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Thy Art Is Murder: More Than Just Deathcore

CJ McMahon chats his return to the group, pushing genre boundaries & their solo show in SA.

2 Nov 2017 / Interview / written by Dayle Visser / Pic by Thomas Savage

With a new album that’s pretty much tailor-made for a stadium stage, Thy Art Is Murder’s show in Johannesburg this weekend is bound to be as manic as they come.

I called vocalist CJ McMahon in between gigs to chat about his return to the group, pushing genre boundaries and the band’s first trip to South Africa.

Dayle Visser: You are currently on a world tour and you’re pretty much dominating the planet. How are you and how are things going?

CJ McMahon: Personally, I am very tired. I’ve been sick for about 3 weeks. Yeah as far as our careers and the band and all of that shit, we couldn’t have asked for a better world tour. We have sold out venues all over the world. Sold out 90% of the Australian shows, America and Canada we all good, sold out 11 of our 12 shows in the UK and have very similar numbers in Europe.

Dayle: That’s so rad man stoked for you. You are going to be playing in Joburg on the the 4th of November, how do you feel about coming to South Africa?

CJ: Man I am super stoked! I have been fascinated with South Africa since I was a little kid. I’m very into all things ocean especially the shark world, and animals in general. I grew up watching documentaries on the ocean and African animals. I’m really excited to come down there but unfortunately I am only gonna be there for about 30 hours or so. I am going to try and make those hours count as much as possible.

Dayle: Hopefully we’re hospitable! I’m joking, we are pretty dope.

CJ: [Laughs] Yeah man I have heard good things!

Dayle: You returned to the band fairly recently and went straight into recording the new record. Has this return influenced the band and how has it been for you?

CJ: I would say it really hasn’t influenced the band much at all. If I didn’t come back the band would still be pushing forward.  It was more of a personal thing for me. I needed to fix up parts of my life and just make sure I was in a good place because I was having a negative impact on myself, my family, my friends and the band. So it was something that I needed to step away from. It definitely helped the band with stress levels because we don’t have to be mindful of my attitude and mental illness, which is good thing.

Dayle: “Dear Desolation” sounds quite a bit different to previous albums. Did your return influence that?

CJ: Yeah I don’t think me leaving the band had anything to do with the writing process. We kind of thought about having elements of my journey in it but I think it was important that we just kept and maintained what our ideas and goals were as a band.

It was really cool writing a record that we have been wanting to write for a long time but we were unsure of how people would receive it. Although its still our sound and still pretty similar to previous releases, it is a more mature record and it touches on a few different elements of metal that we haven’t really touched on before. We just wanted to prove to ourselves and others that we are more than just deathcore. Deathcore leaves a sour taste in my mouth every time I say it, but I think we are bigger than this genre and as much as we have strong ties to it, we have a lot more to offer ourselves and our fans.

Dayle: Well I’m just going to say that you have definitely put out a record that the fans deserve. The album artwork itself is incredible and the lamb and the wolf is quite an interesting juxtaposition. Can you tell me about the choice of artist and what the intention was?

CJ: Our guitarist Andy gave us the idea that we wanted something painted and he then showed us a few artists. We chose Eliran Kantor and gave him a few concepts of what the overall theme was for the record and let him decide what works best for him. He nailed it! The artwork is extremely beautiful and it tells a story in itself.

The whole idea of the imagery is that the wolf is evil and the lamb is pure. The wolf could easily eat the lamb, eat it right now, but if the wolf feeds the lamb until its a fully grown adult, the wolf would be able to feed for a much longer time. It’s evil feeding purity and the longevity of evil’s life. The more you feed the purity the bigger it will grow.

Dayle: That is such a rad concept and I feel like it would speak to most people. In terms of being on stage, do you still get stage fright?

CJ: I haven’t had stage fright in probably 6 years now. I don’t get nervous anymore, its just like going to work. I’m at that pint of tour when you are 4 months in and you are tired and you just want to go home and rest. We still have a few weeks left so I’ve gotta keep going. As soon as I start playing I feel good again. I get that feeling where I love being on stage and I really do love what I do. I would never change this.

Dayle: What are your favourite songs to play and what songs freak you out slightly?

CJ: My favourite songs, ah man there are so many. Like, ‘Holy War’, ‘Reign In Darkness’, ‘Shadow Of Internal Sin’ and ‘The Purest Strain Of Hate’. I really like ‘The Son Of Misery’ off the new record too. A song that kinda freaks me out is ‘Puppet Master’. I love the song but it is very vocally driven. Its just a hard song to breath too when its just vocals, vocals, vocals, vocals, vocals okay breath. The structure for my breathing patterns is on overdrive.

Dayle: Yeah I can only imagine how intense it can get, especially on an extensive world tour. I have one more question for you, what is the one thing you wish people would ask you in an interview?

CJ: I don’t know, I don’t think there is anything really. I am pretty much an open book and there is no questions that make me nervous. I don’t really care man, people can ask me anything they want.

Dayle: I’m pretty sure you have heard all the questions you’d ever want to hear anyway. Thank you so much for your time bro! I look forward to you guys melting the faces of South Africa!

CJ: [Laughs] Thanks man, it was only a pleasure, can’t wait to get there!

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