CHAINS OVER RAZORS – Hanging On Chains; Walking On Razors
October 4, 2016, a year ago
Imagine a gnarly street fight; one gang has chains and the other has razors. Metaphorically, this is a good way to describe Chicago three-piece metal band, Chains Over Razors. Comprised of singer Franco "V" Roc, Serbian twin brothers, guitarist Mikey Vujasin, and drummer Andy Vujasin, the three-piece group mean business on its smashing debut album, Crown the Villain (released through Sweden Music Group). The 12- track album was produced by legendary drummer Carmine Appice. A two-piece with a singer with no bass player is practically unheard of, but COR create such a mammoth sound as a trio. Plus, the band has honed their live show by opening for such renowned acts as Metal Allegiance and the Appice brothers Carmine and Vinny Appice. Both of the Vujasin brothers spoke with BraveWords writer Kelley Simms about its huge push they have received with its debut album.
BraveWords: Chicago is such a great metal city, as well as just a broad musical town. You’ve been building a good local fan base. What it is like playing hometown shows?
Andy Vujasin: “We get a lot of supporters at our hometown shows. People are so supportive and they come back all the time, which is great because you’ll see familiar faces and you’ll see a lot of new faces. We want to expand on that as well, obviously. You can never go wrong with Chicago. I can’t think of one show where any us hasn’t seen somebody come out with blood on their shirt!”
BraveWords: What was the experience like playing shows with Metal Allegiance recently?
Andy Vujasin: “It was definitely like a brotherhood touring with them, and everybody worked together. The greatest part of it all was sharing fun stories with them. I think it was such a great time, it was probably one of the best memories that we’ve ever had.”
Mike Vujasin: “Just the whole caravanning and the whole touring experience, there was a lot of knowledge gained. Just performing on stage, we grew a lot on that tour with our shows. We gained a lot of fans, who would come up to us and rave about us being a two-piece with a singer and how three guys make so much noise! We got to hang out with Bumblefoot and he showed us cool licks and shared industry information. They were the most humble guys.”
BraveWords: Crown The Villain was produced by Carmine Appice. I’ve interviewed him before and he just has a wealth of kick ass rock ’n’ roll stories. Did he “hold court” and talk about his past?
Andy Vujasin: “Oh yeah, when we first found out that we were going to be working with Carmine, that alone blew our minds. Even the phone call I got was great. We didn’t have the record fully completed, we didn’t even have any songs done. We had a couple of ideas and he loved them. He started talking about Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, and I just had to go out and get some air because he was talking about all my heroes. It was just mind-bending!”
BraveWords: What type of performance did he get out of you?
Mike Vujasin: “A lot of it was creativity; he pushed us passed our comfort zone. He was very open to all ideas and the creative process. We were free to try anything and if it didn’t work, it didn’t work. It was like the old school saying that “the tape is rolling,” you never know when you’ll get that magical moment. He’d guide us and build us and in the end, we became way better songwriters because of the knowledge he has in the 40 years of experience in writing hits and working with all the legends. The knowledge was priceless, and we built a brotherhood.”
BraveWords: The band name is intriguing. What’s the story behind it?
Andy Vujasin: “It kind of was a fluke that we came up with the name. We were watching a one hour show about taboos and this one episode showed people hanging from these hooks and chains, and people were walking on razors and glass. Just out of nowhere we thought, ‘Chains Over Razors.’ We found it odd and intriguing. We had a full list of names, but at the last minute we changed it to that. A lot of times people call us COR. Anytime I think of the name, I think of a street fight; one group has chains and the other has razors.”
BraveWords: You mentioned earlier that you didn’t have fully developed songs before entering the studio. How did the song writing process go and what were you out to accomplish?
Andy Vujasin: “We didn’t have any predetermined (notions) of what we were going to do. We just knew that it had to groove, they had to have momentum, and they had to have a push and pull effect. So when we were writing we just pushed the record button and we just rolled with it. We just kept the tape rolling. We just did something to see what happened and when we did get it, we just knew it.”
BraveWords: How did you decide on being a trio without a bass player?
Mike Vujasin: “When we were recording, we wanted to keep that excitement, and sometimes that first riff always comes off the best compared to the 50th time you played it. So when we were in the studio we didn’t have bass, and we just started COR. I said to Carmine if I could work on bass later as we’re working on the songs as we go and Carmine said we didn’t need a bass player. It sounded so full and big with just us two and a singer. We translated the songs to the tuning that we were doing and he suggested getting an octave pedal. So when we were tracking, it was simulating the sound of a bass underneath with the guitar and was hitting such a full spectrum.”
Andy Vujasin: “The riff and the drums are going to groove in and out of each other to create this blast. Typically, in a four piece band you might have a bass player and drummer who are doing the rhythm and creating that pulse and beat. In our group Mike is using the octave pedal and he’s covering from the lows and the highs of the guitar, and my drums tend to not only cover the drum portion but meet in the middle to create the effect that it would sound like from a bass player. Those two merge together, that’s where the sound comes into play.”
BraveWords: What’s your favorite track on the album and the one that would best sum up what COR does best?
Mike Vujasin: “For me right now, ‘Damnation,’ which just has the grooves, the melody and aggression.”
Andy Vujasin: “For me, it’s ‘Centerline Of A Lie.’ I like how when the drums kick in how bombastic and chaotic it sounds, it just flows.”
BraveWords: You have a variety of genre influences, how did you combine everything for your overall sound; modern, groove metal, Southern rock, metalcore, classic rock, etc elements, some commercial ballad stuff such as “Subtle Words” and the chorus of “Live It Loud” “Letters of Twelve. How did you piece everything together based on your influences?
Andy Vujasin: “Based upon my influences, I go all the way back to the Beatles. When we thought about what the main overall theme would be, If you have a message to tell, you’re going to tell it in a story. You want to tell that story and that was first and foremost when it came to the songs; you’re going to have your intro and the chapters of those stories. Overall, you want all 12 songs that tell that individual short story, but you want one overall story that is part of a bigger picture or book.”
Mike Vujasin: “We have such a diverse background of music that we listen to. Even in the studio Carmine asked us what we were listening to and we both said, ‘Country.’ Which was true because we were listening to the Zac Brown Band at the time. We’re all open to all genres of music; if it’s written well we listen to it.”
BraveWords: The band just formed in 2014 and it hasn’t been around for a lengthy amount of time, but what you’ve accomplished in a short period of time is commendable. Are you out to prove yourselves and hopefully gain a big fan base by playing as many live gigs as you can?
Andy Vujasin: “That’s one of our biggest focus’s right now. In support of our record, which was released in February, is to get out there and tour as much as possible. Later in mid fall we’re looking to do extensive runs. We just want to continue repeating those circuits and continue to build our fan base.”
BraveWords: It seems like you’re doing things right by getting Carmine to produce your debut album and touring with Metal Allegiance. You’re riding some good momentum right now, what happens next? What do you hope to achieve or accomplish in the future?
Andy Vujasin: “After doing these tours and continuing to push the album, we’re going to continue to write and grow as a band musically. Step it up even more and push our boundaries of what we do and continue to keep rocking it and make our mark. We’re determined to keep moving.”