Heart of Steel: Interviews

KAOS interview with vocalist Jason Darnell and guitarist Stacey Murray

Interview by EvilG
With thanks to Luxi Lahtinen and Lord of the Wasteland
Pictures courtesy of kaosamongus.com

Kaos are:
Jason Darnell - Vocals
Stacey Murray - Guitar
Keven Albert - Guitar
Jay Figueroa - Bass
Burton P. Ortega - Drums

Out of all the indie band’s promo packages I've seen and related marketing collateral (shirts, stickers, etc.) you guys REALLY have your shit together…very slick stuff! How much time, effort, planning, and resources have gone into this business/marketing side of KAOS?

Stacey: First off, thanks for the comment. To be honest with you, we have no idea what other bands put together as press material for venues such as yours. What we have is four years of collaborating with one another, mixed with a lot of pride in what we do. I would say, that by learning from our mistakes, has played a big part in how we present ourselves. We think big and do things in a big way.

Jason: Well EvilG, I would say, "endless hours and days at a time, have been spent and will continue to do so." The press kit, or package, we put together needs to be the best it can be. Making an impact is very important.

Tell us a bit about your label Oblivion Entertainment and are other bands signed, or planning to be signed, to it?

Stacey: Oblivion Entertainment is our partnership. There are no other bands on the label at this time, but who knows, there could be in the future. First we have to pave the way with KAOS.

Jason: Oblivion Entertainment is our partnership/label. To add what Stacey said, this has been a topic and has been considered to bring in a few bands. To build the metal empire into a bigger operation. Time will tell with this as we keep booking and putting on shows, with the Oblivion Entertainment title.

Is KAOS happy with its status as an indie band or are you seeking a larger label for more PR and distribution? Or perhaps some labels have already expressed interest (if not then they are retarded)?

Stacey: No. As far as we see it, we could never be good enough and we will always want more. We are looking for backing on all levels. As far as the second question....HAHA! Retards....that they may be. Then again, the industry is in a sad state of affairs. We have had very little interest. We have sent our press material to only a few labels at this point because we are concentrating on the media. We have a strategy and we will stick it to them hard...when the time is right...if somebody doesn't find us first.

Jason: Our status as an indie band is okay...for the moment. However, I can sense that an explosion is on the horizon for this band. As far PR and distribution deals, these things will come. Retardation...Yes, they are!


What would you see as an ideal situation, or the end goal, in this regard (concerning the label situation)?

Stacey: First of all, finding a label that would work as hard for us as we would work for them, would be ideal. Let's face it...I don't think there is one that can. Yes, that is a challenge to any A&R dude or management team that is reading this. Second, we will continue to work hard at what we do, regardless. We have done this with no outside backing since the beginning and will keep doing it that way, if that's they way the cards are dealt to us. End goal? To have at least one KAOS album in the collection of every listener who loves metal, and rock every stage on the planet.

Jason: Ideal is "our terms" and "our way." This would be best, but we know that's not going to happen. Goal?? Well... supporting Pantera on their reunion tour would be a nice place to start, along with videos for every CD we make and all the backing we need to spread the KAOS worldwide.


How long did it take to write and then record KAOS AMONG US?

Stacey: A couple of songs, from the album, go way back. So in a sense, it took a lot of years for them to take true form. We used those songs as a foundation for the album, which actually only took about six months to write. We spent one month, on the weekend and at night during the week, recording. Put out four thousand, three song pre-release promotional cd's. Then put the album out. All in all, it took about 9 months.


What inspired the band’s name and have you ever been confused with another band called “Kaos”?

Jason: Inspiration was that everything that has happened, is happening and will happen on this planet. We wanted a one word name, direct and effective. KAOS is just that. So it is a perfect reflection of our music and sound...KAOTIC. The part about being confused with another band called "Kaos".... we rarely get confused with another band, though there are other bands out there with the same name.


What inspired the killer album title KAOS AMONG US? Perhaps it has to do with how messed up the world remains?

Stacey: You guessed right! It has everything to do with that!

Jason: Yes, that is it. Kaos Among Us was the first song we wrote and is the greatest description of the whole CD. Kaos IS among us all.


What topics motivate you lyrically? Can you give us some examples from what are some of (in your opinion) your more poignant tracks on the CD?

Jason: Topics that motivate are blood, flesh, aggression, creation, God, the devil, heaven and hell, greed, rape, murder, peace, wrath...just about everything. A lot of it is the aggravation of the stupidity of people and the illusion that they can get away with. For example, in "Paralyzed by Fear", this songs deals with the haunting mental images that are sustained in rape victims.


How much do you think well-written lyrics support a song - or vice versa?

Stacey: Lyrics and music are equally important. It's great to listen to a rippin' tune. If the lyrics are a bunch of nonsense, then you have failed the song. Music is a way to tell a story or express a point of view. When I hear something I like, next thing I do is read the lyrics. I'm looking for something deeper.



When you are writing songs, what kind of things do you pay attention to during the whole process in general?

Stacey: Structure and intensity. Does it fit in with the big picture?! We start with an idea and develop within it.


Does it become harder to please yourselves when writing new material as I assume you always try to top yourself?

Stacey: Well yeah. There is a level of expectation. I'm sure, that as time goes on, the bar is raised. That's just part of getting better and writing better songs.

Do you consider yourself a perfectionist as far as all these song writing things are concerned?

Stacey: We try not to be too stringent. That would just create limitation. For us, some of the best stuff comes out of nowhere, especially in the recording studio.


What movie is the sample from at the beginning of "Descent Into Madness?"

Stacey: "One Flew Over the Coo Coo's Nest," one of my favorite movies of all times. The song is based on the movie.


An instrumental version of the title track appears in the new movie, NO PAIN, NO GAIN. How did you get involved with that project?

Stacey: Zukor Entertainment held a contest. We sent them a press kit and we were hired on...just like that.

Would you say that the band adds some hardcore influences into your Bay Area Thrash sound? Would you call your music ´Thrashcore´? Or do you dislike these labels?

Stacey: Not intentionally. We have heard this a lot lately. We consider ourselves metal. We are just playing what comes out and we will continue to do so. Call us what you want, but metal is what we are.



Bands that combine elements from Thrash and Hardcore have different types of people at their shows - from Punk to typical metalheads to just about every type of person. Do you consider that an advantage or a disadvantage?

Jason: I really don't think that it matters. Whoever you are, if you like the bands or music, that's all that matters. A mixed crowd is good sometimes.


Does the Bay Area have a good scene for Hardcore-Punk bands as well? Are there some worthy names one might be interested in checking out from this particular genre?

Jason: I'm not into punk too much so I could not give you a good description of the punk scene in the bay. Though I'm sure there are some worthy names, I could not give them to you. It's a metal rules around here...hehehehe EvilG.


Do you feel any pressure to sound like "classic" Bay area bands like Death Angel, Exodus, Vio-Lence, Testament, etc.?

Stacey: No. We are going to write what we want. If you hear them in our music, it's because that's the school we came from. Those were our favorite bands as teenagers and their music means a lot to us.

Jason: The influence is natural. It just comes out that way.

What are some of those Hardcore-Punk bands you listen to and some of the other thrash/metal bands you listen to?

Jason: As far as punk/hard core...not too much. Some of the other guys like old DRI, Agent Orange, Agnostic Front, Verbal Abuse, and GBH. For metal, most of us like the same stuff...old Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, Pantera, Death Angel, Vio-lence, Kreator, Testament, SOD/MOD, old Megadeth, etc. For newer bands it would be Slipknot, Hatebreed, the Haunted, Carnal Forge, Defleshed, Arch Enemy and the list goes on.



What do you think of Exodus & Death Angel getting back together for new records?

Jason: I think it's great. Good for metal and good for the bay area as well. New Exodus is killer. I have not heard the new Death Angel yet, but I'm sure it will be good.



What do you think of Rob Flynn & Phil Demmel recording & playing together once again? Are you fans of Machine Head?

Stacey: I'm really happy Phil mad that move. Bad to see Vio-lence go to the side, but to get to hear Rob & Phil put their heads together again is truly a gift to metal music. We are huge fans of Machine Head and are very happy to have them as friends.


Did you attend the Thrash of the Titans gig in 2001, and if so, was it godly or what?

Stacey: It was the metal show of all metal shows. I'll never forget it. It's really a tragic story. Schuldiner is gone...RIP. Chuck Billy had to fight for his life, but some really positive things came out of it. It opened the doors for the rebirth of our bay area metal scene. It re-united some of the greatest metal bands of all times. This show created a domino effect in the bay area metal scene.



I guess a common question for you occurs when people learn that the band formed back in 1989 and they ask why have you only released 2 albums in 15 years?!?! So…why 2 albums in 15 years? Ha!

Stacey: Correction! Two albums in four years. We reformed in 2000 and released "Vision Beyond" in early 2001. The band split up from 1996 - 1999. From 88 - 96, there were a total of 5 demos released.


You’ve opened for a lot of big name bands, even back in the 89-91 period for example….so did you ever get frustrated with not “breaking out” back then? Is that the reason why your first demo/album never came out until 2000?

Stacey: Yes, very frustrated. It just was not meant to be. We made our bed and we had to sleep in it. We got in right at the tail end of the peak and rode it all the way down. I remember 93-96... No clubs, No SCENE. Just a bunch of rave parties and grunge rock. It sucked.


What do you see as the bands greatest improvement over the past 15 years?

Jason: Our greatest improvement is that we are older and wiser and work together better than ever as a band, and as friends. Oh, of course we have a better budget for KAOS/Oblivion Entertainment versus 15 years ago, when we had very little money to finance or promote shows.

Do you have any thoughts on the '89 riot at your show with Death Angel, Vio-Lence & Pestilence? Tell us about it!

Jason: There is lots to tell and we could go on and on about it, but it was just that. A riot! The local police decided to shut the show down during the 2nd Death Angel song. They headlined the show. After Vio-lence tore it up and the pit was crazy, the police saw that the bathrooms had a little damage, to them, and they did not like or understand the "pit" so they shut it down. This resulted in an angry crowd, which turned into a riot. It was total chaos at this point.

Do you have any interesting stories to share about this time period from when the bay area thrash scene seemed to rule the world…then so many of it’s bands either disbanded or watered things down.

Jason: Stories, well hmmmm.... let me think. Stories about who?? Lots to share on this. Too much to tell. There was this one time, at band camp....


Do you think there were any bay area thrash bands that didn’t get their fair share of the spotlight and have been overlooked by many fans?

Jason: Yes, overlooked, fair share... I can think of one... KAOS.


What do you think about how moshing seems to of changed from “friendly violent fun” to many pits being a “lets elbow and maim people”? It seems some goons don’t give a shit about the music, but just want any aggressive noise as a backdrop to their tough guy posturing….

Jason: Well I think it has changed some. However, you enter the pit at your own risk. When you get out, you can't complain about it. You either go or sit down. All in all, we still mosh at shows and we like to see a pit at our shows also.


How do you think the Bay Area scene has changed over the years? Do they still have that strong ´unity thing´ amongst people as they seemed to have in the ´80s?

Jason: Unity?? "What's in it for me?" is the tip. The screaming "me, me, me!" seems to be the attitude we get... like "it's all about MY band." Some, or very few appear to have the brother band attitude. Others are just too busy to listen to your CD or take your flyer because they have better things to do.


Besides the mighty KAOS…what are some of the new and recommended Bay Area Thrash acts to keep an eye out for? (Perhaps Imagika who I’ve been supporting since their first album?)

Jason: Imagika and Osmium are very good as well. For metal or thrash metal, there are only a handful or so of bands around like KAOS or Osmium. Darkin Fluid is pretty heavy too and Stomach.


How was the March 2004 Metal Meltdown festival that you recently played at? Did you come away with any cool stories about Testament, Obituary, Vital Remains….? Is this the first time you’ve played the east coast area?

Yes it was a great show. We've had some really big shows with Death Angel, Testament, Exodus, Gwar, Vio-lence, Forbidden and Nuclear Assault. No stories about the other bands because everybody was running around all day and all night long. Testament came on late anyhow, so no one really got a chance to chat with them. Yes it was our first time to the East coast, but not the last.

What other areas of the USA or the world have you played gigs in?

Jason: So far, all of our shows have been in the USA. However, things are looking good for shows overseas in the near future.

Are there any plans for a tour or any other festivals anywhere else in North America or in Europe?

Jason: plans for a tour are in the works at the moment. Just a matter of time to cross the "T's" and dot the "I's". Speaking of festivals, we're scheduled to appear at the Milwaukee Metal Fest in Wisconsin in late July. Check it out... www.metalfest.com



How much involvement does the band have in the website?

Jason: We all have some involvement and input into the site, but Stacey takes care of most of the load. The website is the source of info for the group. We have a webmaster that takes does monthly maintenance.

Since most band’s eventually release a DVD, does Kaos have any plans to put out a DVD any time soon?

Jason: DVD?? Yes! Anytime soon?? NO... not for a while.



Since this interview is with “metal rules”, perhaps you can tell us why you think that metal rules?

Jason: Metal Rules because it is "The All in ONE", the heavy music, power, aggression, mosh pits, screams, raging guitar solos, and endless dedication from the people who love and support metal music all across the globe.

Thanks for your time and all the best to you and KAOS!!!! To close, the last words are yours. If you have anything going on that you would like to let people know about, then as we say “let ‘er rip”!!

Jason: EvilG...all we have to say on a final note is "Thank you" for your time and the opportunity to do this interview... to spread the KAOS like a disease. Metal Rules 2004. Thanks again.

Official KAOS website: