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Interview: Inter Arma

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Invisible Oranges had a chance to speak with Inter Arma vocalist Mike Paparo and guitarist Steve Russell before a show at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn NY on March 26. They have been touring the northeast with Woe and Holy Mountain Top Removers, in support of their most recent album, Paradise Gallows, which was released in July of 2016. The album is an unbelievably accomplished work by a band that seems capable of just about anything. The five-piece is currently touring Europe, and will return to the states as direct support for Pallbearer.

-Tim Porter

Can you share a bit of the history of the band, including how you guys all met.

Russel: It kind of dissolved from an older band. Mike was the last person to join actually. We kicked out another singer and he came on board and played a show that same day.

Paparo: that was in 2007. Steve and TJ are the OG members and I came in six months after.

Russel: When Mike joined, we all knew we had the foundation of the band. The previous singer was no bueno.

How about style? Your musicianship is superb, which, allows you do a lot of things and always sound good.

Russel: We always knew we wanted to do something big and heavy, but I can’t say we set out to specifically do any style.

Paparo: TJ’s been playing in bands since he was eight years old. His dad was in classic rock bands and cover bands. That’s why he’s so good. I come from super extreme metal.

Russel: We all have overlapping areas of musical taste, but then we also all have our own music corners. Sort of like how we all come from different corners of Virginia. We all live in Richmond now, but none of us are actually from Richmond.

Paparo: Yeah, I’ve been really obsessed with Björk lately and no one else in the band is. If I put Björk on in the van they’d say “turn this shit off”. But I think all the music I listen to is like that. I like tin can black metal. I like noise music. No one wants to hear that shit.

Russel: We all have different upbringings musically and would get bored if we played the same thing all the time or were tied to one specific style.

Paparo: Yeah, we’re all metal heads, per se. But we aren’t the kind of guys who say “I only listen to death metal”. You get a lot of that these days, and we’re not that at all. We listen to everything. If it’s good music we listen to it.

We’ve read a lot of comparisons between you guys and Neurosis. What’s your reaction to that?

Russel: Well it’s flattering to be compared to a band like that. I see the comparison, but…

Paparo: We aren’t Neurosis. But we all respect them. It’s one of the few bands were everyone in the band thinks they are gods, and they are my favorite band ever. You can listen to my vocals and can hear that. I’m totally ok with being a spiritual relative of them.

There is a bit more “yeah, we’ll melt your face and ears off, but we’ll buy you a beer after” with your music. It feels like you guys really enjoy what you are doing. That was never clear from Neurosis.

Paparo: That’s great that you get that because we’ve got the complete opposite from a lot of people, people telling us that we sound like we are going to just kill everyone on earth. Personally, I feel like I have to do this and it is a catharsis for me, but I also like to have a good time. I love touring.

Is there an underlying theme or concept to Paradise Gallows that ties the album together?

Paparo: No there isn’t. It would be way too impossible to do that with Inter Arma. Especially since our mad scientist drummer can literally come up with a song a week before we are supposed to record, and I can’t tie that in. But there are certain themes that appear in the record lyrically, and I’m not going to give them away – you have to do your homework to find them.

Russel: Even musically we have a song that pops in and pops out in two places in the record. We do that to mix it up. It’s funny because we thought that there was so much different stuff going on in the record that no one would like it when we put it out. But it’s also that you get too close to things and see them in a different light when you put something away for a year and then hear it again.

So, were you happy with the record when it came out?

Russel: I was happy with it.

Paparo: I’m never happy with anything. I always think I can go back and do something better. But now I am happy with it. I listened to it for the first time in a long time about a month ago, and was like “I’m alright with this.”

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Could you talk about how you guys write, how music begins and then gets molded into songs?

Russel: It begins in a bedroom with a practice amp. We come up with a riff and just bring it to the practice space and everyone kind of throws shit out there and we jam on it. There’s not really any principle songwriters or anything like that. It’s a pretty collaborative process.

Paparo: Yea, TJ [Childers, drummer] writes a lot of the music, but there is no secret to how we do it.

Russel: Yeah TJ is kind of the mastermind that brings things together. He’s been doing music since he was four so he really knows how to put the pieces together. But I’ve written songs, Trey has written songs, so everybody contributes.

A lot of metal bands have lyrics of questionable quality. You guys are different. How do you come up with that aspect of the songs?

Paparo: I have notebooks full of lyric ideas, and I read a lot, so I get ideas from books. A lot of times I come up with the title first and then write around that. I know a lot of metal lyrics are horseshit and I strive to not do that. I could make my life way easier by writing nonsense, but I don’t and it’s a really frustrating process. A lot of times I rewrite things because a word doesn’t fit here or there. I read a lot of poetry, too. I like classic poets. My favorite poet is William Butler Yates. I don’t like a lot of modern poetry, mostly the 18th and 19th century English stuff.

Do you have any favorite tracks on the record?

Russel: I like playing “An Archer in Emptiness”. Sonically, I think that “Paradise Gallows” turned out really well. That song changed the most during the recording process. I kind of did its own weird thing.

Paparo: I like the secret cover on the digital version of the album because I didn’t play on it and didn’t sing on it. It only shows up on certain versions.

Besides Saint Vitus, which is obviously the best venue in the world to play in, what other places do you like?

Russel: I like playing places where I have a lot of friends. That’s what makes the show good. So, NY is always fun, Philly is always fun. We like venues that have nice people. Not asshole promoters or dick sound guys.

Paparo: The Orange Peel in Asheville. Lawfight, also in Ashville, Golden Pony in Harrisonburg.

Inter Arma will tour Europe in April and May and then return to the US.

Apr 21 – Jubez
Karlsruhe, Germany

Apr 24- Kesselhaus, Schlachthof Wiesbaden
Wiesbaden, Germany

Apr 26 – Club, Backstage
Munich, Germany

Apr 28 – Le Gibus Club
Paris, France

May 01 – Audio
Glasgow, UK

May 10 – Ligera
Milan, Italy

May 12 – Underground
Cologne, Germany

May 13 – Cassiopeia
Berlin, Germany

May 25 – The Riot Room
Kansas City, MO

May 26 – First Avenue and 7th St Entry – 7th St Entry Room
Minneapolis, MN

May 27 – Vaudeville Mews
Des Moines, IA

May 28 – High Noon Saloon
Madison, WI

May 30 – Ace of Cups
Columbus, OH

May 31 – Rex Theater
Pittsburgh, PA

Jun 01 – Rock & Roll Hotel
Washington, DC

Jun 05 – The Golden Pony
Harrisonburg, VA

Jun 06 – Zanzabar
Louisville, KY

Jun 07 – Fubar
St Louis, MO

Aug 18 – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV

Aug 18 – The Joint, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV

Aug 19 – The Joint, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV

Aug 20 – The Joint, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV

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