Interview with guitarist and vocalist Brandon Corsair
Interview conducted by Michel Renaud
Date online: December 12, 2020
Hails! The year is 2020 (aka The Year of the Suck), so I have to start with the obligatory question about your thoughts and how the COViD-19 pandemic has affected you. On top of that, it seems like massive wildfires are becoming an annual thing in your home state of California. Can't catch a break, right?
Brandon: Hello Michel! Hails and cheers, thanks for having me for this interview with The Metal Crypt!
Well, it's certainly been a mixed year for me. I got married about a week before the lockdowns started out here in California, back in March, and while I'm glad I got to have the wedding my honeymoon in Greece was cancelled and I likely will never get most of the money back because I made the "mistake" of prepaying. Not ideal, eh? I also had to cancel a tour that my other death metal band, Azath, was supposed to do in October, my first ever trip to Maryland Deathfest was postponed, my first time seeing Mercyful Fate was cancelled, and so forth. It hasn't disrupted Draghkar so much for a couple reasons I expect I'll go into later on in the interview, but it definitely hit me hard overall. Still, I'm lucky, and I still have the same job I had when the pandemic started and my wife has hers, so it could be a lot worse!
As for the fires, well, those aren't ideal either. They've gotten worse and worse every year and I can't see that changing. Didn't end up getting evacuated in the last fire though it was a close thing, but fire season isn't over yet—we'll have to see how it goes! I plan to move out of the state in the very near future if some things work out, so maybe I won't have to worry about it anymore starting someday soon.
While looking up your band's name, I half-expected something from Lord of the Rings, but I came across The Wheel of Time. I read the first few books of that fantasy series back in the '90s. Is that where you got the name from?
Brandon: Yes, it is! The Wheel of Time was very formational for me as a kid and it was really what sparked my interest in epic fantasy. I think it was the very first adult fantasy book I ever read; I was familiar with Narnia and Eddings and The Hobbit, but I had yet to read The Lord of the Rings, nor anything else I could really sink my teeth into. Robert Jordan, of course, passed away before the books were finished, which devastated me, and some years later I realized that Brandon Sanderson had finished the series using Jordan's outlines and with Jordan's blessing. I was in the middle of re-reading the books to refresh myself on the subject when I first formed Draghkar, and I'd finished the series by the time I finished the first demo; given the personal parallels between my first real fantasy series and my first real musical endeavor, it felt only right to name Draghkar after a monster from the books, and to have the first demo be lyrically focused as well on The Wheel of Time.
According to Metal-Archives, Draghkar was formed in 2016. Your first full-length album, At the Crossroads of Infinity, was released this year but you weren't just sitting around for those four years, with a couple of demos, splits, an EP and a compilation. Your splits were with Desekryptor and Ossuarium. How did those collaborations come about?
Brandon: At heart I'm somewhat of a traditionalist, and having put out our first demo on cassette, it felt right to me to trade tapes of my demo with other bands that had recently released great demos. Desekryptor was on the same label that Draghkar was at the time, Blood Harvest Records, and when I got in touch to trade tapes their frontman and I ended up getting along rather well. They had an unused song from the same session that they recorded the demo I'd traded for, Chasm of Rot, and Phil suggested that we ask Blood Harvest to release that alongside a new Draghkar song on 7". The rest is history, and Phil, of course, went on to join Draghkar for a while, played drums on At the Crossroads of Infinity, and has since taken his leave to focus on other things.
The story behind the other split is much the same. Ossuarium's first demo came out a few months after Draghkar's first demo, we traded tapes, and it turned out that their main man Daniel and I got along pretty well. He suggested that if I ever needed guitars or bass, he could be my man, and sure enough, he ended up joining Draghkar for some time when our then-bassist quit to focus on bigger and better things. Daniel played bass on the split 7" with Desekryptor as well as the mLP that followed it, and we booked a Draghkar / Ossuarium tour up the West Coast of the US, with the idea that Daniel would play both sets and we'd trade off the higher billing position each night. As Blood Harvest had done a CD edition of Ossuarium's demo and we were touring together, we asked them to do a 12" with each of our demos on one side to help promote the tour, and the label was nice enough to do that and to pay for the cover art and mastering for the release.
Unfortunately, there was a conflict with Ossuarium between the studio time scheduling for their debut album, Living Tomb, and our tour and they had to drop off, so we ended up touring with our drummer's other band instead. The 12" split still ended up happening in time and we took it on the road, and to this day Blood Harvest's promotional materials for the split talk about it being for a tour with a lineup that never happened. As a fun sideline, the 12" split with Ossuarium is the only thing we've ever done that doesn't have Karmazid's artwork on the cover, largely because Blood Harvest didn't have the budget to get him and because we did the release pretty last-minute and Karmazid couldn't slot it into his schedule in time.
Some of the band members are also in other bands, most of them still active. Where does Draghkar fit in each member's priorities? I must admit I'm only familiar with one of them, Drawn and Quartered, which I quite like (and not just because of the name ;)).
We all have other stuff that we keep busy with, but everyone slots in Draghkar where they can. A couple of us (including myself) have other time issues outside of music and that keeps things like shows on the backburner but there's always time to write music and that's what I spend most of my free time doing when I can.
I'd definitely recommend at least checking out our vocalist's other bands—both Vastum and Acephalix rule, and have been very consistent over the years. Cam's old thrash band, Iconoclasm, was quite good as well. As mentioned, I also play in a band called Azath that I'd love everyone to check out!
So, you released your album a few weeks ago but obviously any kind of live gigging or touring you may originally have planned went out with the pandemic. Are you making any plans for 2021, where we might see some return to normal in late summer or early fall (my most optimistic guess), or are you writing that year off too?
Brandon: I can't speak for everyone else, but I don't expect to be able to do anything next year. There's too much instability going on, and on top of that, everyone is scrambling to play the tours and festivals that they'd already booked—I imagine it'll be a while before there's room to put together something completely new! It's fine, Draghkar will just take the time to get back to the rehearsal room and write some more music.
Since the spring, several bands and even festivals have put together live streams to give the fans something and hopefully make up for the lack of touring revenues. Have you checked out any of those? What do you think about the concept?
Brandon: I don't think it's a bad idea at all, but not many bands I'm really interested in have actually done them, and I don't care enough to spend money on them—I'd rather just buy records or shirts to support a band, honestly. I really dug Rotting Christ's live-in-the-studio thing where they played through a bunch of early '90s songs, but I don't think I've heard any others that I liked enough to sit through to the end. Generally speaking, I really like good live albums and the idea's definitely not a problem, but as I said, there's just been either a lack of bands I like doing them or I missed the recordings I might have dug.
Your previous splits and EP were released several different labels. How did you settle on Unspeakable Axe Records for the album?
Brandon: It helps that Eric wanted to do it! I'd be lying if I said that there was a long line of labels waiting at the door, but out of the interested ones not only was Eric the best choice, but he was also the only one that I felt really understood the music and wanted to support it. It's important to me that I work with cool people for my releases and Eric is nothing if not cool and supportive, and it's killer to be able to work with someone like that.
Are there any plans for a vinyl edition?
Brandon: Yeah, actually! My label, Nameless Grave Records, is going to co-release it on wax with Nuclear Winter Records from Greece in 2021, with my label distributing in North America and Nuclear Winter handling Europe. It's an honor to work with them; I'm a massive fan of Dead Congregation, and it's killer working with one of my favorite active musicians, and on top of that I've always loved and respected Nuclear Winter Records. They're easily one of the best-curated labels in metal, and have been at it since long before this stuff was actually selling decently. Anastasis liking my music is worth a hell of a lot and this arrangement is pretty much as ideal as I could have asked for.
Who does what in Draghkar? Is the songwriting a collaborative effort?
Brandon: I handle all of the songwriting, lyricism, and arrangement. Everyone else is free to contribute their own parts from there; Kelly writes his leads and harmonies, Cameron writes his bass, and so forth. I might chime in if I have specific ideas for something but for the most part I stick to the songwriting unless something the other guys are doing doesn't work.
Your sound has changed over the past four years. Would you say that, with At the Crossroads of Infinity, you have found your sound, or is Draghkar's sound a constantly moving target? (If you do a split with Justin Bieber, we're through!)
Brandon: Probably more of the latter! I've never found it easy to repeat myself and though I've certainly found a personal niche with Draghkar that I was still hunting for earlier on, I don't want to write the same album twice and honestly don't think I could even if I was into that. My writing is very much dependent on my headspace and once I've done something it's onto the next.
Where do you see Draghkar going forward?
Brandon: We're doing a 7" split with an amazing band hopefully next year, and then it'll be back to grinding on towards a second album. I can't predict much but I can definitely say that I'm always writing music and I'll be happy to keep it up forever if I can!
The year is coming to an end, so I'll ask something that I hate being asked: Your top three albums of 2020? (I could have asked for five or even ten, so I'm going easy on you here. ;))
Brandon: The Wizar'd— Subterranean Exile, White Magician— Dealers of Divinity, and Eternal Champion— Ravening Iron.
I'm out of questions, so I'd like to thank you for your time answering this interview. The last words are yours!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, and for reviewing the album prior to this! I'll end with a short playlist of what I've been listening to the most the last few days:
Rotting Christ—Triarchy of the Lost Lovers
Soulskinner—Seven Bowls of Wrath
Judas Priest—Unleashed in the East
|Other information about Draghkar on this site|
|Review: The Endless Howling Abyss|
|Review: At the Crossroads of Infinity|
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