Exclusive Interview: Chestcrush talk writing and recording “Vdelygmia”!
The second of our creature double feature of interviews with multi-instrumentalist Evangelos Vasilakos, the mastermind behind Edinburgh based Blackend Death Sludge Metal outfit Chestcrush is finally here after the release of the well received and brutally ugly monster that is “Vdelygmia”. It is the plague of nightmares that haunts with dark thoughts and apocalyptic visions wrapped in a whirlwind of blast beats with a bow of Buzzsaw guitars as if the soundtrack to writings of Stephen King…
How does the writing process of a new Chestcrush track start? Melody, riff or rhythm first? “Most of the time the riff is the starting point of the creative process. After all the exploring it’s going to lead to other riffs and melodies and eventually it’s gonna be a 3 minute track. Then everything will go through the Chestcrush filter, you know, try to make it sound heavier and more sinister. At the end the starting riff might not even be in the song. This is how it starts but the process is long and things will change depending on other things like the lyrics. For example, I might give the song a different direction depending what the lyrics are about. I said most of the time because there are times that I don’t have a riff, I just have the atmosphere, the vibe, the mood and I have to start experimenting and improvising. The songs “Agonal Breath”, “The Digester” and “Vaptizetai…” started like this.”
When it came to the recording, due to the geography involved, was it all about online file trading to get each persons parts recorded? Being a solo project did you have a bit of a producers role as well and get involved in the arrangement side as it was your vision or was there more freedom for vocalist Thomas Blanc (Helioss, Celestial Swarm) and drummer Krzysztof Klingbein (Vader, Hate, Deathspawn)? “Yes, it was all file sharing and I had a producer’s role. I gave Thomas the lyrics and told him exactly where they go but I didn’t tell him how to sing them. Growls, screams, grunts, it’s all up to him. As for the drums, I had all the drums programmed to the last detail but that was because I started programming them before I decided to work with a drummer, even after this decision I wasn’t sure if it would work out so I kept editing as a back-up plan. I sent the drum midi files to Krzysztof but I told him to just keep the main grooves, you know, where is a blast beat I want a blast beat etc. and I left the details up to him”
The album was mixed and mastered by Ben Jones (Vacuous, Meth Leppard, Greed); how did you go about choosing to work with him and what was that experience like? “At first I wanted to mix the album myself like I did for the demo, and I would have if it wasn’t for the real drums. I had a mix almost ready (not nearly as good as Ben’s) but with the drum sampler. When I tried to mix it with the real drums all hell broke loose. I just couldn’t do it and after a while my ears gave up and soon after the rest of me followed. I started looking at the credits on new underground albums that I like to find out who did the mixing and I discovered Ben from Vacuous’ “Katabasis” (I just realised it’s another Greek titled album!). I checked his portfolio on his website and all of his mixes have this raw polished quality that I was looking for, not overproduced, aggressive sounding with a live feeling but keeping enough clarity, space and separation. It was super easy working with him. I think I might have confused him a little with how I wanted this to sound but it all worked out just fine in the end. After the first mix we changed a couple of things and the job was done”
If you had the opportunity to bring in a guest for a single track, who would you like to work with and why? We could see the Chestcrush material working really well with a guest vocal from Laurie Morbey of Leeched! “I didn’t know about Leeched, I first read about them from you, so I went to bandcamp to check them out and guess what I’ve been listening for the past few days. They’re destructive! Laurie sounds really pissed off and intimidating so yes it would fit perfectly to a Chestcrush song and he would give a different vibe. Another singer that I would love to work with is Mika Luttinen from Impaled Nazarene. The first 5 albums of IN are phenomenal and one of the reasons for this is Mika’s vocals. His screams are skin crawling, and his singing is so pissed off and evil sounding at the same time. Another recent album that I really like is Black Curse’s Endless Wound. The vocals on this album are pure nightmare fuel so I would love to work with something like that as well”
For us gear nerds out there, can you tell us what you’re using gear wise (pedals, strings, drums etc) to get your sound?
As I said earlier I started this project after a long hiatus from music, and when I moved to the UK from Greece, I didn’t bring any gear with me. So when I started this I tried to buy the best of the cheapest gear I could find that is good enough for what I had in mind. I ended up with two lunchbox amps. A Joyo Bantamp Zombie and an Orange Micro Dark through a Jet City 1×12 cab. An Ibanez tube screamer, a TC electronics Eyemaster (an HM-2 clone) and an MXR EQ. That was my tone at first and I was pleased with it but when I tried to mic the cab and record I encountered a couple of practical problems that just made the whole process very time consuming and exhausting (not just for me but for the neighbours as well), so I succumbed to the convenience of an amp sim. I used the STL tones “Will Putney tonality”. I’ve tried most of the well-known amp sims out there and it was the only one that clicked with me. I used two different tones for each guitar, as I did with the actual amps, a tight high gain tone (like the Joyo Zombie) and a muddy HM-2 tone (like the Orange with the Eyemaster) and blended them together.
The guitar I use is a Chapman baritone 28” long, tuned to drop E with .016-.080 Ernie Ball strings. These strings are massive and because I pick real hard they produce lots of string noise which I like. The string noise and the lack of clarity on the lower notes on the bottom string adds to the dissonant, unpleasant sound I’m trying to create”
What difference would it make to you as a band if you could land an endorsement from a gear manufacturer? “It depends on the deal. For a small underground band the deal wouldn’t make a big difference, I guess. It would make it a little more affordable to record music but other than that I don’t see a huge difference, but then again I don’t know much about endorsements. I would love some pedals from Abominable Electronics, or Lone Wolf Audio though”
“Vdelygmia” by Chestcrush is out now and available over at bandcamp