Inter Arma: "The world is shitty, but we will get through it together, there is hope"

A hot coffee in the first day of Roadburn festival with TJ Childers from Inter Arma

Από την Ειρήνη Τάτση, 15/05/2024 @ 22:14

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No matter the days go by, we carry a little more Roadburn Festival with us. During our days there, we had the pleasure of enjoying some very interesting conversations with favorite artists. Kicking things off with the amazing Inter Arma who this year released the multi-layered 'New Heaven', we caught up with their drummer and founding member TJ Childers to talk about their new record, the good old sludge days, and the first live performance of "New Heaven" which would take place on the Roadburn stage a few hours later.

The festival itself had surprises in store for us, as we were to enjoy them twice more, but before that, with the very friendly TJ and his great humor, we delved into the political messages of music, the need for solidarity and progress, but also gained a deeper look into Inter Arma's artistic vision which seems to be spreading but without expansive tendencies.

Inter Arma - New Heaven

And let's go,hello TJ!


We're finding you here in Roadburn after a few years, so first of all how are you doing? Let's talk a little bit about Inter Arma and their return on Roadburn festival and many many more things.

Well I'm a little hungover because we partied last night with the Sonja crew which is always a party, but other than that pretty great, I mean being hungover is normal anyway! (laughs) So again I we're excited to be here, I'm very excited and gearing up to play the new record tonight, that's the first time ever in front of people!

In front of the people who love you though, that's a good thing (laughs)! Yeah so I think it's now your third time in Roadburn?

It's our third time in person we did the Redux back in 2021.

So how do you feel about it, do you feel more accustomed to the festival because you know both you and the festival are changing, how do you feel today after a quarantine and three years that have been in the middle?

I mean it kind of feels like a home at this point you know, it's no less exciting than it ever was, but it feels good to be back!

We can either continue down that path and put out like a 90 minute Merzbow record with blast beats or we can kind of bring in elements

You're coming back as we've said before with your new record which is not out yet but it's called "New Heaven" but, what the hell, this album sounds like "New Hell". It's very different, very emotional, with many new music elements that we weren't used to hear from you before, so can you tell me about what led you to this new sound, what's 2024 for Inter Arma and what comes inside "New Heaven Album" musically speaking?

Well the catalyst of it was after "Sulfur English", last record, we kind of said alright this was a very abrasive, oppressive 65 minute long record. We can either continue down that path and put out like a 90 minute Merzbow record with blast beats or we can kind of bring in elements, focus even more on songwriting than we have in the past. Not that we didn't focus on songwriting, but really like try and make it concise and as sharp and to the point as possible. Just hone in on all the different things that we do whether it's a more psychedelic type of thing, or death metal type of thing, or black metal type of thing and so we just wanted to really hone in on songwriting and focus on things that we had done in the past. Also try some new things, one example is "Gardens In The Dark" where it's more of an industrial type of feel, kind of Nine Inch Nails-y which we're all fuckin' huge Nine Inch Nails fans. It's always something that we wanted to incorporate but never really had. I think we messed around with some stuff and it either didn't work out or the idea kind of fell by the wayside, so this time it worked out and we're pretty stoked about how it turned out.

Always I lay down the drums first and then guitars and bass, vocals and then get all the extra stuff sort of sprinkled in there

It's actually a pretty massive record and I could hear in it inspiration from of course from the black metal music, many disharmonies in the sound and many elements that someone might think that they might not work together. But you managed to put them all into place and I mean thankfully I've got the perfect person to speak to about this matter, the drumming on the record which was like pretty massive and the tempo was in a different place than the other instruments but it worked out really nice in the end. So how do you work when it comes to the series of things happening, do you first record guitars, did you start from the drumming, how did it go this time?

Always I lay down the drums first and then guitars and bass, vocals and then get all the extra stuff sort of sprinkled in there. We always say the "bells and whistles" are the shit that really make the record kind of pop, so to speak, but I don't record to a click so it's a bit of a challenge for the guitar players sometimes. Even though I feel like at this point my playing, my tempo is pretty solid, but I don't really focus on trying to play exactly the same tempo the entire song, because to me, that sort of strips away the human element. I mean like you listen to a Rolling Stones record by the end of the song it just you know, Charlie Watts playing ten beats per minute faster than when it started, you feel the gas of it, it speeds up and slows down and that's what it sounds like when human beings play music, as opposed to - I'm not gonna name names - but a lot of technical death metal bands these days sounds like a computer. And it's cool, but for me and for us it's just not what we want to do and it takes away that human element which I think is what makes people connect with a lot of classic records. Like there's a reason why people still listen to Led Zeppelin too, because it sounds like four guys in a room just giving it their fukin' all, and that's the type of music that we want to put out.

it's a statement on any war and any government killing anybody. We do not back it

With that in mind I want to go into the the thematical aspect of the new record, "New Heaven". I haven't had the chance of course because it's not out yet to get in touch with the lyrics of the whole album but I find in some of the titles and in some of the things that I could get that it kind of has an anti-war, political message inside of it. I mean there are some songs titled like "The Children That The Bombs Overlooked" and I feel that the whole feeling of the record kind of brings out an anger that that comes from the whole nature of the times that we live in so, if you want to elaborate a little bit on the thematical side.

So two things: number one that song, "The Children That The Bombs Overlooked" is a completely anti genocide song, it's an anti-war song. And it was written about a month and a half before all the Gaza stuff took place, so talk about a coincidence and we we've been asked already, "is this is this a song a statement on that?" - it's a statement on any war and any government killing anybody. We do not back it.

As far as the overall theme of the record, and I mean that ties into the fact that it's pretty fuckin' dark, dark time we're living in right now unfortunately, there's a lot of bad shit going on in the world, and it's kind of saying "all right we're all in this together we know this is shitty, but we we're going to get through it and there is hope and things will be better". That pretty much is the overarching theme of the record. I mean, you know, it doesn't necessarily come right out and say that out lyrically but even musically, and we've always kind of been in that sort of layers anyway. Our music is definitely pretty dark and oppressive and fucked up but there's always an underlying hope in it, we're trying to be uplifting at the same time if that even makes sense or it could even be possible. So it all sort of ties in together just things are fucked up but we want things to be better and we think things will be better.

and talk about those things because if you don't talk about them…

Exactly, exactly!

Inter Arma

I see that. So again on the whole vibe of the record, what music did you listen to and what did actually inspire you to make it because it is a shift in your previous sound regarding what we've talked about in the beginning. Possibly more classic artists that you love and inspire you to go that way, or even newer bands that got you to this direction.

Honestly we just listened to the same old shit that we always listen to (laughs)! I think the shift in the sound probably has more to do with just as I said earlier, the focus on songwriting and really honing in on things but that said, I mean anybody who's the slightest bit familiar with us knows what we're into whether it's Neil Young or Morbid Angel, it's pretty all over the place. We definitely, again, try to incorporate some things that we hadn't done in the past like more of the industrial element and even the "Forest Service Road Blues" song. We've done acoustic melodic folky type things before but never really gone that hard down that path and so it's sort of new but not 100% new for us. It's again just trying to write even better songs and top ourselves as songwriters I think is what sort of brought out the newer elements.

yeah things are bad but look we know, we're all here for each other and let's try to see the good and help each other out, instead of killing one another or ourselves

I wanted to touch that you have also out video clip for the song "Concrete Cliffs" right now, and let's see because we see your band and concrete of course, so and I'd like to ask how did you inspire the general vibe for this particular video because it kind of gets the anti-war thing that we talked about but it also seems a little bit more metaphorical about what the "concrete cliff" might mean, so how did we get to see its visual aspect?

So well, we tried to incorporate some of the lyrical themes to the video which we've always tried to do that in the past with our videos and so that the video is not just something that has absolutely nothing to do with what's going on in the song. Which, that's cool but for us we've always tried to make it all one big thing. So just incorporating the ideas of you know in the video there's all these different gigantic buildings kind of… the word brutalist kept getting thrown around which I never really heard that word in that context before we did the video. We just wanted it to be kind of, I guess for lack of a better word somber video because the lyrical content is kind of somber. I mean it's more or less an anti-suicide song and again you know, going back to the same thing of yeah things are bad but look we know, we're all here for each other and let's try to see the good and help each other out, instead of killing one another or ourselves.

So what I want to conclude myself, that anti-suicide, anti-war it looks like we cannot tolerate things that get us to this point anymore.


As soon as I saw the album art I thought because we knew the record was going to be called "New Heaven" I thought "oh this guy's getting ready to jump into the orb that is transferring him down into the new heaven"

Last but not least about the album art of "New Heaven", what do we see exactly, it's pretty dark and not as colorful as we've used you being before.

What you're seeing exactly is it's a Canadian soldier – I hope I'm getting this right - it's a Canadian soldier up in the Arctic Circle, he's ice fishing and so he has a headlamp on and that's the blue circle that's on the ground, and then coming at him, or not coming at him but it's just a truck with its headlights on and so that that is actually what you're seeing. All right but if you're just looking at it it's just like, I mean, paint your own picture it could be any number of things. As soon as I saw it I thought because we knew the record was going to be called "New Heaven" I thought "ohh this guy's getting ready to jump into the orb that is transferring him down into the new heaven"!

Let's travel a little bit further back so the artwork for "Sulfur English", because it touches weird spot for us Greek people it reminds us a lot a wildfire and would really like to know what the fire of the cover of "Sulfur English" is exactly.

That photo is, oh man because this was so long ago - I'm actually the one that found that photo on the Internet and it's this woman whose name is totally escaping me right now, but she is a wildfire photographer and I went to the website and just looked through everything and found that photo again. And then just got in contact with her and said hey I think this photo is absolutely amazing and it kind of represents what my band does and she's not a heavy metal person at all, but she said yeah sure I'd be honored to have one of my photos on the cover of the record so that's how it all came about!

Inter Arma

In the same matter, you had a pretty interesting record, "Garbers Days Revisited" of course, uh which was full of cover songs from many amazing bands You've touched on the matter of how much you love Nine inch nails it so I would guess one song will go right in hand with that, but also many covers on hardcore punk bands, did you choose all of those songs because you just love the artists or was it something different behind the "Garbers Days Revisited"?

Well yeah I mean obviously we're not gonna cover a band that we hate (laughs)

Maybe if you want to take their song away from them who knows! (laughs)

Yeah, we wanted these songs to be kind of representative of our influences on a much broader scale because obviously Inter Arma doesn't really sound anything like Tom Petty but we all collectively fuckin' looooove Tom Petty I think he's one of the greatest songwriters that ever lived and so we just wanted to kind of paint up a broad picture of where we're coming from musically.

Our biggest take away from punk in general is just the DIY esthetic

What is exactly also your relationship with the hardcore punk side of things because you also have covered Cro-Mags and Husker Du, are you connected with them on the political or ethical side of this music because of course hardcore punk has really inspired a lot of sludge and doom artists in the course of their career.

We don't connect with any of those bands on any sort of political level. Our biggest take away from punk in general is just the DIY esthetic of it all which is still very much a big part of who we are. I don't know why should people think this but we're not like rockstars, we don't make a living off of Inter Arma, we we do it because we love to do it especially in the early days I mean our first tour van was a 1977 Ford E150 van that was rusted out and had shed carpeting in it. We're very much in line with the DIY approach to doing a lot of stuff granted nowadays that we've grown as a band and we get some help here and there, but we we're that's where we find ourselves in line with the punk esthetic, and just the overall aggression of the music which to me they're just not much difference between punk and metal as far as you know the aggression and the darkness of both of those genres of music.

So here in Greece we don't really know where exactly the name Inter Arma comes from, how did you inspire the name and how did we get here?

Well we just needed a name we didn't have a name I I think the first show or two we played we didn't have a name and we just needed something!

You were the "incoming name" band!

Yeah! (laughs) yes well somebody said Inter Arma like, that sounds cool enough for a few shows, we'll just use that as a placeholder and then almost 1000 shows later we're still Inter Arma. I granted it's sort of it worked out and it's also kind of applicable for some of the shit that's going on today, because it's part of the Latin phrase that means "in the time of war" and that seems to be pretty apt these days

"Arma" ('αρμα') in Greek also means "war vehicle"

That sounds cool too!

I think our records granted, they don't sound like, you know, a Darkthrone record!

So something more about your production, I find throughout your sound and even more in "New Heaven" it's been very clean cut, on my side I really enjoy clean productions but sometimes I notice bands that are going to this side of doomier, sludgier things, might prefer production raw or not so clean cut. How did you make this decision, do you feel that it helps for the music and the complexity of your sound?

Well basically we want our records to sound like a big ass rock'n'roll record. I think that that one of the greatest sounding records of all time is AC/DC "Highway To Hell" and I think the closer we can kind of get to that is the production, where it's there is still production and it still sounds good but to me it's still pretty raw sounding. I think our records granted, they don't sound like, you know, a Darkthrone record! (laughs), it doesn't sound like they're recorded on a boom box, but they also don't sound like a lot of modern metal productions or I should say modern metal records, that are produced in that fashion where everything's very sampled and quantized, it's still pretty loose. I like trying to find that balance of it sounding good but still sounds like human beings playing.

We do find the difference from the previous time because you were lucky enough to release a record that was full of cover songs in between those very very dark few years we were all in our houses so did this have an impact on the change of your music or was it something that you were going to go this way no matter what happened?

I think this would have happened regardless because we always try to top ourselves, not necessarily have each record be heavier and heavier but just continue to branch out and trying new things and expanding our sound. So I think this would have happened regardless, if anything it just sort of slowed down how soon the record came out.

I can't really speak for a for other bands, but I know for us and myself personally, you know, if you don't evolve wait what are you doing?

We see nowadays even in the lineups of Roadburn festival what it was before, let's say 10 or 15 years which was more like classic doom sludge sounds going around but also many post metal bands sludge bands, they try a lot during the last years at least to experiment with something new, incorporate, expand the sound. Do you feel that there is a need of the musicians to always reinvent their music?

I can't really speak for a for other bands, but I know for us and myself personally, you know, if you don't evolve wait what are you doing? I've said this a lot in the past I love AC/DC they're in my top five favorite bands of all time but when you buy an AC/DC record you know exactly what you're getting. It's the same with Cannibal Corpse and I fuckin' love Cannibal Corpse but when you buy a Cannibal Corpse record you know exactly what you're getting. And so for us in particular we always feel like we need to change things up, maybe not drastically but just explore and touch on things maybe we haven't touched on in the past. I just think that evolution as a musician and as an artist is important, improving on your craft and just evolving. If you don't, you kind of get left behind.

So, Inter Arma in Greece is that going to happen soon enough?

So we've been in talks and it was supposed to have happened in the past and then global shit thing happened and it didn't. But there's a European Tour coming up in the fall and we have been in talks with promoters in Greece so hopefully it's gonna happen, we want to get there, trust me!

To sum this up, are you excited about tonight? You can finish up the conversation however you like!

Yes, I'm so ready to go! I'm having a hard time focusing on anything else cause I'm ready to get it done! See you tonight and see you again in Greece hopefully!