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Jake Rogers (Visigoth)

Interview with Jake Rogers from Visigoth
by Daniel Fox at 15 March 2015, 6:53 AM

Utah-based Epic Heavy Metal band VISIGOTH burst onto the West Coast Metal scene in recent times; their debut album, "The Revenant King", has been met with critical acclaim from music press, released on the ephemeral Metal Blade Records. Taking the chunky heaviness of the classic Metal bands and embellishing it with the melody and grandiosity of acts such as BROCAS HELM and MANILLA ROAD (whose song "Necropolis" was featured as a cover on the new album), what could have been a tried-and-true, stale "another one of those", breathes fresh air into the genre. Daniel Fox spoke with vocalist Jake Rogers about the helmed warrior on the front, the love of MANILLA ROAD and the sounds and themes of the new album.

Metal hails from New Zealand. Thank you for agreeing to answering this interview; it’s a pleasure. How did Visigoth come to be?

It was simple - I wanted to start a band that played heavy metal with a focus on playing live gigs, so I called up Lee, a good friend of mine and excellent guitarist, and asked if he would interested. He was, and the band was formed!

Having your debut album released on a label like Metal Blade is about one of the best things that could possibly happen to a new band. How did that come to be? Is the new year looking spectacular already?

Yeah, it's insane! We never expected to be at this level at all. The way the deal with Metal Blade came to be begins with a small independent metal label called Swords & Chains Records. Mike Mendyk, ho runs the label, heard the demo and EP we had posted for free download online and noticed that we didn't have any physical media released yet. He asked if we would like to be the first official release on Swords & Chains on cassette tape format. We happily agreed since we wanted a physical release and we thought that the Swords & Chains underground DIY attitude was awesome. He did an excellent job with the release and it sold out very quickly! One of the people who bought the tape happened to be Mairtain MacCormaic, the guy behind Sarlacc Productions in Ireland. He ended up teaming up with Cruz del Sur Music to release our EP 'Final Spell' as a 12" 45RPM vinyl record. Mairtain put the music in the hands of Alan Averill, vocalist of the legendary Irish band Primordial. Alan felt like we had potential and forwarded the EP to the Metal Blade office. They liked what they heard, and here we are! We have a West Coast tour nailed down, and we have been confirmed for a festival that I cannot name just yet, but things are looking pretty awesome!

How is writing and recording distributed amongst the band?

Pretty evenly. Usually I will get together with either Lee or Jamison and we'll start hashing out ideas. I will bring some guitar riffs or some vocal lines to them, or they will bring some guitar riffs to me, and we'll start jamming it out and structuring a song around them. Then we get together as a full band and fully form an arrangement. It's very diplomatic and nobody in the band has a rockstar-diva personality type, so we don't have issues with egos getting in the way of a good song or anything like that! Nowadays our songs come together relatively quickly and smoothly. We're looking forward to taking some of our new material on the road with us.

Do you have a fascination with post-Roman and the history of the Goths, or did “Visigoths” sound like a band name equally as metal, but different to, well.. Something to do with Vikings? If so, does it have much to do with the music’s lyrics?

A couple of us definitely have a love for the history of antiquity! The band name itself, however, was primarily chosen for its adherence to heavy metal aesthetic and its simplicity. We knew we wanted a one-word band name, and the fact that Visigoth had not yet been used by a professional heavy metal band came as quite the surprise. But there is still a thematic tie-in, of course - the Visigoths rebelling against an injustice lain upon them by the Romans and rallying to become the first people to sack Rome in 410 AD reflects the warrior spirit of heavy metal music! Sure, this is a massively oversimplified and romanticized version of the actual events, but as a reflection of heavy metal themes, it fits perfectly.

The warrior on the album art, obviously ‘The Revenant King’; who is he? What is he supposed to be?

He is the main character from the lyrics to the title track of the album. It tells the story of a king who is slain by a usurper who wanted the throne for himself. The usurper, however, was unaware that the ancient tales were true - the King's bloodline was sorcerously bound to the throne ages ago. The king rises from the dead, restored to 'unlife' by the ancient magicks that bind him to the corporeal seat of rule, and slays the usurper and his men, reclaiming the kingdom that is his by immortal bloodright. The album cover depicts the King wading through the battle that rages in the wake of his return.

I can’t really put my finger on it. I would have thought you are influenced by classic Metal bands, yet your music sounds like a breath of fresh air?

It's hard to say! We really aren't doing anything new or different - we are simply an amalgam of our influences. The only thing I can think of that we do that is less common for bands in our style is that our guitarists and bassist tune to B standard instead of E standard, which is a very low, heavy tuning. Even that being said, we are certainly the only band doing this - bands like Solstice and Atlantean Kodex have been tuning low but playing traditional styles of heavy metal for years now. I'm glad to hear our sound feels like a breath of fresh air to you, though!

Obviously that brings me to a certain cover track on the record. I love Manilla Road, I’m assuming you do too. How did you come to choose a Manilla Road track to cover, and how did you choose Necropolis? They have a massive catalogue.

We simply chose Necropolis because it was the easiest song to get our local fanbase to participate in while playing live shows. While they are one of the most legendary and important heavy metal bands in history, they have an extremely small following here in Salt Lake City, so we picked a song we knew people could get into quickly and maybe learn about the band from. We actually had a list of Manilla Road songs we wanted to cover off of nearly every album between Metal and Mystification, and we even partially recorded a cover of Divine Victim, but Necropolis ended up being such a rewarding song to play live that we just fully committed to it. And despite the negative reaction we've received from internet elitists who assume that we're flagrant posers who don't know anything about Manilla Road because we chose their most iconic song, we've gotten awesome feedback from Manilla Road themselves! They are really great guys. Some friends and I drove a couple hundred miles just to see them play a few years back and they took the time after the gig to hang out, chat, and sign every single one of my Manilla Road albums - the entire discography's worth! It meant the world to me; they're one of the most important bands in my life and for them to be so willing to take the time with their fans was truly gratifying. Up the hammers, down the nails!

‘From the Arcane Mists of Prophecy’ is your longest track on the record, nearly 10 minutes long.  I imagine this was your greatest challenge on the record? Why? If not, what was?

It actually was not, haha. That song really just sort of came together. Lee had written the riff for the prechorus, and I had written the riff that we used in the verse. We brought them to practice and came up with the chorus on the spot. The rest of the song just sort of fell into place while we jammed. We didn't even realize how long it was until we timed ourselves practicing it after we completed the writing process, haha. You know, the most challenging song actually didn't even make it onto the record. It wasn't that it was a difficult song, it was just challenging in the sense that it just wasn't coming together right. Pretty much every band has had experiences like this, where a song seemed decent enough at first, but then as you try to put it together in a recorded setting it just never quite feels right. We ended up scrapping it. We very well may re-arrange the song in the future to use on a single or a split, since there were some cool ideas in it, but we'll be gutting it pretty severely before it ever sees the light of day.

Do you jam and write, or write and rehearse? What’s the process by which the music is set in stone? Some bands methodically write riff-by-riff, whereas others write down what they are playing that they think sounds like it works.

We do both. Sometimes we will come to practice with a song fully prepared and arranged, and sometimes someone will say 'here's a riff I've been working on' and we'll just jam it and see where it goes. Usually songs work the best when we pre-arrange everything, though. This method tends to garner tighter structures in general. But we do like to jam-write every once in a while to keep that human feeling alive.

The start of the year could be a great time to release the record, especially where live shows are concerned. Do you feel that a label like Metal Blade will see you further projected into the live Metal industry? What’s the first tour we could expect?

Yeah, Metal Blade should mean some great doors opening for us! We're looking forward to seeing where they take us. The first tour you can expect is a West Coast tour that will also hit two dates in Canada. See you on the road!

Thank you for your time. You have a new fan. Last words for fans/potential fans?

May your steel never rust - in metal we trust!



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Edited 04 April 2020
 

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