WOE OF TYRANTS – CHRIS CATANZARO
Interview by Marko Guevara
To understand and get some ideas for what is behind Woe of Tyrants, we would like to know more details taking you back to a few months before the recording of your demo, BEHOLD THE LION, in 2006. How was it in your musical youth?
Wow, back in the day…well let’s see, that was actually a full-length album that we released on Tribunal Records. The further you progress as a group, the more responsibility you receive. This means that some of the carefree, fun times have to transform into controlled and monitored situations. Success is kind of a double edged sword, because with success comes much more work. Fortunately, we’re not that successful yet, so we can still have fun and don’t hate each other…yet.
Usually, we follow the steps of many of our favorite bands…sometimes seeking the same sound. How did you come with this mixed style of yours?
Our style has constantly evolved. Over the last four years, we’ve tried many different avenues based upon what our listening tastes were at the time. When you’re given such an eclectic group of opinions on music in your band, you learn to compromise with one another on how the songs are going to turn out. There are pieces of all of us in these songs, coming only from hours of practice and a willingness to hear each other out.
Did your former guitarist, Chris Burns, contribute to your style somehow?
I’d be lying if I said he didn’t. Burns was probably the biggest influence upon our style. However, when you play together with someone for four or five years, you tend to develop the same style anyways. So the material hasn’t changed too much, because we all sort of became Woe of Tyrants together, and we’re still growing together regardless of who we’ve lost. But yeah, Burns is a hefty talent to lose, and is definitely missed not only as a player but as a personality!
When I see your lineup photos, I can’t avoid thinking of metalcore bands… very opposite to your music. Are there any influences involved??
Hmm, we are a band that doesn’t really “dress to impress.” We know there will be people that judge us based on appearance, but if we tried to “look” like we sound, we’d all probably have on leather jackets and cowboy hats. So musically, yeah, there were bands that were classified as “metalcore” that I’m sure we’ve listened to and like, and even still like, but as far as being evident in our music, I’d have to say not so much.. It’s just not as fun to play, and we’re very pro fun.
Finally in 2007, your full-length album was released. How was the deal and what were your first impressions?
Like I mentioned, we released that album on Tribunal Records out of Greensboro, NC. Signing with Tribunal ended up being a great decision for us, mainly because they helped us to learn some things about the business that have proven helpful later on. They also gave us an opportunity to release an album that gained attention from bigger labels. They were awesome to us from the get go and didn’t tie us down or hold us back, only helped to push us forward.
Listening to your upcoming album, I can hear a lot of variety of genres. I know that being a musician always gives you freedom to play whatever you like, but do you think that this may affect your career? Why don’t you stick to a specific genre?
I’m sure it’s already hurting us. I think it started hurting us when the open note breakdown took over the world. Why don’t we join a specific genre to be more successful? Easy answer there. It stops being art when you begin to compromise. Everyone has a hand in your pocket in this industry, and has a say about where you’re going and what you’re doing. You can’t forget the part that is yours, the one bit of identity and purity you have: your music. So we play what we want and we have seen success because there are many people that understand that what we’re doing is just us, as much of us as we can possibly put into it, and they appreciate that.
This is a classic interview question which can sound boring but nowadays it becomes very interesting due the huge diversity of mixed genres. Who are your influences?
Lyrically, I’ve been influenced very much by The Mars Volta and Dredg. I enjoy abstract thought and emotion, which oftentimes is secondary in the aggressive styles of music. As far as the music goes, we’re all huge Metallica, Testament and Pantera fans. Those comprise much of our older influences, and in newer bands, especially for this most recent album, I’d cite Decapitated and Wintersun as the two most influential.
In Metal, it is very common that the lyrics include themes or topics about death, devastation, politics, Satanism, etc.. With your comments about giving a reflection of the human condition and self-help, do you think that the classic lyrics really contribute to the human decadence??
There is enough death spoken in the world, not only in metal music, than I care to listen to. My lyrics are meant to make people curious. I’m not the preachy kind, never have been, and we aren’t a “faith” band. I think that there are a lot of things going on in this world that lead people to, and quite rightfully, doubt God or His love or whatever else. So my goal is to focus upon some of those beautiful things that can bring you to consider the opposite. The sun, the stars, the feeling of love from a mother to a child…all of these natural things we take for granted that reflect something greater than ourselves. Don’t take us as a Christian band, because we’re not, take our lyrics as just an excuse to smile and an excuse to be happy with who you are, and that it’s okay to love everyone you meet. (I swear, I’m not gay!)
How was the contact with Metal Blade made? How did this major label contract come about?
Honestly, that whole thing happened so fast that I barely remember. We released BEHOLD THE LION in June, and two months later had several offers from some major independent labels. This was more luck than anything else. We started talking with our attorney and he mentioned that he’d like to drop it by Metal Blade, too, because he had some contacts there and trusted that their contract would be more fair and beneficial to us and he was right. So we signed with them in October of that year.
As such a young band, I feel a very classic metal essence in your music. Is there any influence or guidance by widely-experienced people?
Where we’re from, we aren’t blessed with a competitive music scene. In the bigger cities, there are normally many bands that kind of force you to better yourselves because if you don’t, you’ll be left behind. We’re from very small towns in Ohio, and our “classic metal essence,” as you call it, comes from loving classic metal and practicing obsessively. We challenge ourselves.
Now with the upcoming release, a tour also is planned. Are there any plans for South America or Europe?
As of now we’re weighing our options for March and on. We don’t plan on stopping and are absolutely open to travelling internationally and testing our success overseas. But as of now we’re just taking it a step at a time.
About the definition of "intelligent style” you refer to, what do you mean?
I’m not 100% sure what you’re referencing here, but if it’s that we state that a goal of ours is to create intelligent music, all I mean by that is we want our music to not be necessarily easy to comprehend on one listen. We want it to be catchy enough that you want to listen to it over and over again, but also to have enough depth that you can always find something new within. Like when you watch your favorite movie for the 1000th time, and a new part jumps out at you that you’d never heard before, or seen, or maybe you just see it a different way than you ever have before. We’d like to think that our music is very capable of that.
About your live shows, how does the audience usually react? What has been your favorite gig so far?
Our responses are normally great, as long as the crowd is open-minded. They typically appreciate our live show because we put everything we have into it, and of course they usually at least respect our music even if it’s not necessarily their “style.” Personally, my favorite shows are always when we’re in our hometown, the fans in Chillicothe are like no others. They are amazing. As far as out of town goes, Raleigh NC and Houston TX were two of my favorite places to play for sure. As long as the crowd is open to it and gives it a chance, we are happy.
What do you think about the bands who release a debut album with a very primal feeling, and when they get signed just switch to a commercial sound like In Flames, or the biggest example of all, Metallica?
Well, I think that happens for sure, but I also think that there are always people anxious to accuse a band of “selling out” just because they get successful. I have seen our band turn from something commercial into something primal and we got signed to Metal Blade BECAUSE we are primal. Haha. I just think that bands are the only ones that should decide where they go with their music and if it happens to make them rich and famous, then that’s out of their hands. It means a large number of people dug their jams and that to me is a huge goal of many musicians. To be heard.
Please tell us, what’s next for Woe of Tyrants??
We have some touring coming up with some awesome bands then we have some touring with some bands that we don’t know yet. If someone in this country wants to see us over the next year, they are going to have opportunities. And if someone not in the country wants to see us, start requesting us!
So is there any email or snail mail where crazy metalheads like me can send comments, complaints, or a complete naked series of our drunk girlfriends? Ha!