Spotlight – meets CJ of Paleface (29th March 2022)

Just this weekend, I introduced you to Fear & Dagger, the second album by the Swiss beatdown band Paleface. Even though I am not that much into extreme metal genres, I really loved the album. The more I feel gifted to introduce you a bit more to the band. One of the founding members, Colin Hammond named CJ and I had a chat for the latest episode of my Spotlight interviews. Hope you enjoy to read how he and Zelli (Marc Zellweger) grew the band alongside the two other band members, Tommy-Lee Abt and Yannick Lehmann.

Paleface – Fear & Dagger meets CJ of Paleface

FLYC: Thanks for being part of my interview series. Paleface is a relatively new band. You have been founded in 2017 in Zurich. Could you describe how you decided to go that project?

CJ (Paleface): Hey guys! First of all, thanks a lot for having me! My name is CJ and I play drums for PALEFACE. So yeah, basically it’s a long story. But long story short I met Zelli (our vocalist) through a mutual friend. The three of us used to go to lots of shows together and at one specific concert Zelli and I expressed our love for hardcore and beatdown. So, we shook hands and promised to create the heaviest band ever together. How Zelli and Yannick (our guitar player) met each other is another long story but essentially, they met through mutual friends as well. Tommy, our bass player, literally messaged us on Facebook if we were looking for a bass player. The rest is history.

FLYC: I can imagine that at the beginning of a band project, you have to find a “common style”, agree on “band rules” and the way Paleface shall sound. How did you define Paleface and its music?

CJ (Paleface): When Zelli and I shook hands, we had a vision for this band. We both knew when, where and what would happen for this band. We were both so encapsuled in our art and vision we didn’t even think about a real style or rules. However, when we all met for the first time in a room to write music, we agreed to write the most truthful diabolical stuff possible. We all recognized our love for music and for the songs we are about to make. They weren’t really any rules per se. We let our minds run free and translate what we thought into melodies and riffs. Ultimately, the vision and mission was born through Zelli and I, yet the music was born from the passion, hatred and tears everyone in the band has experienced.

FLYC: Has there been a special moment, when you recognized the first time that your band will become a real success?

CJ (Paleface): We all recognize the unbelievable response we get from our fans everyday. We are truly blessed to have such incredible fans. None of us ever thought we would get the response we have gotten. If I had to chose one special moment, I would say a rather recent one. Last year we played a show in our country Switzerland and at the end of the show the crowd screamed for an encore. I think that was the first time all of us were like “holy shit, look what is happening”.

FLYC: You are doing beatdown metal. How did you describe to your parents, grandparents or anybody not related to metal what this music is about?

I think it’s the same problem all of us have when we explain any sub genre of metal to anyone outside of this realm. There really isn’t really a good explanation for it nor is there the time to explain the entire history of metal to our parents, whether that be thrash metal, death metal, beatdown etc. So, I think what we have always said to anybody is that we play the darkest and heaviest metal music possible while at the same time saying what we truly think and feel.

FLYC: When you ask artists of other genres how they write their songs, a lot is based on personal experience. You wrote tracks like Selfish Cunts or Human Hunter, which is likely not part of your everyday life. How do you get to the stories and sounds?

CJ (Paleface): In essence, Zelli and I planned all of our EP’s and albums already from the very beginning in 2017. Even our newest record (Fear & Dagger) was already fully envisioned in 2017. All of our albums are part of the same story that was born with our first EP. However, for our new album we knew we would go another route. A deeper, darker, more sinister route than ever before by using analogies to talk about mental health whilst still sticking to our original story. We have always gotten our influences from personal experiences in life, from observations of our own self-reflection and from our subliminal thoughts. We dig deep within ourselves to create the sound that we want and it seems we go deeper with every new album.

FLYC: Your very first demo single has been Servant Filth. What has the song been about?

CJ (Paleface): The song is about our honest confused vision of religion, while at the same time encapsulating it in the story we created. All of us never understood the false claims or the draconian mentality religion enforces upon someone. We are all our own god. There is no need for any fairy tales. That’s what the song is about.

FLYC: Your career developed rapidly. The year after you started Paleface, you already released Chapter 1: From the Gallows, your debut EP. With that EP, you also had your first stage appearance. How has your very first gig been?

CJ (Paleface): It was amazing. A lot more people showed up than we initially thought would. It was absolutely violent. From bloody noses to stone cold knock outs, we experienced everything at that show. It was an experience none of us in the band will ever forget.

FLYC: With the second EP Chapter 2: Witch King latest, you also gained reputation beyond the Swiss borderline. What has been your favorite venue you played in?

CJ (Paleface): I think our favorite venue/show we have ever played was Fajtfest in the Czech Republic in 2021. It was our biggest show to date with thousands of people. It was also our first outdoor show so that was also special. The show and atmosphere were just amazing there. We also had an amazing show in 2019 in Manchester UK, which I think is also very close to being our favorite to date.

FLYC: The third chapter of the Paleface stories has been The Last Selection, your debut album. Initially, it has been planned as a third EP. But then came Covid-19. How difficult has it been to do that upgrade?

CJ (Paleface): The most difficult part was that none of us were expecting to write an album and were therefore kind of lost. Plus, none of us has ever written an entire album so we knew there was lots of work up ahead. However, we all had the time to write due to the lock-downs. I actually think the lock-downs helped us dig even deeper within ourselves. The result was the most brutal album ever. However, our new album Fear & Dagger will absolutely blow Chapter 3 out of the water. It is the definition of evil.

FLYC: Is there a track you especially like or would like to point out from the debut album?

CJ (Paleface): I can’t speak for everyone in the band but for me personally I am always truly amazed by Zelli’s talent on the mic. The song Go To Sleep from our previous album was a slap in the face for anyone that heard it. If you like crazy fast vocals that one is for you. For our new album Fear & Dagger I can’t even decide. Literally every single song is special to us.

FLYC: One thing I recognized is that you have a lot of collaborations with other bands. This leads to a lot of variety, especially in your new album. Is there any collaboration you especially liked?

CJ (Paleface): All of our collaborations on our new album are insane. Moreover, what is more insane is that all of us have been big fans of all of the artists featuring on our new album for years now. I don’t think there is just a single collaboration that we especially liked. They are all absolutely crazy and brutal in their own way. However, there is one feature on the album that was especially creative. You will know it once you hear it.

FLYC: One of the bands you work with on the new album Fear & Dagger is Justice For The Damned, who are from Australia. How do these collaborations work, especially under the limitations by Covid-19?

CJ (Paleface): These collaborations actually happen a lot more naturally than many might think. We just wrote them through various social channels that we are huge fans of their work and would like to ask if they would feature on a new song of ours. They replied that they are super down and love our music so the rest is history. We are always so in awe of any artist that we have been looking up to that wants to feature on one of our songs. That was also the case for Justice For The Damned. That band is absolutely amazing.

FLYC: Is there any overall story behind Fear & Dagger?

CJ (Paleface): For Fear & Dagger, as mentioned before, we took a different approach. It is basically a spin-off of our original EP and album trilogy story. We took a darker path on this new album than ever before by infusing personal experiences and mental health issues to all levels of the music. You can hear the pain and suffering in the vocals, the guitar, the bass and the drums. The album story revolves around the darker side of mental health and its devilish nature.

FLYC: So far, Paleface had some two million streams. How much does that mean to you? Is it rather making you proud or also leading to pressure, e.g. because it is setting certain expectations for Fear & Dagger?

CJ (Paleface): We absolutely never thought we would see anything close to that number. We are stunned everyday when we see those numbers. It just reinforces our belief and vision for this band even more and it proves there are others out there who feel the same way we do. We knew we must usurp our previous record, yet none of us had any pressure. We were all confident in our ability to pour our heart and soul into this record and the result was something so unbelievably dark.

FLYC: What are your plans for 2022? Any tours or festivals planned?

CJ (Paleface): We have a few one-off shows planned soon including our album release show. We were planned to go on first ever tour in April but it unfortunately got cancelled due to Covid uncertainty. So we are now currently trying to book as much dates as possible all over Europe to make up for the cancellation. However, we do have something very special planned towards the end of the year that will be absolutely mind blowing for many. So, keep an eye out for that.

FLYC: Last, but not least: Being on the road and touring leads to a lot of funny stories. What has been the weirdest incident you had as a band so far?

CJ (Paleface): Oh man you have no idea how much we have laughed being on the road together. I think one of the funniest stories was the time I tried to do a handstand in the back of our van naked while driving down the highway. Zelli was driving and intentionally went on the brakes. I flew towards the front of the car and my naked ass was all over the center console of the car. The cars next to us could not believe what they were seeing. I think all of us in the band never laughed that hard before.


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