If you’ve ever wanted to hear metal music taken to its logical extremes, Rochester, N.Y. slayers of standard Psyopus are the trailblazers. Like classical music done by sarcastic twenty-somethings with acute attention deficiencies, the band stands in a league of its own as far as composition and absolute daring. That’s put them in a love/hate position with both fans and the music industry in general, sometimes even in their own ranks. Psyopus mastermind Christopher “Arpmandude” Arp recently talked to NUVO about the addition of new bassist Michael Horn, drummer Jason Bauers and vocalist Harrison Christie to the mercurial lineup, as well as touring with Hank III and his evolution as one of the most electrifying guitarists on the scene.
NUVO: How did you start working with Hank III?
ARP: Back when he was with Superjoint (Ritual), they came to Rochester (N.Y.). A dude we knew hooked him, and a dude from Devildriver up with the Psyopus demo. Basically, they got really stoked on it. At one point, Hank asked us if we wanted to tour with Superjoint. We were like, “Of course!” We kept in touch that way. Psyopus lost a drummer, so we had some down time. I e-mailed him and asked if he needed a guitarist for his metal band. On the road, he does an hour of country, 20 minutes of this hellbilly set and a 45-minute metal set with Assjack. That’s when I get up on stage with him. I’ve done every tour I can with him.
NUVO: What’s it like playing metal with a guy of such country music pedigree?
ARP: It’s interesting. The fan base is sticking around a lot more for the metal set now. There’s a million flavors of metal. It’ll go from rockin’ blues to straight-up grindcore. It’s interesting playing all those variations. A very diverse crowd of people is showing up for these shows. (In) some towns you’ll play, more people will clear out than others, and sometimes it seems like there’s more people there for the metal set, which I’m sure isn’t the case. But the fact there’s so many sticking around is pretty cool.
NUVO: With Psyopus, how are rehearsals going with the new members?
ARP: With me being on the road, they haven’t been going too intensively, but we’ve got the set down, as far as what we were doing before the lineup changes. We’re trying to throw in some of the older songs we haven’t performed live yet or haven’t done in a while. The new drummer is super good — much better than any of the other drummers we’ve worked with. The new bass player is really sick. He can do everything I can do and then some. He’s got college degrees backing him up. He’s got a lot of the Victor Wooten and slap-bass stuff — more intense and classically trained, with tapping. It’s promising. I’m happy because each album I want to try to reinvent the band a little bit — try to keep it progressive and new, not stagnant. Bringing in better musicians should up the bar.
NUVO: Does it feel like the lineup is finally gelling?
ARP: The first lineup felt really good. The second lineup, when Lee Fisher was playing drums, was alright. Lee’s a good drummer, but he wasn’t what we were looking for. He’s an amazing Afro-Cuban jazz drummer, but he wasn’t loud or intense, so everything was kind of played slower. The lineup that did the last album felt good. The drummer was solid — death metal-type stuff. He did everything I needed him to do. But this new lineup I’m more psyched about. I sincerely think everyone in the band is a better contribution to the potential of where the music’s going to go. It just feels better. We haven’t actually played any shows with the new lineup yet. That’ll reveal more of what’s to come. The frontman’s better with the crowd. He doesn’t act out like a retard during shows. It’s really hard for me to not talk shit about the old singer. So I’m going to say that and try to not say any more.
NUVO: What does it take to be a member of Psyopus? Do you have to be a little out of your mind?
ARP: Maybe. To want to devote time to playing this kind of music, I guess you’d have to be a little weird. Obviously, technical proficiency is required, as well as a will to think outside the box and push the envelope, as far as extreme metal goes, (and) the will to want to be really fast. You want a good portion of who you are has to be weird in the extreme metal field or someone who’s really been studying progressive ideas. You may not be the weirdest person in the world, but if all you’re doing is listening to Dream Theater or King Crimson, that’s probably going to be working to your advantage versus someone who’s only listening to breakdown bands and metalcore.
NUVO: Where and how did you learn to play guitar?
ARP: I learned to play guitar in my bedroom. I got my first guitar in eighth grade. I bought Metallica tablature books, Megadeth books, guitar magazines, didn’t do homework and just played guitar all night. Usually, what I’d do is play through “Master of Puppets” until three or four in the morning, go to bed, wake up two or three hours later, go to school, come back, fall asleep until about seven or eight and play guitar all night again. Somehow I made it to my sophomore or junior year. I don’t know how. I dropped out my junior year and got my (General Equivalency Diploma) the next. But it was just a lot of guitar playing and not wanting to do anything else. I looked up to Marty Friedman and Dimebag.
NUVO: Pop stars often get accused of lip-synching. Have you ever been accused of guitar synching?
ARP: No (laughs), but I do the Jimmy Page-like harmonizing on the album, where I won’t be pulling that off live, because I’m the only guitarist in the band. We never really get any ridicule for it. We get more recognition for somehow pulling it off. There’s been instances where the bass player plays one thing on the album, but we’ll be harmonizing different when we play live to try to make up for it. Plus, some of the stuff’s going so fast, and the arrangements change so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with. But we’ve kidded around with (guitar-synching) before. We’ve been bored on the road, and I’d have someone stand in front of my amp and pretend they’re me. I’d hide behind the amp and play while the person was pretending to be me. It’s not the same accusation, but it’s close enough.
NUVO: What’s a typical reaction you get to your music?
ARP: Usually, it’s bipolar. Either it’s complete noise and we have no idea what we’re doing, or we’re insanely nuts and the most original band anyone’s heard, and they’re excited we don’t sound like every other generic band out there. A lot of the attitude, and why I write what I write, is based on a loathing what all the other shitty bands are doing. There’s very few bands out there I actually have any respect for. So it’s listening to that, accumulating everything I like about music and taking what upsets me to know what the next Psyopus song is going to sound like.
NUVO: Does that make it difficult when you’re touring with other bands?
ARP: Not really. A lot of bands are cool, and they’ve got their own thing going on. There’s a million generic breakdown bands, but some people just want to go to shows to dance. Those people are never going to give a shit about Psyopus. We’re way too cognitive of a band. We’re more a musician’s band than a casual listener’s band. So you can’t expect everyone to be into us, especially when we’re trying to push the extreme so much. You just have to realize that every artist is doing a different thing. You can usually find a reason to get into everyone a little bit. But that doesn’t mean I have to go out and buy the CD of every band I go on tour with. We went on tour with The Acacia Strain. We’ve got that song, “Play Some Skynyrd,” that’s a direct, blatant fuck-off to every breakdown band. It was funny, because Vince from The Acacia Strain asked us what that song was about. Adam recited it to him, and he just laughed. It never happened, but we were going to have Vince come on stage with us and sing that song. It’s all tongue-in-cheek. Everyone kind of knows their place. You can sing a song about relationships sucking, but it doesn’t mean every relationship has to suck.
NUVO: Do you get a lot of classically trained musicians checking you out, getting a diverse crowd in that regard?
ARP: Everyone shows up to the shows. There’s the scenesters and the headbangers. The classically trained musicians — you get those too. Sometimes they’re cool. Sometimes they’re nerdy beyond anyone’s capability to talk to them. We get a lot of musicians, mostly guitarists, who come up and ask a lot of questions.
NUVO: How many guitar lessons do you get asked to do?
ARP: It doesn’t happen enough where I could say it happens tons, but it definitely happens on occasion. If you catch me at the right time, I’d definitely show it to you. But more often than not, I’m trying to get band stuff done. You can learn stuff from people on the road too. A lot of people just want to shoot the shit, bounce ideas off you.
NUVO: I don’t want you to forever be linked to Limp Bizkit, but whatever happened with that audition you did for them?
ARP: Nothing really. I never even got to audition with the band. It was more like a publicity stunt. They had a competition going from region to region. Limp Bizkit was at every other show. Forget Limp Bizkit even exists. It was a guitar contest. If Limp Bizkit wasn’t there, they’d videotape the competition…. That’s all that happened. I won a contest and got a guitar. I never heard from them. I heard like 10,000 people entered the contest. They had all these regional winners, but (they) ended up taking the guitar player from Snot. At the time, Psyopus didn’t exist. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered. But I was working in a plastics factory, so hanging out at the Playboy Mansion with Fred Durst would’ve been way cooler than working in a factory.
NUVO: Are you happy with the way things have turned out?
ARP: Oh yeah. I’m assuming there would’ve been more financial reward if I was in Limp Bizkit. But now that Psyopus exists, we have two albums and tons of potential, I’d probably stick with Psyopus, even though I’d be awfully tempted to do the whole Bizkit thing. Nah, I wouldn’t do it.