WORDS: Wesley Needham
Many were surprised when Chris Broderick announced he was departing thrash titans MEGADETH in November last year. Yet the guitarist has been incredibly busy with his new project, ACT OF DEFIANCE, featuring members of SHADOWS FALL, SCAR THE MARTYR and so forth. We caught up with Chris Broderick to discuss the band’s debut record, Birth and the Burial, Chris’s approach to solos and why he decided to ditch MEGADETH.
So your new project ‘Act of Defiance’ has its debut album ‘Birth and the Burial’ scheduled for release next week, are you excited for people to hear the album in its entirety?
Chris: Absolutely, it’s one of those things it’s like this nervous angst because, when you create something you become very attached to it, for better or for worse and I guess the ultimate thing is you want people to like it but you have to really kind of distance yourself from expecting people to like it or not because its personal, you know, it’s a personal thing and you can just hope people like it.
Over the years you’ve spent a lot of time in various bands such as JAG PANZER, NEVERMORE, and obviously the past seven years in MEGADETH, do you feel that your time with these bands has had an influence on your playing style, and if so, how do you feel this has affected the writing process for Birth and the Burial?
Chris: Definitely they have all impacted my influences of playing, and even just my experiences in life. I mean for example, I was never that much of a thrash player prior to playing with Megadeth and they really opened up my eyes to other bands such as Slayer and, I mean Metallica kind of transcend a lot of metal styles don’t they? So they were always kind of fun, but yeah I got more into Slayer and Exodus and Death Angel, and it really kind of opened my eyes to the whole thrash genre.
Regarding the writing process, what has it been like collaborating with Henry Derek and Matt Bachand, and especially with Shawn Drover for the first time outside of MEGADETH?
Chris: It was awesome because, in a way, I haven’t had that experience too much with Matt yet because he came in so late that, we just got him in time enough to lay down the bass lines, so I didn’t get to collaborate with him too much. With Shawn, it was very democratic, with us in general, we don’t want any one person in control or have total say over what’s gonna make it or what’s not, we not only looked at each other for that kind of advice but we also looked outside of Act of Defiance and asking, you know like Brian Slagel at the label and what he thought of certain things and other various people as well, and just down to asking our friends, like ‘Hey, what do you guys think of this?’. Working with Henry was awesome because he came in and, you know, we had kind of laid it out in a way where most of the material was kind of written, but when he came in with his lyric ideas and his melodic ideas he just killed it, so it was awesome, it’s like working with somebody where you have what you think of as a great idea and you get together and jam with your buddies and they make it even better.
With the recording process taking place between three separate studios were there ever any issues caused or did it all run fairly smoothly?
Chris: No, you know what, it went really smoothly. I think part of that is making sure you kind of set it up to run smoothly, knowing how to fly-in files and files out and making sure that the sessions are set up the same in each studio so that everything just imports really easily and there’s no time alignment issues, there are no misunderstandings of anything that could throw a song off in the mixing and engineering realm of things.
The album itself seems to be incredibly diverse, holding elements of Thrash Metal, Progressive Metal and Death Metal, there seems to be something for everyone. In some cases such as with the song ‘Refrain and Re-Fracture’ we can even see the classical influences in your playing. In this sense, would you say this project has been an overall musically liberating experience for you?
Chris: Absolutely, yeah. And it’s not that we set out to make it any amount of diverse stylistically or anything like that, we really just wanted to write, we just wanted to get out and create and see what came of it, we had no preconceived idea of where we should go or what it should be, we just wanted to be creative.
So would you say this sense of artistic freedom is something you didn’t necessarily have with MEGADETH?
Chris: Well I think it was definitely under control and it was one of those places where, you know, Dave Mustaine, he IS Megadeth and he is known for it and so, it’s understandable that he needs to make sure that his band sounds the way he wants it to, and I can totally understand that, but it became time for me to venture out on my own because I really wanted to have that kind of creative freedom that Dave enjoyed.
What sort of themes does the album explore lyrically, and how do you personally go about writing lyrics?
Chris: Well for me I think the album explores a lot of personal themes of nature and life experiences, a lot of relationship type things, not in terms of, you know, a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship but just relationships with people in general, and for me personally, lyrically, I tend to prefer songs that really, they convey a sense or an idea or a concept, but they don’t pigeon-hole it in a story or anything that’s so specific the listener is now listening to your own personal experience. I want the listener to be able to hear a song and identify with it and be able to apply their own experiences onto what the song is saying.
What sort of approach did you take to writing your solos for the album?
Chris: You know, the one thing that I really liked being able to do this time was being able to look at the rhythms beforehand, because, as a guitarist there are certain rhythms that make for a good solo and certain rhythms that don’t, so the awesome thing is this time I was able to look at the rhythm and make it fit around the solo in a way so I would write a rhythm that, for example, didn’t rhythmically dictate how the rhythm of the solo should be too much or it didn’t dictate the harmony or the tonality of the solo either, so I really kind of cleared those things out and made the rhythm more sparse so that the solo could do more of the talking. And then, as far as when I look at the solo it’s kind of like, well, I start listening to the rhythm and I try and imagine what I’m hearing, whether it’s some sort of an intervallic sixteenth-note arpeggio thing going on, or whether it’s this beautiful melody, and then I just try and bring it to life on the guitar.
A lot of musicians prefer to improvise their solos and leave them as they are, would you say you’re more methodical about how you write?
Chris: Much more. I’m very compositionally-driven, I tend to think in terms of, like, when I hear something in my head, what is the tonality and what is the rhythm breakdown of what I’m hearing, you know, and then I try and bring that to life and, to tell you the truth, a lot of times that gets me into real trouble because you can really imagine anything, it’s bringing it to life and playing it on the guitar that becomes the issue.
I’ve noticed recently you’ve been playing on a new Jackson signature model, could you possibly give any information as to what the specs are, how it differs from your Soloist model, or if there are any plans for a production model for the public to buy?
Chris: Oh you’re talking about the pointy guitar I’ve been playing? That is a prototype that I had built and it was basically the desire to have a really cool shape like that that you could still put and rest on one leg and have it play real comfortably, because those shapes they’re kind of, they’re a pain to play sitting down, you know, and a lot of times they’re a pain to play standing up too. So I really wanted something like that, and so, for example, it’s got bevelled edges that allow your right hand picking hand to come in a really relaxed position, it’s got a lower horn next to the neck so that you can rest it on your leg and play it sitting down if you want, it’s got the end pins which are moved around so that the balance of the guitar sits really nicely when you’re standing up, it’s got a body curve which is a body-cut out of the back of it which is very atypical for shapes like that, but it just feels so comfortable and so natural to play. The only thing with that shape is that the case has to be so big on it, that’s the only thing we can’t solve. It’s got all my usual Soloist specs beyond that, you know, it has my pickups in it and it has the stainless steel 12” radius fretboard and the reverse Jackson headstock. I am hoping that we will release it, it just depends on people’s demand for it in a way, you know, if people clamour for it then I think Jackson will see a reason to make it a reality.
Well I know I’d definitely like to get one.
Chris: Hey, thanks man.
So, just to finish off, are there any plans in the works for an Act of Defiance tour, and if so would this include the U.K.?
Chris: Yes it would. We’re looking at dates right now in the late Fall, and we’re trying to confirm a few things so I can’t really mention dates yet. We’re looking at a North American and a potential European tour, as long as everything works out well we’re gonna make it happen.
Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you man, thank you for taking the time to sit down and chat with me.
Chris: Well thank you Wesley, sorry about the name mispronunciation earlier.
Chris: Alright, have a good one!
You too man!
Act of Defiance’s debut album Birth and the Burial was released on Friday 21st August through Metal Blade Records. The album is available for purchase now and the band are planning to begin touring in support of the album towards the end of the year.