Artist collaborations can happen in a number of different ways. In the realm of pop, they're usually orchestrated by some crafty record-label executive operating on the assumption that if you double the artists, you'll double the album sales. In hip-hop, often it's some producer who'll get two rappers in the same room and press "record." When metal and hardcore acts team up, it's almost always born out of touring — two bands will head out together, strike up a friendship along the way over brewskies and, at some point, agree to hit the studio.
For the members of Christian metalcore outfit who wrangled frontman Chino Moreno for a guest spot on the track "Surrender Your Sons" from the band's forthcoming LP The Anti Mother (in stores August 5), it wasn't touring together but at the same time that helped beget the collaboration of their dreams.
"The way it started was, we were on tour at the same time they were on tour, and we kept hitting the same clubs within like a day of each other," recalled frontman Cory Brandan, from the Charlotte, South Carolina, stop on this summer's Warped Tour. He said all of the members of Norma Jean are tremendous D-Tones fans. "So we started leaving stuff for them. We'd leave merch and CDs and notes for them, telling them how much we liked their band. I remember playing the Fillmore in San Francisco, and we left them more stuff."
Apparently, Moreno and the rest of the Deftones found the left-behind gifts and took an interest in Norma Jean.
"I think we were playing in Norfolk, Virginia, one night, and they'd played the day before and left us a bunch of stuff," the singer said. "We were like, 'Wow.' That was literally our relationship for months — leaving each other stuff at different venues. Then we just got ahold of Chino, and he was down to do it. He took some time off from recording with the Deftones, and he came in for a couple of days while we were in the studio, and we wrote two songs: 'Surrender Your Sons' and another we didn't use."
Later on, Norma Jean used one of their contacts to get ahold of Page Hamilton, Helmet's esteemed mastermind. After catching the band's live show, he was in. But Brandan said they didn't just want these two hardcore icons swinging by to track guest vocals. They didn't want to just hurl prepared lyrics at them, shove them into a recording booth and say, "Go." They took a different approach.
"We wanted to collaborate with these artists and have their personalities in the songs as well," he said. "Because their personalities fit with the vocals they'd be doing later, and it makes the songs cooler. The one we worked on with Chino, it sounds like a mix between the Deftones and Norma Jean, and the one we do with Page, same thing — it sounds like Helmet meets Norma Jean. We didn't want to just have guest vocalists come in, we wanted to collaborate with them and write songs — have them come in as if they were in the band. It was cool to see how others work within your own band."
Seeing as The Anti Mother is their final album for Solid State Records, the only label home they've ever known, Brandan said they "wanted to go out with a bang," and securing Moreno and Hamilton — as well as producer Ross Robinson — helped. Ultimately, the singer said he's confident that this is their best offering to date.
"We've been working our butts off on this record more than any other record we've done, and we put our souls into this record," he said. "It's a heavy record, and there's tons of melody throughout the record too. We've experimented with tons of melodies, mixed with chaos and heavy riffs, and I'm singing on some songs. There are songs on here that are that straight-up, classic Norma Jean sound, and there are songs on this record that we've always wanted to write but hadn't. We didn't want to pull any punches, musically."
The band began working on The Anti Mother last fall with new drummer Chris Raines and recorded the LP's final note just three days before they had to head out on Warped. For Brandan, who has two children (ages 14 and 9), a lot of the lyrics on the album were inspired by his own personal travails; he separated from his wife back in January and headed for his second divorce. Dealing with that pain helped shape the songs' meanings.
In addition to a headlining trek this fall with Haste the Day and Oh, Sleeper, Brandan said Norma Jean are mulling where they'll end up next, now that they've fulfilled their Solid State contract. While none of the majors have approached the band yet, the deluge of free dinners is just around the corner.
"We want to wait and be patient and not jump into something foolish," he said, obviously learning from the mistakes of other bands that have made the major-label jump, only to regret it. "I don't think, at this point in the music industry, that it's a bad idea to be a free agent. So we want to experiment and try some things out. We're just waiting to see what comes across the table."
The rest of the week's metal news:
The reunited Overcast, featuring Killswitch Engage bassist Mike D'Antonio and Shadows Fall frontman Brian Fair, has booked a handful of live gigs for next month. They'll play Hackensack, New Jersey, on August 21; Albany, New York, on August 22; Providence, Rhode Island, on August 23; South Burlington, Vermont, on August 24; Worcester, Massachusetts, on August 29; and Waterbury, Connecticut, on August 30. ...
The wife of Divine Heresy's Dino Cazares (ex-Fear Factory) wrote on her MySpace blog that the couple was attacked over the weekend by former Divine Heresy frontman Tommy "Vext" Cummings, who was recently recruited to front the reunited Snot. While backstage, Jen Cazares claims Cummings chucked a beer at her head and then punched her in the face, before grabbing her husband by the hair. Security intervened, and the two men fell to the floor, where Dino cut open his head. It's the second time in recent months that the Cazares have alleged Cummings attacked them. ...
Amon Amarth will be joined this fall by Ensiferum, Belphegor and the Absence for a U.S. run that kicks off October 1 in Anaheim, California. Dates are scheduled through October 21 in Springfield, Virginia. Amon Amarth recently finished recording Twilight of the Thunder God, which will land on store shelves September 30. Look for the effort to feature 10 tracks, including "Where Is Your God?" "Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags" and "Embrace of the Endless Ocean." ...
Sweden's the Haunted have been working on new material, and now they've named their forthcoming effort Versus. It's set to drop sometime in October, according to a press release. ... Every Time I Die have completed their contract with Ferret Music and are currently entertaining offers from other labels. According to frontman Keith Buckley, "I think people will be very pleased to know that it looks like we will not be signing with a major. Some were interested, but I don't think we even got down to discussing deals." ...
In This Moment have completed the recording of their next LP, which they've dubbed The Dream. According to the band, they're "extremely excited with the results. We were all living and recording in the same house, and it has been such an awesome experience for us." The disc will feature 12 tunes, but no official release date has been cemented just yet. ...
Anal Cu--, Anal Blast and Infernaeon have rolled out a bunch of West Coast dates for next month, the first being August 22 in Hollywood. Nine gigs have been booked, and the run ends August 31 in Reno, Nevada. ... Children of Bodom and Between the Buried and Me will be heading out this fall for a U.S. trek that kicks off in Baltimore on September 11 and concludes October 10 in Worcester, Massachusetts.