Hello and happy Sunday metal heads! The Meista here with a special treat for you today... an interview with guitarist/vocalist Chris Jester of the blackened thrash metal band Deathhead from my home town, Ogden, Utah!
I recently met up with the Jester at the Lighthouse Lounge, a favorite watering hole of mine to discuss his band, his history as a musician, and metal in general. Here's that interview... Enjoy!
B&T: So this is Brews and Tunes and I'm here with Chris Jester from Deathhead, a local Ogden band. Why don't we start with... well, talk about the band a little bit. What's the history of the band? How did you get started?
CJ: We've been together since oh, 2001 with some amount of lineup changes. We've been a four-piece. We've been a three-piece. Everything in between. I am the only original member. Cory [Carson], our drummer has been with the us the longest of anybody. He's probably been with us going on seven years now. I started the band up when I was living in Dallas still. I decided to move back up here and I had a lot of friends up here... so I came back up here and started reforming the band. We've gone through ups and downs, back and forth, everything else and as it stands right now, as I said me and Cody are the two longest serving members of the band.
B&T: Cool! Let's go back in time. How did you as a musician get started? What was your inspiration? What was your musical history?
CJ: I've loved metal and music in general ever since I was a little kid. I remember being in either third or fourth grade and I wanted to be Eddie Van Halen. I had one of those little cardboard guitars and I used to jump around emulating Eddie Van Halen. I wanted to be a musician all my life. My grandfather played guitar and I've always loved guitar. Around about when I was probably thirteen, fourteen years old was when I really, really seriously thought about starting a band. And it has just evolved from there.
B&T: So you started with guitar then?
CJ: The very first instrument I ever played honestly was drums. I didn't really like them. I enjoyed playing them, but it just didn't feel right.
B&T: That's funny that you mentioned Eddie Van Halen because you are actually like him because he started on drums and he and his brother switched!
CJ: [laughs] Yeah, that's true! That's kind of ironic. I never really thought about that.
B&T: What bands or musicians have been your biggest inspirations in terms of being a guitar player, writer, and vocalist?
CJ: Van Halen obviously was the one that kickstarted it all. And then I discovered AC/DC. AC/DC is... well, when I first heard "Highway To Hell" I was like this is what I want to do. No questions asked. This is what I want to do! AC/DC and Iron Maiden. It's like Iron Maiden was probably the biggest band in the world for me for the longest time. Then I discovered the thrash scene... Sodom and Kreator. Back when a lot of my friends were getting into Slayer and Metallica and all that stuff, I found German thrash and German thrash just changed my life. It was so much heavier. So I would say right now the biggest influence was that German thrash and then black metal. I love the black metal. Dark Funeral... I'm a massive Dark Funeral fan. There's another band... they kind of ride that line like we do between thrash and black metal called Nocturnal Breed. I'm a massive, massive Nocturnal Breed fan.
B&T: Yeah, that was one thing when I first heard your music, you are obviously a thrash metal band, but it is definitely blackened. There's that Venom element there... Kreator and Sodom... especially the early Sodom where you've got the black element and that's what really drew me to what you guys do.
CJ: Right... and Venom, well they're the gods. Venom is up there with Motorhead. Venom and Motorhead both are in my ultimate top list as far as influences go. It's like going back to what influenced my writing style I would say... it started out... my writing style is definitely influenced by Venom and Motorhead and then those other influences came after them. I guess being a little bit older, I grew up with all those early bands like Venom and Motorhead as well as getting into the thrash bands and the black metal bands as well.
B&T: How do you feel about the current metal scene? What are your thoughts? It is very diverse now and it is also kind of odd in a lot of ways. It is a strange beast.
CJ: It is and there are a lot of really great bands, but for whatever reason it is almost impossible for people to hear them. Maybe it is because there are just so many bands now and it is so easy for bands to put stuff out that a lot of people just don't take the time to listen to it. Just on Facebook alone I probably get one hundred invites a day just to go like this band, go like that band. There's just no way I can listen to each and every one of them. I just don't have time. And I feel bad. I'm one of those guys trying to do the same thing... trying to get people to come listen to my band. Getting people to listen to you is hard because it is so overwhelming. Back in the day you went and looked for stuff, you found stuff. It wasn't like you were getting hundreds of bands a day to listen to. But every once in a while something pops up that is like, "wow, what was that? I've gotta hear more of this!" I kind of go by what people recommend to me. That's how I sort through things.
B&T: So Deathhead recently put out a new song ["Last Act Of A Desperate Man"], which is brilliant.... a really cool song! So you guys are working on an album, correct? Are you working on new material?
CJ: It's going to be an EP. That song is going to be on it. That is the first single. It should be done and out by sometime after the first of the year. I think we will have five songs on it.
B&T: Have all these songs been written? Are you ready to go with it? Are you ready to record? Are you demoing stuff?
CJ: They are in the mixing and mastering stage. Yeah, everything is recorded. Everything is done. When we started recording it was planned to be a full album, but we decided we are going to do it as an EP.
B&T: Okay. What was the deciding factor there if you don't mind me asking?
CJ: When we hooked up with Lickerish Records... well at first they wanted to put out our last album, "The Blessed In Blasphemy" because it never got a proper release. They just released that in the UK for us. It did well enough to where they wanted more. They asked us if we could do an EP. I'm okay with doing an EP. It is a good test for new material to see how well it does.
B&T: In promoting the new EP, can we expect some live shows coming up soon?
CJ: Right now as far as live, I don't know. Christian [Coty] played bass on the album. We had some issues with him and he left the band. We buried the hatched, but he has some issues which prevent him from playing right now. I'm trying to work with a new bass player right now. It is just a matter of time. So as far as playing live, I don't know. For me there's a lot more to music than just playing live. I like recording music. I like writing music. I like creating music. If that means sitting in a studio and writing songs, then I'm more than happy doing that. Even though I like playing live, I like making music that everybody can hear.
B&T: Speaking of writing music, obviously Deathhead is you, is Chris Jester. In terms of writing, is there any sort of collaboration there? Is it solely you that writes everything?
CJ: Usually how we write is I'll sit at home and come up with riffs. I will write riffs and I will arrange them and do everything else until I am happy with it. And then when I'm happy with it, I'll take into the jam room and me and Cody will knock it out. We will rearrange it. We will figure it out. We will make it into a song. Usually when we do that it is just guitar and drums. We will work the music out with guitar and drums and then once we are happy with it then we start figured out what we are doing with lyrics. Once we add lyrics to it, it alters it again. Once we've got that figured out, that's when we bring the bass player in and that's how we complete a song. Cody is a huge part of it. We kind of have this sixth sense thing. When we are jamming, when we are playing together, he just knows. We both know... we both can tell when something needs to change and we work on that. Whatever I bring in... I show him the riff and we may jam that for twenty minutes until we get it down. And he just knows where it needs to change.
B&T: One thing that I thought was cool, on your Facebook page you will experiment with riffs and put it out there. You are really open and really honest about "here's what I'm working on right now and there are some mistakes here, but check out this new riff I'm working on." That's really cool that you allow your fans to see the writing process. "Here's my writing process." You don't see that with a lot of bands.
CJ: I've never denied that fact that I am not the most technical guitar player. I play because I love it. Plain and simple, I love playing guitar. I don't play for technicality, I'm not precise. I like the vibe. If you go back and listen to "Let There Be Rock", it is not technically perfect. There are mistakes on that album. But is it one of the best albums in rock and roll? Without a doubt. I'm in no way comparing myself to the Young brothers, but at the same time I don't play stuff perfectly, but rock and roll isn't supposed to be perfect. I like it raw. I like it dirty. I like it ugly. There are bands out there that play perfect and that's their thing, but that doesn't hit me in my soul. That's not what makes me want to jump up. When I'm cranking an album in my living room and jumping around like I'm twelve years old still it isn't because I'm listening to someone playing every not perfectly. It's the vibe. It's the soul.
B&T: What is your inspiration in terms of your lyrics, subject matter and themes?
CJ: It can be anything really. Society is kind of fucked up. There's always something to piss you off. Whether it be from a movie, or something you saw on the news, or whether it be something you witnessed in real life, or just a total disregard for the world in itself. There's always something wrong. We've written a vast array of stuff... hatred for religion. I'll be the first to say, I don't have a problem with people who have faith. I have a problem with religion. World of difference. We have a lot of super anti-religious songs. And organized government is as bad as organized religion. If I write a political song, it is against everything in general. I'm not left. I'm not right. Both sides are fucked. It doesn't matter. Both sides are just equally as screwed. And then there are just stories that come into my own head... things that I want to write stories about. To me that is songwriting. You want to tell a story. It doesn't matter what it is about. I've written lyrics based off of Stephen King. "Thing In The Dark" was based off of the book "It". I was reading the book and writing lyrics at the same time and it didn't even click at first that I was writing lyrics based off of what I was reading.
B&T: So for your fans and people that want to check out, the new EP is coming out at the first of the year. Does it have a title yet?
CJ: It is going to be called "And Then Hell Followed".
B&T: And this is coming out from Lickerish Records?
B&T: Hopefully we will see some shows announced in the not too distant future.
CJ: I hope so. I hop so. I really do. I want to play some shows. There are a lot of things we are working on.
B&T: Last question... so Jester finishes writing a song, or you finish a set, or whatever, when you get home what beer do you crack open and what album do you put on?
CJ: I'm a Heineken guy. I love my Heineken. And always my one g-to album no matter what mood I'm in... if I'm super sad, or super happy, angry, whatever... it would be Nevermore's "Dreaming Neon Black". Warrel Dane... that guy was a genius when it came to writing lyrics. Every song on that album... If I was forced to only listen to one album for the rest of my life, that would be the one.
B&T: Cool... very cool. Cheers man!
Make sure to check out Deathhead online at www.deatheadbangers.com and pick up their new EP once it comes out early next year!