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Infidel Rising's Travis Wills: "People think their way and their belief system is the only path to follow with no tolerance for any opposing ideology. They will persecute others because they are so sure they are right…"

Interview with Travis Wills from Infidel Rising
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 08 November 2022, 9:40 PM

Why be so grim, why think about the end of everything when things are still standing? There have been countless of prediction to what will eventually happen to our world in the future, the end of humanity, the end of everything that we hold dear and love. Is it up to mankind to decide its fate? It is possible, but when will people open up their eyes? Hopefully, not at the brink of destruction. In light of their new record, "A Complex Divinity", Steinmetal had a great chance to talk with Infidel Rising's vocalist, Travis Wills, about philosophical venture of the record, songwriting, music and more…

Hello Travis, it is good to have you for this interview with Metal Temple online Magazine, how are things going on your end sir?

Hey, first off, I’m glad to be a part of the interview, thanks so much for hitting me up. I'm doing great, life has been challenging recently, but, I’m getting through it

Like always in life, there is a first time for everything, and for me in this case it was with getting to know Infidel Rising. You guys have been running for nearly a decade now, exploring the vast high seas of the fine fusion of progression with Power Metal music. Prior to everything that is related to the new material, how do you sum up this past decade? What were the peak moments? What do you regret and would have done differently?

Well first off, I can’t think of any regrets, because whatever obstacles we have encountered, have led up to this. That being said, the past decade has been great, and has been rough at times, but we managed to overcome it all. The past decade has been lots of work, rehearsals every weekend, shows once sometimes twice a month, trying to get the local scene more involved to create a scene here in DFW. Wayne and I put a lot of energy into making events like Powerfest…so that everyone that was into the genre could come together. Believe it or not, the best peak mount for me was when we realized Wayne could play drums. A few years ago, Wayne was stricken with MS, and he lost his sight, and also some other issues pertaining to MS, we didn’t know if we would continue. After Wayne took some time off to recover, he came into rehearsal, and we played Exodus to Kadesh and Reflections. I was so happy; I still have that recording on my phone. I knew then we could continue as a band.

Following that wretched pandemic that single handled shut down normality as we knew it, Infidel Rising was able to continue working, and keeping itself together. At one of the hotspots of the pandemic, you even issued an EP, "The Chronicles of Inspiration Vol. I", featuring covers and a new song. Firstly, how were you able to continue the band, since I know that there were acts that simply disbanded because of relying on the live activities, or overall low motivation?

Well, as a committed band that loves what we do, we still went to rehearsal and rehearsed, then we decided to take that time to record the new album, and that was a good decision for us, because we weren’t really distracted by having to play shows or anything

Secondly, I assume that "The Chronicles of Inspiration Vol. I" was a kind of sign of life for your local fanbase, and general fans, and I have to admit that the selection of songs to cover is quite interesting. What is your take on that released EP?

Well, I was driving home one night, and it dawned on me Chronicles of inspiration is a really cool name, and I continued to think, man, what if we released a cd with bands that inspired us. I talked it over with Wayne, and he thought it was a great idea. There will be more volumes coming, we want to do several because we have so many bands that inspired our music career that we feel we are honouring when we do these Volumes.

Breaching the wall into Europe, you signed with the powerhouse label group, Pure Steel Records, which I personally found to be a suitable place for your music.  What can you tell about the relationship starting up with the German label? What are your expectations from this move into the European centre of Metal?

Well, I met Juan Ricardo who was the U.S. rep because we had played shows together, and he listened to us and wanted to do a deal. He contacted his guys, and they made it happen. As far as expectations, I would hope that the label has the tentacles to reach a wider audience than what we could ever do on our own. So many ppl have no idea who we are, and when they hear us, they fall in love with the music. It's hard to be able to have any reach to a large audience on your own when you have never been actually put out there. I would love to be able to play festivals in Europe or somewhere even outside of my state haha, that’s my next goal :)

Not leaving too many hints that it is going to be diverse, you released your sophomore album, "A Complex Divinity", that for me it was some kind of an emotional journey, at least parts of it. The chosen title is interesting, makes a person think time and time again about what it is all about. Can you shed some light on the meaning of this title and its relation with the entire album?

A Complex Divinity is really a play on how everyone these days feel their path is the divine one. People think their way and their belief system is the only path to follow with no tolerance for any opposing ideology. They will persecute others because they are so sure they are right, whether it’s politics, religion relationships, and even music along with everyday life. One of the things we have always done, is leave it up to the listener or observer and how it speaks to them.  We as a band, hardly spell out the meaning of songs, titles, or lyrics, it’s always pretty much open to interpretation, we make those things come across as ambiguous or vague, with the exception of a few songs, I believe it allows the audience to connect to it in a deeper way, and they can own it during their own journey in life.

After finding a disturbance on the intro of the record, “State Of Dystopia”, it felt to me that all hell was gradually breaking loose, the start of something that is bound to be a kind of the end of days. In your view, theme wise, are the stories told on “A Complex Divinity” the actual end but divided into a form of visions of “could have been” or different worlds of the afterlife even?

This is my exact point, so glad that you connected to it in a way without me telling you what it was. I am a fan of eschatology, and have been studying it for many years. I think it’s important to at least be aware of the possibility of biblical end time events. I want ppl to go out and research life, events, and history without leaning on traditions, or here say. I feel it's imperative to know what you believe, and I find a lot of ppl don’t know themselves, or what they believe. they have their whole identity wrapped up in distractions, other people, social media, and stuff that doesn’t really matter….and they completely ignore who they are, what they like, who they were, and what plans do they have to get to their goal in life. I do believe in an afterlife. Ya know, we always make plans to go do this or that, we make plans for vacation, we make plans to go see a concert, we make plans to visit relatives, and all of those plan have the possibility to fall through, yet we make no attempt to make plans for what happens when we pass, most people haven’t even looked into it, and it’s an event that will happen….and nobody knows when that day will be… so maybe we should think about a plan for that…that’s my take on the afterlife :)

There is a lot going on within the musical journey within "A Complex Divinity", an adaptation of the Progressive / Power Metal fusion, displaying signs of Dream Theater, yet without the overly technical playing or too odd song structures. Following your previous efforts on the debut, how do you find the progress of the band’s music following the work on this record?

Well, what’s so great about the guys in this band is that everyone is creative and eclectic in their taste of music. I find that the follow up will, be just as cool. Lots of times someone will come in with a part, and everyone will just feed off of it. then we will demo it, sit with it, and if changes need to be made we will execute that, and writing comes really easy with everyone, we work excellent as a team.

Possibly the main feature of "A Complex Divinity" is that it is fluid, it flows well, even with the complexities that come from left and right. It is also melodic and displays shifts of emotional states, which I grasped to be integral. What can you tell about the songwriting process of the record? What is your perception of how a song should be formed in order to have that Infidel Rising DNA?

Well, here’s secret #1….most important thing in a song is the hook, without the hook, ya have no song. As far as fluidity goes, I must credit Wayne for that. Take the song “Let Wisdom Speak” I wrote that song in its entirety about 5 yrs ago. At that time it was extremely complex, Wayne sat with it for that time, came to rehearsal and said everyone go learn the song as it is and we will make revision in a few weeks. So we did, and there some revisions made so it had better flow. Wayne is really good with arrangements. . After that process, it will go through a check and balances where everyone has input, we try out their ideas, and if it makes the song better, we keep it, but if we don’t care for it, we don’t use that idea, the point is, we respect each other enough to try everyone's ideas so that the song can be the best it can be.

There is a chance that it was mentioned briefly earlier, and that is the relation between the music and the lyrics. Probably one of the toughest challenges is to find that direct cohesion between the two important aspects of songs. How was it done on "A Complex Divinity"? How were you able to reach that match?

Haha, man good question, secret #2.  Anytime a song is presented, I always focus on a good melody, I will sing a melody into my phone as it records, and once I hear a melody I really like, I will go to my studio, and record it singing made up words, or pseudo words, and send that to the guys to see how they like it. once that it done, I can focus on words and title. Lots of ppl I know write the words first, for me, that type of arrangement doesn’t work, and it makes it more difficult.

One of the toughest challenges for bands, throughout the pandemic, especially in countries where there were mass restrictions on the population, was to see through a process of record completed, from writing, through rehearsing and of course recording. How did this entire process, surrounding "A Complex Divinity" , come forth in that period of time?

For us, it was like a vacation from the regular routine. I think we all feel that way. That whole down time gave us the ability to record and make adjustments to our songs

The addition of growl vocals, and from the classical end, a cello, to "Shadow Maker". I can understand the cello as an atmosphere grabber, yet the growls, even though sounding good, are more intriguing. Kani Darkening, or Kani Ali, a local vocalist, is featured as the beast on the song. How do you find the contribution of growls to the intensity of the song?

Man, Kani is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to growls, She is a monster!! I remember thinking one day while I was writing words to the song, and had the eerie vision of a Shadow Maker, like this old scary wicked guy sewing together shadows for objects, ppl, etc, and I just let my imagination run. I thought, ok… this song needs something vocally with some edge to it. Kani immediately came to mind. So I contacted her and discussed it with her and told her what I wanted from her, and man, did she deliver. I would love to do a video for that song, and have her in it.

Other than the growl element on the song, this particular track has twists and turns all around, it is a heavier dosage of power along with the creativity that is manifested thanks to its structure. How do you find this track? Would you say that it has an impact on the entire record?

Man, great question again. So our keyboardist wrote this intro about 6 yrs ago, and we could never come up with anything, so we shelved it. One day we asked him to play it again, and everything just fell into place…again credit goes to Wayne for that. That being said, the song was quite different for us, but only enough we have a nice black metal following here, and that is only because when we first started playing here, we had no bands that would play with us except the black and death metal bands, and we all became friends, and they appreciated what we did, and so in a way, it's kind of giving back to them

 “Follow Your Light” is certainly one of the album’s peak moments, it is fairly different from most of the tracks, as it sails through emotive areas and creates a terrific form of drama. Vocally, I see it as one of your best works on the album. What can you tell about the song? Is this a form of power ballad that you see the band continue to originate further on?

Oh thank you so much for the kind words. I had originally written that song during the time Wayne was recovering from MS. After he returned, he suggested we make it more power ballad like…he had this whole idea in his head that he wanted us to execute. So we worked on it until it was what he was hearing. I had already written the vocal melody, and Wayne asked if he could write the words, I said sure. so he wrote the words, we demoed the song, and to be honest…those vocals were the demo vocals… I could never get it just right in the studio. There are little pauses here and there that just bring out emotion that I couldn’t replicate, so I just stayed with the vocal demo..haha. we could write something like that again, I guess it depends on how well it gets received

With your new contacts in Germany, what does the future hold in bringing Infidel Rising to the European continent for several shows? What is expected from you, live scene wise, in your local scene?

Man, your guess is as good as mine about playing Europe. I would love to, but there would have to be a demand for us to travel there. Live, we always put 110% in every show whether we are playing to 3 ppl or 10,000 ppl. Those 3 ppl paid their hard earned money, made the trip to see us, paid the parking, spent money on overpriced beverages, and then have to drive home late at night dodging drunks on the road, and maybe they have to get up and go to work the next morning, who knows…All I know, is that their time is just as important as our time, and it's our job, to put on the best show we can.

Travis, thank you for your time and patience for this interview, I wish you guys all the best and that it wouldn’t take too much time for the next record. Cheers
Hey, thank you so much for such a detailed interview.  Great questions! I thoroughly enjoyed it. :)


 



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