Do you guys consciously go for an ’80s thrash aesthetic, and/or have you been trying to avoid it in the direction the new album takes?
It's definitely not something that's conscious, that's for sure. We all love a lot of ’80s thrash, of course; we're huge fans of that stuff, so that comes out just from us liking it. But there's never a conscious ’80s aethetic, about trying to sound like this or look like that. We're just a bunch of crazy longhairs from Ohio -- and we listen to thrash but we listen to Immortal and Amon Amarth and Mercyful Fate, constantly. And we keep getting lumped into that ’80s thrash resurgence, which is a little bit of an annoyance, really, because I feel like it pigeonholes us a bit. I think that there are fundamental differences between our albums and other bands that get lumped into that thing: like blast beats and ’80s death-metal grooves and black metal parts. A lot of those bands are very one-dimensional, intentionally, trying to sound like DRI or whatever. And we get that a lot, you know, "Oh, you're just another one of those bands!" But we don't limit ourselves like that at all, so it really seems like a very limited assessment.
It seems like, with the whole ’80s thrash thing, a lot of it is almost humor-based, like making metal into a kind of funny thing.
Yeah, totally. And the thing is, we have fun playing metal, but our metal isn't meant to be funny. One of the first shows I ever saw, when I was 14 or 15, was Slayer in Columbus Ohio -- it was evil, it was dark, it blew me away. At the same time, between songs Tom Araya said some funny stuff or cracked a joke, he was really comical. He had a good balance of metal and having fun -- it was over the top, but that's why we enjoyed it. You can have fun with it without making a parody of it. And a lot of thrash revival bands make a parody of it, and we take it really seriously, music, lyrics, everything. But we're having fun while we're doing it, we have a smile on our face while we're headbanging. But metal changed and shaped our lives so it's not a passing joke or something.
The whole phenomenon of Anvil and that movie about them: people went to the movie thinking "Oh hah-hah, metal, isn't that ridiculous, oh ha-ha, imagine caring about music" or whatever, but at the end everyone in the audience is like "Hey what's this tear doing in my eye?"
Totally -- I loved it, by the way, we saw it on tour and were way into it.
Do you ever find it a challenge, in the current super-saturated metal market, to distinguish yourselves?
I think that there are a lot of bands out there right now, especially with the internet and whatnot. But you know, I think we distinguish ourselves by just doing what we do and not forcing it. We challenge ourselves, whether it's touring for five months without stopping or rewriting and rewriting songs, but we don't push ourselves to do something that's uncomfortable. We've known bands that we've toured with that have talked to us about, you know, "What kind of sound should we go for, what kind of sound is going to sell now?" And that seems crazy to us. To distinguish yourself, I suppose you can wear dumbass outfits or whatnot, but that kind of thing usually reeks of someone trying too hard.