12 February 2006
It's a little over two weeks until Tasmanian extreme metal favourites Psycroptic embark on their latest Australian tour in support of their latest album Symbols Of Failure. Since making their mark on not only the Australian but also the world metal stage with their crushing 2004 release The Scepter Of The Ancients, this hard working and dedicated quartet have also had their share of ups and downs during that time. Riding high on the reviews of The Scepter Of The Ancients, the band received an offer to tour Europe supporting the legendary Swedish death metal assault known as Dismember. However, what should have been one of highlights of the band's career soon became a critical turning point as they stepped on a plane bound for the northern hemisphere without long time vocalist Matthew Chalk.
In his place was Jason Peppiatt, a long time school friend of guitarist Joe Haley, bassist Cameron Grant and drummer Dave Haley since high school. The Aussies faired well playing a string of dates around Europe but things were set to change upon their return. When Simon Milburn apologises to Dave Haley for interrupting the band's Thursday night rehearsal session, Haley's quick to reply, “No that's fine. We've just finished actually. It's all good.” On the eve of their Australian tour and the release of their latest album Symbols Of Failure Haley candidly speaks about Jason Peppiatt's recruitment and the departure of Matthew Chalk, signing with Neurotic Records, Psycroptic's pending tour schedule, his involvement in The Amenta and Ruins, and just how those rehearsal sessions are going.
“Yeah, good,” Haley begins. “We're just sort of getting a new set list together for the tour, so it's all good. There's a couple of songs we haven't played in a while. But apart from that, quite a few off the new album. It's sort of a rounded set that covers all the albums. We just sorta picked our favourite songs, the ones we love playing live. We hope that people dig it too and they hopefully come and watch us.”
From an outsider looking in point of view, the last two years have been very busy for Haley and Psycroptic but for Haley, it's been quite the opposite.
“Well from our point of view, it's gradually sort of grown. To us, it hasn't seemed full on because we love the touring aspect of playing in a band. I mean, we're home 85% of the time, so for us it hasn't been full on at all. We're just really looking forward to getting out there and playing live with this album. We've got probably the most amounts of shows confirmed at one time that we've ever had. We've got 40 shows coming up in Australia and Europe. We're just really, really excited! It sorta feels like a snowball. For now, we're actually getting to a point where things are starting to happen on a more regular basis and not so sporadic.”
As well as being a part of Psycroptic, Haley is also a member of two of Australia's newest and most promising metal bands, namely The Amenta and Ruins.
“Yeah. I'm a full time member of both of those bands but I don't have any writing input with The Amenta and I actually like it that way. I like the way that they work. They actually write seventy percent of the drum parts. They give me ideas and say 'Ok, we want something like this,' and I'll expand on it, if you will. That's a challenge in itself! It's something fresh and different. Psycroptic is obviously my priority band and it comes first and all the other bands know that. With Psycroptic, every song we've all got input in from the structuring to the writing to the riffs. With Ruins, that's a project that I've been working on for a couple of years with a close mate of mine, Alex (Pope) He writes musically everything and I just sorta help with the song structures and that sort of thing. Ruins is different again where Alex will bring a complete song and then ask for my input drumming wise. Not that they are any less musically important, but Psycroptic is my preference and the band I'm working hardest on.”
Not even the difficultly of juggling the time demands of three different bands dismays Haley.
“I love it. But priority wise, it really hasn't clashed until now when all three bands got tentatively offered European tours right at the exact same time. Obviously Psycroptic's a priority, so I was always going to go with that one and all the other bands know that. It hasn't come up til now. I can't see it being too much of a problem. The Amenta, as I've said to them, they're always welcome to find a session drummer for the tour if I can't do it. I'm totally up for that because they do know that Psycroptic is a priority.”
With being a part of one of Australia's most prominent extreme metal bands, the question has to be asked as to why Haley wants to be a part of two other bands.
“Just for fun really. Music is the most important thing that I do. It's pretty much the only that that I do,” laughs Haley. “To the inexperienced listener, it's all gonna sound exactly the same but playing live with each of those bands for me is different musically. I get to play varied styles in the metal realm.”
If we take a step back looking at Haley's priority band Psycroptic, it's been almost two and a half years since the release of their last album, The Scepter Of The Ancients, and it's interesting to get Haley's perspective on his regard for that album now after all that time.
“For me, it's hard because I'm always gonna be biased. Once I record something, and it's sort of the case with all of us in Psycroptic, we rarely go back and listen to it because that's a musical snapshot of where we were in that point in time and we're at this point now. I couldn't tell you if I still hold it in the same regard as I did then because now we've just finished the new album. It's a hard one for me to answer. I still totally love playing live all the songs off of the album and that hasn't changed. So, I suppose in some ways yes, I still hold it in the same regard, but as far as listening to it, no, I haven't and don't really listen to it at all.”
But when the band were offered a chance to tour Europe on the back of The Scepter Of The Ancients supporting Swedish death metallers Dismember, they boarded the plane with out long time vocalist Matthew Chalk. In his place was Born Headless vocalist Jason Peppiatt.
“It was sort of in the works for a while but for us, turning down an all expenses paid European tour for reasons that we thought were extremely unjustified, that didn't sit right with us and we couldn't really continue as that unit any more. It was just too weird. You sort of feel let down by one of your mates. We couldn't be the same again because we were always scared of 'Ok, what happens if this comes up and this excuse comes up?' In Europe, we really gelled with Jason and we sort of feel more of a unit now than we ever have. All four of us - we play together, we hang out all the time - we're really close friends. It just makes for a positive band environment.”
Peppiatt may have been an unknown to Psycroptic fans but not so with Haley and Co.
“We've all known each other for years. Cam and Joe when to school with Jason through high school and Jason's always played in local bands. We've always known each other. It wasn't like bringing in a session vocalist. It was just having another mate come on tour and sing for us.”
When the band made the decision to replace Chalk, it was an obvious and easy choice.
“Yeah. There were no other candidates. When the time came, it was always gonna be Jason.”
Psycroptic's national support slot for Floridian death metallers Hate Eternal in June 2005 marked Peppiatt's first shows to Australian audiences.
“That was his first show in Brisbane. That was pretty much Jason's introduction to the Australian audiences. It went down exceptionally well. We weren't too sure what to think but he really stepped up to the plate and kicked arse every night basically. That tour as a whole was awesome. We got to play with a band that we hold in such high esteem. We became friends and had a great time.”
All in all, Haley considers it a successful tour for Psycroptic.
“Yeah it was. Merchandise wise, we did very well. Feedback wise after the tour we did well and we remained in contact with Hate Eternal. It was just a fun time all round.”
Even as this tour was the band's first foray with their new front man, Haley's attention to feedback and reviews never really changed from that of previous tours.
“Sort of yes and no. Yes if someone's saying something about your band you're always going to be very inquisitive about it but no, on the other hand, in the end, that's only someone's opinion. Everyone's got their own opinion. Some people probably think we suck and other people might think we're brilliant. You gotta take everything with a grain of salt really. If we're happy, then who gives a shit? We're just trying to make ourselves happy and if other people dig it, then that's awesome. We're obviously not in it to make money because we've spent more money on this band than it's ever generated. It's purely one hundred percent the passion for the music.”
Not only did Psycroptic have a new vocalist in their line-up but they also found a new home in Dutch record label Neurotic Records as well.
“We've known Ruud, the label manager for Neurotic, for a little while. He used to run the European offices of our former label, Unique Leader. We developed a friendship with him and after the line-up changes and restructuring of Unique Leader, we were just looking for a fresh start; a new line-up, a new label. Ruud from Neurotic offered us a very good deal. He's one hundred percent professional. He's got a lot of good contacts in regarding touring in Europe. It was a natural choice for us to go with him. When the offer came through, we accepted and about ten days after we signed with him, he'd already got us on a European tour. We're quite happy. The album hasn't come out yet but we're quietly confident that he's gonna do good things with it.”
Even though Neurotic Records are one of the smaller metal labels, they've got solid distribution in Psycroptic's home land through Stomp Distribution.
“Yeah! It's a fairly new label but little things like that, gaining substantial distribution in Australia in a very short amount of time with a limited number of releases, shows that Ruud is totally committed and really into what he's doing. It's a small label so we're hoping that we can grow with the label.”
Throughout all of these twists and turns that define Psycroptic's road in the music business, the band continued to write and work on album number three.
“It wasn't too much different from what we've done in the past. Usually, Joe writes the music and we both bounce ideas off each other structure wise. Cam will throw in riffs here and there and we'll sort of piece it together that way. We don't sit down and say 'Ok, we gotta write an album'. It's always an ongoing process. While we were recording Scepter, we were writing songs for the next album. It's always a continuing process. We've just finished Symbols and we've already started writing for the next album. We've got ideas kicking around. It's always an ongoing process. It's a progression for us. Once we finished recording Scepter, we had a break for about a month and when we started jamming, obviously we rehearse up for live shows cos they're gonna be the priority, but riff ideas were already starting to happen. That's how we work. We rehearse up to live shows and just work on ideas. When we haven't got any live shows, that's when we really get stuck into writing. It's always an ongoing process - refining and chopping songs up and trying to happy with them basically.”
Peppiatt was involvement in Symbols Of Failure is only a taste of what he's capable of.
“Musically he didn't have too much of an input because a lot of the album was actually written before he joined. His vocal phrasings are one hundred percent his. We gave him free reign to do that. Minimal input music wise, but all the vocal phrasings are done by him. Obviously on the next album, as Jason is quite an accomplished guitar player as well, I don't doubt that there'll be some musical contributions from him. For this album, it was basically the phrasings and the vocal stylings on the recording.”
With the start of at least 40 live shows across Australia and Europe pending for the Tasmanian quartet, it's quite an interesting move to see that their tour begins in Brisbane and not their home town of Hobart (Tasmania, Australia).
“Basically it was not our doing, not that it's a bad thing. Brisbane is probably our favourite place in the country to play. Brad from Soundworks actually booked this tour for us and it's just how the scheduling worked out. It worked out that we were starting there and for us, that's the absolute perfect start for any tour. Brisbane for me personally is my favourite city outside of Hobart. We can't wait to get back up there!”
Only a month after Psycroptic kick off their Australian tour in Brisbane, they return to take part in Australia's biggest metal festival, Overcranked.
“That's sort of half way through the Australian tour. Again, that was something that we agreed to play Overcranked last year when we were up. We've kind of scheduled around Overcranked as it was a confirmed date and Brad knew that. That was probably his motivation to start the tour there so that there's a little bit of a gap in between both shows up there.”
Haley is familiar with the Overcranked festival and is definitely looking forward to taking part in it.
“Yeah I've heard of it but never been to one. I've heard very good things about it. We're very keen to play it. Apart from the fact that I've heard it's a great day, I don't really know too much about it venue wise.”
This years Overcranked is the third in the events history and easily the biggest. With it's humble beginnings in a local bar, it moved to a slightly bigger venue the next year. The first attempt at the third Overcranked festival was derailed due to council intervention at the eleventh hour and now, the official third incarnation of Overcranked is to be headlined by U.S.A. band Clutch and will feature a massive cross section of Australian rock, metal, punk and hardcore on four stages over 13 or 14 hours and Haley is interested in checking out that variety of acts on offer. “Apart from the obvious like Alchemist and Bloodduster and the like, I'm keen to check out Clutch and bands like Astriaal. I'm keen to check out a lot of bands that I haven't seen because there are a heap of bands that I've never seen before. No one springs to mind because I don't really know a lot of the bands.”
First and foremost though is Psycroptic's billing on the festival and Haley certainly can't wait to be a part of it.
“We're stoked to be able to play it and to come up there and see all out mates again! It'll be a great day I'm sure!”
Psycroptic's new album, Symbols Of Failure, will be released on Neurotic Records (via Stomp Distribution) on February 27. Psycroptic will play the following dates around Australia to support the album:
17-02-06 Her Majesty's Bar, Brisbane, Australia
18-02-06 The Balcony Bar, Coolongatta Hotel, The Gold Coast, Australia
03-03-06 The Barwon Club, Geelong, Australia
04-03-06 The Esplanade Hotel, St. Kilda, Australia
05-03-06 The Tote, Melbourne (under 18's), Australia
10-03-06 Enigma Bar, Adelaide, Australia
16-03-06 The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, Australia
17-03-06 The Marquee, Sydney, Australia
18-03-06 Overcranked Festival, Brisbane, Australia
24-03-06 The Charles Hotel, Perth, Australia
25-03-06 Soundworks, Osborne Park, Australia
25-03-06 The Swan Basement, Fremantle, Australia
For more information on Psycroptic, check out www.psycroptic.com.
Live images provided by and used with permission from Dave Haley.
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