The Massachusetts death metal band Schaphism are featured in this week’s Meet The Band. Almost six years after their debut, they return with their sophomore effort Unutterable Horrors. Vocalist Tony Jordan introduces us to his band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Scaphism.
Tony Jordan: Well there isn’t a whole lot of evidence outside of anecdotal to show that scaphism was ever performed, but there is a story by Plutarch called Life of Artaxerxes where the Persian soldier Mithridates is put to death by “the boats.” Otherwise, the only verifiable source for Scaphism takes place in 2007 where Evan (Woolley, guitar) put his mind through “the boats” and came out with these bloated and festering riffs. Stepping into “the boats” was voluntary though, and he still willingly resides there to this day.
Describe the songwriting process for Unutterable Horrors.
I think Evan writes riffs in an altered state. No cognizant person would think “hey, this is a good idea.” Basically, Evan constructs the outline and gives us a recording, then we each work our magic and come together to try and make something coherent. I think Evan secretly enjoys punishing us by cramming as many riffs into the shortest time-frame humanly possible. I’m afraid that by the next album I’ll be singing like the Micro Machine commercial guy.
How has your sound progressed/evolved from your debut?
The debut was written over the course of a few years, nearly 10 years ago. It was released in 2012 but Evan had been putting the songs together for years before that. The music and lyrics were mostly his idea. I wrote a few sets of lyrics, but more-or-less it was a collection of Evan’s ideas. Alex added his drum flair but still followed what Evan had in mind. This time around Evan still wrote all of the music, but we were able to work together on a different level. They were able to construct the songs together and I was given full lyrical and vocal control. As a result, the sound has matured in both style and lyrical content. Progression is weirdly polarized in metal, but it’s necessary.
What inspired the album title?
The opening track is called “Gruesome Unmentionables and Unutterable Horrors” which was inspired while I was laughing to myself about the wordy absurdity in Lovecraftian horror, but that’s too much of a mouthful for an album title. Coming up with a title was a daunting task and that was one we kept coming back to. It’s simple and encompasses the theme of the entire album.
What lyrical topics do you tackle?
The first album is deliberately provocative and while I have no problem with hyper-gore, I try to use it to add to the story rather than being the focus of it. The music progressed so the lyrics had to move with it. I like the idea of death not being the end, where suffering continues but on an unimaginable level. Your sanity is broken along with your body. It can come from within or without, but either way it’s something you didn’t expect and could never have prepared for. Like multi-tentacled fiends. Or it goes no deeper than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ultimately I want the listener to decide for themselves. They should make up their own meaning. They might assume a metaphor where I was literal, and that’s fine.
How did you come to sign with Horror Pain Gore Death Productions?
They had the offer we were the happiest with. Alex knows every person on planet Earth so he knew who to talk to. Plus, Horror Pain Gore Death is an outstanding name, something my parents would have guffawed at as a teenager.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
If one person buys it, if one person enjoys it, then it’s a success to me. I just need to scream at the top of my lungs about dumb shit and if someone wants to support my desire to do that, then my hopes have been met. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
We are performing a few shows around the New England area to support the release (official album release show 1/26 at Ralph’s Diner) and looking to do more towards NY, NJ, and PA once the warmer weather hits. Planning a show that requires a fair drive around the Northeast between December and March is just dumb. The Winter Warlock doesn’t give a fuck about our show plans.
What has been your most memorable Scaphism live show?
One time we had 30 foam battle weapons which we dumped on the crowd. The entire show was basically a recreation of the battle of Stirling Bridge. The entire venue was covered in bits of foam. Another favorite of mine was at Wadzilla Mansion back in ’09 I think. It was a basement show in an Allston three decker in the middle of the winter. I went in with expectations as low as the temperature. It was a pleasant surprise having a packed house destroying virtually everything they could get their hands on.
How did you get started in music?
My father is musically inclined so I was exposed to classic rock for most of my life. Nothing heavy or extreme but I have vague memories of an old Van Halen performance on VHS which I guess is my first real exposure to rock/metal. But the real point it began was when I saw the video for “Enter Sandman” debut on MTV in 1991. My 10 year old mind was blown. I always wanted to be in a band and used to tell classmates that I was in a band, but I was also at some point in middle school told I wasn’t cool enough to be in a band. I’m still not, but here I am.
What drew you to metal?
I’m actually convinced that metal found me. The singularity was Metallica when I was about 10, but as for the extreme side, I can only remember the albums I bought, not what caused me to buy them. I specifically remember buying Nile – Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka on a whim (back when finding new music meant hours in a store and hoping for the best) because the cover looked cool, but otherwise they just sort of appeared in my timeline. I’m fine with the thought that the multi-tentacled metal god reached through the ether and handed me Deicide and Emperor.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
Phil Anselmo, Glen Benton, Corey Taylor (the vocals on the eponymous Slipknot are incredible, hate all you want), Randy Blythe, Peter Steele, Shagrath and Mikael Akerfeldt are pretty much who I was guided by as a youngin’, but I wanted to forge my own path. I wanted it to be loud, projected and violent but also intelligible.
What was the first metal show you attended?
There used to be a small all-ages club in Worcester Massachusetts called The Espresso Bar and I went to a few local shows there, but the first actual concert I went to on a large scale was Pantera, White Zombie, Deftones and Anal Cunt in August of 1996. It was a mixture of terror and fascination. Pantera was no place for a fragile kid from blue collar suburbia and Anal Cunt was unlike anything my sheltered mind could handle. I was hooked.
What’s the state of the heavy music scene in the Boston area these days?
It exists, and that’s about as deep as I think it needs to go. Everyone is caught up in this idea of “scene.” If there are shows happening, bands playing and people who want to go, then what are the limits of the word? It seems that “scene” is just a metaphor for “clique” which inevitably becomes exclusive. If metal is free of boundaries and restraints, if it’s about freedom through expression, then it would be all-inclusive. I get what the question is saying, I just hate the word “scene.”
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
If you are reading this then you probably already know about us, so thanks for your continued support. I don’t really know why anyone would want to listen to the cacophony we present but as long as you keep asking for it, I’ll try to keep coming up with dumb topics to scream about into your face. Also, your fly is down. I’ll bet you checked.
(interview published January 13, 2018)