Before it could even be released, major music retailers around the world refused to stock Holy War, forcing the band to re-submit it with a revised cover image. Such backlash is understandable, but attracting controversy isn’t Thy Art Is Murder’s chief intention. They’ve got a potent message to communicate, and an audacious spirit leading them to such extravagant measures. Mixdown spoke to guitarist Andy Marsh about the new album and surrounding controversy.
The retail rejection of the Holy War artwork perhaps isn’t such a surprise, but it was seemingly very important to you that you didn’t compromise your creative and ideological vision. Are you able to detect whether your music and way of thinking is having the impact on people you intend it to?
So far I think it is. The intent behind the record as a whole, as a piece of art – music, lyrics and physical artwork – was all designed to generate some sort of discussion. Whether that’s the by-product of someone taking offence or someone taking intrigue doesn’t bother me, as long as it is generating some discussion. So I definitely think you can design a record to stir emotion within other people, as long as it stirs something within yourself.
Censorship occurs when the powers that be deem something inappropriate or potentially dangerous. However, at its core, Holy War seems to have a constructive aim. Although people love to focus on controversy, have you tried to re-focus attention on the message you’re trying to convey?
I definitely exploited the element of controversy to draw attention to the record, and I feel like we backed it up by delivering a good record that is full of vicious intent and very, very good delivery. If it had’ve been some record that had no message that wasn’t backed up by any sort of meaning or conviction then I could understand how we could all sit around and laugh about it as some sort of controversial album release to generate CD sales. But it isn’t. CD sales are a by-product of stirring emotion within the listener, because people will always flock to what is real. I feel that kids can generally tell when something is too put on or too rehearsed or whatever. What we did is not controversial – we put a picture on an album and we wrote some words about some things. The things that exist are the things that are stirring people, and they don’t want to know about them or they want to put a blanket over them and pretend that they’re not there. But they are.
The album was produced and mixed by Will Putney, who you also worked with on 2012’s Hate. Does Will play a creative role in the recording process?
Will is generally fairly hands-on with his records. With us, I feel that we’ve reached this point where we’re paying him to engineer and mix and master the album, and then just participate as another band member. He knows where we’re going, we know where he’s going. It’s not like he’s trying steer the ship that’s gone astray. We have a very distinct vision and he works with it. We’re very close friends. He’s not a producer to us anymore. He’s just like a band member. The whole record flew by in about 14 days. Most bands take between four-to-eight weeks. So, you know, when you’re so comfortable and such good friends with someone, work does not feel like work. It makes working longer hours that much more achievable, because you’re not really working.
You’re the sort of guitarist who makes other guitarists jealous due to the seeming effortlessness with which you play the instrument. This could be a natural gift, but it’s unlikely you’d be able to play like that without putting in a lot of hard work. Before going into the studio, do you like to know exactly what you’re doing and get it done as quickly as possible? Or is the studio a place of experimentation?
I deliberately did not practice guitar before going into record [Holy War]. I practiced for a few days before the last record and I felt some of the stuff on that record was a little bit faster and shreddier. So this time I deliberately didn’t practice so my hands would be a little bit clumsier and I’d be forced to play slower. That’s not to say that I am lazy, because I definitely work hard. But I think that’s a creative element – forcefully denying yourself certain things to make you perform in a different way or generate different ideas because of your limitations.
Holy War is out now via Nuclear Blast Entertainment. For more info, visit Thy Art Is Murder’s Facebook Page.