A brief chat with The Schoenberg Automaton's vocalist Col Cadell

They're signed, working on an album and suffering from supraglottic constriction... For a death metal vocalist, that's got to hurt...

You may not have heard of Brisbane’s The Schoenberg Automaton but mark my words; you soon will. Recently signed to the UK’s independent label Myriad Records, their sound is a heady mix of technical death metal with a dash of grindcore and a big fat slice of ‘experimental’. I had a quick chat with vocalist Colin Cadell about the band's new (free) demo, what the future has in store, and the perils of death roaring.

I saw Schoenberg’s debut gig back in November 2010 and was blown away by the technical ability of all concerned - have the guys managed to tighten up any further? “We’re getting to a point where we’re pretty comfortable with each other and everyone knows what everyone else can do.” A series of regular gigs has also sharpened their performance skills to the point where the band is tighter than a nun’s yoni.

Are there any problems reproducing any of the songs in a live environment? Col ponders this for a moment before responding: “A sloppy version isn’t as sloppy as some of the stuff from other bands I’ve been in when we’ve been starting out. With Schoenberg everyone knows where they’re going and what they’re meant to be doing and everything’s fallen into place.”

The band is made up of Zimi Shabanay (bass) from Cross the Lips of Grace, Shayne Johnson (guitar), who played in Empyrean, Damien Boorman (guitar) from Lytic Cycle, Nelson Barnes (drums) from Function Cease, and Colin has sung with both Apex Null and Cross the Lips of Grace.

So what’s happened with signing to Myriad Records? “It’s very informal – that’s why we’re happy to do it. Jamie Gamble (Schoenberg’s UK agent) really likes what we’re doing and wants to help us out, and we’ve always talked to him and he’s always been really supportive and he’s got really good contacts in Europe. We figured ‘Bugger it, if he wants to help us out and we want to work with him then we’ll do it.'”

What’s happening about the demo? I heard it was being offered as a free download? Hell yer! “We did Rhat independently in December last year, and I guess it’s been re-released with the Myriad Records moniker attached to it. If you look up Myriad records on facebook or Google, you’ll be able to find a link on there, it’s like a Band Camp address, and you can get it from there. I’m not sure what the status is though because Band Camp is really annoying as it only gives you ‘x’ amount of users that can have a free download so once that happens we have to pay a small amount or wait a small amount of time before you can get another 200 or so. The first 200 downloads went in the first day and we had to wait a while to get more.”

Worry not dear reader... The links are lovingly provided for you at the bottom of this piece.

So are Myriad going to give the band a load of cash to get an album out? Apparently not... “We haven’t actually discussed any of that yet; we’ve talked about ideas on touring outside of Australia but I can’t really say too much about that – it’s just a relationship we want to get involved with and we’re happy to go along with whatever they want to do.” It’s all a bit ‘Secret Squirrel’ at the moment, it seems.

So have the group started recording the album yet? “No, not yet - we’re about to get into the process. The aim is to hopefully have an album out by the end of the year or the beginning of next year so I think the drum tracks will be starting in a few weeks and after that it’ll be month by month, getting all the bits and pieces together then take it from there and see what happens – see how far we can go. It’s interesting to see how things work; we’ve just put up the music video in the last week and that’s already got a good amount of plays so that’s really sweet. Video seems to work so much better because people nowadays seem to latch onto videos so much more than just songs. They’d rather watch an interview on Youtube [as opposed to reading it] and it’s a bit different because you get the charisma and the attitude and you see how the person really is – visual media seems to work a lot better.”

The band have some rather ‘fruity’ song titles (Pineapple Juice & The Tough Stuffed Olive and The Woodhouse Sakati Syndrome to name but two), can we expect the album to be equally, or perhaps even more, spastic? Colin says they don’t have a name for it as yet – not even a working title (I suggested Arse) but he does speculate that: “I don’t think the album name will be as ‘out there’ – the song titles will still be weird though. We’re going to redo the demo stuff because now we have little variations and little extra lead pieces and we want to have all that kind of stuff showing on the recording of the album. It’s the same with everything – there are going to be differences so there is always going to be someone who dislikes what we do with changes in songs. With recording there’s still the sound but it doesn’t convey the energy. I did the original demo to audition for them, there’s a lot more energy to it but that’s because I was doing a lot more free-form takes and not thinking ‘OK I have to do death roars here or screams there’ and I think for the album we’ll take more of an approach like that vocally because the ball’s more in my court for that kind of stuff. I’d rather do something that’s more how I feel about it – I’m not a big fan of ultra-produced vocals; a lot of death metal these days the vocalist is death roaring the whole song, which is sweet, but it’s like five layers of death roars.

“There’s more clean vocals coming back in but you’ve also got the off side with metal vocals, people are now starting to strip back from the highly produced vocals; which is highly produced shit most of the time.”

Colin was recently diagnosed with Finkle’s Disease... Sorry, I made that up. But the man is afflicted. “I’ve got a supraglottic constriction – it’s basically a muscular problem with the throat, there isn’t much info about it on the net (the home of everyone’s medical advice nowadays) It can be caused by strain and wear and tear – it could be as simple as singing when you’ve got a cold or flu. It’s the same thing as a footballer pulling a muscle; you don’t know when it’s going to happen – you could stretch perfectly before a game and still do it, it’s the same sort of thing. I’m sure a lot of people have done it and kept singing their entire lives so I’m just working with it and seeing what we can do.

“I’ve had the condition for the last three or four gigs and afterwards it just feels as if the muscles around your throat are tight. Your voice feels fine but it’s like the airflow is harder to get out because the muscles are actually tight. It’s something I’m working on now with breathing exercises and I’m probably going to start seeing a vocal coach again because I used to do that back in the day.

“I’ve still got a few months before I’ll have to do my tracks for the album and we’ll only have four or five gigs before the end of the year, not a massive amount. After that I’ll see how it goes next year. We’re not going to do anything from July to September/October – we might do a one off show or if a support slot comes along, we’re not going to knock it back but we’re focussing on the creative process.”

So go get your free download and experience the super-fantatsic power of The Schoenberg Automaton - they'll have an album out soon and you'd hate to miss it...