Demon Hunter Interview

Demon Hunter
Demon Hunter. Solid State Records

The long-running Seattle band Demon Hunter return with their latest album Extremist. Vocalist Ryan Clark fill us in on the new record and what else is happening with Demon Hunter.

Chad Bowar: How did the songwriting and recording process for Extremist compare to recent Demon Hunter albums?
Ryan Clark: We gave ourselves more time in every regard on this album, which really helped the overall outcome.

There was essentially no stone left unturned. Every detail was assessed.

In regard to the actual recording process, we recorded this record quite a bit differently than we ever have before. For the first time in 13 years and 7 albums, we didn’t record with Aaron Sprinkle in Seattle. Aaron did record the clean singing vocals and contributed some post-production (keyboards, sound effects, etc), but the bulk was recorded and engineered by our newest addition, guitarist Jeremiah Scott in his home studio.

What inspired the album title?
Extremist has to do with where we stand as a band in light of the direction the Western world seems to be moving towards. Our worldview looks to be a more scarce point of view these days. You could say a lot of the ideals we uphold are extreme in that they tend to lie at the polarized end of self-exaltation, moral relativism, and existential subjectivity.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of Extremist?
Honestly, my favorite memory from recording was a Sunday that we all took off from recording to do a photo shoot for the album artwork.

There’s a lake near Jeremiah’s house that we shot some photos by (and in) and the weather was just too perfect to not go swimming. We took some time to just enjoy the amazing weather and just relax. I think we all had a great time that day.

Did you struggle with song order at all?
A little bit. Choosing an opening track is always probably the biggest hurdle, although we planned on opening with “Death” long before we started recording.

After everything was completed though, it was just a matter of whether or not that was still the best choice.

Ultimately, when you’re extremely pleased with every song, it’s hard to think of putting any songs towards the back half of the album. You don’t want to bury any of your favorites. But I guess that’s a good problem to have. Our hope is that people give it a solid listen from front to back, because we really think it’s solid all the way through.

Are you the type of band that comes to the studio with a lot of extra material to choose from, or do you generally only write the number of songs you'll need for an album?
We actually recorded everything we had, which is common for us. I don’t have too much time to demo more than we need. However, we are able to be more selective with the songs that made the final track listing with the idea that a few songs would be b-sides for an extended version of the record. I guess that’s our way of being choosy with what we’ve got.

Are writing music and creating art different sides of your same artistic coin, or do you approach them differently?
There is definitely a different process to the two, but I think they tend to be fairly synonymous in terms of the creative fulfillment they provide.

Both, in the case of Demon Hunter, are pretty calculated. There is a certain way I envision the band, and a certain style that encompasses who we are, so that idea almost gives me a set of rough guidelines to follow in both respects.

However, there is a lot more internal pressure when it comes to the music than there is with the design. Plus, the music ultimately becomes a group effort, whereas the design begins and ends with myself. Both sides can have their pros and cons.

What are your upcoming tour plans?
Nothing at the moment, but we’re just getting started with this record. We’re definitely anxious to play these new songs live.

With so much material, how do you go about constructing a set list, and does it change from show to show?
It gets harder with every album. Usually we just choose songs that were (in some way) considered “singles” from prior records, whether they were songs that we did music videos for, songs that got a decent amount of radio play, or just songs that we understand to be fan favorites.

Aside from that, we add a handful of our favorite new tunes, and before you know it, we’ve got more than enough for a 12-15 song set.

Where haven't you played live that you'd still like to get to?
I’d love to play in Japan and South Africa.

What was your initial reaction when you heard the Navy Seal who killed Osama bin Laden was wearing a Demon Hunter patch?
Our first thought was how crazy it all was. Demon Hunter has always had a great deal of fans in the military, so on one hand, it wasn’t far-fetched, but to be associated with such an incredibly key moment in history, and to have it referenced on such a wide-reaching platform is really overwhelming. It’s hard to wrap your head around.

Now that some time has passed and the furor has calmed down, what's your take on the media attention and reaction from various parties?
Well, obviously whatever element of “cool” that came with the shooter wearing a Demon Hunter patch when he shot Osama, was quickly overshadowed by what turned out to be a misunderstood segment in which the shooter references the use of our music to “soften” detained enemies. There was a mistaken bit of information regarding how certain bands are elected for whatever this process is, and we quickly became guilty by (presumably intentional) association, for whatever method of “softening” one could imagine or fabricate.

As if there is some sort of submission form that we filled out for our music to be used by the military. Or as if they ask permission. And all of that is possibly beside the point anyway. On top of all the warping that came from the media on this story, I started to wonder; how on earth is whatever music is being played in these scenarios the issue?

Wouldn’t Celine Dion turned up to 11 in a prison cell be just as torturous, if not worse? Or maybe field recordings of a saw mill? Ben Stein reading War And Peace? How can fans of heavy metal concede to the idea that somehow metal is a more offensive form of music than Lil’ Wayne? I don’t get it.

How do you stay connected with your faith when you're on the road and away from your home church?
We don’t spend exhorbitant amounts of time on the road, but being around like-minded individuals when we are is key.

In the world at large, something like 90 percent of people say they believe in God. In secular metal music, that number seems to be much lower. First of all, do you think that's the case, and if so, what are some of the reasons?
Well, belief in God is far too general an idea to equate to what Demon Hunter is. The Bible says “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” The belief in God is maybe a starting point, but in reality is a very small part of the whole. Not to mention “God” can be defined in a million different ways.

We believe in a much more black and white version of God. And it’s not the same God as the bulk of what that 90 percent believe in. Without Jesus, and the accompanying story/solution therein, it doesn’t matter at all that you believe in God. With that said, the percentage of the metal community that have accepted the true God is probably a lot more relative to the rest of the world as a whole.

What’s currently in heavy rotation in your MP3 player?
White Lies - Big TV, Biffy Clyro - Opposites, The Jezebels - The Brink, Beastmilk - Climax, SOHN - Tremors, Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks, Chvrches - The Bones Of What You Believe

(interview published March 2014)