EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Candiria’s Ken Schalk pt II – The New Album and New Lineup

Last week we posted the first part of this mammoth interview with Candiria. It was long enough that we hadn’t even gotten into the details of the band’s forthcoming releases, including the imminent release of their new 7″ The Invaders, which will be out in a limited run April 29th.

So with (most of) the discussion on the band’s breakup and early days out of the way, in the back half of the interview we then turned to the most exciting thing: new Candiria music. Where is it being tracked? Who’s playing on it? What does it sound like? And will we ever be able to hear any of it live? Well continue reading below.

So you started to say this before we went on a tangent, but which of those older records did you have sound replacement on?

All the older ones are natural. The first album that we did do Beat Detective and sound replacement on was the What Doesn’t Kill You album. It was [because of] working with David [Bendeth, producer] to make the album sound like what was becoming the industry standard. So he did all the editing, put it into Beat Detective, got pretty gridded and tight. He definitely used the room ambiance and stuff. I don’t know if he used any of the direct sounds. He may have totally replaced them. Because I always look at the files and he had a minimum of 3 to 5 or 6 layers of samples replacing each of the individual tracks. So I was like, “he’s not always using them all but he’s always got between 3 and 5 going at once to make a sound.” It was a choice that they made to do that and I was fine with it. I wasn’t opposed to it because I knew the purpose of it. [laughs] Here we are talking about the sonic atmosphere of each album, and I was fine with that being the sonic atmosphere for What Doesn’t Kill You. I wasn’t stepping away from the finished album going “man, this would have been so much better if…” I wasn’t like that. It was like “okay Dave, this is what you want to do, that’s fine. That’s cool. You’re producing it: I want to give you that. I want to hear it that way.” And what it proved to me is that there’s a clarity to it, there’s a certain modern focus to it, but there’s definitely a bit of the organic thump and pump that Candiria has, a little bit of the R&B, that’s gone. Like it wasn’t as thick and rich. It was a little more rock and clean, which isn’t bad. It was what it was.

Why was that the album where you decided to make a change in producers? Because you had used Michael Barile for four albums in a row.

Business. It was all business. He solicited us with a record deal. So it was “okay, you sign for his imprint and he wants to produce the band.” And then there was the selfish motivation at the time. He was starting to land a few good gigs as a producer, with rock and metal. That was the beginning of when he was really trying to make an impact on the scene. As a producer he wanted to be better than Terry Date [Pantera, White Zombie, Deftones, etc]. His whole thing was outdoing these guys that were hot now. You know, we’d almost shut him up once in a while too because Eric, our guitarist, would throw on that King’s X album that Brendan O’Brien did, and he’d be like “what about this one here? That sounds amazing. You ain’t that good.” [laughs] We’re a tough cookie to work with, you know? So we shut him up. Like I said, I think he did a great job, I’m not saying he did a bad job. But there was a certain attitude he was taking about it because he was on a mission to impress.

And it was also the ability for us to get back on the map in some way, because we were still unfortunately riding the wave of that accident and [those] injuries. We were still barely on our feet again. So for someone to come to us and say “I’m willing to put your next album out, and I’m willing to produce it,” it was a decision for us like “that’s fine with us.”  Whether or not it was the greatest decision in the world I don’t care or don’t know. To me, the progression of life in this business is tricky because it’s based on opportunity over anything else.

But to be honest with you I think the worst enemy we dealt with was the physical damage from the accident. Our band members just started dropping off like dead meat, you know? [laughs] We’re in the middle of trying to tour for the what doesn’t kill you album and people are literally like “I’ve got to go home. I’m done. My body hurts.” So then you try to get your schedule going again and what happens? You get called to court for the trial of the accident that you didn’t think would ever go to trial. So now your touring timetable gets totally shot out, and now there’s one or two guys left in the band that are even able to do anything physically: they’re at that 80-90% mark where they can at least put on the same show that they did before the accident, but everybody else is compromising at that point. So it’s not like the band broke up but now at this point between What Doesn’t Kill You and Kiss The Lie we’re a band that’s in a situation like “man, as much as we’d love to tour, we don’t know if we can tour, physically.” Even if all five of us original members said to each other “let’s make the most banging Candiria album ever written once again” we still couldn’t tour on it because literally the guitarist Eric will never be able to tour again. He can’t do it. Even if he practiced his ass off to get himself back to the ability he had, he still couldn’t perform it live physically. So that’s why touring and playing live at this point is always a questionable thing, because the actual full-on 100% integrity of the touring band that everyone knows is not going to hit that stage. That is impossible. So that being said, if we ever decide to go that route again we’d still want to seek out the most effective way of doing it. And if it takes a few extra years to do so it’s worth it, rather than trying to force it.

But that said, we as a band love writing the music that we write, and so these last few years it’s been a little sketchy and sporadic but at least now in these last 6 months it’s been starting to get denser, and we’ve been starting to bring these songs into the forefront of our creative minds, where we’re like “we’re busy on other things but let’s put more time into it now.”

So have you been writing this in little bits and pieces or did you have ideas and then you get together and just fire a bunch of stuff out?

A mix of both actually. What first happened was I wrote a song back in 2010, just because it was building up inside me and I had this double bass beat that I wrote and it turned into this other double bass beat I wrote, just because as a drummer I was just feeling things out. And I was like “these are Candiria style things. Let me figure out some riffs over them.” And it was like, “okay, I can turn this into a song.” It was a part of a natural progression because I was working on these other projects, but like I was saying it never goes away. So underneath the surface it’s building like a volcano, and eventually the lava does make it to the surface. I got to a point in my life and my musical career where Candiria music had been suppressed enough that it came to the surface and it was like “hey, you, it’s time to write a Candiria song.” You’ve suppressed it long enough, but your love for that is coming out and you need to do it. So I wrote the song, tracked it with my brother at our studio, and I let John hear it and he liked it. That initially sparked the desire to say “well there’s no reason, just like we always felt as a band, to suppress our writing desires.” We love writing Candiria music. So that sparked it.

One year later I came into town for the holidays and John had put together sketches for three more Candiria songs, from his end. So we started working on those and we tracked drums for three more songs: two of them being more drum-focused throughout and another one being half a drum song and the second song turns into a “Tribes” type of vibe with guitar riffs and percussion layers. And then I’m actually going to add some dub step and EDM stuff into that section as well.

Is it mainly you and John writing most of the material?

Yeah, it’s pretty much only by the nature of that’s how… basically before John was in the band Chris and Eric were bedroom junkies so they’d have riff upon riff building in their minds, and then when we’d go to the studio they would just get all these riffs off their chests and I would be the musical director. I would help them arrange their riffs into songs. When we first started the band we had about 3 or 4 songs, regular death metal songs: an intro, a verse, into a chorus, back to a verse. But it was literally 4 or 5 songs into our writing as a band where we wrote a verse, wrote a chorus, and we couldn’t get back to the verse from our chorus. It just didn’t make sense musically. So we started to try and write a segue piece that would get us back to the verse and we liked the segue piece and we wanted to make that go someplace else and that became the first song we wrote that went one part to the next.

So that said, as a songwriter, there’s no way to truly approach that unless we were as a band. So they would write riffs, we’d bring them in and turn them into songs, and that’s how our songwriting developed. But now as the years went along the same thing never changed, so it really is just like John writes and he knows. He can think in that way. Those guys, Eric and Chris, really weren’t song arrangers. But John, because he has the skill to arrange music, can perceive those things. He doesn’t need me in the room with him to take a riff and then formulate it into another riff and start to actually assemble a song, which is a great advantage. Because now, when I come into the fold and we can track, there is a song arrangement and not a bunch of riffs that we need rehearsal time with first. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing, but when you’re trying to create in a more expedited way then you want each of your pieces to be pre-assembled as much as possible. So in other words, when I come to town to track drums, the song should be done. And not that I’m saying I have no say in it, but as John was writing those songs I would hear them without drums in them so we’d be able to tell “hey, this is a really great tune, man. I can’t wait to play drums on it.”

Then I wrote another song too, so we do have five new heavy songs, and we’ve got some real jazzed-up instrumentals that are really kick ass too.

So who’s in the band? Is it still the remaining four of you? Is Mike still in the project?

Mike is definitely involved. We’re tracking him on bass this Sunday. He’ll be tracking bass on Super Bowl Sunday.

Candiria-new-album-2014-in-studio-Mike
(bassist Michael MacIvor)

So are you doing it as a four-piece, or do you have a new second guitar player?

Our second guitar player will most likely be this guy Eddie Ortiz who played with the band actually for a few touring cycles. He’s a really great rhythm guitarist, and like I told John, if anybody could ever replace Eric, our true rhythm guitarist, the original rhythm guitarist, it’s Eddie. Eddie has the same slur and pocket that Eric has, and he just knows how to be in that proper pocket the way Eric was. So that would be our second guitarist if we played live.

As far as recording goes, we are trying to figure out a way to get him involved in the new songs, so his voice would be on the album and we could implement him and let the fans realize when they buy the album [that] they’re not buying a fragmented band. They’re buying a group of songs that were tracked by a new band: by a band that has original members but is implementing new members. I don’t want it to be like “John did all the guitars because he’s the only one left.” We enjoy the contrast of voicings. That’s what makes a two guitar band. So that being said, to not bring Eddie into the picture and let him be a part of the guitar voice on the album would only be contrary to our system of beliefs. Because even when John tracked those guitars he used different guitar settings: he was using a different guitar and a different guitar sound. This way it was like “you have this guy playing on this side and that guy playing on that side, still emulating that same approach.”

It sounds like you guys are doing a lot of recording on your own. Are you bringing in someone to mix or are you handling the whole thing yourselves?

It’s a combination of working together and independently. It’s another advancement of the industry that we’re able to do that. Back in the day it was still that situation where we all had to go to the studio and everybody had to be there. John and I both love being engineers, so naturally growing now with the technology we are at a point where independently we can take our music and do certain parts of the job ourselves. No doubt, going to my brother’s studio is definitely the best choice. He’s got the proper level of quality outboard gear that we need to function with, to get the best tracking. But that said, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s more about accessibility. We use our own discernment, and John and I know that if we can do something to the same quality level, and not have to go outside our own sources, we’re going to do it. And if we need to step away from our own sources to get the quality level we do it. We’re trying to take advantage of the self-sufficiency with studios nowadays, but at the same time we’re not fools [that] think we can do it all ourselves. And me especially as a drummer, I’m no fool. I don’t have the time, the money, nor the facilities to create a proper drum room and drum studio to track drums to the quality they need to be. So that said, when it comes time to track drums I go elsewhere.

All the songs with John, we tracked at my brother’s studio. I tracked the drums for one of my songs at my brother’s studio. And then I tracked the drums for another song at a friend’s studio in LA.

What is your brother’s studio called?

It’s called Jupiter 4. It’s a studio him and I made. We used to have it in a commercial building but he’s since brought it in his house. Basically it’s just a Pro Tools studio, but he’s got a nice list of outboard gear and bussing that he works with. The majority of what we’re doing on this album is going to be in that studio. John will do some stuff at his house, and I’m doing a little bit at my place, but most of the work is getting done there.

And is that where you’re mixing it too?

If I can make the time to mix it with my brother at his studio then, yes, it’s going to be mixed there. But if it can’t be done there then I’m going to do it in LA. I’ll do it at my place.

When is the album coming out? Do you have a title, or is there anything else people should watch out for regarding the band?

Right now it’s hard to say. Because there’s no exact business push behind it we’re not putting any pressure on a deadline. That said, we’re also taking advantage, with a passion, of every moment we get to work on it. That’s why this Sunday we’re going to get bass down on these couple of new songs, because every chance we get to push these songs further to completion, we [take], because we want to get them out as quick as we can. But at the same time I try to help our fans understand: if you get a job, you create job security through staying with that job, but that’s the job. You’re always there at that job. And I think what people misunderstand about working in the music business is that your job is actually to wake up and figure out new ways to actually make the product. Whereas people who go to a job, the product is already there. You’re just part of the machine that helps the product run. We as musicians literally have to wake up every day and conceive new products, then make the product, and then sell it, so it’s a whole other world.

That said, you can’t just rely upon one avenue. Obviously if Candiria was a self-facilitated funding machine that was making the money like, say, of Metallica, then you wouldn’t want to go anywhere else because you’d be so busy doing that. But Candiria’s always been a very artistic, creatively outsourced band, not just in our own right, but we’ve always looked to other people to help us make our albums: other vocalists and other musicians. That’s also part of it too. So it’s not just us making this album but as we’re making these songs we’re slowly thinking about “who could we get to help sing on this? Who else could be an additional musician on these things?” There’s a lot to really endeavor in making this so to put a deadline on it isn’t so easy, but to tell you the truth, if I was so procrastinating to let it go into 2015 then I’m a moron. Ultimately if I could get it out to our fans within the next month or two, that would be great. But I would say my best, honest projection… I couldn’t even give you a season. I don’t know what could happen, because of the fact that we’re not all together, always working solely as Candiria like we used to be. We all function independently. So we all give our best that we can to the project but ultimately we can’t pinpoint an exact timeline it would be done.

Now that said, one last point to that: we’ve toyed with the concept of instead of trying to pressure ourselves in creating a more bulky work like an EP, maybe [we’d] consider just releasing singles, which means that it gives us a quicker turnaround. Because we could ultimately have a single ready for release in about a month. That is doable. But to complete an EP is a whole other endeavor that we can’t put a timeframe on.

Do you think there’s a possibility of any live performances?

Again, with the live performances it all goes back to what actually can be put together as a band, because of the fact that we can’t do the exact band that was. So it’s not just about our ability to sit down and say “yes, we want to play live.” It’s actually, “can we play live.” There are logistic issues involved. It’s not a matter of us not playing because we don’t want to. It’s more about “can we?” That’s something that we also just have to let naturally evolve, and see. It’s about opportunity. I’m telling you straight up, I don’t know who would be in this band right now. If John and I were sitting here right now and we’re like “alright, yeah, we’ve both decided…” We already know we want to play live again. That’s not the issue. The first obstacle is Carley, the singer. And then the second obstacle is Mike, because Mike is still committed to other projects as well. So it’s really just getting it all together and being able to make it happen. And then rehearsing.

Well thank you so much for your time in doing the interview.

Thank you, Chris.

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.