Interview: Landmine Marathon's Ryan Butler Talks About Their New Album, 'Gallows'
I saw a video interview you did in which you were talking about the cover artist Rob Middleton, saying you were a huge fan of his from the time you were growing up. What are some of your favorite covers he has done in the past?
He is in a band called Deviated Instinct, who recently started playing again, and I just always loved the stuff he did on there. It kind of ranged from an H.R. Giger influence to more of his own thing. He did a lot of collage work combined with hand-drawn stuff and some painting. So I really liked a lot of the stuff he did in Deviated Instinct. He did most of the Napalm Death covers. Harmony Corruption might have been the first one he did for them. I was 15 or 16 years old when that stuff was coming out, so it kind of meant a lot to me. Then he did Gorefest and a few others over the years, and I just really loved how authentic he was and how assertive his artwork was.
For this artwork, was the idea given by Grace or was it Rob who came up with it?
She works really hand in hand with him, and they kind of came up with the concept together. She gave him a list of images that came to her mind when she thought about the cover. She gave him all her lyrics and we gave him a copy of the record for inspiration. It wasn't even done yet but we sent him some MP3s of it. So they really worked hand in hand to bring it together. He actually did the cover in three different pieces. He combined together several sketches of everything, and then he's done the interior artwork as well, which we haven't seen yet. But it all comes from Grace's lyrics and it's really tailored just for us.
You recorded this album in your own studio, and it has also been used by bands like Exhumed, Misery Index and Phobia. Do bands actually look at a studio's reputation when they decide to use it for an album?
If I didn't own the studio, which we've used for doing everything simply because it's cost and time efficient, I would definitely look at that. And as an engineer trying to sell myself, the more the number of higher level projects you have, the more people are going to consider taking on your studio. So that's definitely a factor for bands, I would say.
Grace gets all the attention, for obvious reasons. Is that a good thing for you, as you can kind of just do your own thing and not worry about anything else?
Yeah, it makes some things easier, but at the same time, we kind of get sick of reading the same questions over and over that she gets asked about what's it like being a woman in metal, blah blah. She gets tired of answering those same questions, and sometimes they ask her technical questions. Our publicist is never going to give her a Guitar World interview (laughs). We definitely try and vary it up when it comes to who does the press. Between Grace, our bassist and me, we divide up the interviews. She gets the "higher level" press because she is an attractive woman in a death metal band, which is obviously a rare thing (laughs). So it's good and bad for sure. We just kind of deal with it and take it for what it is, and take advantage of it when we can.
Talking of the guitar stuff, I feel that the guitar parts in this album are sounding very cohesive. Do you feel that you have progressed in that aspect over the years?
Yeah, definitely. I've been writing music since the early '90s, mostly of this style. I played in a band called Unruh for a long time, and then I played in a band called Structure Of Lies. It definitely begun kind of at a pinnacle of knowing how to write just a catchy, more pop metal song because for a long time I just wrote music more in a classical style where parts didn't repeat a lot, there wasn't really a verse-chorus-verse. But when I got invited to play into this band [Landmine Marathon], they did it differently. They kind of went more for that A-B-A-B-C-A-B verse-chorus-verse-chorus riff structure. So I think I definitely honed my skills writing that style over the years and now our newer second guitarist is kind of fitting in on the songwriting as well and we are building together.
As you were saying before, you are often the "punk band" on a death metal tour. What do you feel about the dynamic on this upcoming Warbringer tour? Do you think you'll still stand out as the odd band?
Yeah, I think we're really going to stand out on that one. I'm not super familiar with Lazarus A.D. and Diamond Plate yet, but I know Warbringer real well. I think we'll mesh with them because they have a really raw edge as well as being a tight band. They're not a death metal band obviously, and these bands are all thrash. But I think we'll blend in well enough and may be stand out on the bill a little as well as something different than all the others on it. So I think it will be a good thing for us and that's part of the reason why we accepted the tour.
Well, just to let you know since you said you're not familiar, Diamond Plate is pretty much an old-school thrash metal band, and Lazarus A.D. started out kind of thrashy but are more groove-oriented these days.
Oh really? I've listened to Diamond Plate a little bit and I definitely heard some old school thrash influences, and I saw a video of Lazarus A.D. on headbangers ball a while back and I got kind of like a Testament feel out of it. But you're saying that they're more Pantera-like these days?
Yeah, and it's interesting that you mentioned Testament because Lazarus A.D. toured with them a couple of years back and I think that was an early influence on their music. So do you feel that happens sometimes, where you tour with a bigger band and they influence your music?
Not really, because I'm 35 and I'm kind of set in my musical ways. Matt and I are both 35, and I've been into hardcore, punk and death metal since the early '80s. So I'm kind of at a point in my life where I am what I am musically (laughs). It's not really kind of change. The style has changed with the change of bands here and there, but I can't say that being around other bands really makes me go, 'Oh this is what I'm going to do on this next record'. I did record the new Exhumed album in November, and the riffs on that are so catchy. That definitely inspired me to make the catchiest riffs possible as I was writing our record, because I wrote the record about two months after I did the Exhumed stuff. So that was an influence, but we are kind of set in our ways.
Andrew is a Los Angeles-based writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, reviews and pictures on his website -- with the help of a small group of people. Besides being hugely passionate about heavy metal, he is an avid follower of jazz music and recently started a blog called Jazz Explorer to pursue that interest.