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Chris Violence (Cessation Of Life)

Interview with Chris Violence from Cessation Of Life
by Grigoris Chronis at 13 October 2008, 7:34 AM

I love bands that will record an album with or without a record deal; I really love 'em. The 'sting' of the underground shall never forget Heavy Metal's basis. Else, save yourself. CESSATION OF LIFE surprised me with their Metal/Thrash blend - they surprised me even more viewing their history/discography - and we thing giving the chance to Chris Violence (the US band's frontman) to answer our questions can easily remind many metalheads of what's like to simply have the honest hunger for Metal music. Plus, his saying as regards downloading and free music can as well be the most conscious statement with arguments I've ever read.

Hi Chris, greetings from!

Hello Metal Temple!

We received some days ago the band's latest album Path Of Totality. It is - again - a self-released effort. I'd like to ask: is it your own choice to record private CDs? Or you're not pleased by any so far label deal? I see your whole discography is a DIY kind of thing.

No, nothing like that. To be honest we haven't put that much effort into really charging hard after a label. The last CD was submitted to some labels in the US, but that's really been about it. With this CD however we are submitting to record companies around the world. We'll see what happens. In the past we were so focused on our live shows and touring that even though we were putting out records they weren't our main focus.

An introduction to Path Of Totality was the song Necropolis, which we had the chance to listen to a month (or so) ago. Listening to the full album now, I'd confirm CESSATION OF LIFE walks/draws a 'personal' path, rather away from mainstream formulas but - in any way - featuring high-class musicianship and well-structured compositions. Is it your will to stay 'underground' in songwriting in a way?

To say CESSATION OF LIFE walks its own path is interesting to me. It's hard to tell where we stand in the world of music. The four of us, along with the past band members, have all been brought together for the same reason. We want to play fast-paced Metal. Over the years it has developed into what we call High Velocity Speed Metal. But keep in mind, when CESSATION OF LIFE started some 12-13 years ago you couldn't even say the word Metal to radio stations or music clubs in the United States. Radio stations were still upset with the death of NIRVANA and Heavy Metal music was so taboo we couldn't even get bookings.

Thankfully things started to change with Death Metal's rise to power. That meant more and more Metal shows in the US and in the Los Angeles area, but then we faced a new problem. That problem being that we weren't heavy enough to be on a full blown Death Metal bill. Then on the other end of the spectrum because we were a Metal band some booking agents booked us with Rock bands and we'd empty the place like someone pulled the fire alarm. So needless to say, it's been hard for us to find our place in the world of Metal. But we've always considered ourselves Thrash or Speed Metal. I just don't know what else to call it. I guess we just play what we want. The underground Metal scene is so strong that it's actually been a good thing for us.

Some will say the Path Of Totality tracklist features complex songs, something that takes lots of time to write/rehearse. How much did it take you to make the album (writing/rehearsing/recording)? Where did you record it, really?

This album was created while we were replacing our guitar player. Back in 2005 we recorded The Glory Of The World Is Passing in New York. Then it came time to start writing a new CD but we just couldn't get it done. We had a few songs in the can and we realized we just couldn't do it with the band lineup we had. Our original guitar player Travis Anderberg split and while we were looking for a replacement we began writing. It actually took all of 2007 to get it written and the first half of 2008 to get it recorded. Keeping in mind that it's just us, on our own money and no producer. Our new guitarist, Marty Mostad, engineered the entire CD at his private home studio in Ventura, California, just north of Los Angeles.

Is writing CESSATION OF LIFE songs a 'team work' or individual patterns? I must say I'm impressed by the structure in all the tracks. Artistic yet ruthless Metal to the bone and 'extreme' enough at times.

In the past it has always been a team effort, but this time around with the fact that we were working without a guitar player for almost the entire writing process all the writing duties fell on bass player Justin Harrison. He and drummer Ron Ostlund worked together for nearly 6 months writing and arranging most of what is on Path Of Totality. Justin brought me rough bass and drum tracks and I wrote all the lyrics except the song Reason To Live which was written by Ron. Once the finished songs were laid out, I came in and made small changes to fit the structure I needed. When Marty joined the band he had his hands full learning all the new songs we had written plus he wrote the music for the song Murder In The Pit as well as collaborated with the band for Hotrod Heaven.

How tough is it to sing the new album's songs? The arrangements and the parade of different themes may be an obstacle, especially when you want to unveil some kind of 'vice' at the same time.

It's really not that hard, especially when you consider it's primarily all I've been singing for the last few years. I have always tried to vary my vocal style from song to song, album to album. No musician wants to be stale. The hardest part for me is going backwards through the discography. My vocal style has changed so drastically over the years and the older stuff was in a much higher register. I can do it if we know we are going on the road and will be playing longer sets where we can dig into the older material. Especially if we are playing places where we have a fan base that has been with us since the beginning. If I have time to rehearse, it's not that much trouble.

So, Marty is the new member in the band. How did you find him? Has he tied OK with the rest of COL?

Marty is amazing. He had some big shoes to fill. Marty had to not only come in and learn all the new music we were writing, plus figure out his own parts/styles for it. But he also had to write guitar solos, do the recording, mixing, mastering and then…He had to learn a bunch of older songs. Marty has worked amazingly hard. I don't know if there is anyone that could have done what he has done in the time period in which he has done it. We found Marty on an online musician search. It was kind of funny in the fact that we basically put out an ad that we were trying out guitar players and everyone was welcome.

We let anyone that had the balls to show up and try out do it. The only catch was we video taped everyone of them and put them on the website. Some of these people had real heart. Some of them just flat sucked. After a few months of this we kind of took it as just entertainment. We'd let them show up and I'd poke a little bit of fun at them, get it on camera and put it on the website to keep the fans interest up. I think Marty may have sent us an e-mail, I don't remember, but his advert on the musician's website said he'd only been playing a year. We thought, oK, let him show up, we'll video tape it, make some fun and then get on with the work we have to do. So Marty shows up with full pro gear and knows 3 songs start to finish! We were floored. I asked him Dude, how long have you been playing? He say's 20 plus years. We thought about it for a few minutes and that was it! He was in.

Would keyboards fit in COL's music at some time, especially if you want to bring on some specific atmosphere? Or you're opposite to such an addition?

It's something that has been talked about over the years. Marty is actually a very well rounded pianist but I personally feel it would take away from the vision of Metal that I want to make. It's almost a Never had it, never will type of attitude. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but after all these years I'm not sure it would need to be added to us. Plus, we're a Thrash Metal band and that's the direction I'd like to stay.

Chris, how would you promote your music to a Metal fan not in prior familiar with the band? Which bands would you give as an example of your blend?

I've always loved bands like EXODUS and STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH. I'm not sure if that's a good description. But Thrash Metal is chaos. It's messy. It's loud and kind of unpolished. We may or may not be all of that, but I have never really wanted to be a singer with a clean crisp voice. I have always loved trashing my vocal cords and bringing out the filth. It's almost offensive that way. I like that! The entire band is very technical. Justin is an amazing bass player, full of energy and leads. There is a really killer bass solo on this record called Ignorance And Apathy. It really shows his ability. Marty has the ability to play anything you ask. He can play screaming solos at lightning speed and beautifully haunting pieces like the song Admitting. And of course we have Ron who is the master of punishment. Ron is an absolution monster on the drums. I think he really puts the power into this band. A true smasher of the skins.

Is there some special meaning behind the album's title? I read 'bout the band's name in your website.

We wanted to find a name that meant Cessation Of Life or at least tied back to it. Cessation of course meaning STOP. The name Path Of Totality to me means the same thing. Something that has come to a conclusion. Something that has ceased. Something that has walked its path to the end.

CESSATION OF LIFE is also fond of playing live; anytime, anywhere. OK, it's the epitome of metal music, but don't you get exhausted at times? Your songs can be rather demanding at times, I suppose.

Yes, CESSATION OF LIFE has logged more hours on the road and more stage shows than I could ever calculate. Our stage performance and live playing abilities have always come first. That may or may not have always been the brightest idea when you consider how long it takes us to get an album out, but we pride ourselves on precision on stage. When you are playing this fast it's easy to miss the train and when you've missed it, it's gone! The only way to prevent that is to be on our game at all times. It is exhausting. Especially when you add the Party factor!!! But in the past when we have gone on the road it only takes a few shows to get up to speed.

We try to be as professional as possible but there is nothing better then being out on the road, having some shows under your belt and hitting the mark night after night. I have been very lucky over the years to have had some great musicians in CESSATION OF LIFE that have really cared about their live show. It allows me to not have to worry and just focus on what I have to do. When you have that, then you can let go and feel confident because you know the others won't let you down. Of course the longer the set list is the more you have to pace yourself to reach the end. When we are touring I literally do not talk to anyone between shows. I don't talk after the show or in the van on the way to the next show. It's really a drag, to be honest with you. But I haven't found any other way to be able to do it night after night.

Speaking of gigs: have you shared the stage with 'big' Metal names so far? Your impressions? Do you think big Metal bands still do have 'true' faith to their music? I see endless examples of bands playing just for the money in our era, hence the question.

We've opened for a laundry list of bands: TESTAMENT, MORBID ANGEL, NILE, OBITUARY and on and on. We've ran into some real dickheads at times but that has been a very small percentage. I can't say I have ever met any pro bands that were in it just for the money. They might need to pay their bills and that's why the Work but I still think it's the love of music that keeps them going. When I think of Big Metal Bands that have or need to stay true to their style of music the only one that comes to mind is METALLICA.

I know everyone is kissing their ass now that they have finally come out with another Metal recording, but hell, it only took them 15 years and only after they made total fools of themselves. The truth is METALLICA could shit on a piece of bread and their fans would eat it just because it's METALLICA. They are lucky to be in that position. And yes, I have heard the new CD. It's old METALLICA alright. I just wish us metalheads didn't have to be subjected to all those past mid life crisis albums. I guess it's good to have them back. And I'm sure I'm pissing off the METALLICA fans out there for saying it, but I'm allowed to have my own opinion. Believe me, I have been a fan of METALLICA for a very long time. It's just a shame they took that path for so long.

You've been around for more than a decade, do you feel you have the same goals/ideals like when you started back in the mid-90s? What's your thoughts on progression/evolution and loyalty to the roots for a (general) Metal band?

I can say without question YES! Prior to CESSATION OF LIFE I sang in a few other Speed/Thrash outfit's. It's what I love and for me, I can't change what I love. I can't find joy attempting to play anything else. I am so grateful to have bandmates/friends that feel the same way. Evolution is inevitable. It's something that all bands will do unless you're SLAYER! Of course they had the perfect combination from the very start. CESSATION OF LIFE has evolved, there is no doubt about that. But I think its evolved closer now to what it has always wanted to be from the start.

Do you support the endless contribution of Internet in the music business. OK for the imminent communication/promotion, but maybe we've lost the appetite of buying CDs/LPs? There are many great bands losing contracts due to poor sales, while many fans do not focus on an album they're buying, only coming up with draft conclusions for something they downloaded, not even listening to it for more than once. I'm rather anxious even for live gigs' existence in the future…

I think every musician and every record company is struggling to figure out what is going to happen. It's seems that every time someone does figure out a new way to market something everyone jumps on board thinking that this is the way to go and then it goes nowhere. One thing is for sure; if you're a music fan, this is the greatest time in the history of recorded music. There is an endless stream of new music coming out from all four corners of the world in every genre and it's all free for the taking. Be it one song per band and then they die or full CDs from established bands. It doesn't seem possible to control it any more. The live show may be on the way out as well. With the cost of fuel, the days of CESSATION OF LIFE just jumping in the van and heading out across the US are gone. We have no future plans as of right now to tour on our own dollar and not sure if we can with out a record deal or management deal. We used to enjoy doing small shows from town to town to get to the big ones, but those days are behind us unless things change.

The sad part is everyone wants to steal music off the internet. Bands like us spend thousands and thousands of dollars to produce music and then can't get recouped for it because it's high jacked and given away. Some may say music should be free man!. OK, that's one point of view, but what happens when that person's job becomes obsolete? Then their story changes to Why did this happen to me man?. The truth is we are living in a hyper culture of lies sold to us by television and MTV especially. Young people see some rapper on Cribs and he decides he's going to be a musician and get rich and live the good life. I'm sorry to break everyone's bubble but those days look like they are gone. Not just for me and them but for all the record execs and everyone else. When you spend a fortune to make a product that everyone steals, it's not too long before the investment is not worth the cost and people will move on to doing something else. With music, I think there will always be enough people that want to do it for free regardless. There will always be local bands doing local shows. But that might be the end of it. This all could be some time down the road, but automakers don't make cars for the fun of it. They make them to turn a profit. If there is not profit, there might not be any cars!

Chris, have you ever traveled to Europe with COL? Would you be eager to say yes in an offer for live slots? I think European metalheads are more supportive at times than the American ones.

I have been to Europe but not with the band. I have seen first hand the differences between American Metal Heads and European Metal Heads. There is no doubt that European fans are far more ALIVE when it comes to their beloved METAL! I think it has a lot to do with the way Metal is somewhat suppressed in the States. I'm not sure why that is. Don't get me wrong, American Metal fans are some great people too. One thing I have always loved about being in the Metal community is that I see what the outsiders don't and that is the Fear Factor. People that don't understand Metal look at it as something terrifying.

They see a slam pit and think Oh My, I would NEVER go near that. One thing I was so proud to see when I was at shows in Europe is that if you were in the pit and you went down, there was a hand there for you in 1 second or less, just like here which confirms the true love between metalheads, in their music and their genuine kindness towards each other. This is our religion. We protect it and each other. As for if CESSATION OF LIFE had a chance to play in front of European Metal Heads, I think it would be the greatest dream to ever come true for us. After going there I know our brand of High Velocity Speed Metal would be loved and appreciated for what it is. We have from the very beginning always looked at our music as music for the whole world. We have always worked hard to get it out to radio stations around the world and our website reflects that with fans viewing it from 153 different countries. I have always felt it would be a shame to not get the opportunity to play for fans in other counties. We have worked very hard to be a professional entertainment entity. We just happen to be in the Heavy Metal genre.

Thanks a lot for your time, my friend! Anything you'd like to add?

I would like to thank you for helping us spread the word about CESSATION OF LIFE and thank you to all Metal Fans in Greece. Of all the fans from all 153 countries that visit Greece is number 12! That means that we have a lot of fans in Greece and we want to thank them all along with Metal Temple for helping us connect with them.- Chris Violence


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