Infex – Exile of the WickedSunday, 19th September 2021
The Bay Area thrash movement continually fuels followers and musicians through its savage songwriting and primal rage momentum. Infex is a quartet from Vallejo, California that have been delivering their brand of crossover thrash with extreme and punk inflections since 2010. Their third and latest album Burning in Exile features two new members, upping their musicianship to another level while still remembering to crush all who listen through its heads down riffing, aggressive vocals, and smartly executed hooks.
We reached out to guitarist/vocalist Jack Childs who was very happy to fill us in on all things related to Infex. You’ll learn more about the history of the group, lineup changes, growing up in the Bay Area scene and lessons learned opening for many of the veterans of the movement, physical media and its importance in today’s scene versus streaming, plus future plans.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your early childhood memories surrounding music growing up – and how did you make the progression into heavy metal and eventually picking up an instrument to start performing?
Jack Childs: I was the youngest of three kids in my household. My two older sisters were ten and fourteen years older than me. They were out of the house before I was ten years old. Some of my early memories surrounding them were going through their music collection and tape collection. Looking at records that had intriguing or interesting cover art. Albums like Queen- News of the World and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer – as well as more metal stuff like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. That was my intro – we listened to music in my family, but not ritualistically. I would sit by my sisters’ doors and not be allowed in but listen to what they were listening to.
In sixth or seventh grade, Kiss was big. They were considered heavy metal at the time, mid to late 70’s. One of the first records I ever bought was Dynasty, which was the disco record. I didn’t know any better, but my buddy bought Destroyer, and that was clearly the far superior record. From there, finally seeing some imagery from Iron Maiden is what really drew me. Seeing the album covers for Piece of Mind and The Number of the Beast, really made me go ‘woah – what is this’. I bought those records and had to hide them from my mom (laughs). That really solidified my love for heavy metal.
My first guitar I picked up; it was late in my younger years. I was fourteen or fifteen. A friend of mine from school who I used to go and hang out with, had this Les Paul crappy copy. I would go to his house to play with the guitar, go and make noise. And then around the same time, I had a friend Sam who was taking guitar lessons, he was big into Eddie Van Halen. Between my two friends, that’s where it all really started. I was more interested in making noise and riffs, I wanted to play the riff to “Rock You Like a Hurricane” from the Scorpions. I would figure it out on my own. Shortly after that I started a band with a kid in high school, we were allowed to make a lot of noise at his house. We would bang out three riff based punk rock/ heavy metal songs for fun until his mom came home and tell us to stop.
Dead Rhetoric: Burning in Exile is the third and latest Infex album – and first for the group in five years. Beyond the extra time that it took due to the lockdown to record this album, what are some of the major differences you see in terms of the songwriting, production, or performances for this record compared to Killing for Jesus from 2016 or the Circling the Drain debut in 2012?
Childs: It is a pretty long and severe arc that’s for sure. When we put out Killing for Jesus, that was our second album, we had been together for almost five and a half years. The songs had been written for some time, and we recently had recruited a new lead guitarist Aaron McCoy, and he came in and did the solos on this. The material was pretty much already written and recorded even. From that, that kicked off our time in the band with him from 2015 to 2017 where we blossomed, I think. On a live perspective we got to go out on tour with D.R.I., that was a big deal for us. We played some significant shows around San Francisco, Oakland, and the Bay Area – we were one of three bands to play with Exodus at their two-night residency at The Chapel in San Francisco. That was a big deal for us – we were asked by Exodus’ management specifically because we met Gary and his wife previously at a show. They saw us and wanted us to play at their show and that meant a lot. We also got to play with Mantas and Abaddon of Venom in their new incarnation Venom Inc.
Due to some musical differences, Aaron stepped away and that set us back as we had been honing our live performances. We regrouped, licked our wounds. We started the process of writing this material, we recruited Adam Weber from the technical death metal band Embryonic Devourment. Bringing him on board gave us a sharper edge from a riff perspective, his riffs and technical chops are massive. I had a lot of work to just keep up with him. Shortly after that our founding bass player Dave, he decided it wasn’t time to be in a band anymore. We recruited R.C. on bass and built chemistry as a unit.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you believe the new members bring to the Infex lineup that makes this incarnation stronger or different in terms of the playing abilities, talent, and/or personalities?
Childs: Losing Aaron and then Dave was a massive hit the reset button for us. We are not full-time, we have jobs, families. We had to negotiate a balance out. Finding the right fit, and not just a shredder who wants to be in a band. People we identify with, have good personalities, and (are) compatible with. We are in this for the long haul. We want to do this comfortably. If this becomes a chore, it is difficult, but if the benefits don’t outweigh the effort, it wouldn’t make sense to continue on. Because we found Adam and R.C. at the right time, they absolutely bring a lot to the table as far as writing, arrangements, performance. Their thumbprints are all over Burning in Exile, absolutely.
Dead Rhetoric: Andre of All Things Rotten designed the cover art – how did the process come about, what are your thoughts on the final product, and discuss your thoughts on the importance of cover art in heavy metal throughout the years?
Childs: Andre – I assume you are familiar with his work as you know him by his first name. I’ve been working with him since the inception of our band. I think I was referred to him by somebody else. We started an online relationship, predominately through Facebook Messenger. He is the only guy I’ve worked with in this capacity, he’s easy to talk to, clearly creative, and has tons of ideas. At the get go, when we weren’t really sure what we were looking for, we flipped through his portfolio and take notice of things – the way this looks, these colors working together. Specifically, for Burning in Exile, when we got the concept, it was pretty easy to communicate with him what we wanted and what we were looking for.
We came into it with cover art, but we hadn’t named the album yet. Because he’s an interesting and pleasant guy to talk to, it was easy to work out stuff. No more burning cities in the background, let’s think about it a little longer. We came up with the duality, half angel, half demon burning and is this suffer or splendor? He was really good at bringing that out and adding some of the touches to it, making it awesome. I love it because I put so much heart, time, and soul into it – but the artwork is outstanding. We knew we were going to do vinyl, and because of that I feel cover art is supremely important. The music is tantamount, but you want the entire package to be outstanding.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across lyrically on this album – as there seems to be a bit of religious, political, and social issues talked about on here, as well as a fun song with “Beer Run”?
Childs: It’s not something that is ever at the forefront of consideration, specifically dealing with lyrical themes. Because of the type of music that we play, I like to see it between thrash and death metal, there’s certain tried and true tropes. Social decay, societal collapse, war, abuse of religion. Particularly in the political environments that we have been navigating over the last couple of years, it’s pretty apparent where a lot of that stuff comes from. While also trying to ride the line of not putting a stake in the ground, this is our politics and if you don’t follow us, you are wrong. Trying to have a more subjective overall look at things. Maybe rather than criticizing a specific, criticizing the details about the specific that can be applied to anything across the board.
We don’t sit out to write a political album or social commentary or death. Those topics are all fodder within the extreme music genre. “Beer Run” … on some of the reviews we’ve gotten, some of them have said, ‘what the fuck is this song?’. To me, we wanted to break up that intensity of heavy subjects. Music is fun too, heavy music, what’s more fun than getting in the pit with your friends, drinking beers, it should be a communal gathering experience. We wanted something a little less poignantly resolute.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been able to perform some shows after a long break away from the live circuit – how would you describe the crowd reaction, did the newer material go down as well as could be expected, and do you believe people will savor and treasure live concerts more now than ever – even on a local level?
Childs: I think so. We have played only two shows since everything is sort of quasi-opening back up. We hope that continues. We are fortunate where we live, sort of in the Bay Area and Sonoma County, Santa Rosa which is a little bit north of San Francisco and Oakland. There is a burgeoning, thriving local live metal scene where we live. There is no shortage of talented bands that are incredible. We want to make sure we are doing the right thing and not being the super spreader clowns. At that same time, there is a lot to be said of having the energy of a live show. We planned our album release show accordingly. We were the second live show at the venue we played at since shows have been back, and the crowd was incredible. People have been missing this so much. I have been missing (shows) more than I realized. It was so cathartic. More so than just missing this, how much I need the live shows. That was pretty clear with the attendance and the crowd at the show. The second show was a festival we played at – people were awkward when it comes to how to greet each other. Do we shake hands, do we hug, do we fist bump? It was fantastic to see each other.
I do think there will be a honeymoon phase for live music and events. People after eighteen months, it’s safe to say people into this music are rabid fans. People won’t care who is playing right now, they just want to go to a show. We’ll see how long that momentum carries.
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the diversity of influences within the Infex camp – as its evident throughout the new record that the band draws inspiration from a mix of not just metal and thrash platforms but also a bit of hardcore, punk, and crossover elements? Are there key elements that have to be present to make the final cut for Infex?
Childs: That’s a good question. I don’t know if there are key elements that are 100% required. Particularly, we are in a new iteration, and this is the first output with basically half new members, half original members of the band. The punk and hardcore influences come from me – that was something I was pretty big into as a younger man. Especially in Southern California, and I had a lot of punk and heavy metal friends, despite there being a big divide between the two in the 80s to early 90’s. Beyond that, those crowds merged those together. Adam brought technical death metal chops coming into the band, R.C. the same. He’s from Alabama, and was into Southern death metal and the sludge scene, Dismember, Deceased, etc. Into that sort of very, major big death metal wave, post-Tampa. Trying to define our sound, and then Corey is an old thrash and death metal guy, I don’t think we have a checklist where certain things are present to be good.
Dead Rhetoric: What has it been like over the years getting the chance to play shows and tour with acts like D.R.I. and Exodus that you grew up on? What types of things do you learn from being around them that you maybe apply to the outlook and work/business ethics for Infex?
Childs: I would say it’s been incredible. We’ve been fortunate to share the stage with a lot of my teenage heroes. It’s interesting – having toured a little bit, there’s a different outlook from touring bands to local bands opening up. Cutting our teeth with these bands, we watch how they operate and what kinds of things they focus on. Even talk to them and ask them questions. Sometimes they don’t want to talk to us, I think the work ethic is something I’ve taken away. Musicianship, talent, work abilities, those have to be there – what I find is more important is how you deal with other people, how you troubleshoot problems that are unexpected. How fast do you set up your gear, get on stage and play – how fast do you break down so the other band(s) can get on. How you negotiate all these other things when you are playing a show. Those aspects of performing are very important. If you are that band that finishes their set and doesn’t break their shit down quickly, people get behind and they aren’t going to want to book you or talk to you again. High five your friends when you are done breaking down.
These bands like Exodus, D.R.I., they usually have crews that help them set up and break down- that’s at their discretion. If they didn’t have those crews, they would be doing it. Be punctual, finish your set on time, don’t drink all the beers backstage. Don’t get drunk and annoy people.
Dead Rhetoric: Being a part of the Bay Area thrash community, how would you describe the outlook on the current generation of bands versus the old guard that shaped the scene during the 1980’s/early 90’s? Do you believe it’s harder to gain a certain amount of respect due to the work the originators established?
Childs: That’s tricky. I think of course to some degree, those progenitors, they were the only ones doing it. They got noticed because they were doing something different, that hadn’t been done before. Forming the mold of the Bay Area scene and sound. Now, that’s an entirely different thing now, as you can’t throw a rock and not hit twenty thrash, death, or metal bands in the Bay Area. The scene is fierce with getting on these bigger bills. We are also from a generation in the waves of music where there are no record deals or money floating around – nowadays if you want to put out a record and go out on tour, it’s on you. Unless you are one of a chosen few who get some sort of record deal, that provides any of that. Most don’t anymore. I don’t think there was ever a huge amount of money in extreme music, outside of the big four and their surrounding kin.
The older guys in those bands are still active and they see these younger bands, I think they do what they can to help and support but the business is a lot different now than it used to be. I know some people had that aspiration to make it big, I think most wanted to at least make a living. It’s not a formulaic thing. The modern bands like Lamb of God, Municipal Waste, they have figured their own paths to their success. There is a path, it’s just not clearly defined from what you saw growing up.
Dead Rhetoric: What concerns you most about the world that we live in today? What do you think people need to put more of their time and energy into to hopefully make this world a better place to live in?
Childs: Oh man. I don’t have any answers for that. I think people just need to work on being kinder to one another. We live in such a politically charged and loaded world. I don’t think social media is doing us a lot of favors. I’m personally seeing and experiencing friendships being over because of ideologies, what you do or don’t believe in. I think it’s a world problem. I’m guilty of it too. Check yourself and your beliefs, and see things from another perspective, whether or not you agree with it. Understand why the person makes the choices they do rather than what that choice was. I have a young child, and it’s my hope for that generation not to be so quick to persecute people just because their beliefs are diametrically opposed to yours.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve mentioned in another interview recently your journey from vinyl to compact discs when you were younger – and even buying material when you can while discovering music through Spotify. How do you handle the changing business and consumption model of heavy metal these days – and what are some of your prized albums within your record collection?
Childs: On the business side, how do we sell media? We are tossing everything that we can at the wall: cassettes, LP’s, CD’s. Hopefully there is something for everyone there and streaming our music on all the major platforms. It’s easier for a band than it’s ever been. A record just costs money and takes time. My view over this coronavirus pandemic, I felt physical media was dying out to some degree outside of vinyl. You are starting to see record stores again, which is cool. I thought CD’s were a dead format, because I don’t have a CD player in my car right now. There is nowhere to pop one in. If I saw a small band I liked though and the only material they had was a CD, I’d give them $10 and buy it as I know that’s a burger, some gas money for the ride home. Anything that has a physical manifestation of something you like, you love, or find endearing is great and worth it. We maintained having CD’s because somebody out there likes them. Or offering those products.
Some of my prized possessions. I have a very modest collection of records, probably 250-300 albums. A big chunk of them were my sister’s. I still have a good amount of those, original pressings of Led Zeppelin records, to the point where my sister doodled on the covers with ballpoint pen. I know that devalues them from a collector perspective, but for me it makes it more valuable as it’s very unique and reminds me of those days listening to those records. A couple of early Black Sabbath records, Queen, all for sentimental reasons. Original pressings of old Kreator records, that I bought at the record store in 1986. I have a lot of stuff like that.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve maintained a DIY ethos when it comes to releasing material the entire career of Infex. What would it take for the band to sign to a label, or are you content to keep things on a self-released basis?
Childs: What would it take? A label offering us a deal… I’m half joking there. We never had the intent to relentlessly stay DIY. I don’t know if we were ready for something like that. I don’t know what a label could give us that ultimately we can’t do ourselves. Minus footing the bill for production. Distribution is something we are talking a lot about now, we are DIY in that department, and that would be nice to have somebody get physical units over across the ocean. With that service comes responsibility. Roadrunner or Nuclear Blast aren’t going to sign us based just on that – how much are you willing to work, tour, worth the investment to them. We talk about this all the time in our band meetings and rehearsal space. We’d have to quit jobs at some point. It’s risk versus reward. From my perspective, if we had the opportunity to sign with the more well-known metal labels, we’d have to think about it.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next for Infex over the next twelve months or so to support the new release?
Childs: We have a short tour booked for October 2021 – culminating in us playing Blades of Steel metal festival in Milwaukee, WI. We are playing on the Saturday with Vicious Rumors, Defiance, a bevy of old school bands. We will be hitting Oregon, Utah, Colorado, the mid-west corridor for that. With some local shows booked after that. It seems like most people are determined to keep things going if we can keep things going safely rather than shut things down. I’ll wear a mask and play in it if I have to do it. We are looking at a tour in spring 2022, probably Southwest United States. We have a couple of new songs written for the next album. We want to keep content fresh. Maybe do an EP, 7 inch, stream some songs to keep the buzz going.