Friday, November 5, 2010

Interview with Iron Thrones

So, you're a DIY metal band trying to create music that challenges you and is an expression of yourself, while trying to put your art in front of those who will actually enjoy it, on top of trying to fund releasing said material and keep the band on the road.  Suddenly, after a bit of a whim, your being flown out to record your follow-up EP, surrounded by PR reps, engineers, and producers and suddenly positive attention is being thrust upon the art you love on a national level, virtually overnight. Sound like a band's day dreams?  This is basically what happened to Minnesota metalers, Iron Thrones who, after pushing their we'll received and self released "Visions of Light" CD, worthily won Scion's "No Label Needed" contest. The band recently released their latest EP "The Wretched Sun" as part of winning the contest. Now, they're on tour with recent Relapse Records signees, Hero Destroyed.  The two will appear Sunday, Nov 14th at The Haunt with Engineer and Thirteen South. Ithaca Underground's Bubba Crumrine syncs up with Steve to get the skinny on what winning the contest meant, the new album, and the ashes the band rose from.

IU: What was the process of you guys winning the "No Label Needed" contest from Scion?

Steve: We originally heard about the contest through, although we didn’t really look into it too hard until a few of our industry-savvy friends mentioned it to us and said it was pretty legit.  I went ahead and uploaded our longest song, “Cover of Smoke” from our first album "Visions of Light", because we all really dug that song and figured if we were going to submit our music for a contest like this, we wanted to win because of a song we really liked, regardless of length or supposed marketability.  Apparently it was a good choice!  From what we heard, the majority of the people involved in the contest really dug the tune, and were happy we won.  Obviously, we were as well!

IU: Was it a strange transition moving from doing everything yourselves to a full PR campaign, radio promo, new web layouts, merch, etc.?

Steve: It certainly took some getting used to.  We like to keep complete control over everything we do so, having teams of people working on PR, promotions, design, and everything else was really strange.  We didn’t really know what to do with ourselves.  It definitely opened up a lot of doors for us, and confirmed what so many have often said about the music business: it’s all about who you know.

IU: What do you feel was the beneficial aspect of winning the contest for the long term?
Steve: I think one of the biggest hurdles for any band to overcome is obscurity.  People can’t like (or dislike) your band until they’ve heard of you, and with the insane amount of obscure bands out there fighting for attention, getting anyone to listen to your music can be a pretty daunting task.  Fortunately, thanks largely to this contest, we’re significantly further along in our efforts to become “known”.  We’re certainly still an obscure band, no doubt about that, but getting positive press on some of the bigger metal-centric websites (,,,, etc.) as well as some of the biggest metal magazines (Decibel, Revolver, Metal Hammer) has been a huge help.  What’s cool is that we were actually getting some decent exposure before the contest as well, which I think is part of why we won in the first place.

IU: What was the craziest or most fun part of the whole thing?

Steve: Honestly, the entire thing was like some insane dream.  To go from sitting at home in Minnesota trying to figure out how we were going to record our next album, to living out of hotel rooms, hanging out with industry pros and rock stars, recording a 40-minute EP in the time it was supposed to take us to record a 15-minute EP, walking around New York and seeing all of the crazy shit one sees, and everything else.  It was hard to get a handle on the situation; I really didn’t fully grasp what had happened until weeks after we’d come home.  I mean, a nobody metal band from MN being flown out to NY to go on a shopping trip with Maria Brink and Blasko?  How can you wrap your head around that?!

IU: Going into the contest, did you have the material for your latest, "The Wretched Sun" already written or did you write the EP for the recording that was part of the contest?

Steve: Thankfully, we had the bulk of the music written and had started pre-production of our own beforehand.  I say thankfully, because we had only two weeks between when we found out we’d won, and when we got on the airplane!  Obviously those two weeks were pretty hectic: there were some parts that were thrown into the the songs only a day or two before we left, the majority of which didn’t actually make the record anyway.  Will was a pretty hands-on producer, and considering how much structure and detail work a couple of these songs needed, it was good to have someone directing.  Lots of transitions and major structural changes were made in the studio, as well as all of the solos and almost all of the lyrics.  It sort of tore us apart for a while (there was a lot of stress & arguing), but when we came out of it, it was pretty obvious that we were a significantly stronger band than we’d been only weeks before.  I’m relatively sure that wasn’t an intended part of the contest, but I’d say it was one of the major take-aways for sure.

IU: How do you feel about the final results from the recording?

Steve: Considering the fact that we ended up with 6 songs & 41 minutes of material, and recorded it in the time allotted to do only a 15 minute EP, I’d say we’re pretty stoked.  If it wasn’t for the amount of material we already had, and the work we put in before we left for the contest, it might be an entirely different story.  It’s pretty crazy: when it came down to it, we ended up recording only 3 weeks after we’d planned on starting before we won the contest.  It was almost serendipitous, really.  With that being said, I think we ended up with a tremendous sounding EP.  It is way more then we could ask for, and completely free.

IU: How does the album differ from your debut "Visions of Light"?

Steve: As far as the recording process, they really couldn’t have been more different.  "Visions of Light" was recorded with myself as the producer & primary engineer, over the course of almost an entire year.  We had a lot more time for experimentation, which was great, but there was an incredible amount of procrastination on my part as well.  In retrospect, I don’t think I was quite ready for the responsibility of self-producing an entire album.  With The Wretched Sun, being an EP and having been produced by Will Putney, we ended up recording quite quickly and efficiently, and because of the time crunch we ended up making a lot of decisions in a comparatively short amount of time.  Combined with the fact that the writing process for TWS was completely different, and that we have only one guitar player vs. two, and it’s no surprise that the EP is different from the album.  It’s more aggressive, and simultaneously more stripped down and more complicated, as far as arrangements and production go.  The production style is certainly different, with TWS ending up a significantly more modern and loud/compressed sound, which is pretty much par for the course as far as metal albums go these days.  Ultimately, I think they both sound like the same band, though.

IU: How have your fans taken to the new album?

Steve: Feedback has been almost entirely positive, which is convenient!  We were surprised that the addition of clean singing didn’t result in nearly as many pitchforks and nooses as we’d expected.  Although we’d never write music based on what people tell us they want, it can always be a tricky thing adding in new elements.  There’s a lot of stuff we want to try for the next album, if we can make it all work together, so hopefully fans of our music continue to dig what we do.  Ultimately, we don’t really give a shit what anyone thinks, but if it turns out there might be enough people out there that want to support what we do, it’d be cool to make this a bigger part of our lives.

IU: On tour, are you finding fans you meet know you from the contest or do more know of you from previous tours/releases?

Steve: To be honest, we’ve had a pretty hard time getting in front of the right crowds, either on tour or at home.  We know there are people out there that are really into what we’re doing, but with the scene (and the economy in general) the way it is, it’s hard to get people to come out to a show when there are so many other seemingly more attractive entertainment options (video games, for instance).  That said, we have run into a few people who came out specifically to see us play, sometimes from quite a long distance away, which is always fun.  We make sure to hang out with those rare people that know who we are and come out to see us, we really try to make it obvious that we appreciate it.

IU: Looking back to before all this hoopla, how did the lot of you meet?

Steve: When our original bassist quit, I went on Craigslist to find a bassist, and Curt was one of the first people I saw.  He advertised that he had a van, which we were also in need of, and ended up joining after a couple of practices together.  Pete was in a band from Iowa who came up to record with me a couple of times, and I ended up asking him to join as a replacement for our original drummer.  He moved up to Minnesota a few months later, after taking a trip up here to record on "Visions of Light."  Around the same time (I think?  It’s been a few years...), we were looking for a singer, which Adam saw advertised on our Myspace, and decided to come try out.  He’d actually grown up listening to our first singer’s band a lot when he first started screaming, and so his voice was pretty much a perfect fit right from the get-go.

IU: What when did the band form and begin touring?

Steve: Iron Thrones originally started out as a band called Everest, who released an EP back in 2006.  When it came time to record "Visions of Light," we went through a major member change-up, essentially replacing the entire band besides myself and the other guitarist.  Then, while recording "Visions of Light," another band called Everest sent us some legal crap that we didn’t want to deal with (lawyers are expensive, and Everest isn’t exactly the most original band name anyway), so we figured it’d be a good time to change our name and essentially start from scratch.  As for touring, we went on a few week-long Midwest jaunts in 2009, but nothing really major.  We’ve already done more touring in 2010 than all of the previous years combined, although we’ve always played locally pretty regularly.  It’s been pretty fun finally getting out more than a state or two away, and we look forward to doing so as much as we can.

IU: What's your favorite Iron Thrones memory so far?
Steve: The No Label Needed contest trip, definitely.  The entire thing really showed us that it might actually be possible to make this thing happen, you know?  It certainly didn’t shoot us to stardom or anything, but it was a much-needed adrenaline shot to get us off of our asses.

IU: How did you guys end up getting paired with Hero Destroyed for the tour?

Steve: Basically, Relapse just sent us an email asking if we’d be down for a short East Coast run with one of their bands, and we said “sure!”  That was honestly pretty much it.  We’d talked to one of the guys that works at Relapse before, back when he worked at another label, so perhaps he was involved in some way.  We really don’t know, though.

IU: Were you familiar with those guys before you were paired up?

Steve: A few of us had heard of them, but had never really checked them out.  I get the impression that they’re notably further along than we are in the grand scheme of things, so we’re pretty stoked to be opening for them.

IU: Any dates in particular you're looking forward to?

Steve: New York, NY is always a good time.  A few of our friends from the contest are coming out, which is great!  Obviously, we don’t get to see them that often.  And of course, the 14th at The Haunt with Engineer!  Should be a good show :)

IU: Any final thoughts/words to those coming out for the show on Sunday, Nov 14th?

Steve: Support your local scene, and the touring bands crazy enough to spend all of their money to come play for you!