INTERVIEW(S): DEAN AND CLAIRE LAMB

I chatted with the Lambs prior to the release of our October printed issue, but I wanted to consolidate down to one article for online purposes. This makes it a bit long, but by all means, strap yourselves in…especially if you’re fans.

Dean plays guitar in Archspire, and has a wonderful YouTube channel filled with guitar tutorials and brilliant other content. Claire plays guitar with The Hallowed Catharsis, and together, Dean and Claire have a YouTube series called Four Levels of Death Metal, where they learn riffs of increasing difficulty from some pretty awesome bands (most likely including some of your favorites).

Dean Lamb Interview:

I went to a show at Velvet Underground back in September of 2018 and had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had heard of all the bands on this supposed Tech Trek tour before, and I had listened to a few songs from each, but to be honest, the genre of tech death never really hit with me. I’ve always been partial to melodies, choruses, hooks, etc. when it comes to metal. I suppose that’s why ARCHSPIRE have always stood out to me. ARCHSPIRE is as fast and technical as they come, but they also understand the importance of grooves, choruses, melodies – the almighty hook. ARCHSPIRE play tech death in such a way that even someone like me who simps hard for melodic death metal and power metal can appreciate them immensely. ARCHSPIRE became a gateway band for me, leading the way into a genre I used to largely ignore. All this being said, I also can’t get enough of ARCHSPIRE guitarist Dean Lamb’s YouTube content. His “Dean Attempts to Learn” series has taught me more about everything I was doing wrong on guitar over the past four months than I’ve learned in the past ten years (since I started playing) from other sources. He seemed like such a levelheaded, personable guy, that I just had to reach out for an interview. Here’s what Dean had to say for himself.

Archspire are:

Oliver Rae Aleron – vocals

Dean Lamb – guitars

Tobi Morelli – guitars

Jared Smith – bass

Spencer Prewitt – drums

1. Before technical death metal crept into your life, what type of metal band did you see yourself forming or joining?

Hey Mike! Thanks for having me!

I listened to a lot of Dream Theater and other prog bands before I got more into extreme death metal. Big into Protest the Hero in high school, BTBAM, that kind of stuff. I think I probably would have stuck to a more prog type thing, I played in a band called “Seven Year Storm” with my buddy Sean Lang, which was essentially instrumental prog.

2. I think you once mentioned that your dad got you your first guitar. What was your very first electric guitar setup? (from the guitar, to the amp, to any pedals)

Yeah! My Dad bought me a used Epiphone special 100, and I played through a little 15w Fender amp. I DESPERATELY wanted a reverb pedal, even though I had no idea what reverb was at the time (laughs).

3. Are you a founding member of Archspire or did you join the equation after the initial idea for the band had formed? Followup: Did the first few band practices “gel”, or did it take some time to get everyone on the same page?

I started jamming with Spencer (drummer) before the band was called “Archspire.” Our former vocalist renamed the band, and then shortly after parted ways. Our first few sessions together were eye opening, and it drove me to practice like crazy, which solidified my position in the band. We then added Tobi and Oli, and many years later Jared came into the picture.

4. Had you already incorporated hybrid picking into your arsenal before coming into Archspire, or did that come after? Followup: What was the one song or player (if any) that first inspired you to become a proficient hybrid picker?

Hybrid picking has been part of my playing ever since our second album The Lucid Collective, so watching videos of myself playing before that release is strange. Not utilizing the other fingers on my picking hand is so bizarre to imagine now. It makes almost everything easier. Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders) was huge to inspire me to practice more of the technique, and players like Dave Davidson (Revocation) helped as well.

5. What are some instances (if any) where you find less efficient picking techniques like down picking to be essential to the part?

I don’t know man, it really never appealed to me. I always enjoyed practicing strict alternate picking, or at least keeping the “resistance” between each note the same so that I can keep my meter more consistent. For example, cross picking is generally strict alternate picking across multiple strings, but I think as long as you’re not economy picking that type of stuff then you should be OK. Arpeggiated chords should never be economy picked unless you’re trying to sweep them, because the lowered resistance generally compromises your rhythmic stability. That was a very boring paragraph I just wrote, sorry.

6. Who were the first technical death metal bands that inspired you to pursue the genre?

Necrophagist and The Faceless were the two first tech death bands I loved. I saw Necrophagist a few times before they broke up, and just got so much inspiration from watching them live, but I think that’s pretty obvious in our music. They really were the greatest in the genre.

7. Have you ever had to “raw dog” a song live? Was there ever an instance where your in-ear monitors failed or your band laptop failed, and you had to play songs off any of your albums without a click?

Not once since we started using an in-ear-monitor setup have we had to do without it because of technical issues. We rely on the setup for our guitar patch changes, and we don’t even bring floorboards on tour, so we’re kinda stuck (laughs). I’d rather rely on a computer that’s safe side stage, than something on the floor of the stage where people can spill beer. We’ve had technical issues, but nothing we’ve needed to cancel a show over.

8. Over the years, you’ve also developed a huge passion for video editing. Can you recall the one video project or content piece you were working on that sparked this?

Oh man, I LOVE filming and editing. I bought a cheap DSLR to mess around with in 2014, and since then I’ve done plenty of cool projects. I’ve always been into Photoshop and light graphic design, so adding a program like Premiere Pro to my workflow was pretty easy. I started with Instagram videos, but quickly worked up to more involved things like YouTube videos. The early stuff on my channel is painful to watch, but it was all integral to my learning process.

9. After all the extensive touring Archspire did prior to the pandemic, which tour was your favorite when looking back? Followup: Who have been the most fun bands to tour with and hang with on the road?

I think we had some really cool experiences learning how to tour across Europe. Just understanding cultural differences, and getting to see the world with your friends is the best thing ever. Hellfest 2019 is a highlight for me, playing in front of 12,000 people: it doesn’t get much better than that.

We have too many friends to count on tour, but out of all the bands we’ve traveled with, I think the guys in Revocation really stick out. Ash (drummer) lives here in Vancouver, and we’ve had Brett (bassist) come on tour with us to sell merch, so we became pretty close.

We of course love our dudes in Inferi, Fallujah, and Rivers of Nihil, and hopefully we can get out there again soon to do the thing.

10. What do you gain the most satisfaction from when it comes to band life? The road? The stage? The overall camaraderie? Writing and solidifying songs in and out of rehearsal? Completing a release in the studio?

I love the idea of making a living as a touring musician, playing original compositions. So the satisfaction comes from running a tight business where everyone knows their role. I enjoy the idea of having crew members that know our sound and how to make it even better. I enjoy being humbled by amazing musicians that we play music with. I enjoy becoming friends with people I look up to. I enjoy writing a sick riff and then hearing the finished product years later. I enjoy being part of a group that has a singular vision. It’s all pretty good honestly.

11. I asked you this on your stream once and you didn’t know the answer at the time. I’d imagine you’re relearning a lot of the Bleed the Future material and getting things ready for shows. You once said that “A Dark Horizontal” was the hardest song to play ever written by Archspire. Is there a new “hardest song to play” on Bleed the Future?

They all are. Unfortunately. RIP.

12. Finally, do you and Tobi write very differently, or have you formed something of a telepathic link with one another? As the Archspire discography has progressed, I’ve felt more and more unification in the songwriting. This could just be my take, but have you guys found yourselves on the same wavelength more and more, or do you still tend to write differently?

Writing a new song when you’re 12+ years into a band with someone SEEMS like it would get easier, but it doesn’t. Tobi and I write very differently, and MAYBE our styles have become more similar, but I think if anything we’re more different than ever. It makes for interesting composition in my opinion; if Archspire featured Dean Lamb on guitar x2, then I’m sure our music would suffer for it.

Visit www.archspire.bandcamp.com or http://www.season-of-mist.com to preorder the new Archspire album, Bleed the Future, out October 29, 2021!! Grab some sick merch covered in golden blood too, while you’re at it!

Claire Lamb Interview:

For those who don’t know, Claire is an international treasure. Some of you might know her from The Hallowed Catharsis, her YT/Twitch channel: Claine’s World, or perhaps as the wife of Dean Lamb of Archspire who we just interviewed above. In addition to being a very gifted guitarist, video editor, and graphic designer, Claire has also become an inspirational content creator. Search Four Levels of Death Metal on YouTube for a perfect example of this. She is also responsible for a ton of behind-the-scenes work for Archspire, having done a lot of the filming and editing for Archspire’s latest music video for the new single, “Golden Mouth of Ruin”.

After chatting with Dean, it seemed only right that I pick Claire’s brain about a few things as well. Let’s get into it.

1. How did the idea for Four Levels of Death Metal come about?

1. It’s hard to remember the exact details for 4 levels of death metal, but it took a few months of breaking Dean down to convince him that we should do YouTube videos together. He thought that two people playing guitar in one video wouldn’t work, but eventually I convinced him to try. I edited the first couple of videos we did, and after he saw the positive response to them he was fully into it. So we did the “attempts to learn” sort of style for a while with trying out different ideas. We did a couple of videos where Dean taught me some Archspire riffs and then I taught him some THC riffs and we thought that dynamic was really cool so we started thinking of a way we could get other bands involved. Eventually, we landed on the idea of having the guitarist(s) of other bands choose riffs from easy-hard for us to learn. At first, we didn’t have them playing the riffs, but then we realized that it made the videos way cooler having the artists play their parts. Since then, we’ve really only been doing that format because it’s been so enjoyable for us! I do feel bad for Dean though cause the amount of editing has become quite monstrous for the series… he still enjoys that element of it too though and I love seeing what he does, especially with all the stupid jokes.

2. Will we ever get a tech-death collaborative record from Dean and yourself?

2. I sure as shit hope so!! We have jammed out together on some occasions and come up with some ideas for each other’s riffs, but I think for the time being, as long as we have committed full-time projects elsewhere, that will have to be on the backburner.

3. You’ve always cited Decapitated and Necrophagist as your main influences to play metal guitar, but can you recall the next few bands you discovered that sealed the deal?

3. I would have to say Morbid Angel was also hugely influential for me. I discovered the Gateways to Annihilation album when I was in Grade 10 and I very well may have listened to it every day. I used to listen to the solo from “Summoning Redemption” and daydream that I was playing it. Now if only I had put that fervour into ACTUAL practice instead of imagining it, maybe I would’ve been able to do it (laughs)!

I can also apply pretty much the exact same story to Origin’s Antithesis album (the same daydreaming thing with that insane sweeping section in the titular track) and with Dying Fetus’ Descend Into Depravity. The musicianship, combined with what I heard and interpreted as basically the apex of death metal, was hugely inspiring to me and I just wanted (and still want) SO badly to be able to play and write like that.

4. Archspire aside, who are some of your favorite current death metal bands? Pick from any sub-subgenre of death metal you like.

4. Cytotoxin, Soreption, Pathology, Organectomy, Maggot Colony, Cattle Decapitation, and the new Lorna Shore stuff absolutely blew my mind! Their new vocalist is unreal.

5. How did it feel to snag a Kiesel endorsement at NAMM? Follow-up: Is Jeff (Kiesel) as personable and accessible as they say?

5. Literally like a dream come true. As a musician, I feel like that’s the kind of thing you dream of. So getting that felt absolutely surreal. It’s definitely a peak moment in my life for sure. And yes, Jeff is awesome. He’s such a kind dude. The night I got the endorsement, Dean and I went for a big Kiesel family dinner thing at a bar and we all watched the UFC fight. I had such a blast and felt so touched to be inducted into this community of stellar musicians/artists/creators and people. Just ask Dean how cheesy of a toast I ended up half-drunkenly rambling to everyone that night…

6. Will you be returning to YouTube and if so, can you fill us in on any plans you have for collaborative video stuff with Dean, or your own stuff on Claine’s World?

6. (As a quick preface to the readers: I was diagnosed with pretty severe tendonitis in the spring and haven’t been able to video edit or play guitar or piano.) I absolutely will be returning to YouTube (and Twitch). I LOVE creating videos and streaming so as soon as my arm can handle video editing, I will be back to it. I have been trying to edit tiny little bits here and there but it hasn’t been significant enough to get any videos out during this time. And once I can play guitar again, I will definitely be back streaming. Streaming on YouTube was a lot of fun but Twitch especially was an absolute blast and I can’t wait to be back on there hanging out with the Claine’s World murder.

7. Did you continue to learn and practice drums after your drum tutorial series?

7. No, unfortunately not. I don’t have the means to practice drums in my apartment and hitting some books just wasn’t doing it for me. One day if I have a house or something with a studio (the dream) and a drum kit around, I’d like to think I’d start dabbling.

8. What are you going back to school for?

8. I’m going into a BFA in music composition at SFU. My intent is also to minor in film while I’m there. My hope is that this will help me get some film and video game scoring experience, with the ultimate goal of making some of my own horror movies one day and/or collaborating on a video game. Big, lofty goals right now, but I’m excited to be back in an academic environment and I’m excited to see where the program takes me.

9. You said you started off your journey as a musician with classical guitar? What prompted your interest in that style?

9. I actually started with classical piano when I was 8. Classical music is sort of my “first love.” After becoming infatuated with Mozart I asked my parents for piano lessons. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I truly started discovering metal and wanted to play guitar. Through my teens I really wasn’t concerned with practicing, I was far too concerned with partying! It wasn’t until I was 19 that I decided I wanted to go to music school. I still love classical music so in terms of a post-secondary program, classical was far more enticing to me personally than pursuing a jazz or contemporary program. I found a teacher in Edmonton (thank you Tommaso Zillio) to help me with all the aspects of the audition. I got accepted into a Classical Guitar Performance Diploma at Capilano University and started that when I was 20. This is the moment I would consider myself a true musician, where I actually became committed to diligent and consistent practice (and thus actually started progressing!)

10. One thing you always mock yourself for is not paying enough attention to your right hand when playing guitar. Have you been building up different picking techniques lately?

10. I do feel (pre-tendonitis) that I was finally starting to pay attention to my blasted right hand! There were some very tricky riffs (string-skipping) in THC and when I started learning Cytotoxin and Origin, it became evident that I needed to be more analytical with my right-hand. Once I started implementing upward and downward pick-slanting, these types of riffs became way easier and my execution sounded cleaner too. It was enough to convert me!

11. Have you been working on your DM vocals at all?

11. Unfortunately, the vocals have the same issues as the drums – I can’t practice at home. Occasionally when I’m driving by myself I will practice a little but it’s certainly not enough to “git gud.” That said, I did take some lessons from Oli (Archspire), and currently am taking some from my friend Sunshine (Arboreal/Crown of Madness, Mutant Waxwork), so hopefully it’ll be enough to eventually get some bree-brees going.

12. How have you guys been holding up during the pandemic? What has morale been like both at home and amongst The Hallowed Catharsis?

12. On a personal level, I feel like the pandemic was pretty “good” to me (although I feel bad saying that). The pandemic meant the school I was teaching music at closed, so I took all that newfound free time to pursue YouTube and Twitch (which turned out to be an absolute blast and a literal dream job). For my band it’s a different story, sadly. We had our first Canada-wide tour booked with our buddies in Protosequence in April 2020 – the first show would’ve been April 1st. I think we all know how that played out, so now we all say it was the cruelest April fool’s joke ever that we had to cancel that entire tour. We also had to buy a van for that tour, since we had only done jaunts before that (in our drummer’s SUV) in BC and Alberta, where we all have friends where we can crash. Whereas with this tour we’d be in new cities and would need a vehicle that we would all be able to sleep in. So, we bought a van and had our mechanic build bunk beds in the back. I won’t divulge the cost but it was very expensive. We also put in a massive merch order for the tour before it ended up getting canceled. So that whole thing was a depressing mess, it still bums me out big-time to think about it. We also had some shows booked down the west coast US for that July which were also canceled. It sucks a lot, but it sadly happened to pretty much every band over the pandemic in one way or another. More broadly, it also really slowed down the writing process for us, as we were writing the new album but due to the restrictions, we couldn’t jam for a LONG time. We really like writing all together, so writing at home and sending each other tabs/videos wasn’t really something we wanted to do in the interim.

Thanks for having me a part of this! It’s very exciting for me!

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