Interview with Masaki Murashita of Hemoptysis
Conducted by Robert Williams
Formed in 2007, Tempe, Arizona’s thrash metal desert storm Hemoptysis return with new album
"Misanthropic Slaughter" the much heralded follow up to the band’s debut EP "Who Needs A Sheperd?". A professionally filmed music video for the track "Shadow Of Death" was featured in heavy rotation on the FUSE network and the band has now twice won the award for "Metal Artist Of The Year" at the Phoenix Music Awards. Hemoptysis guitarist and vocalist Masaki Murashita recently took the time to speak with Metal-Rules.com and fill us in on some of the band’s back history and accomplishments, tell us about the new self released album "Misanthropic Slaughter" as well as the band’s immediate plans for the future.
How are you doing today Masaki?
Doing great. Thank you!
I’d like to cover as much ground as we can today, so let’s start at the beginning. How did Hemoptysis initially come together as a band? How did you find the right players to accompany your musical vision? What was the most difficult part of the equation?
Everything started when I met our drummer, Travis, for the first time through a mutual friend in early 2007. I moved to Phoenix in the end of 2006 from Seattle. I was actively seeking musicians to jam with. Luckily, I found Travis, who is a great drummer and became my best friend. We jammed once before we formed Hemoptysis in April of 2007, I think. I had a hard time getting a hold of him on the phone but a couple months later, we jammed again. I had a new practice space and additional guitarist ready for him. That’s how we got together. We did not have a bassist for a while. Sunao joined us in February, 2008 though he had been jamming with us once in a while before that as our fan. We had a different singer at first, too. We had a different singer for a few months in early 2008. He helped write lyrics for some of the songs on our "Who Needs A Shepherd?" EP, but he left the band months before it was recorded. We couldn’t seem to find the right singer so I started singing and playing guitar one day and Travis loved it. I’ve been singing for the band ever since. We went through several changes on lead guitar. We had a hard time to find the right guy. We auditioned several people each time we changed guitarists but most of them were flakes. This was the most difficult part for us because it was extremely hard for us to find a player who is serious, dedicated and had talent. I’m sure a lot of bands struggle with the same problem. We found Ryan Miller, who is in a band called Excessive Bleeding, formerly known as Lunatic’s Vision. Ryan was the exception to the rule when it came to auditions. We knew what he could do with his band and that he is probably the best guitarist in the state of Arizona. We knew, without auditioning him, that he could play anything we threw at him.
How long was the original Hemoptysis lineup active before your debut EP "Who Needs A Shepherd?" was released? Were there any distinct advantages in releasing an EP versus a full length recording?
Brian Bieganski, who played lead guitar on our EP, left the band immediately after we recorded it for a personal reasons. He was only with the band for three or four months I think. By the time we had the EP out, we had a different lead guitarist. The EP was just us getting our feet wet. We didn’t have the following back then like we do now so we really didn’t have the budget to record a full-length at that time. For what it was, we felt the EP was just the calm before the storm. We knew we could deliver a solid product that the Metal consumer would get behind and support. Now that we are set to release the full-length there is no going back. This is it.
How do you feel the band has grown musically since the release of your debut EP and your new full length album "Misanthropic Slaughter" ?
We definitely have grown as musicians and gotten a million times better. We weren’t happy with the EP for many reasons but I am very pleased how "Misanthropic Slaughter" came out. We have a killer new lead guitarist in Ryan Miller and he is just a great guy and fun to hang out with. I say he is new, but he has been with the band for a year, now that I think about it!
One noticeable area that I thought you really improved as a musician was the vocal phrasing and delivery on "Misanthropic Slaughter". Did that come naturally to you as a vocalist or was there some kind of concentrated effort to take the hooks and overall power of your voice to the next level?
Thank you. To be honest, when we recorded that EP, it was only a few months since I started singing. Now I feel a lot more comfortable through all the experiences of the past few years. I had experiences singing clean vocals, but never tried the style I do with Hemoptysis, but the principle is the same and I am able to handle it now. As far as the phrasing goes, I feel I got better at writing lyrics and Travis started writing more lyrics, too. I think we just got better at writing lyrics in general.
Tell me about working with famed producer Ryan Greene (Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Mr. Big) on your new album "Misanthropic Slaughter". What do you believe Ryan brought to the table in terms of modern production and how do you feel he pushed you guys as a band to achieve the end result as heard on "Misanthropic Slaughter"?
I’ve known Ryan for 4 years and I started my career as his assistant. He always puts 120% effort into his projects and brings something new to each bands’ sound. I’ve witnessed this so many times with the bands he worked with while I was his assistant. Knowing that, I was very confident and excited to have Hemoptysis work with him, not only for the killer production. As a writer, it is hard to be objective and to look at the songs you’ve written. It is your baby and you are attached to it. Having someone who has tons experience like Ryan can bring something creative and point out to you what you would never notice. We had a great time working with him and I am very happy with the record we got. It was our first goal since we started in 2007 to record a full length album with him.
Were there any songs in particular that you found to be the most challenging for you and the rest of the band to record? Looking back, what would pick as your favorite compositions from "Misanthropic Slaughter"?
Nothing was really challenging to me but my favorite song from "Misanthropic Slaughter" is M.O.D. It’s melodic, heavy and the production is just phenomenal.
It’s difficult to understand why a band as talented as Hemoptysis has not been picked up by a record label. Has there been any offers on the table that you can talk about? Are you just holding out for the right label or are there any benefits to releasing your music independent basis?
So far we have had two offers. They weren’t beneficial to us so we passed on them. There are definitely a lot of benefits to being independent. We don’t lose the rights to our material and we keep all the profits of anything we sell. Honestly, we would love to find a label that is willing to meet us in the middle and work with us but until that happens we are happy with the idea that we are keeping all of our profits.
Both the EP and "Misanthropic Slaughter" appear to feature artwork from the same artist or at least this medium looks very thematic and similar. Who does the album artwork for Hemoptysis? Does this two horned demon that appears on your album covers serve as some kind of iconic mascot for the band? Would you like to continue to use this same artist for future releases?
Yes, both the EP and the "Misanthropic Slaughter" artwork were drawn by the same artist, Evil Dave, from Incision Tattoo in Glendale, AZ. He is a very talented, well respected tattoo artist. This demon is named Vetis. We had a contest a while ago and had our fans name it. We picked the name Vetis. We definitely would like work with Dave again. We wanted to keep using the beast idea on this album. We think Vetis is a great mascot so you might be seeing more of him!
Does Hemoptysis have plans to tour in support of "Misanthropic Slaughter" ? Could you see yourselves joining a package tour this Spring/Summer? Who are some bands that you’d like to play with and what markets would you be most interested in invading?
We are currently working on the tour dates. We would love to join a package tour. We all want to tour. That’s our dream but, at the same time, we simply can’t afford it to stay on the road 365 days a rear like a signed band. It would be nice if we could tour with bands like Warbringer, Izegrim, The Absence, or Daath, just to name a few. We’ve heard good things about Texas, so we want to start playing more shows there and playing shows in Europe would be a dream come true!
Were would you say you draw your primary lyrical inspirations from?
Travis and I both write lyrics and we get inspiration from daily life, mostly. "Hopeless" was inspired from a day job I had as a retail clerk.
Let’s talk about the significance of being a metal band from Arizona. The bio on your website states that "Hemoptysis is the unrelenting curse of the Sonoran Desert sun." and "They (Hemoptysis) use Thrash Metal as a foundation, to mix in the emotions of the desert and in doing so, move the entire genre forward in a way only they can." Would you care to elaborate on the atmospheric importance the desert plays in your music?
You really have to live here to appreciate just how hot it gets and how desolate it is. I would equate it to standing in front of your oven with the door wide open and the heat cranked all the way up. There is just no escaping it. In the shade, inside with the air conditioning turned all the way down, it doesn’t help. With every breath your lungs are filled with pure fire from the air and the never ending dust gets in your eyes, nose, ears and mouth. As a band we share a lot of the same problems that everyone has. Broke, crappy day jobs, etc. but being engulfed in this hell mouth that we call home just exacerbates everything. So when we are writing new material, practicing, or playing a show, the hate and frustration of the daily grind, all while surrounded by this inescapable heat just adds fuel to the fire that is our music.
How would you describe the metal scene in Tempe, Arizona? Are the clubs in your hometown pretty supportive to your cause? Are you impressed at all with some of the other metal band’s to emerge from Tempe?
There are many good bands and we are seeing a lot of people trying to support the local scene. It is definitely getting bigger. I don’t know whether the clubs are supportive or not, but I am very impressed with some new talents like Sargon.
For both 2009 and 2010, Hemoptysis was voted "Metal Artist Of The Year" at the Phoenix Music Awards. Tell me about how it felt to receive that kind of recognition at such an early stage in your band’s career…
It was great. It also helped me to obtain my artist visa to keep me doing Hemoptysis. It was a huge stress for me and took me a lot of time and work. Not being American, it is hard to maintain legal status in the US and I am very fortunate I am able to keep doing what I love.
Let’s talk about the music video for the song "Shadow Of Death" from your debut EP "Who Needs A Shepherd?" This is a very slick production for an independent band. Who directed this clip and how did you guys afford to make this video without a major label financing the operation?
We did not want to make a low budget, cheap video. We wanted to have a professional quality video for the production we got on "Shadow of Death" which we re-recorded with Producer Ryan Greene specifically for the video. We were amazed with the top notch production Ryan did and we did not want to waste it. The video was done by Big Shot Studios in Phoenix, Arizona. I’ve seen their work before through my friends’ bands’ video, so I was confident it would come out good. We just kept working hard and invested in it. You get what you pay for. We saved up and borrowed money to make it happen.
The video for "Shadow Of Death" was at one time in heavy rotation on the Fuse network in Canada. In your opinion, did that garner a lot of additional interest for the band from Canadian metal fans and were you able to capitalize on that momentum?
Absolutely. Many metal news websites picked it up and we had a lot of great feedback. It definitely helped us get the name out.
Your advanced knowledge of guitar playing and theory is recognizable on all of Hemoptysis’ material. At what age did you begin playing guitar and which players would you cite as being your earliest influences?
I picked up guitar initially when I was eight. I switched to bass guitar for a kid’s band for a couple of years and that was it for a while. Then I picked up the guitar again when I was in high school. I started listening to bands like Megadeth and Metallica. That’s how I got into playing and listening to metal. Dave Mustaine was my first guitar hero. Guitarists like Marty Friedman and Randy Rhoads definitely influenced me on adding emotional flavor in notes. To me, it is the most important thing on leads to be able to feel emotion and vibe.
How did you originally become interested and involved in metal music? Was there a song or band in particular that you would suggest paved the road for you metallicly speaking, and changed your life forever?
It all started when I was in high school in Canada. I was playing bass in a band back then and we all loved bands like Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer, and Pantera, just to name a few. The heavy crunch of the guitars and shredding, melodic solos totally got me into it.
What will be next for Hemoptysis? Any breaking news that you’d like to plug or address?
"Misanthropic Slaughter" will be out on March 8th, so we are pushing it hard, and working on tour dates. We will play as many shows as possible. We are also writing material for next record and there’s a lot of exciting things going on! The best way to get a copy of "Misanthropic Slaughter" is to purchase it directly from us at www.misanthropicslaughter.com . We need your support in order to tour! We truly appreciate your support.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk metal Masaki. I know you certainly have a bright future ahead of you. Any last words for your fans reading at home?
Thank you so much! We appreciate your support and please stay connected with us by following us on facebook at www.facebook.com/hemoptysis . If you are not a fan of SNS, you can always follow us at www.hemoptysismetal.com .