INTERVIEW: Ernie Jaramillo Talks New Chemicaust LP & the State of Texas Thrash Metal

Dallas, Texas’ Chemicaust has been tearing up local venues with their 1980’s inspired thrash metal since 2013. Fronted by vocalist/bassist Ernie Jaramillo with Pierce Hall and Damian Giron on guitars and Ronn Harris on drums, the band has become one of the most followed and beloved metal bands in the scene. In 2015, the band released an EP, As Empires Fall, but last month they took some of those tracks and some new ones to put out their first full-length album, Unleashed Upon This World. Adorned by cover art by Ed Repka (Megadeth, Death Angel, Municipal Waste), the album is a full-blown ass kicker that recalls the 80’s speed metal that influenced the band, but still sounds current and fresh to any metalhead. Check out our review, here.

We got the chance to talk to Ernie about the album, it’s creation, and also took the opportunity to ask him about the current state of thrash metal in Texas (something the Dallas Observer declared dead upon Warbeast’s untimely retirement).

How does it feel to finally have a full-length Chemicaust album out? 

Ernie Jaramillo: It’s like a dream come true, you know what I mean? And the artwork we got, we got Ed Repka to do the artwork. You never know what’s going to happen to bands, it could all fall apart tomorrow, but at least we have this – no matter what. Unleashed Upon This World is out there with killer artwork, killer production. We’re really proud of it.

It’s also worth noting that you guys have maintained the same band members since you began. 

Ernie Jaramillo: You know, the beginning, even though me and Damian, the guitar player, go way back – we used to live in Albuquerque together and we played in a band together. We did a demo back in like ’98-’99 and did some shows. Then we kind of went our own ways. But, then he moved to Dallas, probably around 2010, and we started talking about wanting to put a band together. But, I was busy doing some other stuff and they didn’t have a drummer. He had actually met this guy, Pierce Hall, and they got together and started writing songs, but I didn’t want to join a band without a drummer. But, they got a drummer, Ronn Harris. They met him in the rehearsal room where they were practicing at and started to get a couple of songs down and asked me to come down. From that point on we’ve been the same members, the same guys. I know they tried out some other bass players and other singers, but no one stuck.

It’s pretty remarkable you’ve maintained the same band members, there’s always so much turnover when a band has been together for more than a couple of years. I guess you guys are all coming from the same place, musically?

Ernie Jaramillo: Yeah, I think all of us…we all come from different influences and ideas about what we want to do, but it all comes together. I like to think of it as a really organic band.  Everyone has put their unique flavor into the band.

So, was this a self-produced album? 

Ernie Jaramillo: In the studio it was all us. We wrote the songs, we hashed them out, we felt like we knew what we wanted. We worked with Irving Lopez, who recorded, mixed, and mastered the CD, he did everything. He didn’t really have an influence on the music, but how to get a good sound. So, it’s been us. No producer who has been trying to guide us in one direction or another.

Ernie Jaramillo performs with Chemicaust. Photo by DeLisa McMurray.

Four of the songs on this album previously appeared on the As Empires Fall EP. Were these songs re-recorded? 

Ernie Jaramillo: One was re-recorded and four were re-mastered.

Which one did y’all re-recorded?

Ernie Jaramillo: “Genocide.” It’s kind of a funny story, because when we play it live, the ending part is a really slow and heavy part. But, when we went in to record it we played it too fast. You can hear it on the CD, it’s a lot faster. You’ll notice when we play it live, we play it slow. So, we wanted to re-record it and slow it down. But, again we did it too fast. That’s the story behind that.

Why did you guys decide to carry over those songs on this full-length album? 

Ernie Jaramillo: Originally it was an EP and we wanted to see if we could get some interest. We had a few labels that were interested in helping us put it out. They wanted to release a full length. We were just thinking…like the EP did well in our regional area and we were hoping to get a label who could help us push it further. At first we did a limited 300 run of the EP and we sold out of that. Then we did another 500 and we’re still sitting on quite a few of them. But, we didn’t want to be empty handed while we worked on the full-length.

The rest of the album is fleshed out with three other songs and an Exodus cover. Were the other three written from the same era as the EP or are those newer?

Ernie Jaramillo: There was actually supposed to be four other songs, but we couldn’t get the fourth one worked out the way we wanted to, so we had to scrap it. But, there were two from the early days. “Serenity” is one of the first four or five songs we ever wrote. Then “Incaracerated” and “Unleashed Upon the World” are our newest songs.

Did y’all have other songs and just happen to pick those three or four out of the bunch? 

Ernie Jaramillo: We’ll work on something and see if it takes off. If we like it we’ll work on it for a while and keep it. There’s a lot of our songwriting process where a lot of stuff we’ll get rid of or save for later on down the line. Right now, we have one completed song and we still have the old song we wanted to put on this album. Our plan is to push this CD as much as possible with live shows and getting out to as many cities as we can…as we can afford and be able to take time off from work. I’m hoping that we can release another album by 2020.

The Exodus cover, “A Lesson in Violence,” what inspired you to include this on the album? 

Ernie Jaramillo: I think it goes back to our roots and what we’re going for. Our goal in the band is to be an 80’s style thrash band, but current today. It’s paying homage to the bands we looked up to growing up. I say that, but our guitar player Pierce is still growing up (laughs). He’s the youngest out of all of us. Amazingly, he was into it. He loves the old school thrash. He was totally into it. That’s one thing…we clicked with him well. That’s one thing that’s pretty amazing to find someone as young as him, who is as good a guitar player that he is…we’ve been into it since High School back in 85 (laughs).

I saw in one of your past interviews, you said you bounced around studios a little bit while making this album, all with Irving Lopez at the helm. Did that affect the process at all? 

Ernie Jaramillo: I don’t think it really affected the process. I’m sure if you really listen to it you could hear some difference between the songs. There are some differences. Some of the cymbals sound a little different. There’s some things, but it’s all a learning experience. We had a good idea on what we wanted to do, but next time we’ll be a little more prepared to record a full-length.

What are the plans for getting out of Texas and touring to help support the album?

Ernie Jaramillo: Last year, we played at the NYDM (New York Death Militia) Spring Bash. NYDM is a nation-wide metal club with chapters in just about every state. We went out to Milwaukee and played there. We went on at like 3:00 in the afternoon, but there was at least 100 people there. It wasn’t a huge fest, but by the end of the night that hall that we played at was packed. And from there it’s kind of helped us out. We got a connection where we’re going to go play another NYDM event in Indiana. On the way to Indiana we got a show in Nashville, we’re going to play that. In the fall we’re going to play Albuquerque, New Mexico and then another NYDM event in Arizona. We’re trying to get on the Las Vegas Death Fest, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. This is why we were hoping to get on a label to work with us. The labels we were looking at, one was an American label and one was European. I kinda thought the American label could help us out more than a European label. I’m not sure if that’s the case. But, I’ve been talking to the guys at Full Terror Assault and it looks like we might be out there in Illinois in September.

Last July, the Dallas Observer did a nice piece on Bruce Corbitt and Warbeast. Obviously, Bruce is battling cancer, but they titled their cover “As the North Texas metal band Warbeast retires, a once powerful local genre ends with it.” No disrespect to Bruce and Warbeast, but I thought that was kind of a bold, yet out-of-touch statement. What do you think about the status of thrash metal in Dallas-Fort Worth? 

Ernie Jaramillo: I think it’s great. I talk to people in other states and the stuff we’ve got going on over here is unheard of in other places. If we wanted to we could play every weekend of the month. There’s so many clubs and so many things going on. You’ve got Deep Ellum and everything going on out there. Out here in Fort Worth you’ve got all the bars, Tomcat’s and the Rail Club. Reno’s Chop Shop and the Curtain Club in Dallas. It’s amazing. There’s some amazing venues. I think we’re very fortunate to be a thrash band here in Texas. There’s a lot of great bands out there.

Head over to bandcamp to grab a CD or digital copy of Chemicaust’s Unleashed Upon This World. If you’re in Houston, you can catch them at the Acadia Bar & Grill with Dead Horse this Friday. You can also follow the band on Facebook to keep up with upcoming shows.

In the meantime, check out our review of Unleashed Upon This World.


1 Comment

Leave a Reply