Artist Special: Andy Marsh (Thy Art Is Murder)

9 August 2018 | 4:10 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

"I've always described that most people's lives are a still photograph, and mine is like a movie."

There are many different hats that Thy Art Is Murder guitarist, Andy Marsh (pictured middle), wears. When he's not writing new music and lyrics or dropping sick riffs on-stage, he's managing the band, their logistics, bookkeeping, and crew; ensuring Thy Art's core is constantly stoked up and firing. When he's not travelling the world to hit touring schedules, he's travelling between his home and daughter in America and Melbourne, Australia for his partner. When he's not writing or producing for other bands, he's maybe even managing them like he is with Deadlights. When he's not working alongside Will Putney and Tom Willians (Stray From The Path) at Graphic Nature, he's looking after his own label, Human Warfare. And that's not even counting when he's building gear, designing tour production and developing his band's live rig further. 

To say that Andy just does a couple of extra things within the band's dynamic would be completely under-selling his time, work and artistry for Thy Art Is Murder. It's full-on, nearly all of the time. While I know that Andy himself would feel that that comes across like he's bragging, from where I'm standing, I'd confidently say that without his effort and input, the Australian death metal mammoth probably wouldn't have reached the heights they've hit nowadays. And that's what we focus on here: the hefty, multi-faceted roles that the guitarist has taken upon himself over the years to better hone his craft and his band. Because as he tells me, "I'm able to do it, so I should do it.". 

The Earlier Years:

The real start for Andy Marsh, in terms of music and pre-Thy Art Is Murder, came via studio-work and music production; years before Thy Art Is Murder achieved the international death metal export status they have now from 2012's 'Hate' and 2015's 'Holy War'. To pull back further, Andy recalls where it all began for him almost ten years ago.

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"I started off going to the University of Queensland, which gave me no knowledge of music or the business or how to maintain relationships," he muses.

"I was there for three and a bit years, and that was when I got a bit more serious; writing my own music. Around about that time in the late 2000s, was when I got into music production. Not as a job, but just to help me write my own songs. I found the need to record myself to make my songs better, as I was doing it all by myself and needed to hear how my playing sounded back. I made demos for local bands and was then mixing songs from bands all over the world, and then producing and engineering records. Then in 2009 or 2010, I'd been working for the label of the band and that's how I got into Thy Art behind the scenes and then eventually playing guitar in the band. I first produced music for Thy Art Is Murder in 2009 or 2010, and then just got better and better at it. But then the band got bigger and busier, and my hobby that was slowly becoming my job just went away," states Andy.

“In terms of music production, I used to do quite a lot of it. Unfortunately, I don’t have time for it anymore. I produced Deadlights' newest record [‘Mesma’], and I also did co-writing, engineering and production for Aversions Crown's debut album [‘Tyrant’]. I’ve done quite a lot of it in my time, but it’s not a job, more of a hobby as I’m still involved in writing for a lot of bands. Writing being: handling some pre-production, auditing their music, or even straight-up writing a full song for a band when asked. Not as much these days, but I now write maybe 10-20 songs a year for other people."

As for the other higher profile artists that Andy's worked on, he's not allowed to speak about them, as those are some number one works out here in Australia. Similarly, in the pop world, you see a handful of top producers and songwriters creating songs only to be handed off to the right artist or singer to take on board and make it their own. In the heavy world, similar approaches are indeed found. But as Andy Marsh sees it, it's less of a market and more of a way to help newer, younger bands out or be a team player for your peers.

"It doesn't seem that weird to me. I've never been asked to write a full album for anyone either. I feel that writing a couple songs for a younger band may actually help give them direction. As they can't afford a $25-30,ooo producer, so if they swing someone like me some money to hear the songs they've got and make them arguably better, it can give them something to aim for. A lot of artists are under pressure from labels to turn their albums in, so sometimes they just need more songs. So I might write a song or a piece of it, and help to fill out their gaps. I don't see it as something to be proud of, as I'm just a part of their team. You're just helping out. That being said, I don't do too much of it anymore - maybe one or two songs a month. But I've got some friends who do about 100 songs a year for bands. And that's just in the heavy music world alone", the guitarist reveals.

More recently, one band that Andy has played a huge part in helping out and working with is Brisbane's Deadlights. The Greyscale Records act have since been taken under the wing of the Thy Art Is Murder guitarist as he now manages them. He explains that relationship and how it all first began.

"I heard them rehearsing next to me, while I was working on some Amity stuff, and I heard Tynan singing and thought "Who the fuck is this band? I need to record them as they're great!" So I started working with them and I made their debut record with them, 'Mesma' [2017], which I produced and engineered. Now, I'm working on co-writes for their next album. Through that, I became their friend that gave them advice and who they made music with, and naturally, they asked me to be their manager. They've got some attention, and now we need to work on some international licensing. Spotify kills it for that band, they do really well there for a pretty small band!"

Graphic Nature:

When it comes to the relationship between Andy Marsh and renowned heavy music producer/engineer Will Putney, their time together and friendship dates back almost a decade. For without a little hardcore band by the name of Reign Supreme and a chance recording with Comeback Kid's Andrew Neufeld while he was in Australia, things might have turned out differently.

"So, Will produced the record for this band called Reign Supreme, and Andrew Neufeld from Comeback Kid was in Brisbane and recorded a guest spot out of the studio I was working at. So those files got sent back to Putney for that Reign Supreme album ['Testing The Limits Of Infinite']". And we didn't even know who each other were at that point. Then in 2010, Amity went to make 'Youngbloods' with Machine, and Will Putney was his engineer at the time. Troy Brady, their former guitar player, came back and said that I had to meet this Will guy, as we were basically the same person apparently. And he said that Putney should make the next Thy Art record. In 2011, Will and I started talking and in 2012 we made 'Hate', and became best friends right away. As soon as that was done, that was when 'Chasing Ghosts' came up. The Amity Affliction had like five days to turn around the masters for the label to get everything pressed for release after being disappointed with the original mix. So I got Will onto it, and he worked on other stuff during the day and mixed it all during the night time."

And the rest, as they always seem to say, was history. As I'm told, this close friendship and the pair's industry discussions were what helped spurn the Graphic Nature collective into creation earlier this decade. (The name is a nice little Deftones reference too). Beginning a few years ago, the business was an idea born out of helping other bands in the heavy music spectrum. As the very people who created Graphic Nature had seen what was wrong with the industry and wanted to hopefully offer some better alternatives for artists. Andy was happy to give me the rundown of it's origins.

"So by 2013 or 2014, we'd worked together so much, along with Tom Williams from Stray From The Path, who is the other person in Graphic Nature, that we'd been chatting about the music industry and what we could do. The three of us one time got together in New Jersey at 3am at some diner as we often do, talking about how a lot of it sucked. How so many people are blowing it for bands. We believed we knew what worked and what didn't, and that we could maybe start an artist-friendly collective for alternative and heavy bands. We were already managing our own lives and areas and thought we could help other bands in our same sphere that can't afford to be paying 20% gross to someone who doesn't know what they're doing. And then Graphic Nature was born".

Graphic Nature is a family, and it's since grown into a multi-tiered operation. There's the frequently-used recording studio in New Jersey; Putney himself has an imprint under Equal Vision Records, which is Graphic Nature record label where he's his own A&R; and then there's the Graphic Nature Management, which is made up of Tom Williams, Andy, and Putney; with a roster of nearly 20 bands so far. It sure has come a long way since just being an idea discussed early one morning at a random diner.

In our hour or so talk together, Andy never refers to it as just one thing, though. Because Graphic Nature isn't just one idea; it's multi-faceted. Again, it's a family. This kind of kinship and six degrees of separation is apart of why Trade Wind - bassist Randy Leboeuf (Graphic Nature producer), drummer Andrew McEnaney (ex-StructuresTom (Stray From The Path), Jesse Barnett (Stick To Your Guns) - is an entity and works well, It's close friends and colleagues working even closer together to create new music. Which even comes into play for END; a hardcore super-group also featuring McEnaney, vocalist Brendan Murphy (Counterparts, a band that works with Putney a lot in-studio), bassist Jay Pepito (Reign Supreme), Gregory Thomas (ex-Shai Hulud/ex-Misery Signals), as well as  Putney on guitar. (He also plays in the awesome Fit For An Autopsy FYI).

"We're all just the best of friends", Andy sums up. "We're all on a similar wavelength and we don't beat around the bush with one another. Randy, Will, and I have worked on Thy Art records for six or so years now. Those two have worked on heaps together too. It can't really go any other way, as I don't have any other people in my life that I am this involved with. And I don't wanna be presumptuous, but maybe it's the same for them too. Somehow, we're all very intertwined, so it made sense to start doing things the way that we all agreed they should be done. We call each other all the time. It's connected but also kinda not really official either. We're not some formal thing, we're just some dudes who do similar things and we just gave it a name."

"We each do our own things. Though, it probably looks really blurry to people on the outside," he chuckles.

Human Warfare:

Aside from that, a Graphic Nature ran label and passion project that Andy's manning the ship of now is Human Warfare. This is the guitarist's own label, with Thy Art Is Murder releasing last year's 'Dear Desolation' through it. So far, the label boasts Australian representation and coverage for END, Vein, Enterprise Earth and Fit For An Autopsy, alongside Andy's own band. The still newish record label was created from a sense of dissatisfaction with Thy Art's own previous label experience. And as you might notice from the running theme of this interview, this is another example of if you can do it all yourself, then you should.

"We just weren't satisfied with our previous two record labels in Australia. So I thought "fuck it, I'll just do it myself", and I work with Rebecca Reato [Deathproof PR] and Mike Lenton at the distro, and we scored our highest charting album in Australia ever. It's given me the opportunity to represent other bands here too, like END or Enterprise Earth internationally."

It's early days still, of course for Human Warfare, but it's growing. Just like the other roles Andy Marsh has been a part of, he's learning more and building it all up as he goes.

"Hopefully, in the next year or two, I get more experience and represent more music with a heavier leaning in Australia. I do love UNIFIED, I think they do great work. But it's become less about heavier music, and it's not our niche. Of course, Greyscale does a lot of really good hardcore crossover stuff but Human Warfare could really be the home for more extreme music."

Managing Thy Art Is Murder:

Before Andy managed Thy Art Is Murder, Adrian Kelly actually had that role. Nowadays, Kelly - under NMA Management - looks after Make Them Suffer, Cursed Earth, Endless Heights, Aversions Crown, and Luca Brasi. As for his role in the constantly-moving Thy Art war-machine back then, Andy says that it was a blurry line role before he himself fully took over, but also that the guitarist received a shock to the system when it came to the management world.

"I was already managing the day-to-day of the band, the touring management side of it, and at headline shows, I was even doing the front of house [FOH] too. I would soundcheck the rest of the guys, do my own guitar tech, set everything up, save the scene on the console, soundcheck again, recall the scene and then go play. I really like Kelly as a person, and he has his talents for sure, but at the time I just felt that we didn't need those. As I was already doing a lot of the heavy lifting whilst on the road, I wondered what was he doing that I couldn't do, and if it was even that much harder. At first, I didn't think it was, but over time I've really come to realize why so many managers make mistakes - the job is just so full-on! There was a lot to do that I didn't even know about!"

He continues. "The last four years have been me learning and teaching myself more about what the job is. Because one component of this role is that there's a dam, and there's water leaking everywhere, and you've just gotta plug the holes. That's just the reactive component of being a manager - problem-solving. Then there's the pro-active side of it: how do you wanna strategise what the band does and how do you plan the future? Booking flights, driving a van, freighting merch, etc. I have to be abreast of what kinds of immigration paperwork we need for ourselves and equipment to travel in, say, the Balkans? How do I rent the bus in this particular place? So many different things that go on top of managing social media, bookkeeping, paying bills and collecting the money. Like, how do you design the merch the cheapest, where and how you sell it, and how you get it shipped around the world? How do you also work with other bands and managers for future tours? Just so much stuff, man."

Andy makes a point that this isn't all self-serving on his part, nor even any shit-talking against Adrian Kelly either. Just a matter that neither one understood these things at the time and that if shit can go wrong, then it will go tits up. That, and that it's made harder when one-party is back home - with only online communication set against time zone differences - and the other party is on-ground in another part of the world.

"We'd get into these sticky situations every now and then. So I'd just have to learn. Like, we'd get to the airport and find out our flight is booked for that same day but next year. Okay, well, what kind of policy does the airline have? Oh, nothing, okay. Did we have travel insurance? Nope. Okay, I better get it next time then. So, what do you do? In that case, you book a van and drive across Europe, and that happened to us at least three times. Often, it was just me driving a very long time just to get everywhere. The rest of the band made it a joke and used to roast me, as for five or six years, I literally drove around the world with a phone in my hand making shows happen. Somehow, they just realised I could make this band work and manage it full time. The iPhone made Thy Art Is Murder work, basically."

Determination and technology aside, the other big elephant in the room with Andy Marsh and the rest of Thy Art Is Murder is that he's apart of every move the band makes; from writing music, recording, touring, managing, and just the day-to-day interactions and hangouts. Yet it's not as awkward you as may think for him and the band, as it's quite relaxed now with Andy proving to them that he can do these all of these roles competently.

"It's fairly laid back [between us]. It's like any weird anomaly in any relationship; you deal with it when it comes up. I don't think they resent me too much for putting them to task. But we did just do a seven-week run of Europe and I think they all wanted to murder me! It's such a weird thing because the manager isn't really the boss. The band pays the manager to work for them, but the band is getting someone to tell them what to do. It's a super interesting dynamic. As is the same for any band with a manager or a tour manager; you have to relinquish some sense of ego. And I think that the guys see that, as the band has gotten bigger and grown faster since I've been doing this."

Now, all of this hard work isn't so Andy can think of himself as some king within the group. Rather, it all comes down to one sweet, loving factor: to give his bandmates the least stressful environment possible. To make it all work. Hell, even during the time that CJ McMahon was out of the band (late 2015 - January 2017), Thy Art Is Murder somehow grew bigger and made more money too. Very few bands from the deathcore and death metal realms make it to the levels Thy Art are topping currently and that comes down to killer songs, working hard, and Andy's management.

"I pride myself on the way that I do this: my band doesn't have to do anything", clears up Andy, focusing in on the why of all this.

"They're the talent, and they just play the shows. They help me make the music and I try to make their lives away from touring as relaxed as possible. I tell them "here's the plane ticket, here's the cab to the airport, here's the person who is waiting for you, and that's all you gotta do". It's a full-service operation and I do feel that they deserve that. As someone who has lost so many creative components of their life because of schedules and availability, I don't want them to lose that. As part of what makes this band work is our creative spice. If they're bogged down thinking about what I'm thinking about, then it may ruin the process for everyone. I don't wanna say that I'm martyring myself, but that's kinda what the manager job is. And I'm still able to disconnect from that part and write the lyrics and some of the music for the albums. That's not to say that I'm better, I'm just able. I'm able to do it, so I should do it."

The many roles that the guitarist undertakes means that this job is never not a long-haul; one where it's just go-go-go pretty much all of the time. It's just this constant state of flux of travelling, communicating and working when it comes to the daily life of the Thy Art Is Murder guitarist.

"I probably work about 100 hours a week, every week of the year," Andy states at one point.

"At the moment, I wake up at 8am and work till 12pm. Then I spend from noon till 8pm with my kid, and then I work from 8pm till 4am as that's when Europe starts waking up. So I've got these work zones that are timed while I'm in different places to work with the other continents. So while I'm in America, I'm working late at night or early in the morning to be in touch with Europe and Australia. When I'm in Europe, it's different times of the day then too. But it's just what you gotta do. You find the right team around you to help out. Now, I don't work before the show. In the past, I was setting everything up but now we have people that do that for us, so I can kinda zone out for a couple hours before we play. Normally, I work until maybe an hour before stage-time, and then get dressed, have a drink, warm-up, play the show, have a shower, do the books until the early morning and then plan what happens tomorrow. Then I sleep for four or five hours and do it all again the next day."

Even beyond all of that, Andy designed and built Thy Art's live rig and their production too. For this interview, I was actually hearing from the guitarist all the way in Denver, Colorado. As he was not only seeing his young child over there, but also duplicating certain parts of the band's live rig. It's a kill two birds with one stone kinda deal; moments he has to take when he can, as he's ferrying himself between Melbourne, Denver and New Jersey every week or so during downtime from tour for work and family. So it has to start and end with him, on all matters of the band and the business.

"It's prohibitively expensive to fly this gear all around the world - our in-ears, wireless gear, consoles, and all these other things. I already duplicated part of it [the rig] in Chicago this week. Getting things from Europe to Australia with airlines changing their baggage policy last year, it's no longer cost-effective to fly all this stuff. I've left a bunch of it in Europe already for our tour there in January. Normally we fly eight or nine of us and I just have to duplicate enough for it to be free - with the remaining gear to be left at our storage in Germany. The rest of it, we'll just hop-scotch between Australia and the U.S. If it becomes too much hassle, we'll just duplicate it again. One of the benefits is doing all of this is that it makes all so much easier for me. I design and build the gear and as I'm the manager, I know where everything is at any time, how it happened, and what's most cost-effective. I've just ended up becoming a one-shop-stop for myself, really."

CJ McMahon:

In late 2015, after having finished up 'The Depression Sessions' split, vocalist CJ McMahon left the band due to his poor money management, health and debilitating drug issues; all in the hope that without the touring pressure, he'd be able to sort himself out. In January 2017, at that year's Unify Gathering, he returned to the band for the first time since 2015; having cleaned up his life and reached a better personal position too. Yet the time in between those two points still saw Thy Art Is Murder honouring all of their touring commitments. With fill-ins coming from Colossvs frontman/The Racket host Lochlan Watt, Monte Barnard and Molotov Solution vocalist, Nick Arthur.

"It was kinda like a political campaign, it was all like an illusion" mentions the guitarist.

"I'm not a fan of that myself as I like things to be genuine and show organic growth in order for any business to be sustainable. In respect to CJ leaving, I didn't know for sure he'd come back but I had a hunch. When your friend has a drug problem, they're not themselves and you know that. I know CJ loved the band and us as friends, that he liked being a public figure and a minor celebrity, and that he didn't wanna leave. But he had problems, a lot of them, and the band wasn't a priority for him and nor shouldn't have been. What came next was to keep the band going for public perception. To show to our fans we were committed to shows and to them, and that we still had a creative output. We already had a release scheduled for the year CJ was out of the band. It was also showing him that he was in a pretty bad place, but that our band could continue without him. It was about sending a humbling message, and to show we would commit to our record label, our booking agents, and our fans around the world as promised and contracted. And so we did that."

"It was a hustle, finding singers from around the world. We had two from America [Monte Barnard, Nicholas Arthur] and one from Australia [Lochlan Watt]. Auditioning singers while on tour, I had to get ten different vocalists takes on our songs and then mix into our music to see how'd they do. All the while we'd just keep touring, and having the conversation with CJ to see how he was, which began in the middle of 2016. Thankfully, it all came good in the end."

Andy's not some megalomaniac ego-genius running this band; he's a guy just trying to do right by his friends, bandmates and his business. In this instance, that meant removing a friend from the band environment that was harming him, but also dangle a carrot of sorts that they could one day, maybe, return. This played out perfectly for not only CJ but for the band as well; the vocalist could straighten out his personal shit at home before potentially returning and Thy Art could still tour, work, and plan for any and all contingencies. I actually spoke with the then ex-frontman back in 2016 for an exclusive, one-off interview where he spoke about how bad his drug issues had gotten; that death was most likely on the cards if he didn't change his ways. Thankfully, he turned it all around.

"I had a vision for it and knew what would happen, so I made these decisions all on purpose," admits Andy.

"I explained that we could tour and exist without him, which worked two-fold. As it removed pressure from him. Maybe that hurt, but maybe now he can see his role in the band can be more fun, and not something he has to do or otherwise we all won't have a career. We then started the conversation about him coming back in March or April 2016, so three or four months after he'd been away. We'd had very minimal contact since, and we'd toured Europe with Parkway Drive, so he was upset about that as they're one of his favourite bands. We'd just announced a U.S. tour, a Mexican tour, an Australian tour and it piqued his interest about why we were touring more than ever. Casually, one day he hit me up simply asking how I was. The biggest negative about being who I am and what I do, it does create a barrier between me being their bandmate and their boss. So I didn't want to approach him with this boss-guy angle, as he might wonder what my go is, but he reached out first. We just started talking again as friends. Which is what needed to happen to reconnect that relationship. In mid-2016, he hit me up saying he'd love to come back for our July 2016 regional tour. And I said no, that: "If you think you're fixed now, just keep working on yourself, and we'll see."

"And then we had 'No Absolution'. It was a B-side to 'Holy War' that didn't have any lyrics yet. So I started writing the lyrics while auditioning the replacement vocalists, so I could have a song that CJ hadn't sung on before and have a fresh take. Let them they do what they would as a creative. The conversation kept progressing and he was saying he felt a lot better, and we could see that from our perspective too. He came out to see us on that regional tour and we all just went, "this guy is way less of a dick head now". Then he said he'd love to come back next year, I told him we were doing a new record and if he wanted to sing on it. He, of course, said he'd love to. Knowing that he would record the album's vocals in late January - as Sean [Delander. guitar] and I had written the music - I figured why don't we bring him back at Unify, release the song then, and then announce a new album. And again, we did it."

But what about Nick Arthur in this situation? The old Molotov Solution vocalist had already been semi-locked into doing the new album [what would become 'Dear Desolation'] and had been doing shows with the band for a while. So where did the differences lay that meant CJ was the choice that eventually won out? Andy Marsh explains.

"Nick didn't want to tour. He's one of my very dear mates and the conversation was completely open the entire time. We saw him as the only full replacement for CJ. We've toured with a lot of bands and so we know people talent-wise and interpersonally, and Nick was the one who had the best of both. From the first show we had with him, it felt like he had been in the band forever. And vocally, he's as good as CJ. They're both one in a million guys. There are only a few dudes on that level, and they are Joe Badolato from Fit For An Autopsy, and Nate Johnson, who was the previous vocalist in that band. In January 2016, we told him he was in the band and he was loving it. He was stoked it and he said that being in Thy Art was what he wanted in a band. So at that time, we were thinking of making a record at the end of the year, and he'd love to sing on it. But he didn't want to tour as much as we did. All as a parallel to the CJ matter. When we got to the end of that year, we knew what was gonna happen."

Andy Marsh:

So, all up, there's the managing of his own band, working with other artists, the Graphic Nature side of things, and then there's his own label. But where's the time for himself? Well, there's sometimes little room for that. The show, so to speak, must always go on and it must always be moving forward. But surely burnout must have set in at times? Yet the one word answer I receive is: "never". For the Thy Art axeman is forever thankful for this life, despite the constant fast-paced nature of it.

"I don't get too burnt out and I never take days off. Literally every day of my life, there's always something to do. Even the social media is an hour or two as I'm replying to every comment or message. I don't see it as a toll; I see it as a wonderful opportunity and privilege to do this. Not just for my own career, but for my friends and bandmates as well. And I don't try to be too aware of it. Obviously, I'll get very tired as I don't sleep so much. But it does make my life exciting, for sure."

Andy's placement in the world is always in a state of motion, but there are key points of return: home and his second home. While the guitarist never really gets super personal about his home life in most interviews (nor even his roles in the band other than riffing), he told me where his busy life is at currently in 2018 and how he got there.

"I've been living in Minneapolis since 2014. I have dual citizenship and it allows me to travel freely between Australia and America too. My partner lives in Melbourne so now I'm going between Melbourne, Denver, and New for work and to see my family. So it's this never-ending world tour, basically."

"I've always described that most people's lives are a still photograph, and mine is like a movie. Except it's me watching my own film. I don't wanna shit on people who stay in one place their whole lives as I would love to do that, but even if what I'm doing is boring, at least the background is always changing. And that's pretty exciting," laughs Andy at that final abstract thought.


with Alpha Wolf, Antagonist A.D., & Exile:

FRI 09 AUG – Sol Bar, Maroochydore,

SAT 10 AUG – Miami Tavern, Gold Coast

SUN 11 AUG – Crowbar, Brisbane

FRU 16 AUG – Karova Louge, Ballarat

SAT 17 AUG – Barwon Club, Geelong

SUN 18 AUG – Pelly Bar, Frankston

FRI 23 AUG – Uni Bar, Wollongong

SAT 24 AUG – Miranda Hotel, Miranda

SUN 25 AUG – Tattersalls Hotel, Penrith

FRI 30 AUG – Home Tavern, Wagga Wagga

SAT 31 AUG – Beer Deluxe, Albury

SUN 01 SEP – Village Green, Mulgrave