Interview with vocalist and guitarist Shaun Farrugia
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 26, 2015
Australian thrashers In Malice's Wake is at the top of a wave of success. Italy's Punishment 18 Records, which specializes in Thrash Metal, saw the potential and snapped up the band in the late spring of 2015.
In Malice's Wake is working hard with songs for their third studio album, Light Upon the Wicked, which is set to be released on November 30, 2015. Light Upon the Wicked is said to be their darkest and heaviest album so far, building on what they did on their two previous albums, Eternal Nightfall and The Thrashening, with a twist of extra brutality and aggression.
Vocalist and guitarist Shaun Farrugia reveals more about their latest work via a chat The Metal Crypt had with him recently...
Luxi: First of all, I know this comes late but my sincere congratulations for your record deal with Punishment 18 Records. How did you end up signing with them?
Shaun: Hi Luxi, great to chat with you once again! Thank you very much. We got in contact with Punishment via our friends from Harlott who were signed with them at the time (they are now on Metal Blade). They put me in touch with Luca, a friend of the label, who helped arrange the deal. It was a very exciting development for us because, as you know, we have been independent for well over 12 years.
Luxi: Do you believe that Punishment 18 Records is able to offer In Malice's Wake the things that you expect them to? Have you been happy with the way things have worked out so far?
Shaun: Yes, very much so! They have been great to deal with so far and dedicated to helping promote our music. They have done a fantastic job re-releasing our first two albums worldwide and we are especially excited to have them help our newest record reach a wider audience later this year in November.
Luxi: Then let's talk a bit more about Light Upon the Wicked, shall we? You had a different team this time. Bassist Luke Blaso and guitarist Dave Graham were replaced by Karl Watterson and Leigh Bartley in 2014. How was it working with them on this new In Malice's Wake's opus? How much of an influence on the musical direction of Light Upon the Wicked did they have?
Shaun: Man, they have been amazing! Two of the songs had already been written prior to the new guys coming on board ("Hear the Howls" and "A Sign of the Times") but Karl and Leigh both had a lot to contribute to the writing of the whole album. Leigh brought in two songs, which I then put lyrics to, but other than that they were completely written musically. They are "Indoctrinator" and "Annihilation Frost." The life and enthusiasm that the guys brought on board was brilliant and it really fed the excitement Mark and I already had about the album. We worked as a great unit on this album and it was a hell of a lot of fun.
Luxi: When you started working with the songs for this new album how much of the musical direction was decided in advance? Do you believe you reached the musical goals that you had set for this record?
Shaun: Yeah I think we've nailed what we set out to achieve. I wanted to take what we had already done in the past (the melodic approach of Eternal Nightfall and the aggression of The Thrashening) and darken the mood while upping the brutality and aggression significantly. I have been greatly influenced by bands like Bloodbath, Vader, Vital Remains, Behemoth, etc. over the last few years and while we wanted this to still sound like a Thrash release (which it does for the most part), I believe the atmosphere and vibe is significantly darker and heavier. I am very excited with what we have achieved.
Luxi: What makes Light Upon the Wicked a better and more satisfying album than your previous albums? Were there some things that you paid more attention to this time?
Shaun: We've always paid very close attention to details with each release, more than ever this time around, and it has ended up sounding exactly as I'd hoped from the outset. Both Eternal Nightfall and The Thrashening were fantastic, in my opinion, but they took on a life of their own as the songs came out and as they were recorded. This one has nailed the vision I had in my head and in many respects surpassed it. It has a true haunting darkness that doesn't fade after repeated listens, it is brutally heavy, each song stands on its own and is unique and there are many great things going on with each member's performance (the drums need special mention here; I love what Mark has done). You could say the same things about our prior releases I guess but they have all come together here in a way that I don't think we've achieved before. From start to finish this album excites me as a listener and has taken in the many influences of my recent years as a Metal fan and blended them in seamlessly with our signature sound. The results are killer.
Luxi: You decided to use some guests for backing vocals on this new record and they were no less than current and past members of In Malice's Wake. Where did you get the idea for getting help from your past members for the guest vocals?
Shaun: We're really proud of our long history and we've been lucky enough to have many incredible people work with us in this band, all of whom remain good friends. The idea of having all past members come in to do backing vocals was a way of honoring the role each member has played in building this band up to what it is today. We had Dave Lowes (demo and Blackened Skies EP), Ben Withers (demo through Eternal Nightfall), Dave Graham (Eternal Nightfall and The Thrashening) and Luke Blaso (The Thrashening). It was a great day and it was a thrill to have all of these great people along with the current line-up together to have fun smashing out these vocals.
Luxi: If you were forced to pick just one song as a highlight from this record which would it be and why?
Shaun: I'm really happy to say that is extremely difficult to answer. Even within the band we all have different favorites. At this moment my favorite is "In Darkness" but I love the title track, "From Beyond" and "Annihilation Frost" also. It is often said but I really don't believe there is a weak track among the lot. And it is best listened to from start to finish of course!
Luxi: How easy or difficult was it to create this new opus? Did your past studio experience make Light Upon the Wicked an easy album to make as you already knew which sound fit In Malice's Wake best?
Shaun: The process of recording was extremely smooth and productive (as was The Thrashening with engineer Ermin). This time round we worked with Chris Themelco (Monolith Studios who also did the sound for our Visions of Live Destruction release). Everything went incredibly well and came together in the short space of three months. He achieved incredible results with the sound and could not have nailed the sound I described any more accurately. The latter half of the song-writing process saw a few issues with illness and loss affect a few of our members (without going into details) and as a result we pushed the recording date from early 2015 to mid 2015 to allow ourselves enough time to complete writing. I'm glad we did as the extra few months of writing really allowed us to polish the songs to a very high standard.
Luxi: What could you tell us about the lyrical approach on Light Upon the Wicked? Do you deal with topics that tell how the human race will soon come to the end of the road? Are we already doomed or do we still have some hope left of living peacefully on this planet?
Shaun: I believe that a single human being can be a beautiful thing but as a collective, the human race is a pretty wretched thing to behold. The lyrical themes on Light Upon the Wicked explore many different aspects of the dark side of humanity. Much of it has ended up being religious especially "Light Upon the Wicked", "Indoctrinator" and "Bear the Cross (which focuses on inherited hatred handed down by elders)." We also focus on the obsession with warfare "Annihilation Frost" and the incredible rise to power from evolution that has lead to the destruction of the Earth "In Darkness." The lyrics work with many different ideas but the album has a cohesive focus on the dark side of human nature, more than we have had before.
Luxi: The album's cover artwork is truly eye-catching, I must say. How did you find artist Nick Keller and did he paint the album cover based on ideas that you gave to him?
Shaun: Thanks! I really love it. I actually stumbled upon Nick's work while browsing on Facebook a few years back and have kept up to date with his work since then. I love it; he is my favorite artist along with masters like John Martin and of course Giger. After he agreed to work with us (which I found quite exciting to begin with) I explained the vision I had, that a light would come to wipe out the human race, but at the same time it would illuminate them in the shadows, highlighting just how wretched they were. Nick took this concept and came up with amazing mock ups and the front and back album wrap he has creating using oil paint is amazing. It was a big step for me to concede doing the artwork to someone else (I have painted all covers up to this point – with varying success, haha!) but when presented with the option of working with one of my favorite artists, the decision was easy and I'm glad we did!
Luxi: Talking about murky and negative topics, what is your favorite end of the world scenario?
Shaun: I'm pretty fascinated by this stuff and a population-destroying tsunami is about as frightening a visual as I can imagine. Something about the fast approaching doom that is inescapable is the stuff of nightmares. If you get a minute, have a look at this site Exit Mundi (www.exitmundi.nl/exitmundi.htm) which has a whole list of different scenarios that could lead to the end of the world. It's a fascinating and sometimes humorous read.
Luxi: What can you tell about the production values on Light Upon the Wicked? Little birds have sung loud and clear that Testament's The Gathering album might be a good comparison. ;o)
Shaun: I think The Gathering may be my favorite album of all time and a huge influence on what we do. I've actually gone into each album with that a reference for production but this is the first time we've managed to capture the savage hugeness of that album with some success. I think our sound on this album may be a little more natural but it definitely channels the feel of that album and that is not an accident. It's the perfect sound to my ears; huge, raw, powerful and clear but without clinical drums stripped of all life like so many modern releases. Chris has done an amazing job on this thing, he really has.
Luxi: Do you have any plans to shoot a video for one of the songs off Light Upon the Wicked to promote the album?
Shaun: We have discussed it and may end up doing so we've just got to work out the budget. An album is always expensive and we are currently working out how much we will have left after the engineering, pressing, mastering, new banners, new merchandise, etc., will cost. If we have enough left, we would love to and already have some ideas so time will tell. If we make our first ever video it will be early next year. Until then people will just have to watch the live DVD.
Luxi: Many bands from Australia (and no, I'm not talking about AC/DC here) leave the country due to long distances. It's expensive to fly from Australia to Europe for example and even tougher to get all financial costs covered when going out on tour with a crew. My question is how optimistic are you about touring plans for In Malice's Wake and is there anything that your label could perhaps do for you to get some of these costs covered?
Shaun: You are right; it becomes very expensive to travel regularly all the way to Europe from here. At this stage, we are looking to tour South East Asia first and possibly Europe once things have built up a little. We have yet to discuss the idea of touring with the label but, of course, this is an area where we could use financial support. I am quite optimistic about touring over the next few years but the key for us is to start at a smaller stage until we are able to build the demand up to make a large-scale tour financially possible. Slowly but surely!
Luxi: How important is selling merch for In Malice's Wake at your concerts? Do you also see it as a profitable part of the band's existence as all that money from merch keeps In Malice's Wake alive and going? You need to pay for a lot of things if you are a member of a band. Music instruments are expensive, renting a rehearsal room eats up a big sum of money, getting to your rehearsal place by car or motorcycle means extra cost for gasoline and so on and so on.
Shaun: Oh yeah, there are huge costs involved with running a band, especially in a year where album recording is involved! Merch is far and away the biggest source of income for us. I would say 80% of the money we make is made over the merch desk at shows. The key is having a large range of great-looking merch and running things professionally. Our online store is also responsible for a large part of our income and between these two sources we are able to avoid paying for everything out of our own pockets. Thanks so much to everyone who has ever supported us in this way (www.inmaliceswake.com/store.htm) it is always a small thrill to see someone from the other side of the world enjoy our work enough to buy our releases.
Luxi: Do you hope to make your living by playing in In Malice's Wake or do you prefer keeping your band activities merely as a rewarding hobby which you can count on when everything else in your life may be kicking your ass? People tend to find comfort from different things whenever life sucks, being it going out for a few drinks with your friends, watching good movies alone, or playing your favorite music as loud as you want or whatever really...
Shaun: Yeah that's a great question and one that is difficult to answer. We all have lives, families and jobs here in Australia and it would be almost impossible for us to tour endlessly. There is great freedom in not having to rely on your band as your source of income and it allows us to take risks and truly create the music we want to create. That said, we would love to do a few tours each year to allow us to continue growing this band. It would be great to get to the point where touring became profitable and could fund itself but as always, we are slowly growing things and heading in that direction.
Luxi: When Light Upon the Wicked can be found on the shelves of record stores what will be the next steps for In Malice's Wake in the months after?
Shaun: The official release date is November 30th, and it will be stocked in record stores throughout Europe, Asia and South America. Of course people can grab a copy from our store (once again – www.inmaliceswake.com/store.htm) where the sales directly fund what we are doing and allow us to continue making the music we love. We truly can't wait to get this thing out there! I have been listening to it since it was completed at the end of September and can't wait to share it with the rest of the world, it rules!
Luxi: Well, that was it. Thanks Shaun for once again for talking to The Metal Crypt and, as one of the representative staffers of The Metal Crypt, want to wish you all the best with In Malice's Wake, and hope to see you in person at one of your forthcoming gigs some day. If you want to leave some closing comments, then be my guest... :o)
Shaun: Hey thanks a lot man, you guys have supported us a lot over the years and we really appreciate it. That would be a dream come true for us too. Our brothers in Harlott have just finished a European tour with Annihilator, so anything is possible!
Yeah just want to say a massive thanks to everyone out there has followed what we do over the last 12 or so years. Anyone that's ever grabbed one of our releases are enjoyed our records, it really means a lot to us – thank you!
|Other information about In Malice's Wake on this site|
|Review: Visions of Live Destruction|
|Review: Light Upon the Wicked|
|Interview with bassist Luke Blaso on March 11, 2012 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with vocalist and guitarist Shaun Farrugia on October 12, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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