My Missing Half – Tightening the NooseMonday, 4th July 2016
When it comes to melodic death metal, there seems to be a disproportionate amount of quality bands coming from European and Australian continents than North America. Since their origins in 2011, Massachusetts band My Missing Half has put forth quite a case for people to look their way for strong, crushing, and aggressive material. Between the frantic, sandpaper screams and growls from guitarist Bijan Hennessey, the pumping low end ferocity of bassist Alex Elwell, and the punishing kit work from drummer John Matthews – as well as guitar riffs and harmonies that will level you one minute, then bring fists to the air the next – it’s easy to see how they’ve captured a lot of buzz beyond the New England community.
Always willing to play for audiences small and larger, including an impressive performance opening for heroes like Dark Tranquillity and Insomnium last summer, the latest EP A Proper Hangman’s Knot takes the debut album from 2014 The Lives I’ve Ruined several steps further down establishing an original path. Even as the band searches for a permanent second guitarist, their activities have not slowed down in support of the new EP, as you’ll learn in this great conference call interview between Bijan, Alex, and John.
In this discussion you’ll learn more about how the trio are handling live shows with great support from other killer guitarists in the New England metal scene, the growth of the group through this EP, how a love of 80’s hits turned into head turning set openers, as well as a special double booked show memory forever embedded in the archives for My Missing Half.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your early memories surrounding music, and how quickly did you move into heavier music and eventually pick up an instrument to play?
Bijan Hennessey: My family wasn’t very musical at all, so my first time listening to and appreciating music was when I downloaded Napster so that I could get “All Star” by Smash Mouth (laughs). And then slowly (I) just got into a lot of pop punk bands, other things that really young kids were listening to around 8 or 9. Once I started to pick up the guitar at 13, I had a friend who had an electric guitar as I only had an acoustic. I found out I really liked the sound of the guitar with the gain up really high to get a very heavy tone. From there I just started seeking heavier and heavier music, once I first got to play an overdriven, heavy guitar.
Alex Elwell: I remember the first album I ever bought was the first Rage Against the Machine album. I listened to that in seventh grade, and I started to get into them, Korn. That got me into Metallica and really into thrash metal during high school. I started playing bass, every one of my friends who were trying to start bands, none of them wanted to play bass. I just thought it was a good fit.
John Matthews: Similar to Bijan, I downloaded Napster so I could listen to “Rollin’” by Limp Bizkit (laughs). I thought that was super bad ass in the fourth grade. Then later on I got into heavier music because one of my friends gave me the Roadrunner All-Stars album CD/DVD. I just started playing drums and I watched Joey Jordison mess around on the kit- and I knew that I was going to be able to do that someday. This was in the ninth grade I believe.
Dead Rhetoric: The new My Missing Half EP is entitled A Proper Hangman’s Knot. Tell us how the recording and songwriting sessions went for this, as it’s obvious that everything appears to be a step up in terms of the songwriting, performances, and production from their previous full-length?
Hennessey: Thank you. We approached the songwriting in a somewhat similar manner. We had very rough outlines of the songs and then sent demos to each other, talked about where we thought the songs were going and what we could add to them. Which is how we usually write, but what made it different this time is we had been playing the songs from The Lives I’ve Ruined for so long, that we wanted to take the identity we formed when we put out that album and give it a ‘what can we do next’ approach. We have songs that are very My Missing Half-esque but going in a different direction than the previous record.
Elwell: Our first record established who we were and we were able to say this is us, this is what we sound like. The EP is an opportunity to build on that. We learned a lot about what it is to record an album the first time- we made a lot of mistakes but I feel like those are mistakes you have to make to kind of learn from. This time around we were much more prepared- it’s easier to prepare for 5 songs than it is for 10. We knew what to expect and we were able to build more upon what we have already established.
Matthews: As far as the drumming on the first album, I kind of just winged it when it came to playing drums. I didn’t write for the parts, I kind of just played whatever came to mind on the spot. Whereas this time around, I tried to make the parts fit the songs a little more, and think through what I was doing. I listen to certain parts of the first album and I say to myself, ‘what the hell was I thinking?’.
Hennessey: One other thing to add with this EP- about three weeks before we went in to record I ended up going on a walk through the woods and I ended up getting some type of allergic reaction. I just lost my voice entirely, I went for a walk and I couldn’t speak anymore for two weeks. I had to use a text to speech app just to be able to communicate with people. I was getting food orders online because I could use that app on my phone, I tried to cut down speaking as much as I could. So when it came to record vocals, we had to book vocal sessions whenever Jay our producer had time available so it ended up being spread over months. It took a lot longer to make the record because of that, but because of the whole nightmare we ended up with the vocals sounding better than they would have if I would have just busted them out in a week.
Dead Rhetoric: And what types of lyrical ideas did you work on this time, did they differ from the debut album as well?
Hennessey: I guess it’s very similar to the previous record in that it’s somewhat personal lyrics. This time around I tried to make it less horror themed and more down to earth or realistic and relatable. Which because of this ends up having the lyrics become a little darker and hit you a little harder, just because you aren’t hearing about demons and ghosts. Well, not as much. Lyrically I tried to make it a lot more genuine and I think that’s going to be the direction that our songs go in from now on.
Dead Rhetoric: You lost second guitarist Patrick Powers during the recording sessions. What exactly took place for his departure?
Hennessey: Luckily when he left all of the guitars, bass, and drums were already done and recorded. There are even a lot of vocals that had already been recorded. He just had a lot of other priorities that didn’t really allow him to play out as much as we needed him to. He told us that he just couldn’t stick it out with the band anymore. He was a great guitar player and a great bandmate to have, we were all bummed out but there was no aggressive band breakup like there usually is when a band member leaves. It’s still tough as we don’t have another permanent player yet.
Matthews: He didn’t leave us hanging in the middle of the recording, it was pretty well thought out. He had decided months before he actually did end up leaving. He did everything he had to do, we are still on great terms and we still talk to each other.
Hennessey: He also did a tour with us and Begat the Nephilim that we had set up, so that helped us out a ton.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been able to get some great complimentary second guitarists like Ryan Burke of Epicenter and Nick Petrino of Sonic Pulse to fill in for live situations while you seek out a second guitarist – how fortunate do you feel to have other players step up to the plate?
Elwell: It’s been really awesome. It really means a lot to us to see awesome, talented players- as well as awesome dudes- that dig our stuff enough to want to do this. It’s been a lot of fun, stylistically they are two different guys and they bring two different sets of strengths. It’s been really cool, there are different dynamics that go on when we are on stage together.
Hennessey: We would be absolutely screwed without them. Especially since we have had a lot of auditions but not many guys have been able to play the songs quite as tight as we needed them to be. And both of those guys show up and just nail it every time. Huge props to those guys.
Elwell: And they are different kinds of shows, some shows are killer, some are not so awesome to be at, and those guys have stuck out some tough gigs too- when you are in a local band you get a lot of both. But those guys always manage to have a lot of fun.
Matthews: And filling in for a band is actually a huge commitment. I’ve done it a couple of times, learning all the songs and practicing, the time for the shows and actually playing is a huge commitment- so we owe those guys a ton.
Photo Credit: Devvon Simpson
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