It doesn't matter who synth metal band Element a440 is playing with. It could be a punk band, a DJ, or death metal group. The outfit's only concern? To put on a theatrically, entertaining show, visually and audibly.
In this week's issue, we profiled the band and delved into the details concerning its second album, Whips, Knives, Candles, And Quills, which its releasing on Friday, February 1, at Joe's Grotto. The record shows that the band's sound, incorporating electro gloss and metal crunch.
Up On The Sun talked with vocalist Halo and guitarist Graven about how the Mason Jar made Element a440 a Phoenix band, blood and blow-up dolls on stage, and egos in the local music scene.
Up on the Sun: How did you guys originally come together?
Halo: Well, I was writing music and found the direction I wanted to go in when I was younger, and then recruited some other musicians based on my vision in 2004. But the group I'm with now, we've been together for about two years. The history of the band is pretty jagged and messed up as far as band members in and out.
So the current lineup is...
Halo: The strongest lineup I've ever had.
As far as a little bit of background on you guys, what's the story?
Halo: Well I'm from a small town in Wyoming -- like 2,000 people. I formed my own band there with my friends and we ended up getting pretty good. After we decided we wanted to go for it, we started traveling and lived in my truck for a couple weeks in Denver. We went to Seattle and Vegas, then we moved to Phoenix after doing some research on the scene. When we got there I went to the Mason Jar and the club was nasty and dirty and perfect for what I was looking for. It seemed to be a vibrant scene here. Realizing that you can actually do something with your music...I mean, I fell in love with my guitar the second I started playing it at age 16. My original band was more of a speed metal band, [but] it always had dark influences.
So we all moved here from Wyoming, but it quickly disintegrated because it was a culture shock for us all. I eventually had to move back to Wyoming, but then moved back here when I got my funds back up. I went to the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe and became a certified recording engineer, because I wanted to know more for my music. I realized that I may as well just do the recording myself, to save money and have a better product at the end.
So what is so solid about the current members now? Why did they stick for you?
Halo: Well, Graven is rock and roll. There's nobody else that's been rock 'n' roll like he is. He shits, breathes, fucks it.
Graven, when did you start playing?
Graven: I was 18. All I've wanted to do was play music since I was a kid you know? I used to get my mom's makeup box and do make up like Ace Frehley from KISS. When I went to college I was just like, "Dad this isn't really for me man," so I just quit. I went to Tucson and eventually wound up in Phoenix. I've roadied, done live sound for bands. As far as influences go, I think everything I listen to is an influence, even stuff I don't like, because I veer away from that. I like everything from punk to glam to death metal. But main bands? Iron Maiden, the Misfits, Danzig, Sabotage, Guns 'n' Roses. There's a ton of them.
With such a wide variety of influences, what type of shows do you go to in town?
Graven: I go to shows in all genres on a weekly basis, and one thing we want to do is to bring together fans of different genres. The thing I notice in the scene is that separation. I bounce from scene to scene. I used to work for Metal Devastation, and we'd do straight up death and black metal. Then metalcore came around and there was a separation there. I go to glam shows and punk shows and extreme metal shows....I mean you never really notice me, but I'm always there. I talk to a lot of people and I notice that separation: Everyone has a grudge against everyone else, or think their band is better. And that mentality kinda kills it. We just want to be a part of it, be a part of the scene I appreciate. We can all help each other, and it takes a few people to change that, but it is the same everywhere I've lived.
So that's why when Element a440 was starting out, you decided to share the stage with less electronic acts to bring the music to new ears?
Graven Exactly. That's why we decided to start on stage with bands in the electronic genre, even though that may not be what we were immediately categorized as. Naturally, bands gravitate towards bands similar to them, but sometimes the scene stagnates because you don't grow. It's like Lemmy [Kilmister] says in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years: "If you think you got what it takes, shove it out, run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it."
You're live shows are insane. What can you tell me about the theatrics? What can we expect at the album release show?
Graven: There's gonna be blood, spinning crosses, very good-looking, scantily clad girls, blow up dolls...we're aiming for a lot of theatrics, because that's what people come to see. And I think the most important part of it is that there are going to be people who have supported us all throughout, and we're going to be playing some kickass rock 'n' roll.
What influences do you take from electronic music?
Halo: Well, how I describe the band is that we're hook-heavy, electronic, and melodic. Like, I love Rammstein. Some of those German bands that are just super cool electronically, and NIN of course. Even Stabbing Westward has electronic elements in their music. But, you know, Rammstein, they put on a show. They give the audience its money's worth and that's what we want to eventually do. Unfortunately, sometimes you don't have enough set time or prep time, but we've always tried to give people a good show audibly and visually. I think that's what all bands should do. We don't expect anything from fans; we owe everything to them because without them we're nothing. You know, nobody is going to appreciate the music if no one is there to hear it.
I do love the theatrics; like when I saw you guys last and Katt (bassist) spit some bloody substance all over you..
Halo: Oh, that was real blood.
What? Whose blood?
Halo: I think it was cow's blood that night.
Halo: Yeah, it's nasty but awesome. No fake blood here. That's what's so awesome about this lineup. We can go up on stage and have fun and that radiates to the audience.
I've noticed your microphone stand. The mechanics are pretty cool. Did you make it?
Halo: Yeah, it was me and one of my good friends. We thought it would be great to build a new mic stand, and were looking in my yard and I had some scrap car pieces, along with some old windshield wipers. I drew up a sketch, we bounced ideas back and forth. It was really difficult to make, but he and I made that out of scrap parts and a couple pieces of scrap aluminum.
You guys just were the 2013 Project Independent featured artist. That's going to bring some solid opportunities.
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Halo: Yeah, it's the first time an Arizona band has taken the win in nine years. Project Independent is the world's only independent metal showcase. We won a nine-week tour of the United States and 6,000 CDs pressed through his winning. The tour is gonna kick off in Tempe in August and ends in Phoenix in October
Element a440 is scheduled to perform Friday, February 1, at Joe's Grotto.