We had been hammering away at the new record with uncharacteristic discipline for a couple of weeks and it was time to take a break. In fact, not only were we in the studio for 8-9 hours a day, but we were rehearsing most nights after recording, getting our set together for our impending trip to Japan and subsequent tour with Municipal Waste and Napalm Death. We found ourselves staying up later and later in an effort to decompress after 12+ hour days. But things were chugging along. Our big board was filling up rapidly after the rhythm guitars were knocked out. After eleven days in the studio (one more day than we had to finish all guitars and vocals for the 17 songs on All Guts…) we got a little time to unwind and cut loose in the form of three shows in Japan supporting Cannibal Corpse.
We left for Japan from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix with a rough mix of the 15 tracks we’d recorded, most still without vocals. All the solos were finished, and it was still exciting to listen to everything, as rough as it still was. The veggie meal I got on the plane was actually damn good, which was shocking. Since beer and wine were free on the flight, I drank a lot, listening to the new Exhumed stuff and watched The Avengers without sound. I barely dozed off, and then started catching up on movies I hadn’t seen yet. Moonrise Kingdom was unsurprisingly awesome. I love Wes Anderson’s stuff.
We landed and made it through customs with our nifty Japanese visas without incident. Everything was going so well, so smoothly, that something lame was bound to happen. And it did. We got all of our luggage except my guitar, which was lost somewhere in LAX. The funny thing is that we actually had the baggage allowance to bring one more guitar, and I almost did. That would have been a very good idea in hindsight. We headed to the hotel and crashed out for the night, after a quick production meeting with Nambu from Smash and Jumbo from Relapse Europe. Since I use Fernandes guitars (which totally rule – yes, this is a shameless plug), and their HQ is in Tokyo, I was hopeful I could get another Vortex without too much difficulty. Nambu was good friends with the president of ESP’s Japan office and he was speaking with him about getting a loaner was well.
The next day, Mike and I walked around the city for a couple of hours, and then we all had lunch at a delicious Korean restaurant across from the hotel. I also found out that everyone in the Fernandes Japan office was in Shanghai for a trade show – d’oh! Luckily, Nambu’s buddy at ESP came through. I ended up playing a Kirk Hammet-style strat-shaped guitar, which was a cool guitar, but it was odd not having a V. The main issue I had was that the guitar was set up in standard tuning, and I had about an hour and a half to set it up in B before we were due on stage. Also, all my tools were in my missing guitar case. Needless to say, it was not my best setup job, but it managed. I also met the folks in Sigh, who were all awesome. By the time we were ready to go on, the sold-out show was fucking packed and the vibe was so positive I couldn’t have cared less. The Tokyo show was one of the absolute best we’ve played since getting back together with a great positive energy on both sides of the stage. Before we left, Nambu, the booking agent, advised us to bring 100 shirts for the three shows. Well, by the time we finished playing, we had sold 96 of them. Which was awesome, but a bummer for the kids in Osaka and Nagoya. We relaxed backstage with some old friends while Cannibal was crushing the universe as usual. After the show, Rob, Bud, and I went to a bar called Rockaholics and had a great time, drinking ‘til after four in the morning and getting the whole bar to sing along with Maiden, Fate, and Priest.
Decrepit Crescendo in Tokyo
Later that morning, we boarded the bullet train for Osaka. Honestly, I crashed out for pretty much the whole ride, and subsequently broke my phone (that will be explained in the next update) with the videos of the beautiful Japanese countryside rushing past anyway, so… We arrived in Osaka and took a quick nap and shower at the hotel, then it was over to the club. I spent most of the time working on the ESP and finally got it pretty playable. I still didn’t have as much pull-up room on the whammy bar as I normally like, but other than that, I was able to play a lot tighter the second night in Japan. The crowd was pretty decent, definitely not as crazy as Tokyo, but still awesome. I took advantage of one of the dozens of opportunities I’ve had this year to watch Cannibal Corpse, and I gotta say, I really enjoyed their set. They have so many great songs throughout the years and they always sound killer. We owe them for taking us on the road so much this year. After the show, we headed to a tiny place called Crunch Bar, kind of a thrash metal pub. We were joined by Pat from Cannibal and then got the bartender to put on Ultimate Revenge 1 and 2, which was really fun. I turned in a little earlier that night and got a good night’s sleep before heading to Nagoya.
We were back on the bullet train the next day to Nagoya for the last show in Japan. The club and the hotel were in the same building, which made getting back and forth incredibly easy. My guitar finally arrived – thanks a lot Delta. We were in full-on recording mode when we left, and by show three, we were getting back into the groove of playing live. The fact that we had been having an incredibly good time for the past couple of days didn’t hurt either. During our soundcheck, Rob Barrett hung out and hopped on the drums, and we ran through some incredibly sloppy versions of “Circle Of The Tyrants”, “Dethroned Emperor”, and a couple other Frost tunes for a goof, which was loads of fun. The show was more intense than Osaka, which was awesome, the only downer in sight was that we had to be at the airport the next morning at 6:30. After the show, we headed (three guesses where) to another Metal bar whose name I forgot and partied with Corpsegrinder and our Japanese friends. Even Alex Webster stopped by for a minute to say hey to everyone. The next morning, we all woke up still drunk, but made it on time to catch our flight from Nagoya to Tokyo’s sprawling Narita airport. Our connection from Tokyo to Phoenix, however was not for another seven hours. Once we got to Narita, we had some breakfast and passed out on chairs until we could check in. By the time we got on the plane, I was finally awake and still a bit hungover, and I just couldn’t get back to sleep. One more movie marathon later, we landed in LA. Traveling to the states from Japan is the only form of time-travel I have ever done. Thanks to the international date line, we arrived in Los Angeles two hours before our flight left in Tokyo. One more flight and we were in Phoenix again, checking back into the Extended Stay America to try and finish our new record. Our friends in Death Angel were playing in town, but we thought going out might leave us under-rested for the following day’s recording. So instead, we ended up staying in the hotel room drinking until 3 in the morning like idiots.
The following day it was back at Arcane Digital for more fun and vocal tracking. That night we were finally joined by our mascot / tour driver / personal shopper Dr. Philthy, who flew in from San Luis Obispo. This time, we actually had the time in the studio to double-track all the vocals for a little bit more power. Also, since I’ve been doing harsh vocals for the last year and a half, I felt like my voice came out a lot stronger on this album. The last album, I hadn’t even sung like that for over 5 years, so I didn’t really have the endurance or power in my vocals that I have regained. Like anything else, it’s just a question of practice and consistency. It was really cool to hear Rob’s voice recorded for the first time – and he was sounding killer in the studio. Bud got into the act here and there, doing a few vocal bits in verses and pre-choruses in addition to thickening up the choruses. We also knocked out a bunch of band and promo photos while we were there, which was fun and full of excessive mugging. I’m really looking forward to see how Orion at Relapse will incorporate the photos into the design concept of the album. By the last day (day three since returning from Japan, day fourteen overall), Rob just had two or three more songs to nail down, and our friends in Bereft were heading back to LA from Tucson, so they stopped by and did some gang vox on a few songs as well. By the end of the recording, we knew that we had enough time to get everything done and the atmosphere was really chill. We reinstated the “pick up a thirty pack on the way to the studio” policy that was in effect when we recorded All Guts, No Glory. That’s how you know it’s fun.
We finally headed out to Charlotte, North Carolina on October 22nd. The drive was exactly what you’d expect. Long, boring, and not particularly interesting. So we’ll leave it at that for this time. Tune in next time for all the excitement our tour recaps usually deliver.