Thy Art Is Murder's CJ McMahon: "Eddie Hermida has lost his throne"
CJ McMahon quit Aussie deathcore crushers Thy Art Is Murder under a cloud of desperation and drug addiction. Now he’s back, he’s clean and he’s swinging for greatness
During his time away from Thy Art Is Murder, vocalist CJ McMahon would get up at the crack of dawn. Instead of heading to a venue or a studio, he would get stuck into a day’s graft as a stonemason in his native Sydney, putting in the hours to build the kitchens and bathrooms of suburban dreams. He made the surprise career move after realising he was on a downward spiral – and it wasn’t easy.
“It’s hard work lifting heavy, fucking brutal stone,” he says. “I just needed to clean my life up, get off the drugs, detox my body, sort my fucking brain out, and be happy that I’m alive again.”
CJ announced his departure from Thy Art Is Murder via Facebook in December 2015, citing financial ruin and homesickness as key reasons. It was one of the year’s most shocking moments; following the release of the savage, religion-bating Holy War in June, the band had been riding the crest of a wave. But offstage, things hadn’t been right for a while.
“It had been coming for years,” CJ sighs. “I’d be touring so much that I wouldn’t see my family for 10 months. Money was always the main issue; we live in the most expensive city in the world, so when I was there I couldn’t pay for anything. I couldn’t afford health insurance. I recently had an impacted wisdom tooth removed and it cost me a thousand dollars. It’s been killing me for years, but I just had to put up with it.”
With the weight of the world on his shoulders, CJ turned to drugs to block out his frustrations, becoming a user and a dealer. He shut himself off from everyone, including his bandmates, who were forced to suffer in silence as he “just refused to engage” with them.
“I was trying to get that high I had onstage, and to repress the feeling of missing my family and having no money,” he remembers. “It was a vicious circle that I was spiralling in. I pretty much OD’d twice in that time, and one day I woke up in LA after a massive drink and coke bender feeling angry and frustrated, and I just went, ‘That’s it... I’m not doing this anymore.’ And I went home.”
It’s obvious from CJ’s tone, just as it was obvious from his statement, that he was craving a normal life: job security, financial stability, a social support network. When he quit the band, he took Xmas off and then got straight to work as a stonemason with his father-in-law and brother-in-law. The strict routine not only gave him the above, but allowed him to block out his destructive thoughts.
“I was feeling completely physically wrecked, getting up at half five and finishing at seven, but it was good that I could support me and my wife,” he says. “I’d be so tired that I’d just sleep, so it was helping me mentally, too. I was too exhausted to dwell on things or to engage with the people who’d be a negative influence on me.”