WORDS: James Weaver & Henry Jones
Coined as the pioneers of atmospheric death metal, California’s FALLUJAH have come a long way since 2007. Whilst the band have enjoyed fruitful success in their home country, the band are still relatively unknown in the European scene. Before the band performed a supporting slot with CARNIFEX in Manchester last week, we caught up with vocalist Alex Hofmann to talk about the band’s upcoming third album (as of yet untitled), building a reputation in the European scene and the best and worst gift he has received for Christmas.
So, we’re about five days into the tour, how’s it gone so far?
Alex: Uh, it’s been super sick. Germany and Belgium both started off super cool, we played some new territory in England. We’d never been to Birmingham, we’d been to Glasgow a ton of times before, so we played there last night; and now we’re back in Manchester which is arguably my favourite city in the UK – I fucking love this place. I think if I was to live anywhere in the UK it would definitely be Manchester, so it’s great to be back.
It’s about the third time you guys have been over now – are there any chances of a headline run?
Alex: It’s hard to know. I’m not gonna kid anyone; I’m not going to do a UK or Europe headline run until it makes sense for us. Y’know, I’m not gonna sit here and delusionally rent out a bunch of stuff to go out on a headliner that I don’t think the band is ready for. The States is a different story, but out in the UK and Europe you have to spend a bit more time building it up over here. And luckily now we’re on Nuclear Blast, which has a way better foothold in Europe than we could ever manage by ourselves. So I think, ask me a year from now and I could make a proper judgement.
You’ve been on the road with CARNIFEX, WITHIN THE RUINS and BORIS THE BLADE – how is it touring with those guys?
Alex: They’re homies. This is the best European tour we’ve done from a personality perspective, that’s for sure. I mean, we’ve been to Europe a bunch of times with people we didn’t necessarily get along with and now everyone’s like relatively the same age, everyone’s having a great time – and I think the ice has been broken for a lot of us before, especially with us. We met BORIS THE BLADE at a festival we were at this year, we’ve toured with WITHIN THE RUINS before, we met two of the CARNIFEX guys earlier this year at the same festival we met BORIS THE BLADE at. For us it just feels naturally like another tour, it’s not awkwardly spending a couple of days getting to know everyone, especially WITHIN THE RUINS and CARNIFEX – they’ve already been out in the States for the last few weeks before coming over here. Everyone’s young and enthusiastic, which is huge for us, so yeah it’s exciting.
You guys are still supporting The Flesh Prevails, but I do believe album number three is on the way. What kind of direction are you hoping to take with your sound?
Alex: The whole album took a way different turn for us. We decided to drop things from the perspective of sheer intensity and speed, y’know? The album is way more groovy this time along – there’s a lot more rhythm. It’s not necessarily slower, but I think the album is even more melodic than The Flesh Prevails was, even more atmospheric and even more focused on emotive qualities and a heavy perspective – as opposed to a fast perspective. Before it was about “How can we have these big expansive soundscapes that work over blastbeats or work over, like, thrash beats or double-bass parts?” This time its more about rhythm and making it crushing but emotive at the same time. I think it totally switched up the whole thing from the last record. And the record’s sounding so much better too from a production standpoint, it’s just top-notch
FALLUJAH seem to do something a bit different from most other death metal bands in the scene. Do you feel this gives a breath of fresh air into the scene?
Alex: Yeah, I mean truthfully it’s hard to say whether FALLUJAH is really a death metal band by the classic model any more – none of us are really going to fight tooth and nail to preserve that title. None of us are really that enthusiastic about always being a death metal band. But we are still undeniably in that scene. I dunno, it’s hard to say – listening to bands talk about themselves is always way different to listening to fans talk about them. So it’s hard for us to say like: “Yeah, we’re trying to achieve so-and-so”. If the fans still ultimately think you’re a death metal band, then you’re a death metal band. But all I know is that on this album, a lot of the death metal qualities have definitely been watered-down for more emotional parts that I think are way more effective than what the classic death metal model provides – which is something we’ve been absorbed in and involved in for years now. And I think after years of touring in it and years of being in that scene…I wouldn’t say our enthusiasm dwindled for it, but we wanted to aim higher. We saw the top of what this technical death metal thing is, and for many of us, it just wasn’t where we wanted to see ourselves. And it wasn’t the music we necessarily wanted to make album after album of. If you’re not pushing yourself on an album each time, then what are you doing? That’s kind of our perspective on the whole thing and I think it’s going to be good in the long-term.
So when can we expect a release date?
Alex: We’re aiming at Spring. But nothing is certain.
So I was wondering, how did Brian “Deebs” James [formerly of AEIMUS] he affect The Flesh Prevails and how did he affect the new album?
Alex: Having someone when we’re writing sections; Scott [Carstairs, guitars] is the main writer of the band, and then you can have a team… You know, before, we didn’t necessarily have a team of guys who could get multiple things done at once at once – it had to be sequentially. Whereas Scott can sit there and write music, and Brian can sit in the other hand tabbing things to send to everyone. So having like a team of people that can work together makes it incredibly easier and that’s exactly what we were looking for. And Brian is pivotal to that, he’s an integral part of the band.
So how smooth has the actual production process been, compared to The Flesh Prevails?
Alex: I feel like the whole thing happened in the blink of an eye. We did the thing kind-of strange and avant-garde – we started with guitars, bass and vocals, and finished with drums – which we did in Florida. We recorded the majority of the album in Oakland, which was all sent over to Florida for the drums to be done. And then for the drums the same guy, Mark Lewis from Audio Hammer, is doing the mixing and mastering. So we did things kind of backwards and we’re still waiting on mixes at this point. But yeah, the whole thing was, like, difficult and hard at the same time; we were so pressed for time and I think for us, we were just interested in getting it done. We weren’t trying to waste time in the studio, we knew exactly what we wanted when we went in, and we were there to do it. Things got a little bit funky with experimentation at certain parts, especially with effects, but we tried to walk in knowing exactly like “Your fill has to be played like this, the guitar parts have to sound like this”. Very much not like “Oh whatever, this is fine” laissez-faire kind of band. So the whole thing of just doing that, writing the album, coming off of Florida and coming here – it’s been non-stop. And then we come back, have a little bit of time off, and then we’re back out touring around the time the album comes out.
Just out of curiosity, what kind of role did Axe-FX play in the recording process? Did you guys use real amps or go straight through the Axe-FX?
Alex: We used real amps. For certain effects, especially on the clean guitars, we used Kempers – Brian’s on an Axe-FX and Scott’s on a Kemper, but we used Kempers – they’re the superior technology. I stand by that one hundred percent. And we did most of the clean guitars with Kemper effects automating them in real-time, a lot of the solos we used Kemper effects on. I mean, live, Brian’s on an Axe-FX but in the studio Kemper was the technology, that’s for sure.
Now, since we’re just in the run-up to Christmas we wanted to ask everyone – what’s the best and worst gift you’ve ever received?
Alex: The best gift I ever received? I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you the worst. So I spent the summer working in film up in Vancouver, and I got that job through my aunt. And my aunt has worked in film for, like, twenty-five years. Vancouver’s a huge filming spot for Star Trek, Twilight – all these movies. And I remember when I was probably thirteen or fourteen, for Christmas my aunt came down and spent Christmas with me and my family. And that was just when Twilight was wrapping up – all of those movies were filmed in Vancouver. And my aunt got me an official film crew Twilight sweater-vest that said “Twilight: Eclipse – Vancouver” on it. And I’m like “Thanks Erica, I’m gonna wear this everywhere”. Oh my god – who wears sweater-vests, period? Let alone one that has “Twilight: Eclipse” on the fucking side of it. So that was the worst Christmas gift I ever got. The best gift? I don’t know – I got a LINKIN PARK DVD when I was ten that I was super-stoked on at the time. I don’t know; see I’m at that point in my life, I’m 24, so I’m at that point where I’m asking for, like, socks and shavers for Christmas. Like, I don’t want stuff – I need a couch or an end-table for my apartment.
So really, to round things off, what can fans expect from FALLUJAH next year?
Alex: Expect to see us worldwide. We’ll be back in Europe next year for festivals – I can’t say exactly which ones, but we have confirmed for some. The only one I’m allowed to confirm is Hellfest, because obviously we’re already announced for that. Expect this year to be bigger than ever, and expect an album that’ll crush anything else in the genre. I say that with absolute confidence.
Well, best of luck with that, and good luck with tonight and next year.
Alex: Thanks brother!