Yours truly was completely and totally blown away by the latest release from King Giant, “Dismal Hollow”. When the chance to talk with the band came about, there really was never a question of to interview or not to interview. We talk Doom metal by exclusion, the new release and much more. The current line-up consists of David Hammerly (DH) on vocals, Floyd Walters III (FLIII) on bass, Brooks on drums, Todd Ingram (TI) taking lead guitar duties and David Kowalski (DK) rounding things out on rhythm guitar.
As an avid doom metal fan I am always intrigued by how artists came to the Doom Metal road. How did you make that early decision to focus on the doom sound more than any other type of metal.
DK: First, when started out, our two former members were the principal songwriters, and they definitely gravitated towards the sludgy, repetitious style of music. So, I believe that we got pigeon-holed early on because of that. Second, I believe our “doom” label is more due to exclusion than inclusion in this particular genre.We’re not thrash, black, or death metal. Our songs tend not to be fast, and more focused on the riff and the song as a whole. So, by excluding us from genres that we definitely are not, we end up in the doom metal camp.
DH: I agree with DK. The Doom thing seems to come from a lack of anywhere else to put us. I certainly don’t have an issue with it. I think it puts us in some great company.
TI: I’ve always admired how Zeppelin was able to incorporate diverse genres of music yet still remain on the heavier side of things. We enjoy that approach as well. It opens up the possibilities a bit more and I think providers the listener with a more enjoyable experience overall. At the end of the day, if you dig King Giant I don’t care what you call it.
Brooks: Call me crazy, but there moments when we have a “doom” kinda thing going on, but I really think the doom label got tagged to us because of our earlier sound with Bob and John. Plus we played with many area “doom” acts. Our songs were definitely slower and more repetitious back then. Our sound now is completely different. There is far more thought put behind the writing process now, especially with structure and composition.
I am particularly intrigued by the track A Steward’s Prayer, can you talk about the inspiration for the song and are there any special lyrical meanings for this track.
DH: It’s an abused child’s dark fantasy. Fairly straight-forward. Different institutions have been hiding, harboring, and covering up abusive behavior since the beginning of man. Without getting to far into that, it’s written from a child’s perspective with the revenge being simple yet violent.
Building on this, how does the creative process flow in the band? Do you come in with riffs and then add in lyrics, or how does King Giant approach this?
DK: Each song is different, but generally we work on the music first, get a first draft of a song structure down, and then we work on vocal patterns and lyrics. If we take “A Steward’s Prayer” as an example, Todd came up with the initial chord progression, and Brooks and I worked out the structure and the other parts and we fine-tuned it once Hammerly came in with his initial vocal patterns and lyrics.
DH: It sometimes takes me a while to come up with vocal patterns so the lyrics always seem to come last. On this album, a few of the lyrics and patterns happened in the studio when the stuff I’d written didn’t work like I had hoped. Hey, I’m no poet, I just like telling stories.
TI: Even though we don’t use it on the recording, I was messing around with an Electro-Harmonix pedal called “The Worm.” That’s how I came up with the signature lick. I put some chords together after that and brought it to the band and with everyone’s input those parts developed into “A Steward’s Prayer.” I like experimenting with pedals because they evoke different emotions and energies and that in turn changes what or how I play and then wonderful accidents happen that turn into songs.
Brooks: TI came up with that cool intro riff and we just ran with it. In the studio, I kept playing it slower than what’s on the record. Thankfully, DK had the foresight to make me play it at an increased tempo… he was right…
Contrast this with the wonderful instrumental work on Road to Eleusis, what was the inspiration here for the music and for the instrument?
DK: Todd came up with the initial melody, and we just jammed on it in the practice room. It was pretty apparent early on that this would be a good instrumental because of the “moody” feel of it. So, in pre-production, we worked out a “road-map” of where we wanted the song to go. It wasn’t until we were doing overdubs for the album where we worked out all the great lush melodies and solos that you hear now.
Brooks: Oh the song with TI “The Shred Machine” on lead guitar- I couldn’t be more proud of my man for his playing on that number. I think he actually got laid from playing that song live for the first time? DK killed it too with the chug breakdown from Hell too!
Lets change tact lines for a bit, how do you see the current state of American doom metal compared to the world state of doom metal. I am often disappointed at the lack of press the doom metal artists here in the United States.
DK: I don’t really follow doom metal as a whole, so I can’t really answer this question.
DH: I’m not so sure what bands should and shouldn’t be in the category. I think METAL, as a whole suffers from a lack of coverage. It seems like there has to be a gimmick for bands to get some press. That said, the recent success of bands like Mastodon, and to a lesser degree Baroness, The Sword, Orange Goblin are making me think that the tide is shifting a bit. These things happen in waves. I think the new Orange Goblin record deserves a lot of press. It’s a great collection of songs.
TI: I so wish the kids today could see videos by The Sword, Baroness, High on Fire, Weedeater, Acid King, Eagle Twin, and hell for that matter King Giant on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. But they don’t even run that show on TV anymore. It’s web only. How lame it that? But when it was running I DVR’d it for six weeks straight and from what I could tell unless a heavy hitter like Mastodon, the Big 4, or Zakk Wylde comes in to do promo they just play wall to wall trendcore, at least that’s what I call it. It’s a shame, because that used to be how kids found out about new bands and there was a much wider variety of genres represented. I can remember seeing C.O.C., Metal Church, Monster Magnet, King Diamond, Megadeth, Dio, Guns and Roses, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath all in one night. Sure you might have to suffer a Warrant video or two but the rest of that kicked ass! Now it’s all so niche marketed that the average metal kid just flipping the channels on a Saturday night will never randomly have his mind blown by some righteous band using a wall of amps and a fuzzbox. That ain’t right.
FLIII: American bands in general do not receive the support and following of our counterparts across the pond. That’s one of the main reasons for us to play there.
Brooks: The doom thing ain’t my bag. With that said, there are several bands, like us, that get tagged with that moniker that are very good bands.
What are the top doom festivals in the states and in the world that you would love to be a part of one day, that is after everyone is healthy again?
DK: I think we’d all like to play at Roadburn. They always have a great diverse lineup.
TI: I think I can safely say we’d love to play in Europe. Ideally we’d come to play a festival or two and book some other dates in the surrounding countries as well.
FLIII: Roadburn is at the top of my list!!
Brooks: We all want to play Walter Roadburn’s event. It would be a great fit for us. There is no question where we want to go and showcase these songs. Europe has spoken and we’re listening. We need to hook up with the right band or bands to make a complete package. Red Fang are ya listening????
What are your views on the current state of the record industry?
DK: Well, we have had to put out our two albums ourselves because we could not get any interest from a label, and so far, we’re still in the hole from the money we’ve spent making them. So yeah, it’s tough, it’s a labor of love. I wish record stores were still around and were a destination place where people would go to seek out new music, like it used to be. Without them, I believe a lot of little bands like us suffer and end up getting lost in the vastness of the internet.
DH: What record industry? Who the hell makes a record anymore? Everyone is just looking to write a single. That’s where I think Metal makes its mark. Most of us that love this music remember listening to albums from start to finish. So we tend to write collections of songs that have a common theme or feel. To see the record stores go away is a huge hit. They were a meeting place, a place to get together with people who had the same interests. Like a barber shop for people who didn’t want a haircut.
Brooks: Being a 1/5 owner of Graveyard Hill Records, I think I can speak for all the guys- it costs a shitload of money and time! DK said it best- labor of love. We definitely appreciate having our own creative input for how our music is recorded and produced. The one thing that would be nice though would be a marketing budget. Spreading the word is the hard part. We’re very fortunate that “Dismal Hollow” hasn’t really been panned by anyone and every review has been incredibly positive. Blogs like this help get the KG name out there.
Building on that, everyone seems to have a different opinion but where does King Giant stand on illegal downloading of music?
DK: I understand since there aren’t many avenues out there to discover and hear new music that torrents become an attractive option. These days, most bands are self-financed, like us. So really, illegally downloading music is like going to a band’s practice room and drinking their beer without asking.
DH: I’ve known a lot of people over the years that paid their mortgages by making music. When you download music illegally, you take away a person’s ability to do that. Simple.
TI: At first I was like, “Wow someone digs our music enough to download it?” But yeah when I’m selling an amp or a guitar to come up with the cash to make an album and someone that digs it just downloads it for free, it pisses me off. I mean, what’s ten bucks? That same person spent that on fast food yesterday. I gotta think original music you really like is worth more than that. But there’s nothing I can do about it. I purchase the music I dig because I understand what it’s like on the other side of the equation.
FLIII: I agree 100%, hence the word “illegal.” Folks may think that they are getting over on the record companies, but really they are stealing from us. We all work hard for our $$, my hope is that people would realize they are helping us to put out our next record, especially because we pay for all our expenses.
Brooks: If everyone was in a band for one year. Used their very own money to produce an album and it leaked onto the internet they would understand the frustration levels that musicians go through when their “product” is stolen. Making a record isn’t cheap or free-
Time for our last question, what are your top 5 doom metal bands in the United States. Hopefully your list will spark some interest in going out and buying those releases!
DK: I’m just going to give props to some bands that we’ve played with over the years:
Wino – if you don’t know him, check out anything by The Obsessed first.
Earthride – Great band from Maryland.
Salome – They have an album out on Profound Lore Records. If you’re into Thou, check them out.
Pentagram / Place Of Skulls – Victor Griffin and Company have been great to us, and it was an honor playing with Pentagram recently.
DH: Is it cheating to name Wino’s last 5 releases? DK’s on to something with Earthride as well. “The last Orchid” release was great. Not to disappoint, but it’s a little difficult for me to name “doom” bands cause I’m still not really sure what that entails. If we can throw High On Fire into the category however, I’m naming them.
TI: I like the way DK is going with this. Here are some heavy bands you might not have heard of but you will probably like. Auroboros, Borracho, The Crimson Electric, El Grande, Weed is Weed
FLIII: Like quite a few folks from the DC/Va./Md. Area, I have always been a big fan of the Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, or just about anything else Wino has ever been involved in.
Earthride’s – Vampire Circus is a great Doom record. Hailing from the Wild and Wonderful state of West Virginia, Karma to Burn.Washington D.C.’s own Borraccho. I would have to say that The Sword is one of the best bands to come along in quite some time.
Brooks– I totally dig Earthride. Sherm and the boys are really good guys. Pentagram are great guys too. Much respect to them. Love K2B too. We need to hook up with them and play some shows soon.