After a long break from music ex Cro-Mag guitarist Parris Mayhew returns with something new in AGGROS. The recently released track "Chaos Magic" is a 6 minute instrumental that is accompanied by a music video filmed by Parris on NYC's Williamsburg Bridge. A pandemic stricken NYC yielded very little in the way of foot traffic on the bridge which allowed Parris and one other to film the video over the course of 22 nights creating a very unique visual to go alongside the debut (and currently lone Aggros) track. Things became more interesting upon digging deeper into the Aggros story with all guitars and bass being performed by Parris, a plan to release new songs (each with a video) one at a time, the prospect of future songs all being instrumentals and the uncertainty of live shows created a ton of questions. We reached out to Parris to get some answers and he broke it all down for us in this interview that took place on December 1st. Lead photo by: Guy Furrow with graphics by: John Franko.
IE: What's up Parris? Can you start off by introducing us to Aggros? When did you get the idea to start this band, when did you start writing and what circumstances in your life made you want to start Aggros?
Parris: My name is Parris Mayhew, if you know my previous 3 albums then my music will be familiar to you and nothing more need be said, otherwise all you need to hear is “Chaos Magic” to know what the Aggros are all about, go to the Aggros You Tube page to check it out.
Musically I’m just picking up where I left off with my former band Cro-Mags, which was a vehicle for my music during that time, I co-founded the band and was the principle songwriter of the music. I took a long break from music after the breakup of Cro-Mags in 2000, because I was immediately drawn into the film business, so although there was a break in my musical output, for me, it’s like I walked off stage from the last Mags gig yesterday. Aggros is just a continuation of what I’ve always done musically, it's just a vehicle for my music, except without the obstacles and with a new name Aggros… simple as that.
The pandemic stopped my film work dead in its tracks as all television production shut down and left me with the luxury of free time, something I have not had in 18 years and the freedom to divert my focus back to music. I didn’t really "decide" to make music again, I never stopped writing, that’s just something I do whenever I pick up a guitar. So with what little time my work afforded me over the years, I had been writing and recording demos and looked around for other guys who fit the band model. Interim players came and went but no one brought what I needed to the table, which is being an equal. It became a frustrating fruitless search. So during the isolation of the pandemic I assessed my music but without the bias of the traditional band model in mind and realized what I had been searching for was already on tape. I just listened to my demos and what I heard was “Chaos Magic” and realized, this is IT. And then the question came to me, why have I been waiting for bodies in the room? What a waste of time that was. So with that realization fueling my fires I began making the video furiously, it was a massive undertaking and when it was done, I wondered again WTF was I waiting for, but we all get sidetracked and bogged down by pre-conceived notions and established method and of course the desire for back up. So I posted the video and it has been a whirlwind ever since.
As for a "band?" This is really backtracking to my former mindset, but wanting "a band" was mostly something impressed upon me by tradition and anyone I auditioned or worked with asked me relentlessly, "when are we gonna have a REAL band?" I always responded, "who? who are we talking about?" and of course their idea of the missing band was a conglomeration of all their fantasies about being in a band. I think they imagine an 18 year old Rob Halford sitting by his phone waiting for the call. If he is, get me the number, I'll call. But even at the end of the Cro-Mags during the “Revenge” era there was no band really. When it became time to record I hired a drummer, and when we toured I hired people needed to perform the songs live and that was a long list over that one year of touring, including 4 drummers, and four guitar players. So that model worked for me then and now.
And honestly this way is way more productive for me, because having a "real band" which normally would start with, me teaching my songs to other people... then it would be called a band, is just a hindrance. At least that's always been my experience. But in isolation a band isn’t a practical ambition anyway. I realized I don’t actually need a traditional band to make my music in the current ever changing musical climate. The White Stripes are a great example. There is no touring anyway at the moment so it's a mute issue but I realize people have a cognitive bias when the model isn't what they expect. All I really required to make any recordings are the drumming skills of someone like the mighty Cobz, and or the help of three other drummers which I have on other songs which I will release (presently scheduled for 2021). But with or without a band, or whichever drummer I enlist, the end result is always the same and I’ve found it’s much more fun this way. And when and if touring resumes and I perform, there will be a great band with me, don't worry about that. Think of Ghost as the model if you need one for context.
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH THE "CHAOS MAGIC" MUSIC VIDEO BY AGGROS
IE: Outside of yourself the only other musician on your first song “Chaos Magic” is the previously mentioned “Cobz” who is listed as the drummer. Can you give us any background to Cobz' musical resume?
Parris: This is Cobz’ debut really. He has remarkable skills as a drummer. He performed “Chaos Magic” in stellar fashion, after I twisted his arm of course. He’s a death metal dude all day long, with an immense tool box of beats, but his "go to" tool is a sledge hammer, and death metal is all he wants to do, end of story, but he was also a Mags fan and was happy to lend his skills to make my kind of music, or so he said, ha. I had to impress upon him that “Chaos Magic” was NOT a death metal song, and “under no circumstances will there be any double bass drum beats in this song.” It sounds silly but this is really what goes on when working with musicians, they stick in their comfort zone. I explained that “Chaos Magic” was written and intended to be hardcore through and through, a specific kind of hardcore, well my style of hardcore anyway. A hardcore epic encompassing everything that makes my style unique and then some. In trade for playing “Chaos Magic” the way I wanted I promised I would write a metal song of equally monumental scale, where he could play double bass as much as his heart desired, so he agreed to follow my road map on “Chaos Magic” to my satisfaction. And I did write that song for Cobz FYI, it’s called “Back Stabbath”, but we never got around to recording it. Joey Jordison if you’re reading this, let’s record that one together, you are the only other person besides Cobz who could do it justice. Anyway I told Cobz my personal philosophy of music, “you have to have a clear vision of what each song should be, you can't just throw beats around helter skelter. It’s the only way to give each song it’s own identity.” He looked at me then rolled his eyes. Ultimately it didn’t work out with Cobz but it allowed me to strong arm my way into having a recording that fulfilled my vision of the song. If that was all I achieved with Cobz then it was worthwhile and I am grateful to him for it, thanks Cobz. His performance on “Chaos Magic” is something to be proud of. Cobz is also a native New Yorker, Brooklynite. I have several songs recorded with 4 different drummers. Cobz just happens to be on the first track I released. He’s a monster, and so are the other 3. Wait till you hear them too!
ARTWORK BY: ANDREW SAWYERS
IE: The info out there for the band says that Aggros is an instrumental band and will be releasing singles with an accompanying music video for every song. Is there a possibility that you will have guest singers or a full time singer in the future?
Parris: Anything is possible. I do peripherally covet the idea of being surrounded by talented musicians in a band, it is the ideal dream of a band, a band like the Beatles or Eagles where everyone contributes equally and it’s a real group effort, that’s the grand prize, but I’ve never had that so it’s tough to even imagine it. The reality is always very different and I usually end up carrying a lot of dead weight. I would like it to be similar to being on a film set where I work, surrounded by the best technicians in NYC all pitching in their talents for the bigger picture. But speculating about an ideal band is just that, speculation. If I find these people or they find me, then it will take its course. “Chaos Magic” is proof enough that I don’t require bodies in the room to make music and this way I don’t have to listen to endless distracting nonconstructive opinions.
Perhaps there will be additional Aggros in the future, I’m open to and officially inviting it, but I’m not waiting for that or anything. “Chaos Magic” is my favorite song I ever recorded, and I did it in one afternoon by myself. But, to your question, I've always written music to stand alone as instrumental, even when I had singers. I always tried to make the songs as packed with stuff as possible, make them big puzzles with as many pieces as it took to complete the picture. A song should be a complete musical thought, even before the lyrics become a part of it. “Chaos Magic” is a complete musical thought, a journey with a beginning, middle and end and a bunch of surprises along the way. It speaks but not with words. If Rob Halford wants to take a shot at singing on “Chaos Magic” tell him to give me a call.
I’m also open to release and re-release songs in different versions and add or incorporate cool peeps. I do describe this recording of “Chaos Magic” as a demo. It is a raw one take screamer. With no reservations about “making it perfect” I just slammed it out and here it is and I love it. I also loved how in the old days we would release demos first, then a full length album later, maybe I’ll do that. And it seems my signal flare has been seen because the video for “Chaos Magic” was out for only 2 days when I got a text from someone you all know saying “Aggros are great, I want in!” And yesterday I got an email from a prominent drummer throwing his name in the hat. So the music is drawing a crowd. I’m not sure what will come of either communique, if anything, but it’s interesting to see the effect a single song can have on perception. So moving forward I will continue just the same as I always did, but this time without distracting voices. You can think of my music now like a group like Daft Punk, Prince or Steve Miller band. I just want to have fun playing music. And at the moment I’m enjoying music more than I ever did before.
IE: What about the approach of just releasing one song at a time? In a musical sense (especially for hardcore and metal) this is a very unorthodox approach to putting music out.
Parris: There is a knee jerk expectation for the album format. I don’t see the need to follow that model. I prefer the plan of releasing one song at a time with a video for now. Make every song an event, with a visual counterpart, like it was in the 80’s, in the heyday of MTV. As a film maker, I have the luxury of my own abilities as a director, it is an advantage that I will exploit to dress up my music as best as possible before I send it out into the world. And after I’ve put out three or four songs, I’ll release a 7” vinyl called “Rise Of The Aggros” with that material. And in 2021 I’ll release the full length album collection of the vinyl releases. Opportunities dictate our paths, I’ll wait to see what presents itself.
Also while we are in isolation, in the middle of a pandemic, there is no normal model for music, no album release followed by a touring cycle. So my model makes more sense in the current state of things. Perhaps by the time I have a number of songs out, then concerts will return. So for now I will spread out the releases of individual songs a little over time to bridge that gap in protocol. Then when concerts return, then and only then would I even think of assembling a touring band. Why bother now? Right now people seem happy with “Chaos Magic” which is all that matters to me.
IE: Can you talk about the video for the first single “Chaos Magic”? I read that with less people on the street that you saw an opportunity to film on the Williamsburg Bridge in NYC and create what you did. Do you ride or walk this bridge often? How did the concept for this video come about?
Parris: The video was a passion project, it would have to be to justify the sheer amount of time and work I put in not only shooting it without a crew but also managing the massive load of visual effects. But the content is all that matters, the process should be hidden behind the curtain. “Chaos Magic” is basically an elaborate selfie. I shot it all myself with help of only one person, I would put the guitar in his hand, light him and frame up the shot, then we would change places. But back to the content, the video is a collection of my memories on screen to go with the music. I’ve been walking and riding my bike over that bridge all my life. I’ve always wanted to make a video on the bridge at night, so I’ve collected ideas, all the puzzle pieces I would need one day to make a video. It’s amazing up there, a view some could take for granted but I never do. I am native New Yorker and I wanted my music, which is also a product of my life here, to have that regional imprint. I made the video to feel like my life in a memory capsule. And I don’t mean shots of recognizable iconic NYC tourist spots. It had to be a New Yorker’s memory. And those alone moments, walking or riding a bike at night, in the deserted city, in the glow of sodium vapor light is what a New Yorker alone has burned into his psyche. So I chose the Williamsburg Bridge because it looks like the city of my youth. It is a slice of NYC unchanged in decades.
The pandemic certainly cleared not only the streets but the bike and foot traffic on the bridge for months, it was a ghost town and more importantly in the wake of “Defund The Police” there was zero police presence in Brooklyn. I shot for 22 nights and didn’t see a single cop the entire time. I shot at night, from midnight until sunrise all throughout the first 6 months of the pandemic. I was able to capture a snapshot of my memory. Just like the song is a reflection of that same life, NYC music. They are inseparable.
IE: In the video there is emphasis on your two pairs of Adidas sneakers, the Kiss Army belt buckle, as well as you staring or looking at something in the distance. Is there a reason the video seemed to focus in on these things or to you was it just cool imagery that you wanted to highlight?
Parris: There were many considerations in making the video for “Chaos Magic”. Certainly the way it looked was primary. I wanted the viewer to see NYC when it was a dark place. I wanted “The Warriors”, not “Sex And The City”. The video is also an introduction to Aggros. I needed to introduce myself. So besides seeing my performance I also peppered the video with my personal likes and aspects of my life that shaped me as a musician. The KISS Army buckle, the Cheap Trick and Motörhead t-shirts, the Rickenbacker bass, are all nods to the music I love. The Rickenbacker is in honor of Lemmy, Geddy and Chris Squire of YES, it’s an iconic instrument associated with all of them. The sneakers were just what I was wearing that day, but those shots of the kicks are pieces of the action, the story. When I play I move, film making should always tell a motion story, and should show the action from multiple points of view, the face, the hands on the neck and for lack of a better word, footwork, it is show business after all, and close ups are a way of focusing on the details of life. The little things we notice, filmakers notice for us, and the video is a collection of them all on screen like a memory. I have vivid memories of every concert I’ve ever been to that are peppered with details of what I saw and are burned into memory as if it happened yesterday. I remember the red and black Nike high tops Anthony Kiedis was wearing on the “Freaky Styley” tour on stage at the Ritz. I remember the Rasta colored sneakers HR was wearing on stage when the Bad Brains played Toronto in 1989. I remember the star sticker on Denise Mercedes’ black Les Paul at Max’s Kansas City, I remember the guitars everyone played at every show I ever saw! In the “Chaos Magic” video I showed what I would see, if I was looking at my performance. It’s all about seeing, that’s what I’m looking at in the distance, I’m looking at all the things I remember. Life is just a collection of memories. My video is a packaged memory to go with the song. I’ve inadvertently given the song a home too, a place forever linked to the song, the Williamsburg Bridge. Take that walk at midnight and see what I mean.
THE SNEAKERS OF "CHAOS MAGIC"
IE: Wildfire NYC which you own with your wife is credited for making the video for Chaos Magic. Does Wildfire create content besides music videos? Feel free to plug what you do with Wildfire.
Parris: Thanks. Wildfire is primarily a marketing agency, but with a content creation arm, me, We opened Wildfire right on the cusp of the pandemic so we were able to do one job prior to the shutdown. It was a music video for an artist named EM and the song is called “Say What You Mean” which is now at 500,000 views on YouTube. I really like her video. I was able to do some special things visually which I’m proud of. When it was done we thought, ok what do we do now with this lockdown. But we were able to get unusual jobs, jobs with no people in them, where we used drones. So we kept busy despite the lockdown. Wildfire was a way for me and Barblin to work together and to a large extent it supports both our skill sets. But mainly it’s a vehicle for me as a director and Barblin as a marketing expert. And I must say I’ve directed a lot of videos for great artists like Type O Negative and Onyx but I have to say without reservation that “Chaos Magic” is my favorite video I’ve directed so far. Also the most difficult. But since the pandemic we have done web spots for Spotify, The Brooklyn Museum, Scenester and DKNY. Barblin and I make a great team in all ways.
PARRIS AT WORK ON THE 2017 MOVIE "A DOGS PURPOSE"
IE: Now that the first song is out there for the public to check out what's next? How many Aggros songs currently exist and what is the timeline for putting out each new song and video?
Parris: I will release the next song when the next video is done. I will begin shooting this week. How long it will take to make... is anyone’s guess. I just finished up a play through of “Chaos Magic” which will be up and available to view presently. It’s a different slant on the song. I think people who like the song will get a kick out of it. It’s really a bass play through mostly but I also play guitar in it. I wrote the song on the bass. I’ve written a lot on bass in the past. Bass heavy songs like “World Peace” and “Signs of The Times” were written on the bass in my mom’s kitchen in Manhattan when I was in high school… actually “Signs” was written in Nashville on summer vacation at my dad’s, on a G and L bass owned by the bass player of Jason and the Nashville Scorchers. So I thought seeing the song from the point of view of the bass would be cool. It is bass heavy. Rhythmically anyway. As I said, I’m on no one’s timetable but my own. It’s all DIY, NO LABEL! I am gratified that people want more, I have more.
IE: Why the name Aggros?
Parris: Because it sounds correct! When I hear my music loud I imagine an army of mutants called Aggros beating down the door, I guess in a way it’s more descriptive of the fans! And Aggros just fits. Aggressive is how everything must be done to make a difference.
IE: Is there anything else you wanted to add before we wrap this up? Thanks for your time.
Parris: I’m glad I am able to make music. So I feel only gratitude. I have been lucky to have had other chapters in my life that distracted me from music without regret. But here I am again full circle, a seamless return to my music, as it should be. Thank you Chris and Rod for sharing your audience with me. And last but not least, releasing “Chaos Magic” has been liberating. It has separated me from the past, and has answered any questions anyone might have had about who is who, and who did what... so now you know. Parris. And go to AGGROS.NYC for all things Aggros and YouTube.com/theaggros and subscribe!!! YO!