Thy Art is Murder – Hitting the TargetSunday, 21st July 2019
Now with over ten years of experience as a band, and four previous full-lengths under their belt, Thy Art is Murder will release their fifth at the end of this week, Human Target. The band has made steps over the last decade, evolving from more pure deathcore roots and gradually adding in more death metal and atmospheric elements over time to provide a more unique offering. But they’ve continued to be able to deliver some massive energy to their music, and it’s a reason they continue to grow as a band. We had a chat with guitarist Andy Marsh to discuss the team elements of the band, the approach to lyrics, and what he felt has been important to the band’s success.
Dead Rhetoric: What was your aim for Human Target? What does it represent for the band?
Andy Marsh: We didn’t really have an aim – we had all of this music and these ideas inside of us and it was about time to make a record. Some things happened along the journey, and then the album incidentally had a theme of oppression, struggle, and suffering. We put a lot of thought into the lyrics, and I guess the aim is that hopefully people will enjoy the record, but also maybe pay attention to the messages within.
Dead Rhetoric: Where you surprised by the whole Chris Barnes thing that popped up on social media when you released “Human Target?”
Marsh: I thought it was kind of funny. None of us in the band really knew him – we never listened to him or Six Feet Under. Someone told me about it; we didn’t even know that it had happened. Someone contacted me and thought it was really funny. So I read up on it and went to Twitter, where he had said it all, but he blocked all on Twitter so I couldn’t even see it. It was very funny.
Dead Rhetoric: Eliran Kantor has a distinct art style – what were you looking for from the cover art from him?
Marsh: Whenever I get artwork from Eliran, I don’t give him any briefing about it. To me he is like a visual member of the band. I’m looking for his brain to impart something onto our project. As opposed to having him be a tool instead, if that makes sense. I give him no direction. I give him the music and a lyric sheet. I ask him to find his interpretation of the album and design the artwork as he wishes. With this one, I didn’t even realize what the theme was yet. I wrote all the lyrics in about 2 weeks. Sean [Delander] wrote the whole record in about 3 weeks from start to finish. Sometimes you have to sit back and say, “What is the undertone? What was I thinking about? What was my mood that made all of these songs?”
It seemed to be some sort of oppressive nature or force as a theme throughout most of the tracks. So when I realized that, I sent [Kantor] and email and said we were going to call the album Human Target and it is about oppression – squashing/suffering. He said that was perfect, because he had already finished sketching the first draft of the cover. He said he’d send us something the next day and it all looked perfect. It’s kind of cool how it all worked out that way. He’s really on the same wavelength as us. I really like that guy.
Dead Rhetoric: You also used Will Putney again for Human Target – what’s the band’s relationship with him like?
Marsh: He’s another guy that is pretty much a member of the band. We don’t really dabble with things. When we find someone that works within the team that is Thy Art is Murder, they are really part of our team. It’s not that they work for us. Most of our crew have been with the band for at least 5 years, and some of them for close to 10 years. We really trust people that we work closely with, and value their opinion as if they were actually in the band. Like Thomas Savage, who is our photographer and shoots a lot of our music videos. I got to him for as much input as I do the rest of the band.
Will Putney is one of the most important parts of our band, because he has produced all of our great records for the last 10 years. He knows what we want to do, he knows what we are capable of, he knows when to push us, and if we are ever stuck for ideas he is very in-tune with the way we operate and the music we create. He’s also one of our best friends, so it makes it super-easy.
Dead Rhetoric: So you are mentioning all these members of a team that you have. Does it make your lives easier knowing that you have people that you can rely upon that think the same way that you do about these things?
Marsh: Absolutely. It’s kind of like this yin-yang/push-pull kind of thing. They are in-tune with the mission of what I want to do with the band, but they also have other ideas that I don’t have. So there is a lot of fighting and arguing points and whatnot, but ultimately that kind of tension serves to better drive the band forward.
Dead Rhetoric: Right, because if everyone just says “yes,” you don’t get any further.
Marsh: Yeah – so much of everything just comes down to my brain. I manage the band, I book the band, I have the band’s record label [for discussions] – if it was just my brain, I think it would be boring for me as well as everybody else. Having all of these brilliant minds being a part of Thy Art is Murder really serves to diversify and make the message a little bit more global.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think defines Thy Art is Murder at this point?
Marsh: I can’t even put my finger on it really. I think we write great songs, and one of our best traits is the combination of lyric and music. The lyrics in our genre of music, it’s too often that I find that the concepts behind them are too abstract or too based in fantasy. A lot of people sing about alien warfare and conspiracy theories that are super far-fetched, or slaughtering people in a really fantastical manner. At least for our last 4 records, the ones that I have written, it’s more rooted in real life and relatable. I hope that people read the lyrics and relate to the band. I think that might be the foundation of our connection to fans, as opposed to singing about things that are more difficult to relate to.
Dead Rhetoric: It gives it that extra level of connectivity instead of just thinking it sounds cool because it’s gory or fantastical.
Marsh: It’s a tangible thing. It’s an intangible quality, but I want to call it ‘tangibility.’ It’s something that you can hold onto and say that it’s very real. Despite the fact that it’s music and you can’t physically hold it.
Dead Rhetoric: That said, what can be said of some of the lyrical concepts on the album?
Marsh: Mostly all of them, I guess. The overall theme is suffering and oppression, and the song “Human Target” is about organ harvesting. It was inspired by reading about human organ harvesting in China. I think that’s something that people should read up on. “Chemical Christ” is about the pharmaceutical industry and in my opinion, the over-prescription of psychotropic drugs for anti-depression and anxiety. Over 50% of the western world is currently taking them. We are track, that if the usage of these drugs continue to increase at the rate that it has been increasing, almost 100% of the world will be taking them in 20 years. It’s fucking insane! So does that mean that everyone is crazy and no one is normal? I think people need to understand that there are different mechanisms at play in the world.
The song “Atonement” was inspired by sexual assault of women, which is something that has been getting more attention but still not enough attention. I spoke to a lot of my female friends, and nearly 100% had been a victim of some form of sexual assault. That’s not a study but my own internal statistic, but it inspired me to write a song like that because I don’t know what the actual statistic is, but it’s pretty fucking high. More than 0% is too high. But in speaking to them, whether it was cat-calling or being the victim of some kind of aggressive pursuit, some of them had actually been raped. It’s not good enough. Dudes need to do a lot better, so I wrote the song trying to imagine myself being a victim of a sexual assault. It’s a pretty interesting take that I hadn’t done before lyrically – trying to play a character that is not me. Most Thy Art is Murder songs are written from my own perspective, so that one is super interesting.
“Welcome Oblivion” is about cancer, and was inspired by my favorite author, Christopher Hitchens, who died of esophageal cancer. In his book, Mortality, he says it’s funny that humans have this desire to ascribe a personality to everything that is bad. But cancer isn’t a living thing – it’s just a thing. It kills you but it doesn’t aim to kill you, it doesn’t have morals or intention, it’s just a thing. It’s your own body. So I thought it would be funny to write a song about cancer whilst describing a malicious personality towards it, inspired by a chapter in his book that says that we shouldn’t prescribe a personality to cancer. So I actually put a quote from his book in it as well. So there’s a lot of really different things – I wasn’t seeking to try new things, it just sort of happened that we feel more comfortable so it seemed more natural to do them.
Dead Rhetoric: What does new drummer Jesse Beahler bring into the band?
Marsh: Intensity, diversity, dynamic – I tell people all the time and I have no qualms saying it: I think he’s one of the best death metal drummers in the world today. So being able to write with him and have him record the music with his sort of flair in it was sick. But especially with rhythmic concepts while writing the music, being able to play off of his mind and ask for his input was really cool. He thinks very differently to the way of drums than Sean and I think.
Nowadays, everyone writes music into a computer, and guitar players generally write the music, Sean and I were just programming drums into the computer and Jesse came to the studio while we were doing that, and was taking the drum programming and manipulating it into what he might do in a lot of sections, so we could push backwards and forwards on it. So by the time we recorded the drums, we were both like, “Oh my god what is this kid going to do? It’s going to be absolutely insane!” And it is insane.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that the band has evolved from your earlier releases?
Marsh: I think it’s been a gradual one, and we have no game plan in mind. A lot of bands, you can see they have a trajectory where they are trying to take on a more marketable or mainstream sound, or incorporate more clean singing/become less heavy. We have never really thought about those things. Our own mission is to improve year after year. Whether it’s 1% or 100%, it doesn’t matter as long as we aren’t going backwards. I think a lot of bands dissipate because they set arbitrary standards or goals on themselves, like making more money, playing to bigger crowds, or becoming say 3 times bigger in six months time.
We don’t talk about any of those things, we just want to make sure that each time we write a record that is as close to what we want as possible and that we improve our live show a little bit at a time. It’s compound interest. If you improve 5% a year, that’s amazing. If you improve 100% in a year, awesome! But maybe next year you are going to go back down. We’ve never had a year were we have gone backwards.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think that has been key in becoming more successful as a band?
Marsh: Absolutely. I speak about this in reference to music, but it’s generally my approach to anything in life. Too many people are depressed and fail too often because of arbitrary standards and goals. “I want to get this thing” – and it’s a huge deal. There’s nothing wrong with wanting that, but sometimes it’s different to see the smaller goals on the way to achieving such a big thing. Because it’s so huge, you don’t get there immediately and you feel disappointed and that you have failed, so you give up.
For us, that’s not a problem. What do we want to do? We want to improve a little bit tomorrow. That’s easy to do. Then we want to improve a little bit the next day, which is easy to do and it’s manageable. If you improve 1% each day for a year, all of a sudden you are fucking killing it. But if you want to dominate tomorrow, that’s not going to happen. It’s great to wish for those things, but it’s not going to happen. I think that’s why a lot of people nowadays are struggling with depressive disorders. They have arbitrary standards forced onto their lives by social media and it’s a crock of shit [laughs]. That’s my take on life, so it’s also the take for the band: just improve a little bit.
Dead Rhetoric: In touring throughout the world, what are some things that you have picked up on as a band?
Marsh: We have definitely learned a lot by traveling, which is probably about 50 countries a year. It’s a lot, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity. Some people may not see 50 miles from their house in a lifetime. It’s a wonderful opportunity to experience and learn. We have learned a lot – a lot of patience and a lot of cultural education.
Musically I wouldn’t say that we have learned too much. Obviously we meet a lot of peers, but more than the musical side of things, we have learned personal qualities. You meet bands that you develop long-term friendships with, like Fit for an Autopsy, Whitechapel, Architects, and Parkway Drive. We aren’t really paying attention to the music – we are fans of each other’s bands, but as people we learn the most about friendship and how to conduct yourself as a person in a band, how to run a business, all of those sorts of things.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next for the band for the rest of 2019?
Marsh: A little bit of touring, no headlining tours though really. We do three shows in July in Australia just before the record comes out as a bit of marketing. We go to Europe for two weeks after that for the same thing – a bit of marketing. I think that starts about five days after the record comes out. Then we will be supporting in the US in the fall hopefully. Basically we will do a little break around Thanksgiving until about mid-January. Then it’s full steam ahead. I think we are going to try to headline in all of the major continents. Hopefully by then we’ll know what songs on the record that people enjoy and we’ll be able to put together a really good live show for everyone.