Thursday, January 14, 2016

Vektor - Thrash till Heat Death! *

An interview with David DiSanto (Metal Hammer Greece, December 2011)

In 2011, on the December issue of the Greek Metal Hammer, Vektor's Outer Isolation was the album of the month. To my knowledge this was the first (only?) publication to bestow that honour on Vektor. Judging from the first samples from Terminal Redux, I have a feeling this will change in the future. The issue also included a 4-page interview with the band's mastermind David DiSanto. I wrote the review and did the interview. Here is the interview, in its entirety (some of it did not fit in the magazine). I think it's a very interesting read. Enjoy!

Metal Hammer: What would you say are the differences between Outer Isolation and Black Future?

David DiSanto: I think Outer Isolation turned out much more focused, precise, and aggressive. We definitely wanted to top what we did with Black Future as far as the overall sound and the performances on the album. After the great response from Black Future, we knew it would be hard to make a better album, but we used that to drive us and push us further. There were some very intense studio sessions while we recorded this time around. It resulted in all of the instruments and vocals turning out razor sharp. I hate to sound big headed or anything, but it sounds incredible. It’s precise without being artificial, and huge while maintaining clarity. We’re all extremely stoked on it.

I had a hard time deciding which of the two albums I prefer most. Which one do you prefer? And why?

It was hard for me to decide as well! Haha. It took a little while for me to get out of the mentality of critiquing Outer Isolation, but I like it more and more after continuing to listen to it. The overall sound is better in my opinion, and some of the new tracks have become my favourites, especially ‘Cosmic Cortex’. It really just depends on what kind of mood I’m in. Black Future has a cool, raw feel to it, but Outer Isolation is like metallic glass. They’re both cool in different ways, but I’ve definitely been listening to Outer Isolation almost non-stop.

How long did it take you to write the new material? How long does it take to finish a song as a band?

I spent about six months writing the new songs. I continued reworking the title track, ‘Outer Isolation’, for a few months after the others had been finished. The meaning and feel of the song continued to evolve while I was writing it, so I had to scrap or add riffs while it came together. My writing style usually consists of me having a few riffs lying around for months or years before the inspiration strikes to get the song finished. I always have 20 or 30 riffs that I think are rad, but it can take a while before I know what I want to do with them. The band’s learning curve is based on the complexity or length of a song. They learned ‘Dark Creations, Dead Creators’ in just over a week, but ‘Outer Isolation’ (song) took a couple months before they could play it tight.

As with Black Future you included songs from Demolition. Are you planning to re-record the remaining songs for a future release? Why didn't you do these songs in the Black Future sessions?

There is only one song that wasn’t re-recorded off of Demolition and that was ‘Moonbase’. There aren’t any plans to re-record that song. We’re done reworking the old songs and are finally ready to move forward. The decision to re-record the songs off Demolition was because none of us were happy with it. The reason we didn’t put all those songs on Black Future was because we already had a bunch of new material written and we couldn’t wait to release it. We thought it would be better to re-record the old material in segments so we could still get our newer songs out while doing justice to the old songs.

I find the duration and number of tracks ideal. Was it a conscious choice to keep the album duration at roughly 50 minutes, with 8 tracks?

This was a conscious decision, actually. There were some critiques about Black Future being too long, so we took that into consideration. Part of that decision was to keep people wanting more instead of feeling overwhelmed. We know that some of our songs are too epic to take in all at once, so we tried to make the album more balanced this time.

Is Demolition your debut or is it Black Future? How many copies of Demolition did you actually make?

We’ve always considered Demolition to be a full-length demo, hence the name. Demolition had a different drummer who was a lot slower and sloppier than Blake, and a different bass player who wasn’t clicking with us musically. We were originally going to spell it as Demo-lition. Black Future is our true debut album, and it is the first album released while we were signed. We made 1000 copies of Demolition. That recording is kind of haunting us because none of us like it, but a lot of people are asking for it.

Vinyl? 500 copies for Black Future proved to be rather few, don't you think? What do you make of the people who now sell it for 50 bucks on ebay?

Yeah, that did turn out to be way too few copies. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do about that. The record label was in charge of that. They’re a small label that doesn’t have a lot of money, and they couldn’t have known how many vinyls were going to sell. It’s great for the people that got them early because they’ve turned out to be pretty collectible now, but it’s a shame that more people can’t enjoy them. It sucks that people are forced to buy them at such expensive prices now, but it is kind of cool that the demand for them is at such a high level.

Word is you have already some ideas about the new release. Want to share?

Nothing has been finalized yet. We have been tossing up the idea of doing a concept album, but that will all depend on how the songs start fitting together during the writing process. Concept album or not, we want to do an epic song that puts all others to shame, haha.

When you write music, do you think of how you want it to sound or do you just let it flow?

It’s a mixture of both wanting a sound and going with the flow. I’ve found that if I try too hard to go for a certain sound I get stuck, or the song ends up getting thrown away because it doesn’t feel like a Vektor song. If I only go with the flow, the song ends up not having a central theme. It’s crucial for me to find a balance of keeping an open mind while I’m writing and thinking critically about the overall purpose and philosophy behind a song. My favourite songs I’ve written have been the ones where I found that balance. The philosophies in many of our songs often have more than one side, so that’s why our songs change shape or form. I have to be aware of that during the writing process, so the balanced approach is the best way to express the spectrum of thought within a song.

Vocals (LOVE THEM!): Did they come out naturally? When you started singing what did you go for? Who are some of the sickest vocalists in your opinion?

Haha, thank you very much. My vocals do come out naturally, although I’ve noticed they continue to be refined over time. When I first started attempting vocals, I tried to layer my voice with a high shriek and a snarling growl in unison. I got inspiration from Schmier of Destruction, Mille of Kreator, Ihsahn of Emperor, and King Diamond. Those guys are my all time favourites.

Lyrics: Who writes them?

I do (David DiSanto). Up to this point, I’ve written all the songs and lyrics. It may change in the upcoming albums. Erik and Frank have some pretty cool riffs that we may be able to Vektorize, haha. Blake also has some extensive knowledge of music theory, so he might end up writing a piano part or something. We’ll just see what happens. I’m open to using their riffs or songs as long as they fit with the Vektor sound.

Sci-Fi: Did you get the idea to do sci-fi lyrics from Voivod or are you a sci-fi freak in general? Any favourite movies, books, tv series, suggestions??

I love Voivod, but I have always been really into sci-fi. Blade Runner, Space Hunter, THX 1138, and Star Wars are probably some of my favorites. I get way into all the 80’s post-apocalyptic movies too like Warrior of the Lost World. The cheesier, the better. I have a giant Krull movie poster hanging on my wall. “The Cosmos” with Carl Sagan is one of my favorite tv shows too, for sure.

Influences: Apart from the obvious old school thrash masters (I hear a lot of Coroner and -to a much lesser extent than your logo suggests- Voivod), Anacrusis, the progressive era of Death and ...keyboard-less Prometheus-era Emperor perhaps? Am I close? Am I missing something? Which albums shaped your musical direction?

Yeah, that’s pretty close, haha. Emperor’s Prometheus is a masterpiece. Some bands that helped shape the sound of the new album would also be Aspid (Russia) and Absu. We also like some 70s art rock and 80s punk. The English Dogs also played a pretty big part in inspiring ‘Forests of Legend’ off of Black Future, mostly from their album “Where Legend Began”.

You formed the band in 2002. What was it that made you think "I need to make a band that plays prog thrash!"? Is there a story behind the formation of the band?

I wanted to start a band that wasn’t around or available for me to hear. Rather than complaining about it, I started Vektor. All of my favourite bands had grown old or broken up, so it gave me a huge incentive to do something cool and unique with thrash metal. Most of my favourite thrash albums are from the 80s, so I was quickly running out of good music to listen to. I wanted to combine some of the elements of Rush, Yes, and Pink Floyd with bands like Destruction, Kreator, Voivod, and Emperor. It doesn’t seem like it would make any sense, but it worked! The result was Vektor. Somehow it all came together in a cohesive fashion and we ended up having a unique sound that no other band can claim.

Do you all listen to the same stuff?

Not really. We all have a great love and appreciation for thrash and black metal, but everyone has their own musical interests outside of those genres. Frank gets into some bands like the Allman Brothers and Hawkwind. Erik likes some prog rock and even some power metal, which I don’t care for, haha. Blake is definitely a black metal guy who also likes piano driven music. Thrash is the one element that brings us all together, and the songs I’ve written have elements of the other genres that the band is into. That’s why it works.

Thiking of Voivod and Coroner, Anacrusis or Death... Some of your influences are famous for changing their sound drastically. Do you see that in the future of Vektor or not and basically do you even think that much ahead?

Sometimes change is good if it’s in a positive direction, or if it’s for the growth of a band. It sucks though when bands completely change their sound in a bad way, like to become more radio friendly or completely changing their sound/genre. It is a shame when bands have a good thing going and totally fuck it up. That happened with a lot of great metal bands that transitioned from the 80s to 90s. As far as I’m concerned, Vektor will never change the elements that make our sound. I think we are lucky because our sound encompasses a lot of ground, and we’re able to go into a lot of places that other bands can’t. If anything, we’ll just keep exploring and expanding our boundaries while remaining true to ourselves, our sound, and our fans.

You come from Arizona, a state known for in thrash for Flotsam and Jetsam, Sacred Reich and Atrophy. Are these names significant in the thrash scene there? Did they play a role shaping your sound?

They’re still significant bands, but they don’t really influence the scene here. I was actually writing most of the songs from our early recordings while living in Portland, Oregon, so they didn’t have any influence on shaping our sound. Most of the metal bands here in Arizona are influenced by Swedish death metal for some reason, haha.

Recently you annouced that you would be moving from Arizona. Why leave AZ? Where do you plan to go and why there?

We’ve reached a plateau here in Arizona. It’s in the middle of the desert and there aren’t a lot of places we can tour around here. The nearest big city is a six hour drive for us. We’re planning on moving to the east coast of the U.S. The cities are much more condensed there and it will be a lot better for touring and growing our fan base. We’ve done all we can do here and we’re ready for more.

This move suggests that you are taking this band seriously enough to relocate. What are your goals as a band?

Our goal is to continue spreading our sound like a disease. We take the meaning of our band name from the biological definition. A vector is an organism that spreads a disease. We all take this band very seriously and we’d like to continue growing. We have an uncontrollable urge to create new and unique music, so I don’t see us stopping as long as we have a pulse.

Any plans on touring? Especially Europe?

We want to tour the world, and bring our music to life for all the people who have asked us to play in their countries. Europe will most likely be the first stop outside of the U.S. We were so close to touring Europe this winter, but it fell through at the last minute. We’ve already been offered a couple times to go over there, but we couldn’t ever afford it. Plane tickets are expensive, and our label is too small to help pay for tour support. We’re looking to get signed by a bigger label and a booking agent to help us out with these things. We’ll get there soon.

You obviously knew while drawing it that the logo would make everyone think "Voivod". Don't you think it sends the message that you are a Voivod worship band?

I never thought it would be a very big deal, but it definitely turned into one. The logo throws some people off, but maybe that means they haven’t actually listened to our music. If people want to be lazy and base their opinions on nothing but aesthetics, that’s their loss. The logo fits our sound and we’re keeping it. A lot of the thrash bands have similar logos to Nuclear Assault or Metallica with the spikes on the letter ends, and a lot of black metal logos look similar, but they don’t get disproportionate attention for it. It’s pretty funny when you think about the hypocrisy.

It is obvious that the past ten years there is a huge activity in thrash metal, with new bands popping everywhere, releasing albums. What do you think triggered that resurgence?

I noticed that there were a lot of re-released albums from the thrash masters of the 80s around that time. I also noticed that bands like Destruction, Kreator, Exodus, and Nuclear Assault had started touring more. I think a big part was that metal got extremely stupid by the end of the 90s. Nu metal was so fucking awful, and I think a lot of people finally started to realize it. I wish Nu metal never happened, but maybe some people needed metal to go into that shitty extreme to see that it wasn’t the right path to take. I am glad to say that I never liked any of that shit.

What are the bands you think stand out from this so-called new wave of thrash metal?

Havok and Evile. Toxic Holocaust is fucking awesome as well, but I don’t consider Joel Grind to be a part of the “new wave of thrash metal” because he has been doing it for so long before thrash became trendy.

What do you want to see from this new wave? Do you think it has a future?

At first, like back in 2004-2005, I didn’t feel it was very genuine the way a lot of bands were just trying to emulate or relive the 80s. But, it seems like some of those bands are growing up a little, finding their own sound, or simply dying out. I worry about it because it is something that I really care about. I don’t want it to become a fad that dies out and turns into a joke because there weren’t enough bands that brought anything new or interesting to the table. The future depends on the bands. They need to impress fans and people enough so there will continue to be a scene. People will get bored if they keep hearing the same old shit over and over again.

Top lists:

Name a few, from the top of your head, of your favourite thrash bands/albums

Destruction- Eternal Devastation
Kreator- Terrible Certainty
Aspid- Extravasation
Nuclear Assault- Handle With Care
Assassin- Upcoming Terror
Slayer- Hell Awaits
Vio-Lence- Oppressing the Masses
I could go on forever. There’s too many to mention…. haha

Favourite Voivod album?

Killing Technology

Favourite new thrash album/band? (Vektor does not count!)

Toxic Holocaust- Evil Never Dies
Evile- Infected Nations

Read the review for Outer Isolation

(*): "Heat Death" is what most scientists believe will be the fate of the universe as all galaxies drift apart from each other while the cosmos continues to expand. That or the Big Crunch but I thought it would be neatly appropriate to declare my "THRASH TILL DEATH!" mantra with a science twist in Vektor's case. Funnily enough, Erik Nelson (Vektor's guitarist) thought I was referring to death by Arizona's heat! :)

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