Interview: Chris Themelco of Monolith Studios, Orpheus Omega & Eye Of The Enemy
Thank you for taking the time to talk to Insert Review Here. You’re arguably one of the busiest musicians in the country, being a part of Eye of The Enemy, fronting Orpheus Omega, and running your own business, Monolith Studios. How has 2017 been for you professionally?
Thank you so much for the opportunity and chat. Is BUSY a fair answer? (Laughs) It’s been a hell of a year, definitely my busiest so far, both with the studio and both my bands. Orpheus Omega and Eye Of The Enemy are both about to enter the studio for our next albums and I’m in a mad rush to finish all my recording work before the year is out. Nothing but fun over here.
Sounds intense! Tell us a little bit about how the idea behind Monolith Studios was born. What made you want to branch out into the production side of things, and what were some of the biggest challenges in making this project a reality?
I think it came about like most current ‘upcoming producers’. It was a way to record/ demo stuff for my own band at the time and it just grew from there when I had the chance to help other friend’s bands with their own recordings. Soon enough I just found myself spending hours and hours every night researching everything and anything I could about recording until I realized it was all I wanted to do. Fast forward about 5-6 years and here we are.
The biggest challenge was finding a balance of hunting for clients/ and getting a steady flow of clients via word of mouth etc. But I’ve been lucky in that I’ve worked with a hell of a lot of talented bands who’ve been really open to the recording process with me and how that goes.
What is the first question you ask bands coming in to record? Where do you start when finding out what they’re looking for in a producer?
Usually I meet up with them all first. Even if it’s just for a drink and a chat. We just discuss their vision and goals and for me, it really is about becoming a part of their world and their ideas. If I can’t vibe with it, then it probably isn’t the right project for me, nor am I the right person for them. But there’s nothing more exciting than that initial interaction where 20 minutes in we’re already throwing around ideas for song sections and what amps we should use and so on. It’s firing on all cylinders from day one for me and that excitement and mindset is what leads to a great recording experience I find. The whole thing should already blow everyone involved away before it even gets to the mix stage.
I imagine its really exciting when you hit it off and the process is a breeze. Speaking of hitting it off, being a musician yourself, you have a deeper understanding of other artists and how they conduct the production process compared to someone who’s first and foremost an audio engineer. Do you feel this kind of connection changes the process in any way?
I think so. But in really different ways. Some producers like Chris Lord Alge (Green Day, My Chemical Romance) mostly just mix, and they’re incredible, but most of my favourite engineers are musicians too. People like Andy Sneap, Adam D, Fredrik Nordstrom, Thomas Johannsson, etc - they’re all musicians, and I find their work resonates with me most because I always feel like they’ve gotten the most out of the musicians in all the records they’ve worked on.
And that’s my aim every time. To get the best out of the band, even with parts and ideas they didn’t think they could produce. When it’s all said and done and we’re listening back, I really do want to see the band smiling and listening back with pride in what they created. That’s the best feeling.
You are also a part of Orpheus Omega, and you were involved in the production of your latest album, Partum Vita Mortem. Do you find it challenging to work with your own material, or is it a comfortable space for you as an artist?
It’s a bit of a weird position to be in actually. With Partum Vita Mortem, it was a conscious decision to close out the world while we created the album. We wanted it to be entirely in house because of the subject matter we were tacking at the time given how personal it was to all of us. When the writing was completed, I basically took off the band member hat and spent two weeks doing pre-pro with the music/ chopping bits, changing structures, and then came back to the band with it as I would with any band I work with, and that process was pretty seamless. I definitely don’t want to do it again for the next one though (laughs). It would be nice to have a 3rd party perspective on this one.
If you could work with anyone in the industry, who would it be?
In terms of producers, I’d love to work with Jens Bogren, Jacob Hansen, Mark Lewis or Andy Sneap. There’s quite a few it seems. In terms of bands, I haven’t thought about that to be honest. I get to work with so many awesome bands that I don’t really think too much beyond that. If only for how fun it would be, I actually think Metallica would be on the top of that list. And I expect to hear some arguments about Lars’ drumming and other things, but it would be such a well of experience and knowledge. And I’m pretty sure everyone wants that gig, let’s be fair.
What would you say to artists considering working with you? Why choose Monolith Studios?
The only thing I can ever sell Monolith Studios and myself on is my passion for helping bands realize their vision. That sounds like a total cliché, I know, but I always strive to be the person I would want to work with if it was my band in the hot seat. What you get at Monolith Studios is someone who understands the ins and outs of being in a band and the experience that comes with nearly 15 years of playing and working on over 100 releases.
Finally, what’s coming up for Monolith in 2018?
An even bigger year than 2017 without a doubt. I’ve already got a few albums lined up that I’m absolutely stoked about that I’m sure you’ll hear about from the bands themselves soon enough. Beyond that, who knows? I’m always looking forward to new opportunities and challenges.
Written by Tomina Vincent
Check out the video for "Echoes Through Infinity" by Orpheus Omega below:
Check out the video for "Burn The World" by Eye Of The Enemy below: