TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Vocals – CJ McMahon (Thy Art Is Murder)

There are few advocates of death metal out there who are as hell born or downright scornful as the Australian monoliths that are Thy Art Is Murder. A few days away from dropping their third full-length ‘Holy War’, which carries an original artwork packaging that alone opts to hit you on the head with a sledgehammer for attention rather than tap you on the shoulder, it seems like they’re setting up to take their reputation to higher accolades. Known for also teaching people how to perform unclean vocals properly, we spoke with frontman CJ McMahon for some of his own tips on how we can sound more demonic too.


I was all about bands like Nirvana, Deftones, Limp Bizkit, and Korn. They would have to be the first bands that I fell in love with and still do love.

For me, the ultimate vocalist would have to be Mike Patton. He can do it all and in different languages and in any style that you can imagine. He is truly the world’s best vocalist, hands down. Phil Bozeman is good too.


I really learnt from myself. I sang at school and in groups from when I was about 8 years-old, and then broke off and did my own thing. I had some lessons when I was 19, but really found my own way and made a routine from there.

I also say cover as many different bands as you like so you don’t try and sound like one other person more than the next. You can try and sound like 20 different vocalists, and then you can find your own voice. Learn breathing exercises too, they’re extremely important.


I have my own routine which I do and teach to others. It takes about 30-40 minutes and then my voice feels perfect. Sometimes on long tours I don’t even warm up as it gets conditioned.


I don’t think most of her stuff works. Maybe 10% of it is useful, and the rest is just filler so people don’t feel ripped off buying the DVDs. I know many people that have worked with her and then worked with me. There aren’t any other tutorial videos or guides that I could recommend either.


Before or after a session, avoid cold drinks and food, have loads of water, keep talking to a minimum and keep warm, and rest and sleep as much as possible. I don’t do anything unusual. I usually smoke a cigarette and don’t drink cold drinks after playing.

Just know what you’re doing and know your limits. Most people fail at this.


I can’t really explain further without writing a 2000 word essay. It’s easy, but it just takes time and practice.

Thy Art Is Murder‘s third studio album, ‘Holy War’, is out on June 29th 2015 through Nuclear Blast Records/UNFD.

Are you in a band? Do you own a label or PR company? Want to share your experience and tips with others aspiring to do the same thing? Get in touch with our features editor, MG Savage (email or Twitter), and we can share your tricks of the trade.

Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)