree to boot, boasting ex members of such metal heavyweights like Will Haven, within their ranks.  This band are the new breed of sludge, boasting riffs that Mr. Windstein would be proud off.  Sons and Daughters of Sludge, I present my interview with Cayle of AforA and boy am I fucking happy about it.  So let’s get down to business.

SL) Cayle,  Happy Fathers day brother How are you?  I appreciate you taking the time to talk to talk to me, here at The Sludgelord.   We talked yesterday and you celebrated early due to commitments with AFA, can you tell us a little about that?


Thanks for having me! I’m awesome. Yesterday  we were filming our first ever music video for AForA so my lady was nice enough to move Fathers Day up a day for me. To tell you the truth we all scheduled the date and completely forgot it was Fathers Day! Haha. But it all worked out.

SL) How are things in the camp AFA? What are your immediate plans for the rest of 2013?

C: Busy (thankfully). We’ve got a lot of promotional things going on because the record release date is approaching quickly. We’ve got a new song being released via lyric video (our first ever), a proper video (our first ever), our live performance for EMG TV we’re extremely excited about, some in-studio footage that will have some cool surprises, plus our normal routine of playing shows and touring as much as we possibly can. Lot’s of good things, and hopefully they just keep getting better!

SL) Before we get too emotional during this interview (haha), a big fucking sludgelord five brother, The Road Will End is a facebreaker. I can’t enough.  Congratulations.  I just listened to Defeat and your new one, back to back.  Amazing.  Our man, Fitton did a great job with the review, I felt.  Can you tell us about the record and the process of putting it together?  You’re certainly not taking any prisoners, no-one will be left alive, haha.  Fuck the galloping riffs on Open Wound is all you need to hear to buy this basardised record.  Sorry!!

C: Thank you so much! We appreciate anyone that takes the time out of their life to give our music a chance. The fact that you’ve listened to it and enjoy it means the world to us. We loved the review too! It was actually fairly accurate as far as comparing this new record to our last record, and it was extremely flattering.

The process for writing this record was all based on us having the collective drive to make this the piece of music to remember us by. We all wanted it to be our finest moment to date. “Good enough” had to get thrown out the window. It was a hard process – extremely hard at times – but the end result is exactly what we were shooting for. We put not just every song, but every single riff through a meat grinder until we were happy. Even after that we recorded 13 songs and had to cut some because they simply didn’t hold up or didn’t fit with the rest of the record. That was rough! We didn’t ever want to take our foot off the gas so to speak and what we ended up with is a perfect representation of who Armed For Apocalypse is. It started as an enormous beast and we chipped away at it one piece at a time until we finally conquered it!

Debut record

SL). So you talked a little about how the album came together, but readers might be thinking Who the Hell are AFA, could you tell us a little about AFA? Current band members?  A brief history if you like?

C: Of course! The lineup is Kirk Williams on guitar and lead vocals, Corey Vaspra on bass and vocals, Nick Harris on drums and me (Cayle Hunter) on guitar and vocals. We all started off as friends in separate bands around our town of Chico, CA. It’s university town known for turning out teachers and alcoholics. After the first lineup of ours fell apart Kirk and Corey came aboard (with some convincing) and the lineup has been set ever since. At first they just learned songs we already had written, but after we signed our deals with Iron Clad and Siege of Amida we wrote some new songs together and they were the best songs on the record so we knew we had something.         

When Defeat came out we worked our asses off because nobody, and I mean NOBODY had ever heard of us before. Thankfully our labels worked very hard and we were able to play hundreds of shows all over the U.S. and Europe. The peak of that, and the musical highlight of our lives was the European tour we did with Sepultura, Crowbar and Hamlet. That tour was a dream come true because we were touring with our heroes.
Now we are putting out our second record entitled “The Road Will End” on July 23rd through Iron Clad in the U.S. and Candlelight in Europe.

SL). Which band or artist turned you guys onto music and specifically introduced you to Heavy Metal/Rock and wanting to form a band?  What was it like growing up in your hometown and being fans of metal for example?

C: My official turning point to metal and heavy music in general was when I was a kid and I heard Helmet for the first time. I had listened to a bunch of hardcore and punk up until then but my tastes kept getting heavier and heavier and I didn’t know where to go. When I heard Helmet’s riffs and how powerful their drums and guitar sounded I wanted to play guitar. They looked like regular dudes just like I was so I could identify with them. The vocals were nothing fancy but were so crucial to the music and that’s what got me thinking I could be in a band. I learned how to tune to drop D and it was over from there.

When I was first starting out I had no place to practice so my friend Matt and I used to break in to his church super late at night because they had a drumset!! We would trade off between guitars and drums, even recording a couple of the worst songs ever written – just CRANKING metal in this church. We were horrible but it was the only thing we got really excited to do in life. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.

SL) A variety of music  inspired me to pick up the guitar or get into music, ranging from my pre teens with Michael Jackson, to Metallica, Frank Zappa and obviously Black Sabbath, What was your motivation to start AFA, because you were with Will Haven, The Abominable Iron Sloth too, and little know Brain in a cage, how did these experiences mould AFA?

C: For me the biggest experience I got being in Ghostride and Will Haven was learning how to write riffs. Powerful riffs. When Jeff Irwin (Will Haven guitarist) got inspired he could crank out riffs at a record pace that I would have killed for in my first band, and most of them didn’t even make the record because they didn’t meet the standards. That blew me away and made me step my game up real quick. I learned so much about the art of the riff and what goes in to it. I definitely applied that to the Abominable Iron Sloth and took the outright heaviness to another level.

When it came to AFA we didn’t have an identity at first and I think it showed. I had just come from those two bands but I didn’t want to sound too much like either one of them, so what was it supposed to sound like? It wasn’t until Kirk and Corey showed up and really started pushing my playing that I started finding my own voice. Now we all have a band where our individual voices can shine through while still sounding like a cohesive unit.

Without those personal experiences of mine, and the experiences the other guys got from their previous bands (Brain In A Cage, Blood of Cain and Red With Envy) there would be no Armed For Apocalypse. They are invaluable.

SL) So, you form AFA,   when did you go from that to writing and releasing your own music, did your sound come organically, because you’re kind of a fusion of sounds, bring together sludge and thrash at times and the kinda biohazard esque trading vocals?  Indeed vocally, theres a hint of an anselmo snarl in there too?

C: The sound came completely organically. Our style is a fusion of sounds because we get bored too easily! Haha. We’ll write a song and if another song sounds too much like it we get bored of it and say “we’ve already done that” and move on. Each song has it’s own theme and pace and that’s what keeps us interested and excited. If you listen to “The Road Will End” there are multiple fast songs, but those songs don’t sound anything alike.  Same with the slower and mid-tempo songs. We want to constantly challenge ourselves while at the same time always sound like Armed For Apocalypse if that makes any sense. That’s where the trading vocals thing came from. Kirk wanted something to keep the vocals fresh and interesting so one day Corey and I started screaming and it worked out! Haha.

As far as Kirk’s vocals go any comparison to Phil Anselmo is an obvious compliment, but any similarities are completely accidental. Kirk killed it on his takes on this record and he really dedicated himself to that craft. Things really took off when he found out he actually sounded more pissed off when he pronounced his words more clearly. Once he found his groove his vocals really started to soar.

SL) In your experience, how easy/difficult was it for AFA to get coverage in the early days?  Was your association with Will Haven and or TAIS a help or a hinderance?

C: It was easier than your normal garage band starting out because those bands give you a little bit of credibility, but beyond that coverage was very difficult. Those bands are popular to a very small and dedicated segment of the heavy music community so they weren’t the biggest boost in the world but they helped and we appreciated it.

Press, blogs, radio, etc are all still very difficult for us because we are so small and there is so much competition, so we are thankful for interviews like this!

SL) It might sound like stupid question, but is playing live important to AFA, because touring can depend upon work commitments etc? You’re a father too and Often touring is the main source of promoting your band?  Do you have to sacrifice a lot?

C: Playing live is the only reason we record albums. It’s where we love to be. It’s what makes us feel alive. It gives us the release we need to be happy, healthy people. That being said, when you are a band of our stature touring is EXTREMELY difficult. We have never made a single dime touring and in most cases have come home having lost any personal money we may have had and then some. The harshest reality is we’ve never even done a U.S. tour where the loss was worth it because we got to play in front of great crowds. So the sacrifice is immense. We would tour much more if we could because as you said it’s the best way to promote our band and we LOVE IT, but when touring costs you money eventually you run out. What then? You go back to work and save up! Haha. How long can we exist like that? Who knows. But we’re always working to find new ways to generate income and save money on the road and we will never stop trying to make it work. We simply love it too much.

Being a man that takes being a good husband and father very seriously it makes the sacrifices even that much more painful. Being away from my daughter is hard. Being away from my wife is hard. But it’s all part of the deal. It’s part of what you sign up for when you decide to be in a metal band. My wife is a saint with infinite patience and has taken this journey with me (sometimes not voluntarily) and she’s been incredible. She should get more recognition than the band! She works harder than we do when we tour, taking care of a little girl all by herself and being broke without the benefit of travelling or playing shows.

SL) There was a four year gap between the release of Defeat and your latest record, was it difficult to continue the momentum of the band during this period and how did your signing to Candlelight/IronClad come to fruition?  Do you feel perhaps that you’re having to build the momentum up again from scratch?

C: What’s crazy is we feel like more people now about us now than when the record came out and we were on the road all of the time! Haha. But yes, in general our momentum in the public consciousness  was difficult to continue. We were in a constant battle between touring and recording. “Should we tour again or should we start making another record?” We must have had the discussion a hundred times. What really forced our hand was the fact that we weren’t getting offered any tours that were going to do us any good, so why not start writing and recording??

We did this record on our own money and on our own time so it took much much longer than we would have hoped. But every time we could have cut a corner to finish the record sooner we wouldn’t do it. We just couldn’t sacrifice the quality and we couldn’t sacrifice our vision. When we finally had some mixes that were listenable we were lucky enough to have Trevor Phipps from Iron Clad fall in love with them and dedicate himself to getting this album heard, and we were lucky enough to have Candlelight feel the same way. Are we starting over again? In some ways. But it was worth it. And I can’t tell you what a difference it has made this time around having people who have actually heard of our band before! It’s so much easier!

SL) I have joked on Twitter I’d like to see you guys on a split release wit Crowbar, there are serious similarities in terms of the tone of your riffs, is that coincide and or were you directly influenced by this band.  Windstein is seriously the riff master general, thoughts?

C: Yes all around!! We have toured with Crowbar and we were all huge fans of theirs for years and years before that. There isn’t a heavier band on the planet. After listening to them for so long and touring with them we couldn’t help but let a little bit of their sound influence our music. We’re proud descendants of bands like Crowbar, Down, Sepultura, Black Sabbath and Pantera much like they are proud descendants of the bands that came before them.

Kirk Windstein is one our favourite people in the world and we are all fortunate to call him a friend. He is the riff master that all others bow down to. Just ask him and he’ll tell you! (“The Old Man can write a riff”) He also happens to be one of the funniest men on the planet. His Rob Halford impression is that of legend...

SL) Tell us some of your influences/heroes both musically and artistically, both metal and non-metal?  

C: Kirk Windstein!! Haha!!

In all seriousness I am already so long winded in this interview I couldn’t possibly tackle this list. It would be so long it would shut down the internet. I will sum it up by saying we all respect, admire and aspire to be people that do things their own way and for all the right reasons.

SL) What were your aims for The Road Will End, it kinda feel like a massive fuck you to the doubters of the band?

C: I couldn’t have said it better myself. This album is our proudest moment and we did it the way WE wanted to do it. Our aim for this record is to show people that we are the real deal and we are a voice that needs to be heard.

SL) I’m assuming all musician like to talk about the gear they use, so with that in mind what do you use in terms of guitars, amps and why? Also what tuning do you use?

C: Kirk and I both use the EVH 5150 III’s, heads and cabs. They are the best amps for metal in the world. No distortion pedals or overdrives. Very stripped down. We have an assortment of MXR and Dunlop pedals we use for effects with Kirks Carbon Copy delay being the star of the show. We both play ESP guitars loaded with EMG pickups and super huge strings (.70 on the low string). We tune to drop G and we use 6 string guitars so we need massive strings so they don’t feel like rubber bands.

Corey uses his Ampeg SVT Pro IV head and two SVT cabs. He uses a SansAmp pedal for a boost and he leaves it on all of the time. He plays ESP basses as well because they are bad ass and his are also loaded with EMG pickups. Again, a very simple tried and true set up.

Nick uses DW Drums and Istanbul cymbals surprisingly enough. His toms are massive though. He plays a 16” rack tom and an 18” floor tom. He’s such a gigantic man that it totally fits him. He beats those things in to oblivion.

Out 23/7/2013

SL) Taking a more general view of the changes in the music industry as a whole, how valuable are blogs such as the Sludgelord to bands and artists covering your music? Does all forms of media coverage translate to people buying merch, downloading music etc, coming to shows?

C: I think people today get from blogs what I used to get from reading magazines and going to the record store. People may not buy an album just because a blog wrote about it but it may at least open their mind to give it a chance. So in that regard there really isn’t a more valuable tool on the internet for bands. They are absolutely vital. Because all you can ask for as a band is a chance. One listen may turn someone in to a dedicated life-long fan.

Do blogs always translate to selling records and merch? No. But nothing does. If there was something that guaranteed record sales every label on Earth would have exploited the piss out of it by now. They certainly help, and we are very thankful for blogs like yours. Thank you for doing what you do.

SL) Quick fire question, what’s your preference?  Cassette, CD, Digital Download or Vinyl? And why?

Vinyl. The sound!!! (cassettes and cd’s still have a special place in my heart though)

SL) As music fans yourselves and given that music seems to be so disposal at times, how important for you to present a great package for the release of your record? It’s worth mentioning the brilliant artwork.  I’m a vinyl nut, can we expect a release on wax in the future

C: I think it’s only important for the people that really care, and those people are extremely important to us because WE really care. Most people are fine clicking a button and getting an MP3, I do it all of the time when I need something quickly, but the presentation is what makes albums special. It’s what gives them their mystique – their vibe. It’s the artist trying to give you a visual representation of how to digest this music. It’s another way to make the listener feel something. There are so many albums I can think of where the artwork and the music go so perfectly together that one without the other wouldn’t have had the same impact. Richey Beckett is an unbelievable artist and he captured our vision. We view his artwork as an indispensible part of the album. We are so proud to have his work associated with ours!

And yes, vinyl is a huge priority for us for “The Road Will End”.  So while I can’t promise a time frame, I can promise we are going to do everything we can to make it happen.

SL) Did you have an agenda when you began writing the new record? For example a band might want  more of the crunch, less of psychedelic type approach or just get together and jam?

C: Less noise more riff. On Defeat we thought if we tuned super low, turned the volume and gain up to 11, bashed the shit out of the drums and screamed inaudibly over it we would be heavy, and we were right to a certain degree. On “The Road Will End” we thought “what if we did all of that but actually wrote good songs?!” So, no covering up laziness with noise. Write something awesome or get out.

SL) Do you have any interesting stories from your tours, favourite places you’ve toured and bands you’ve toured with or bands you’d like to share the stage with?

C: So many. We’ve been so fortunate in so many ways. I think our favourite experience was flying to Helsinki, Finland to play one show: Tuska Open Air Festival. Megadeth, Devin Townsend, Nevermore and all these big bands headlined but we were most excited because our friends in Crowbar played the same day as us and BLOODBATH played on the same stage as we played, and they played the slot right after us. We love that band! They play live so rarely we couldn’t believe we got to see them, let alone play on the same stage as them IN FINLAND!!! We got treated so well by everyone at the festival (shout out to our friends “Turkish Rounds Petri” and Niklas!!) and we had the time of our lives.

To answer the second part of that question, Down is the band we haven’t played with yet that we all feel we need to play with to feel like we’ve done anything worth a shit in this band. Haha.

SL). Reflecting upon your time together as a band, what have been some of the high and low point in your careers. 

C: When you are in a band of our stature there are more losses than wins, but when you love each other and the music as much as we do just going to practice a few times a week is a high point. Everything else is a bonus!

When we signed our first deal with Iron Clad that was a high point. Playing with bands like Eyehategod, Hatebreed, Unearth, As I Lay Dying, Terror, Bloodbath, Crowbar and Sepultura - those are all high points. Going on tours and making friends with bands like Havok, Wretched and Shaped By Fate is a high point. Seeing places of the world we have no business seeing is a high point. Signing our new deals with Iron Clad and Candlelight is a a high point.

We’ve had more low points than we remember, but they’re not worth remembering. We’ve been turned down by every label, manager, booking agent and promoter in the business. We’ve been broken down and stranded so many times it’s pathetic. We have been (and currently are) so far in debt it’s comical. Who knows what the true lowest point is, but it doesn’t matter. All of them have eventually lead to a high point!

SL) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, you got anything you like to say to your fans?

C: We appreciate you. More than any of you know. We are thankful for each and every one of you from the bottom of our hearts. I can’t be any more real than that. It’s an honor to spend time in your speakers and on your stages.

The only thing we ask is that you help us spread the word when an opportunity arises. If you do that for us we will be eternally grateful. THANK YOU!!!

Interview by : Aaron Pickford

I'd like to say a massive Sludgelord thank you to Cayle from AforA for such an amazing interview.  All I can say is Wow.  Your time and effort is very much appreciated.  Top guy and AforA are an amazing band.  If you'd like to read Matt's amazing review, you can do so here

As ever, show your support to the band by checking them out at the various links and buying their merch. This record is available everywhere from 23 july.