Interview with guitarist Chris Calavrias and bassist and vocalist Daif King
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 21, 2020
New Zealand's Speed Metal masters, Stälker, were born from the ashes of Razorwyre back in 2016. Since their formation, this trio has recorded two full-length albums. Their debut, Shadow of the Sword, saw the light of day in November 2017 via Napalm Records. The album added more high-octane fuel to the worldwide Speed Metal fire and fans of the genre were thrilled.
October 30, 2020, marked the release of these fine Wellington-based Speed Metalheads follow-up album, titled Black Majik Terror, which features nine new tracks that are meant to blow your dirty socks off and mess up your head for good (if nothing else).
We here at the mighty headquarters of The Metal Crypt are so thrilled about this promising Speed Metal act that it we felt it was our obligation to find out what ingredients they are made of. Both Chris Calavrias (guitar) and Daif King (bass and vocals) filled us in with all the necessary information that you really need to know about them, well at least for time being...
WELCOME TO THE VIRUS-FREE ZONE: NEW ZEALAND
How's life in Wellington, NZ? Feeling beaten down by the coronavirus, eh?
Chris: Hey Luxi! Yeah, all good here in Wellington. Currently editing the latest Stälker video for release in two days. We in NZ have been pretty lucky. We have no restrictions at the moment. NZ saw what was happening in the world and we locked down EARLY for a good two months. After that it was back to normal for us. We are very lucky to be on an isolated island in the ass end of the world for once. We actually used the time being locked down to finish recording the guitar solos and vocals for the album. Daif and I would meet up at our studio in town and get to work. It was a productive time for us.
You guys formed Stälker in 2016 and since then you have created a lot of beautiful Speed/Thrash/Heavy Metal noise. How did you guys meet and decide to form this band?
Chris: It all started with the demise of my old band Razorwyre. I always wanted to carry on making music and playing, so I said to Nick (drummer), just hold tight till I find us a new band/people to play with. It was about two years later when I met up with Daif again. He was living down the road at the home of one of my best friends and seemed to have just moved to my city. We hung out and he showed me some riffs he was working on. I said, "holy fuck... this is HOT! We should do something with this stuff". I mean, looking back, not everything has to be fucked with haha!! But in this instance, I was ONLY thinking about what could be. I needed a new band and here was some fresh meat. I said to Daif, "I got a drummer in the wings waiting, let's demo some shit and get this thing going". After that we needed a singer, the last piece to the puzzle, the hardest part. Daif said leave it to me and the next time I heard the demo there were vocals on it. Man, I couldn't be happier with it. He just needed to learn how to play and sing at the same time, haha.
Would you say that all three of you were on the same page when you were deciding the band's musical direction, image, etc.? What bands/artists were your main inspirations when you started out?
Chris: 100%. Daif and I clicked straight away. We went into this with the exact same idea. Nick we just told him what was happening, haha!! Of course, for me it was Show No Mercy/Hell Awaits-era Slayer, early Exodus, early Exciter, etc. Daif was more into Destruction, Destructor, Blood Money, etc.
What did you and Nick bring from your ex-band Razorwyre into Stälker, besides denim, leather, spikes and an unforgiving die-hard attitude, of course?
Chris: Basically, how a band works and operates. Huge lessons learned about how to pretty much do everything. So, when Stälker started, I pretty much had been through it all before and knew what to do and what not to do! I don't think you can learn that any other way.
WELCOMED RETRO BOOM OF SPEED METAL
There seems to be some sort of "retro-boom" for the kind of old-school Speed Metal that you are also churning out. Bands like Belgium's Bütcher, Finland's Ranger, Germany's Vulture, Austria's Chainbreäker, etc. are all firing on old-school, retro cylinders and have also become very popular over the past few years. What's your take on this phenomenon?
Chris: I think the more of it the better! "Retro-boom", haha!! I like it! I mean, you can't have Speed Metal without it sounding old school. You just can't, it will come through one way or another. We are not creating anything new here, this music isn't for anyone looking for anything new. However, if you want new bands playing balls-to-the-wall speed then "here we are." All the bands you listed are great! Ranger is one of my favs! Loved what they were doing early on and was a big influence for sure. There have been a lot of genres making a comeback and with the tools we all have, anyone can do what they want. We are not out there to be the biggest, we out there to bring the people what they want and the same for us. But now, BE WARNED, there is a lot to it! Not just sounding old school, that isn't going to cut it. You have to be the best on all levels. There is a HEAP of good bands out there and I still love discovering new bands' demos or EPs. But the more Speed Metal bands the better I say.
How did you end up using Stälker as the name of your band? Is there a "juicy" story behind the decision?
Daif: I draw a lot of inspiration from the idea that there are higher beings that feed off the negative energy of humans. In an essay The Positive/Negative Realms of Higher Densities by Michael Topper, he details the way negative higher densities manipulate and feed from human misery. He talks about this idea as "stalking." This and Andrei Tarcovsky's Stalker (1979) is where we got our name. The poet William S. Burroughs also had a story A One God Universe that explores similar themes.
LET SOME NAPALM IN
Can you tell how you won the attention of Austrian label Napalm Records?
Chris: Well, funny you should say that. It wasn't until the demo had been out for about 1-2 months before we got a message in our Facebook inbox from a Napalm Records A&R guy. We hadn't even begun to think about a label (apart from re-releasing our demo on 7-inch with Underground Power, whom I have had a relationship with since Razorwyre). The A&R dude was just so stoked on the demo. He said it had taken him back to his youth when Metal was raw and dangerous. He was a MASSIVE fan of old Thrash. He was more of a fan than looking for the next big thing. We talked a bit and he said let me ask the boss if he could sign us and release a full-length. Well, he got the OK from the boss and the rest is history. We went with a bigger label as everything seemed cool with them and they were going to let us do whatever we wanted (maybe they do for all bands?) I said was it possible to also include our friends Underground Power with the release and they said, "yeah sure...", so we ended up doing a special run of 100 12-inches through them. This was important to me as I always want to keep a foot in the underground.
Your debut album, Shadow of the Sword, was released on Napalm Records in November 2017 and it was really well received in every corner of the world. How proud are you of your debut and is there anything on that record you would have done otherwise, perhaps?
Chris: I'm very happy and surprised that it was well praised. I mean, it is a good album for sure, and was so much fun making it. We were on a tight deadline near the end, so things were happening fast. Maybe there was more we could do, but there always is. At the time, we were 100% happy with it and still are. But if you asked me what to change, I think there would be some things, but I don't know what they would be. The mixing was an interesting decision and was all new to us on a bigger scale and we worked with someone new who we had to push in the right direction. We have a great relationship now and he is a good friend of ours now. Going back to Shadow of the Sword for the first time after Black Majik Terror, I was pleasantly surprised about how it sounded, so you're always thinking different things all the time.
TIME FOR THE SOPHOMORE ALBUM
As your debut album was so well received by the underground metal people, did the success set any extra pressure on the band's shoulders regarding your sophomore album, titled Black Majik Terror?
Chris: Definitely! Haha... this is the second album I never got to do. With Razorwyre we broke up while writing the second Razorwyre album. So here is my chance to finally do the dreaded second album. There is always going to be pressure, no way around it. You've built up a fanbase with your debut and now you have to follow it up. It has to be as good or better. This new album I can honestly say will not disappoint. Haha... I know you probably hear that all the time. I mean, everyone is going to say that, right?
Were your working methods basically the same with this follow-up album compared to the making of your debut? How much did you learn from the sessions of Shadow... and did you use all that experience from those sessions for this new album?
Chris: We initially wanted to have the album out in 2019, but with everything we were doing at the time, there was just no way to have it finished. That's why we put out the Powermad EP, just to say, "hey we are still here... here's some new music. Sorry it's only two songs but hang on a little longer". We learned so much and Daif and I know way more about each other and how to work better. Everything is faster and better. We also got a new studio in town where we can meet up and just do Stälker shit rather than annoy his flatmates. Hopefully, we can have the next release out quicker.
The album will see the light of day on October 30, 2020. What are some of your personal expectations from it? Would you be at least slightly disappointed if it wasn't received as well as you debut?
Daif: Now I'm no scientist, but there does seem to be some compelling data that there was a catastrophic meteor or asteroid impact event about 12,800 years ago. For the keen reader, they might notice that that is about half of a great year. In some circles it's believed that whatever broke up and collided with Earth was part of the Taurid meteor stream (named after the constellation Taurus, from where it appears to radiate from). This particular meteor stream appears in the sky around Halloween each year - which by no coincidence is when our new album Black Majik Terror will also unleash its fury on the world. Take shelter, earthlings!
The first single off this record was a song called "Of Steel and Fire", which you also made a nice-looking video for. Does this particular video in question make a great promise of what people can expect from your band in a live setting, i.e., lots of frenzied energy, true attitude and 100% pure Metal without any gimmicks or bullshit?
Daif: I think we are first and foremost a live band. Now don't get me wrong, I love gimmicks, but the rawer and more immediate the performance for me, the better a lot of the time.
You also shot another video for the song "Intruder" to promote the album, and the YouTube channel deemed it too dirty and nasty for the general public. Did you expect this to happen or did this come completely out of the blue for you?
Daif: Secretly, I was so excited when Napalm were trying to upload it. They tried twice and got their YouTube channel shut down for a while. That's my mischievous side talking. Seems pretty stupid if you ask me. But those are the rules, I guess.
Chris: Haha... yeah, that was definitely out of the blue and something we did not expect. Looking back and reading why things are censored, I see why now. There's things the kids just shouldn't see. However, in this day and age, if they wanna see stuff, like anything, they can.
Do you think censorship is good or do you see it as a "necessary evil" that needs to be there in order to protect some weak minds and souls? Do you miss the times of PMRC that got countless albums labelled with the "Parental Advisory" stickers back in the eighties and nineties?
Chris: I think the whole thing is stupid. But we are a very stupid human race. It is a necessary evil. No one should be blaming music or video games. Some people are just prone to it. It's the way that it's handled, and music and video games being held as the issue. I see it from all sides, but I do not agree. I also don't agree with what they did with the PMRC, I think that was a total bullshit hoax haha!! Glad Dee socked it to them!
From the point of playing live, it's nearly impossible for many bands and artists around the globe at the very moment and many artists and bands are really suffering in so many ways and not only financially. How badly has this virus pandemic hit your band? Have you lost many good gig/tour opportunities because of it?
Chris: At the moment, we can't go overseas to tour. Going to Europe twice was definitely a high point and we want to do it more. We were not going to go this year as we couldn't do that and have a new album out as there is so much to sort out. After we saw that Covid-19 hit, we knew that all touring plans were off for every band. The real question will be what will happen next year and the year after. We are OK here to play shows in NZ, but this is a small place to stay in when most of our fans are in Europe!
What keeps you positive during these challenging times if you can restrict your thoughts only to the band's future comings and goings?
Chris: Just creating more and more for Stälker. We have so much more we want to do.
OF THE NZ UNDERGROUND METAL SCENE
What about underground Metal in New Zealand? Is that something that makes you proud nowadays? What are your favorites new bands/artists from your home turf at the moment?
Chris: The Metal scene is great here and always has been. However, the scenes are small. There is no traditional Heavy Metal or Thrash scene. It's non-existent. However, there are some GREAT Black/Death/Stoner/Punk bands. Of course, we have Ulcerate and Vassafor, we have Beastwars (Stoner). Unruly is a new one with a new 12" of pure Sludge (ex-member of Meth Drinker. Also, Piggery (ex-member of Meth Drinker) and one of my favourites, Total Ruin (with the last ex-member of Meth Drinker).
One last question and then we are done; Trump or Biden or who the fuck fuckin' cares? :oD
That was it from me this time. Thanks so much for your time, Chris and Daif, and in the very same breath I sincerely want to wish both of you all the best with all the future endeavors with the band. If one of you have anything else in your mind, feel free to spit it out to wrap up this conversation properly...
Chris: Hell yeah, thanks Luxi, means a lot! I have been following you guys for the last 15 years! Keep up the good work and see you on the road in the future (I hope)!
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