By Nathan Pearce
Vehemence could probably be considered one of the hardest working bands in metal. Upon signing with Metal Blade records for the release of ‘God Was Created’, the band began a relentless campaign of interviews, web-forum posting, and touring. In fact, Vehemence approached me close to two years ago to do an interview for the release of ‘God Was Created’. Needless to say, I’ve become a fan of the band ever since.
With the release of ‘Helping The World To See’, listeners find a Vehemence that relies less on complexity and more on solid songwriting. Here’s what guitarist John Chavez had to say.
UM: First off, congratulations on ‘Helping the World to See’. I believe it is one of the best death metal albums I’ve heard for a while. What was the band’s initial feeling toward this album BEFORE it was released?
Chavez: Thanks, we all felt it was going to be a step up in production and was going to be different than our last album, ‘God Was Created’. We knew the Wes Benscoter artwork was going to be phenomenal for our album cover, as well as the rest of the album artwork. Knowing we would have four months to record also helped us stress less about recording this album.
UM: How have fans reacted to the new album?
Chavez: So far we have been getting extremely great reviews and publicity for this new album. I wasn’t too surprised because of the crowd reaction to newer songs being played live before this album release. We have been getting lots of support from what are now Vehemence fanatics and praise for the hour long live & studio footage we released on the CD itself. The previous album had a lot of mixed reactions because it was fictitious conceptual horror story, which was too complex for reviewers to understand for our first debut label release. This album can relate to everyone because it deals with some of the problematic issues the world faces today.
UM: How did Metal Blade react to both ‘God Was Created’ and ‘Helping the World to See’?
Chavez: Our label in the U.S.A and Germany enjoyed the album a lot and felt it would do absolutely way better than ‘God Was Created’. They were right and we are content that it is being distributed efficiently to more markets than our last album, because the pricing of this album is set around $9.98. SPV Germany, a distributing company that works with Metal Blade, didn’t ban our album this time, and we can now gain the necessary exposure we need there.
UM: How have things changed for the band since the release of ‘God Was Created’?
Chavez: We now have a huge fan base with listeners of all forms of metal. There are Vehemence fanatics that read our lyrics and talk about them on the internet and yell out lyrics or intros at our shows. We have also gained interest from many metal webzines and magazines from all over the world.
UM: Your approach to ‘Helping the World to See’ seems a little more streamlined. Songs seem to be slightly more straightforward. However, that is part of the reason I actually like this album more than ‘God Was Created’. Was this straightforward approach to songwriting a conscience effort on the band’s part?
Chavez: We feel it was a conscience effort to which we needed to vent. After seeing all that has happened in the past decade, we made lyrics in relation to the news and the changes in this world. We have had our cryptic messages in our lyrics in the past, and this time we are taking the content a bit further hoping it will make everyone understand. The issues include songs about the terminally ill and their death process, terrorism, a one sided Christian extremist television network, drugs, a true crime story, an ode to all soldiers, depression, family dysfunction, political issues, and the catholic pedophile church issues.
UM: How did the heavy touring you did for ‘God Was Created’ affect ‘Helping the World to See’?
Chavez: We did play “Kill for God” and “You Don’t Have to be Afraid Anymore” on the ‘God Was Created’ tours. It helped people get into our newer stuff and promoted the next album, which resulted in those songs being our highlight songs on the album. The heavy touring we did brought us closer to our fans and helped us to gain even more friends along the way.
UM: Will you tour even more for the new album?
Chavez: Yes, we will tour a lot more for this album than the previous runs. Tours usually all come down to the booking agents and if there are bands available for the tour package.
UM: Can you give any details on your upcoming tours?
Chavez: We are going to be touring the west coast with Prong, Dog Fashion Disco, and All That Remains May 20th to June 8th 2004 for our first tour for this album. We have big tours in July and August as well. Also, Vehemence has generated interest from European agents to play festivals and to tour there for 2005. We look forward to helping the world to see our live performances wherever and whenever.
UM: For all the guitarists out there, can you please describe you typical setup for a gig? Feel free to tell me about everything from tunings to amps and effects.
Chavez: Well my equipment consists of the Line 6 Flextone II Head w/Pedal, a custom Black B.C. Rich "The Beast"-6 String w/original Floyd Rose, Chrome hardware, Ebony Fretboard-2 EMG's 81 & 85 & neckthru, 2 Marshall Vintage 30 4x12 cabinets, a Boss NS-2 Pedal “noisegate”, & an Ebow. Vehemence tunes in B, the baritone tuning. I use the purple blue pack of D’Addario strings 12-52 gauge; they are great strings.
UM: What about your studio setup?
Chavez: We demo most everything before we go into the studio, and what I use to record our demos is a guitar into the Line 6 Pod XT w/floorboard, connected in stereo with a Y monster cable into the computer, and recorded onto Cool Edit Pro. I create drums with fruity loops 4.0 with my own cut up D-Drum samples.
UM: Speaking of the studio . . . can you please describe the recording process for ‘Helping the World to See’?
Chavez: We wanted to have an environment where we can get maximum results; so we recorded our album with Will Solares of Open Primary Productions/DBD Studios, which is a home studio in Maricopa, AZ. We started recording in September 2003 into December 2003 and finishing the project in January 2004. The drums were recorded at Porcupine Studios in Tempe, AZ. The studio set up for guitars on our new album consisted of a Pro Tools rig with various rack pieces, the Line 6 Pod XT w/floorboard, preamped through a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier rack, set up with B.B.E. and an EQ. Drums were recorded at another studio and recorded on analog. The bass guitar went through the Pod as well in direct.
UM: Are you satisfied with the production on the new album? I happen to think it is excellent. I love the clarity of each instrument, yet things still sound raw and intense.
Chavez: We are 100% satisfied with this album, and we made sure everything was up to our expectations. The goal was to top ‘God Was Created’ which we think we did by hearing the step up in production with this album’s natural drum sound and the clarity in the guitars. We went a more direct approach for the vocals for a change, to keep it from sounding too layered.
UM: Vehemence is a band that seems to be everywhere. By this I mean that I find reviews and interviews of your albums on nearly EVERY metal website and in EVERY metal magazine I come across; furthermore, I see you lurking in web-forums and discussion boards everywhere. Does the promotion of your band ever get tiring?
Chavez: We have goals and you have to do what it takes to reach those goals. Focusing on promotional free use on the internet is a good way to start. Talking with friends and fans on messengers is an excellent hobby to do daily if possible. Forums voice opinions and it is good to see what others are talking about positive and negative. We are the rumor killers, and we will be sure to correct anything confusing if it pops up. Thanks to Metal Blade for the massive publicity it gives, and they have been working hard to get us on every metal website, magazine, and on radio stations worldwide. Vehemence seems to have impacted a kind relationship with the press, and we will continue to appear wherever possible.
UM: ‘Helping the World to See’ has a great 57 minute video documentary of the uprising of Vehemence. I particularly liked the footage of the band playing in somebody’s bedroom. Why did you choose to include this on the album?
Chavez: I included all of this because collectively we felt it was necessary to show that we have had past history, and that we weren’t a band that came out of the woodwork. It shows that we are a down to earth band, and you can bet some of these old bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem, and Dimmu Borgir had after school practices as well. We don’t have anything to hide, and it was mainly for our Vehemence fanatics. The video is a Windows Media file, and making a DVD wasn’t an option at the time. We didn’t include full songs on this because we wanted more content to get on it, and soon full songs will be up on our website to check out. The video can be opened with the latest versions of Windows Media, and Winamp. We were going to include our “By Your Bedside” music video directed by Scott Conditt, but we didn’t have it done on time.
UM: Could you tell from the beginning that Vehemence had a future on underground metal’s biggest record label?
Chavez: From a fans perspective, when I saw them open up for Suffocation in 1998, I thought the band had label potential. Everything brought us together at the end, and we wanted to sign to the closest biggest label possible, which was Metal Blade Records. Fortunately we had a connection, and we helped ourselves out and didn’t have to work too hard to get signed. The band started in 1995, but the band didn’t start wanting to get signed till the year 2000, and it took 2 years for us to get signed.
UM: What are your thoughts on death metal in the 21st century? With bands like Deicide and Morbid Angel being hit or miss with albums in recent years (at least for me), what does Vehemence do to try to keep death metal alive without stagnating?
Chavez: We do not compromise our sound for a more popular metal sound. Vehemence has always kept the same basic elements, and we advance ourselves as musicians by displaying new techniques on our albums. Each album is different in lyrical content, and we will continue keeping this band away from making monotonous music. The new wave of death metal is here, and some of the leaders apart from it are on their last runs. I guess the question would be who are the headliners of the next decade?
UM: What about metal in general? With bands like Lamb of God and Unearth taking the place of nu-metal with today’s kids, what kind of future do you see for metal?
Chavez: Death Metal in America is pretty much weakened by the metalcore and hardcore scenes. If a death metal band goes on tour with a hardcore headliner, the death metal band will get the hardcore kids exposure. If a hardcore band tours with a death metal headliner, the hardcore kids will leave right after the hardcore band they came to see. So there is no win-win with Death Metal in America, but elsewhere, like Europe, death metal is still the dominant music choice over the nu-metal music. Personally, I like some of the old hardcore and metalcore bands that exist, but only the innovators.
UM: Any final thoughts for the readers at Ultimate Metal?
Chavez: Thanks for all who support our band in the Ultimate Metal Forums, and we urge you all to come and visit our message board for whomever takes interest in Vehemence. Anyone can email our band at email@example.com
and visit our website at www.vehemence.com
Vehemence’s Official Website
Metal Blade Records’ Official Website