Gritty, ominous and menacing is the best way to describe the latest offering from Hemoptysis, Who Needs A Shepherd. This solid Death Metal album serves up a spellbinding array of demonic delight right from the very beginning and chaos ensues throughout the rest. This five-track disc melds classic Death Metal with a healthy dose of Thrash Metal resulting in a compilation of songs that fans of this genre are sure to enjoy. The band’s music explores all the dark and gloomy ambiance one usually associates with this musical genre. Along the way, there is some very remarkable and extraordinary playing to go along with it. I recently caught up with the band as a whole and asked them some questions for PureGrainAudio.

Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music?
Masaki: I am a big fan of ’80s old school thrash. Bands like Megadeth and Slayer are the ones who inspired me to start playing guitar.

Travis: I am based in thrash at my core (old Metallica, Megadeth & Slayer) but I am mostly a death metal fan.

Sunao: I am influenced with so many genres of music, that I do not know what to say anymore. Rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop, old and new stuff. I just listen to everything.

Jack: I’m heavily influenced by melodic metal bands as well as thrash bands. Some of my favorite bands currently are Symphony X, Wintersun, Warbringer, Kalmah, and countless others.

Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?
Masaki: I mainly write the riffs and Jack dresses it up. I like how Jack makes the sound unique with his style on top of my riffs

Travis: Both Masaki and I write lyrics. Sometimes he will write lyrics for a whole song. Sometimes I will do a whole one. Sometimes we will work on lyrics together.

Sunao: I don’t write songs in the band, but I’m trying to make the songs more powerful, and make them flow by arranging the bass lines.

Jack: All of the writing is done when we are all in the same room together so it is a real creative process between the four of us.

The name of the band Hemoptysis is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
Travis: My wife is a pharmacist who specializes in infectious diseases and when we were stuck on finding an original band name, I asked her for sick medical terms we could use. Some of the terms were disgusting terms that involved vomit or fecal matter. When she said Hemoptysis and told me what it meant, I got excited because it sounded so cool and had a very metal meaning, “coughing up blood.” We all loved it and stuck with it.

Give us some insight into the record, Who Needs A Shepherd, and the meaning behind its title?
Travis: “Who Needs a Shepherd?” is the title track of the CD and the first song we came up with as a band. Masaki wrote all the music and our original singer wrote most of the lyrics with the help of Masaki here and there. However, the theme of the song came from the title of the sermon you hear playing at the beginning of the song. I was forced to go to church when living with my parents and I was sitting in the congregation over ten years ago when this was recorded by the church. The church would record sermons to tape and give them out the next week for free. When the priest said what he says at the beginning of this song I wanted to jump up and scream, “Hell yeah!” because what he said made it clear that Christians are weak and people who don’t need Christianity are strong. At that time, I totally envisioned that part of the sermon at the beginning of a metal song so the following week I picked up the recorded sermon knowing that one day I would be in a band and this would be a great set up to an anti-Christian song. The song also inspired the album’s artwork. I gave the idea off to Evil Dave at Incision Tattoo in Glendale Arizona of a lion representing Satan devouring Jesus as Jesus’ sheep ran away and Evil Dave tweaked that idea to make it so much better. He made a huge valley of skulls representing countless Christians instead of sheep.

When you compare the early days of Death metal to the scene today what do you feel has changed for the better? What do you feel has become worse?
Travis: Production has become a lot better, obviously, which gets the ideas across more clearly most of the time, but it is hard to be original anymore. So many song topics have been done over and over again that it is hard to find different topics or make the same ones fresh. The same can be said for the music too. In order to be original you have to combine more genres or be more technical or both. I feel Hemoptysis does a great job of naturally melding genres to create something unique from thrash, black, and death metal styles and other completely different genres too. Not only that, but I think a lot of our lyrics feel original even when similar topics may have been done by other bands because we feel the emotions of the topics we write about. Moreover, with so many different influences in the band we have people around that can spot something that has been recorded or written before on another CD from several different genres.

Jack: What’s changed for the better is that now, with the internet and MySpace, promoting one’s own music is as easy as simply talking to as many people as you can on the internet. Back before this, people had to send out demo tapes across the world and it was a much more annoying and drawn-out process for promotion. However, I generally prefer the sound of older Death Metal.

How quick are you in the studio? Can you usually knock things out in a couple takes?
Masaki: It depends on the part and condition. Especially vocals, you can’t do anything if your voice is tired you know? We usually knock out things quickly.

Travis: Not me! I get nervous like I am taking a test. Then you have someone trying to move your drums and cymbals to new heights and locations and telling you to play parts you have played hundreds of times differently RIGHT NOW! Nerve racking! But I hope to start feeling more comfortable recording because we are actually going to do “pre-production” from now on so there will be less stress and fewer screw ups.

Sunao: Personally, I only needed a few takes to record this EP. I went to the studio about 1 o’clock, and finish about 3 or 4. Including my smoking break. It felt like I was on fire or something!

Jack: Rhythms are usually pretty easy but for solos I can do ridiculous amounts of takes on one part just to get it sounding how I want.

Some of these riffs are pretty demanding. Is it a major challenge to sing and play them at the same time?
Masaki: It was a huge issue for me when I started because I was not planning to sing in this band. I’m comfortable now, though I wish I could move around the stage more and focus on guitar.

Do you get nervous before a performance?
Masaki: It depends. Sometimes I get unbelievably nervous and sometimes I’m not.

Travis: I get nervous as in, “I want to play the show right now!” Unless I have not warmed up at all and I am being forced right on stage, then I will be nervous because I know how bad that could potentially turn out.

Sunao: I have done like 100s of live performance with my former bands, so I am really used to playing live now. I do not get nervous at all!

Jack: I’m still pretty new to playing live but I’ve been trained at an early age to perform in front of others when I was taking guitar lessons so it’s a very relaxing process for me.

When you are on the road for a while I am sure you see and experience many different things you might not even have known existed. Are there any stories that stand out in your mind as being exceptionally strange or odd?
Travis: We actually have not toured yet, but we have met some interesting people and played with some weird bands. One of our first few shows had us going on before a Christian hardcore band of kids around the age of 15 or 16. Another show had us go on after a sorry excuse for a band where the singer was in a country style dress and they were playing some really awful music that I guess might have been punk. I do not know. I would not even consider what they were doing music.

When you are out on the road anything can happen and often does. Can you think of any disastrous events that happened while out on tour? How did you solve the problem?
Travis: Well I think it was our second show with Jack on lead guitar and he broke a string on the first note of the first song! He played the song without that string, but then he had to change the strings right there on stage in front of everyone while I played a drum solo to try to fill the void. We had hired a photographer and he obviously couldn’t do his normal job except for taking extra pics of me while I just kept playing and playing while constantly looking over at Jack to see where he was at on replacing his strings. I’ll never forget that!

Sunao: I am sure all the problems we will have will be related to our instruments. We will try not to break them; but who knows. We would love it if some big companies would endorse us and give us some free instruments!

What does the future hold for you guys as a band?
Masaki: Tour around the world!

Travis: Recording a full length record late this year, hopefully, and recording a music video for “Shadow of Death” off our debut EP, hopefully this summer!

Sunao: First of all, we need to come up with some money for recording. It sucks, but as we work hard to do that, the final product will be super!

Jack: Get a full length out and hopefully be able to tour and promote it.  [ END ]