I’ve not heard any new stuff from Skelator since their ”Agents of Power” and I really like the cover artwork of this supreme record (of course its obvious fantasy pure art, Elric there stand facing the eternal chaos). That was the last time that we had an interview and now its the time to present Skelator once more on Metal Sound pages…
Skelator has just released it’s 5th full-length ”Cyber Metal” so please could you introduce us with your latest record from your point of view?
Our latest release “Cyber Metal” is our first release through Gates of Hell Records – we wanted to make an album where the emphasis was less on swords and sorcery and more sci-fi or at least modern day themes. We also wanted to push the production to a more professional level instead of the raw sound we had on prior releases and with utilizing a number of different studios in the Pacific Northwest we were able to obtain that sound. We’ve said that our goal was Judas Priest’s Ram It Down, Riot’s Thundersteel, mixed with German Power Metal like Primal Fear’s Nuclear Fire and Grave Digger’s Knights of the Cross. The end result was 8 tracks of heavy metal pumped up with some power metal aggression and soaring vocals.
In fact, it will be indeed welcome if you could present Skelator to our readers since we have for the first time opportunity to have a chat with the band.
At its core, Skelator is a 5-piece heavy metal band that has been around since 1998. Originally starting in San Diego, California Jason Conde-Houston (Vocals), Robbie Houston (Guitars), and Patrick Seick (drums) were delivering the goods to the Southern California metal fans. After releasing a bunch of demos and Splits the decision was made to relocate the band up to Seattle, Washington. After arriving Give Me Metal or Give Me Death was recorded and released to the masses. Rob Steinway (guitars) joined the band in 2009 and we put out Death to All Nations in 2010, our concept album Agents of Power in 2012, along with King of Fear in 2014. In 2017 Darin Wall joined the band on bass and we put together a single before spending a lot of time in 2018 working on writing new material and playing a bunch of shows.
”Cyber Metal” is indeed stranger title for Skelator’s album so the same goes for the cover artwork, too. But, could you explain your ideas behind a new ideas?
Our goal for the album was to have no songs about swords unless they are laser swords! Seriously though, we wanted to put forth a record of polished, heavy metal soaked with aggressive power metal songs that would ring true for our fans. The songs themselves frequently nod to the 80’s and 90’s media (movies, shows, videogames, books, etc) that we all consumed while growing up and still consume today; Japanese animation, 80’s Christopher Lambert films… For the title itself — Cyber Metal sounds like something you would hear a movie trailer announcer bellow right at the end of a trailer before it displayed the title of an upcoming 80’s action film. It just fit with our approach and sound for this album.
Regarding the cover art work, we (as it always seems to happen) struggled with finding an artist for the album cover but ended up finding a local freelance illustration and design duo Two Headed Giant in Seattle, who took the idea and ran with it — a Cyber Samurai fighting against hordes of mutant goons in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. A lot of their work is for comics, album covers, flyers, or commissions — it fit really well with the style that we were going for on this album. We felt like you could take the album art and have it be the cover for a comic and we would want to read it. We’ve been very lucky in the past to work with some amazing artists and wanted to keep that going with this album.
Could you compare your 5th issue ”Cyber Metal” with your previous full-lengths? Is there something new and fresh that a brand new record brings out comparing to previous ones?
Cyber Metal is easily the most collaborative release to date — everything was up for revision and tweaking when we were writing and there were no “hands off” moments where something couldn’t be changed because someone wanted it a specific way. We’ve mentioned it a lot throughout this interview but we really wanted to take that classic heavy metal sound and infuse it with aggressive German power metal, which we’ve experimented with in the past but not really gone down the rabbit hole as they say.
From a musicianship standpoint, Robbie and Rob spent a lot of time working on their parts and playing for this album and we think it shows in the end product. Darin brought a fresh approach bass playing wise that really locked in quite well with Patrick’s drumming and brings different dynamic to the songs
Our recording and production process for this one had a lot more studios involved, whereas in the past we did everything in our practice space or just at one studio. We started off recording drums at Hanger 12 Studios with Cody Brumlow and over a couple days we were able to get great drum tracks. After that Robbie and Rob recorded their guitar parts at their respective home studios and Darin recorded all his bass parts with Rob. Once that piece was done we went to Canada and recorded vocals with Matt Roach at Rain City Recorders in Vancouver. Once all the core tracks were in place we began really working on the sounds — the guitars were re-amped to get the best possible tones by Rob, we re-amped the direct bass track with a second layer of bass to fatten up the tone while maintaining that punchy cutting sound and more layers of vocals were recorded. Robbie then dedicated a lot of his time and energy into mixing and massaging the sound of the album to get to where we wanted and Collin Jordan from The Boiler Room put the final touches on the master to get it where we have it today.
What is the most important album in Skelator’s discography from your point of view? And which one was the most popular?
It is hard to really assign a most important album out of the batch, we feel they all serve a specific purpose throughout the career of the band. Death to All Nations certainly was us trying our damnedest to put the band on the map and show people what we could do, whereas Agents of Power was our most ambitious effort musically with creating a 12-part piece that was interwoven and lyrically interconnected. Our Swords EP was also really critical to the band as a whole – without that release none of this would be possible. We would have never gone on our first west coast tour, we have never played Swordbrothers and we would have never gotten signed to Metal on Metal. If we had to pick just one, I’d probably say Death to All Nations — a lot of that album is the culmination of ideas that had been floating around for a long time and the band was finally in a spot where those ideas could be successfully recorded. The vocal performance on that album is completely over the top and became the signature for the band.
From the perspective of popularity if we’re talking sales alone, probably Cyber Metal — the album has been out for just over a month and the need to press new copies is rapidly approaching. Locally a lot of people request songs from the King of Fear album (Stronger than Steel, Sword of the Dawn, Honor is Life).
Do you plan to have some shows here and there with Iron fire soon and promote a brand new offering?
Now that the album is released and out there for the masses, the response has been very positive! Our hope is to be in Europe in 2020 for the festival circuit or at least a handful of dates — nothing is on the books currently but that’s our goal! It has been a long time since we last played Europe and we just haven’t really had the opportunity to do so — hopefully we will be able to make it happen. Stateside we’re probably going to keep doing what we’ve always done, play a bunch in the Pacific Northwest and hit the road on the West Coast, but we would definitely would want to come to the rest of the USA
Skelator is ones again on a brand new label. This time the new offering is released though Gates of Hell Records. So, how did you choose a new record after all?
We met Enrico in Germany at Metal Assault in 2013 and at the time we were still signed with Metal on Metal records. Enrico let us know that Mike Scalzi of Slough Feg had suggested that he sign us but it wasn’t possible as we were currently signed to another label. When we split with Metal on Metal records we had wanted to go with a USA based label for a release, simply because we were wanting to keep everything stateside – dealing with customs for getting our merchandise and CDs at the time was a nightmare and a half. Customs and shipping companies had repeatedly damaged or lost parts of our orders and it was just really frustrating to deal with. Additionally, at the time we were stretched thin financially and doing anything in Europe was not possible for us. When we began working on our new album Enrico reached out to us and everything kind of went from there. Enrico and Gates of Hell Records have been amazing to work with for this album and have been very helpful and supportive every step of the way.
I think that around five years separates your latest effort from your previous recording. So, why there was such a pause, was there any particular reason?
After we released King of Fear in 2014 we played a lot of shows and went on a couple of tours along with recording a split, when we started moving towards the writing portion of recording we started having some lineup issues and shortly thereafter our bassist at the time announced he was leaving. We spent a good couple months trying people out and finally we were able to get someone in the band – because we didn’t want to cancel any performances that we had scheduled at the time we had to temporarily abandon the writing process and work on getting that bassist up to speed and preparing for live shows. Right as we started getting back to the writing process we ended up needing to part ways with that member and had to restart the whole process. It ended up eating up a good year and a half of time… Combined with other band commitments and then needing to head out on a tour to generate money for the recording process it really pushed everything out a lot longer than we had hoped. In the end the band is in a better spot now than it had been prior to all this happening and we were able to put together a record that we hope our fans enjoy!
In closing… Death to the Opposition, Death to False Metal, Give Me Metal or Give Me Death!!!
- Interview by Marko Miranovic