Interview with guitarist Matt Barnes
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: June 22, 2014
From the darkest shadows of Huntsville, Alabama, crawls a Death Metal monster better known as Chaos Inception. The band was formed early in 2008, after the band Fleshitized, featuring guitarist Matt Barnes and drummer Gary White, called it quits.
Chaos Inception has recorded two albums for the Czech Republic's underground label Lavadome Productions. The band's debut, Collision with Oblivion, shattered the ground beneath our feet in 2009 and, three years later the band targeted us with their most powerful and devastating Death Metal missile yet, The Abrogation, which turned that shattered ground to dust. Chaos Inception has quickly become popular among extreme Metal fans by letting their Death Metal do the talking.
Guitarist Matt Barnes was kind enough to shed light on some Chaos Conception related matters via the following interview that was done via email...
Luxi: What's new in Huntsville, Alabama?
Matt: Nothing is new, but the temperature is definitely up. How's it going?
Luxi: Going well, thanks for asking. We have a very typical summer weather over here in Finland... it's been raining non-stop the whole damn day... sucks man! Anyway, could you explain what Chaos Inception is all about, lyrically and musically? I am sure that there are plenty of Metal fans out there who have never heard of Chaos Inception before, so here's your chance to wake them up...
Matt: Chaos Inception is, at its foundation, a blasting Death Metal band. We deal in fantasy horror, supernatural horror. We deal in heat, in hell, where others may represent the wetness or cold. Our landscape is the barren wasteland, the ruins of civilization, a return to the primeval. We are not high-tech, futuristic, or robotic. There is blood and sweat here – sickness – and we ply our trade with hammers rather than lasers. The music is representational, as it is meant to be a soundtrack to events and the sounds are meant to bring images to mind. The music tells a story, and the story hits more than one emotional note, yet we are not interested in re-writing the rules or the structures of the style. We are four guys who like to play Death Metal as it was originally defined and intended and as we think it should be.
Luxi: Chaos Inception was formed in 2008 by you and Gary White from the ashes of Fleshtized, a band said to resemble Morbid Angel musically, but a more aggressive and heavier version. Why did Fleshtized break up and did you try to get rid off all the Morbid Angel comparisons when you formed Chaos Inception?
Matt: Morbid Angel comparisons are one thing, but I think Fleshtized were inappropriately labeled as Morbid Angel clones, which anyone who is into Death Metal can hear that the two bands have only superficial resemblances, such as blast beats. Fleshtized recorded a cover of "Rapture" for a Morbid Angel tribute album, and, against their wishes, Mighty Music put the song on their full-length CD. The riffs on that CD sound very little like Morbid Angel, and the solos sound nothing like Morbid Angel, as Casey Robertson was more of an elite shredder, playing neo-Classical and fusion style solos. The lyrics are not like Morbid Angel at all. Chaos Inception is more like Morbid Angel than was Fleshtized, and that's fine by me. I think every Death Metal band can be said to be a son of Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Entombed, or Death. Notice I did not say "clone" but there is perhaps a patriarchy or a family tree. There is a family resemblance with bands like Possessed, Morbid Angel, Krisiun, Hate Eternal, Centurian, Chaos Inception, and many others, but it hasn't been given a specific tag yet, and only the untrained ear would say that those bands are clones. Luciferion perhaps took their love for Blessed Are the Sick too far, but I still like their stuff, too.
Luxi: Was it easy for you to find the right guys to play in Chaos Inception?
Matt: No, we had a few line-up changes before getting the right people. The first vocalist we had got into electronic/noise music and moved. We've had a few bass players as well. We've never had another guitarist, because it was a source of problems in previous bands. When two guitarists are involved and when their writing styles clash, it's hard for the band to form an identity, and to have a single-minded purpose. It's a priority of mine to keep the current lineup and to let everyone contribute their ideas.
Luxi: You have released two studio albums so far; Collision with Oblivion in 2009 and The Abrogation in 2012. What are the main differences between these albums, from your point of view?
Matt: I think we progressed as songwriters from the first album and the second album had more of a focus on the song. The solos were more song-serving. The song length wasn't dictated by a standard, but by how long it took to make the statement or tell the story. For instance, "Hammer of Infidel" off the second album is very short. If it had been part of the first album, I imagine we'd have said it was too short and would have added riffs to it as filler. There was an instrumental on the first album which served to give the label a song count and a running time that was acceptable to them, so there was probably more filler on the 1st album. Also, there was less melody on the first album. We are learning how to have melodies and memorable parts without changing the style of music we play and without it being obtrusive to the listener. Hopefully, they can feel like they are being pummeled with brutality while they are actually being uplifted by good music.
Luxi: Both Chaos Inception albums were recorded at Stargate Studios there in Huntsville. Is this studio owned by one of you guys and that's the main reason why you have always recorded there or are there different reasons for using this particular studio?
Matt: Partly because it is conveniently only about 5 miles from my house. We cannot justify spending large amounts on a recording when we cannot recoup the money. Mostly, I'd say it is because we have a great relationship to Lance Wright, who you may know is a great Death Metal drummer and guitarist himself, and he recorded and mixed both albums for us. We are good friends going back years and he knows what we're going for, sound-wise. Lance is currently in the band Abraxas. He's probably the only one I know who could tell me something I played sucked and I'd actually believe him. Well . . . sometimes.
Luxi: When Collision... and The Abrogation were released people who heard them often compared them to Morbid Angel, Krisiun, Nile, Hate Eternal and such troops of extreme Metal. Do you find these comparisons a compliment or a bit annoying?
Matt: It's neither a compliment nor an insult, because it is accurate. It should help people to find out about bands that they will probably like, so when distros describe our music as being "for fans of Morbid Angel, Krisiun, etc," I am ok with that. Even when we are writing we have some riffs that sound similar to other bands and we'll just refer to it as the "Nile rip-off riff" for example, though we try to cut the riffs that sound too much like someone else. At this point, all we can do is what comes naturally to us, without trying to write according to a fixed template. Anything we do will be Chaos Inception music, because it comes from us. That kind of confidence may have been lacking in the early stages. As far as comparisons go, one of the best compliments we ever had was something to the effect of "The Abrogation is the best South American Death Metal album of all time." It was really great to hear that, because that was my goal all along, and I predicted that reaction for my band mates before the album came out. I've done my homework as a listener.
Luxi: How much has your experience in other bands helped you make a band like Chaos Inception work the way it should, both on record and live?
Matt: As far as live shows goes, the experience means we are ready for anything, and we don't worry too much about things like breaking a string or if my amp blows up. We don't panic before shows, and we don't beat ourselves up after shows. I don't know if our live show is exactly mind-blowing, as we don't have any gimmicks or synchronized moves. I am just trying to get into the music so it sounds as good as it possibly can. I've learned not to drink over four alcoholic beverages before a show. The experience of being in other failed bands also helps because you learn how not to run things. Dictatorships are not the best thing in the world, unless you have some money to give to, say, a bass player who you write all the parts for or a singer that you write all the lyrics for. Anyways, previous experience has taught us to avoid disaster, but not necessarily how to take over the world.
Luxi: What are some of the most important things in Chaos Inception to you, on a personal level?
Matt: I think we all have our demons, and for me, when I get past all the physical aspects of playing the music, or the aspects of writing catchy songs with verses and choruses, the sound of the music that we write envelops me and it becomes a spiritual experience and even a catharsis. The goal is the ability to play the songs without paying attention to the physicality of moving your fingers on strings, but thinking about something else, and communicating non-verbally – maybe it's something you wouldn't talk about openly, or sick or diseased thoughts, or thoughts of revenge and retribution, just for some examples. This also applies to listening to the music – to be able to listen and not hear the means of expression, but only the content of the expression, I guess. Or to hear what can't be said. When I think about it, I'd have to say that the most important thing for me is to make great albums that will stand the test of time (not just for other listeners, but for myself), and that happens when the music points to something beyond its superficial characteristics. I play music and use Death Metal as my means of expression, yet I did not choose Death Metal because I wanted to express only feelings of hatred and morbidity. Actually, I probably did initially because I was a pretty fucked up individual, but now I need more from it. I have to express everything through the music, and I feel no urge to do any type of soft side project, so it becomes a challenge to put everything in life into a Death Metal album. This is important to me, and I think this might make us different from other bands in our family tree. I know that our music not only explores hatred, darkness, madness, and other-worldliness, but there is also joy and happiness, which also occurs over a blast beat and distorted and detuned guitars, superficially. We don't take the easy way to do that, and we don't betray the roots of death metal in the process. There is no irony or humor in our music, like you see these days with a lot of "postmodern" black metal – guys doing the opposite of what black metal is about and calling it more black metal, because it is more rebellious, or some childish notion. But back to the question, I'd finish up by telling the truth and admitting we would like mundane success as well – it would be nice to be able to sell a few CDs and get invited to play some bigger shows.
Luxi: You have also been working on new songs for Chaos Inception's third album. Can you enlighten us a bit about your forthcoming stuff? Does it follow the same musical formula of your previous albums, perhaps with a twist of something totally unexpected?
Matt: We try to push the limits and take some chances on new albums. That old song was fast? We must play faster! That intro was slow? We must write one slower and crustier. Those lyrics were absurd? - You get the idea. In this music, even being melodic is something you must dabble in and expand with each album, because you don't want to end up sounding like you just stuck some Iron Maiden harmonies on your Death Metal song. So we just write what comes naturally and take it and stretch it in all directions. It will be the same band, but everything will be one step further than before. There will be nothing completely unexpected, because we won't resort to stupid gimmicks to try and be different. There will be no irony or goofiness, which seems to run rampant these days – outside the songs, sure, we are just as goofy and have a sense of humor like anyone else, but the stuff we see on Death Metal bands' videos and pictures – I don't want to use the term posers, because you might as well call them "whippersnappers" – you'd just be showing how old you are, and how stuck in the past you are. In the postmodern era, being a "poser" is irrelevant, if not outright celebrated. Again, I'll mention this new thing - you constantly see Black Metal bands with pink album covers and lyrics about fun and birthday parties. Is this funny to someone? Does it make it acceptable to listen to Black Metal, because it makes it intellectual? Or is it fake because you have to be ironic and tongue in cheek about your pain, because you are afraid to tell someone who you really are (or confess what ails you). Maybe you don't believe in subjectivity, through your postmodernist studies, or maybe you want to pretend you don't so you can become a darling of the critics? But all you really did was steal someone else's soul and their anguish and their darkness, and change a few notes to change the chords from minor to major – meanwhile keeping the emotion that the genre was made to express at arm's length?
Sorry for that tangent – it's a new and troubling trend I'm really trying to diagnose. Anyway, the good news for our fans is, no matter how hard we try to simplify the songs, they just get harder to play and more chaotic. It's just how our minds work. We definitely do not take the easy way, simplifying the songs perhaps to get a broader appeal, and to make it easier on us learning and performing the material. To give you another teaser, one of the themes I have been stressing for this album, and this will probably make its way into a song title (and it's written in large letters on a dry-erase board in our rehearsal space) – "Bestialismo".
Luxi: What do you hope to accomplish with this forthcoming Chaos inception album? More gig opportunities, perhaps even playing outside your home country?
Matt: After the last album came out it actually sold pretty well at first and we had some good reviews. We have opened up for some bigger bands, we made some "Best Album of the Year" lists, and some made men have been seen sporting our t-shirts. That was all great, but we are not completely satisfied. However, there's only so much we can do regarding gigs. We've paid some heavy dues touring in many different bands, and have lost thousands of dollars doing so; so if I say that at our level, we have no plans at all to tour the US, I think we can be forgiven. There's nothing worse than having people writing to you about how big a fan they are and they could die happy if you played their town, and then one day you do and they don't even show up because you're playing Tuesday night and they have to go to work in the morning so they can't come! - trust me, it happens all the time. You feel like telling them, "Hey asshole, I'm supposed to be at work too, but I just drove 1000 miles to play for you and three of your friends!" Then you get, "I don't know what happened, there's supposed to be 300 people here. I think it's the weather. Hey, do you think I can get one of those shirts? All I have is $2." That last one is a big one with me: we paid to press our own shirts and a guy comes to a free show and says we are great and put on a good show and as we are loading our gear he asks, "Can I get a shirt, but all I have is $2?" Remember, this guy is shit-faced, and was seen buying and drinking beer straight from the pitcher all night. Maybe they don't realize what they're saying, or they don't understand what's involved in doing what we do at this level, but that is a slap in the face. We put on the show, they got in for free, and we paid $9 to press our shirts which we sell for $10, and this guy - who usually smells like he shit his pants and his breath smells like he's been munching on a bum's asshole all night - wants us to pay him for the privilege of giving him a shirt? No, I don't see us touring unless the right opportunity comes along, but opportunities like that do not just come along, you have to make them happen yourself, and you have to make some heavy sacrifices. So there's a very slim possibility that you'll see us playing a gig outside of the southern US unless it is a festival. We would be happy to perform at festivals anywhere and everywhere in the world, as long as we can break even and not have to pay to play.
Luxi: Are you happy with the band's situation as far as getting enough chances to play local gigs? Do you have your own booking agent or is the booking of gigs for Chaos Inception completely in your own hands?
Matt: Yes, we do our own bookings. Mostly Cam and Chris White handle that. Eric Gordon from Hall of the Two Truths and Quinta Essentia is really helpful and books us a lot here. We can play locally anytime we'd like, but there are not many venues to play locally. Even in Nashville, there were many great shows at a small place called The Muse (where I saw everything from Metal Church to 1349 to Napalm Death), which has shut down, so I don't even know where you can book a Death Metal gig in Nashville. Swayze's in Atlanta isn't doing much these days, with Evan March busy running Deathgasm Records. The thing missing in this scene is a decent, medium sized club with a good sound system where more popular Death bands could play. It makes no sense, because when heavy bands like Cannibal Corpse, Down, or Origin come to Huntsville, they do good business. But that is the extent of the heavy shows here in the past 5 years or so! There just isn't a venue for it.
Luxi: It's natural that every time you start writing new stuff, you want to try and top your previous album. Do you believe you have done that with the songs for your next album?
Matt: When I think about it, I don't really see it that way. I do not really try to top the last album, because I don't have it in mind at all when I'm writing new stuff. If any comparison is made to the last album, I try to write something simply different from it. Some of the songs are similar to previous songs you've written, and that's ok for us, as long as something new is involved, or perhaps it corrects a mistake that you made on your first attempt to write that song. So my answer is, the new album must have different songs on it, and whether they're better or worse is up to the listeners. Chances are, we think they are better at the moment, being too close to make an objective judgment. I admit, there is some pressure now because we like The Abrogation a lot.
Luxi: Whenever you are in the mood to write new stuff, I assume you have found yourself in the situation when you feel like this or that song might still need something and it never gets finished because of that. So, my question is, do you know when you have a completely finished song in your hands and when you don't? Do you consider perfectionism a curse or blessing?
Matt: I never finish anything – it just gets taken from me, especially the solos. Songs are a little easier to finish, because I try to make concise statements with a song, and when I've said it all, it's done. There may be some tweaking of a note here or there, and it's funny how you can spend hours a day for a week just trying to decide on a single note of a riff. It's a curse and a blessing that Gary White is a perfectionist with regard to his playing. He sets a high bar for the rest of the band to meet. I, on the other hand, am not exactly a perfectionist when it comes to playing, but more so when it comes to writing. However, with a band where everyone can contribute, sometimes you have to trust in your brothers and go with the part they bring rather than what you imagine would be its perfection.
Luxi: How hungry or ambitious has Chaos Inception made you as a musician? The stuff Chaos Inception does is very complex, multi-layered and technical Death Metal that really demands a lot from a musician and you must want to top your previous work, correct?
Matt: You have to have your chops at a certain level to play this way, but I find that more of my time is spent writing than practicing. I think this is true for most musicians when they get older. You practice 10 hours a day when you're young, maybe because you have nothing to say with the instrument when you're starting out. Later on, you practice less, because your practicing is more focused and more effective, and you really only need to play what you are playing in your band. I only have time to practice what I'm supposed to be able to play, which are my bands' songs. I personally don't consider us a technical band, because I'm not a fan of a lot of that. We are bestial Death Metal played to the best of our ability, and not technical Death Metal played as far as our guitar lessons would allow, built upon hot licks and guitar tricks. Tech Death sometimes lacks balls, or guts, and it sounds like schooled guitar virtuosos who are slumming. When I hear some Holdsworth style fusion runs, I don't picture a serial killer fornicating with a decomposed corpse, yet when I read the lyric sheet, this is what the vocalist is grunting and pig squealing about! It's senseless. I can imagine a technical death band with members listing their main influences as Chick Corea and Beethoven, and writing a concept album based off the Nekromantik films. I don't get it. I can't hear beyond when I'm listening to technical Death Metal; I hear the stool, the footrest, and someone's fingers on the guitar strings. I would like for people to hear something like the roar of the Kraken when they are listening to us.
Luxi: How important are your album covers and do they reflect what Chaos Inception's inner soul is made of?
Matt: The covers have both been happy accidents. We've had two great artists who happened to speak English as a second language, so we had a slight language barrier in our communications with them. We actually gave them almost the same concept, which was originally from the lyrics of "Black Vapor of Corruption Rise." We sent them the concept and the music and that is what they created. They used very similar colors, though they were free to use any colors they liked. I like to leave some things to chance and not have total control over the outcome. The good news was we liked both of the cover paintings and used them – if we had not liked them, I don't know what we'd have done.
Luxi: Do you have plans to bring things to the next level with Chaos Inception, including a professional video for one of the songs off your next album? You can reach thousands and thousands of people by posting your videos on the Internet and you never know what that may bring.
Matt: Yes, we're giving this some thought but it depends on what you mean by "professional." I think we will be like most bands with videos – "Hey, I know a dude with a camera that is pretty good with editing video on the computer." I believe we have something like that in the works now. It is one of the best ways to reach people though, through YouTube videos and posting them on other sites to promote them. It is a good idea.
Luxi: What are you hoping to achieve with this band, besides the obvious fame and fortune thing of course, ha-ha...
Matt: Yes, I've been thinking about taking my profits from the next album and opening an IRA, maybe getting some real estate. We're also debating whether we should open for Metallica on the tour for the next album, because some say that they've sold out, and I just don't know if I can tarnish the Chaos Inception brand by playing with them. No, seriously our goals are very modest; to keep the band together with the original line-up, to release quality albums without too many years in between, to play worthwhile gigs, to have a few laughs and to create a great and meaningful work of art. I think if we keep doing what we're doing, eventually we will be considered Death Metal stalwarts, seasoned veterans, elder statesmen, and we will be asked to play some of the bigger and better festivals.
Luxi. If you had the skills to turn Chaos Inception's music into a movie script, what kind of scenes would it include?
Matt: It would be about the end of the world, with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, and you'd have a lot of battles with Orcs or some other kind of mutants, like in Lord of the Rings. That might be it – Lord of the Rings in a post-apocalyptic future, and without the elves or the sappy story that even a pathetic fuck-up is important and can be a hero. Here, the Frodo character catches a bullet in the head in the first scene, like sweet, innocent Roy Tucker in Dawn of the Dead. I think in our version the bad guys would win, or the good guys with questionable morals would temporarily triumph, as in a Tarantino flick or Dawn of the Dead. You thought Peter was going to commit suicide when all the sudden, "Dunt da da daa!" – He punches out a zombie and climbs the rope onto the chopper. Lots of battle scenes (most of the time I hear our music I picture the clash of swords, especially the songs with the pulse in threes). I also imagine airplanes dropping bombs, like napalm in Vietnam. The war would be on multiple fronts (some in the desert, some in the vastness of space, some in a sewer, some in the flames of Hell), a couple tough losses and fallen warriors, but in the end, victory for a rag-tag group of misfits. There'd probably be some scenes like in Maniac where Joe Spinell has Vaseline all over his face with the camera 2" in front of it, as we have some songs about the mind of a maniac. We could score the film along with Fabio Frizzi and John Carpenter.
Luxi: Thank you very much for your time for getting this interview done for The Metal Crypt and I wish you all the best with all future endeavors with Chaos Inception. If you want to throw in your "mandatory" last words, by all means feel free to do so to conclude this interview properly...
Matt: I enjoyed the interview and thanks for the opportunity to tell the Metal Crypt readers a little bit about us. I hope they will be compelled to check out our music, and when you do, listen to it LOUD! That is the only way to hear it.
|Other information about Chaos Inception on this site|
|Review: The Abrogation|
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