Monday, July 25, 2016

interview: Iron Kingdom (Canada)

Iron Kingdom is a band on the rise. They now have three studio albums, all fine, fine works of classic-style traditional heavy metal, and in my opinion, a sound that can win over supporters of neo-New Wave of British Heavy Metal and also the audiences into the pioneers of the genre. Iron Kingdom is doing many things right, and not the least of which is their attitude. I was looking forward to seeing the band live here in the state of Washington. It was at the end of their most recent Canadian/U.S. tour that I caught the show and I was very impressed with everything. They rocked live and did a great job with the songs. Their most recent album is called Ride for Glory and I have heard it a ridiculous number of times this year, and if you get the chance, make sure to see them live. They give it their all and put on a great show. Come witness the Iron Kingdom!
Hi, there! Iron Kingdom seems to be having a pretty active year. The band has done a tour of the U.S. and has played shows in Brazil. Do you find that the opportunities for Iron Kingdom are growing? Did you also play shows in Canada this summer already? Is your life pretty much consumed with band activities: writing, rehearsing, recording, social media, finances, promoters, so on and so forth?
Leighton: This year certainly has been busy! We played 37 shows in the US and Eastern Canada before heading down to Brazil to play 7 amazing shows to unbelievably passionate people. This year we decided to really step it up and get out on the road to new territories and spend more time on the road. We have a couple more tours coming up before the end of the year, including Western Canada and a short return to the US. The band has definitely kept us going, we are preparing to shoot a video for the song ‘The Samurai’ at VENUE in Vancouver on Aug 11, as well as writing when we can.
Iron Kingdom is from Surrey, Canada. How is life in Surrey for your band? Is Surrey a small town? By the way, who is answering this interview? Who are the current members of the band? Is Surrey an exotic and wild place to live?!
L: For the most part Surrey is a typical Canadian city, large in land mass if not in population. The band is based out of Surrey, but the members live scattered about the Lower Mainland. My name is Leighton Holmes and I play bass, we have Chris Osterman on lead guitar/ vocals, Kenny Kroecher on guitar, and Joey Paul bashing on the drums. As far as Surrey being wild, that totally depends on what area you are in!
How did you arrive at your traditional heavy metal? For instance, how did Chris Osterman discover that he could sing this way? Did he discover that he could sing at church when he was younger or did he use to sing in the shower or some other way? When you heard your first demo or whatnot, were you surprised at the sound of vintage heavy metal that you were making?
L: We have always wanted to play this kind of metal, since the very beginning of the band. When I first met Chris he was listening to a lot of Deep Purple, Metallica, ACDC and Black Sabbath so I showed him Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Power Metal bands like Hammerfall and Blind Guardian. It was a mutual love for the classics that really gave the band a foundation. We are finally doing things now that were just a dream to us back when we were teenagers. Funnily enough Chris resisted singing for a long time and it took a long and fruitless search for singers for him to finally come to grips with stepping up to the mic.
Is there one person that writes the songs or do you have several people that write songs? In your opinion, what is best for you band: one person writing or several working together?
L: Traditionally the way it has worked out is Chris writes most of the music and I write the majority of the lyrics, but we have always been open to any one who has an idea. It doesn’t matter which of us comes up with it, only that it’s good. Once the main riffs are written and established we jam out the rest and everyone has a chance to come up with their own part. So however the song comes about it remains a collaborative effort in the band. I think collaboration is important because it allows the songs to breathe more when everyone is free to put their mark on it.
I have been listening to your album: Ride for Glory. Where can people hear the album? What can you tell us about where you recorded it and what the listener can expect?
L: Ride for Glory is available straight from the band on our website, as well as the usual iTunes and Amazon and the like. We recorded with our long time engineer Andy Boldt in a cool little house-turned-studio. It was a great experience and we had a really fun time! The vocals were actually done at home in our jam space and I would say they turned out really well. When we did the vocals, it was just Chris and myself in the room and because we were doing it at home, we were really able to make sure we were completely happy with things and could experiment with different ideas. Ride for Glory is based on stories of warriors from around the world and we have tried to reflect that in the music. We want people to listen to our songs and walk away with a new respect for some historical figures, maybe find out about a couple new ones.
Now, what about your previous recordings: Curse of the Voodoo Queen and Gates of Eternity. Where did you record those albums? How has your knowledge changed and grown as you continue making albums, in comparison with your first and second one?
L: Each new album is a learning experience in itself, so yes, I would say our knowledge has grown especially since our first one. It seems so long ago that we recorded Curse of the Voodoo Queen and we grew a lot even in the short time between it and Gates of Eternity. The three recordings we have done have given us new ideas for how to record our next one and every one after. Each album is an opportunity to try new techniques and new ideas, some work out and some don’t, but each one enables us to grow and learn.
Iron Kingdom started with Chris and his sister Amanda. She is no longer in the band, however. How has Chris dealt with continuing the band without Amanda on drums, someone who is your own flesh and blood, and who shared the vision of the music from the start? Was it strange at first without Amanda, to look behind the kit and not see her there?!
L: It was about 10 years ago that Chris, Amanda and I started jamming together, in fact Amanda was the first drummer I ever jammed with. In the ten years I have known both of them I have come to regard them as family. Amanda was like a sister to me and it was hard to see her leave. I can’t speak for Chris, but I know it was a little strange to get used to at first. It was a completely amicable split though with no hurt feelings on either end. We all understand the reasons and completely support her decision. This life is not for everyone and I completely respect her desire to walk a more stable path. Change is necessary to grow and while we will miss Amanda behind the kit we also look forward to the future and what it will bring for both Amanda and us!
Can you name two or three specific things that people who like your music can do to give some real support to your band?
L: Come out to see us when we are in your town. It’s the best way to guarantee we will come back to your town and make it to the next town with gas money.
Buy our CDs/shirts, buying our merch puts money in our gas tank and gives us money to stage further tours, make music videos and basically do everything we need to in order to keep growing.
Also tell your friends, without an audience to play to we are just 4 guys playing to ourselves on a stage. We love touring and seeing crowds get bigger when we come back through a town. Word of mouth is the best type of promotion.
Do you plan to tour or to play more shows in 2016 and 2017? How is everyone’s health at this point? Touring can take a toll on the body: not sleeping properly and dealing with junk food and things like that.
L: We have many tour plans in 2016 and 17 and we will be touring for years to come! I personally love being out on the road. It’s true that it can take a toll on your body, but it is also an amazing experience living like a bum and travelling around from place to place meeting new people. I feel like I was born to do this, the tour life style suits me perfectly and we try to eat relatively healthy, buying sandwich materials and living off those.
We know that making money as a musician takes a long time and is difficult. How are the finances of the band? Touring and recording albums can put a band in a hole. Yet, here we are in 2016 and Iron Kingdom is alive and kicking, so what is going right for the band? What are some things that the band needs to do in order to get out of debt?
L: Touring is extremely important this day and age, being one of the most effective ways of raising funds and erasing debt. It is very true that recording albums can be very expensive and the physical sale of records won’t do much to put a dent in the debt, except when people purchase our music from us personally at a show. With the music industry as it is we can’t rely on sales from traditional store sales and have to go out and make contact with our audiences. The internet has made it very easy to spread our message across the globe, but it also means we are competing with every one else trying to use it for the same purpose. By touring we are able to meet our fans in person and play shows to impress and gain new fans. Over the course of our time on the road we have met and made many diehard fans that I believe will be with us for the life of the band and I feel that is the most important thing. Without fans, without the support of diehard fans, continuing to make music wouldn’t be possible. I believe that is what’s going right for us, it’s that we have something that connects with so many people. People who identify with what we are doing and feel at least in some way connected to the band. Being a musician can be difficult, but we must never lose sight of what matters, using music to bring people together!
What type of lyrics is important to your band and what type of lyrics do you think work well with your music? So far, in your music, what type of lyrics have you had? Are you happy with those lyrics? Do you have any thoughts about changing directions on that area?
L: Lyrics are important because they give context to what we are trying to convey through music, and as so the style or type of lyrics have to change to accommodate what we are trying to put across in the song. Our subject matter differs greatly throughout our work and as we continue to grow and write more music it will continue to diversify. Being one of the principal lyricists, I feel happy with the direction they have taken so far and feel that as we take on different themes and stories the lyrical direction will change accordingly.
Do you think that your music and lyrics should have a message or a certain content related to society or religion or politics or spiritual views? Why or why not? Do your personal beliefs about the world/life/politics/religion affect your lyrics?
L: So far I don’t think I’ve let my personal beliefs affect the lyrics I’ve written too much and tend to stay away from blatant social commentary in our music. Not that I oppose people writing about those kinds of things. I believe that all forms of art need room for social commentary, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to do it all the time. I’m sure if you really read between the lines on a number of our songs you would get a feel for what I believe but for the most part I try to put myself in the headspace of whoever’s perspective the song is being told from. I want my lyrics to tell a story and to inform you of the beliefs of the subject of that story not my own personal view of it. I wouldn’t rule out songs in the future that take on more of a definitive on issues but that’s not what we are about currently. We just want to tell you stories.
You play traditional heavy metal, with the sound of classic and vintage style of songwriting. To achieve your particular sound, do you use any interesting musical equipment, like vintage equipment or the latest technology or something else? What are you favorite guitars and its accompanying equipment?
L: Myself and Chris and Kenny all use Marshall amplifiers. I have two Fender P-Basses, one that I’ve used on every recording and another mostly used for back up. The unfortunate thing about playing left handed is almost no one has a bass I can play if something goes wrong. Chris has a bunch of guitars, both Fender and Gibson, though mostly uses the Fenders these days. Kenny plays a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top that he’s had pretty much the whole time he’s been with us. Joey plays Sonor drums and has almost the same kit as Amanda had but in red instead of blue. We like to tell him his drum set got him the gig. We’re joking of course. Mostly.
Have you found recording people who know how to record live, real drums for an album? Is what we hear on the album the real drums that your drummer played or is it sound replacement technology or programmed drums or something else?
L: Every drum beat you hear on one of our records is the real deal. We hate the sound of programmed drums and refuse to replace a real drummer with a machine. Our engineer Andy Boldt has been with us for years and is great for finding ways to give us the sounds we want. Experimenting with different tricks and techniques to get us bombastic tones for the albums. On each album we tried recording the drums in slightly different ways and in different environments. C.O.T.V.Q drums were recorded in The Factory in downtown Vancouver, which is quite the historic studio, having hosted the likes of Aerosmith, Metallica, ACDC and many more. It was a great experience and turned out amazing but we went with a bigger room to capture the drums for our second album. For G.O.E. the drums were done at the Studio Downe Under in Abbotsford, which had a massive room so we could get the huge sound we wanted. The drums for our latest album were done at the same place we did the guitars and bass. It was a smaller room but we were still able to tease a big sound out of the kit and I have been very happy with the drum tone on all three releases. So to answer your question, never will you hear a fake drum sound on an Iron Kingdom release.
What other news do you have?
L: We will be filming a music video in Vancouver on August 11 at VENUE, as well as hitting the road the next day to tour through BC and Alberta. We would love to see some of our US fans join us for the video shoot. We will be playing an extended set and filming it for a possible future release. Also coming up in October we will be returning to Washington, Oregon and Utah States for a number of shows, details will be revealed soon.
All details on tours and everything else related to us can be found on at: www.facebook.com/ironkingdom
www.iron-kingdom.com
THE END

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