Make Them Suffer are a true force to be reckoned with in Australian metal. For the better part of the past decade, the Perth-based outfit have delivered a brutal body of work in the form of three full-length albums, an EP and several tours alongside some of the biggest names in the scene today, including Parkway Drive, The Amity Affliction, Architects and more.
Now, the band have turned in their excellent new album How To Survive A Funeral; a remarkable full-length effort with a reinvigorated lineup and fresh take on their classic sound. The record marked the first time Make Them Suffer worked with another producer, with the band linking up with Drew Fulk (Lil Wayne, Bullet For My Valentine, Bad Wolf) in LA to craft the soaring, symphonic metal opus.
With the album finally out in the world, we linked up with the band's lead guitarist and songwriter Nick McLernon to chat all about the recording of the new album, some of the gear favoured throughout the sessions and what's next for the Make Them Suffer cohort.
Hey Nick! You must feel so relieved to have finally gotten How To Survive A Funeral out in the world. How did you guys manage to navigate such a hectic album rollout?
Nick McLernon: "We have our management to thank for taking our hand through the album rollout period. The Covid pandemic really threw a spanner in works. I don’t want to go into detail about what happened but in short, our release date was changed twice due to a miscommunication between our US label and distributor. Thankfully, between all the band members, we didn’t let it get to us very much. In fact, one of us said that it was fitting for us to name the album what it is."
How To Survive A Funeral is a much different sounding record to previous MTS releases - what informed the sonic direction this time around that was different from your past efforts?
NM: "We’ve never written music with a sense of sonic purpose. My philosophy in writing music is that one should never write in hopes of achieving a certain style. I do a few different styles of music but for me writing metal parts on guitar is my bread and butter. In my view writing in a certain direction pigeonholes how your music will come out the other end.
"The only thing that was different this time was we employed Drew to help us arrange the songs. Many things happen when you work with a producer, that wouldn’t happen if you were working alone."
You’re also the primary songwriter for a lot of Make Them Suffer’s material right? How do you go about writing and demoing? Are there any programs or processes you swear by, or does it vary from record to record?
NM: "If the definition of primary means being the source of the sounds of the instrumentals, then yes, although our arrangement on every record is done by either / or the producer and Sean Harmanis. These days I consider myself to be quite adept at using programs so my favourite method of demoing is inevitably going to be using recording software. I use Logic Pro as my canvas, and I’m really into Neural DSP’s collection for guitar sounds at the moment. I’m using just a 2in/2out interface to record guitar and bass.
"For drums I’ve been using a blend of a few different kits by GGD and JST. Years ago the band used to use Guitar Pro to demo out their instruments and in retrospect I think it was crazy that we did that seeing what we ended up achieving!"
You guys teamed up with Drew Fulk (WZRD BLD) to produce this record, which from what I can tell, is the first time you’ve worked with a producer of this nature. Can you tell us a bit about that? How did he shape the material you were working on with the band?
NM: "Drew was the first producer we worked with where we would end up flying out overseas to someones studio and it was in LA so there was definitely a feeling of something very special that was about to happen just by simply recording under that environment. Every musician has their one speciality - for some people it’s programming drums, others it’s guitar, etc.
"Drew’s focus was on songwriting and arrangement. Knowing a little bit of recording (by comparison) and watching his workflow was truly a marvel and not something I had ever seen before. We came in with a number of song ideas but in the end only ended up using two of them and wrote an entire record in three weeks nearly from scratch."
Let’s get onto gear. I know you’re a big fan of Jackson Guitars - is that what we’re hearing on the album? Did anything else make it on there?
NM: "I brought with me a couple of Jacksons with me to the recording, although a lot of the time I ended up using Jeff’s [Dunne] guitars installed with Evertunes. I don’t remember what guitars they were except for they were a random build and practically flawless in terms of what was needed in a recording environment. The Jacksons made it on the record in various places, mainly where I needed to use the whammy."
What about amps, cabs and effects? Are you still running Neural DSP, or did you opt for any other amplifiers or pedals?
NM: "I run one tone for most of our songs, I’ve never really been into switching channels or patches unless it is to adjust the noise gate. In the past I have used EVH, AxeFX’s and Kempers with EVH profiles. I love Neural DSP for software however and I am looking to make the switch over to the new Neural DSP hardware unit called Quad Cortex. I’ve always wanted a means to use my software plugins live and the Quad Cortex offers that."
LA is pretty well-known for being a hot-spot for a lot of awesome vintage or quirky gear. Did you use anything outside of the ordinary, or just to what you know best for How To Survive A Funeral?
NM: "I didn’t do too much music related. When I wasn’t in the studio I was out at various places kind of living a rockstar LA lifestyle without going too rockstar. Outside of things like going to check out the Hollywood sign, I kind of ended up hiring a GT Mustang and just going for drives around some nice suburbs there like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier and Sunset Boulevard!"
How does your setup vary when it comes to taking the record from the studio to the stage? Have you worked out a live rig for the material on this album yet? What about some of the electronic elements scattered across How To Survive A Funeral?
NM: "I have the album tone on my Kemper unit however I’m a firm believer that a lot of what you do in the studio will never translate across into a live environment because you have a number of other factors affecting the way the sound is being perceived. I’m excited to try the new Neural DSP Quad Cortex unit for guitar and bass.
"As for the electronic elements in the album they were mostly analogue synths emulated by Arturia's collection. The likelihood is I’ll be programming them into Booka’s channel, and have her play the majority of the sounds and noises across the album."
Now that the album is out, what’s next for Make Them Suffer? Are you exploring ways to promote the album without touring, or just taking a well-deserved break?
NM: "I’m just putting focus into helping other bands write, record and engineer at this time. I also write on guitar and program my own music when I have downtime. It’s likely there won’t be any touring until after 2020 for most people so it’s a good excuse to take my ears away from metal."
How To Survive A Funeral is out now via Greyscale Records. Preorder a physical edition of the album here.