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Interviews Visigoth

Interview with Jake Rogers (vocals) and Leeland Campana (lead guitar)

Interview conducted by MetalMike

Date online: March 7, 2011

MetalMike: How did Visigoth come into being? Can you give us a bit of band history? Where did the inspiration for the name come from?

Lee: Visigoth came into being when Jake called me up and told me he wanted to start a band that would play metal with that kind of ‘old school' feel like many of our mutual favourite bands. We had already been playing together for about a year in another band and I had nothing but time on my hands so I said "let's do it!" We immediately began writing and recording the songs for the demo on my computer. Jake can tell you more about the name of the band, but it basically came about in the infernal whirlwind of indecisiveness and frustration that comes with trying to name a band you've already recorded a demo for. We all liked Visigoth the best so it stuck.

Jake: Yeah, that's pretty much how it all went down. Once Lee and I had the idea set in stone and really started gaining momentum on the songwriting front, we called our mutual long-time friend Jamison. The three of us are now the core of the band. As for the name, there's no real mystery behind it. Very long story short, the Visigoths were a Germanic tribe that sacked Rome in 410. Seeing as Germanic warriors are cool and sacking Rome is cool, we agreed it would serve well as a moniker for our band.

MetalMike: What would you call your sound, "Traditional," "True," "Epic" or something else? What bands do you guys listen to?

Jake: We definitely listen to a lot of traditional metal, and I'm a huge fan of epic metal, but the main goal of Visigoth is to be heavy, memorable, and rockin'. We're not really a ‘throwback' band – I hate to sound like a stupid cliché, but we just write the music we love, and if we feel like it would kill in a live setting, we run with it. For us, Visigoth is really about our love for metal! As for what I personally listen to, I'm mainly into heavy/traditional, doom, speed, and black metal. A list could really get out of hand, so I'll try to keep it really short. The first few bands that come to mind are Manilla Road, Atlantean Kodex, Cirith Ungol, Twisted Tower Dire, Ironsword, Judas Priest, Doomsword, Grave Digger, Riot, Grand Magus, Candlemass, Summoning, Darkthrone, Root, Absu, Desaster, Omen – well, I'll stop there, but you get the idea. I hate making these lists because I always end up thinking of four or five essential bands that I somehow forgot to include right after I send it off!

Lee: In addition to what Jake said one of the goals for our sound is to write material that can be re-created live, sound crushingly heavy and still maintain its integrity. I think our sound is ‘traditional' in the sense that our goals are straightforward. We are here to rock, we want to make people excited to come to our shows and to listen to metal! My main influences for this brand of metal are bands like classic Manowar, Angel Witch, WASP, Judas Priest, Twisted Tower Dire, Running Wild, Medieval Steel, Lost Horizon, Dream Evil, Wolf (the Swedish one), Dio, Carcass, Nocturnal Rites, Teräsbetoni, Virgin Steele, U.D.O., etc.

MetalMike: How does the songwriting process work for Visigoth? Does everyone contribute or is there one main writer? Are there particular authors that you try to emulate?

Lee: For the three originals on Vengeance Jake and I both sat down and just dove right in. I usually come up with a riff off the top of my head or until something "clicks" and Jake will then improvise a vocal line. Jake will also make suggestions to me on how the riffs should change to fit the vocals or sound differently. The verses and choruses for all the songs on the demo were written within ten or fifteen minutes. If the riff or the vocals didn't grab us within that time we would move on to something else. Intros, solos, and bridge sections were written and recorded by myself separately; however I always consult Jake for a second opinion to make sure we are both happy with how the overall song flows. Jake and I can sort of feed off one another's ideas, that's the secret.

Jake: Yeah, it's definitely a group effort. Lee definitely handles most of the axe work, but I wrote a few riffs here and there, and Lee always has input on the vocal lines that I come up with. And now that we have a permanent second guitarist in Jamison, he has become an integral part of the writing process as well. The great thing about Visigoth is that we really all see eye to eye on pretty much every aspect of the music, so there's never tension or arguments over how a riff should go. It's a very relaxed, fluid, and (most importantly) fun as hell experience to write this music together, and the fact that all three of us were very close friends to begin with doesn't hurt!

MetalMike: The playing on the new demo Vengeance sounds very accomplished. Are you guys self-taught musicians or did you take lessons?

Jake: I've never taken a singing lesson in my life, and I'm sure it shows here and there on the demo. The only formal music training I've ever received was classical flute, actually. I played all through high school and loved it. That's really where my passion for music began. Plus I have a feeling that knowing the ins and outs of breath control in the context of flute-playing has probably helped my singing out a bit. I'm fully aware that I'm really not a great singer, but I have a blast doing it and I'm confident that my skills will improve the more we play.

Lee: Jamison and I are both self-taught guitarists. I mainly used guitar magazines and DVDs to learn technique, but what really made me better was jamming and learning from other guitarists - like Jamison, our other guitarist - when I first started out.

MetalMike: Vengeance has a great, old-school sound without sounding dated. Where was it recorded? Was it produced by the band? Was the sound something you focused on or was it just something that came about because of the way you play?

Lee: All the guitar parts including the bass for Vengeance were recorded by me in my dorm room (school and roommates willing) using an Ibanez practice amp, a SM-57 microphone, and Ibanez tube screamer and standard Boss compression pedals. Jake programmed all the final drums, and I then mixed the songs on my computer. My good friend Rick Bergsma helped produce, record, and mix Jake's vocal parts in his home studio because we weren't in possession of a decent vocal mic. He was also kind enough to master the all final tracks for the demo. The way we got the guitars to sound "old-school" was by rolling the gain knob on the amp to about 4, which gave us considerably less distortion. I made up for this using compression and overdrive so the guitars still sounded strong while attaining a cleaner, crisper sound than the muddy "fwomp" that guitarists get by turning the distortion to 11. Since we only had one amp, we simply found a guitar tone and mic position we both liked and just went for it. When I mixed the tracks, I just found a balance that sounded good to me and Jake. The sound just came out on its own, all we did was found tones and a mix that we liked. The mix is pretty standard: guitars were panned 100% left and right, bass middle, drums middle, cymbals left and right, vocals and solos middle.

Jake: The one thing that I really focused on production-wise was the drum programming. Most people have no idea that the drums are sequenced, which is good, because I was really worried we'd end up with this great organic sound only to have it all ruined by crappy mechanical fake drums making themselves apparent all over the place. I painstakingly programmed every last cymbal, kick, tom, and snare hit, paying special attention to making sure that everything on the demo could be played by a human drummer. That has a lot to do with how organic they ended up sounding.

MetalMike: Who are you favorite all time singers? Guitarists?

Jake: Some singers who I either deeply enjoy listening to or feel inspired by are Mark "the Shark" Shelton, Hansi Kürsch, Jirí "Big Boss" Walter, Messiah Marcolin, Tony Taylor, Tim Baker, Chris Boltendahl, Udo Dirkschneider, Rob Halford, King Diamond, Vintersorg (pre-Spiral Generator), J.B. Christoffersson, Brian "Butch" Balich, Ronnie James Dio, John "Midnight" McDonald, J.D. Kimball, Tony Moore, and "Earthquake" Quimby Lewis.

Lee: My favorite all time guitarists are players that can really make the guitar wail. Just shredding is overrated – to me the best guitar solos also have memorable screaming melodies as well as blues hooks and licks. The players I enjoy most are Andy Timmons, Matthias Ekludh, Micheal Amott, Eddie Van Halen, Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Devin Townsend, Sascha Gerstner, Kia Hansen, John Donnelly, and Ron Thal. The list keeps going and I'm always adding to it. My favourite singers are Eric Adams, Jorn Lande, Devin Townsend, Daniel Heiman, and Jarkko Ahola.

MetalMike: Some of the members are in school, but is the ultimate goal to make Visigoth a full-time pursuit? Have you had a chance to play live much? Any label interest yet?

Lee: I am in school for business marketing but, I would love nothing more than to do Visigoth full time. Currently we are a very new band, and haven't had a chance to play live, we've decided that we want a full line up and some shows under our belt before we try to accumulate label interest.

Jake: It would be a dream come true for Visigoth to be a full-time endeavor. I'm attending school in order to become an English teacher, which is something I'm also passionate about, and the reality is that I will probably end up working in that profession regardless of how successful Visigoth might become.

MetalMike: What would your dream band be to open for?

Lee: I'm going to have come clean and say my dream band to open for would have to be Manowar. There is something irresistible about the opportunity to play through one of the world's loudest PA systems.

Jake: That's an incredibly difficult question to answer. I guess I'd have to go with Manilla Road, simply because it would be an incredible opportunity and they are a band I really look up to. Either that, or get Cirith Ungol to do a reunion show and let us open for it, haha!

MetalMike: What's been your favorite place to play live? Any places you hope to visit on tour in the future?

Lee: My favorite places to play live are those venues that people show up for the shows even if they don't know who the band is or even if it is one they would like. Bigger stages have better sound and lights, but if it's too big, you lose the intimacy a smaller venue has to offer. I want to tour the entire United States, and eventually go to somewhere where people are super stoked on classic heavy metal like Germany, Japan, and Brazil.

Jake: It's a bit difficult to answer this question, seeing as I live and play music in Salt Lake City, Utah, which means there are very few options as far as venues for underground local bands go. Basically I enjoy playing bars that are clean and professional. Really the venue is less of a concern than the promoter. Nothing is worse than working with a show organizer who is dishonest, sleazy, and bad at their job.

MetalMike: What was your favorite show you've been to? Any shows you've missed that you regret not seeing?

Lee: When I was fourteen my mom made me stay home the night Judas Priest played in Salt Lake City of all places because of high school semester tests. It has taken me years to forgive her. So far my favorite show has been seeing Turisas live, the singer threw his beer cup at me, which the band then all signed after the show. Also seeing Dark Tranquility was pretty cool, I was front row and the vocalist jumped on my arm by accident. He apologized mid-song then gave me a consolation high five for being a good sport.

Jake: Metal bands don't come through Salt Lake City very often, but I think the coolest one I've had the pleasure of attending was Deströyer 666. They really put on a killer show – very tight musicianship, massive presence, killer energy, just an all-around awesome set. We're actually going to have Accept and Sabaton coming through in May, so I'm really looking forward to that.

MetalMike: When not playing with Visigoth, how do the band members keep busy?

Lee: Rock climbing, mountain biking and skateboarding in the summer, Snow boarding and videogames in winter, Diablo 2, recording lots of different styles of music for fun (instrumental, electronic, classic rock, funk.)

I also read a lot of books and comics because I'm a nerd, some of my favorite books (not including massive series) are...

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss,
Midnight at the Well of Souls by Jack L. Chalker,
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet,
Shadow out of Time and Whisperer in the Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series (sorry) by Douglas Adams

Graphic Novels/Comics:
Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon,
Invincible by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley,
Swamp Thing by Alan Moore,
Berserk by Kentaro Miura

Jake: I'm in a handful of bands, so I tend to keep extremely busy with them when I'm not doing schoolwork. But if I ever get a chance to catch a precious breather do something other than schoolwork or writing or recording music, it's usually spent reading (mainly fantasy, classics, or graphic novels), playing role-playing games (usually with Lee and Jamison, ha!), or playing computer games that make me feel nostalgic (Doom I & II, Quake I, Warcraft II, Rollercoaster Tycoon, etc).

MetalMike: Anything we didn't cover that you'd like to talk about?

Jake: I think that about covers it! Thanks so much for the interest in our demo, it really means a lot to us! Cheers!

MetalMike: Thanks for taking some time to answer these questions. Good luck with Vengeance and hope to see you guys on tour!

Other information about Visigoth on this site
Review: Vengeance
Review: Final Spell
Review: The Revenant King
Review: Conqueror's Oath
Review: Conqueror's Oath

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