After being floored by their new album Sky Burial, Phil picked himself up long enough to speak to Inter Arma guitarist Trey Dalton. Luckily he caught him just before leaving for their tour Stateside with Mutilation Rites.
(((o))): Hi, for those who are unfamiliar with Inter Arma, can you introduce yourself and who else is in the group?
Trey: This is Trey Dalton, I play guitar mainly. Otherwise, we got Mike Paparo on vocals and general misanthropy, Joe Kerkes on bass and laser eyes, Steven Russell on guitars and dirt, and Teddy Johnson (TJ Childers) on the drums and a whole lot of other stuff.
(((o))): The new album Sky Burial is a fascinating mixture of styles that results in it hard to being hard to classify. Is this a good thing, as even as a reviewer I feel tags or genre labels are placed on bands too easily.
Trey: Full disclosure, I have some bias toward my band. With that being said, I do think being able to eschew typical genre formats and strive for something a little further outside the normal spectrum of heavy tunes is important. I don’t think we’re necessarily pushing the metal arena into new territory or anything like that, but if bands don’t try new things then music tends to stagnate. I don’t want to listen to stagnant music. I want music to continue to evolve and challenge people’s conception of what can or should be done. I think some people are going to really identify with the album because of that. On the opposite side, I’m sure that a lot of folks are going to hate that they can’t put us or Sky Burial into a tidy, well defined box. They’ll probably think we’re confused as to what we want to play when in fact it’s quite the opposite.
(((o))): How do you think the band's sound has developed? Is it a case of all the members each having different musical tastes or is it a collective variation of influences.
Trey: A little of both, probably. We all come from different musical backgrounds. Some of us have been playing music since we were little kids and others picked it up later. I think when you start playing music has a drastic effect on what you like or how you perceive things musically, not that it’s better one way or the other. Nevertheless, we all like metal of various sorts. Some of us tend to fixate on certain genres more than others, but I don’t think that’s abnormal. However, our taste in non-heavy music varies wildly from person to person. For instance, TJ is a huge country music fan. Not Toby Keith, mind you, but older acts like Waylon Jennings or George Jones. I grew up in Appalachia more or less, so I have a soft spot in my heart for mountain music like Bluegrass or more traditional Americana and folk. But dudes listen to everything from Radiohead to Swans to Led Zeppelin to Juicy J.
Trey: TJ formed the group in late 2006, and Mike and Steven have been in the band since basically the beginning. I’m beginning to think that I should have taken more meticulous notes on the history of the band when I joined, as a lot of the information I have regarding Inter Arma’s creation is speculative and sparse at best. When I joined in May of 2009 they had just finished recording Sundown. Since then we’ve been grinding it out at home and on the road trying to write the best songs we can and play as often as we can.
(((o))): Sky Burial is being released through the influential Relapse Records label. Can you tell us how the deal happened?
Trey: I can shed some light on that, yes. Basically, the dudes and dudettes at Relapse had been aware of us for some indeterminate amount of time. We’d played Philadelphia (their homebase) a bunch and by the time they initiated contact we had accumulated a lot of mutual friends. Basically, once we had wrapped up recording Sky Burial and were starting to receive mixes, we gave copies of those mixes to a few trusted, and well-connected, associates of ours. They took it upon themselves to make sure that different people and labels could hear it. In short, they baited Relapse with a couple tracks off the record, and Relapse bit. They got in touch shortly thereafter and it’s been wedded bliss ever since.
(((o))): What are the band's immediate plans, and do you think we might see Inter Arma tour Europe and the UK in the near future?
Trey: Well, today (March 8th) we are heading out to meet up with Mutilation Rites in Chicago for a month long US/MX trip with a stop in Austin, TX for South By Southwest. Once we get back we’re gonna’ do a couple weeks in the Northeast part of the country, and then we have a bunch of stateside festivals to play during the summer. Regarding Europe and the UK, we hope to be over there soon. We don’t have any concrete plans as to when, yet, but we’re hoping to start ironing that out. Here’s to hoping that the record’s release garners enough attention to warrant an awesome opportunity, eh?
(((o))): Was there a moment for yourself when you knew you wanted to be a musician and if so what was it?
Trey: By musician, I’m assuming you mean full-time or professional musician. I grew up in one of those clichéd “musical families”. Everyone in my family can sing or play some instrument and I was in choirs and stuff as a kid. However, I didn’t really think about being a career-minded musician until I was in high school and started forming bands. There’s a small, undefined and fleeting moment when you play in your first band and realize how cool it is to create music. Most people are able to suppress that feeling and move into more traditional and socially acceptable pathways. I tried, but was unable to suppress this irrational feeling.
(((o))): Given the tile Sky Burial is there a theme to the lyrics that reflect the ancient burial ritual?
Trey: In the title track, yes. That particular song is about having formed such a deep disdain for the state of the world that your only recourse is climbing a mountain and letting the Earth and its animal occupiers end it all for you. Suicide by exposure to the elements, if you will. It’s not exactly sunny material, but very poignant. I wouldn’t say that this theme runs throughout the record, as Mike covers a lot of ground.
(((o))): Was the recording a difficult or easy process, and is Inter Arma a band that enjoys time in the studio, or would you rather be on the road and playing shows?
Trey: I love both being on the road and being in the studio. They both offer very different, but necessary, approaches to music. I felt like recording was pretty easy, overall, though. We spent about10 days with Mikey Allred outside of Nashville, TN, and we tracked for almost the entirety of that time. Because of this we were all pretty exhausted by the end of it, but I think the amount of time and care we put into tracking really showed up this time. With that being said, I’m pretty stoked to be heading back out to play again.
(((o))): There's a great epic feel when listening to the album. Is there anything that contributed to this? Be it influence of non-musical things or where you’re from?
Trey: I don’t know if I could point to anything specific that contributed to larger contextual themes or cinematic kind of feels. They showed up pretty naturally. A good friend of mine once described us as a heavy metal Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I took that as a huge compliment. I do think that where you grow up has a profound influence on how you hear and create music, though. I know that if we were all originally from, let’s say, Chicago, that you probably wouldn’t have heard lap steel or the abundance of acoustic guitars on the album.
(((o))): Thanks for taking time out to join us, is there anything you'd like to add?
Trey: Just thanks for the interest! I hope whomever listens to the album does so with an open mind. Furthermore, we hope to see you all and embarrass ourselves in your presence in the near future.