Interview with Cameron Argon | By Nathan Katsiaficas
When he’s not making hard-hitting EDM music under the moniker “Big Chocolate,” Cameron Argon, and his one-man band, Disfiguring The Goddess, composes some of the most brutal slam/death metal music out there. With two brand new records, Deprive and Black Earth Child, from DTG released back in December on the same day — one of which was a complete surprise for fans — Argon has sure been keeping busy. I was fortunate to catch up with him on the phone to pick his brain about the new records and his approach to music as a whole.
You released not just one, but two albums together back in December. What made you decide to put them out at the same time?
I did Deprive’s instrumentals earlier in the year, around January and February. I knew I was sitting on those demos, and I knew I wanted to finish them, but then I got wind to finish them and just make another album right away. But writing that other album, I didn’t want to just pass up what I already had, and I didn’t want to continue it on, because I knew whatever I wanted to write would be in a different style—it would be something separate. And not only did both albums have their own creative process, but the actual campaign to release both albums became a creative process on its own. That was new to me, but it was a lot of fun for me—releasing new Deprive tracks week by week, the whole time, people getting excited about the new album and whatnot, while I was writing a second album….It was fun to be doing that, it was new for me.
So we should expect more surprise releases?
Well a lot of bands aren’t in positions where they can pull things off like this when they want to….But I knew I could pull it off…the time it takes to do it all is pretty ridiculous, like I only had four weeks to fully complete Black Earth Child, but before that I was thinking about it a lot…You know, like when you have to write a paper and you put it off, but you’re thinking about it…and then the day before it’s due you just bust it out? A lot of that is because you’re thinking about it all the time—that’s how Black Earth Child came about—crazy time constraint—but then again, I kind of like that too…being under the gun, you just have to do it.
Deprive has less samples in it, and seems more like straight brutal slam, while Black Earth Child seems to have more death metal and atmospheric elements to it. How was the writing process different?
The process was very similar, but with Deprive, I went back to it and redid everything, but without actually re-recording everything, just editing, mixing, and fine-tuning things. They just came out a lot different than I originally thought they would. Deprive really has more of a solid, overproduced sound to it—it’s definitely more brutal. Whereas Black Earth Child is more experimental and way more atmospheric. When I wrote Deprive, I had just bought a new 8-string guitar, so it’s basically this creative burst off of a brand new instrument. I didn’t want to play the lowest notes that I could…I mean if you listen to Black Earth Child there are a lot more lower notes on it—I just went heavy whenever I felt like it on that record. Disfiguring the Goddess usually changes so quickly, but there are a bunch of parts on Black Earth Child where I let myself run with ideas a bit longer, which was nice, and felt pretty good…But yeah, I mean to me, [the two albums] are so separate, so different, yet at the same time, they have so many similarities and connections between them because they were done at the same time….
Is the track “Deprive” a remake?
Yes it’s a remake of another song…called “Deprive” (laughing) that I made for this solo metal project that I was screwing around with, back when Disfiguring the Goddess was like a garage band, back in 2006. The old recording is actually on the album, at the very end of the last track. I thought it would be neat to do a salute to what I was writing back in the day….I’ve always liked that song and I thought it would be cool to give it new life, you know, make it sound legible. And it was super nostalgic, but my intention was never to name the album after it, that’s just sort of how it ended up.
Back when I had interviewed you about your EDM work as Big Chocolate, back in 2011, we’d been discussing your vocal work for Disfiguring the Goddess, and you’d said that you really didn’t like doing the vocals–that you liked making the instrumentals but you didn’t like recording the vocals….Have you grown fonder of it?
I like the way the vocals sounded, I just…it wasn’t my favorite part. I always look at the songs as wholes…but a lot of people look at just the vocals….I mean I don’t know if I would say I’ve grown fonder [of doing vocals]—I’ve just realized that my vocals were the only stuff for the music I was making—Disfiguring the Goddess has to have that sound, vocally….I guess I kind of just realized that, got over myself, and accepted it.
That makes sense though, with your music, whether it’s as Big Chocolate or Disfiguring The Goddess, you’re making entire songs, so it’s easy to see how people focusing on only the vocals might get annoying….
And I enjoy making the music a lot more, like there’s always this time after I’m done making all of the music—I always do all of the music at the same time—guitars, bass, drums, all at once. And the vocals are the only thing that’s left at the end. So when it comes time to do the vocals, I understand that it’s like a final piece to it—that they’re how the songs are going to end up, as far as what direction the songs are going to go and whatnot. Doing the vocals adds pressure for those reasons, but also because it’s the most human aspect of things—you have to like put the power down to get the vocals sounding right, and if you can’t get the sound you want out of it, it gets frustrating….you have to give it 100% every time or it’s not going to happen the way it should. It’s my least favorite part of the process because it adds so much pressure, but when it’s all said and done, and I’m listening to the vocals, I’m definitely smiling about it…so there’s that.
So when I got my copy of Deprive in the mail, I noticed there was a second disc with instrumental versions of the songs. What made you want to add that to the package?
Well….Disfiguring the Goddess’ vocals are extreme, you know? It’s the extreme end of metal, and if I could do a less extreme version of vocals, I totally would. If I could sing, I would, but I can’t….so that’s the way it is…But I understand it might be too intense for some people. And I know that sounds like a shock when people hear that, because a lot of DTG fans love the vocals, but there are a lot of people who like metal, but don’t like a lot of the vocal types you hear on it. Like when you show someone who doesn’t like metal a [metal] band, what’s the first thing they say? It’s always “I like it, but not the vocals”….and you’re like “But that’s my favorite part!”…. You know, it’s like giving someone who doesn’t like wine, a glass of fine wine, and you think it’s the best thing in the world…they’ll just spit it out….(laughing) Not that I’m comparing death metal to fine wine, but it’s like that….They just don’t know what they’re hearing yet. I’m surprised more bands don’t do this, even bands with amazing vocalists. Periphery, for example—their vocalist has an amazing range, but there are times where I just want to hear their stuff without vocals.
With a growing fan-base, and all the hype around these two albums, would you ever consider getting a touring lineup together and doing a run of shows, or is that never going to happen?
I’m not going to say that it’s never going to happen…I used to say that all the time, but I don’t want to be so stubborn, you know (laughing)? I’m having conversations about it, but it’s not going to be something I’d do right now. The way I was thinking about it was not so much about making a band, but rather, “How would I take it live?” If I ever took it live, it wouldn’t be one man, it would definitely be a band, but how do I take it live in a way that I can do what I want with it? Depending on what I can do with it, I think it needs more time to sit so I’m still thinking about it.
In terms of your musical endeavors as a whole, including your work as Big Chocolate, you’re have a pretty DIY attitude. You don’t have a label, you record and mix everything yourself, is that right?
Yeah! Other than the guy I have who masters it, Tyler Blue, I do everything myself, though Tyler actually taught me how to do my mix-downs. Mixing was something that was always an issue that I knew I had, and that people always had, with my music—that it wasn’t mixed properly. And that’s true with everything with Disfiguring the Goddess prior to Deprive…Sleeper, just has terrible mix-downs, but it’s metal so you can still enjoy it…There’s still aesthetics there. The production quality on the new records is just so much higher, but that’s all stuff I’ve learned doing EDM music and just incorporated into DTG.
How important is it to you to stay DIY?
It’s pretty important to stay DIY to me….I like not being locked-down to anything…Not locked-in to labels, or other people, but also not locked-down to where you can take yourself creatively. I love being independent, there’s a lot of bonuses to it, but there’s also a whole lot of things that can suck. But I feel like I’ve just done a good job at adjusting accordingly—I’m not always trying to do lots of things, or finance touring all the time, I’m just trying make music and make a connection with someone. The internet has really allowed people to be independent, and I was kind of at the forefront with being able to make music and use the internet to make that connection and sell my music….There was a period where there was only Myspace and when YouTube wasn’t as big as it is now, and you could use it to meet people and show people your music. I never felt like I needed a label, because whatever I wanted to do I was able to do independently…and I was supported by those who supported me and I was supportive back to them and it was just a happy thing—I never used to question it or think about it much.
Are you able to make a living doing this?
I dunno….I think I stopped working jobs in high school based off iTunes stuff…but that’s high school….to make a career of it is another thing. I mean people say that kids don’t buy music anymore and that’s true to a point, but the devoted fans do, you know? As long as I do I’m making music that I like, I mean hopefully the fans like it too, and it works. Most of the things I’ve gotten in music are because of longevity. I’m trying to make a career out of it…but in a lot of different ways, like in the last year I’ve gotten heavy into producing, songwriting—where you help write peoples’ music with them, TV commercials and whatnot…
Any commercials we might’ve seen?
Yeah, I did three movie trailers last year, but the TV commercials, not the theatrical ones. I did the Parker (2013) movie trailer, the [Steve Jobs] movie, Jobs (2013) trailer, and a GoPro commercial. I’m enjoying the whole evolution of myself….I mean I feel confident in what I’ve learned how to do…and I mean I’m not trying to screw anyone over….but I feel like people catch on to the fact that you’re ethical and solid and it just makes for a good relationship. You know? I’m not trying to be a huge famous dude, I’m just trying to ride the wave and have fun.
When you’re not making awesome EDM and brutal slam metal, what are you doing? I remember hearing you were an avid gamer….
I’m not really playing much at the moment…I love playing games, like at night, after I’m done with my work….but that was hard, and I’d start playing too much…I’ve gone through 3 Xbox 360’s because I’ll decide that I need to focus and get rid of it, only to decide I want to game again. I got really into this game, Dark Souls, and since then I just look at video games way differently…I just want more challenging games….I dunno, so far I haven’t really played a game that’s done it for me like that game did…
Now, I know not to ask about this….but there were a few fans who were pressing me to ask about the now-infamous YouTube video of you and Jonathan, the former vocalist of I Declare War, entitled “I Declare Goddess”….
Yeah I mean I usually just shut that stuff down, but I guess, you can help me shed some light on it, maybe this will help put it to rest. Evan [Hughes] (formerly of I Declare War) is from Minden, NV like I am, and we had a friend in common. They were on tour, and staying nearby, so they came over and we made that video. That’s it. I don’t know those guys—I mean I know Evan, he’s my friend—but as for the others, I don’t know them, and Jonathan’s not even in the band anymore…So that’s why there was never anything done about it…It’s not a thing, it just caused a ton of confusion, and I’m pretty sure both bands hate it. It’s also a bummer too because a lot of people have seen that video and think that I Declare War and Disfiguring The Goddess are similar…like they compare it to DTG….and that just bugs me, because my music is so different from theirs.
What are you plans for 2014?
The way I set up the end of 2013…I did a lot of touring as Big Chocolate this summer, and when I got back, I was really burnt out. I didn’t feel like where I was headed in music was represented by what I was doing. I wanted to take a breather, so I pretty much stopped taking bookings, stopped talking on the internet, and kinda aired things out….I’ve shut down a lot of things so when January comes around and I walk into a studio, I’ve got nothing to influence me—nothing to do…I think that’s going to be either a beautiful thing, or a terrible thing, but I wanted to try it out. I feel like I was subconsciously being influenced by club, and I wanted to make music that wasn’t.
So will this be EDM music for your work as Big Chocolate?
I dunno, I’m just gonna start making some music then figure out what the hell it is…That’s the way I’ve set it up though, I can’t give you an honest answer. I don’t want to know ahead of time, I just want to feel it out when the new year comes around—I think it will be super exciting and lead to more interesting, better music.
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