Interview with guitarist Scott Waldrop, producer/keyboardist Tom Phillips and drummer Peter Lemieux
Interview conducted by MetalMike
Date online: June 21, 2017
Walpyrgus is a collaboration between musicians from bands like Twisted Tower Dire, While Heaven Wept, Viper and others with the aim of creating music that hearkens back to the early days of Heavy Metal, a time when there were no subgenres and no real rules other than it had to kick ass. The advances of the last 35 years have made producing and distributing music easier and allowed musicians to branch out and create different sounds with different projects so seeing the same names in various bands is commonplace. With the Internet and sharing ideas across the globe travel and distance are no longer barriers and everyone gets more music. However, sometimes it feels like the "soul" of the music is getting thin and watered down. With Walpyrgus Nights, Walpyrgus seems to be reaching back to a time when a bunch of musicians hammered out their songs in a garage or basement, played them to rowdy fans at local watering holes and spent frantic nights putting demos and albums together during overnight studio down time.
Guitarist Scott Waldrop, producer/keyboardist Tom Phillips and drummer Peter Lemieux were kind enough to take some time and let The Metal Crypt know more about the band, the album and the music of Walpyrgus.
MetalMike: Hails, gentlemen! How are things going now that you've released Walpyrgus' debut album, Walpyrgus Nights?
SCOTT: Going quite well. All reviews have been positive so far and it seems that a lot of people seem to "get" our aesthetic; the juxtaposition of upbeat music with morbid imagery and lyrics. It's a bit of a 60s-eque cartoon horror thing. Beyond that, there's been a lot of praise over the guitar work, vocals, and general "music decisions" - so that's really where it feels nice to have people appreciate it. As long as we're entertaining people we're happy as that's all we set out to do.
TOM: And I'm glad to be able to sleep again, haha! When I do an album, it is all-consuming and often at the expense of personal lives, health, sanity and this one was no exception. Having kept tabs on Twisted Tower Dire since leaving the band and maintaining the brotherhood with Scott + co. I knew it was necessary to go balls out with this album to insure it was exactly what we all aspired towards. And we achieved that, more or less (Mike you know I am never 100% satisfied with any album but this one is like 99.9%) so for all of us, we got our results which is what we wanted to hear on our stereos. It does seem as though the reviews and feedback are mostly positive, which is great, but I'm not sure if everyone grasps that this album was always meant to be FUN; I'd like to think it comes through/is obvious but clearly not everyone is keen on that being an ingredient in their Metal. I say; lighten up dudes!
MetalMike: Everyone involved with Walpyrgus is a veteran of the Heavy Metal scene. What prompted the formation of Walpyrgus?
SCOTT: I was bored. Marc & Dave live far away from me and I had these talented guys around me so we just thought it was stupid NOT to get together and write music. I wasn't practicing my guitar regularly around 2012 and I just felt like I was musically rotting. So eventually I decided to stop complaining to myself and got some forward momentum by calling all these guys and saying, "We're gonna do a band with me, Jim, Aune, Peter and Charley. There's gonna be lots of backup vocals, lots of Charley's solos, and it's gonna sound like Iron Lizzy/Maiden/old Slayer meets The Ramones/Misfits & Danzig. Who's in?" Everyone immediately agreed and we got together that week and started everything. This was back in 2012.
TOM: Basically, Scott hand-picked everyone involved and what a line-up it is! I mean look, you have a group of people who have their own reasonably successful bands, who grew up listening to the same things, where there's a mutual respect and admiration, camaraderie and I have to say his intuition was spot on as every single member brought something to the table.
MetalMike: Would you describe Walpyrgus as a "project" or "side band" or is the plan to have this be a permanent entity that will produce more music in the future and perhaps even tour?
SCOTT: At this point it's definitely a permanent entity. All the guys in the band are old friends just like in TTD. There's never any point in officially breaking up a band like this unless someone really just wants to walk away from music all together and you don't feel like it's fair to fans or your bandmate to continue under the same name. I think we'll be around as long as it's fun and there's something cool to do now and then.
TOM: Following up on that, despite my recent announcements regarding my retirement from the industry in a professional sense, I am sure Scott wouldn't have to twist my arm much to get another batch of keys/orchestrations out of me. I know everyone else is fired up to keep rolling, so I hope it does and that our standards are maintained and exceeded. It also has to remain FUN in a capacity that only musical friends can generate.
MetalMike: Where did the inspiration for the name come from? I initially pictured a Black Metal band (and there are a couple that have used a variation of the word). What image were you hoping to conjure with the band's name?
SCOTT: I'm going to get weird here. I do like the how it sounds black metal-ish yet the music is quite the opposite. It all goes with the concept of the imagery/lyrics and music being antithetical to one another, which I believe creates this odd tension of light vs. dark. This was taken into consideration while naming the band as at its very inception, Walpyrgus was birthed of a personal affinity for the strife found betwixt high vibrancy and oppression. It's the whole concept of needing to walk through the dark to come into the light and shine very brightly. If you live mired between the dark & light you'll be condemned to walk myopic, dull, and in shades of grey; never in extreme but also not realizing your full value. Cartoonish depictions of evil & death are but playful reminders for us to walk ever-present with the whisper that we're all playing here on Earth with limited time. Walk true. Make it count. Remain present with inevitability and unenlightened wickedness. Let it bestow you with inspiration and gratitude. So, with that winded philosophical preface, the inspiration for the band's name also has three more facets of a decidedly more trivial yet more metal nature. First it was inspired by the lyrics to the song "Night on Brocken" by Fates Warning which is a very seminal album to my metal upbringing as well as Tom's & Jim's. Second, I'm a huge Lovecraft fan and he repeats "Walpurgis" as a theme throughout his ethos. I guess the concept really creeped him out as well as it does me. I remember as a child May Day being celebrated widely deep in The North Carolina mountains, a somewhat hidden & isolated place where you get the feeling that folk traditions remain closely rooted to our European ancestors. So, the holiday known here as "May Day" being a variation of Walpurgis Night has always intrigued me with it's juxtaposition in that it's a celebration of the coming spring albeit tied to our remote pagan past. Thirdly, the name is so very metal and there has yet to be a metal band under this moniker that has found much success so I thought it would be good to take it before someone else does! Black Sabbath gets an honorable mention as well because clearly they're the obligatory number one influence and the original title of "War Pigs" was "Walpurgis". As for spelling the name differently, we wanted to be distinct from bands who went under this name before us and also we generally enjoy being weird. That was brainstorming between me & Jim.
MetalMike: Let's focus on the music for a bit. There are many classic bands listed in the band's bio including some that aren't Heavy Metal but are certainly part of the story and influenced the genre (e.g. The Ramones). What niche in the Heavy Metal spectrum are you looking to fill with Walpyrgus' music? Is there a certain era you are looking to pay homage to or maybe just bring back the music that existed at the beginning of this wonderful movement we call Heavy Metal?
SCOTT: If your pedigree is pure you don't need to be hung up on subgenre divisions and how you will be perceived nor care about where you'll fit in. You'll come out fake if you're worried about fitting in and that goes for music as well as living life. It will limit you and place a wedge between you and possibility. If you label yourself then you've already placed a narrative in front of yourself that you'll feel obliged to adhere to. Labeling yourself and feeling like you need to be on a team is just some ego-based fear of failure. I'd rather put something out that is authentic and see if it sticks because I'd have an imposter complex otherwise. I'm consciously aware that we'll inevitably walk the line between power metal, maybe some doom, and hard rock because that's our background. So, I figure we'll appeal to these people and we'll be lumped in with whatever is currently going on with this genre of metal. I don't ever think about where we fit in but I'm mindful not to indulge too much in an area of music that will totally alienate the fan base we already have built-in with our past.
TOM: All our bands have very distinct personalities and with Walpyrgus, you've got the primary songwriters of those bands collaborating so you're going to hear elements of all of them even if the context is different. All of this just happened organically because it's what we love and where we come from. Like Scott said above, there was this starting point of Maiden/Lizzy/Slayer meets The Ramones/Misfits but once I came into the picture all of a sudden there's 80's Rush, 70's Rainbow, shades of WHW and even some Boston painted into it. Somehow it all just works despite the fact it sounds like it shouldn't! So the void we're filling really is the one on our own turntables.
MetalMike: How did the songs come together? Did you have songs or ideas that didn't fit in with your other bands and needed an outlet or did the band come together first and songs that fit with the overall aesthetic had to be created?
SCOTT: I had a few songs already demoed on my own before Walpyrgus got together for the first time. Typically, I will write the song on an acoustic guitar like a traditional "song writer" with the lyrics and most of the basic breakdowns, bridges & hooks completed. Picture a hippy on a porch writing a simple song. That's me. Then I'll go to my little home studio consisting of sonar, a keyboard, an interface and a line6 pod, then I'll turn my folk song into a "metal" song by changing the open guitar chord progressions into simple riffs or "Ramones buzzsaw" power chord riffs. I'll lay down my own example vocals and email it out to the band for approval. If everyone likes it then we develop it and everyone adds their input on where to add things, improve riffs, trim stuff down, etc. The process for the last TTD record was the same. There were things on this record I would not have tried on a TTD record such as the very obvious punk vibe of "Dead Girls" and the country-style chorus of "Lauralone". I know those influences are just moving so far off from where TTD started I think it was best to get those indulgences out in this band since no one is really "expecting" anything specific from us. With TTD or WHW (I think I speak for Tom & Jim here), it would be almost suicidal to alienate fans by introducing dramatically new influences which weren't there at the band's beginning.
TOM: Haha! Yeah well, I can say that I've witnessed the backlash as WHW has indeed evolved but I find it absurd considering two things; first, even on the most recent albums there were things that were on the shelf in the archives as far back as before the first album and second, all WHW has ever done is shuffle around the same exact elements into different ratios our entire existence, yet the perception seems to be that we have changed to the point of being unrecognizable for some people. This is absurd as they are ALL love songs of the forsaken and the commonality was true emotion, melody, darkness, not a specific genre. Anyway, my point being you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't in the eyes of the media, the fans, etc so that's why we just do what we do for ourselves. I am quite sure if we are truly inspired, that's going to come through and resonate with some folks regardless.
MetalMike: There's an old-school vibe on Walpyrgus Nights. How did you achieve that sound? Is there a way to "write and old-school song" or is it more about how it's played, produced, the instruments used, etc.? It's a question the musically benighted, like me, have to ask
SCOTT: Well we're all old so I think it comes naturally, ha ha ha! I think the writing process explains a lot. I write music the way most people would have back in the 60s before there was uber-saturated guitar and before songwriters thought structure in terms of "the Metallica riff, the Exodus riff, the Slayer part" etc., etc. I'd venture to say bands that do a great job of recreating the vibe of an era such as Uncle Acid probably have a similar process. When you listen to those songs you can hear that they could easily translate into just one person and a piano doing a rendition or something like that. I think if you have a song that Sia could cover even if the lyrics are about The Manson Family, you've got a song. So really, there is not a secret. There is no place where you have to be knighted (ha ha) - it's just a matter of it being a song first and metal song second. Dissect Beatles songs by writing down their verse, chorus, and bridge formulas and there you go. You know, that approach may conversely be a deterrent to some of the really diehard metal people. My approach to writing may be a double-edged sword in that regard but I'm making music that I enjoy so all I can hope for is that most people can enjoy it and that I'm contributing to some greater good. I'm quite sure that if I received an emphatically and largely negative volume of feedback I would have stopped creating music long ago, ha ha. The other thing that leads to the music sounding this way is that my parents, family members and friends encouraged my music from a very early age. Both my parents saw something in my art & music and always strongly encouraged me from a very early age so it's something I've been working on almost my whole life. They exposed me to a lot of music, too. There was always music in our house. You'd think the music I write would be much better when I put it that way! The truth (also) is that I put a lot of thought into this stuff day and night, choose each word & note mindfully so it's not something that pours out totally naturally. Moreover there's the whole way that Tom produced it by preserving Peter's drum performance by obsessively moving things around and agonizing over the perfect keyboard tones and all sorts of a myriad obsessive minutia. We had discussions about the guitar sound from this Beatles song, or the keys from this 80s songs, or the keys from this Heep song, etc. It was arduous to be sure and I'm sure there's plenty Tom could chime in on here.
TOM: Yeah Scott's pretty much nailed it. The thing with Walpyrgus is that we all listen to such a wide range of music. Scott and I worked at Tower Records for years, so we were exposed to EVERYTHING on a regular basis and we've all been consuming music voraciously all our lives but what you're hearing on this album is authenticity because we were there during the NWOBHM and the height of AOR. Those things permeate our other bands' music, too. This is simply what comes naturally to us. Another thing that contributes to the vibe is the way it was recorded and produced. We kept things pretty raw and perfectly imperfect; there's an ebb and flow that is human, organic. We didn't, I didn't, want to make a stiff, fabricated record rather something that is full of life and energy. We know all the tricks people use to make records truly "perfect" but this "Pro-Tooling" kills the vibe, makes things inhuman and sterile. Walpyrgus Nights has polish but the performances are raw, imperfect, spontaneous and is much more akin to a live recording.
MetalMike: Were you able to play together in the studio when recording Walpyrgus Nights or did the Internet and the ability to share files between musicians facilitate its creation? Is it realistic in this day and age to get a group of musicians together to bang out songs together in the studio? Is that something you miss or is it something you'd just as soon relegate to the past?
PETER: We didn't get to play altogether in the studio but we stayed sharp rehearsing in my basement at least once-a-week! Jim lived right up the road from me, so we'd have our own rehearsal/hangouts to really get dialed in! I think it's still realistic to bang out the jams in a studio but with the convenience of the Internet and everything, it's usually hard to justify the time commitment to that next level rehearsal ethic, when there's family, day jobs, etc. I guess that's why I'll always cherish live albums!
SCOTT: Technically, Charley played along on guitar with Peter while he tracked drums. We did everything in the studio pretty much together in the sense that we were with each other while tracking to give our input. That was the whole point of this band; to be a normal functioning band that practices regularly and goes into the studio to record together. The only thing we did remotely was the keyboards. I emailed my rough keyboard demoes to Tom up in Virginia and he took it from there and made them huge.
TOM: As I intimated above, even though we weren't all in the same room rolling tape, this album is as close as one can get to that. Peter had a click track in his headphones but was playing live to Charley and the rest of us played to each subsequent layer without concerning ourselves with grids or click tracks. There are numerous examples of playing freely over bar lines and freeform phrasing. It's the best damn approximation of a live performance possible, in my opinion, and it's evident in the energy that jumps out of the speakers. That's why I insisted we do everything to Peter's original performance vs turning it into something mechanical. It starts there and then builds upward/outward. Most of the layers were done in 1-2 takes without overthinking it. As an aside, I know some folks have complained about the production being "too polished" - and I get that - I wanted to shoot for something even more organic and raw myself, but when you're culling together audio from multiple studios, helmed by multiple engineers, there are going to be some issues and inconsistencies that need smoothing in order to achieve a cohesive result. It's actually a fucking miracle that the album turned out to be so solid as there were times where I was a bit concerned considering there were so many cooks in the kitchen (on the engineering side). Some concessions had to be made and the way Kevin glued it all together with me pushed things into a more "modern" territory than I had hoped for but the spirit and energy is clear.
MetalMike: What are your favorite tracks from Walpyrgus Nights and why? Personally, "Dead Girls" is my pick. I love The Ramones vibe on the riff and the harmonized vocals.
PETER: It's tough choice but I've got to say my favorite is "Palmystry". The rim clicks at the beginning make me think of dancing skeletons and that very first guitar harmony is just singing angels!
SCOTT: "Dead Girls" is my favorite too just because I never got to do my punk band so that was my punk song. We wrote that song just a week or so before we went into the studio to record the album and, in my opinion, it wound up being the best song because we didn't have the time to overthink it. My other favorites are the title track and "She Lives" because they showcase facets of my writing style I usually don't get to put out there such as organ solos and very vintage rock riffing.
TOM: Having heard all of the songs hundreds, if not thousands, of times they ALL have their relevance to me. "The Dead Of Night" and "Walpyrgus Nights" definitely were impacted by my involvement the most but "Lauralone" I think is the best amalgamation of what everyone brings to the table. That said, I think I have to go with the title track as it's closest to MY home turf and I felt the essence of Tony Carey/David Stone and Blackmore channeled through me in a profound way. That just kind of happened and it could just as easily ended up more "Infinitum", "Bridge Of Death", or WHW. And I fucking bent those notes in the guitar solo until my fingers bled - literally!
MetalMike: I know some of you were involved with the early iterations of Twisted Tower Dire. Is that how Tom came to be involved with Walpyrgus Nights? How did that relationship evolve and where will it go from here?
SCOTT: Yes. I met Tom in the early 90s from the Washington, D.C. metal scene. We both had an affinity for Candlemass, worked in the same record store, and would carouse about the D.C. suburbs with our friends causing general mayhem so we go way back. TTD came out of the ashes of my former death metal/doom band(s) around 94-95 and we had no singer. Tom dug what we were writing and did a two-song demo with us. We did one show with him back then but he didn't stick around as he went off to the UK to sing for Solstice for some time.
TOM: Yeah, we basically formed the first version of TTD together with a clear ambition that wasn't too far off from what Walpyrgus is about. At that time, there were only a few bands out there doing traditional Metal, colleagues like Iron Rainbow and Slough Feg, as well as the veterans that never really stopped but had been all but abandoned in the wake of Thrash and Death Metal like Manilla Road, Brocas Helm, etc. We've always followed our hearts and this music is in our blood so we certainly didn't give a fuck what the other bands were doing down the street in the DC/VA/MD area; it was about doing what we loved then and now. There was always a lingering question along the lines of "what if" I'd stayed on with TTD and Walpyrgus finally answers that for ourselves and the world. Mind you, I love what Janet and Tony did in my wake, what Jim brought into the mix and certainly the songwriting improved with time but there's still a charm to the earliest stuff that was never replicated until now. I sure wish they'd have included the harmonies I have heard in my head for "Witches Eyes" since the beginning, though! And I'll always be envious of not having been part of "Beyond the Gate" but hey, the Walpyrgus album is all killer, no filler, in my opinion. As for the future, we're not in any hurry to whip anything else together. There is material gestating but the only way to follow up an album like this is to allow the songs to develop over time exactly the same way. The bottom line is, I'll contribute as long as everyone who was involved with the debut remains in place for anything subsequent even if I'm, for all intents and purposes, done devoting my life exclusively to albums.
MetalMike: Now that the album is out, how has the response been from the fans and media? Are people "getting" what you were going for?
SCOTT: I've only seen the good reviews so far but I'm sure there are going to be bad ones, too. You cannot expect everyone to like you. I know that I put a lot of my more eclectic influences together on this. I'm a fan of melodic punk, old country – stuff that just isn't in the heavy metal wheelhouse. I'm not saying I'm Elvis but The King of Rock & Roll was inspired by gospel music. I remember when I was a kid, one of my friends refused to believe that Slayer was influenced by Judas Priest, ha ha. Music often has origins in unsuspected places. I guess my overall point is this; I know I'm "putting myself out there" every time I write a song, do an interview, tweet, write a blog or whatever. I just try to be authentic, come from a place of intention and most of all not be attached to the outcome. The bottom line is this; I am extremely grateful that I'm relevant enough for anyone at all to even have an opinion about how I spend my time and creativity because after all, this is a great big world with a lot of noise going on and to have any sort of a voice in it is truly a gift. I can only hope that I make more people happy with the music we write rather than the opposite.
TOM: Well just this morning I saw an incredible review on Last Rites for the album that totally fucking nailed it - someone actually "got" the album as it was intended. That is freaking awesome. Most folks so far have seemed to enjoy the album but I'm not sure if hardcore Metalheads are used to the "fun" and "lighthearted" aspects or comfortable with the ultra-catchiness prevalent. Again, I say, "lighten up". It's not going to resonate with everyone but not everything needs be so serious, abrasive, or grim. This album is ideal for summer. Scott and I were "party rockers" and this album reflects that; throw it on, speed down the highway with the top down and a hot chick, fire up the grill and drain some cold beers with this blasting and you will surely "get it" more so than micro-analyzing it or comparing it to our other bands. Still, I have to say the most important thing is we are happy with the results and I'm still not sick of the songs. The more I hear them, the more proud I am. It's a great record, if taken for what it is meant to be - and more than sufficient for a rocking summer soundtrack!
MetalMike: You've both worked closely with Enrico at Cruz Del Sur so I'm guessing it was a simple decision to work with him on Walpyrgus Nights, right? Was he on board with the album right away and how does Cruz Del Sur help get music to the masses?
SCOTT: Tom handled all the negotiations with Enrico. Of course, CDS was obviously the first label to go to as they've worked closely with TTD & WHW. I think Enrico took a chance with Walpyrgus because despite the bands we've been in or are in, it's a new name and the songs are rather poppy with organ solos inspired by 60'-80's mainstream radio hits. Yes, CDS gets our music out there. Enrico does a great job with that – I mean you can order our album online at Target and in America that's for all intents and purposes, a store that is the epitome of upper middle class suburban Americana. I have a wife, a son, a house to upkeep, and a whole separate career away from music around running & charity work. I'm not trying to brag, I'm just saying I enjoy trying to get the most out of life and so while I enjoy writing and playing music, I'm not terribly enthusiastic about the business aspect of things. I'll do what is necessary but it's so nice to have help and it's not lost on me how lucky we are to have good relationships with labels like Cruz Del Sur and No Remorse who put out our first EP. That's just me – all the other guys are prolific as well So I (we), really need someone to help us get our music out there as I don't think we'd get that far without them. You don't need a label the way things are these days but if you have friends who have a label and will work for you as hard as you work for them then it makes sense. If I was going to even try to get Walpyrgus all the distribution and press we have, it would be a full-time job without practicing my guitar. Was Enrico on board right away? I'm not so sure and if not I would understand, I'll leave that for Tom to explain...
TOM: It was a natural decision to work with Enrico because that relationship goes back a long way; he distributed the first WHW album and was interested in working with us since then. CDSM has released not only our own albums, but those of our colleagues like Widow, Slough Feg, Bible Of The Devil - all very much cut from the same cloth as Walpyrgus - it just made sense. I have been an unofficial A&R rep for CDSM for some time now, having brought Enrico TTD, Argus, Victor Arduini, etc., so yeah, of course, I was going to propose a collaboration with Walpyrgus. It's like a familial thing. He wasn't so sure when I sent the early roughs that were not properly mixed, with a different set of vocals, no solos, etc., primarily because it was more towards the Hard Rock side of things than some cult Metal. But these songs do have a way of worming deep into brains and as we turned the corner towards final production he'd definitely been bitten by the bug, so to speak. Skepticism turned to enthusiasm and he went further and further out on limbs, agreeing to do the comic book and adding a colored vinyl pressing, etc. I really appreciate the fact that he believes in this record wholeheartedly now and is doing everything he can to get it into the hands of those who would likely love it the most.
MetalMike: Walpyrgus Nights will be released in a variety of formats, including vinyl with a comic book that includes lyrics. While cool, that seems like a lot of effort (and expense). Why is it important to have that option for fans vs. a simple CD with a few pages of lyrics and notes?
SCOTT: Fans expect more these days in terms of tangible "evidence" of a band's existence as well they should since the glory days of the record store are speck in the rearview mirror. It's awesome to have every song you've ever loved forever at your fingertips via your phone, but aspects of pop music culture that will never fully fade are the live performance and fan paraphernalia. A band isn't just music; it's a cult of personality (Living Color reference not intentional). A band in a sense is a fashion statement and so you need to give your fans something interesting to hold on to. Some souvenir from that time in their life. I really nerd out on The Walking Dead graphic novels so when I got the idea to do a graphic novel for the Walpyrgus I figured I'd act on it as it may be my one opportunity to make such a thing – sort of a dream I've had since I was a kid (to make a comic book).
TOM: In the end, this whole thing was about fulfilling Scott's wildest ambitions, from nailing the realization to highly personalized packaging/bonuses. I wanted us all to walk away saying, "Fuck Yeah!" and we have, thanks to the inordinate amount of effort exerted by everyone involved all along the way.
MetalMike: There is a lyric video for "Dead Girls" and I'm assuming the artwork in the video came from the LP's comic book, correct? Who provided the comic book's artwork?
SCOTT: Yes, those are all frames from the comic book and I drew all of it as well as all the comic book. Another reason I decided to illustrate all my lyrics in comic format is because it gives you a unique insight into what I the lyricist was imagining as I wrote the song. I figured that's something music fans don' t exactly see every day. Since I wrote all the lyrics and have the ability to draw them out, I might as well exercise my powers! Ha ha ha.
TOM: Scott worked his ass off on that comic so it was both cool and obvious to extract a few pages for a lyric video and the guy who put it together from YOD Multimedia said it was one of the easiest clips to make, allowing him to detail effortlessly. It turned out killer! I'd like to see some others honestly.
MetalMike: Speaking of artwork, the album's cover was done by Gustavo Sazes, who has created covers for some famous bands. How did you secure his services? What kind of direction did you provide for how you wanted the cover to look?
SCOTT: Tom is friends with him. At first we were going to use this super weird oil painting my Mom created back in the 60s. It's all dark colors with this army of naked ghost women on white horses. I think the consensus between band members and the label is that it was a little too weird and not necessarily "heavy metal" looking enough. So right towards the end of the production we decided to have Gustavo do a rendition of our trademark tombstone with the "W". I took a bunch of photos of one of them (we have two that we use as stage props) and I created a mock-up Photoshop illustration of the cover and we let him put his own spin on it.
TOM: Yeah, the original painting Scott's Mom created was definitely cool and weird in a Reverend Bizarre kind of way and I still feel like it would've made for a great inner gatefold or poster accompanying the album but when Gustavo delivered his interpretation of the alternate motif, it changed everything. I don't think any of us expected the "red" aspect but the results are killer. It is very much like a graphic novel with a vibe not unlike what I got out of "Reign In Blood". Iconic.
MetalMike: I have to admit, as soon as I saw that a cover of Witch Cross' "Light of a Torch" was included I was all in as that is one of my all-time favorite NWOBHM-era songs. Whose idea was it to cover this track and how do you feel it came out?
SCOTT: Tony Taylor (TTD) always loved that song and wanted to cover it in TTD. Jim and I always loved it, too. When we formed Walpyrgus the first thing we said before the first practice to everyone was, "learn Witch Cross 'Light of a Torch' and Mercyful Fate 'Doomed by The Living Dead' – we're gonna play those as well as we can then write a bunch of our own songs". So, learning that song was like one of the cornerstones for starting Walpyrgus and integral to our overall aesthetic as we evolved. It was cool because Mike Koch of Witch Cross saw a YouTube video of us playing "Torch" live and he messaged me. He said he likes our version, then I told him we were thinking about recording it at which point he gave us his blessing and offered to play on it! So, during the solo section lead swap offs that's Charley and Mike Koch playing.
TOM: I have to interject here that while I loved the song and this performance of it, I wasn't sold on it being included as part of the album. Personally, I preferred the inclusion of another original, perhaps rerecorded from the first demo or something, but by the end of the editing and mixing process I came to realize just how necessary it was for the overall big picture. And it's badass that it's fully endorsed by Mike Koch from Witch Cross. I love the trade-offs between Charley and Mike!
MetalMike: What is the next step for Walpyrgus? I know I already asked if the band was a project or full-fledged entity but could you give some specifics for the rest of 2017 and beyond, if there are any?
PETER: I would consider the band an entity! 4 years in the making and I'm the only member to have left. The rest of the guys on the East Coast are still gigging with my buddy Carlos (of Salvacion on the drums) and I'm looking forward to seeing them at Frost & Fire III in Ventura, CA this October!
SCOTT: For now, we're going to bask in the gratitude of all that's going on with shows and the album release. If there is a demand for more material then we'll put more out.
TOM: I'm taking a breather from all things music, but as I've intimated, when the time comes, if the stars are all aligned and everyone is on board for another round, I'm in. That means you too Peter!
MetalMike: Thank you for taking some time to answer these questions and let the readers of The Metal Crypt see inside the Waplyrgus Nights album. What else should we know about the band or the album that we haven't already covered?
SCOTT: Thanks Mike. We put a lot of love and hard work into these songs. We went to great lengths to write the songs thoughtfully and produce it properly (thanks to Tom). If I can squeeze a personal plug in, I'm running a famous old-school ultramarathon or 100 mile foot race in Colorado this August called The Leadville Trail 100 for my charity The Herren Project. If anyone out there has themselves or had a loved one struggle with any form of addiction, please read my (very) personal story at www.ultrarunvegan.com. If any readers want some REAL insight into my life, perhaps more than they'd care to know, it's all there, ha ha. Walp fans can connect with us at www.walpyrgus.com where there's a portal to our merch store and all of our social media.
MetalMike: Good luck with the album and the band in the future, as well as your other musical ventures! Thanks again for your time.
SCOTT: Cheers again Brother Mike! You're the man. Thanks for the support. Always humbled and happy to know folks care about me and my friends' goings-ons.
TOM: Good talking to you again Mike, always a pleasure! Thanks for the support bro!
|Other information about Walpyrgus on this site|
|Review: Walpyrgus Nights|
|Review: Walpyrgus Nights|
Copyright © 1999-2018, Michel Renaud / The Metal Crypt. All Rights Reserved.