We talk with Dave Haley, Drummer of Pyscroptic, regarding their new record 'As the Kingdom Drowns,' the process behind the incredible artwork by Mariusz Lewandowski, and their upcoming Australian tour.
It's been an incredible year for heavy music, but more specifically technical death metal. With releases from Revocation, Beyond Creation, Obscura, Arsis, and Cryptopsy to name a few, 2018 has provided fans of the more technical side with quality options to choose from. However, the year has yet to end and Australia's Psycroptic just released what many are hailing to be one of this year's best tech-death records.
Early in October, we had a chance to speak to Psycroptic's drummer and founding member, Dave Haley, regarding their upcoming 7th record 'As the Kingdom Records' and the breathtaking cover art that has already captivated the eyes of many. Haley also talked about their upcoming Australian tour, as well as plans to bring the tour to the United States in 2019.
You have a new record, “As the Kingdom Drowns,” coming out on November 9 via Prosthetic Records. This is the band’s 7th full length album and you’re nearing two decades since first forming, how do you feel?
“It’s good you know, we’re very excited and very enthused about the band even this far into our career. It’s just getting into a busy time for us of course, you know. We’ve finished the album, I’ve submitted it. It’s starting to go out to media and we’re starting to get feedback about it. It’s all very positive so far. But now, it’s kind of like the next phase of the work. We’re preparing for that with all the upcoming touring and things like that. It’s definitely still exciting for us, it doesn’t feel like a chore, it doesn’t feel like work, so it’s good. The morale and the vibe in the band is really good and we’re stoked to get back out and play some new stuff.”
That’s great to hear! It’s been 3 years since the last release. Since then, you released a record with King and Todd Stern took over the bass. How did your involvement with other projects, touring, and a new band member influence the writing process coming into the new record?
“Not greatly, to be honest. We do things on our own time. Joe owns his own studio, so a lot of the writing takes place ‘after hours.’ Joe is always chipping away writing new material. We’re not a band that gets in a room and jams out new material. Joe owns the studio so we have a lot more time and freedom to write and record. Everything else going on doesn’t have too much of an impact.
Todd Stern didn’t actually have much to do with the writing of it, but he definitely had a lot to do with the structure and the overall track listing, mixing, and that sort of thing. With writing the riffs, he wasn’t involved too much but definitely in the future. We’re all super busy doing a lot of other things but it doesn’t really impact the writing process, so to speak.”
Got it. You’ve had the honor of touring with renowned bands over the years, such as Dying Fetus, Nile, Cannibal Corpse, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Cattle Decapitation to name a few. Did these experiences play a role in the development of the record as well as your live experience?
“They’re all killer bands that we love and respect and I look up to. Hopefully, we can be regarded as their peers (laughs). I would say we’re more influenced from a performance point of view. You watch these high level bands and they do inspire to take your live performance to the next level.
In terms of writing, that’s definitely a separate entity. I guess these days, we take more inspiration from good song writers in any genre rather than writing in a particular style or a particular riff, if that makes sense. The bands that we tour with, we always take something away from. Musically, probably not that often but definitely in other sides of the business.”
One of the things that really drew me in before I had a chance to check out any of the singles was the exceptional cover art by Mariusz Lewandowski. How did this come about and was there a theme behind the cover art? Which is phenomenal!
“Oh yeah, the artwork is amazing. At the time when you’re writing and in the creative phase, you’re looking around for artists to work with. We had a few in mind, but we were really taken back by Mariusz, who’s done a lot of artwork. Not too many bands, but the one that really interested us the most was the Bell Witch cover for ‘Mirror Reaper.”
That one just blew us all away. So we got in touch with him but we weren’t too sure whether he’d want to work with us or not. We sent him about 4 or 6 different pieces of his own and said, ‘This is what we love about your style. If you’re interested, we’d love it if you do the cover.’ He came back, very enthusiastic, so we sent him a bunch of lyrics. We gave him free rein. We didn’t have a specific vision in mind, but when you’re working with an artist, I think you get the best out of them when you give them free rein. You give them some guidelines, but then you let them go and take charge. The result is just amazing.”
The single “Directive” tackles the societal problem of extreme dependency on social media and technology as a whole. Is this a theme that is visible throughout the album?
“I guess the lyrical themes throughout the album are quite critical of current society, you could say that. They’re written in such a way that they can be interpreted by the reader to make up their own mind about what they think it’s about or what it represents. It could mean different things to different people. That was definitely on purpose by Jason. He wanted to write lyrics that were both interesting and meant something to him but then also were not screaming down people’s throats. It’s hopefully inspiring.
‘Directive’ in general, to single that song out, you could look at that as almost a take on communism. One day, you’re being told what to do and not having too much choice of freedom and just accepting it for what it is without looking for any alternatives. But that’s just my interpretation. Jason might have a different one and you might have a different interpretation as well. I think that would be the sign of good lyrics, where it could be meaningful to each individual listener. Hopefully, we succeeded with that on this album.”
I think you touched on it perfectly, lyrics are always up to interpretation. From the two singles released so far, this record is shaping to be one your most brutal and technical one yet. How do you feel about the response received so far?
“I think at the end of the day, we just try to write good songs. In the past, maybe we’ve focused a little bit on trying to be technical for technical sake. That couldn’t be further from what we’re about. That kind of bores us to be honest. We just want to write good and catchy songs within our particular style that we created for ourselves, because that’s why we write. The songs are definitely challenging to play, but it doesn’t sound like just a guitar exercise. We try to write cool and catchy riffs.
That is what it is about at the end of the day. Keeping ourselves interested and trying to write some cool songs. I’d say the riffs in general are intricate, the melodies are intricate, but I would say overall, it’s not technical. It’s not just about technical ability, it’s more about writing cool and catchy songs.Even though we’re called a tech-death band, I would actually dispute that and say, ‘Nah, we’re just a metal band.’ We’re just trying to write cool riffs.”
Well, you’ve definitely succeeded in writing some cool riffs. You’re touring Australia later this year in support of the new record. How does it feel to play in front of your home crowd?
“It’s always awesome. We’ve had a lot of support from the Australian fanbase. We tour out here maybe once or twice a year and they always come out, always very supportive. We couldn’t be more grateful for what they’ve allowed us to do. They’re the ones who’ve allowed us to keep going. Not just the Australian fans, but all fans in general. The Australian fans, because we tour here a bit more, have definitely helped us continue. They play a big factor in that. It’s going to be quite an extensive tour, but pretty enjoyable because we’re going to a lot of places we haven’t been to in a while, which is always killer. We’re really looking forward to it. I’m a bit nervous about playing some of the new material live, but I guess if you don’t have those nerves it means you don’t really care about it.”
Definitely, nerves come from excitement.
You last played in the U.S. back in June. Any chance your fans here in the states can catch you touring the new material following the Australian tour?
“Yeah, we’re finalizing the dates at the moment. It looks like we’ll be back in North America in April. We’re just finalizing the lineup at the moment. We’re really looking forward to that, especially now that we have a U.S. based member. I think we’ll be touring the states a lot more. It does feel like a second home to us. Everyone over there has always been super cool and super kind to us. That’s another one we can’t wait to come to."
Can’t wait to have you in LA! Are there any tracks in particular from the new record that you know will have the crowds going crazy?
“Oh, that’s a good question. It’s always a trick question because sometimes the songs we think are going to work best live just don’t go over that way. But I would say ‘Directive’ will be a crowd favorite. I’m confident of that. ‘We Were The Keepers’ will definitely be in our live set. We’ve chosen 4 songs (insert 4 songs) to release before the album. The 4 songs we’re choosing to release prior to the album will probably the ones that we’re going to include to our live set since they are the catchiest ones. We’ll find out as soon as we start playing along. We’ll find out whether they work or not."
We certainly can't wait for these Tasmanian masterminds to make their way out west. We thank and appreciate Dave Haley for taking the time to talk to us and wish 'As the Kingdom Drowns' all the success.
The record is out now via Prosthetic Records and has been making the rounds since its release. If you know what's good for you, order your physical copy here.