MRD: What was the immediate moment when you guys thought you would be in a band together?
Jake Rogers, Visigoth: It was one night in 2009. Lee, Jamison, and I had played in a band together before, but the band split up because one of the members had to move out of town for school. I wanted to play music live again, but I decided I wanted to try singing this time (I played guitar in the previous band). I called Lee up and told him I wanted to start a traditional heavy metal band with a strong focus on live performance. He said he couldn't agree more, and Visigoth was born.
Where did the demo Vengeance emerge? Was this the first ever song you guys played together?
Lee and I actually recorded that demo in the week or two following the formation of the project. We pieced it together in his room on a personal computer with programmed drums, haha. I think the first song we ever wrote was actually "Sing for the Fallen", which was the first track on that demo.
You have a classic heavy metal sound to you, could you name the main artist that influenced this sound?
There are a lot of different bands that went into influencing our sound, naming just one wouldn't make sense. Of course we pull from classic greats such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio/Rainbow, and the like. Riot was a strong influence, particularly Thundersteel, as well as other USPM such as Twisted Tower Dire and Pharaoh. We also take influence from epic heavy/doom metal bands like Solstice, Doomsword, or Argus. Classic NWOBHM is also important for us, such as Saxon, Demon, Pagan Altar, Wolf, and the like. German heavy and speed metal is also inspiriting to us, such as Accept, Running Wild, or Brainfever. Grand Magus also played a large part in influencing us, particularly Iron Will. We also are inspired by rock'n'roll such as Thin Lizzy, Ashbury, and Blue Oyster Cult. But there are far too many bands that have influenced us for me to possibly list here! These are just a few examples to help provide an idea of where we're coming from.
How long did it take you guys to be noticed in the underground scene in Salt Lake City?
The heavy metal underground here in Salt Lake City is a very small and tight-knit community, so it wasn't difficult at all. We played a few shows and the other local bands enjoyed our sound and had fun playing with us so we fell right into place! That's really all there was to it.
Was this how you got into contact with Metal Blade to eventually sign for them, and did your recorded material help too?
Our recorded material was actually the entire reason Metal Blade discovered us. We released our first demo and subsequent EP for free online. Eventually it made its way into the hands of Swords & Chains records who released them both on cassette tape. The tape then got the attention of Sarlacc Productions in Ireland and Cruz Del Sur Music in Italy, the two of whom teamed up to release the Final Spell EP on vinyl. The owner of Sarlacc forwarded the record to Alan Averill, vocalist of Irish metal titans Primordial. He dug what he heard and told Metal Blade to check us out. They liked what they heard and contacted us about a record deal.
Is there anything distinctive in the Salt Lake City metal scene that makes it differ from everything else?
It is a very supportive music community that we are honoured to be a part of. It is primarily dominated by death, black, and thrash metal, many of whom are really great bands. It's definitely worth taking a look at what Salt Lake City has to offer! We're a bit isolated geographically from the big 'metal cities' here in the USA, but I think we make up for it by having a good standard of quality!
You've got an album coming out on the 27th January, The Relevant King, how many songs are on this album?
There are eight original songs and one cover song.
How long did it take to write all of those songs? You seem to have a battle theme to them.
Some of the songs were written back during our very first days as a band, some were written right before we entered the studio. The album kind of catalogues our first couple years as a band in that sense. Battle is a common theme among the songs because most of my lyrics are based on fantasy storytelling.
Have you ever been worried that when you write a song it sounds similar to something else?
In a genre as well-worn as traditional heavy metal - and a genre with such clearly-defined 'rules' - that is constantly something that we worry about, haha.
"Dungeon Master" was released in October on your Bandcamp, it's a great song to listen to! How have your fans reacted to this?
The fan reactions to that particular song have been mixed. Some fans became worried we had moved in too much of a 'power metal' direction - but in reality, "Dungeon Master" is not very representative of the sound of the album as a whole. It is the fastest, most power metal-influenced song on the entire record! It was, however, the only song short enough to use as an advance single, so it ended up being the only option at the time. Those fans' worries will hopefully be quelled by the rest of the album.
How did you contact Kris Verwimp to do your album cover? How many designs did he have for your album?
I contacted him over Facebook, actually. Kris is an awesome guy to work with! Truly a kind person, and very passionate about music and art. I sent him the concept behind the lyrics to the title track from the album and told him to paint whatever he wanted - the album cover is the result of that. It has been a dream of mine since I very first got into metal to be involved in music that was adorned with Kris Verwimp's art - now I can check that dream off of my bucket list!
How long was the recording process? Did you overcome any difficulties near completion?
It was relatively long because of various scheduling and health-related issues that arose during the process. One of the primary difficulties we had to overcome was the fact that there were some issues with my larynx during recording. After we finished the album, I went to a throat specialist and found out that I have laryngoesophegal reflux (a form of acid reflux that essentially dumps stomach acid on your vocal chords every time you eat,) I'm in the process of tackling that issue and healing my voice up in time for our west coast tour in April, so all should be well!
What gigs have you got coming up for Visigoth that you're looking forward to?
As I mentioned above, we have a tour coming up in April, which means hopefully having the opportunity to play with some of the absolutely killer bands that inhabit the west coast!
Could you describe to me what Visigoth are like live?
Putting on a good live show is very important to us. We always put forth as much energy as we can, regardless on the size of the crowd or the conditions of the venue. We try our best to get a big sound and get a lot of crowd involvement during our sets.
Are there any festivals that you guys are going to be at in 2015?
I cannot confirm any festival appearances at this time.
Last question, are you concerned about piracy and how it's damaged the music industry, especially how bands make music for a living rather than a hobby?
We went into this fully aware that it is nearly impossible to make a living being in a band. Very few people actually pay for music nowadays, and that is something that we are prepared to accept because we love heavy metal music and we will soldier on regardless of the adversity that we face in the age of digital music piracy. We may all have to work 40 hours a week when we're at home, but being on the road is our true passion. If making money was our goal, we would have picked a completely different type of music.
Questions by Matthew Clewley.