MAtW – Hello, Christopher, it is truly a pleasure to be able to talk to you! How are you?
Thank you! I’m doing great.
MAtW – Every single piece of news related to your solo career is great news to me, so I was wired when I read about you working on the next Armageddon album! Any updates for hungry ears?
We are working hard on completing the new Armageddon material and shall be entering the studio within a month.
Right now we are putting the finishing touches to the arrangements and writing lyrics.
We will be posting regular updates once we do a press release, announcing the new band.
I feel the time is right… we are creating the ultimate metal album!
MAtW – Is there an official release date yet? Will it be self-released or through a record label?
Sometime early next year. The plan is to finish the album and have it ready to go before Christmas. There will be a release through a label. Actually, a few labels in different areas of the world.
MAtW – Could you share some additional technical info (studio, mixing, mastering, artcover credits)?
It’s gonna be a few studios, including my home-studio setup. We’re currently looking to book a studio, and there’s a few options.
We are also looking for the right mixing engineer at the moment. I have found an awesome visual artist too, a painter, and I’m trying get in touch with him.
I’ve wanted to have virtuosic painter do the cover for a long time, it would fit the music so well.
MAtW – What is the overall sound and direction like this time around, as compared to the first three?
It has elements of all three albums. There is clean vocals, growling, screaming, plenty of melodies and heavy riffs. It’s classic metal mixed with newer influences.
MAtW – I remember you mentioning a brand new line-up for this new album. Could I ‘force’ some details out of this one?
It’s a five-piece group now. I have found some excellent musicians.
We will be announcing the new band soon. They are all fairly new to the scene.
MAtW – Will you be singing? Is there a different vocal approach that we should be expecting and / or are you focusing on different guitar compositions?
I will be doing a little bit of clean singing, but most of the vocals will be handled by the main vocalist, who is a death metal growler.
MAtW – Since you are calling the shots, what is your approach as a solo artist when it comes to choosing band members, determining the writing process, rehearsal time frame and mindset, other band rules and decisions? (I take it responsibilities are not equally divided?)
I do most of the work when it comes to organizing everything. I also do most of the songwriting of course. The bassist, Sara, writes the lyrics.
When it comes to choosing band members, apart from from the musical side, they need to be positive, easy-going people mainly.
MatW – Going solo, does the direct attention make you feel more exposed / vulnerable, music wise? Since you are behind everything, I guess there would be a different pressure while displaying your creations.
It did make me feel exposed, you are correct. It felt weird at first, but I got used to it after a while.
MAtW – Do you feel you are your biggest critic? (The ultimate too?)
Isn’t that true for most people? Either way, I think I can be self-critical, but that’s also what drives me to become better. It’s important for me to get feedback from co-musicians or a producer.
MAtW – Ambition vs. Perfectionism. How is one related to the other in your case?
Like I said, it’s good to involve someone else’s ears. Other wise you can get too wrapped up in details and lose sight of the thing as a whole.
MAtW – You seamlessly blend technical virtuosity and melodic hooks. Would you say you favor either?
I definitely prefer simplicity more and more. Sometimes I rely on technique and flash if I run out of ideas. I think on a sub-conscious level I strive to try to make it as catchy and direct as I can. I can find good stuff in almost every genre, seriously. It depends on what mood I’m in. All the metal musicians my age I know are the same way. On the tour bus we are listening to jazz, country, pop, singer-songwriters, electronic music… you name it! Total music nerds. Of course we will put on some metal too, especially before going on stage, to get the right aggressive vibe going 🙂
MAtW – What is the biggest challenge you encounter during your creative process?
To stay fresh and not be too repetitive. To experiment and find new ways of approaching writing, it’s easy to fall back on experience and “safe” methods.
MAtW – You are unquestionably one of the few musicians to convey musical sincerity, with no interest in writing commercial stuff whatsoever. Talk about music as hobby-passion, craft-job.
Wow, thanks for the compliment! I’m really just trying to write music that I would like to hear myself. I know that if I’m excited to write it and perform it, that enthusiasm will translate to the listener.
MAtW – Taking this idea one step further, both of your solo albums, “Follow Your Heart” and “Impulses” have explicit titles. I personally saw a “pun” in this: you have followed your innate musical curiosity and went your own way.
When naming “Impulses” I was thinking of electrical impulses, our sound waves, the notion that music is basically just that. Although that was not my intended meaning of the word,
I see what you mean though, like following an impulse or something.
MAtW – Would you consider writing an all-guitar album? (instrumental only, no vocals)
Actually, I have thought about it many times but I never followed through with it. Somehow I feel that it would be a “waste” of good song-ideas and melodies.That’s just my personal opinion. I prefer mixing it up little by adding instrumental songs to my albums and a lot of no-vocal parts in the songs. I like listening to instrumental music though, and I totally respect people who choose do it.
Who knows what the future holds? Right now I’m focusing all my creative energy on Armageddon.
MAtW – Just how challenging singing at first? (And lead singer at that…)
It’s definitely more of a physical strain. In a live situation I prefer playing guitar only, or maybe just doing back up vocals. I like running around onstage too much to be both singing and playing.
MAtW – When and how do you determine that any given song is “done” and ready to be featured on an album?
It’s a process, you make an arrangement and then you go back and listen after a few days and change things until it’s done. I guess it’s determined to be done when you can go back and listen a without wanting to change anything.
I jump from song to song a lot, even during one days work.
MAtW – Do you have a certain practice schedule and routine?
I just kind of work all day, in spurts. I get up, have breakfast, then open up the computer, answer emails for a bit and then start with the music.
Usually I run through a few warm-up patterns and scales on the guitar before I play anything else.
MAtW – What does your current rig consist of? Besides the new Charvel Guitar you now play on, have you indulged yourself with some new effects / pedals, etc?
I bought a Kemper Profiler amplifier just a few days ago, excellent piece of gear.
I use EVH amplifiers also. My main guitar now is a Jackson Soloist. I also have a seventies Les Paul-copy that I like to play. I put new pickups in it, D’addarios. I might use that for the rhythm tracks on the album.
MAtW – What tuning are you currently using?
On the new album we will be playing in D standard and B standard. There will also be an instrumental acoustic piece played in standard tuning.
MAtW – In retrospect, when new written material is ready, would you say ideas are honed down from a previous one or is it completely spontaneous, instinctive?
Well, it’s starts kind of spontaneous but after a while I develop a vision of what I want an album to sound like.
I also make little notes of ideas or things I like in other music and try to implement it into my own stuff.
MAtW – Any live shows scheduled in the near future?
These songs are going to be great live, I can feel it when we rehearse them. There’s a lot of energy and heaviness. There’s no shows scheduled, but I want to get out there and promote this album. That’s the whole idea!
I hope to come to Europe and play next year.
MAtW – Ghost Ship Octavius had a seminal stint. Is there any chance you will pick up where you left it off? (as far as bothsides are concerned)
No, I’m definitely happier doing this. Some collaborations don’t work out, that’s just the way it is.
MAtW – Stilistically, your latest solo album “Impulses” is a far cry from “Follow Your Heart”. There are also lots of different instrumental details, arrangements, there’s the lyrical aspect too… Any plans for a third Chris Amott CD and if so any musical facets you might want to tackle this time?
I have been toying with the idea of making some really dreamy, ambient music, really soft sounding. But right now I’m focusing all my creative energy into Armageddon – I just want to make the best metal album possible at this point.
MAtW – You plan on rerecording “Funeral In Space”. It’s a rather dramatic piece already with tons of feeling to it, so are you planning on enhancing the atmosphere, add instrumental subtleties, redo certain parts?
We’ll see about that… not sure if it will happen. I want to have a fresh start and not look back too much.
MAtW – As a musician you constantly evolve and change: looking back at your solo career are you satisfied with how both the journey and the path you followed turned out to be?
I am satisfied, I needed to go through a period of experimentation to get to this point. From a career point of view, I feel like I haven’t even started yet… I want to release a hell of a lot more music before it’s all over.
MAtW – Since you are so diverse stilistically, what triggers a certain sound, degree of agression, melodicity on each album? Do you have a predeterminded direction? (For example when writing “Follow Your Heart” were you set on writing an album that would be in the vein of the 70s classic rock? Or was it more of a general idea that followed a natural course and it just ended up like that)
Yes, I was into that sound at the time. I was listening to a lot of Neil Young. I like soft rock a lot. I wanted it to sound relaxed. Influences are hard to pinpoint, it’s subconscious a lot of the time. It can be both recent influences, as well as music I grew up hearing. I just take every song in the direction feels felt right. I like all kinds of music. I mainly want to write good songs.
I don’t keep up with the modern metal scene unfortunately, I’m too into doing my own thing. I’ve always been that way, for better or worse 🙂
MAtW – Outside the music realm, what are some other activities Chris Amott enjoys just as much as music?
Since I’ve been living in New York I like to go into Manhattan and just walk around and take in the vibe.
There’s always something interesting to see or hear. Other than that, I watch a lot of movies with my wife, and I read.
MAtW – Last question, the random question: (I hope you can see the joke in it… It is an optional question. Only meant it to be a bit funny) – SAW wanted to play a game with you and your brother. You find yourselves tied up, caught in a deadly trap. One of you guys has to cut one finger off, in order to save the other… You have 2 minutes.
Right hand or left hand? On the right hand I could lose my pinky, no problem. But I think my brother should sacrifice a finger, I am younger and I still have so much more to give 🙂
MAtW – Christopher, thank you for your time! Keep on being yourself and writing great music!
Thanks Cristina! I’ll try my best.