International prog/death Contrarian are about to release one of this year’s most outstanding albums. Project masterminds Brian Mason and Jim Tasikas were kind enough to allow me to pick their brains a bit about Their Worm Never Dies, the future of Contrarian, and, well, you’ll just have to take a look for yourself!
What’s the story and inspiration behind this concept album? How’d you come up with it?
Jim: I always begin the creative process with a story in my head. The story is then translated into the artwork. And then finally, I begin the song writing process. In this album, we really wanted to dive in head first into an old school approach on the concept. Much of the music today is very opinionated and thus casting judgements. This time around we really wanted just a fantasy concept with cool story and characters, much in the vein of King Diamond or Iron Maiden.
What relation does this have to do with the bible verse, Mark 9:48?
Brian: The bible verse, I believe, is Jesus talking about a dump that represents hell and it’s a quite literal thing. You’ll be eternally eaten by maggots in an endless fire. Jim chose a whole different approach to that for this story and combined it with a few different lores.
Jim: Yes, this concept fantasy borrows from three classic stories. The idea of the Evil Eye in Mediterranean cultures, the story of the Anglo-Dragon Whiteworm, and obviously some twists of the aforementioned quote in the bible.
You’ve said Their Worm is better than To Perceive is to Suffer, what specifically about this album makes you think that?
Brian: I think the songs have a few years of song-writing practice behind them. They feel more complete and thought out to me. This record has a definite feel to it that I enjoy. I also think the mix and production of the album is far superior. Lastly, the concept aspect of it helps really make it a complete unit.
Jim: The songs are streamlined in a way that I believe catch the listener in the proper way without sacrificing the refined detail that we are trying to achieve.
What’s your favourite track off this record?
Brian: I’m torn between “Whomesoever…” and “Among the Misled”. The former is just a great, epic tune and that entire middle section gives me chills still. The latter is just such an odd song, but it grooves hard when it grooves. I just love the drums on “Among the Misled” as well.
Jim: Since the last album, I have been getting messages and reviews saying something like “great songwriting, but you guys need to let loose on a few tracks!” Well, the final track on the new album, we do just that!
Do you think this is going to be your Magnum Opus? Or is that farther off in the future?
Brian: So far, this is beyond my favorite. We are also always changing and switching things up, so who knows.
Jim: We definitely have a few more in us and some great ideas!
In a previous interview, Brian said that the band, musically, is “where we should be”. Can you elaborate more on that?
Brian: I just feel the first two had some growing pains attached to them, both in writing and performance. I feel with this record, we have found our pocket. I feel we have the right formula right now. We have the right balance of tightness and looseness. We gave our engineer, George Bokos, a massive headache with mixing and mastering to make sure it was where we wanted it to be. That stuff feels locked in now. We both like things to have a live feel them. For instance, I don’t ever write solos for Contrarian. When the record button gets pushed, that’s when I’m writing the solo. I like the looseness it creates. Odd bends and weird runs sometimes make it in and I love that. A minor squeak in the rhythm track is always welcome. I feel we have the right amount of that stuff in this production. Old school.
With Their Worm nearing its release date, you’ll have released three LPs in less than three and a half years. Will frequent releases be a continuing trend with Contrarian?
Jim: Yes, of course! I believe for us, the creative process is the main focus and enjoyment always!
You never seem to never stop writing, so how far is album #4 on the horizon? Or perhaps I should be asking how close is it?
Brian: Correct… Jim never stops writing. A concept is already figured out for another new album and artwork is being created.
Jim: We are trying to follow the Iron Maiden model of a new album, every two years!
Aside from Contrarian, George [Kollias], (Nile) has only done vocals for his own solo project (and an old band in the 1990s). And truthfully, I wasn’t even aware that he could do vocals until Perceive. When did you decide that he would do vocals for the latest two releases?
Jim: Being in Contrarian, you have to be a certain type of metalhead. It is very cerebral. We all have to be in sync with the concept and vision at hand. Without sounding too precious, you have the be a veteran/educated metalhead as well. The fact that everyone in the band is a Generation X-er I believe is an advantage for us. It is an advantage because we are old enough to have a natural memory of metal since its conception, and young enough to be up to date on modern trends within the genre. Hence, it just naturally happened George ending up doing the vocals.
The two of you are interested in a vast array of music, and I think it’s safe to assume the same for the other guys in the band. So simply, why progressive death metal? As opposed to, well, anything else?
Brian: Because I have done everything else. Ha. Seriously, it comes from the time Jim and I grew up in the 80’s. Death, Atheist and Cynic were, and still are, huge on my influence list and I was happy to finally get the opportunity to do something along those lines.
Jim: Nostalgia, simply put. As Brian said, we are of that generation. I think that is why people are surprised to find out that our music is not a generic parody, and they really appreciate that.
It’s been a minute or two since you’ve played a live show. Now that you’re about to release another solid record, what’s the likelihood for a tour?
Brian: I have a few commitments with other bands to handle, but that usually winds down come summer time. I’m completely open as long as we have the right people with us.
Jim: We are getting together with a booking agent. I really think some shows and festivals will happen soon.
Would you consider a full tour, about a couple weeks’ worth of dates? Or some “weekend warrior” shenanigans?
Brian: Barring any conflicts, I open to anything really. I have a lot of time available to take off work.
You’re essentially an international band, and you have a rather prolific drummer, who’ll likely be releasing two albums in 2019. Hypothetically, would you be touring with the guys on the album, or would you seek out live musicians? Do you have any lead candidates for fill-ins?
Brian: We’re trying to figure all that out now, but it’s very preliminary. We have ideas and a couple committed people as I understand it.
Jim, what’s the scoop with Delirium Endeavor?
Jim: Delirium Endeavor was real nerdy instrumental metal fusion thing that Ed Paulsen and I did. You can find some posts on YouTube.
Brian, can you talk about your other projects? I thought there were only two, but then another one crept up into my awareness.
Brian: I’m a bit of a band whore. I’m always juggling a few projects around. My main project right now is Sulaco. Kind of a Grindy/Death/Proggy kind of thing. I don’t know. I’m really bad at the metal genre’s. I’m also in a band with Chris from Sulaco called CHRMR (pronounced Charmer). That project is more melodic, slower and has a 90’s Rock feel to it. It gives me and Chris a chance to slow down and chill for a bit. It’s a really fun project with some really great song writing and excellent dudes. I just finished a 16 year stint with my old band, BML. We were an instrumental prog, fun, happy time band. That was my main project for many years, but we all felt it was time to move onto other things. I have been known to join indie projects and even somewhat country/rock type things. I like to keep myself on my toes and stay out of my comfort zone. I’m also currently writing some 70’s style instrumental prog-rock/jazz stuff, ala Gordian Knot, Brand X stuff to do with the former drummer from Psyopus. I just haven’t gotten a chance to complete anything yet, so it may or may not come to fruition.
Contrarian has an obviously stellar future ahead, have you considered where you might be vs where you’d like to be in a few years? How about further into the future?
Brian: I just let things fall where they may. We’ll see what happens. I feel, as a project, we are getting better and better at this thing.
Jim: We always aim high. We always give it our best. We are in contact with booking agencies so that we may be able to do some live shows for our fans!
Anything else? Last thoughts? Questions, comments, concerns?
Brian: Thank you Vick for all your support. You rule.
Jim: Yes, thank you for paying attention to our music. It means a lot to us!
And I cannot thank Brian and Jim enough for taking the time to reply to my inquiries.
Their Worm Never Dies drops March 15 via Willowtip Records. For the time being, you can jam their first single off the new record, “Exorcism“. And of course, their previous releases, To Perceive is to Suffer and Polemic. Preorders for Their Worm are live! And you can find them on both Contrarian’s bandcamp and Willowtip’s online store.