Monday, April 18, 2011

Interview: Joe Horvath- Circle of Dead Children

Happy Monday, guys. Sorry about slacking off again last week, I went to see Dying Fetus over the weekend and the couple days leading up to shows always lend themselves to plenty of excitement and distractions. But luckily there's plenty of stuff to talk about today, including a review for that show later, so get comfy. First up, we finally have another interview, one that I've been very excited about for a while now. Sit back and relax as we have a rather in-depth conversation with none other than Mr. Joe Horvath, vocalist for one of my favorite bands, the Pennsylvania deathgrind heavyweights Circle of Dead Children.

So first and foremost, thanks for taking some time to do this thing, I'm sure the new lineup change and whatnot has kept you guys pretty busy lately. We did an article about that a while ago as you saw, but can you give us any more info? What brought these changes about, was it sudden or did everyone kinda see it coming? And more importantly, how's the new lineup working out for you?

Man, we haven't been busy enough for a few years. Feeling amped and excited and having new things to work at is great for all of us right now. We've always been a band of constant set backs, but over the past several years it's been sort of different. When a key component of the unit is no longer motivated it effects everyone and slows or stalls the ability to move forward in any way. We've increasingly had a difficult time maintaining any sort of healthy band routine. It took a long time to solidify a new drummer (Matt Francis moved from Binghamton, New York to Pittsburgh to join) and even longer to produce fresh new material. The large majority of Psalm of the Grand Destroyer, for instance, had been written around 2005, despite it getting released in 2010. It's been difficult to see something you're a part of, and proud of, being let to slip away, especially given the relative success CODC has had. In the downtime I've watched the scene expand -- tons of new bands, labels, online and print media and so on. You really want to be an active part of that, you know? Frustration and discouragement had taken control of any of us left who still had the ambition to continue. So there was nothing sudden about Jason quitting and it wasn't much of a surprise. I've known and have been playing in bands with Jason since 1995, well before CODC, and my life would be different without having him as a friend and bandmate. I was never going to kick Jason out of the band, no matter what the issue was. My friendship with him and the respect I have for our friendship means more than my band. But stepping out was healthy for him, for the individual members of CODC and for CODC as an entity. Circle of Dead Children would never exist without Jason and his input, but his fire just hasn't been there for awhile. We're not kids anymore -- he's trying to move on with his life in other ways and I'd never slight him for that. We respect him a great deal for making a difficult decision that ultimately best suited everyone involved.

So far the new lineup is incredible. Drew's primary instrument is a guitar, not a bass, so the switch for him was a natural one. He's excited to be a bigger contributor and we're excited to hear his work. Drew was a CODC fan before joining in 2005 - he knows the music and the Circle sound and has worked with Brooks in several other bands over the years. We've all been friends with Brooks for a long time and he's an awesome addition to Circle. Can't ask for somebody easier and nicer to work with and his bass skills are off the hook. Everyone is happy and the nasty music is flowing effortlessly right now.

Where do you guys draw your influence and inspiration from? You guys write some pretty schizophrenic shit (I mean that in the best way possible of course), so how does one go from listening to your average (but still good) D-beat grind bands like Phobia and Nasum and then segue into the sheer insanity of Circle of Dead Children?

Play loud and basically without a set direction. [We] just wanted to play extreme metal and leave the classifications to the listeners. All the past and present members have really wide ranges of music that we enjoy. I don't think our sound is directly attributed to any particular bands or even styles of playing really… it's more of being influenced by the love and desire to make music and do our own thing. I think we've always played from our guts. The inspiration is drawn from watching and hearing bands do whatever the hell they want and being amazing while doing it. When I'm seeing a band playing live and they're making me feel frenzied and wishing I was on stage instead of them, that's inspirational. Reading lyrics in the liner notes of an album and totally feeling the words and imagery is my inspiration. There's been plenty of awesome Pittsburgh bands over the years and watching and listening to them always drove us to play. For me personally, I was moved by hearing early Incantation, Rottrevour, Hideous Mangleus, Fear of God, Morbid Angel, Winter, Napalm Death, Sore Throat and bands from that era. Assuck was a driving force for all of the original lineup at that time. But even then, nobody really wanted to sound like Assuck -- we just wanted to have something of our own that was fast and rocking, just like they had.

Another aspect of the band that I've always been a huge fan of is the very abstract lyrical concepts, things like "We Who Move With the Graven Worms" and "King Cobra vs. Queen Bee"; basically stuff that sounds cool and sounds like it should mean something, but honestly I can't quite figure it out. What goes through your head when you're writing these lyrics? Are you doing just that, using abstract imagery to try to get a message across, or are you just thinking up some trippy shit to fuck with people's heads?

Thanks a lot -- always cool to hear from somebody who pays attention to lyrics. Lyrics have always been important to me, no matter what type of music I'm listening to and I've never seen why that should be any different in this style of music. All of elements are important; the instruments, the vocals, lyrics, artwork, packaging, etc. They may not all be essential from a solely sonic standpoint, but as far as what and who you are as an entity, I think it's all crucial.

Everything certainly has meaning, or at least a value lyrically. I can't say there's total consistency with themes or song titles, but there's something always there nonetheless. I guess there's an element of self-amusement in that I try to mess with a lot of different literary techniques and incorporate imagery, allegories, couplets, homonyms, anapests, blank verses, metonymies and a lot of figurative language and so on. There's definitely not a direct plan of writing confusing lyrics, but there also definitely is a plan to not write straightforward as well.

As most people know you're also a pretty avid conspiracy theorist, as are many grindcore musicians, so how much does that play into your writing process? It's pretty much scientific fact that conspiracies and grind go hand in hand, much like gore and death metal, but CODC isn't your average grind band.

I don't think I'm much of conspiracy theorist, really. Being very analytic, at times to a fault, is part of my nature. Combine that with a pretty insatiable appetite for trying to understand the hows, whats and whys of what I don't understand, and you get what you get with me. I like answers and solutions and I like the journey of trying to find and make sense of them. If I watch any of the mainstream news channels, I feel inundated with popular conspiracy, disinformation, propaganda and outright lies and I'm pretty sure it's not my imagination [it's not, everyone who's anyone knows that the mainstream media is packed to the gills with disinformation and slanting -Ed]. Some people acquiesce to that and accept it, others do not and I suppose I'm one of the former. Seeing smoke and realizing that your house is on fire is nice, but ultimately you're going to want to know where its burning from and why if you have any desires to see it stop from burning completely. I'm a free spirit and I don't enjoy knowing that a parasitic ruling class has set up a scientifically, socially engineered society to live and die in. I think there's more to human life than being a cow or a snake.

That said, I don't think my "conspiratorial" views affect my writing for CODC as much as one might assume. Other avenues exist for me to get that sort of thing out and I use them. I try to keep a certain feeling when writing Circle stuff, but there's no template. I wouldn't even go so far as to say that CODC lyrics even accurately reflect my personal philosophies so much as they're just a dumping dock for that section of my brain.

Alright, getting away from the songwriting topic, if memory serves me right you guys didn't do much touring to support your last album Psalm of the Grand Destroyer, despite the fact that it was and still is so well liked. Since these complications with the lineup were brought to light no one's really going to hold that against you, but now that you've gotten everything worked out do you guys have any plans to get back out on the road anytime soon? I can think of at least one wannabe music journalist who would jump at the chance to see you guys live.

We did none, not even a CD-release show. Definitely disappointing. We love playing shows but have never been able to capitalize on tour offers the way we would have liked to. I've had a professional full-time job since day one and have owned a home since about day two. Those two things alone make getting time off to tour and still pay the bills difficult. Combine that with all the lineup changes, transportation and band financial issues, illnesses, etc. and you have what we've had. These days back issues add to the problem. I think the last show we played I ended up having six or seven back treatments over the course of a month to feel semi-normal again. Matt needs several months of the year to tour with Hank III while he plays drums in Assjack. Our most productive days for shows are now behind us unfortunately. That said, we're still looking to play out and hit up some of the places we've never been able to make it to in the past.

Last but certainly not least, when you guys announced the lineup changed you also mentioned that you were already working on new material as a followup to Psalm, so I gotta ask: when can we hear some of it??

New material is flowing right now and it's a good feeling. I haven't even begun working vocals into songs yet, so it's going to be a little while before there's something to be heard. No matter what, new music is on the way.

That should just about do it sir, thanks again for talking to us, do you have any other parting words or advice for the readers before you go?

Just to thank you and anyone out there who's supported CODC in any way over the years. Keep screaming. 


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