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October 1, 2014

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Q+A: Australia’s 4Arm opens for idols Slayer and Gojira tonight at the Joint

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4Arm.

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4Arm.

Australian thrash-metal band 4Arm are part of a wave of bands revitalizing the aggressive, speed-driven genre of thrash metal in the past several years.

The band plays the opening set tonight for metal icons Slayer and Gojira at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel, a dream come true for the band and their guitarist, James Munro.

I asked Munro what it’s like touring with your idols, how to avoid being seen as a “throwback” and where metal culture is at these days.

I’ve heard you guys were very much into The Big Four. Did you ever think you’d be touring with Slayer? What’s that like?

As a kid growing up in Australia and listening to bands like The Big Four, I always felt they were from a world so far away from anything I’d ever get to be a part. My only view in was through snippets on really late-night TV and whatever the local record store happened to have in stock at the time, which was usually very little in the way of metal.

When you found a rare tape, it was like winning the lotto, you know? We’d go through the lyrics to songs and try to interpret their meaning and argue about what we thought a song was about. So to be touring with Slayer is something out of a dream that’s been building for the last 20 years. To say excited is a vast understatement.

How does a band break into a genre that’s so beloved by a very die-hard fan base that can be a little, let’s say, protective?

That’s a tough one. I would probably say three things: Respect your musical roots because they are part of the reason you got here. Be true to yourself and write the music you have in you. And don’t give up no matter how tough it gets — and it will get tough.

Is there new ground to explore within thrash?

I think yes. The music that comes out is an expression from within the person writing and also as a response to their surroundings. There are constantly new people involved in thrash with new stories to tell or new ways to tell old stories, and as thrash tends to deal with the grittier side of world, there is also no shortage of new topics at hand these days.

How has the metal scene changed over the years? Any parts of the world where the scene is bigger and more prominent?

I would have to say that it’s getting bigger and bigger worldwide. I was just over in Europe a few months ago, and that place is explosive for metal, more festivals are appearing, and they are getting bigger every year. It’s a great time to be into metal.

Do you have any particularly crazy anecdotes from touring?

In an earlier tour, I was working as a lighting tech for a band, and we were out in Croatia filming a series of video clips. The theme was “Planet of the Women” where the band had somehow been transported to a planet where there were only girls, and they were the girls’ slaves. It was terrible, I tell you, being surrounded by all those girls! I’m lying; it was great.

Many bands have come about lately deconstructing older metal sounds and even adopting retro metal imagery in their artwork. How do you balance exploring a genre that’s been around a while without being labeled as a throwback band?

That’s a tough one again! I think a lot of it depends on where in the world you are, too, and what is old and new to them. If you don’t want to be labeled a throwback, then I would say that you need to not only explore the genre but also explore yourself and not be afraid to try new things or combine things that you think would sound or look cool.

Are you particularly friendly with any other metal bands or musicians outside 4Arm?

I've been lucky enough to meet some really cool bands and musicians through my travels with 4Arm and am very grateful for that. Outside 4Arm, I’m part of another band from Australia called Knightmare who have just finished their first album, “In Death’s Shadow.” Maybe Knightmare will visit the USA sometime soon? That would be pretty cool.

On some of your tracks, I get a similar vibe to bands like Exodus and Slayer in their mid-to-late 1980s work. What bands have influenced you? Anything we’d be surprised to hear?

4Arm’s music is largely inspired Metallica, Slayer, Pantera, Machine Head and Testament. All that music has penetrated Australian metal culture and continues to do so. Danny [Tomb] and Mick [Michael Vafiotis] have their individual influences that they bring when they do the writing, but those bands are the main ones.

What are your three favorite metal albums?

Metallica, “Master of Puppets.” There is just so much anger and passion in the playing, the guitars sound huge, and everything just fits together.

Iron Maiden, “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.” The first metal I ever listened to. A friend lent it to me on a tape, and I wore the tape out listening to it. I love the sound of a heavy guitar, and this was the first time I had heard that there were whole albums of this stuff. I think I was 10 or 11 at the time, and I was an instant convert.

Slayer, “Hell Awaits.” Man, the first time I heard this album, I was in shock! It was terrifying and amazing all at once. I loved the madness in Tom Araya’s voice, especially during “At Dawn They Sleep” when he builds the crescendo with the word “kill.”

Jorge Labrador is the news assistant for Las Vegas Magazine, a sister publication of the Las Vegas Sun.

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