Guest Blog: Chimaira Frontman Mark Hunter, "Adapt"
Mark Hunter is the vocalist and founding member of Cleveland metal act Chimaira. For more than a decade, Chimaira has been imposing its gravity on the metal community by continually touring the globe and selling more than a million albums worldwide. Their brand of heavy music has evolved and transcended both itself and the trends while maintaining its persistent, bludgeoning force. The band will release Crown Of Phantoms on July 30th. Listen to the first single "All That's Left is Blood" at the bottom of this post.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change."
I’ve been a touring musician for over a decade and to this day the hardest part is adapting from my lifestyle at home to the animal I become on tour. We had a year off from the world of touring, so I became comfortable living the suburban dream. Sleeping in my own bed, eating healthy, exercising and feeling great overall-- which is the opposite of how we can feel on tour. About two weeks before our recent run started I went through hell and back, riddled with anxiety. I was so stressed out that at one point my immune system weakened and I wound up in the hospital with the stomach flu. What the hell was I so freaked about?
Touring hasn’t always been easy. The older I get, the harder it seems to leave home but this was nuts. I talked to some of the other guys in the band and found out that they too were going through the jitters of getting back out on the road. While I found comfort in the fact I was not alone, unfortunately there was so much else going on with sensitive deadlines and it wasn’t enough to shake it. We had a ton to prepare for and finish from completion of the album to promo to rehearsal.
I worked on meditation, diet, and staying busy yet relaxed to alleviate my symptoms and ensure I was able to perform at my maximum ability. This is an important cycle and every move we make has to be performed with precision. I couldn’t let the fear of tour get in my way. It’s essential to stay relaxed even if it seems impossible. I plowed through the stress, flu, and deadlines, and there I was sitting with my band on the way to St. Louis. Ready to adapt to the road.
First, it starts with getting your sea legs back. Standing, walking and pissing in a vehicle traveling 65mph can be a challenge. The next thing you have to adapt to would be sleeping while moving or should I say, “Getting tossed around like a sock in a dryer.” You catch air quite a bit. Rumble strips, potholes and a driver changing their music player causing a massive jerk of the wheel. All awesome things you will feel as soon as you fall asleep.
The first show produces what we like to call a “bangover” – like a hangover, but from headbanging. Remember how sore your neck and throat get after screaming and going crazy at a concert? Well, why would we be any different? Day two is the worst because we have to headbang with whiplash. The neck hardly moves, and although you try, there is absolutely no elasticity left whatsoever. I was happy we had a shower on the vehicle, which helps the neck. It also helps you feel human to wash the venue filth off you.
Finding a clean toilet is the daily challenge on tour. You walk into some fucking nasty places. The toilet from “Candyman” is a prime example of what some of the venues have to offer. It’s fucking crazy. No doors, no seat, no toilet paper.
Food is the next challenge. Luckily Android devices come with Google Now, so we don’t have to walk around exploring. We hone in to exactly what we want, if there’s anything in the area. That’s always hit or miss. It could be that your dinner for the night is pizza. I love pizza, so I’m cool with it but not for 3 days in a row. And that’s exactly what happens. One killer aspect of tour is getting the chance to eat at all the places you see on The Food Network or Travel Channel. We had some dank meals. Pappy’s, what it do?
The other thing we have to adapt to daily are the clusterfucks, or “production nightmares” as our tour manager Big John likes to call them, each venue presents. What will load in be like? Will it be two guys carrying heavy ass road cases up a flight of rickety stairs? What will the stage be like? Will the band fit? Sometimes the answer is “no."
Most importantly, how is the sound system? Is it set up for a metal band or did a metal band show up to a rig suitable for a hipster's spoken word performance? It has happened! When we start playing on stage, will we be able to hear ourselves? I’d estimate we had a good monitor mix 5/25 shows of the last tour. We have to adapt every night and stay in sync with each other no matter what we can or can’t hear.
We all have to adapt to our relationships at home. From family to loved ones, part of the process is learning how to be home when you’re away from home. Our ladies also have to adapt to their men being gone. Easier said than done! Choosing to live with the smells and sounds of 10 people breathing and flatulating amongst each other over staying at home with a wife takes a special type of sick individual.
Touring is awesome though, and standing on stage is worth everything. And I love having to adapt to new challenges daily. It keeps me on my toes. At some point, you just stop giving a fuck about certain things and you win because you’ve learned to channel your energy in new ways. Extremely fast problem solving has now become a major interest of mine.
When the music’s over and I am back home, the first week is always a bit rough. I’ve been traveling at the speed of sound all over the country, and now I’m standing still. Don’t get me wrong, I love being at home, but it’s totally different than touring, and I have to go through the come down. The high is over, and the crash has begun. I’m no longer a nomadic rock icon. Yes, I use that word loosely.
Week 3 - I’m back to myself and I feel great, I'm also stoked for the next run. I seriously doubt I’ll have any anxiety next time. I had way too much fun the past 6 weeks, and I can’t wait to do it again. Plus the album will be out and there won’t be any deadlines to worry about. I’ll be able to concentrate on the tour and writing. I sum it up to having too much on my plate, and being detached from tour for too long.
Maybe my situations can help people learn to deal with and adapt to some of the curveballs life throws at them. While my situations are written for the sake of humor, behind it there’s a message. We carry way too much stress on our shoulders these days, and I can honestly say being thrown into odd situations on a daily basis has actually improved my ability to reduce stress levels exponentially. Each time I’m presented with a new challenge I learn to embrace it and learn from it.
Don’t run from fear. Never give up. Adapt and survive. It’s the way we all came to be and the only way to continue.