When we began talking to a band called Murder Circle, it’s safe to say we didn’t expect to morph onto the subject of Christian rock and spiritual warfare. But that’s exactly what happened when we chatted to drummer and songwriter, John Chaney III, which you can check out below the stream.
Beginning with the track In A Crate, from the Louisville band’s confusingly entitled October 1993 Demo EP, which was released last month, gives us a taste of their infectious hard rock sound. Was it actually recorded in October 1993? You decide. All we know is that the EP offers full-on thrash in all its fantastic glory, so go and give it a listen.
In A Crate opens up with a little riff that feeds into a chorus dominated by edgy vocals and darting riffs. Repeats of “Hideaway” leads into faster vocals, then a second chorus descends into a cool riff, then a pause for breath sees the song pick up pace with pounding drums then wild cries of “In a crate” over the top. Give it a listen below:
GR: Who are Murder Circle? And where are you from?
JC: “Murder Circle, from Louisville, KY, is John Chaney III (songwriting, drums), Chad Frith (bass), Tom Slaton (guitar), and Abe Smith (lead vocals).
GR: You just released In A Crate. What should people be expecting from the song? What inspired you to write it?
JC: “It’s hard to gauge exactly what an audience expects of a group. We just liked making heavy music that combined hard thrash with good songwriting melodies, like The Damned does with punk rock. The song came from a series of jams I was doing on the guitar, and it took me a few days to round it out. I made a demo of it on a four-track recorder and brought it to Chad. Tom came along some time later. I asked him to join after I played with him in a failed classic rock cover project. By that time, all of the MC songs were in the can on demos for the other guys to learn, which I did at home on my own.”
GR: How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
JC: “I’d like to think we sounded like a combination of the best metal bands of the day; Defiance, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Life, Sex and Death, and Megadeth. Also, I felt that our thrash had a point to it. It wasn’t just thrashing to thrash. It occurred in a song because the song was approaching some kind of emotional apex of excitement. If the melody didn’t open to a thrash, then we didn’t do it. But we definitely did it on about every song!”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
“Back in the day, I was more on the literal tip. Nowadays, since I’m a solo Christian artist now, I write songs on a metaphorical plane to explain intangible concepts. Spiritual warfare, society’s evils and the dangers of money are topics I seem to come back to a lot. I never feel like I get everything I want to say, but somehow I end up satisfied with the lyrics.
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
JC: I like it when a band has a strong idea and they find different angles or branches off of the main melody. Almost every band that has had a significant impact on my music is from the UK. Motorhead, The Damned, XTC, The English Beat, Iron Maiden, The Specials, The Police/Sting, Yes, The Who, and Eric Clapton among them. A few American bands also have been important, I already mentioned LSD, but also Van Hagar, Office of Future Plans and Night Ranger. Sting and Andy Partridge are the best songwriters in the rock era, in my opinion.
GR: What have you got coming up through the rest of 2019? New music, new gigs, recording etc…?
JC: “I have a ton of releases this year. My main project is my solo Christian music, which is where the lion’s share of my audience are. I perform under my name, John Chaney III, and the most recent song is God Never Bleeds, which is on about 8 playlists, if I remember the number correctly.
“I have 9 singles out this year, and four more are mastered and await release. I work about 6 months in advance and release about one single per month. The next two releases are an “indie rock” studio original song I did under the name of KPEC3 arrival titled “Perfection” on 8/14/19, and a 17 song instrumental film/TV soundtrack album called Velocopia “Everything but the Show.” Then I have four singles for each remaining month of the year after that, for a total of 58 releases. Finally, I have two songs in-process right now, Jesus Saves and Only Christ Redeems for 2020.
“On my website chaney.gator.site I have kept track of all my live performances, almost all of them at local open stages. I like to do open stages because I still get paid, get to mingle with other performers and the audience, don’t have to worry about sound equipment, and I can make a video whenever I want. I have a ton of those performances on YouTube, the links are on my site.
“It’s hard to book because as a Christian artist, most venues won’t play you. Churches won’t play me because I don’t sound like the CCM on the radio. So the main thing I do is play open stages and record.”
GR: Anything else you’d like people to know about you/your music?
JC: “It seemed like the biggest breakthroughs came when I brought the right people along to help me. My friend is a guy named Mike, and he used to play with a multi-platinum band. I would give more details about him, but he told me he’s trying to keep out of the public eye, and he’s been very adamant about keeping his name off of the internet. So even though I may look a liar, I will have to leave it there.
“The guy who does my mastering is a Grammy winner, Skip Mitchell. He has a local studio, a friendly, intelligent and wise man. Sometimes bands are the way to go for musicians, and sometimes not. I think it depends on the scene. Around here, bands just don’t thrive outside of country music. It makes me sad because I see awesome punk bands and other great acts, but they can’t bring a crowd.
“When I see a good band or even hear someone’s release that seems to be sick, I’m the type of guy who climbs a skyscraper and shouts it to the nations! When I heard The Office of Future Plans, I tore my clothes off and stood on a hill in the rain with a megaphone! I’m like that. If a band or musician has it, I am their roadie, I am their promoter, I am hungry to stand in for their drummer, guitarist, bassist, vocalist or keyboardist, I want the world to share in the genius. But either a group has it or they don’t, and if they don’t, they need to keep writing songs until they strike the flint in such a way as to create a spark.
“The edge that I have that most musicians don’t have is the courage to sing about spirituality. I’m not exactly a Bob Dylan type, because I protest the things people want, like texting. Being against the grain is hard for people to grasp, but on the other hand, two majors and a minor do not make a song. I also like to take risks, a musician cannot make it without that. They need to take risks in their songwriting, in their social groups, where they advertise or gig, they have to push their chips in on a marginal decision, and that’s as good as it gets. A musician has to find that weird chord that makes the melody, the bizarre riff, the contradictory rhythms.”
You can check out Murder Circle’s EP on Spotify.