An Interview With : Scott Carstairs (Fallujah)
18th January 2016, 16:00
Posted by Tristan
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Creativity has always been one of the corner stones of a progressive nature. The sense of the inquisitive has lead to some of the biggest musical advances in recent years. In an age where almost everything has already been done there comes a time when innovation seeks out new blood. Signing a major record deal last year Fallujah began carving their next step in their process of evolution after the critically acclaimed The Flesh Prevails. Very luckily available to speak with guitar maestro Scott Carstairs on the band’s recent UK appearance we spoke to the man about the recording and writing process for the brand new album, what themes we can expect and just what makes them such a powerfully creative force.

You can either read the entire interview or listen below the transcribed interview on our Soundcloud to hear the complete unedited interview!

So hello Scott!

Hello!

How are you?

Good, how are you Tristan?

Very, very well! Thank you for speaking to The Metalist today. How does it feel to be back on our very much colder shores?

I love touring Europe and every time we tour with a different band its always  fun time. Nothing to complain about and the shows have been better than ever! Totally excited.

How many dates have you done before this one?

Just on this tour? I think about five or six? So we’re about a third of the way through the tour and it’s actually no where near as long as the last one. The last one was about seven weeks so this is pretty refreshing! I don’t even feel it. We’re gonna be home for Christmas it’s going to be awesome.

What’s been happening this year in the world of Fallujah?

In the world of Fallujah, just primarily writing music. The last tour, we did Europe and then we did a tour with The Contortionist and Revocation and then immediately after that somewhere on the east coast we started our headliner and as soon as we got home from that I started writing the album. I think it was about five months and I did the whole thing from beginning to end. Completely finished it. Then we went to Zach Ohren and he helped us re amp some of the guitar tones get that all ready and then went to Mark Lewis, literally a week before we left for this tour to record Andrew. Andrew knocked that out in like a couple of days and it was really awesome, because he had all those months to practice!

Then right now Mark’s in Florida mixing and mastering it and we’re on the road and I’m just kind of in communication. Kinda wrapped up a little bit so we will see where we’re at when we get home.

So everything’s recorded?

Pretty much! All the vocals, all the drums, all the guitars, there’s a couple of little things that I might have to throw on there but its pretty much done.

Wow! Was that the same kind of thing that you did for The Flesh Prevails? Was it all you?

Well The Flesh Prevails was different. Kind of the same because we did all the tracking in my room, I track all the guitars, so we get all that done beforehand so we don’t have to spend any time tracking in the studio. We did the same exact thing as last time but this time we got everything done before we even recorded the drums. The drums weren’t even started, I’ve got the drums half programmed and stuff like that just as pre production and just as something for our drummer to learn you know what I mean? So it worked out well, we got all the guitars completely finished and in the mean time the drummer was listening to the updated material and he was kind of getting to know it. Then we finished the guitars and were like, ok you’ve got about two weeks until you gotta go do your drums and we got that all perfect and went. That way when he is tracking he is literally listening to the studio guitars. Any accents that would be different, it’s going to be exactly the same. Which makes for a nice clean production.

Was it completely different from how you went about recording The Flesh Prevails?

Slightly, because The Flesh Prevails I got the material finished but hadn’t started recording and then he went and recorded drums and then I was recording guitars, so there were some parts where I was listening to his studio drums and thinking I should change that a little bit just so that it fits his drums better… Where it’s the other way around now, he has the exact finished guitars. So all his accents match up exactly perfect. So it’s a little bit different but it’s not common among Metal bands.

It seems like the standard is, you get in there, you start the drums and track down the guitars and then just layer and layer and layer but I thought it was fine the way we did it!

Is that maybe one of the ways that you combined the technical ability with that kind of “whooshiness”?

Yeah, kind of like the more layers and stuff like that?

Yeah!

I noticed that with our music, because we worked with so many different engineers, we’ve worked with San Fiero, Zach and now with Mark… It’s always like a huge task for them to balance that stuff, we almost give too much sometimes, so we thought lets just put another layer in to fill it up and see what the engineer can do with it. I think this time, just like a said with the accents all lining up. As long as the bass, rhythm guitar and drums are nice and perfect as a solid base you can almost add as much as you want on top! You’ve got something nice and clear for the audience to attach themselves to and then once they go deeper, it’s good relistening value, you know what I mean? I didn’t catch that! Those weird layers in the background. So you have your up front song, the rhythm the bass, the solos, nice clean and up front and then you can kind of add things on top of that. Whereas if the accents aren’t lining up and things aren’t really on top of each other and connected, then the layers on top, they don’t make sense. They get mushed up.

So that’s why it’s so important for you to have it all done and then you accent the various different bits…

Yeah all the accents are exactly where they should be, you know what I mean?

Is it musically a bit more diverse than The Flesh Prevails?

I’d say so yeah! The way we did our first album which was really Death Metal, I think we were eighteen so we were really into all these bands. Then we did this little EP before we did our next album and we tried girls singing and like proggy parts that way so that when we did The Flesh Prevails no one would be surprised by us doing a bunch of proggy stuff. Now that we have already done that with The Flesh Prevails we just want to go full ham with the new album. Do whatever the fuck we want. We tried a whole bunch of stuff, there’s a whole bunch of stuff on the album. It’s going to be one of the longest albums we have ever had.

Is it going to be based around a particular concept?

Yeah actually, there is a bunch of concepts. We really like movie scores, particular movies. So we took the the song and mostly lyrically based a lot of stuff off of a set of movies. There’s about ten different movies that we have tried to take the vibe from each movie lyrically and musically. I’ll name some! Bladerunner is one of our favourite movies, Enter the Void that’s a really good one, Interstellar is a really good one…

So they’re all Sci-fi?

Ish! One of them is a love story, some stuff that really kind of moves you emotionally because that’s what we want to do with the music. We want the music to kind of grab you, not so much too intense all the time. Which is awesome because I love intense and that’s why I love Metal but which gets you in the feels a little bit or makes you feel some sort of weird nostalgic feeling, like you’ve already listened to it before but you haven’t.

This is just my interpretation of it but I felt that you were playing with contrasts on The Flesh Prevails?

In what sense? Going extremely clean and soft to all of a sudden, bam straight to the heavy?

Pretty much! Even with the artwork, the old man and the woman, the light and the dark…

True, true, that’s funny the new album, it’s not like that where it’s all female but it has some themes. Day and light, you know what I mean? But I don’t think that that is from just an album, that’s just how Fallujah is as a band. We like to mix the superclean with the super heavy and that’s always what we have been about, so that’s always been a constant thing. We always love doing that, in the set, you’ll hear it tonight. All of a sudden we’ll go from really calm to go right into the next step and I think it really kind of catches people sometimes.

Sometimes I’m kind of like, how did I end up here?

Yeah haha, which is cool because it’s more of an adventure! It’s supposed to be like a movie you know what I mean, where like certain movies, you’re just kind of with it and you didn’t realise when you got there?

It’s all starting to slot into place! 

Yeah haha!

What about the name Fallujah? How did you guys kind of decide on that one?

Well, this band has been around for a long time. I think we were fourteen or fifteen, I’m twenty four now so it’s almost nine years ago and that was right around when 9/11 just happened and we were in high school and we were just going to war and one of the big battles was in Fallujah. Between the west and east and all these different issues, I’ve actually, now having the band name and meeting all these different people. A lot of marines have come to shows and told us about their experiences. It’s a pretty important war and it started a lot of things and at the time that’s kind of what we were about. Kind of political I guess but the band is so old and we wanted to be creative so we weren’t going to stick around with the same subject matter the whole time. It’s something that we took from our past and kept going with. As simple as that but there is a lot of meaning that you could pull from it. For me it’s the fact that we went to war there and a lot of people died. 

What about your plans for 2016? 

2016, well simple is release the album the best way we can with Nuclear Blast and then do as full of a tour circuit as we can possible do. Say touring and releasing the album, we’ve got some tours planned but I can’t really throw it out there right now. It’s going to be mostly touring, we want to push this album as hard as we can. 

Any idea when a single might be coming out? 

Single, I would say this month (December, which sadly didn’t happen) ? 

An early Christmas present, 

I don’t want to disappoint anybody but that’s the plan! And we’re playing a new one on the set that is not going to be the one released as a single. We’re playing a new song tonight but that’s not the single just another one for fun. There’s a lot of songs that could be used for singles but we kind of picked a couple.

Ok! I thought that The Flesh Prevails was one track…

It is slightly, there’s a couple of tracks that were actually one track and I just cut them in half at the right moments so some of them kind of connect. 

Like “Allure”?

Yeah, I get what you’re saying. I guess this album is more like small sequences instead of long sequences if that makes sense. Instead of that those two songs were all in the similar key and vibe, I think each one really stands out from each other. 

So as we get to the end of the year, what has been a high point in your year?

I guess it’s been an interesting year! We did the European tour almost as the same time as now and then we did that small tour at the beginning of the year which was two months long so the touring was all fun, so this is one of the years that I have toured the least ever! Just because we finished all our stuff with Unique Leader on The Flesh Prevails and met up with Nuclear Blast guys and we wanted to get an album with them as soon as possible. As soon as we finished that tour I went straight to writing so this year has been a totally different year for me than it usually is. A lot of time at home, endless amounts of hours in front of my computer and it was just cool to be around family and stuff but yeah I’m definitely itching to get back onto the road now. It’s been a different year since the last five years just because I basically spent months and months at home getting it done. Usually I will spend a couple of months and then we will go on tour and then spend another couple of months but I just did the whole thing from beginning to end as fast as we could. 

Do you think that it helps to sit on the songs? 

Sometimes, I have this weird thing where I will finish whatever I have been doing that day or that night and I will just sit and listen to the track ten or twenty times. To almost simulate the sitting on it but do all in one night if that makes sense haha! Instead of letting it sit, I will literally just play it over and over and over again and just listen to it and every time I have a listen through catch something and think well that could be different or that wasn’t necessary and things like that.

In almost like having had it for a month but instead you just listen to it all a bunch of times in a week. I kind of like that about music though, it should be right there in the moment. When you play something back to yourself, your first opinion is really truest opinion. When you play it back your perception of it is already altered, because you’ve heard it already once before. When the audience presses play they’re gonna press play and it’s the very first time and most of the time people just take that first impression and save that. That’s just like the nature of humans. You almost have to think that way when you’re making music. That’s how I am too! I will put on a band and I will immediately judge them hahaha! That first instinctual how that felt and also if I have all my band mates over, look at how they react to it first. Trust their first opinion more than their fifth or fourth. Oh you know after I listened to it a bunch of times NOW I get it, you should be able to get it the moment that you listen to it. It shouldn’t be I didn’t quite get it at first but then I got the hang of it. That’s how I like to write music, some people like to surprise people with their music. Keep them on edge all the time. 

Depends on how prog you go haha! 

I guess on this album we just wanted to feel really natural and still be interesting sounding. 

So has there been an album over the last six months to a year that you have really been digging? 

Let’s see, I’m the worst guy to ask about music. I feel like I spend so much time playing guitar I don’t listen to music at all. Seriously, as weird as that sounds. I’m trying to think of some, this is probably something I should have thought of before we started this haha! I like this band called Ice Choir a lot! Have you ever heard of them?

I have not! 

It’s like weird, almost eighties throwback pop but it’s like super clean and the melodies are so good and the key changes are really subtle. That’s what I like about music, when they can throw in key changes and your ears don’t even hear it. I really like stuff like that, I can’t really think of any newer albums… 

You mention subtle key changes, when you play a note and then pull it up on the whammy bar…

Ah that’s more going into accidentals, what I like to do with key changes is when you have a chord progression and stuff like that and then towards the end of the progression you put something that’s out and the ear is ready to go back to the original key change but since you’ve built tension that you can release somewhere else in a really subtle way. Most scales are only seven notes so if you can kind of pull to another seven notes you can expand your vocabulary. That’s the hardest part of writing music because you feel like you’re writing the same riff over and over and re arrange because you basically are but if you can figure out a way to rearrange pull back and get to the next key but I think I know what you’re talking about where we kind of pull out a little bit. There’s a bunch of different ways you can do it that might be one of them! 

Thank you ever so much for speaking with us today.

Well thank you Tristan!