Conducting From The Grave's John Abernathy Talks About Self-Titled Efforts

Brutally unrelenting, savagely intense and downright uncompromising should be CONDUCTING FROM THE GRAVE's mission statement as this band aims straight for the jugular with a barrage of frenetic riffs and a bottom end that will make your heart sink to your feet. This is the new face of extreme metal and the future never looked so bright. With that guitarist John Abernathy discusses the band's newest self-titled release and upcoming plans for touring and the bright so-called future.

1. Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Conducting From The Grave, and how long the band has been together.

John: I'm John Abernathy. I play guitar for Conducting From the Grave. We formed in 2003, but went on a roughly 3 year hiatus in 2006-2008 while Jeff Morgan (guitar), Greg Donnelly (drums) and I joined a band called With Passion (Earache Records).

2. Where is the band based out of and what is your music scene like there? Are there any local bands you could recommend?

John: We are based out of Sacramento, CA. Sacramento has a great and diverse scene for all sorts of music. All the bands on our upcoming CD release show are bands right now that I would recommend checking out. Garey Busey Amber Alert, Awaiting the Apocalypse, Lifeforms, Soma Ras. There's also a cool punk rock and hardcore scene with bands like Hoods, Take Pride, Get Shot!, and then of course there's the obvious big name out of Sacramento, Deftones.

3. How and why did you want to call yourselves Conducting From The Grave?

John: Our drummer Greg had a piano class at community college and the teacher was an eccentric germaphobe and I guess on the first day of class he said "Theres lots of germs on these keyboards, make sure you are washing your hands before and after you play them, if you're not careful pretty soon you will be conducting from the grave." Greg and our then vocalist Chris (he only played our first show with us) looked at each other and said "that's metal as fuck, that should be our band name". The rest is history.

4. Who are your musical influences that you look up to the most?

John: Off the top of my head I'd say I dig Between the Buried and Me, Pantera, At the Gates, The Black Dahlia Murder, In Flames, Kalmah, Shai Hulud, Unearth... I'm sure there’s dozens more I could list that I grew up listening to. As far as looking up to someone the most, I'd say Dimebag Darrell, although not the most influential on my guitar solos, definitely is my favorite guitarist for his song writing ability and his reputation for being genuinely cool and humble towards fans. That’s a quality I certainly strive to have when we are out doing tour dates. Come have a beer with us at a show!

5. What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)

John: This would be a question better suited to Mikey Powell, but we draw from a range of themes from anything as silly as RPG video game quests and zombies, and bad drug trips to more serious topics like revenge, betrayal, and where our world is quite likely headed with the way things are going.

6. Do you write your own songs? (Discuss the songwriting process in detail.)

John: Most definitely. I am the main song writer of the band but everyone has input and comes up with riffs and ideas from time to time. This new album was written more on the computer since we had some down time from touring I was able to work at a moving company and save up money for recording equipment and a decent computer. So ideas were able to come to fruition more easily, rather than sitting around like cavemen trying to air guitar and air drum ideas at practice as we did things in the past, I was able to program drums for demos to get ideas across. It is more tedious to do things this way, but also makes the writing process easier, especially when it comes to revising songs, and the final product is way better in my opinion. We try to focus on solid structure most of the time, envisioning which riffs make for strong chorus riffs to be repeated a time or two, and which riffs are good verse type riffs for more intricate vocal patterns to be laid down. Once demos are finished we send them to Mikey because he lives in southern California, and he has a home recording set up and does all of his own production and wrote all of the lyrics on this album. On albums past I had written some lyrics but not this time around.

7. "When Legends Become Dust" was when and how discovering you guys came across my path. Then you went and replaced vocalist Lou Tanuis with new vocalist Mikey Powell - why did this happen and how has he been accepting into the family and from the fans?

John: It happened because Lou has a son who is now in Kindergarten or 1st grade if I'm not mistaken, and even since he departed from the band about 3 years ago, we still have yet to make a penny of personal profit from playing in this band. His remaining in the band simply did not make financial sense as a father. We've probably grossed tons of money, people just don't realize that with gas on the road, tour vans (we've killed 2 and financed a 3rd one for wwwaaayyy too expensive), management and booking cuts, venue merch cuts (yes that’s right kids, the big boy venues take a percentage of OUR merch sales at the end of the night. Where’s my bar cut?) etc etc etc blah blah - you've heard it all before. Bands don't make money. I'd say his acceptance has been great judging by the majority of YouTube comments.

8. Since then, you went on to release two more full-lengths 2010's Revenants and now the Self-Titled release - how do the two differ, compare, and evolved from one another?

John: Well like I said in a previous answer, utilizing technology has been great for the making of this album. Revenants and WLBD were written "caveman" style as I like to call it. The interesting thing to note about WLBD is that it was comprised of songs written over the course of 6 or 7 years because we used some songs from our debut EP Trials of the Forsaken. Revenants was written in between touring cycles over about a year or so. This album we haven't been on the road a lot lately so we were able to spend much more time revising songs and perfecting them.

9. How does it feel to be on album number three - anything running through your mind?

John: I'm gettin too old for this gangsta shit.

10. Why did you want to turn to the fans and Kickstarter to get this album out there?

John: Dolla dolla billz yall. We wanted to dupe our fans into giving us their money so we can spend it on coke, hookers, booze and cheeseburgers. Except for Jeff, he got veggie burgers. No, but seriously we all work day jobs and have regular people bills and the band is just something we enjoy doing but without a label to front for all the recording budget, pressing copies, and all that other stuff that goes into making an album release a reality, it wasn't really feasible to just put our bills on hold and all of us pitch in our portion of 10-15k to properly release the album in the way we wanted to release it.

11. Who produced Conducting From The Grave and what was it like working with them?

John: Zack Ohren at Castle Ultimate. It was awesome as always, he has done all of our albums.

12. Why did you want to go and self-title this release - what made this the release to do this?

John: Because it is us in our rawest, truest form. No label trying to tell us how to write our songs, no bullshit, no gimmicks. Just us, writing the type of metal we want to write and what we would want to hear a band put out.

13. Who did the cover art for Conducting From The Grave and how much input did you have on it?

John: Grinddesign did it. That was more Mikeys department, he did all the dealings with him.

14. Select two songs from Conducting From The Grave and what inspired the lyrics.

John: “Honor Guide Me” is about war through the eyes of a Protoss Zealot from the game Starcraft. “Into the Rabbit Hole” is about a bad acid trip. Mikey would be able to go more in depth on these answers.

15. What image do you think your music conveys?

John: Awesome godlike shreddery whilst riding on the backs of dragons into battle against trolls smashing into dungeons full of treasure while slaughtering unicorns and bathing in their blood with 40 eleven virgins.

16. How do you describe your music to people?

John: Well I think I did a pretty good job with the last answer [haha]. No but seriously, I would say it's a modern thrash band with heavy emphasis on intricate guitar work while still remaining heavy.

17. What is your opinion on sites posting your guys material and other bands material?

John: It's cool to help get music out there. As long as a site isn't leaking something weeks before its release or anything that could possibly be detrimental like that. I figure it's going to happen so there's no point in bitching about it, just embrace the good aspects and be happy your music is getting shared.

18. How do you guys feel about the classifications in metal? Like deathcore, metalcore and other subgenres and how some get a negative rep.

John: I have no opinion on this matter. Things are going to get classified regardless, if someone wants to miss out on a band that they could potentially end up really liking because it got classified as whatever-core, that's their loss. I stopped being closed minded about music back in like 11th grade. Grow up kiddos, stop being elitists.

19. What is your opinion on the current state of metal?

John: It's . . . metal. It's definitely evolving. I'm excited to see where it goes in the future.

20. You guys plan to hit the road in celebration of this release - so is that what you have planned for the rest of this year leading into next year?

John: If we get offers that make sense. We aren't bright eyed bushy tailed 18 year old kids anymore, we can't just take opening slots for 100 dollars a night. We are grown men with grown men beer thirst, so any tour offers need to make us enough money to afford us our impending liver transplant surgeries.

21. Anything else you'd like to say to the fans out there?

John: I hope you enjoy the new album and thank you all for supporting us for a decade!

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