Chimaira's Mark Hunter: Reaping the Efficiency Dividend.

Chimaira's new album Crown of Phantoms is out today - the band's frontman tells us more...

Speak to Chimaira’s Mark Hunter for a while and you’ll hear one word more than any other - efficient. Nothing wrong with efficiency, of course, but there’s no denying the word has a tangibly Puritan ring about it when applied to chats about our kind of music. So are Chimaira Puritan metal or just the possessors of a healthy, honest work ethic? One of the more robust bands to come out of the short-lived New Wave of American heavy metal, the band has ground out seven studio albums – the latest of which, Crown of Phantoms, hits record stores (if such things still exist) today – and Metal as Fuck was delighted to take the chance of a chat with a man who, from the outside at least, seems like a very metal individual indeed in order to find out the answer to this burning (in our minds if no-one else’s…) question, as well as a few others.

Like I said, seven albums in twelve years – that’s pretty prolific by modern standards. How difficult Is it to maintain that level of creativity and, perhaps more importantly, quality control, over such an extended period? “ Not that difficult, I’ve been perfecting the process, making it more efficient, over time, and as we get better musicians involved, it actually gets a little bit easier.”

I’m interested that you say it’s getting easier. Do you slip into a specific mode when writing for the band? “Not really… When I’m writing for Chimaira I find it pretty easy to do just that. If I’m not feeling that something is right well, I don’t even know what happens to those riffs. I don’t keep them!”

Crown of Phantoms was funded by your fans  through the Indiegogo platform – how did you find that experience? “It was very good; we fulfilled the pledges target and we were able to come up with some very special content for the people that pledged some money. DVD  content’s there, additional tracks, all kinds of stuff. We had 1200 subscribers respond to the request which was really great for us.”

But you are still signed to a record label (eOne, though the album  comes out on 3Wise here in Australia) – how does that work out? “Well, the two things aren’t connected. The Indiegogo was for a special fan version of the album, and the money that was left over will go to other band stuff that the label doesn’t pay for – touring costs, stuff like that.”

I see. So do you think that this model is the way for bands to bring out albums in the future? “Not specifically, no.”

So labels still have their place? “Of course, we look to eOne for things like distribution, promotion, getting the record out there at a much better level than we could manage ourselves. I mean, we are looking to sell much larger numbers than just that 1200 that subscribed to Indiegogo…”

Hunter’s voice tails of at this point, as if to emphasis the naivety of my question. He’s right of course. Plus I guess for a fan funded project you have to have a pretty big fan base, right? You can’t just roll in off the street and expect people to pay for you to record an album? “That’s right’.

Otherwise we’d all be doing it. Well I would anyway. So, the album’s out, what’s the touring looking like? “Well, we’ve got another month to run on our US tour (the band is currently out on the road with an undercard that comprises Threat Signal, The Browning and Dark Sermon), then we’ll be looking at other territories.”

Australia? “I certainly hope so. We’ve headlined there, we’ve been lucky enough to play Soundwave, and I’m looking forward to getting back down there.”

We like to think of metal as something of a global community, but have you noticed the differences in crowd response you get in different parts of the world? “Of course. Our audiences in America are pretty good, and I’ve heard – though I haven’t been there- that places like Mexico and South America are pretty wild. We definitely want to get down there. And of course Australian fans are always very good to us too. ‘

Bands, we’re told, have to tour more and more these days to turn a dime. How do you find the grind of touring affects you as you get a bit longer in the tooth? “I have methods to make the process more efficient and certainly less tiring than it maybe used to be!”

Very wise indeed. So there you have it – efficiency is clearly Mark Hunter’s watchword and it’s certainly a mindset that has allowed him to overcome more than the odd setback over the course of the band’s dozen year career. But has efficiency dulled the band’s music any? Not if a first listen to Crown of Phantoms is anything to go by – there’s some serious metal on offer here! “Thanks man! You’ve only listened to it once? Well, keep listening, ‘cos it keeps getting better and better!”

Well I’m not going to just take Mr Hunter’s word for that – I’m off to investigate the album some more. And so, if you’ve an ounce of metal about you, should you. Let’s go to work!