Chuck Schuldiner Project

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Interview with Butch of Argus

Armed with an armada of heavy songs inspired by the old great ones of heavy metal, Argus are the kind of that prove that the roots of the genre haven't dried out and that there is still some ground left to explore if one decides to combine their taste for the old-school together with forward-thinking ambition. Just listen to some of their stuff if you haven't already and you'll understand what I mean. It's heavy, it's epic, and it's got pretty much everything  else you'd want from a heavy/doom band.
I was lucky enough to get in contact with the bands' vocalist Butch and ask them a few quick questions about their recent European shows, their latest releases as well their perspective on the state of Heavy Metal today.

-               First off, when did the band come together and how did the members end up connecting?
The band is we are known came together in 2006.  Argus existed as a kind of groove/stoner metal band and those guys all knew each other from high school and the scene up in the Franklin, PA area.  I met the band at a time when I was without a band and their singer was playing his last gig with them. I spoke to Kevin, our drummer, after their set and we hit it off and after a few phone calls I came out to audition and it grew from there. We dropped almost all of the old material and started building our music based around our love for Iron Maiden, Candlemass, Thin Lizzy, Slough Feg….stuff like that. Heavy, powerful, melodic and with great guitar harmonies, a tight and aggressive rhythm section and powerful vocals.

-               For those out there who've yet to discover your band, how would you describe the music you play?
It’s metal. I don’t know what else to say really. We prefer not to be pigeonholed into some sub-genre. But we are heavy, melodic, epic at times, moody and have moments or shades of doom and little progressive minded flairs. I always throw out the description of Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath in a blender. It is simply high quality heavy metal.

-               Last April marked your first appearance at Roadburn Fest, how did that go?
It was amazing. We were treated like rock stars by Walter and his staff. The sound and lighting was phenomenal. The Green Room was packed from the time we started until we hit our last note. It truly could not have gone any better. It is one of the highlights of my life and a true honor to play Roadburn. It’s the most professional operation out there. Simply amazing.

-               What were your impressions on European audiences?
We love European audiences. They are so passionate about their music. Their love for heavy metal. They sing, they cheer, clap….  They don’t just stand there with their arms folded in front of them. If they like you they will show you.  I love playing in the USA but Europe takes it to another level.

-                How and when did you get hooked up with Cruz Del Sur Records?
I initially contacted Enrico around the time of our debut but, at that time, we were a new band and he preferred to not have such an unknown on the label yet. When it came time to do the second album we were in contact and with some help from  Tom Phillips (While Heaven Wept) as well we came to an agreement for “Boldly Stride the Doomed”.

-                Who writes the lyrics in the band? What do the lyrics usually deal with? I've picked up some references to historical events, notably the Manhattan project and other war-related lyrics on your latest album.
I write the lyrics. They are mix of personal, historical or storytelling. Generally whatever strikes my mood. I’ve gone from adaptations of Poe and Lovecraft to historical stories such as the Endurance expedition to Antarctica in 1914 (By Endurance We Conquer) to personal issues like growing old (Wolves of Dusk), gaining strength through loss (From Darkness…Light), my children (Four Candles Burning). The next album will be almost exclusively personal and very dark.  Trinity from “Beyond the Martyrs” was, indeed, about the Manhattan Project. 

-               Could you tell us a little more about the great cover artwork to your latest record "Beyond the Martyr"?
Brad Moore does our artwork and we basically gave him some very very rough ideas and let him run with it. He hasn’t let us down yet. He does great work and is a good friend as well. Very talented dude.

-                Earlier this year you also released a single titled "Death Hath No Conscience". Could you tell us a little more about this single and what it's about?
It was a song initially to be the start of our fourth album but we decided to do a 7” to coincide with our appearances at Roadburn and in Dublin.  Lyrically the song was inspired by someone I loved very dearly who had been through a horrible stretch of tragedy in a short period of time…losing her mother, younger brother and her father who at the time was very ill and later also passed. I felt incredibly sad for her and her family and wondered why good people had to suffer so much when there are so many bad people in the world. I was angry at what the world was doing to her and her family. This song reflects the indiscriminate and cold and unfeeling nature of death. Death doesn’t care what she leaves in her wake. So the title “Death Hath No Conscience” came to me and within two hours the lyric as you hear it was completed.

-                Your music is deeply rooted within the foundations of old-school heavy and doom metal. What is your take on some of the emerging subgenres of metal music as well as the evolution of heavy metal music today?
I can hardly keep up with all the subgenres out there. We don’t concern ourselves with that. I can tell you that from vets like Iron Maiden to young bands like Visigoth and in between there is a ton of great metal being recorded. I’d be here all day listing bands.  Not every band is unique but many are passionate and more importantly writing great songs and that is the key – songwriting. If your songs are good no one really cares if you sound like someone they’ve heard before. If you out yourself into it, if you put yourself out there then it will come across in your music. The scene is healthy creatively for sure. It is hard for bands though – touring is expensive, labels are more concerned with sales than developing artists, and sales of physical product are way down… But metal is like the cockroach of the music world. You can’t kill it. It can live through a nuclear holocaust.

-               I've read that you are currently working on your upcoming fourth full-length effort. What can we expect from Argus with this upcoming release?
We have 4-5 songs in process of writing.  With two new members in the band, Dave Watson on guitar and he is already setting himself up as an integral part of the writing team and Justin Campbell on bass who brings a ton to the table in terms of ideas for every aspect of the band.  You can expect it to sound like Argus with the edges pushed out somewhat. We don’t believe in stagnancy or repeating ourselves. This album will have some more somber moments. There is a song in process called “No Right to Grieve” that should end up being a real heartbreaker of a song. It will be a mix of stuff though from uptempo songs to doomy bits to moody passages and of course great harmony guitars. I don’t think this next album will disappoint our fans in any way. I don’t have a better feel for it yet because we’re barely ¼ of the way into the process but I can tell it’s going to be special. Lyrically I will be going more personal than I ever have and it’s going to be emotional, sometimes dark, material.

-               To close things off with our trademark question: could you name one of your favorite albums, movies and books?

Album…. Hmmm… let’s go with Witch Cross “Fit for Fight”….I’ve been playing it a lot lately. Great playing, singing and the riffs on that album’s back half rival bands like Mercyful Fate. Just such a great album that I’ve dug since I was a teenager.

MovieThe Wizard of Oz… I could watch it a million times and never be bored. Not the most “metal” pick I could have made but it is my favorite film since I was a kid.

BookNothin' to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975)… Quite a revealing look at how KISS began and rose to fame and all the work that went into breaking them and turning them into stars. 

Interview by Robin Ono

Thank you to Mark, to Brian and to the rest of the band for making this interview possible! Rock on guys!

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