After a five year hiatus (that I have been reporting on), metallers Byzanine are making a triumphant return with their new self-titled album. I recently caught up with vocalist/guitarist Chris “OJ” Ojeda to talk about the band’s hiatus, the new album and thrash metal. Check it out below!
Lets jump right into this: it’s been quite some time since Byzantine has released anything. Is it strange to be back recording together after the hiatus?
It was not strange at all. It came along slowly so there was time for us to get our minds right and know what we had to focus on. We started talking about this in late 2010, starting writing and rehearsing in late 2011 and here we are. The 5 years was a much needed break. Recharged some batteries.
You guys called it quits just days after the release of “Oblivion Beckons” which went on to be a successful album. Was it problems within the band that led to the split or did it just seem appropriate at the time?
It was three fold. The sputtering of our success had started to wear thin. We were going dead broke on the road and playing to half empty bars so that was part of it. Also, our relationship with our label was coming to an unceremonious end. Those issues combined with me wanting to start a family and thinking for some reason I can’t do both at once ended our band the day our 3rd album came out.
Back in 2010 the rumors of Byzantine’s return started floating around because you guys got together to play some shows. Was it strange playing the songs again after a two year break?
At that point, we felt the time was right to reform but it wasn’t. We did 3 reunion shows with Tony back, but he wasn’t feeling it at all. We waited another year and did 3 more shows with a replacement guitarist, Brian Henderson, and that was cool but the timing wasn’t right again. This time, it felt right.
Guitarist Tony Rohrbough didn’t come back for these shows but he did return to record the new album. Did he have a sudden change of heart or did his personal life interfere with the live gigs?
Like I said before, we did do 3 shows with Tony but it was ill-timed. I can’t speak for him, but it feels like now he had some music in him that needed to be shared and we were the vehicle to get that done. He did have some very serious health issues, which are addressed in the new single “Signal Path”. I think it might have had something to do with his change of thinking. And we missed him like crazy.
Lets talk about the new album. To raise funds to record it you guys took to the Internet via Kickstarter. I assume all went well seeing as the album is getting released.
All went splendid! We raised double what we was shooting for. We had our old engineer, Aaron Fisher, work on a part of the album and brought in a friend of ours, Jason Hannon to engineer the rest. It turned out fantastic.
How do you personally feel the album stands up to Byzantine’s previous albums?
I feel this album is the one that will push the other albums into the locker and demand their lunch money! Love the other albums. They all have a special place in my heart. I do not think we have ever recorded an album where everyone was at the top of their game until now. Our drummer, Matt Wolfe, set a high bar for us on this one. He played flawlessly.
During the time when Byzantine was broken up, what were you up to?
I own my own home improvement company. I renovate bathrooms, kitchens, lay tile and hardwoods. That kinda stuff. I also recorded a Thrash Metal cover album 4 years ago that is still not finished. It’ll be out in 2013 as well. Other than that, raising my beautiful four year old daughter, Mallory. She actually makes a vocal appearance on the opening track of the new album. It’s great!
I know it’s hard for bands to listen to music while recording, but did you find time to check out any 2012 releases?
I did. Gojira’s new album kills. Revocation and Meshuggah get a lot of spins from me as well.
Now the big question: Megadeth or Metallica? With Dave Mustaine’s recent outbursts and Metallica choosing to work with Lou Reed, who would you choose?
I would have to say…… Testament! I think Megadeth is a better band now. Better players. But both bands in the 90’s put out stuff that can’t be topped. Rust and Peace and …And Justice was the tits!
Thanks a lot, Chris! Be sure to keep an eye out for Byzantine’s new album on February 26th via Gravedancer Records.