There was something distinct about Inter Arma and their sound from the very start, with their first release Sundown, but since then these guys have truly erupted into something terrifying, with Sky Burial and The Cavern paving the way and now capitalising with Paradise Gallows. We caught up with TJ Childers, drummer of the band, to discuss their new album, their evolution as a band, their collaborations, and the manner in which they achieve that unique sound.
Scene Point Blank: Hey guys! Firstly, thanks for finding the time to do this interview, it is much appreciated! Your newest album, Paradise Gallows, has been out for a while now. Looking back are you happy with the album? Is there anything you would change? I'm basically asking whether you are guys are perfectionists. What has been the reception so far?
TJ Childers: We are definitely not perfectionists. Imperfections are rock and roll. I think everyone's happy with how it all turned out though I'm of the opinion that there could've been more gong on the record because, let's face it, who doesn't like more gong hits?
Reception has been pretty positive so far which is a bit of a bummer because I've been hoping for a long time to get the old "Shit Sandwich" review but, I'm a dreamer.
Scene Point Blank: How would you compare Paradise Gallows to your previous full-length albums, Sundown and Sky Burial? How would you describe the evolution of the band and your sound through the years?
TJ Childers: Paradise Gallows is really just a continuation and evolution of what we've always done. We've improved as musicians and songwriters and the production has continued to improve with each record as well. Until we put out our war metal influenced record and it sounds like two raccoons in a trash can fucking.
Scene Point Blank: Can you tell us about the production of the album? As was the case with both Sky Burial and The Cavern, you recorded with Mikey Allred, who also mixed and mastered the record. What do you like about his style of production, workflow or anything that made you collaborate with him multiple times?
TJ Childers: First off, Mikey's one of the baddest motherfuckers on the planet. Cooler than a polar bear's toenails. He knows what we're after and he knows how to capture it beautifully. He's a bit old school in the fact that he ain't afraid to let it all hang out, musically speaking. He's the perfect combination of laid back but also not afraid to say that we should do something again or let us know when something ain't happening sonically. Plus he has cats.
Scene Point Blank: The artwork of Paradise Gallows was done by Orion Landau, who also did the artwork for Sky Burial and The Cavern. Can you tell us more about his great artwork? Did he have free roam over the cover work, or was he given some guidance? Also compared to the artwork of Sky Burial and The Cavern, I find Paradise Gallows to be a bit more open and optimistic, with its psychedelic colors, rather than the darker representations of your other two releases. Was that a conscious choice?
TJ Childers: It's a painting that he did which I think is pretty amazing that he actually painted the fucking thing, all Bob Ross and shit. We had a few general ideas with the cover, the primary one being that we wanted this to be colorful seeing as how the previous two were monochrome as hell. We wanted to incorporate some of the lyrical themes as well. "Where the Earth meets the Sky" and "Paradise Gallows" being the two biggest ones in this case. As far as it being more optimistic... There's a ship being tossed about in rough waters with the captain hanging from the mast. I ain't so sure I'd call that "optimistic."
Scene Point Blank: You have a very rich and diverse sound, and I am quite curious to learn how the creative process works for you as a band? How did the music for Paradise Gallows come together? Is it one or two members of the band that come with the main structures and then everyone else fills in their parts, or is more like a jam, where each member contributes equally?
TJ Childers: It's different song to song. Sometimes someone will come in with a riff or two and someone else will finish it. Sometimes we'll just jam on something and see how many ways we can take it, musically. For "Paradise Gallows," Trey came up with the main chord progression, I came up with bridge then we just tried playing it heavier, then quieter, faster drums, etc. As the songs forms everyone adds little ideas until it becomes what it becomes.
"Imperfections are rock and roll."
Scene Point Blank: In a previous interview, you mentioned that the track “The Summer Drones” was influenced by you driving through the Mojave desert. How important is it the notion of topography in your music? And how would you say that the terrain you inhabit forms your sound or concepts?
TJ Childers: I haven't thought about the word topography since high school. I've said this before, I think pretty much everything you do influences your art. Where you live, where you travel, who you know, how you were raised, so on and so on. The desert is fucking beautiful and also daunting. If that doesn't grab you in some form, shape or fashion check your pulse.
Scene Point Blank: Is there a specific theme that runs through Paradise Gallows? I find quite interesting the title itself, since it has a bittersweet combination, between an idealistic/utopian place (paradise) and a horrible way to die (gallows.) Sky Burial also has a similar distinction between its two components. Does that contrast exist within the album, and within your work in general? Or am I reading to much into it?
TJ Childers: Sure, you need light and shade thematically and musically. Can't have one without the other. There are a few loose concepts that reappear here and there but no hard and fast concepts. We're not Yes. The celebration of anti-intellectualism (you know what I mean) and the general ignorance of human beings. Also, you're reading too much into it.
Scene Point Blank: In 2014 you released The Cavern EP, which included a single 46-minute, opus of a track, dating back to 2008. How did you decide in releasing The Cavern in the end? Did you stumble across the recordings, or was it someone that recommended the release? Is it possible to see Inter Arma releasing another track of that duration in the future?
TJ Childers: We wrote the song, played it about a dozen or so times but didn't really think that anyone would want to release a 45-minute long song by a band that hardly anyone had ever heard of so we just kept writing. Once the Relapse thing happened and Sky Burial was out we were talking to Drew at the office and he asked what we were planning on doing next. We told him we had this big ass song that we didn't know what to do with and he mentioned putting it out as an EP and we said "tight." I doubt we'll be putting out anything similar to that anytime soon.
Scene Point Blank: Is there any other material that has been left out in the past that we might see in a future release: an EP, split or anything else?
TJ Childers: We have material laying around all over the place. There have been talks of splits, EPs, etc. We'll see what happens!
Scene Point Blank: Three members of Inter Arma also play in Bastard Sapling, who released a great album in 2014, Instinct is Forever. Are there any news from that front? Any releases coming from Bastard Sapling? Also, are any other projects that any of you guys is involved in and would like to mention?
TJ Childers: B-Sap's writing a new record right now with no tentative release date or anything like that. The only other side project is Trey's Rhapsody-worship power metal band called Mistborn. Be on the lookout for that fire.
Scene Point Blank: Do you guys have any upcoming gigs you would like to mention?
TJ Childers: We have a few weeks of dates with our BFFs Call of the Void which we're stoked to be able to dry hump those dudes every night then shortly after that we have another bad ass one lined up that I can't talk about yet but should be announced soon and when you hear it you're gonna shit a chicken.