Within the last couple of years, the wonderful city of Chicago, IL has become a reigning capital for heavy metal. Brutal bands spawned from its streets such as Lair of the Minotaur and Raise the Red Lantern have progressed to acceptable levels of respect, all-out heaviness, and larger-than-life live shows. Hell, there’s arguably the best place in Chicago (let alone Illinois) for burgers as well. Yep, you guessed it, Kuma’s Corner.
Amazing burger joint aside, I recently caught up with Chicago native and all out awesome heavy metal sergeant, Michael Galaboff, lead guitarist and singer of the Chicago quartet Blood of the Tyrant. From love at first listen, Blood of the Tyrant meshes the early days of Mastodon, the epic wonders of Isis, and the overall great attitudes of four guys hanging out with (good) beers and watching ‘Da Bears on any given Sunday. After a whopping show back at The Empty Bottle to cap off 2009, Mr. Galaboff and I exchanged a few words of wisdom, and what I got was a whole lot more than I ever imagined possible. Behold, Chicago’s best up-and-coming heavy metal band, Blood of the Tyrant:
How do you go about composing your songs?
A new song will usually arise from just a few melody lines or guitar parts. If these initial bits of music are strong enough, they will suggest or imply to us the soul of a new song with its own personality, and we can then begin crafting additional bits of music which match the vibe and atmosphere of the first pieces. We spend the most time in the arranging stage, trying to make sure each section of the song flows perfectly into the next. And since each band member usually has his own definition of “perfect,” the time that we spend writing songs together can often be very tense and grueling.
That early step in the process of being able to hear a song’s unique identity emerge is very important to us, because we strive to make sure that each one of our songs creates its own world and has a definite reason to exist, while still maintaining some form of stylistic cohesion with our other compositions. We never want the listener to get one song confused with another or feel that our record is merely comprised of an indistinguishable series of guitar riffs. One of my biggest pet peeves in rock music is when bands fail to make each song memorable, and Blood of the Tyrant does everything in its power to avoid falling into that trap.
Are you guys strictly DIY or are you looking for a label?
We are looking for a label. While we are proud of what we have accomplished thus far on our own, and while we can certainly see why some artists might find the DIY aesthetic of not having to answer to anyone for their work very appealing, we do not currently have the budget we need to make records. Our EP was recorded, mixed, and mastered in six days and was completely self-financed. We pooled our money and resources to spend a few days recording with Sanford Parker and had the album mastered by Collin Jordan. While we are very pleased with the final product and the treatment given our material by both of those very talented gentlemen, we currently can’t afford to go back to the studio on our own, and we have tons of new material ready to be recorded. In fact, our current live set consists mainly of new music written after the EP was made. We would like to join forces with a label that could help us bring our new compositions to life in the studio, and we would like our next recording situation to be a bit more relaxed and leisurely.
What is the best beer ever?
I’m a very big fan of Hobgoblin, which is a medium-to-dark beer from the U.K. If you find a place that has it on tap, the handle on the tappper will sometimes be a really cool wood carving of a Hobgoblin with glowing eyes.
Where did you all meet? Are you all from Chicago?
We grew up together in Chicago’s northern suburbs and have known each other since we were very young. Chris [Avgerin, drummer], Kevin [Emmons, bassist], and I used to play together in a band called Under the Sun during high school and college. Under the Sun eventually disbanded a few years ago, at which time Kevin started writing music with Josh [Primack, lead guitar], who was Kevin’s best friend since birth and who the rest of us knew well. Blood of the Tyrant was the result of those initial jam sessions between Kevin and Josh. Before long, Chris and I were on board and we started a new band. We spent about a year writing and rehearsing together before playing our first gig in the summer of ’07.
Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat?
Mortal Kombat, because there is a character in the game named Raiden who is based on “Lightning” from the John Carpenter movie Big Trouble in Little China. We’re big John Carpenter fans. Who else could direct such awesome movies and compose amazing soundtracks for them?
Who are your main influences?
We tend to be most enamored with really atmospheric and progressive bands that have some doom tendencies in their sound. We certainly have our more obvious heavy influences, chief among them being Black Sabbath, but we also like a lot of rock and progressive music from the 70s, stuff like Genesis and King Crimson. We’re also influenced by a lot of things that people might not expect. For example, my all-time favorite recording artist is Prince, and lately I’ve been really getting into Neil Young. Chris is a fan of jazz music, and his drumming is heavily influenced by Art Blakey. One of Josh’s favorite albums is “Songs From the Big Chair” by Tears for Fears, and he really digs Burt Bacharach. All of those things work their way into the music we make.
Any new material or a tour in the works?
Both, actually. There are several new songs in the works, and we’ve been performing some of them at our recent shows. And we’re definitely going to tour.
What’s the craziest gig you’ve ever played?
We once traveled from Chicago to play a gig in Oshkosh, WI, which is about three and a half hours away from us, only for me to slice open my left hand with scissors minutes before show time. I couldn’t play my guitar, so the other dudes performed a two-song set as a trio. At one point during their set, I just grabbed the microphone, stood up on top of two giant PA monitors at the front of the stage and started belting out my vocal parts. The audience actually seemed to dig it, even though it was in no way an accurate representation of our band. The good news is that my hand made a full recovery after some help from four stitches, and I can play guitar again. That makes me happy.
If Blood of the Tyrant were a NES game, which one would it be and why?
We would be Battletoads, because we are too difficult to play and spend way too much time building up to the ending, only to have a lackluster and unsatisfying climax.
Where did the name Blood of the Tyrant come from?
Josh and I were hanging out at a bar one night when a Kung Fu movie called Blood of the Dragon was being played on the TVs. Josh suggested substituting “tyrant” in place of “dragon” to form the name of the group. The word “tyrant” is a tip of the hat to the song “Tyrant” by Judas Priest, who we are big fans of.
Who has the best beard in all of music?
Frank Beard. Definitely Frank Beard.