Era Vulgaris - Metal to me is just great music
Not too long ago I reviewed the album of Irish prog-thrashers Era Vulgaris, What Stirs Within. Since it's a great album and I got the opportunity to ask them some questions, I of course decided to do so. It turned out to be a very interesting interview with open-minded vocalist/guitarist Chris Rob. Here's the result!
Hey, how’s life?
Hey, how’s life?
‘Awesome Erik, I’m actually just back home from Holland so thanks for asking. Hope you’re doing well too!’
Please introduce yourself and your band to the people not familiar with you.
‘People not familiar with us? Those poor souls. My name is Chris Rob and I am guitarist and vocalist in the Irish metal band Era Vulgaris. Also in the band are Dave Buttner on bass and backing vocals, Jim Kent also on guitars and Chris Con on drums. But for this interview you’re going to have to put up with just one of us!’
How’d you come up with the name for your band? (And just to take all the confusion out of the world: it doesn’t have to do anything with the new QOTSA album does it?)
‘Well we named ourselves back in 2004 and they named their album about, um, four months ago. So, no, nothing to do with that at all. Unless maybe they were looking for a slice of our pie. You’ve got your own pie Mr Homme, leave our pie alone!!! I’d known the term for years through reading the works of Aleister Crowley. I think at this stage it’s best not to explain too much more than that about why we chose it because it means different things to different people. The more you learn for yourself about the concept of Era Vulgaris the more it will benefit you.’
What are the main musical influences for the band?
‘In order it would be something like metal then rock then blues then jazz then a bit more metal and top it off with some classical music, but really we don’t think about influences that much. I’m not going to deny that when you listen to Era Vulgaris you’re going to hear some Megadeth, some Death, some Deep Purple, some Zeppelin, some Pantera, some Anacrusis; you’re going to hear a lot of things throughout. But if What Stirs Within (our debut album) was a pizza then the base would be made of early 90s thrash and then the toppings are everything else. And the toppings are what gives it its unique flavour.’
And how about the lyrical influences?
‘The lyrics to What Stirs Within are fairly personal so for the most part they are just descriptions, metaphorical or literal, of events in my life. Running through the album is a theme that features strongly in the novel Dune by Frank Herbert, I worked to compliment the theme by adding references to his writings and also to the writings of other favoured authors of mine who dealt with the same themes; Tolkien, Crowley, biblical references…all sorts really. It was quite a late on decision to include the samples from the movie Dune on the album but we use them very sparsely and I think they compliment the music really well where used.’
To whom would you recommend your music to? Why?
‘Any music fan, metal or otherwise, who likes music that is worth paying attention to. We worked hard to make an album that was at once dynamic and complex but at the same time very accessible. This means that you can either put it on and enjoy the songs simply as good metal songs or else you can throw on the headphones and listen to every section, harmony, time change, key shift…whatever! It’s difficult debuting with material like this though. No one knows what to make of us, we’re too prog for the thrash scene and too aggressive for the prog scene. We’re really having to carve our own path into the metal world but fuck it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Who would I recommend our music to? Fucking everyone! Open your mind, open your ears, give it a shot, leave your preconceptions and your image and scene bullshit at the door and step into the Era Vulgaris!’
In your bio I read that you recruited a drummer (Chris Con) that actually wasn’t even familiar with (playing) metal music. How did you come up with that decision?
‘The simple answer to that is that we didn’t…he did! Chris Con has been a good friend of mine for years, part of a big group of good mates. When we started looking for a drummer a few people said, “Have you thought about Chris Con?” And to be honest I just laughed. Not only did I not think he’d be able to metal at all, I also didn’t think he’d be remotely interested in attempting. But he proved me wrong on both counts, rang me up and asked if he could try out. He’d literally just started listening to a bit of metal, some Death, some Megadeth; basically some stuff he’d borrowed from me. Pretty much he just fell in love with that sort of Richard Christy style of metal drumming and was determined to give it a go. Our first rehearsal with him was awesome, there was no need even to discuss amongst ourselves; he was in.’
So, about What Stirs Within, how were the recording sessions?
‘Honestly? Fucking horrible! This is The Curse of Era V – we’ve been absolutely plagued with bad luck since day one. It took over two years to record the album. Our old drummer left half-way through, equipment kept breaking, we couldn’t get studio time…we’d get all practised up and ready to go and then find out that we couldn’t record at that time and then a month or more later a call out of the blue – you can record today, hurry up! Horrible. Everything was DIY, we took what we could and made the most of it. It’s kinda funny looking back now but every so often there’s little voices in your mind that tell you that the production could have been better under different circumstances. And when I say little voices I mean journalists! Fuck journalists though, most of them know nothing about music and the making of it. Our fans are fans of our music, of the songs we create and they understand where we’re coming from; no financial backing, no label promotion, no big support slots – just hard fucking work and huge vision!’
I personally can’t help to come up with Mastodon while listening to your album. Not that music is that much alike but sometimes the vocals as well as the music seem to comprise some Mastodon influences. What do you think about that?
‘Mastodon are a really great band. But they haven’t been around long enough to really influence us. Almost all of What Stirs Within was written before I ever heard Leviathan, and I was the first to start listening to them out of the four of us. The same thing has been said with regard to our music and Opeth, who once again we started listening to only because people said we sounded like them. The explanation is simple; we listened to the same music as them growing up. Mastodon is basically Metallica with a slab of Rush and just a dash of Pantera in the vocals. We love all those bands too! It would be great to play alongside the Mastodon guys though; I saw them at Graspop in Belgium last week and they put on a really great show. So yeah, they’re not an influence but it is encouraging to see their success and long may it last for them!’
In one sentence: why should people listen to What Stirs Within?
‘So I can buy some milk for the crippled orphan children I generously, but foolishly, adopted and so that YOU can enjoy an hour of music not quite like anything you’ve heard before!’
You guys also set up a record label to release your album. What are the future plans with the label? Is it just for your own (upcoming) album(s) or will the label release albums from other bands as well?
‘Well at the moment we definitely have plenty of work on our hands with our own release so no plans beyond that just yet. Once we’re firmly on our path to the top I definitely want to handpick some bands and give them that starting point that is so hard to make for yourself!’
And what’s the future gonna bring for the band? Any tours planned?
‘We’re in preliminary discussions about a European Tour around winter 2007 – we can’t wait to get out on the road. I think what we want to do now is build a fan base by playing as many shows in as many different places as possible. We’re more than halfway through writing our second album and we’ve been testing some of that material live. It’s getting a really great response. We’ve had a small bit of label interest so far which is good because we haven’t been looking for any. We’re going to work as hard as possible by ourselves to get our name out there, when we go looking for a label for the second album the A&R guys will know who we are before even opening the envelope. That’s the plan.’
If you were to pick a support act yourself, which band would you choose and why this one?
‘If I were to pick a band to support us? Never been asked that before. Eh…Mastodon because thousands of people would come to see them and if you’re right then they’d fucking love Era Vulgaris too. So you better be right man! Haha!’
What places would you definitely like to pay a visit on tour? Why?
‘Holland of course! Dave and I especially love Holland, I’d never been there before last year and now I’ve been three times since! I’d also like to add that this is only PARTIALLY because we enjoy a nice big joint – it’s just a great country, great open minded people, really weird sounding language and hot women. Perfect!’
What goals would you like to achieve with Era Vulgaris?
‘I think the answer I give now is probably the most common answer someone in my position would give; my ultimate goal would be that Era Vulgaris would take off full-time. That we could get out on the road and make a living performing and writing music! More immediately though the next goal is to get out on the road and then get the best deal and recording possible for album two!’
There’s this DVD called: “Metal: A Headbangers Journey”. It’s a documentary I think every metalfan should check out at least once. The question the documentary is based on is: “Why is metal music consistently stereotyped, dismissed and condemned?” Why do you think it is that way?
‘There is a huge section of the metal scene internationally that get into heavy metal for all the wrong reasons. In my opinion the only reason to get into any type of music is for its musical merits alone. I started listening to metal when I was 10 because of the guitar solos and then slowly started to appreciate everything else that it was built around. A lot of my friends got into metal because it pissed off their parents who, at the time, they were convinced they ‘hated’.
Metal can be explained in simple musical terms but everyone shies away from doing that. The interviews with some of the bands in that movie are embarrassing. Why not just openly come out and talk about the music? Why go on about ideologies and rebellion and paganism and hatred and anger and everything except what matters? I fully understand why metal is stereotyped and dismissed and condemned and it is because adults, who should know better, pander to the whims of their young audience, in effect forcing idiotic view points on them (some of which they don’t even believe themselves, e.g. Tom Araya from Slayer) and stunting their mental development. If you go to a blues gig and ask a member of the audience why they listen to the blues they won’t scream “because it’s in my fucking BLOOD man, if it’s not in YOUR blood then fuck off because you won’t understand MAN – FUCK YOU!”
And that’s tame by a lot of metal heads standards. Metal to me is just great music, my favourite type of music – I absolutely love it; death, black, prog, grind, thrash, speed…love it all. I don’t think it will ever happen but it would be great to see metal move further away from image and more towards musical appreciation.’
3 albums everybody should own?
‘Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti, Death – Individual Thought Patterns, Miles Davis – Kind of Blue.’
Ok, here’s a stupid question: In movies, who do you prefer? Arnold Schwarzenegger of Sylvester Stallone? Why?
‘Arnie, definitely. Put simply; it’s easier to understand what Arnie is saying even though English isn’t his first language. Slurvester Stallone is just fucking annoying!’
Well, that was my final question. Anything to add to the interview?
‘Keep an eye out on our MySpace page, we’re contributing a cover of Megadeth’s Five Magics for an Irish tribute to thrash compilation so we’ll be posting that very soon and spread the word, get in touch with us and see how you can help spread Era V further round the globe, or just get in touch to ask us anything you like!’
Thank you very much for your time, good luck in the future and hopefully I’ll be seeing you guys on tour in the Netherlands soon!
‘We hope so too man! Thanks for the interview, great questions!’