So December is a pretty crazy month for us at Damnation, as it is for most magazines and record labels. Our December is quite different, we don’t get to go to as many metal shows that month. Not because we don’t want to, believe us, if we could go to all the shows we wanted to we would, our day jobs don’t necessarily permit us time to attend them all during the holidays. Therefore we have to be very careful when choosing which shows we go see. The second we heard that Austin, Texas’ The Sword were going to be playing in our lovely city again, at one of our most cherished clubs The Ready Room, we knew that was going to be the one we needed to cover. As per usual we got in contact with their press contacts/management and set everything up. We were set to Interview them and photograph their set as well as opening act Royal Thunder.
On the night of the show we grabbed a bite to eat at the ever delicious Gramophone just down the street from the venue. Upon finishing we headed down to the Music Record Shop, right next to the venue, to stay out of the rain. There were other reasons we went in, you see though we had the confirmed email for the interview and everything, we never actually got a contact phone number for the interview. So while in the Record Shop we were texting and calling the phone numbers in our emails to get ahold of anyone, unbeknown to us bassist Bryan Richie was also walking around the record store. As he was checking out was when we realized, as did the clerk, what needed to happen. We let the transaction finish and introduced ourselves after the fact, filled him in as to what was going on and he was more than happy to help out. He immediately took us back stage at the Ready Room while Royal Thunder was performing their sound check so that our lovely Angel could conduct the interview, here’s how it went:
Damnation: What was your inspiration for High Country?
Bryan: Creating good rock and roll.
D: Perfect. It worked. At least, I think it worked.
B: Excellent. Thank you.
D: Tell me about the band’s creative process.
B: Well we kind of individually create our own and then come together and we create it together.
D: So it’s a separated collaboration and then you bring it all together.
B: Yeah, we all kind of write our own little bit and everyone just throws ideas in a Dropbox folder and we go from there.
D: Kinda make adjustments where needed.
D: Sounds like a great creative process. Everyone has their own piece.
B: It’s pretty low stress. We don’t sit in a room and stare at each other, hoping that inspiration strikes. We let inspiration strike at our own pace and get together on that.
D: Just kinda let it occur naturally.
D: You’re consistently compared to Black Sabbath.
D: Personally, I hear more of a Thin Lizzy sound on this album. Was that intentional?
B: No, not intentional.
D: It’s just a happy coincidence.
B: Right. People have taken more notice this time.
D: It’s a little more prominent this time.
B: Yeah? We’ve been foreshadowing the moves we made on High Country for a few albums.
D: Yeah, kinda easing your fans into the big change.
B: Yeah, and in a way maybe they didn’t really notice.
D: I think some people get so used to what a band sounds like that any change is a shock to the system.
B: And ya know, some of that is hanging on to the idea that a band should sound a particular way or are only capable of doing this one thing. It doesn’t allow them to grow much as individuals.
D: It limits the creative process.
B: Exactly; I don’t think we could write Age of Winters 2.
B: I think JD wanted to write more about real world things other than fantastical things.
D: What is your personal favorite track?
D: Mine too!
B: Yeah, that’s a really good one. That one, to me, is one of the best songs we’ve done.
D: It’s pretty good.
D: Each album has been different. Warp Riders was a concept album, a story from beginning to end. Are there any plans for another concept album?
B: Not at the moment. That’s not to say that JD isn’t thinking about something like that, but he does write 100% of the lyrics. That is his baby completely. So a lot of that, we don’t really know about until it’s happening.
D: How do you keep from being pressured into maintaining the heavier sound from the first couple of albums?
B: We’re a different kind of heavy now, sure, we held back on the palm muting this record. We’re trying to do what we want to do, and this is what we want to do right now.
D: Yeah, being true to yourself as an artist kind of thing.
B: Yeah, you know, we’re fortunate enough that we can do this. It’s great to be able to actually say “Hey let’s try to stretch a little bit on this one.” And, be able to do it.
D: Yeah, give yourselves a pat on the back.
D: You’re pretty good.
B: Hah, yeah!
B: It was a form of artistic expression. I am really into art. I don’t get to draw as much as I used to or paint or anything like that. Now I just appreciate art; I don’t try to do any of it.
D: What’s your favorite kind of art?
B: I like watercolor.
D: Nice. That is probably my least favorite form of art. I cannot watercolor to save my life.
B: Haha, really? I don’t really like clay. I don’t like any sort of sculpting.
D: Oh yeah.
B: That’s something I’m not really into. People who can do it, I have a lot of respect for them.
D: That’s how I feel about watercolor! Ok, so back to the interview. As a lover of all things spicy, I was pretty ecstatic to find that you guys have hot sauce. How did that come about?
B: This guy at the record label made a joke and said you know you guys have this song “Tears of Fire”, you should have a Tears of Fire hot sauce. He found this place in Austin, and we’re from Austin, we went down there and met the guy, tried all sorted of sauces. At the first meeting he had made an approximation of what he wanted it to be out of a couple of sauces he had made before. It was awesome!
B: When we were trying to decide on the beer flavor, it was a very similar thing with the Real Ale guys being like alright it’s going to be two parts of this and one part this and it’s going to be around this. Here try this, what do you think?
D: That’s pretty cool. When is the beer being released?
B: Well the new beer is being released in just a couple of days actually. It’s like the 19th. Or 18th maybe. *At the time of the interview, their beer hadn’t been released. It is now available for purchase in Texas as of December 19th.
D: Is it being released everywhere?
B: No, I wish. Only in Texas. Every state has its own liquor laws. So you know, unless you’re like Anheuser-Busch or Sam Adams or something like that getting distribution and shit
like that is apparently a nightmarish process. I’ve learned way more about beer than I ever thought I would.
D: So, High Country has had such a much different sound and feel from the other albums. It’s both praised and dismissed by fans and critics. What has been the reaction of fans on the tour so far?
B: The fans on tour love it, it fits in with the other songs we play live. The only difference is now we’re dynamic. If you didn’t know our band, if you were just coming with a friend or maybe you were just a casual listener and you didn’t know a new song from an old song necessarily, you might not be able to tell what is a new song and what’s an old song. Now we have songs with soft spots within a song rather than being all out riffary. On the record, it’s more sonically marked because we’re trying to present it as an artistic piece. But live, we can only do so much to the sound of four dudes playing instruments to make it different. We’re playing the same guitars that we play from an Age of Winters song to a High Country song. So, it’s seamless.
D: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. It just kind of all flows together.
D: When you’re in a new city and you have time during touring, what do you guys like to do in your free time? What do you like to look for?
B: Good food. Yeah, good food mostly, or some sort of food that we know.
D: Something familiar?
B: Yeah. Like there’s a restaurant from Austin called Chuy’s. It’s a Mexican restaurant. They started popping up all over.
B: You’ll probably get one soon.
D: I’m all for a good Mexican restaurant.
D: Food is a good answer. Food is a great thing to look for.
B: Food or maybe even high elevation. Somewhere where you can look down.
D: And see everything? Like the Arch?
B: Yeah, the Arch. When we were over in Europe, we were doing lots of fortresses.
D: That would be pretty awesome.
B: Yeah, any sort of castle.
D: I’m kind of jealous. I want to go to Europe and tour some castles.
B: We’ve done plenty of tours where we weren’t able to do shit. We just sat and froze our asses off. So when you’re over there and the weather’s nice, you really have to take advantage of it.
D: Yeah definitely. Well, that’s all the questions I have for you. Thank you so much for the interview.
B: It’s been an absolute pleasure.