A talk with
BRETT BLACKOUT (Vocals)
(Questionnaire by Sloof)
The debut album of Vänlade was officially released in 2012, but it took a little before it got to our desk. As we were stunned from the intro until the final bonus track, it’s an obvious decision to have a chat with this band as well. We want to know much more about this Kansas Metal Monster, as they have the skills and craftsmanship to become a U.S. Metal legend!
Q: First of all, welcome to Metal To Infinity, a webzine that focuses on U.S. Metal mainly, so we were a little surprised when ‘Iron Age’ blew our speakers. Tell us, how did it all start, and who plays what in the band?
A: The core of the band has been together since our school years. It actually started with my school buddies, Nikky and Zach, the bassist and guitarist. I jumped on a few years after formation, along with CC, the drummer, and we started gigging more seriously and writing for what would become “Iron Age.” It really started with just the intention of friends jamming in a basement! We were tired of the sounds we were hearing on the radio and from the majority of newer bands and wanted to bring that certain “old school” heavy metal feeling back, in our own way, of course!
Q: Is it correct that Vänlade started around 2006 in a suburban Kansas high school?
A: Yep, Nikky, Zach, and I all went to the same high school in Shawnee and that's where it all started. In fact, Nikky and I have been friends since way back in the first grade. He's the one who showed me this kind of music! We met Zach some years later and what would eventually become Vänlade started getting together to jam.
Q: Perhaps that’s also the reason why there hasn't been a lineup change so far. You all knew each other from school, so the band can be considered as a logical continuation. Talking about metal on the schoolyard was a first step to get a band together, isn’t it?
A: Exactly! And that's where we come from. Our school actually managed to produce a surprising number of great musicians, many of whom still play in bands around our town today.
Q: What was the initial idea? What did you had in mind when you decided to start a band?
A: We really just wanted to play the music that we wanted to hear. We wanted music more like Iron Maiden and that sort of sound, so we tried to make it happen ourselves! Around that time, at least that we knew of, there were no newer bands playing metal like that. Heavier music these days is dominated either by angsty metalcore or grungy buttrock, so we rose up in defense of real heavy metal the way we like it! Luckily we have brushed shoulders with several other like minded bands, which is really great to see.
Q: What bands do you want to mention if I ask you about your influences? Are these bands suitable for all members in Vänlade, or do some members have more explicit influences as well?
A: We've each got our own favorites, but we all for the most part agree with eachother's taste. Just to list a few beyond the obvious “Maiden, Priest, and Dio,” we are heavily influenced by Riot, Queensryche, Megadeth, Saxon, Running Wild, Blind Guardian, and plenty of others. Individually, I can tell you I am a fan of Rush and Fates warning, and a ton of 70s music.
Zach is a Metallica nut and he learned to play guitar by listening to a lot of Iced Earth. Nick has a Helloween tattoo on his shoulder, if that tells you anything, and Vinnie is honestly into just about everything. He is especially fond of German thrash though.
Q: The band recorded a few demos followed by a first album in 2012. The album ‘Iron Age’ was released under joint distribution by Slaney and Stormspell Records. Tell us a little more about this partnership. (was it a worldwide deal, how was the reaction of the press, were you pleased with the promotional support of Stormspell, … etc…)
A: Slaney and Stormspell helped us out quite a bit. There were no signatures involved. It was kind of a no pressure, good faith deal. We sent them the music, they got the art and layout together and produced a package for us, printed a certain number of copies for us and a certain number for them, and we gave them permission to sell their own copies. I have nothing negative to say about either label, they were great to work with and did exactly what they said they would do.
Q: But recently, you joined forces with Online Metal Promo. Will they be able to get the band to the expectable goal? Are they the leverage to get Vänlade spread around the world?
A: Let's hope so! Obviously, it all comes down to the music and I can guarantee this next album, “Rage of the Gods,” is going to kick some ass and hopefully blow some barriers down for us! We really just want everybody to hear our music. I think that's the end goal, if there is one.
Q: On my digital promo, there was also a bonus track, and I mentioned Ted Nugent influences in my review. Did you notice, and do you agree?
A: Ah, “Screaming Metal Deathtrap?” We love that song! To be honest, I've never heard the Nugent comparison, but I love the Nuge so it is a welcome one! I learned how to sing by screaming “Stranglehold” and “Stormtroopin'” in the shower as a kid, so maybe some of that shows! I think we had in mind something of a fast Saxon song when writing it. It sort of just fell together as a goof jam, and we liked it too much to not record it.
Q: After the release of the debut album, the band added a second guitar player as well. Was it to support the live shows initially?
A: The band was meant to be a five-piece with two guitars all along, actually. We had a second guitarist, Chris Ashlock, who left the band just before we started production on the first album. We stuck as a four-piece for awhile after that because it seemed to work out and the four of us gelled very well together. The streamlined style was refreshing but eventually we needed to get back to the thickness and harmony that a second guitar could add.
We initially hired a player named Mike Stryker, who you can see in the “Blood Eagle” music video. His replacement was Vinnie Lee Camarillo, and he has been in the band for just over a year and is currently recording with us for “Rage of the Gods.” Funny enough, both Mike and Vinnie recorded a guest solo on “Iron Age.” Mike's was on “Evil's Bane” and Vinnie's was on “Bound By Fate.”
Q: The band is also busy in writing new material for the second album. The title and front cover artwork is already completed, so I guess it’s only a matter of time before ‘Rage Of The Gods’ will be released?
A: Yes, the material is completely written, we are neck deep in the recording process. We've decided to completely self-fund this one and do everything 100% professionally, which will be very apparent in the quality of the finished product. The drawback to that, however, is that we have to limit our time in the studio due to cash restraints. We are getting in as frequently as the five of us can manage and will have this thing done before you know it, and I can promise this thing will really deliver!
Q: Have you signed to a label yet, or are you still in business?
A: We are currently unsigned, but are open to anything at this point. We have done a bit of shopping around and have chosen to remain independent for the moment, but that doesn't mean we don't have our eye out for the right partnership.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about the songs? Did the band evolve since the debut album, or will it be a logical sequel?
A: I think there has been a lot of progression since “Iron Age.” That album was fun and catchy, but “Rage of the Gods” is a more mature offering. There are more dynamics to the music, and the technicality has improved tremendously in both songwriting and musicianship. The heart of the music remains the same and we still prefer to keep the tempos up for the most part, but I think the growth is clear.
The lyrics are conceptual this time as well, and the music was written with that in mind to make for a more solid single piece of music, as well as excellent individual songs. The production and sound of the album will be of higher quality as well, since we have complete control and have decided to take every little detail to its fullest potential.
Q: As the debut album is now under the attention of Online Metal Promo, I guess that an ideal way to talk about the debut album, and in the meantime refer to what’s to come. It’s not only a chat of the past but also a preview on the future. Have you done a lot of interviews nowadays, and how about new reviews that are coming in?
A: Yes, Benjamin at OMP has done an excellent job at keeping the interviews and reviews coming in. We have also seen several worldwide compilation albums and plenty of radio play since partnering with OMP. We are excited to use this new outlet to get our new album out to the world.
Q: What it the ultimate goal that Vänlade wants to achieve? Most US bands want to tour Europe, while European bands wants to tour in the U.S. How about Vänlade.
A: Well, our final goal is to make music we are really happy with ourselves, and to put everything we've got into making sure people hear it. I think any band or musician wants to be able to support himself with his music! And we would absolutely love to tour Europe someday.
In the meantime, we are dedicated 100% to wrapping up “Rage of the Gods” and will wind up for a short US stint to promote it. No details on that just yet, but be on the lookout for Vänlade in your town!
Q: Is there anything else that you want to mention before we end this chat?
A: Nope, just remember to be on the lookout for “Rage of the Gods” early 2015! In the meantime we'd love everybody to check out “Iron Age” (FREE download on Reverbnation) and let us know what you think at www.facebook.com/vanlade!
Thanks for the interview! Stay heavy or die!!!
Sloof: Well, I hope that the new album will deliver great songs again, and I wish you all the best for the future! IF there is news to spread, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Metal To Infinity, as we have a Heart for Hard!