Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Evening With Arbiter!

I got the chance to get on the phone with Connor and Josh from the Michigan based deathcore band Arbiter, who told me about their story, and some good details about their upcoming split album Ironclad/Machinations! Now, as I am a fan of giving people choices, so I took the time to write the entire 30 minute interview out for people to read, but you might not be fond of reading for long periods of time, or maybe you want to hear their voices, who knows the reason. The audio isn't fantastic, but it's pretty good. Anyhow, if you do choose to read the whole thing I'd recommend hopping on Spotify real quick (which is free!) or Bandcamp (also free!) and starting their previous album Colossus as it would be great background music while you read this interview!

Now with that out of the way shall we get this thing started?

Here's the audio version up front: Arbiter Interview January 23rd 2012 by Alexander Everingham

And here's the text version:

BBSS: I guess I’ll start with where does your name come from or what is the origin story of your name?

Connor: Well, you know obviously the Arbiter from Halo pretty much. [Laughs] No, no, not really, a lot of people think that though. [To Josh] Where did the real name come from?

Josh: Didn’t you just pull a random page from the dictionary or something?

Connor: No… [Laughs] We used to be called Barter In Blood in 2009 and while we were in the studio wrapping up the Colossus album we were kind of thinking we should get a name change going because the old name sort of attributed us to not showing up to shows and we just didn’t feel like that band anymore we felt we grew into a new band. So Jay was like ‘Connor what about that new song you’ve been writing called The Arbiter, why don’t we just call ourselves The Arbiter?’ And everyone was like ‘alright that sounds pretty cool’ and I was like ‘if we shave ‘the’ off, deal.’ So that’s kind of what we did and nobody could think of anything cooler.

BBSS: How did you guys all meet?

[Pauses then laughs]

Connor: God, this one…

Josh: Well I might get the facts wrong but originally it started off with me and the drummer Logan, we go way back. I grew up with the kid, and we’ve been hanging out since we were like four years old. He moved away just when I was starting to get into music and didn’t come back until like I was I think seventeen or eighteen. Then he came back and out of nowhere he was a drummer and I was a drummer and then we’d basically just hang out and just have a bigger penis competition to see who the better drummer was. [Laughs] Eventually he was like ‘duded you should learn to play guitar and I was like ‘but I’ve been playing drums for ten years leave me alone’ but eventually he convinced me to play guitar so we just went and started writing the heaviest stuff that we thought was cool at the time and we got a band together called Odious Aura. We played one show together and then broke up after that. [laughs] but yeah after that we were trying to set new things up and originally I knew Jason from school. He was a bass player in this terrible death metal band and I knew he had serious potential, he was just in this terrible band and I was like ‘listen dude if you want to play in our band as a bass player you’re welcome to come fill in  because I know your band isn’t too busy right now because they were kind of just lying dormant at that point [Laughs]

Connor: Yeah we brought Jason in to fill in for our first show which was like Valentines Day 2008 and we were like damn it we don’t have a bassist and um… yeah. This was after I met Logan and Josh some crappy band I was in… The Sunless Year, southern metalcore… Anyways, I was a guitarist and we met up and we spent like, however long getting all these songs ready and we were all ready with our EP for our first show like I said in Valentines Day 2008 and we still didn’t have a bassist, so we were like ‘Jason come on board!’ and I don’t know we ended up keeping him. He’s really shy when you first get to know him but Jason’s an awesome dude, a lot better than just his big hair that he swings around.

Josh: And then we heard about Jay and I can’t remember where we heard about him him being a studio producer, and we were just like alright—[to Connor] oh wait no you guys were recording with him.

Connor: Yeah, yeah.

Josh: and so we heard about him and we hanging out over there and we were like man this actually sounds good, we could probably produce something good through him. So originally we were just recording with him--

Connor: --For the Colossus album.

Josh: --Yeah and we were like ‘man we’re recording a lot of different guitar tracks right now for like a lot of different stuff that’s going on right now, how are we going to do this live?’ and Jay was like ‘well I’m a guitar player’ and he was like ‘if you guys don’t mind, I wouldn’t mind kind of tagging along with you guys’.

Connor: Yep and then everyone talked about it and basically we were just like let’s put him on and try it out. And we just kept him too. Pretty much anybody we bring into our band we just keep you know?

Josh: We’re all just a bunch of Klingons.

BBSS: Just absorb everybody? [Laughs]

Connor: Yeah, well that’s basically that story.

Josh: That could have been wrapped up into a 30 second summary or something


Connor: You can edit that out.

BBSS: It’s all good. Well that kind of answered one of my other questions already. I was going to ask if you guys were in other bands, so that’s good.

Josh: There’s actually been a lot of other bands besides the two that we just covered.

Connor:  Yeah you want a real breakdown of that because we could do that. [laughs]

BBSS: If you feel like it.

Connor: Okay-

Josh: Well I guess for me lets see-

Connor: Lets- keep it simple, maybe one line descriptions.

Josh: Okay, Chrio was like a Christian Rock band that I was in that was kind of moving towards the screamo scene—

Connor: That’s a line.

Josh: --Okay, Odious Aura which I already described, Barter In Blood, Arbiter and then…

Connor: You don’t remember Phoenix Ignition?

Josh: Oh wait, yes sorry, Oh my god. Phoenix Ignition. That was like the first band I was in—

Connor: That’s a sentence— [Laughs] And I was in a band called The Sunless Year which was southern metalcore… [groans]

Josh: And on top of that we’ve had like seventy five different side projects of just bullshit stuff-

Connor: Yeah just messing around making music, Now though we have Arbiter! So we get to joke around and make a bunch of stupid shit with Arbiter like the Christmas songs, the blooper run throughs, we just have our fun through Arbiter now instead of making a bunch of side projects.

BBSS: Nice! Do any of you guys have formal training or are you self taught?

Josh: --I’d have to say no. Because Connor just learned how to yell at the top of his lungs one day and that’s kind of how that came about. Me, I had a little training when it came to drums, I guess that doesn’t pertain to this, but that’s what got me into music, but my old high school music teacher—

Connor: It was actually your lack on training on guitar that I think that kept us from being too-- because I think when we started this band he was still new at guitar, Josh was, and he happened to be the person who wrote almost all the material for what ended up on Colossus so I think that’s what gives it- you know, it’s really simple, it’s not as complex as it could have been compared to a lot of other people in this genre, but I think that’s what people appreciate instead of us being like ‘Oh look how techy we are with our guitars and stuff. It’s like [recites the opening guitar riff to Death Or Glory] [Laughs]  I think some people like that more.

Josh: It’s the simplicity  and the brutalness.

BBSS: Honestly that riff goes through my head any time I think of deathcore.


Connor: Exactly, see? And I think that’s what’s perfect you know, Josh was still learning and you that’s what really defines that feel of deathcore you know, it’s someone that is still growing up has a lot of angst and is still learning how to play instruments.


Josh: A lot of it was too that a lot of the music you hear on Colossus was probably written, what at least four or more years ago.

Connor: Yep, that’s true. We just took a bunch of old demos for the most part and kind of slapped em together. I don’t know—as far as training goes Jason, I think he—

Josh: Jason learned everything from Cannibal Corpse.


Connor: Jay has had lots of bands on and off…

Josh: He gets inspiration from Eddie Van Halen.


Connor: Yeah you know a bunch of Lamb Of God type bands… and then yeah Logan I think he just picked up a drum set and learned how to flop all over it a lot you know?


Connor: Yeah I guess that’s basically it.

BBSS: Who would you guys cite as your biggest influences, both metal bands and non metal bands… If that makes sense?

Connor: Well, let me answer this question by not answering it. The only answer to that question can be explained by our third album. It’s not even an album, you can’t call it that yet, but we do have a third release that will show you rather than tell you our influences personally, each one of our own personal influences because you know I think every cool band has each member bring their own influences into the mixture. We’re going to show everyone musically who all of us are influenced by doing some music that goes along with our influences.

BBSS: Yeah, I think I see what you’re saying.

Josh: I guess the only way I could word it is that I listen to a lot of different bands and I use a lot of different 
influences, but I try to write music that doesn’t sound like anything else which is hard sometimes because a lot of times it just ends up sounding like something, someone will be like ‘that sounds like this, that sounds like that’—

Connor: Josh literally wrote Rational Gaze, you know that song by Meshuggah? One time we turned in a demo and he was like ‘Oh my god this is so cool listen to this’ and it was literally like [recites the opening to Rational Gaze]  and I was like ‘are you fucking kidding me dude? Have you not heard that song?’ [Laughs]

Josh: Yeah at that time I actually didn’t listen to a whole lot of Meshuggah and he was like ‘you need to sit down and study this and not be dumb and write riffs that sound exactly like it.’ [Laughs] Yeah good times, good times.

BBSS: I guess which bands would you love to tour with if you could tour with anybody?

Josh: Ooh, I guess I’ll answer that first. If I had to tour with one band I wish was still together I’d have to say Pantera.


Josh: As cheesy as eighties rock and that is, they were such cool dudes who just loved to get out there and fucking sling around and get down.

Connor: Well I can’t speak for everybody but I’m going to guess who everybody would pick. Jay would probably want to go out with Attila or Attack, Attack. Jason would probably want to go out with somebody like Suffocation or Behemoth. Logan would want to go out with The Faceless, definitely. My personal favorite would be somebody like Nile or Between The Buried and Me.

BBSS: Nice I actually just started listening to Nile the other day.

Connor: Nice, that’s some incredible stuff!

BBSS: Yeah they’re pretty crazy!

Josh: So all together we just have to make a super tour to make our dreams come true. [Laughs]

Connor: All those bands have to come out now with us.


BBSS: Just have a giant tour.

Connor: Exactly.

BBSS: What would you say is the best show you’ve ever played?

Connor: That’s a tough one too.

Josh: I would have to say, back before I was in Arbiter we had a concert at this venue called East Jordan, it’s a place about twenty minutes from us, and we advertised for it quite a bit, I guess it wasn’t too extensive, but it was quite a bit and just out of nowhere like 750 kids showed up to it. I think The Devil Wears Prada was headlining it back then or something ridiculous like that, back before they were even big and maybe fifteen kids in this area had heard about ‘em. But they came and played and it was The Devil Wears Prada, Bringing Down Broadway and Us, and 750 kids in this venue was just ridiculous.

Connor: That was back when people used to come to shows. People used to just flock to shows even if it was just no one playing. I dunno, it’s seems like it flip-flopped kind of. Anyhow, the best Aribter show though, [to Josh] what’s the best arbiter show? Probably…

Josh: Probably that first Traverse City show we played and a ton of people showed up—

Connor: Valentines Day Show?

Josh: -- it was all about having fun and just making music.

Connor: True. Yeah the first show we played, no one even knew who the hell we were – Barter In Blood – we were just like ‘WE ARE BARTER IN BLOOD AND WE DID NOT COME HERE TO FUCK AROUND!’ and we just started playing all our songs and screaming at everyone. You know, everyone knew we were local but they were really liking us and they liked the difference in energy and just how we played until we wanted to puke type of stuff. I don’t know, it was fun. It was a good show and since then we’ve really only had like twenty shows in the last two or three years, I’m not kidding. I mean I’ve looked in our database we have an average of like ten shows per year so we still haven’t played many shows.

BBSS: Going along with that what would be the weirdest thing you’ve seen at one of your show?


Connor:  The weirdest thing we’ve seen at a show we’ve played?

BBSS:  I mean we could make it any show. We could turn it into that.

Josh: There’s been a lot of weird stuff. Well I guess it wasn’t weird but King came up and played a – Oh wait I don’t think we played that show.

Connor: We had a raffle at one of our shows!

Josh: Yeah we had a raffle.

Connor: Right in the middle of our set. It was weird. There was Tornado warnings at some show in Indiana right before we had to play, we were really pissed off about that. Only two or three of us were there I think.

Josh: I’ve seen two girls make out at one of our shows. [laughs] and that was kind of unexpected.

Connor: I was too busy stomping around for that.

Josh: Yeah I just looked at ‘em, two butch lesbians going at it, like alright, that’s cool I guess. Sort of metal, making out and shit.

Connor: Yeah I guess we haven’t seen too much weird shit, but like I said we haven’t played too many shows, that’s probably why.

Josh: I guess, you say weird shit, we’ve seen a lot of brutality and people getting hurt, but that’s not really weird.

Connor: That’s just expected nowadays.

BBSS: I guess I’ll move into questions about the new album, for people who don’t know can you explain the concept behind the split?

Connor: Yeah actually, I’ll have Josh do this one—

Josh: No. [Laughs] I’m not doing this one. Connors the mastermind behind all this, I just write music and he’s just like ‘this goes here, and this goes here’ and I’m like alright!

Connor: Okay Basically as soon as Colossus came out Josh had a bunch of demo’s laying around that he’d already been writing and he added a bunch more on top of that, and so this has been almost a year or two now I think, he just you know, bounces demo’s off of us and we all go ‘okay.’ So I originally had this cool idea- I just got done playing The Elder Scrolls Oblivion: The Shivering Isles expansion pack and in that game everything is split in half, so I was like ‘I kind of want to do that.’ So basically the point is at one point last year, or two thousand- I don’t care- [laughs] right after I don’t know when was this? Point is at some point Logan, our drummer, moved to Hawaii and Jay, one of our guitarists, went on hiatus, at the exact same time. We were really pissed. Me, Jason and Josh, were the only three left. We were kind of pissed and wanted to make this EP that showed everybody ‘We don’t care about this, we’re not going to let it stop us’ so we wanted to write an EP called Ironclad and then in the meantime, after releasing Ironclad, we had a full length album we would do called Machinations. Well one day, after that whole split thing I was talking about, I wanted to make a split album, and I called everyone up and said ‘what if we make an album that is Ironclad and Machinations and each one is like the same amount of tracks, but they’re the opposite of each other.’ They were like ‘Are you kidding me?’ I was like ‘just let me do this one guys, just this one.’ So they let me and from there I wrote the whole story which I think is what you were asking about. I wasted a lot of time there, but anyhow, In the story there are human people, this is set like 2030ish, a little bit in the future, not too much though, there’s the humans, and then there’s basically these cyborg or cybernetically enhanced humans called The Extropians. Extropianism is a real thing so this isn’t too farfetched, but basically it’s a bunch of people years in the future that have robotic limbs, robotic eyes, you know, really cool human upgrades that make them almost more than human. In the story all the humans don’t like all this [extropianism] stuff going on and they sort of become like the new Amish people. They tell the Extropians to take a hike, and they force them into exile and they [the Extropians] get really pissed off about that, and by the time that our new album comes around in the story the Extropians are planning to come exterminate all the humans that forced them into exile, so that they don’t have to deal with them anymore, so that they can go on and eventually colonize other planets, you know kind of Mass Effect 2 style. That’s the quickest I can explain that. But basically it’s just two exact opposite forces, you have the nature loving, spirit loving humans against the technology loving, almost sinister Extropians and they’re both trying to kill each other completely off and if you think about it a lot of things in life are like that.  That’s what the concept of the album is. Figuring out why there are always two forces trying to take each other out rather than co-operate, and that’s what the whole split in half thing is about.

Josh: When it comes to the actual sound of the music that’s where Ironclad comes around. It’s going to be the human side, the more natural sounding side, more hardcore aggressive organic type feel and the Machinations side is going to be very mechanical, produced, and really technical side of the album.

Connor: Don’t forget djenty! That makes everybody jump for joy.


Josh: Yeah there’s some djent on the Machinations side and raw aggressive power on the Ironclad side.

Connor: And that’s where it all came from, not to drag this question out another twenty minutes, but we really liked the idea of being able to split Arbiters sound in half and let it exist in two different opposite states, so people in bars holding beers can be like ‘Oh I like this Ironclad album bro’ and then you know kids that are all into djent are like ‘dude I love Machniations, but Ironclad sucks.’ You know, we kidn of want to almost foster that divide in musical taste too, just like in the story. We want people to be fighting to make it sound like one half of the album is better, because that’s how everything works.

BBSS: Are any of you guys particular to one side?

Josh: Actually each member of this band represents one side of the album, we all have our own characters in the albums. I’ll let Connor explain this one.

Connor: Yep, I’ll go quick on this one. Josh’s name is Cocidius, he’s the leader of the Dreadnauts, which is the hardcore marine division of the Ironclad army. Then Jay is Nirtok. He’s the leader so to speak of the whole Ironclad army, like a war general. Then on our Machinations side we’ve got Jason, our bassist and Logan, our drummer, are Xa and Xeno respectively. Xa is like the grand overseer of The Extropian people like a king type of thing. Logan is Xeno, who is this mysterious scientist who researches a bunch of weird shit for the Optima Syndicate. Basically he’s a science dude. And then my guy is named Du’ah. He’s this crazy guy that wrote this crazy book about trying to balance everything instead of trying to lean one way or the other. We actually have a book, literally that I wrote in real life called the Principia Du’ah which is the principles of the Du’ah. It has like 50 pages of weird poems in a weird Du’ah language that I did. [laughs] It kind of shows you the Du’ah philosophy about balance instead of trying to defeat people all the time. That’ll be available for our pre-order packages, they’ll be like ten of those available, I’m gonna sign them and all that cool stuff.

BBSS: I know you said Colossus was written about four years ago, so how do you feel you’ve grown musically from Colossus to now?

Josh: Oh my gosh-

Connor: Immensely.

Josh: Yeah leaps and bounds. We went from more- well it came from our earlier influences, a lot of us in the band were more into Bury Your Dead hardcore music—

Connor: Yeah. Carnifex.

Josh: Yeah Carnifex too. If you listen to it [Colossus], it kind of has that feel—

Connor: We tried to keep away from it—

Josh: Yeah we tried to make our own sound, but it still has that type of aggression to it. But now it’s more us having developed into our own sound and listening to music we like and combined it into writing more I guess in-depth music than just simplistic wanna be heavy type stuff.

Connor: I would say now that it’s almost a fifty percent split between all the people we’re still influenced by now, and the other fifty percent is taking influence from what we’ve already done you know? We see what people like, like ‘oh keep that kind of stuff, get rid of that.’ So we’re improving upon ourselves and still bringing in influences from all the stuff the five of us like which is all over the place.

BBSS: I read that you already have another album in the works, but do you plan to continues to story from Ironclad and Machinations to another album in the future?

Connor: Yep, that’s actually one of the big things about Ironclad and Machinations. The whole time we’re going to be watching to see, in real life and on the internet you know, which side of the album gets more support. I mean everything, sales, or just people promoting it or people liking it, or listening to it more. We have a lot of ways to tell which side is getting more support, and in the long run when our fourth album comes out, which is the next chapter of our story, whichever side right now has much support is going to have a much better or easier time on the fourth album when our story is kind of wrapped up, when the first trilogy is wrapped up. Not many people know that Colossus was the first chapter of our story, it’s kind of hard to explain. So that’s the fourth album.

Josh: It’s something we were kind of in the works of doing, I had talked to Connor about this- this is kind of an incite for something secret here- we were thinking about writing songs about the different characters in the two sides of the cd, to represent each one of the members in the band and write their story and song. Not release any actual albums, just teaser releases between our CD’s because we have a tendency of taking a long time to release our cd’s.


Connor: That’s true actually.

Josh: We were thinking of releasing teasers in the mean time, kind of how destroyer was, but that was more based on a crappy event that happened to me personally, and we decided to write a song about it, but it’d be more just stuff that we could release in between albums to keep people hyped on our music and keep everything going and what not.

Connor: And that works too because the new format of music – I mean this is more just general music here- but you’ll see things happening now like the cd will probably be dead by the end of this year dropped by most labels, things are shifting to entirely digital. CD’s are you know, physical collectors items. As far as music marketing goes, people are switching to digital marketing, so you know whole albums aren’t as necessary anymore. Even from metal bands. The metal community has been solely based on albums and that kind of thing, but it’s getting to the point where just doing a single here and there, especially with djent bands on soundcloud, it’s really shifting from ‘I can’t wait for your guys’ next album’ to ‘why don’t you just put a song out?’ And that’s how some people do it. So I think Josh has a good idea when he says we should do more single songs in between.

Josh: But they won’t be based on just hey look our guitarist wrote a cool djent song, there’s an actual story behind it. They tell the characters story or maybe a part of any of the story line that we have in mind at the time.

BBSS: Do you have any details on the card game you were working on?


Connor: Yeah actually, right now I’ve had little to no time to develop it, but basically it’s a card and dice game. I’m getting custom dice made. You remember the whole human Extropian thing? Well in each ‘starter pack’ they’ll be two custom made human, or Ironclad, dice and two custom made Extropian dice. Basically you come out, you draw a card, you have a hand—these are details I still need to play test and work out- but the point is that at some point you’ll have a card on the board and an opponent, and  you both roll your two die, one of those is your attack points for that clash, or round of fighting and the other is your defense die. The higher the number, obviously the more attack and defense you’ll have, but it also represents your cumbersomeness. Whoever has the lower total dice score will attack first, because it’s quicker. There’s lots of little intricate rules I don’t want to get into because like I said I’m still working them out myself and I don’t have anything solidified. But basically your card clashes against another. If you don’t completely kill your creature you just re-clash, like in real battle you know. You get an arrow to the knee—


Connor:--your creature isn’t going to die, it’s going to come back but it’ll be injured. The big rule is that when you roll a one, either attack or defense die, each character on their card has a special attack and defense ability. If you roll a one on either die you’ll be able to use that special ability. That’s where it kind of gets Magic the Gathering-y and you have special card things. Basically it’s numeric dice play you know, mixed with Magic the Gathering card game influence, so you still have the collectable card game element where you’ll try to get Josh’s card Cocidius, he’ll have some super cool attack power you know that some soldier isn’t going to have. But that doesn’t mean every single round of play is going to have crazy shit going on that you can’t even keep track of, and that’s probably the best description I can give for it now.

BBSS: My last question would be do you have an idea of when the new album will be out, I’ve heard February?


Josh: Actually I was meaning to talk to Connor about this because I was thinking February too until some recent post.

Connor: Yeah, well here’s what’s going on right now. We’re doing vocals right now, and with the intensity of my vocal style, I really can only do about a song a day, and then I gotta take at least one day off to let my voice kind of chill out a little bit. So right now we have a few songs done vocally and we have to get through probably about nine or ten more. So that’s about twenty days minimum, minus the fact that most of us have day jobs, lives, and things to attend to. So there’s that and then there’s also the fact that once it is completely tracked we still have to mix and master everything, and because of Ironclad and Machinations that’s two completely different styles of mixing and mastering. Ironclad is gonna sound raw, you have to mix that differently than Machinations. Then after that’s done we have to get the CD’s in production and wait for them to arrive, to be able to mail out and whatever else, then we also have to get things submitted to digital distributors like iTunes and all that and we have to wait for them to pop up on their stores. Not that we’ll wait for all of them, but we have to at least wait for iTunes and such, then we can start launching everything. So we’re looking at twenty days plus whatever plus waiting, so realistically even if we haul balls on it at this point it’ll only be out by March or maybe even April. But we have a lot of really cool promotional stuff coming soon that you’ll all see too, really cool stuff that we can’t spill any beans on but pretty good stuff involving Metalsucks. I can say that.

BBSS: Sounds good. Well that’s pretty much all I've got.

Connor: Alright, cool man.

BBSS: Thanks for giving me your time!


Josh: Thanks for having us!

Whooo! You made it! Well now you're pretty much up to date with all things Arbiter! Hope you enjoyed the read or listen and look for more Arbiter news in the future. I'll be doing a review of the album for sure when that time comes.

In the mean time go like them on facebook here or go buy their stuff on bandcamp here!

Oh and check our their label Famined Records while you're at it!

No comments:

Post a Comment