PD: What type of artist are you?
(AK – Alex K, lead guitarist; JK – Justin McKittrick, vocalist; SM – Simon Marfleet, drums; John Morris – lead guitarist)
AK: Scrollkeeper is a traditional heavy metal band, we try to keep it close to where it all started for us (Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Judas Priest) but some of our later influences seep in. So mainly traditional heavy metal,with a little taste of other influences, so a little sprinkling of thrash, doom and death.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
AK: Scrollkeeper’s current lineup came together about May 2017. Simon (drummer) and Justin (vocalist) had the idea of the band name and at the time I came in they’ve had a rotating door of guitarists. I’ve shared a rehearsal space with Justin before so we’ve talked about one day maybe doing something together. My previous band, Descent Into Madness, folded in 2013 for various reasons, after which I’ve worked as studio musician and did some session mixing for various bands. Come 2016, I was itching to get back on the stage. Incidentally, these guys needed a guitarist at about the same time. The songwriting began in earnest in Fall 2016 with the three of us, then John (guitars) came to the fold and shortly afterward we found Will to join us on bass.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
JK: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Leather Leoni (Chastain)
AK: Growing up I listened to a lot of Sodom, Kreator, Coroner, Destruction…so a bit of that is bound to show up in my songwriting. Ronnie James Dio, especially his work in Black Sabbath and the early LPs with Vivian Campbell are a huge influence. Early Anathema (before they became Pink Floyd redux), also later Carcass (everything after “Symphonies…”) . I also like a lot of the usual gutiaristy stuff, like Malmsteen, Marty Friedman, Vai, Satriani but try to stay away from too much schlock.
As far as non-musical influences, I’d say that I am influenced by history, the more ancient the better. Look up a little known tribal leader by the name of Khan Krum (featured in our song “Path to Glory”), you’d see what I mean. As far as our lyrics are concerned, for the most part we write about history. Justin is a history major, so we have a shared interest in European history.
SM: Sean Reinert, Gene Hoglan, Neil Peart, Phil Rudd
JM: Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, Michael Romeo
PD: What are your dreams and goals
AK: It would be great if we could have a comfortable lifestyle from our music, hopefully with lots of travel involved.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
JK: It is essentially a full band collaboration. Alex and John write the riffs and melodies, lyrics are written by all members, and we tweak the arrangements in rehearsal.
AK: It really depends…sometimes one of us will bring a fully completed song, that requires almost no changes, at other times we’d start with a free flow improv at practice and see where it takes us. The interesting thing about this band, something that hasn’t happened in other bands I’ve been in, is the fact that we have a lot of lyricists. Sometimes we collaborate on lyrics, for example I’d start a song and run with a lyrical idea, which is then picked up by Justin and brought to fruition.
We are all for the most part grizzled veterans of the Texas music scene, so this is not our first rodeo.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
AK: We are all for the most part grizzled veterans of the Texas music scene, so this is not our first rodeo. With that in mind, we carefully planned our debut, which was in support of Hammerfall and Delain on their Houston stop of the tour. That generated a good amount of interest in the band, and the fans have been quite appreciative. We use social media as well as traditional marketing, which involves meeting fans, hanging out promo materials at places that are friendly to our kind of music.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
SM: It should be free all the time.
AK: Personally, I am on the fence. The audio engineer in me can see how the lack of product purchases has hurt the audio recording industry overall. Less music purchases meant a lot less feet through the door in our local studio and our jobs were negatively impacted.
On the other hand, it has taken quite a bit of the douchery out of the music business, or maybe put it in other places…I remember the “good ole days”, the golden 90s, when a record exec would park their car sideway in front of the venue, come out with 2 scantily clad hot blondes that weren’t his wife and toss the keys to building security like they were valet parking. The traditional roles in the music business have definitely been deflated or some even wiped out to non-existence. For the most part, I say “good riddance to bad rubbish”.
Considering that a lot of the music made usually consists of one good song and lots of filler to generate a $16.99 CD and a lot fat cats were getting fatter along the way, while an artist made 10 cents on a record sold, I can’t say I miss it. I am not opposed to the downloading and sharing of music. On the other hand, you can’t have a Bob Rock level of production as simply there are no money for it, but when you think about it, how much of that can a band truly play live, so is it really indicative of the song?
Streaming and downloading has definitely helped cut out a lot of garbage from circulation. Paid downloads, as far as I am concerned, are essentially a joke. You pay almost as much as the CD, and you have no tangible copy, no artwork, really no product, just a lossy mp3 that has little value. I am back to buying albums, where you have a huge chunk of vinyl in your hands. Previewing music online has helped me be more frugal and have less regrets about purchases. I seem to have developed a taste (again) for 70s rock, so that is pretty much the bulk of what I buy – real musical performances, analog recording, with less gimmicks. Unfortunately, thanks to its resurgence, vinyl prices have become overinflated.
Most bands nowadays have tuned out the human factor so much out of their performances and recordings that I am not surprised fewer people want to spend money on music. For example, listen to an 80s Michael Jackson record – you’d be surprised to hear that it has a lot more live performances in there than your traditional metal record on the market today.
We, as a band know that we can’t really make much from recording, so as of now, our songs are free to download off of our Reverbnation, Bandcamp and other sites. If you like the music and you’d like to help, you can essentially donate to the band’s tipjar by purchasing a song/s on Bandcamp. I also do this for a lot of upcoming bands that I think are worth it. For the most part, all my digital purchases have been indie bands that I believe make good music.
PD: What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
AK: What industry? It is all big data at this point. If you look at it, huge impersonal conglomerates control what is presented out to fans: Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook for the most part are the trendsetters. It is all about hits, likes, telemetry and all other crud that doesn’t really translate in tangible dollars for the performer. To me, the industry is dead, and we (the performers) are pretty much the medieval minstrels that stroll from town to town looking for food and a warm bed (for those of us that are single, hopefully with a sultry damsel). Only difference is that back in those days there weren’t as many limits imposed on a performer as they are today. It is really hard to find a good paying venue that treats musicians right, as most bar owners expect their music to be free. This leaves merch pretty much the only viable form of income.
I drove Nightwish to a strip club. They wanted to see the Bangcock of the US, which according to them was Houston.
PD: What’s your claim to fame?
AK: I’ve played some huge festivals that were high profile, so many years ago, I am embarrassed to share the date. I’ve met Lemmy and Dio (R.I.P.) and they were some of the coolest human beings that I had the privilege to talk to. I’ve had the opportunity to play on the same stage with some major label artists, the last one being Hammerfall, who I’ve been a fan of since they came out.
JM: I got to meet and shake the hand of Ronnie James Dio, I got to play guitar for Yngwie Malmsteen, I got to meet most of my guitar heroes, I got to meet (outside of music) Robert Englund, who I am a huge fan of. I drove Nightwish to a strip club. They wanted to see the Bangkok of the US, which according to them was Houston. Their cab got cancelled, so they all piled into my huge old Amercian car and sang Finnish tunes all the way up to Treasures (ed: infamous Houston strip join).
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
AK: Promoters that run away with the cash before the night is over and the bands have been paid.
JM: Stupidity, idiocy, ignorance, people who don’t know what the f**k they’re talking about, people that do know what the f**k they’re talking about, people that don’t know that they know what the f**k they’re talking about, and the note in between F# and G.
Technology also seems to hinder more than help – fewer people want to visit live shows and they’d rather stay at home and lead a digital life.
PD: What are the biggest obstacles for artists?
AK: I’d have to say the lack of time to be creative. This all essentially comes to cash flow and time management. If you have to hold a full time job, you can hardly be creative as there is not much time left in the day. On the other hand, you see the real artists perish much younger, especially here in the United States where things like social services and healthcare are pretty much nonexistent. Technology also seems to hinder more than help – fewer people want to visit live shows and they’d rather stay at home and lead a digital life.
PD: Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there.
AK: On October 7th we are playing 18th Street Pier in San Leon, Texas. It is a diverse bill, featuring all kinds of genres of metal, and it is an unique place, where you have a view of the Gulf of Mexico, good seafood and live music all in one.
On October 13 we are opening for legendary traditional metal band Manilla Road at the White Oak Music Hall in Houston, Texas.
March 28, 2018 we are opening for Udo Dirkschneider at the Scout Bar.
Currently we are working on some new material, so hopefully it will be ready for the October shows.
For more show info please visit:
Band location – Houston Texas
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