Interview conducted by Robert Williams
From his early beginnings at Shrapnel Records with his debut offering "Guitar Distortion", through his impressive run as a Century Media recording artist with his power metal outfit Onward; Toby Knapp remains a force to be reckoned wit in the underground metal community. Fresh off an ill fated tour as a session guitarist for the Swedish melodic death metal band Soilwork, Toby is as busy as ever working on music for Godless Rising, continuing his solo legacy and as you will soon learn has become a staunch defender of "American Metal" sure to leave some Swedish counterparts – ahem – pissed off…
Originally planning to meet in San Antonio on his birthday during the Soilwork tour, I received word from Toby himself that he would have to cancel as he left the road after the Canadian dates. Toby did however make time in his hectic schedule for the following chat…
How are you doing Toby?
I am doing very well, a bit of a bronchial infection that has lingered for weeks, no doubt picked up on the Darkane/Soilwork bus where everybody was very ill. Other than that, things are looking up.
So the past few years you have been quite the sought after guitarist. You’ve been working with Godless Rising, Mayhem were interested in you joining the group and most recently your shredding services were utilized by Darkane…
The only one that came to full fruition was recording the Godless Rising album and becoming a full-time member and collaboration with vocalist Jeff Gruslin. Mayhem were very interested, especially vocalist Atilla, we talked alot and Hellhammer liked my solo stuff. Ultimately it came down to logistics, If I lived in Norway I’d probably be in Mayhem. They have since decided on a 2 guitar line-up with new members who live much closer.
You just got through touring a short stint in Canada filling in for Darkane guitarist Klas Ideberg. What forced you to leave the tour early and not continue on through the States? Illness?
Illness was a big factor, had I stayed I’d probably be in very bad shape, because the sickness I have from the tour just developed and worsened once I left, of course that is a tour I never should have joined and I learned a lot of lessons.
Jeff Gruslin and yourself make up the core members of Godless Rising. Who played drums on the upcoming album?
The drummer already left after his work was through, I provided all the music with click tracks and a raw sketch of what the drums will be. We are not naming him.
Do you plan to tour for this release?
Most definitely, it’s in our blood and we are assembling the touring line-up now. I don’t know when all parts will come together as far as album release date and what tours we will do, but it will be this year. I have learned much on patience in this situation.
How did you and Jeff hook up?
It was a simple e-mail, "would you be interested in joining Godless Rising" and I said "fuck yeah" and the label Moribund agreed and we started writing and tracking immediately.
What happened about a year and a half back when you were being considered for a spot in Mayhem after the departure of longtime guitarist Blasphemer?
The original idea was "trial by fire" I fly to Norway, quick rehearsal and then we were to play in London. All of this would have been payed for by the concert promoters, but they backed out at the last minute, but it was so close…very painful.
You have also stayed busy the last few years with a brief Onward reunion and two amazing solo albums "Polarizing Lines" and "Misanthropy Divine". Where do you find the time?
During those albums there was plenty of time, during "Polarizing" nothing was going on and "Misanthropy" I just recorded when I had time and inspiration, so it took awhile. It is doing pretty well in Europe at the moment…and "Polarizing Lines" is getting into the shred community and alot of top shredders think it’s a masterpiece, so I’m happy about that.The
Onward albums were so kick ass. I heard that the split with Century Media was the main reason Onward broke up. What was the story behind that?
Onward’s breakup was so typical, personality clashes and musical differences. Michael was from the Manowar camp, I was from the Led Zeppelin camp and the label Century Media were being very inept about things. I think any CM artist can back that up. They love you if you’re doing good, they play games if they see a problem or the word "money" is brought up.
Your upcoming solo album will feature guest vocals by members of Mayhem, Godless Rising and Steel Prophet. That is certainly an eclectic bunch of guests. What would you like to say about the upcoming album and these cameo appearances?
At the moment I’m not sure it’s possible, but they all agreed. I would love to see it happen but I would need substantial funding to do it right.
I really respect that you are such a multifacted player and can just as easily switch from playing shredding melodic traditional metal to more of a black metal feel that you showcased in your earlier band Darken or most recently Waxen. Are there plans to do another Waxen album at some point?
I don’t know, I love the Waxen album, but whatever spirit or vibe created that music has to tap me on the shoulder again, it has to be real. Otherwise it’s Cradle of Filth. Occult forces have to guide mind, body and soul for more Waxen.
What else do you have in the works for 2009?
The main goal is Godless Rising, getting the tour line-up secure and getting the album out. I guess in good faith I will not do too much slamming on Darkane and Soilwork they so deserve. I will say, if you are an American with a cd and pen waiting outside their tourbus for hours in below zero temperatures, realize they are probably inside the bus laughing about it. The other thing is Darkane are not interested really in the occult and they don’t drink- yet they call their album "Demonic Art" and they "pose" in pictures pretending they are slamming down bottles of jagermeister (see March 09′ issue of Metal Edge) that is an image they purvey to sell albums "booze guzzlin’ badboys".Everything about them seems to be a preconceived formula. I received many kudos for leaving that tour, and I also took a piss on the tourbus couch while sleepwalking and that has made me a hero of sorts. All this hoo-hah about them selling 600 cd’s is quite sad, especially after all the years they’ve been around. Their biggest fans are themselves. The real metalheads get it.
I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk metal with me today Toby. Before we wrap this up do you have any last words for your supporters out there?
Thanks very much for giving me the opportunity to vent a bit and to my supporters, I Luv Ya!!! Remember to always "Do What Thou Wilt" and let the inertia of the Universe back you.