Shai Hulud guitarist Matthew Fox has been busy touring in support of the band’s latest album, Misanthropy Pure. Recently I hung out with him in Oshawa, Ontario where I got to ask some questions about touring, metalcore and how the writing is going for the next Shai Hulud album.
How’s the tour going so far?
Matthew: So far, so good; we always love coming to Canada. This tour is short and is around SCENEfest which is cool, but since there are a lot of bands here, turnouts are a little skim. The other night we played and Lionheart were playing down the street and Lionheart does really well up here in Canada. But still, the enthusiasm has been fantastic even if some of the turnout numbers have been lower, but that has never stopped us from performing like there’s 5,000 people.
That’s a professional right there. So how do you keep busy when transporting to the next venue?
Matthew: The drives on this tour… the drives have only been an hour or two. We’ve been pretty lucky on this run. But when we have longer drives I’m the kind of guy that’s not easily bored. I have enough going on in my brain to keep me busy. Otherwise, conversation is always nice, we’ve all got our iPods, I know it sounds silly, but I play solitaire and we always have movies on our laptops. I’ve got my CD wallet of movies I’ve been meaning to catch up on, so when the drive looks four or five hours long I pop in a movie or two. We were just in Europe last week and the drives every night were at least five hours so I got to catch up on a few films which was cool.
Any certain movies you think were really good?
Matthew: A lot of movies are ones I’ve watched but wanted to re-see, but for new ones? I watch a movie called “Redbelt” by David Mamet about corruption in MMA fighting. That was a really cool movie I hadn’t seen before which I liked. Otherwise I caught up on “Terms Of Endearment” which I haven’t seen in a long time, “Play It Again Sam”, an old Woody Allen movie and “Brewster’s Millions” with Richard Pryor which is a 80’s comedy I really liked growing up.
I haven’t seen those movies in years, I’ll have to catch up on them.
Matthew: Yeah they’re fun movies.
You guys announced earlier that you guys are working on a new album?
Matthew: Yeah, we are always tinkering away and after being a band for 15 years and with our track record it’s pretty obvious we take a bit more time in between albums than anyone else. I don’t know if it’s because we’re lazy or picky or busy? Maybe all of the above. But finally we have sat down and tried to finish the thing up so after this tour I think we are going to focus on finishing up all the music and then crack down on the lyrics. The goal is to record the album by the end of the year and hope for a summer release next year.
Is it going to be on Metal Blade Records like Misanthropy Pure?
Matthew: I believe so.
How do you guys go about writing?
Matthew: I don’t think there’s any rules that we follow. Any one of us will sit alone with his guitar and come up with a musical theme that we can expand on and make into a song. That’s what I do. I mess around with the guitar and come up with something cool, a nice little run that can make for an interesting part, or if I’m lucky come up with characteristics that can be a chorus or something we can repeat over and over again. Something I can then expand on making a whole song. But usually it stems from one guy sitting around playing his guitar.
At the end of this tour I think our singer and I are going to take all of our ideas and try mixing them together and flesh out entire songs. There is no set formula, and if one person comes up with something which they think is cool and brings it up to someone else and they think it sucks we throw that idea out the window. So sometimes what we think will be the fetus of the song will be nothing at all. I don’t know how other bands write, but I’m sure it starts with a cool riff and they build on that. Sometimes a song title or a lyric idea can start a song which is kind of backwards, but our band is very lyrically driven. So sometimes the tone of the lyrics will set the stage of what the music will sound like.
Do you ever think of the live show when you write?
Matthew: Not usually… That’s a secondary thought if anything. I think when we write a song and we see how difficult or simple it is to play we say “Oh wow this will be fun to play live because it will be easy to move around to.” But we never think about the live show while writing. If we did, we sure would have never wrote our last two albums. Our last two albums are complex guitar-wise, at least for us, especially the last one, very hard to play live and cleanly and definitely hard to play and be energetic. It’s the kind of stuff you need to plant your fleet and your eyes on your fret bored. At least for us since we are not the greatest players. So yeah we mainly focus on the listener and how they would listen/react to the CD or mp3.
Check out the song “Misanthropy Pure” here.
I know you were one of the originals to push the term “metalcore” around. Do you see it as a metalcore band still?
Matthew: No certainly not. I don’t think anyone likes to relegate there music to one specific genre. But we would be foolish not to say we are rooted into the hardcore. The band is stemmed from the hardcore scene and is very much rooted in it from our ethics, merch prices, live show and how we interact with the crowd. It would be very easy for a strict metal head to see us on stage and call us hardcore.
The term metalcore was something me and my friend really joked around about it. I’m sure we didn’t coin the term, but we probably joked about it more publicly more than anyone. We were listening to Earth Crisis’ Destroy The Machines, but we were like “Wow this is not hardcore, it’s metal. It’s not hardcore it’s metalcore”. That was the joke and that’s what we started calling ourselves but back then no one was calling themselves metalcore so it was a tongue in cheek thing. But now you can go up to a 13 and his favourite genre is metalcore, we definitely are not a metalcore band since we are different to the ones today. But I think it’s a funny term.
I think it was a great term when defining bands like Earth Crisis and Shai Hulud.
Matthew: To reiterate, what it is today is clearly not what we are.
Do you still run your label At Dawn We Wage War?
Matthew: No, we had the idea of doing a record label like everyone did when we were younger. We released a couple CDs of bands who released an album touring a bit then breaking up. It was something we never took seriously and we didn’t impact the music industry. We released a couple cool CDs here and there. If we did release something it would be one of our small projects we are always talking about doing. The music industry is having a hard enough time without needing another label. The time for that was the 90s and early 2000s. 2011 and forward does not seem like the right time to be doing anything in a record label.
I’ve always wanted to ask you this. How did it come about with you helping to write Further Seems Forever’s track “Just Until Sundown”?
Matthew: I did not write it, I helped in a minimal degree. I think I wrote a bass line that descends near the beginning that I wrote. My influence was very small and I can’t take credit for it. Two parts maybe. I’ve always been moved by melody and when Josh wrote the first riff to the song I was like “Let’s see what I can write to that”. In this instance melody gave birth to melody. If you have any love for music, melody will always strike your fancy. If I have the distortion pedal on or off, it’s the melodies that hit me so I gravitate to write them.
What’s happening with you after this tour?
Matthew: Maybe some international touring, but what I think the folks at Metal Blade are looking for is a new album to be written and recorded for the end of the year.