Interview with Fallen Empire
Interview conducted by Sargon the Terrible
Date online: October 31, 2004
Fallen Empire have been waving the flag of Black Metal high since 1997 in the unlikely place of Arkansas in the extreme south of the USA. Through ups and downs, a bereft scene and a lot of lineup changes, they have kept on going. Currently seeking a drummer, this eclectic outfit intends to soldier on. In the midst of all this, the band was good enough to give me an update on life in one of Metal's darkest corners.
Sargon: Tell us a little about the origins of the band. Arkansas is hardly a mecca for Black Metal, so how did you all get together?
Hellspawn (guitars/vocals) & Talon (drums), the founding members of Fallen Empire, both grew up in Cabot (a suburb of Little Rock), and knew each other due to their shared musical tastes. Once they joined forces, Hellspawn's wife Tora was brought in on bass. Valkyr, who was Tora's sister, joined as keyboardist a period of time later. So as you can see, from the very offset, Fallen Empire was a very close-knit group—more than just a collection of band members. Fallen Empire existed as this 4-piece from 1998 to 2001. I (Skullcrusher) was recruited as 2nd guitarist in late 2001. They got to know me as a familiar face at their shows, and kind of randomly asked if I played guitar, and then subsequently asked me to audition.
Sargon: I don't imagine it's easy finding places to play down there, do you have a good local following, and do you get to play many shows?
We are fortunate to have a small but enthusiastic following here in the central Arkansas area. For a metal band, we're able to consistently draw a decent crowd. (A decent crowd in this area for metal is about 75-100 people.) Since there are basically only 2 venues to play metal in Little Rock, we'd try to space out our shows here to about 1 show every 3 months or so, as to avoid overexposure. We always seemed to do better out of state than here at home, so we frequently played Texas, Memphis, & Springfield, MO. So with all of the shows combined we'd average about 1 show a month, maybe a bit more.
Sargon: So what's happening in the band nowadays? With the departure of Talon (drums) and especially Valkyr (Keys, vocals, lyrics and songwriting) this must be difficult time. What plans do you have for the future?
Both departures were devastating to the band. Valkyr left in June of 2003 to relocate and get married. She wasn't involved in the songwriting so much, but she did do the occasional vocals & wrote some lyrics in addition to playing keyboards. It's not that uncommon to have one girl in a metal band, but to have two was noteworthy. And it was even cooler because they were legitimate musicians. Valkyr was probably the most outgoing personality in the band at the time and because of it, was a fan favorite. We miss her dearly. We were, though, able to forge on without her. Talon's younger brother Jason (quite the incestuous bunch, aren't we?) was brought on board, and he and I split the guitar/keyboard duties.
The band has not, however, been able to move past Talon's departure. He left the band at the end of February 2004 (brother Jason went with him), for reasons that not all of us fully understand. There were some personal issues for him within the band, and some issues from outside the band as well. He simply did not want to be a part of Fallen Empire anymore. It's turned into a fairly complicated situation. I'd tell you more, but I don't fully understand all that is involved, and at the same time, I don't want to speak for anybody but myself. Talon is hands down the most talented musician I have ever been around. He was an incredible drummer, and was also responsible for half of the music & lyrics on the last cd. Most people don't know he was a phenomenal guitar player (best in the band!), and could play keyboards too. These are obviously big shoes to fill. We've had a fair amount of interest in filling the position, and I've handed out lots of cds to potential replacements. But we've only had one person that stepped up to audition, and while he was a nice guy and we appreciated his time and enthusiasm, he was unable to make it through even one song.
So basically the band has been dormant since March 2004. We're not yet ready to call it quits for good. We'd still like to think there is an adequate replacement drummer out there somewhere. In the meantime, vocalist Hellspawn is singing for Epoch of Unlight, and I have agreed to fill in as bassist for NW Arkansas doom thrashers Vore. We occasionally hear that Talon might be interested in returning to Fallen Empire on a much more limited basis, so there's a chance that we'll play a show or two in the future.
Sargon: Is there anything resembling a metal scene where you are? The U.S. in general blows for metal, but deep in the Bible belt must be worse. What other local bands are there?
The music scene in general is not very good here. There's not much interest in original music, much less metal. Cover bands and Country bands are the norm. But there is a small metal community here. Vino's brewpub has been a haven for all sorts of alternative music for 14 years now. Fallen Empire has always been welcome there. And 2 years ago, Downtown Music opened up and pretty much does metal shows exclusively.
Little Rock's biggest metal success to date was Christian metallers Living Sacrifice, but they closed shop a couple of years ago. We used to have a very good death metal band called Collapse, but for lack of a better word, they collapsed a year or so ago too. You may be familiar with Rwake. They're from here and have been signed twice. They put out Hell Is A Door To The Sun on Retribute Records in 2002, and just released If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl You Die on At A Loss Records. They just recently did 6 weeks opening for Alabama Thunderpussy. Rwake normally gets categorized as a sludge band, but they are far too progressive for that label. Rwake's success has spawned an increased interest in sludge & stoner doom metal around here.
Sargon: What were your primary influences when you started writing music for Fallen Empire? What are you listening to nowadays and what new releases do you like?
Fallen Empire's biggest influences have always been Slayer, Iron Maiden, & Emperor.
Tora: I've been listening to Dimmu Borgir, Faith No More, Emperor, Iron Maiden. Megadeth's new one is pretty good.
Skullcrusher: I didn't care for the new Megadeth. I was unimpressed with the new Dio as well. I do like the new Danzig. It's good to hear Tommy Victor again. Of Infinity out of San Antonio has put out an impressive demo cd. And I of course need to mention Rwake's new one. It's brilliant. And Deadbird out of Fayetteville has just released The Head and the Heart. It's absolutely beautiful. Machine Head has returned to form with From the Ashes of Empires.
Sargon: If you could tour with any one band who would it be?
Tora: Iron Maiden
Sargon: Your last CD had a lot of very melodic and classical influences on it, do you plan to continue that in the future, or go with a more basic Black Metal sound?
We'd like to progress with the melodic and classical influences, while not sacrificing the heaviness.
Sargon: Tell us about your best live show.
Tora: There have been several really good shows, but the most recent was when we played with Superjoint Ritual. The energy was really good that night and we put on a pretty brutal show.
Skullcrusher: I certainly concur with the Superjoint show. We also played a festival in Houston called the Manifestation of Infernal Hordes back in 2002. I think we really impressed some people that day. It was just when our new cd had come out, and we were really starting to click as a band.
Sargon: What was the best concert you ever went to?
Tora: Dimmu Borgir, Nevermore, Children of Bodom, and Hypocrisy in Dallas.
Skullcrusher: I saw Testament and Sanctuary in the early 90s. Those were hard to top. Machine Head was really impressive the 2 times I saw them. Type O in a club setting was fantastic. And C.O.C can still deliver.
Sargon: Anything else you would like to add?
We're still looking for a drummer. Contact us through our website at www.fallenempire.org if you or anybody you know might be interested.
|Other information about Fallen Empire on this site|
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