Matt Hensch recently spoke with Psyopus guitarist Chris Arp to find out the latest on the band and some interesting insights on what to expect next. Here is their conversation.
Thrashpit: First off, Psyopus has had a few members depart in recent times. What was the cause for so many departures?
Chris Arp: We've doing it for quite a while and there's a lot of separate factors involved. We're all different kinds of people and what we all brought to the table for what was going on with that, but in the long run…I don't know man. There are a lot of distractions between the personalities. It's hard being in a band and going on the road, and living in a van, you know. We've been here for five or six years. I was talking with Ben from Dillinger [Escape Plan] the other day, and he was saying he had a mortgage on a house, but he's been renting it out to a family because he's never home and broke as it is, you know. Financially speaking, you can imagine what it's like for a band like Psyopus. We're definitely going through the same thing here. We're definitely not a Good Charlotte or Fall Out Boy, you know. We're not raking in the loot. Not being totally financially up to par. That's probably one of the biggest things. People weren't getting along towards the end. That's probably the best way to put it without getting into super, super details.
TP: When touring, what is the typical reaction when performing in front of people whom are unfamiliar with Psyopus' sound?
CA: The typical reaction is usually pretty good. There's a lot of jaw-dropping, and not a lot of people moshing because we're not a status-quo band. We're not about the breakdowns. The reactions are usually pretty good, but a lot people just stand watching what's going down. Usually you get the meathead hardcore kid whom walks back and forth waiting for the breakdown to happen, and it doesn't. They'll get frustrated, but we're not playing for that particular audience anyway, so they'll go off and stand in a corner and pout they're not punching the floor. Otherwise, it's usually pretty good. That's usually the reaction; people stand there and watch it and are usually pretty tripped out.
I mean the kids last night…that was pretty cool. We're playing with Melt Banana, and their crowd is the weird RC, high-energy, noise crowd; that works with us pretty well. So it's good, I think. Well, we had a tour with Hank Williams III once, and that was a country tour for the most part; that was pretty interesting. If we were playing a show in a college town with younger people, they loved it. And if we were playing a show with blue-haired old people wearing cowboy outfits; they were a lot of times confused and weren't really getting into it, but you'd still find the hard-ass country guys standing in the corner saying, "You guys are some badass music." You know, they got their hands in their Levis…it's interesting.
TP: Yea, that sounds a pretty interesting lineup there with Hank III and Psyopus.
CA: Yea, it was weird. It was definitely a weird trip, but most of the time we're well-received. There's like two or three shows…it wasn't like we weren't well-received like they were booing us off the stage; you know you just aren't playing for the crowd. Imagine if a band like ours was playing in front of an elementary school talent show with the parents and the teachers…it wasn't the right vibe. One time in Georgia, we all were trying to decide what to do. We were like should play just instrumental, or should we go up there and have Adam pretending he's singing, and were trying to come with all the alternatives, and they we decided fuck it: let's get up there dressed up like cowboys, start playing country music for the first twenty seconds. That show wasn't about how well we played, but about being complete nuisances and just running, screaming and throwing shit, and yelling at people. I swear to God everyone had to be least thirty five-forty five years old or older. There was like three or four kids wearing shirts and the rest were blind tasters or something like that. So we just flipped shit on them. We didn't sell a fucking thing that night of course, but they were there and they watched it and it was entertaining for them, so we made the most of it. Otherwise, it was really fucking weird.
TP: Have you heard a lot of negativity involving Psyopus' obvious technicality?
CA: As far as people reviewing us, it's rather bipolar. When we get a response or perspective on the band that isn't favorable, we're not surprised. We know we're not writing music for average person, and people listen to music for a million different reasons, and if someone generally doesn't get what we're going for or doesn't care, that's not a big surprise. If you're reading reviews, say on a scale 1-to-10 rating, we usually gets 9 or a 10, or a 1 or a 2 with the occasional 8; there's no in between whatsoever. We get more horrible reviews than the 'Eh, the album's ok' reviews, you know? For us, that's actually kind of cool. If we're doing something that much different to the point where not everyone like thinking it up to the quality to that degree.
I don't think anyone's going to say were ripping anyone off, or categorizing us with other bands out there. We really don't sound a lot like Dillinger Escape Plan, for instance. They have those rhythmic-chaotic riffs, and that kind of stuff, but we don't do that at all. And especially with the newer stuff, they kind of mellowed out with more accessible stuff. We're a very high-registered band, and we're spazzy as hell. We're doing what we're doing, and doing what everyone else is doing to the best of our ability. Everyone's done everything at some point, and I think we're doing alright trying not to sound like the next breakdown band or the next pummeling death metal band.
TP: Since you were talking Psyopus' style while avoid trends, how would you personally describe Psyopus' sound?
CA: The Alternative Press labeled us avant-garde mathcore, and that was pretty good. We're actually not that noisy. We are really tight with each other for the most part. I think a lot of people might not pick up on what's going on, or the chords we're using; it's not like we're using well-established chords like in typical Western music. The characteristics we use are of a very different music and a lot of blastbeats with that general spazz kind of attitude comes from the grind. The more experimental viewpoints where the music is coming from, that avant-grind situation make sense.
And the mathcore…I've seen a lot people get upset with the term, but I know what else it fucking means, but I assume…all music for the most part – unless you're going with some weird eastern music groove – a lot of involves general math, and if you take that general math and push the variables to the extreme…bringing it where it generally isn't. I think that mathcore scenario is pretty accurate because we are differently looking at the challenging and general mathematical ideas in music, and trying to make us do what we're doing. It's violent, fast, high energy, and it's technical. It's more fast stuff and intense…there's intensity when there's a lot of notes, and all that stuff. And that gets me off…I like that intensity! The notes we're using and the way it the songs are being put together kind of gives that dysfunctional, disrupted feeling that you don't get when you listen to Justin Timberlake. Those words are words I would use to describe the band, at least right now.
TP: Do you think Psyopus is more or less limited to being a technical band without going anywhere else musically?
CA: No, I mean there are a lot of songs we've done that were outside of the Psyopus norm. There's "Siobhan's Song," which is an instrumental piece, and "Imogen's Puzzle Part 1." You know, it's all polyrhythmic, and it's not an expense in thinking. "Imogen's Puzzle Part 1" off the first album it's basically piece where it modulates through all twelve harmonic-minor keys and it has interesting polyrhythms to make it sound peculiar. The intellectual thought with polyrhythms is less is more, so if you listen to a weird Tool polyrhythm, they'll seem to be the most contemporary versions of what people are listening to. They'll be simpler, but "Imogen's Puzzle" isn't all over the fucking place…melodically peaking from the lowest or highest register.
As far as being limited by technicality, we don't as a general don't stride to be overly-technical; again, we're just trying to be different. When you know the music, it isn't as complicated as it seems to someone listening to it. Like we got the new bass player, and I was going over the songs with him, and it was like "Oh that's what you're doing?!" You'll kind of get this awareness that it's not that complicated, but just a little bit different here and there. Basically, we can do whatever we want. I don't think we'll ever pussy out. I don't think we'll ever play out of the integrity of the band. Anything basically goes so long as it's weeping and it's cool, and we don't think we're just ripping off another facet of reality.
I really don't think the technicality is limiting us. The only thing I can see limiting us is if one day we won't be able to play faster than the last album. We won't be able to keep it at that speed because we're old or something. I saw this video with Les Paul the other day, and he used to fucking shred, and it was awesome; it sounded really, really cool and he'd be flying all over the place. Now he's got arthritis, and he's just playing a few notes here and there. He's still having fun, but he definitely sounds different than he used to. That's the only thing I could see that would compromise the song writing…won't be able to keep the energy up as much. Another attitude I had with us trying be experimental as much as possible, we'll just have to come up with as many good ideas as we can and hope for the best.
TP: Have you begun writing any new material for the next Psyopus album?
CA: Yes. We're always writing, and I've got a layout for the next album. We're always trying to reinvent the band too, you know, at least in the level in which we're coming from. We're writing material, and we're got a bunch of different ideas of things we'll be doing. I've been in the studio writing this chamber piece; I wrote this nine in-a-half minute song with a violin and a cello, and it represents each part of the human psyche if you will, so we got that going on. I'm also writing this six-seven minute blastbeat-grind concept kind of like a progressive Pig Destroyer with weird artistic interludes in between; it's kind of like an abusive environment, multiple personalities disorder kind of song where it changes characteristics of this particular individual, or lack of. I'm trying to get this weird Symphony-For-The-Devil-meets-Psyopus; it's got four acoustic guitars with all sorts of weird alternate rhythms and exotic jump beats and stuff going on…mix that a little bit with "Horse Latitudes" by The Doors…that weird Jim Morrison…just tripping out and speaking some weird shit with weird stuff going on in the background. There's a bunch of different concepts of things to do and coming up with the material that makes sense for it. It's a pretty lengthy process, because we need a lot of material, but we try to make it to the best of our ability about the quality of what we're coming up with.
TP: When will you guys be hitting the studio?
CA: Don't know. With all the lineup changes that really kind of suck, so we didn't really get to adequately push the new album that just came out, so we're still going to be pushing the material on the new album for a bit. We probably won't be in studio for another year and a half at least, like new release speaking. It'll happen, but probably not for a time. Our album just came out in February, so it's not the end of the world if we don't a new album out a two in-a-half years or two years from now. Our new album was actually done in July 2006, but because of art fuck-ups, it didn't come out until February, which that really fucking blew.
TP: That's all I got for you. Thanks for your time to do an interview.
CA: No problem.