Matt Chanway is a progressive metal guitarist out of Vancouver, Canada. Having made a name for himself already in the death-thrash outfit Assimilation, Matt’s self-titled solo debut is proof of his versatility and prowess as a musician. Having been quite impressed by his new material, we got in touch with Matt to shed some light on his work.
Hey! How’s it going today man?
Pretty awesome – stoked to be doing an interview with you!
How did you first get into playing guitar?
I started in my early teens, definitely from humble beginnings. When I first got into high school was the first I was exposed to rock bands, AC/DC, GNR, Van Halen and stuff like that. I actually first picked up an acoustic guitar as an elective course and first started learning basic stuff on that. The first time I really saw an electric guitar played in person, I thought it was so cool and had to have one myself. My first real progressive/heavy influence was Jeff Loomis from Nevermore! Still my all-time favorite guitar player!
How would you describe your sound? Any main influences a new listener could peg you with having?
My solo instrumental material is challenging, punishing progressive metal with heavy guitar virtuoso influences and a contrast of darkness and light. I’m hugely influenced by sort of older-school prog metal like Nevermore, Dream Theater, Symphony X, Pagan’s Mind, and Aghora. There is some thrash influence on this record as well, and some guitar instrumental stuff like Tony Macalpine. Although those were my ‘conscious’ influences, my debut record has also been compared songwriting-wise to Voivod, as well as newer material by Revocation, both comparisons I take as an awesome compliment.
What can you say about your self-titled debut, released late last year?
It’s my first splash within the guitar instrumental/prog metal scene, and I think fans of aggressive progressive riffing and melody will really dig it. It’s a very high-energy record and is intended to be full-throttle with lots of intensity, and just jam-packed with punchy riffs and anthemic melodies. I don’t like to boast about my own projects, but I do feel it is a very unique offering and for the right listener, totally a breath of fresh air in today’s metal scene!
What was involved in writing the new album? All of the tracks are incredibly complex from a riff perspective; I imagine it took a lot of time to smooth out the nuances.
You know, part of the magic with this album came from not forcing things. The rhythms, or backbones of the songs, were pieced together very gradually over several years. The complexity with the riffs just sort of came from playing sequences and writing exotic passages that I enjoy playing. I’m a big fan of composing with subtle recurring themes and motifs, as opposed to a traditional verse-chorus type of song structure. I definitely wanted to approach this album more from a composition perspective, as opposed to just writing metal songs. I think of it almost more as 6 movements, rather than simply 6 songs.
Do you have any favourite songs or moments out of the material you’ve done so far?
It’s really tough to pick, with this record consisting of six compositions, and there is so much packed into each one…I think the track ‘The Receiver of Wisdom’ turned out really well, encompassing a lot of the thrash influence, but also with lots of melodic hooks as well. I think the guitar solo turned out very well too with some nice phrasing.
How does paying and writing your solo stuff compare to your experience playing in Assimilation?
Assimilation is kind of an entirely different beast as it is really more of a straight up old-school death/thrash type of project. Playing lead is definitely a little different, there is not as much ‘space’ to really vibe out and play over due to the nature of death metal. But the songs are so fun to play. Writing death metal, you have so much more freedom with writing to just channel the most chaotic stuff you can imagine! Sort of more of an unhinged approach, whereas with instrumental prog, composing melodies and solos is a bit more meticulous approach (from my experience only). I love playing both styles in their own unique way.
Now that the album’s been out for a little while, does the distance change the way you see the material at all? Would you do anything differently if you recorded it a second time around?
There are always things you’ll wish you could have done better. All things considered I am extremely proud of and happy with the record! I am always striving to improve, and I do already have ideas that I am going to be implementing for the 2nd album to build and improve upon what I have started. Stay tuned for that!
If I had to guess, I’d say your artwork and logo is the doing of the legendary Christophe Szpajdel; it’s got that distinctive look to it. What was your experience of working with him like?
The artwork was actually done by Luciferium War Graphics – a simple design that I am really fond of!
What advice would you give to other guitarists playing in similar styles?
This scene is quite saturated with artists already, nearly all of whom have impressive technique. If you wish to stand out, you best have something unique to say musically! I believe that developing a unique voice as an artist comes through intense thought and introspection, in addition to development of musical skills.
Do you find working as a guitar instructor has helped your own music?
Studying through London College of Music Exams has definitely helped my overall musicality, and has also helped with the performance aspect by doing the exams. Being graded by someone with a PhD in music is definitely a different experience than playing in rock clubs and festivals! I don’t know if it directly impacts my writing, but helping players progress really helps keep me inspired and motivated to continue pursuing the perfection of my craft.
Are there plans to perform this material live?
Right now my main focus with playing live, is with Assimilation as we are gearing up to tour in support of our new album. At some point, I would love to get going with a run of guitar clinics in support of my solo material!
What have you been listening to as of late? Anything you can recommend?
I would recommend the Alluvial album “The Debut Longing for Annihilation.” “Concrete Gardens” by Tony Macalpine…also some killer metal coming out of Vancouver recently, Terrifer “Weapons of Thrash Destruction” and Tyrant’s Blood “Into the Kingdom of Graves”!
What are your hopes for the future, with music or otherwise?
I’m going to keep pushing my solo music and keep working on building my niche in the prog metal/guitar community! I’m working on a 2nd instrumental album that will be released in 2018. Also, to keep playing old-school death/thrash with Assimilation, to keep releasing albums and tour!
Any last words?
I want to sincerely thank everyone that has checked out and supported my debut album! For fans of thrash metal and death metal, be sure to also pick up my band Assimilation’s debut full-length album, The Laws of Power, dropping March 17th 2017!
Thanks for taking the time to answer this interview!