Interview with heavy metal band Klaymore from Pittsburgh
Hello and greetings from Gatineau, Canada to Pittsburgh, USA! Thanks for accepting this great interview occasion. May you please introduce yourselves to our readers?
Lee Prisby – Vocalist and Guitarist
Bob Moore - Drums
Please tell us more about the history of your band. How did you guys come together? What kind of music did you play in the beginning? What were your first concert experiences?
Lee: The band originally started with my friends in high school. It was really just “I know this guy plays drums; let's have him do it. I know this guy plays guitar; let's have him do it.” So, it really started just as a group of friends who could play the appropriate instruments getting together. The music we played in the beginning was all covers. Bands like Wolfmother, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Helloween. The first original song we performed was “Talons” from Primed For Destruction, followed by “Serpent” and the originals grew from there. The first shows we played were a few school events but it slowly grew from there and eventually we even had a place from Ohio contact us to come out and play there.
The current line-up is still me from the beginning, and my brother Jesse plays bass with us. The only recordings Jesse hasn't been on were the Primed For Destruction album. We added our drummer, Bob, to our lineup in 2012. The recordings he hasn't played on were the Primed For Destruction and It's Alive albums. We played a few high school grad parties to get Bob into things and then the first real show we played together was at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pittsburgh.
From left to right: Bob Moore, Lee Prisby, Jesse Prisby
What made you play classic heavy metal instead of more popular styles that may have attracted a larger audience?
Lee: Since the beginning I never really decided that we should be playing metal. When I started, we played things more along the lines of hard rock as it is. I'm the one that writes 95% of the music, and I just write what I want to. It just happens to come out mostly as metal, so that led to us being a metal band. But we have calmer songs like “Nightfall” and even “Queen of Nightmares,” which is one of our more known songs, has a section reminiscent of The Doors. Metal has never seemed to discourage a lot of our listeners either. We've had tons of people tell us, “normally I don't like that kind of music, but you guys kicked ass.”
Bob: Before I had joined, I never would have expected I would be playing in an old-school metal band. I was always pushing to be in a modern metal band such as Machine Head, Trivium or Unearth. But when I first heard Klaymore’s music, my first thoughts were “Jesus Christ, this kicks so much ass!” And I told them I wanted to audition as soon as possible.
What inspired you to choose the name “Klaymore” with a K?
Lee: The name was chosen years before our current line-up. I was sitting around with the (at the time) second guitar player and the drummer and we were bouncing name ideas around. I had a list of names I was pitching to them and Klaymore was what we thought worked best for a rock/metal band. The “K” was chosen just because we thought it looked more archaic and runic, and since a claymore is a sword, that was the feel we were going for. Basically, “a group of 10th graders thought it looked cool” is the short answer. And if anyone thinks Klaymore is a dumb name, then be glad we didn't choose “Flametongue,” “Steel-Plated Aggressor,” or “Sex Falcon” which all showed up on our collective list of possible name ideas.
There were a couple of line-up changes during your early years. Why did these changes happen and do you think that your current line-up is stable?
Lee: All of our line-up changes just happened from the past people not being interested in continuing. After we recorded Primed For Destruction, I was the only person who wanted to keep it going, so I found more people to make it happen.
As for our current line-up being stable... no. We recently just fired our second guitar player. A lot of reasoning went into it and it was all issues built up since as far back as when Bob joined our band. We all put a lot of effort into this band and things don't just fall into our laps, and we want a fourth person who is willing to help us push ourselves. We aren't actively seeking out a new guitarist at the moment though. We're pushing on as a trio at the moment, or as I tell our nerd-metal friends, a “Tri-Force.” We're doing this so that we don't have to take a break. We've played a show with just the three of us and have even more booked. We have new material recorded as well with just the three of us that we're working on releasing. We're trying to make this the most seamless line-up change a local band has seen.
If/when we find another guitar player who really wants to be in a metal band and wants to do his part of the work while juggling the rest of his life like the rest of us do, then we'll welcome him in, but right now we're just going to keep going.
Your first record “Primed For Destruction” has been released back in 2011 and the great follow-up “It’s Alive!” followed less than one year later. After an EP with cover songs entitled “Respect Your Elders”, you have now come around with more original material on the great “New Breed” EP. Could you please describe the dynamics in and the evolution between each release?
Lee: Hey, don't forget “Sector X” that we put out last year too. *cue laugh track* For me nothing has changed over the course of all of it (to be unhelpfully general in my response). I've always just been writing the music that I want to write. I didn't start writing music for “It's Alive” and think, “these songs need to be more intricate than 'Primed For Destruction,'” and I didn't go into “New Breed” with the idea that it was going to fork off into directions we'd never been or that I was going to grunt like a wildebeest like on “SR388” and “Sacrificial Lamb.” I started writing music when I was 16 and I'm about to be 22. What I like hearing has just been evolving over the years and that's really what's made our sound evolve over everything we've done. I mean, you start out as a teenager writing music about how much a certain girl is pissing you off, and 5 years later you still write those songs but now they're getting on the radio... so some things also haven't changed at all. You just get more and less poetic in certain areas. It's also weird thinking about the fact that when we finally get our music to our fans, they see it as where we are musically at that moment in time. In reality, all of our songs are written well before anyone hears them (to mildly state the obvious). But, what I mean is that I recently came across my first instrumental demo version of “Smoke and Mirrors” from New Breed. The song was released in August, 2013. The date on the original demo when I had put the music together initially? August 29th, 2012. Sacrificial Lamb first hit demo form in December, 2011. So really, the evolution of our material is a weird combination of what we're doing currently, and what we realize were still good ideas from sometimes a year earlier. Bob: I’d also like to add that my music influences on playing drums are from much heavier and include some modern bands. I love to play hard and heavy and I also think that gives Klaymore a stronger punch in the sound. Even some of our older songs sound much different live when I play them, as opposed to who recorded them before I joined up with these guys. This could also be a reason why New Breed is drastically different from It’s Alive.
How comes that you guys are putting out excellent heavy metal records at such a high pace? What’s your secret?
Lee: Are we? But seriously, we're glad other people appreciate it. We've just always thought that a good way to get out to more people is by having more and more stuff to show them. Most bands put out an EP or LP that they worked on for a year and then their twelve friends get it and after a week they're ready for something new. Since May, 2013 we've been consistently putting out material onto YouTube and our fanbase has done nothing but grow. We've gained almost 1,000 subscribers (starting from 12) on YouTube since doing so, and when we put out “New Breed,” our album downloads have been twice as high as they were when we put out “It's Alive.” Most bands also tend to hype an EP or album, and then after putting it out they fall off the face of the earth. We put out “New Breed” and then followed it up with three music videos and a handful of our metal remakes of video game soundtracks. Unlike other bands, we don't take a break, so I guess that's our secret. Being in a band is like running a small business, so we take it seriously like that. We also aren't constantly drunk off our asses and partying like some other bands we see. It's hard to hammer out material when you spend your only time after work doing completely non-constructive things. I think our other secret is that we're all just legitimately proud of our work (spoiler alert). We love putting out new material and being able to show people what we worked hard on, and they appreciate that from us. I guess our other “secret” to things going so quickly is that we don't record in a studio. We do it all from our houses. We don't have to book time at a studio or pay anyone. I'll demo a couple songs and show them to everyone and that weekend we can be doing a final recording of it if we wanted to. Working on completely our own schedule has really made things easy on us. So I guess our secret is actually wanting to make something of our music, doing our own recordings for time convenience, and as many people have told us to over the years, “don't suck.”
Have you ever been approached by a label over the last months and years?
Lee: No. We've been meeting some helpful people and gaining new fans over the last year, but no label interest yet. We aren't too concerned though. We're still just trying to get a bigger fanbase and are enjoying how things are going whether we're signed or not.
You are always open for original ideas. Recently, you have come around with a cover version of the Metroid game soundtrack. How do you get these crazy but excellent ideas? What are the most unusual songs you have covered? Do you have more ideas for upcoming cover songs?
Lee: First, it always warms my cold, dead heart to meet another person who knows what a Metroid is. The video game stuff was Bob's suggestion. It wasn't really too outlandish since we had just gotten “Sector X” on the radio and that's an original piece about a level in Starfox64, and we were in the process of getting “SR388” mixed and mastered. We just think that old Nintendo games have surprisingly metal soundtracks and wanted to do a fun kind of side project. We were just sitting around one day before a show and listening to music from Megaman, because, you know, that's what the cool kids do; and we thought it would be fun to take a crack at them. What verified that it was a good idea was when we managed to talk to Grant Kirkhope (composer for Banjo Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, and Perfect Dark) and he told us he liked what we do and that we could cover some of the material he's written.
As for most unusual songs we've covered... I'd have to say “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. Mainly because we hadn't planned on it. And Bob had never heard the song before. Someone at one of our shows yelled it out after another stereotypical asshole screamed “Freebird” at us, and I was just like, no, you know what, we know the chord progression, and I know the words to it. Let's rock some Adele since these people aren't actually expecting it.
As for future covers, I have a huge list of actual songs that I want to do, it's really just up to the other two to agree with me on them. In terms of our video game covers we still have plenty in the works from games like Megaman, Metroid, Kirby, Final Fantasy, F-Zero, and of course now Banjo Kazooie since we told Grant Kirkhope we would.
This being said, I think that your cover songs just find the right mixture between the traditional approach of the original and your very own touch. I really appreciated your sped up version of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” with keyboard sounds and extended guitar solos. Other people might obviously always prefer the originals and criticize you. How do you react to both reactions and how do they influence you in your creative processes?
Lee: Much like everything else, we just go in and do our thing when we're covering a song. With Paranoid, we're a dual-guitar metal band. We play solos. A lot. So our cover reflected that. Also, it's a 70s hard rock song. Those tended to have keyboards in them. Deep Purple wouldn't be the same without that. We did what we wanted and what we thought made sense. We covered Megadeth and didn't really change much at all to it. We covered Black Sabbath and put a lot more of our own spin on it. We got an equal amount of people criticizing both. You can't please everyone. Luckily with our stuff, the people who hate on it are severely outnumbered by the people who tell us they love what we did. We'd only be concerned if more people told us they hate it rather than liked it. But, with all the covers we've done, we've had a small handful of people stand in opposition to them and literally hundreds telling us good job.
How long do you work on rearranging these cover songs in general?
Lee: It depends. If we're changing the structure of the song, it takes a little longer, and we have to make a demo of it so that everyone knows what's going on. The stuff like maybe altering a riff or where to put some extra guitar or drum fills just kind of comes out in the recording process.
Bob: Honestly, rearranging Paranoid took only about 10 minutes. One day at practice before a show, we decided to add a few cover songs to the set list. One of them being Paranoid, and we just jammed. During the jam, we got to the part were the solo kicks in. and we just so happened to extend the solos. This ended up turning into a 10 minute jam. After that we stood there and my response was “Fuck yeah let’s keep it like that!” And that is usually the version we play live. We cut out the extended solos and used that as the actual recording.
You are also having tons of fun when you hit the stage. Sometimes, you perform cover songs requested by the crowd or even switch instruments. How do you explain these unpredictable spontaneous live stunts? Do they all work out well or do you also experience more embarrassing moments from time to time?
Lee: And sometimes it all happens in the same show. The pictures of me playing bass and Jesse playing guitar were from the same show that we took random cover requests from the crowd. Once we started taking those requests we were having more fun with it than with what we had actually planned on playing. We pulled out Adele, Wolfmother, Iron Maiden, and I think some Judas Priest. We also sold our CD to everyone in the audience that stayed to watch us, so that risk definitely paid off. I don't know how to really explain why we do stuff like that or when we think “this is totally a good idea,” but weird things keep happening. With the bass/guitar switching, Jesse got done playing his bass solo and came over to me and just said, “hey, trade me.” Not much more thought going into it than him deciding he wanted to play lead guitar for a few minutes. There's been at least half a dozen shows now where I grab a pair of drum sticks and help Bob make an unnecessary amount of noise, more where Jesse has played a bass solo behind his head, and even more where Jesse and I have started singing “No Scrubs” or “Boyz in the Hood” instead of the actual lyrics to our songs. Shockingly we've never had a “train wreck” on stage where everything goes wrong. One of our “poorer” ideas was the time that I fed Bob a quesadilla while we were all still playing... No musical mistakes were made, but by the time we got on stage that quesadilla was old. And dry. And slightly stale. But, metal bands are kind of supposed to look pissed off, and the two of us soldiering through that old piece of Mexican cuisine definitely didn't put us in a good mood. Our strange stunts always seem to work out for us, so however it's working, we're glad we've been able to keep it together when trying to evolve our stage show with spur of the moment antics over the last year. We've been told that “bands play shows, and it isn't interesting unless the bar burns down,” so that's why we figure instrument rotations, behind the head solos, eating food in the midst of a metal onslaught, and white kids rapping is a good way to keep it interesting.
As for embarrassing moments... I don't want to get into it too much, but our most memorable one we refer to as “The Dimebag Darrel Rant of 2012” where some interesting things were said on stage that we weren't expecting... Other “embarrassing” moments that I can think of were just when I'd try to have a humorous back and forth with our other guitarist and he thought we were actually arguing or starting a fight.
Bob: My first concert I ever went to was Ozzfest 2006. I was 13 years old and I still remember so much of it. Every band there put on such a great performance, whether it was insane guitar solos, screaming at the crowd to pump them up, or just head banging their asses off while playing was awe inspiring to me. Nowadays, so many musicians in bands (mostly local bands) just stand in place and play their songs. And that’s all there is to it. It’s flat out boring. I can just put a CD in my stereo and listen to the songs instead of paying money to not see them do anything. Because of this, when I’m on stage, I play as crazy as I can and I never stop moving. I do my best to put on a show for the audience because Entertainment and the whole image also has an impact on what the audience thinks of you rather than just the music.
Even your merchandise products are quite funny and original. Who had the idea of the “Let It Breed” shirt for example?
Lee: It's kind of an odd story. Jesse and Bob and I more or less all had the same idea at the same time, which if you've seen our live show you'd know how rarely that happens. I have no idea what sparked it, but Jesse started making those caricatures of all of us. Bob's turned out hilariously well (in our opinion) and before we knew it he had all of us done like that. The original images aren't what made it to the shirt though, They weren't big enough to translate onto print so we had to redo them. I say this because the original versions weren't all cartoon. Jesse took actual images and MS painted them on top of us. I had Steven Tyler's hair and Bob had the hair of a female model. Not that he doesn't in real life, of course. I was looking at all of them at the same time and had them in a block shape like they are on the shirt just so I could see them and thought it looked like “Let It Be.” A few days later someone must have whispered me words of wisdom, because I came up with “Let It Breed.” Without telling Bob, a few days later he pitched us the same thing (our pictures in a grid saying “Let It Be”). If we were as good at getting people to buy our shirts as we were at designing them this would be a whole different story. Maybe it's something about “breeding” and four guys smiling at you that's deterring some potential customers...
You are quite active with Kickstarter campaigns and putting up your music on Bandcamp or Youtube. Do you think that social media are a big advantage for young musicians like you or do you think that they also have their bad sides because people can easily listen to your music on the internet and don’t need to buy your albums anymore?
Lee: Regardless of whether we like them or not, they're there and other people are using them. Bandcamp has made it extremely easy to have a platform to display our discography and easily embed it elsewhere on the internet. YouTube (when used correctly) has gotten us thousands of views/listens on our music that would have been impossible without it. Kickstarter was great because it allowed our then current fanbase to help us put out a CD that would have taken us much longer to finance if we were just trying to do it ourselves. I think the advantages of social media and the internet really outweigh the negative aspects. If we didn't put things on YouTube and Bandcamp for free, we'd still just be out somewhere handing out our crappy looking burnt CDs for free to people. No one's going to spend $5-$10 on a CD from a band that no one's ever heard of. The internet just keeps us from having to go out to find people every day. The money making part really hasn't changed.
You’re also pretty much involved in your local scene. Your music is played on several radio stations. You play some concerts at rather famous places such as the Hard Rock Cafe for example. How are you able to manage all these different activities and get in contact with the right people?
Lee: Like I said earlier, step one: don't suck. I only say this because that was the first rule given to us by the first radio station to play our music, so we must not be sucking somewhere along the line. We get in contact with the right people by just going out there and doing it. We started to make a lot more connections with people that could help us when we got out there and starting playing shows. Stuff like playing at the Hard Rock just happened through contacting whoever books the venue. But we also haven't actively tried to book our own show since March. After that, it was all people hearing about us and coming to us to get us onto bills for shows. We've played some of the bigger venues in Pittsburgh that local bands get into just by word of mouth from other people seeing us and telling others.
Apart of your musical career, what are you doing for a living? Do you hope that you could one day live from your works with Klaymore only?
Lee: If you've ever seen the movie “Office Space,” that was pretty much my job this summer. Working in a cubicle for a health care broker while simultaneously trying to get “New Breed” finished was... interesting. And conflicting. To say the least. Jesse and I also both go to college full time. He goes to Penn State's main campus, and I go to Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. So yes, all of our songwriting, marketing, show scheduling, and everything Klaymore happens while all of our band members have a total of 400 miles between us.
Bob: I just work part time at a local retail store in my home town. Most of my time is spent dedicated to promoting Klaymore to new people and talking with our fans. I am constantly on Facebook and Twitter talking to our fans, answering questions for them, and just showing them that we actually care about our fans who support us. They really appreciate it and that’s what I think makes them keep coming back to us for more. It’s a great feeling to see the same faces commenting on different videos and statuses we put out. I am also always on the lookout for people and pages that are into Rock and Metal music and just saying, “hey, check us out.” 90% of the people we run into usually don’t respond, or respond much at all. But the other 10% usually freak out and share our stuff with their friends, and slowly we have a cult following... haha
Lee: One day, yeah, it would be great to be pulling in substantial money from Klaymore. We're still in the beginning stages though since we only started playing shows this year and started actively and effectively promoting ourselves for the last 6 months. We've still got a long way to go before we can make any real amount of money from doing what we love, but we're trying to set up that path right now so that it's possible in the future. Bob: Playing in huge amphitheatres and large venues such as the Rock Am Ring has always been a huge dream of mine. Touring and playing festivals would be absolutely amazing. The money would be great and everything, just living off of what we love to do, but all I want is to push our music out to new people for them to hear. Hearing people’s responses is what makes me keep wanting to do this.
Please tell us more about the metal scene of Pittsburgh. Are there any other young and yet to be discovered bands worth to mention?
Lee: The metal scene in Pittsburgh hasn't always been kind to us. We sort of stick out in a bad way... most bands are the ones a lot younger than us playing post-hardcore music and people think of that as metal so we get lumped in with them, and the rest of it is people who aren't too fond of us because they've been doing it for a lot longer and we've been quickly encroaching on their territory after less than a year of playing shows while sitting on a few dozen songs that we recorded in a living room. We're usually seen by the people who don't take the time to get to know as those punk-ass kids who came in and started wrecking things up for them, which wasn't really our plan or attitude.
We have met some awesome people though. Vinni Belfiore who runs the magazine “Musicians Hotsheet” in Pittsburgh met us back in January and has booked us at at least half a dozen shows since then and has been our “indian spirit guide,” as we call him, when it comes to asking for business advice. The people from 105.9 The X who play the music that we give them (Queen of Nightmares, Sector X, and Smoke and Mirrors) have been awesome in getting our music into the mainstream.
As far as bands go, some of the ones we've met that we've enjoyed playing shows with or enjoyed getting to know would be Theia Collides, Homicide Black, Sun Hound, Talion, Chaos Reigns, Stationary Pebbles, and I'm sure there are a lot more that will give me flack for forgetting them right now so I apologize to them in advance.
What are Klaymore’s plans for the upcoming year 2014?
Lee: It's looking even more loaded than 2013 was. We still plan on continuing our video-every-two-weeks-on-YouTube idea, so the new endeavours will be pretty closely intertwined with that. We're planning on hopefully two new EPs of original music as well. We already have one completely recorded and in post-production right now, and we have half a dozen more songs demoed waiting to be worked on further. Obviously there will be more video game music covers too because we've been having a great time doing them. Hopefully we can figure out a way to get some better live recordings or get more concert footage or something new like that. We don't want to just keep doing the same things over and over, so we'll be trying to find new avenues for us to go down and keep things interesting for both us and our fans.
Bob: Lee, don’t give him that bullshit. Our plan for 2014 is world domination.
Thanks again for this interview. As always, the last words belong to the artists. What is the message you would like to send to our readers?
Lee: I mean, I think I've said enough already. A quick, final message we'd like to stress is that if you hear an unsigned band and you like what they're doing, tell someone or buy their CD. If no one does, you probably won't be hearing from them again. Anyone who wants to know more about us can find us at www.klaymore.com. Also, we just wanted to say thanks for interviewing us, and we're always glad to meet/talk to people who appreciate our music.« "À bientôt... dans une autre vie." - Une entrevue avec "The Old Dead Tree"Let it breed - A new Heavy Metal star is rising over Pittsburgh »
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