BYZANTINE :  interview with Chris "OJ" Ojeda


face to face   by Troy "Lep" Freeman ___    


30.10.2005    on the under the underground tour in  Morgantown WV

organized by Byzantine and  gryphonmetal.ch




The fundamental Component


Troy (GM) and Mr. "OJ" Ojeda



Speaking  about the tour, lamb of God, Prosthetic Records, rowdy crowds, ď...And they shall take up SerpentsĒ and West virginia, quotation from the Bible, favorite tracks, West Memphis three, Tony Rourbough, touring in Europe, "Lincoln Park" -sell out and nu metal, influences, musical preferences, metallica and  guitar players,  endorsement, preparation for a show, Melissa Cross and practicing, tolerance on a tour, president Bush, message for GM readers






Troy ~ Ok, we are here in Morgantown on The Under the Underground Tour with O.J. of Byzantine from Logan County (WV too) I hear.

OJ ~ From Logan County.


How is that treating you? Logan County?

Itís fuckin great


Hell yeah

Howís the tour been so far?

Itís been pretty good, itís been a decent tour. We knew coming into this. Like most of the tours we do have been like punk rock tours. Tours we do ourselves. We have a lot of help from the labels and stuff. We set this tour up ourselves, because Randy wanted to go out with his side band. They had never went out before. So we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to go out and share a stage with him again. Because we have not had the opportunity to hook back up with Lamb Of God again since they skyrocketed off. But we went ahead and set this up and it is actually doing pretty good. Normally we get about 50 percent clunkers, 50 percent good. This one is about 80 percent good shows. Itís been pretty good.



It was Lamb of God that pretty much gave you your start wasnít it?

Yeah we formed in like 2000, and it was just like me, Tony are guitar player, and our old bass player. We were just jamming around with a drum machine. We decided to go around and play some gigs just to have something to do. And seriously like we just blinked our eyes, and two years later we are opening up for like Skin Lab. We were like, What the fuck are we doing? We have a drum machine and are opening up for these national acts, maybe we need to find a drummer. We got our drummer wolf and played around for about a year and a half. And luckily our webmaster, who runs our website, used to work for a band named Stuck Mojo that was out of Atlanta.


 I remember them.

Yeah, Lamb of Godís street team manager used to work for Stuck Mojo at the same time. And our webmaster past on an Mp3 to Lamb of Godís street team guy, who gave it to Chris Adler. And Chris flipped out over it, and instant messaged me one day. And was like ďHey man, how about doing some shows with us?Ē And I was like, Oh shit!

Troy~ Laughs

~ Laughs Then we went out for like two weekends with them, and hit it off famously with them, and they went and took us to Prosthetic, and got us signed



How does Prosthetic treat you? Pretty good?

Uuuh yeah real good. You know itís a smaller label. They are trying to expand right now. With expansion it means they are bringing in a lot of acts, and they are gambling on them, and there is not a lot of money to go around. So right now, we do not get fronted a lot of funds or anything. But we really would not have it any other way. We do not want a shitload of overhead you know. Because we would be scared to fail. Right now who gives a fuck if we fail, we will just go out and play. But itís a descent label. They have really good distribution. You can always find our c.d.ís in Walmart, and Sam Goodies. We have really good distribution in Britain. I do not know about mainland Europe.


Thatís pretty cool.

Yeah, we got some pretty good bands on Prosthetic.



You just came from Huntington (Wv)

Yeah, We just played Huntington West Virginia last night.

Was this an east coast tour?

We were in the Midwest as well. We went out to Iowa and Nebraska.


So where has been the rowdiest crowd so far?

The rowdiest crowd so far. The rowdiest crowd so far probably had to be last night I guess. Well I saw more people walk outside with blood on there faces.

~ Laughs

 I mean it did not really look rowdy. Because itís a high stage, and I canít really see down there. But when I walked out there were a lot of people coming out with blood and stuff. We played Memphis Tennessee to like about six people, and we thought it was gonna fuckin suck. We hit the stage and all six of those people started beating the shit out of each other.

Troy~ *Laughs*  Hell yeah!

They were knocking tables everywhere. Randy was out in the crowd, and he ended up projectile vomiting on our stage while we were playing, because he was getting knocked around.

Troy ~ *Laughing* Holy crap

We have had a couple rowdy crowds that we did not think would be rowdy. But the smaller ones are the crazier ones.

I guarantee it. My god thatís pretty nuts.



The new album is called ď...And they shall take up SerpentsĒ


 Is that coming from local churches around the area (in Wv)  like an influence for that?

Yeah that is a direct influence. We like to have ties in our home state you know. Every album we try to have some what of a West Virginia cultural theme with it. The last album we had some songs you know that were directly tied with West Virginia.

We went to England about six or seven months ago, and I took a book with me called ďRedemption on snake mountainĒ It was about snake handling in rural Appalachia


And I got really obsessed with it. And I know that West Virginia is, I think, the last state in the union, that they allow the handling of deadly snakes in religious institutions.


Really? I did not know that.

Yeah they banned it everywhere else. There is actually a church, probably the most famous church in America, itís in Jolo West Virginia, which is about an hour from where I grew up. They still handle diamond backs, rattlers, and everything. So we thought it would be a really good tie in for the album. To go with our West Virginia theme. That and snakes are fuckin evil, so we got that whole tie in. So yeah we went with that. I did a shitload of research about it, to make sure I got my facts right, cause in my songs a lot a lot of my lyrics are factual based.


Yeah but the whole album is about that. And also that is a quote from the Bible, that says ďAnd they shall take up serpents and that if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not harm themĒ Itís talking about strychnine and things like that.

Yeah a lot of the churches around here still do that.


like drinking the poison

Yeah, I forget the name of the denomination. But every denomination reads the Bible and interprets it a different way, and that is how they form their denomination. They focus on that. Like My god if we handle serpents, we can show that we are devout, and we have god in our lives. So that is basically how that came about.

We thought it would be a pretty cool idea.

Yeah, I like it.

of course growing up hereÖ

Yeah definitely.



On this album, are there any tracks that you personally are proud of?

My favorite right now, is a track called ďAncestory of the Anti-ChristĒ that I am really fond of. Itís like a longer song, and it has basically all of out components in it. And then there is a track on there called ďRedneck WarĒ that I am really proud of. Mainly because it is about West Virginia as well.

About the coal miners isnít it?

Yeah it is about the battle of blare mountain, and the coal mine wars. And I was actually able to through out a shitload of facts out on that one. And the song is actually one of the more rockin songs, itís not as metal, and it turned out good. And then there is the last song, itís called  ďSalem ArkansasĒ, and itís like probably one of the fastest songs we have ever written. You know it is completely like old fear is a mind killer Fear Factory you  know.



That song has a lot of meaning to me, because it is about the West Memphis Three, and I am a huge advocate of that.

You have mentioned that in a few other interviews. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Yeah, Yeah basically the West Memphis three is a murder case. These three boys in West Memphis Arkansas got of  accused triple homicide, murdering and molesting three younger boys. Basically there are no facts, no evidence that they actually did it. The only thing that held them accountable is one of the boys is mentally retarded, and he actually confessed to it, after about fourteen hours of interrogation. So basically they have got three innocent boys on death row. And they pinned it on them because they were metal heads. You know in a small redneck town. And they did not have any leads, so they had to find somebody to pin it on. So they said Oh it is these kids because they were in a cult, it was a heavy metal satanic murder thing, and itís just horrible. Basically a lot of musicians, Henry Rollins is a big advocate of it. A lot of people are banding together and donating money to them trying to get enough money to get D.N.A. evidence, because they would not allow it.

Because the boys were to poor to actually get real lawyers, so they could not afford D.N.A. evidence submitted. So basically they are on death rowÖ

For the love of metal

Yeah pretty much. Seriously they have two documentaries, and Metallica does the music, and Metallica donated free music for the documentary. The first one is called the murder of Robinhood hills and I canít remember the name of the second one, I think it was called devilís knot. It shows the footage of the trial, and a lot of the stuff they are standing on is like just look at them. They are dressed in black they paint their fingernails black, they had to have done this. Itís just bullshit.

That is a bunch of crap

Yeah, so I basically wrote that song about that. Thatís why I call it ďSalem ArkansasĒ in reference to the Salem witch trials, there is no real Salem Arkansas.



On your website it says that your guitarist Tony Rourbough has left the band. Can you elaborate on this?

Well he is actually here tonight. He was standing behind you a minute ago. We were having some problems. A lot of times bands will have problems, if you have a shitload of money, or if you have no money. We have no money..

Troy ~  *Laughs*

And it tends to create a lot of problems. Because we are all 30 years old. We have fianceís wives and kids so weíve got bills to pay. It came to a head, and we didnít think we were going to be able to keep him in the band, because we do not make enough money to keep him in the band. So we fired him, put it on the internet. Then we kissed and made up, and he is back out on tour with us right now. We didnít actually put a retraction up, we just said screw it


I had heard rumors that he might be back in.

Yeah, we just did not want to make it a ďDays of our livesĒ (America soap opera) type of thing.

 Troy *Laughs*


 Oh wait he is outÖ No heís in *laughs*


Thatís great then.

You have to work shit out for the sake of the music. I mean if we would have went out with a replacement, and we found a replacement in haste, we would have shit all over these tunes. And basically would have torn down everything we have been trying to build these past five years. So we didnít think it was worth it. We all came to an agreement, and everything is working fine.



How do you think your reception has been in Europe? You mentioned Britain earlier.

Yeah we have toured Europe twice. As far as I know now are albums are selling pretty good over there. But the two times we were over there we were on really small tours. The second time we actually went over and headlined. And we were touring around with the local bands, and it was kind of a shitty tour. We lost our ass on that one. But I think that if we get over there on the right package, we can make a definite impact. I think that Europe is more in tune with the style of music that we are doing than America is. We just have to get over there and do it right. Right now, I do not know if the impact has been made yet.



How do you feel about this nu-metal craze with like your Lincoln parks

Oh Lord!  ( everyone laughing) I think it is funny! Itís weird, the guy who mixed our new album actually works for Lincoln Park

Oh really? Maybe I should not have mentioned that.

No no actually he was ripping on them too. Like they fuckin suck. I canít believe they are like gazillionaires, and they can sell out a show in like Uganda, and they donít know a fuckin scale.

Oh thatís sad.

You know to each his own. Everybody knows that when you get into music and stuff, if you go towards the extreme side of it, your going to be doing it basically for the love of it. Not for the money.


We could easily go and right some three minute songs and probably sing a lot more with some choppy choruses. But at the end of the day, I think I would be a much happier man knowing that I recorded a couple of really good albums, than actually line my pockets with cash and sell out. Iíve been broke all my life. Itís not going to matter if I am broke at the end of this. Just as long as I have people coming up and saying man you guys made an impact on the scene. Thatís really just what we are trying to do. Nu metal is totally the opposite. Itís about letís get together, your pretty, Iím pretty, you can jump high, you got a sampler.

 ~ *Laughs* yeah I like that.


I have read a few of your interviews, and they pretty much lay out what your influences are like Testament things like that. What do you listen too when you are on tour? Like now?

A lot of times when we are on tour, we try not to listen to any type of music.


 A lot of times we are either watching DVDís or sleeping. But when I do take out my headset and stuff, I listen to everything not metal, I do not listen to metal much at all. This is probably going to offend people, but I listen to stuff like Seal..

Troy ~ *laughs*

And Bjork, and Dido

I like Bjork and Dido

Yeah yeah thatís the type of stuff that hits me. I am a real big fan ofÖ I guess it is pop music. They are actually good musicians. So I listen to that type of shit. I listen to Jeff Buckley, Stevie Ray Vaughn. Yeah itís weird like all of us listen to different stuff. Like the bass player is a big Pink Floyd head. Our other guitar player likes Jeff Beck. Then our drummer likes stuff like Dream Theatre, Prog. None of us actually pop in metal. If we do we are like Oh come on man! We have to hear that all night tonight. Only when I am home I listen to stuff like God Forbid, Nevermore, Meshuggah, and stuff like that.



You also play guitar as well right?

 Yeah, I play rhythm


Who was the one guitarist when you were growing up that made you say I want to play like that!

James Hetfield. I have a Metallashrine in my house. When I was in highschool is when I really got big into metal and stuff, junior high too. Like in my room my whole wall was like Metallica posters. At that point they were actually bad ass. They hadnít released the black album yet and jumped the shark.

 Troy ~ *Laughing hard* Jumped the shark!

*Laughing* The were just out with  And Justice everything was rockin. Once I got a little older I started to listening toÖ well my three favorite guitar players now, and has been for like 10 years has been Scott Ian from Anthrax, Heís a phenomenal rhythm guitar player, Eric Peterson from Testament, heís flawless, and Fredrik Thordendal from Meshuggah the lead guitar player. Those guys are who I really try to emulate now, with attack and articulation and stuff like that. But when I was growing up it was all about fuckin James.



Since you have been on the road, have you gotten any equipment endorsements?

Yeah yeah, actually Iím endorsed by Schecter guitars, there out of L.A. Really good company. One of the main reasons I went with them is because Iím a lefty. And left handed guitars are hard to find.


Yeah they are expensive too.

 Yeah they are very expensive. You can get like a $200.00 dollar version, or you can get like a $1,500 dollar version. But with Schecter every guitar they make, they make a left handed. So I have like 16 or 17 different choices of guitars I can pick so itís awesome. I have been endorsed by Mesa Boogie amplification last year. We also have an endorsement by a company called Knucklehead strings, out of Salt lake city Utah, and itís a really cool company. So we have pretty much everything covered which is awesome. Because you cannot go out here and blow a tube and expect to pay for it on the wage I am getting.

Yeah I guarantee that.



What do you guys usually do before hand to prepare for a show?

A lot of times we just try to get away from each other.

Troy ~ *Laughs*

You know we get out of the van and we go our separate ways. Me and Tony our other guitar player, we will grab our guitars and practice a little bit warm our fingers up. I normally have a vocal regiment that I use. I have a c.d. from a vocal coach in New York, that almost every heavy metal singer goes to now, and I go through it. Unfortunately, I left it at home at the beginning of this tour, and havenít been able to do it. And thus, I have blown my throat out. SoÖ I am actually going to meet her. Her name is Melissa Cross. God Forbid, Every time I die, Shadows Fall, Killswitch, all of them went to her. She is coming to our New York show, and she is probably going to be really mad at me, because I have not been singing properly and I have blown my throat out. I need to go home and start practicing again. But thatís usually what we do, just try to get away from each other for a little bit, and get our mind frame right.


I imagine that being on a bus with a bunch of people for a long time can be a little taxing on the brain.

It is. One thing about being on the road is you have to be tolerant of everyoneís idiosyncrasies. Because everyone has got them. Everyone is going to get on your nerves. You just have to try to be cool. Donít be a dick is the biggest rule we have. Hey! Just donít be a dick! And we will all get along.

 *Everyone laughing*

Itís rough but I am 30 years old and I am still doing it, so there must be some kind of reward



I gotta ask you this oneÖ If there was anyone on the planet that you could just slap the piss out ofÖ who would it be?

Ummm let me see. Who would I slap the piss out of? It would probably be fuckin president Bush.

Troy *Laughs*

 It would have to be. But unfortunately if I slapped him once I would have to get another one in. I would have to throw an elbow in.

Troy ~ *Laughing*  Hell yeah

He is just the biggest limp dick right now that I can think of. I am sure I have a list, but I do not sit around and think about who to slap much.

But he is definitely high on the chain

Yeah he is definitely numero uno. He is above Bin Laden

Troy ~ *Laughs*

Yeah I think the president would have to be bitch slapped by me.


Well, is there anything you would like to say to the Gryphon Metal readers?

Yeah check out our website which is Byzantine1.com. You can check us out at.Prosthetic records.com , or our myspace site www.myspace.com/Byzantine. Just buy the records and support us. Hopefully when we come over to mainland Europe, you guys buy the tickets and come see us some good German and Swiss Beer, and have a good time! Free the West Memphis Three!


Alright, thanks man it was good talking to you.

You too man.

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