The band: Argus
Answers by: Justin (bass), Dave (guitar), Butch (vocals), Jason (guitar), Kevin (drums)
ARGUS is coming, their new album "From Fields Of Fire" just around the corner (out September 8th via Cruz del Sur Music). In my opinion they are of one the bands of the moment and one of the big names to stand out in forthcoming years. And I don’t need to add more, because we were lucky enough to have all the band members involved in this great interview. After that they already can come home to dinner and party all day long J Enjoy it & enjoy their fantastic Metal attack!!!
Hello guys and congratulations for your new album "From Fields Of Fire"
Justin - Thank you so much, we're all excited for everyone to hear it!
Dave - Thanks! We hope that you will enjoy it!
Butch - Thank you so much - it’s an album that came together through a lot of work and one we are really proud of. Hopefully it will resonate with folks listening.
Argus is a relatively young band, formed in 2005, but every album of yours is a blast of emotion and success
Jason - Thanks! Argus has always been a band focused on writing music we love and just playing music because it’s what we do. We never set out to be some cutting edge band that would fit right into some particular trendy slot; we gather our influences for a wide variety of places. Everyone just does their own thing and we mesh well together as a group of musicians and songwriters. For me personally, success is measured by my own experience with an album, from writing/recording it to playing it live and feeling how the crowd responds. We’ve been fortunate to have some loyal fans and to have been accepted into a great community of rock and metal fanatics that we get excited to see when we play out live.
Justin - Thank you! Having been friends with and a fan of Argus before I joined, I always loved the musical and lyrical content of the band. Now being part of the band and releasing a new album, it's exciting to be a part of the whole process. The end result being what I feel is another great Argus album. As far as success, I hope this album does better than previous ones, reaches old and new fans, and maybe opens some new doors for us.
Dave - Thanks! For me personally, I think that all three albums are great for their own reasons. The debut has that certain primal edge to it, and I think you hear a band that was still developing their sound. Even for myself as the co-producer / engineer, I think that I was still learning their sound as well, so you have some sonic elements and ideas that are unique to that album. I don’t mean that as a negative thing, either. I really enjoy the debut and always want to perform songs off of it at our shows. On the second album, “Boldy Stride the Doomed”, I think you hear a band that was energized by the success of the debut, and they had a lot of great material ready to record.. To me, there are a lot of classic Argus songs on that one, and it’s a very well-rounded album. I remember as we were tracking it thinking that this could be the album that could take them a little further than they were at as far as fans and “success” goes. On the third album, “Beyond the Martyrs”, I think the band once again set the bar pretty high and came in with some of their best work. This album to me was a little more focused than the previous ones, and I think that helped with the overall flow. Regarding the latest album, “From Fields of Fire”, well…. time will tell.
With “Beyond the Martyrs” (2013) you put the level very high, you were thinking about this when composing the new album?
Butch - there is always some pressure to be consistently good with your writing and recording. It wasn’t so much a case of “Oh we need to top Beyond the Martyrs”...It was much more so “We need to make a great album for us - for where this band is right now”. The fact is we don’t have a label breathing down our necks and our fanbase isn’t so huge that our livelihoods depend on sales. So there is no one standing over us - the pressure is simply on us to be the best Argus we can be and create music that makes all of us proud of it. Of course I always hope our albums will be well received but I can’t control that. All I can control is doing my part the best that I can because my bandmates are all working at their best too and I don’t ever want to let them down.
Jason - I think we knew this album would have a little different feel to it also because of the lineup changes. I wasn’t worried much about the new album being a notch above Beyond the Martyrs for that reason.
Justin - As Jason said, with new members coming in, myself being one of them, we all knew this album would sound a bit different. However, it still has the classic Argus songs. I may have felt some pressure to write some great bass parts, but it wasn't on my mind when writing or in the studio. Overall I feel this album is our best one yet, but every band says that and obviously I'm biased haha. At the end of the day it's our fans who will determine if it's as good or better than “Beyond The Martyrs”
Dave - For me, I really wanted to make something that we would all be proud of, but I still wanted to make sure that it was an album that would stand up against the previous three. With myself being a new member and writer, I didn’t want to have the impression be that the band went downhill with the new line-up. That being said, I didn’t want to write a second “Boldy..”, or a second “Martyrs..”. I wanted to write OUR album, so I wanted to include some new ideas, as well as keep some of the classic Argus elements. So to answer your question more specifically, I was thinking about the success and standards of the previous albums, but I knew that it was important to push the boundaries and take some risks.
I think "From Fields Of Fire" is up to the expectations you have created, anything especial to comment in terms of your musical evolution?
Kevin - Thanks! We certainly always want to make sure we write the best album possible for us, and I think we did that. We are always trying to expand our sound a bit while still staying true to Argus. Many times over the years someone will mutter “This song is so different.” But, in the end, it still sounds like us. We’ve had some lineup changes over the years, so we've had a natural evolution due to that. Each new member brings something fresh to the table, which helps us keep things evolving. That was certainly noticeable with Dave and Justin joining - they had a lot of new ideas in writing, performing, and producing. I think those of use that have been in the band throughout (Jason, Butch, and I) have gradually evolved as musicians as well.
Justin - I agree with Kevin. With Dave and I joining, there's going to be a different sound, whether it's playing technique or using dynamics to give songs more depth. We didn't go into writing thinking we had to write a certain record, music came out and we helped form into “From Fields Of Fire”.
Dave - To be honest, I didn’t have a defined idea of what I wanted FFOF to sound like, so I kind of walked in with an open mind. I mean, I knew that it was going to be a heavy metal album, and I wanted to incorporate some the band’s classic elements, but I didn’t really have a specific overall idea. I started writing some riffs and sending it over to the band to see what they thought, and we started building the album from there. The first song idea that I sent over to the band ended up becoming “You Are the Curse”, and they were all excited about it, so I knew that we were on the right track. From there, we kept working on other new ones and crafting them to our liking. I knew that once we started working in “No Right to Grieve” and “Devil’s of Your Time” that we were going to have an album with some ideas that we have never tried before, and that was exciting to me. So I think there was a natural evolution that people will hear on this album.
Butch - It’s always been very important to me that we remain true to who we are and make the music we want to make. First and foremost. To that end we always want to push the sides out of what we are capable of on every album. More and more...incorporate new ideas...Yet never stray too far from what made us what we are. I think we accomplished that with “From Fields of Fire”. There are definitely some different things going on that we never touched on in the past.
Four years have passed since “Beyond The Martyrs” hit the streets, how long have you worked in the new album and how was it?
Jason - In typical Argus fashion, we spread the writing of this album out over quite a period of time. We started working on it a few years back but most of that was scrapped with the exception of the song 216. Once Dave and Campbell joined the band writing started to flow rather quickly, Dave contributed a lot to this album in terms of writing and production. The renewed energy was great and helped move things along, and the bulk of this album was written during the year prior to us recording it.
Dave - When I joined the band after their performance at Roadburn Festival in 2015, I believe the band was working on one new song, and that one was actually left off of the album(it is recorded though, so I would be that it will be released at some point). Once we started working on a couple of my ideas, Butch mentioned that there was a killer song that they worked on previously for the new album, but it was kind of put on the backburner. He played me the demo, and I really liked it as well, so we reworked it and put it on the album. That song ended up being 216. We entered the studio in Early December of 2016, so we really only spent about a year and a half writing the new album. We actually planned on going into the studio about 6 months earlier than we did, but we ran into financial and scheduling conflicts. That gave us a little more time to tweak the versions that we had. In fact, “Infinite Lives, Infinite Doors” got revamped quite a bit during that time, with a brand new chorus and verse, which really took the song to another level.The process to write the album was typically how I like to do it. I like to bring in my ideas and have a rough outline of how I want it to go, then the rest of the band sinks their teeth into it makes suggestions or presents other ideas. There were some ideas that I had where Kevin would say, “that’s a great riff, but we need to Argus-ize it”, haha. I always see the benefits of having the band jam on ideas in the room and tweak it from there. I never try to walk into rehearsals with a finalized version of a song. Jason usually comes in with a song just about completed, which seems to work best for him(and us!).
This time we don’t find an instrumental song in the list but an intro/outro
Kevin - Dave cracked down and made sure Butch wrote lyrics for every song this time, haha.
Jason - Yes! In all honesty, the instrumental songs are never meant to be instrumental. Ask Butch why they end up that way.
Justin - I actually would like to have an instrumental super technical song, but as Kevin said Dave made sure every song had lyrics haha.
Dave - When we went into the studio, we actually only had “Into the Fields of Fire” written, and that was only going to start the album if we thought that “Devil’s of Your Time” would be the proper opener for the album. So there was not set into/outro to the album even as we were tracking it. The outro “From the Fields of Fire” was actually supposed to be all one track with “No Right to Grieve” and just be the main acoustic part. When we were tracking “No Right to Grieve”, Justin was using a lot of his pedals for the ending, and we had him just hit the final note and let the bass ring out. Once we heard how cool it sounded, we kept recording and knew that we wanted to use it for something. Then once Jason added his extra parts to “No Right to Grieve”, I knew that we could make a more elaborate outro and then turn it into its own track. Once we had the vocals done for Devil’s, we knew that it would be a great opener and we used the acoustic intro to start the album. That’s when it started to make sense to have our classic intro / outro and have them tied together with Justin’s Bass FX to start and finish the album.
Butch - some songs are simply not conducive to having vocals on them. “The Effigy Is Real” from the debut would never have worked as a vocal song IMHO. I like the idea of the band being able to showcase themselves on an instrumental - it just worked out that the music written for this album all lent itself to vocals.
According to your tradition, you deliver long and elaborated songs, even we find a 11 minutes anthem as Infinite Lives, Infinite Doors
Kevin - We never try to force anything - we try to keep songs where they feel right. If a song needs some room to breathe, then we let it. “Infinite Lives” went through a number of revisions before it made it to its current form. I remember Dave being a little skeptical about the length at first, but that was one I felt needed to be drawn out a bit. We had some great, epic parts there that we wanted to emphasize. I think it came out great. I love writing and playing those longer ones (“The Outsider,” “Pieces of Your Smile”).
Justin - Yeah we never set out trying to write songs a certain length of time. “Infinite Lives…” just happened to feel and flow right and turned out being 11 minutes long. It's also one of my favorites.
Who is more responsible for the composition tasks inside the band?
Jason - It’s definitely a collaborative process that usually stems from either Dave or I (as the guitar players) bringing either a full song or some riffs to practice. From there, the songs evolve over time; Kevin and Justin, as the rhythm guys, always have ideas for arrangements. Things change frequently right up until the song is recorded and often afterward. On “From Fields of Fire” there were a couple parts that we changed after they were recorded or on the fly while tracking guitars.
Justin - Jason and Dave bring in the bulk of the songs, usually there's a set structure but myself or Kevin may have an idea that changes the direction of a song. Once Butch starts with lyrics, parts can also change to fit vocals better. For the most part songs brought in by Jason or Dave remain pretty consistent with what was originally brought in.
The artwork also follows the trend of previous albums, with its own personality, the same as your sound
Jason - Brad Moore did an awesome job on the art once again. We pretty much gave him a color theme and asked him to keep this one a little emptier and more desolate feeling. We were all blown away when we saw the final piece, and cannot wait to see it printed on the gatefold LP.
Justin - Brad did a great job with the art again. Very happy with the look and feel of it all.
Butch - I love Brad and this is his best Argus jacket to date. Really captures what we wanted to present visually.
We could define your style as Heavy Metal meets True Metal and also has a good friend called Doom Metal J ?
Butch - I definitely agree with that. We see ourselves as a true metal band with a dark and moody side. I’d never classify Argus as a doom band, per se, but the influence is there for sure.
What are the lyrics about?
Butch - this album is the first Argus album to deal wholly in the human condition and personal experience. It is about regret, anger, sadness, grief, anxiety, karma, …..among other things. None of the songs connect in a conceptual way but the emotional vibe carries throughout the album. The last few years have provided me with plenty of ideas for my writing and I let myself open up as much as I could for this album.
Dave Watson executes a perfect work on the six strings but I think he has done also some tasks concerning the production, right?
Butch - Dave has been with us since the first album - as an engineer and sometimes producer on each of the first three albums and a few demos as well including writing the intro for “By Endurance We Conquer” on “Beyond the Martyrs”. His expertise at engineering is a great asset to the band. Having him in the band is great - he has so many good ideas and he’s really easy and inspiring to work with. A very positive, creative guitarist.
Argus is already considered for many as the new flag for the future of heavy metal, how do you feel about it?
Justin - This may be the first time I've heard is considered that. If that is the case I'm excited to be considered a new flag of the future. It's a huge compliment!
Butch - We just do what we do and hope we do it well and that people dig it. There are tons of bands keeping the flag of metal flying and we’re happy to do our small part in doing so. Time will judge us at the end of our careers. Right now we are enjoying the ride.
Fortunately for us, Argus is used to come often to Europe to perform live. This time you are coming in September with melodic heavy act High Spirits, how did it happen?
Butch - Chris from High Spirits and I had briefly discussed it when our paths crossed at Hell Over Hammaburg in 2016. We kept in touch about it and when he said High Spirits had plans to tour in early Autumn we decided it would be a great opportunity to join the band up for the run. We are really excited about the tour - we’re all High Spirits fans. I think the bill is going to be an amazing night of high energy metal for the folks who come out to see it. Any chance to play in Europe is awesome but to do it with a band you dig? That’s going to be priceless!
Kevin - Chris from High Spirits had mentioned the tour to Butch sometime in 2016, but we were unsure if we could make it work due to our work and family commitments. We talked a bit more at Alehorn of Power and decided it was too good to pass up. Chris handled most of the booking. We are really excited to make it back to Europe again, and with such a killer band. It should be a great time.
Justin - I'll just say I'm stoked to be coming back to Europe, pumped to be touring with High Spirits, and can't wait to see some old friends.
Thank you very much guys for the great chat and keep this awesome level!
Justin - Thanks for the interview! If anyone wants to pre-order the album, head over to Cruz Del Sur's website. Hope everyone enjoys it!
Butch - Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us. We appreciate it so much. In closing I just want to say hello to the people reading and to try to come see us - we think you’ll have a great time. Together we will celebrate metal!