Interview with Brian Villers
Conducted by Robert Williams
It’s been five years since Immortal Dominion has released a new album, but later this month fan’s can look forward to the release of the band’s hard hitting third full length record "Primortal". Immortal Dominion guitarist Brian Villers recently took the time to talk about recording the new album, working with famed producer Sterling Winfield, the band’s plans for 2011 and much more…
How are you doing today Brian?
Great man. I am doing really well.
So there has got to be a lot of excitement brewing within the Immortal Dominion camp, your third full length record "Primortal" will be released later this month following up two previous full length records as well an EP that was the band’s first release back in 1996. Let’s start at the beginning, where did you and the other band members meet, how did you guys originally form the band?
Ray our lead singer and I were roommates out of high school and started writing songs for a performance based college class I had. Ray was also jamming with a couple dudes at the time and we all gelled together. Immortal Dominion was born back then in 1994 or so..
One thing that really stands out about your lineup is that you have three guitarists in your band. How did that end up happening and how do you guys approach that when your in songwriting mode? Do you assign each other different parts to play or are you all contributing to a massive rhythm section, how does that work?
Well, actually, our lead singer Ray has always played guitar and writes 85% of our music. He has chosen to lay the axe down, live anyways, to focus on the more complicated vocals we have on this new album. Also a phenomenal local guitarist- Louie Miccuillo – was interested in joining the band. His technical solo skills are beyond what either Ray or I can do. So it was a no brainer to bring him in and have him lay some tasty solos on the new album. Our bass player Ed played guitar for 15+ years also. So, from a writing standpoint we have 4 guitarists bringing riffs to the table. But live we have a traditional 2 guitar, 1 bass, Lead Vocal, and drummer line-up.
Who handles most of the songwriting duties in Immortal Dominion? Is it a collaborative effort by the whole band or do one or two of guys mainly tackle that?
Ray our lead singer has always written most of the music. He writes some of the catchiest riffs I have ever heard. With me contributing a couple songs each album. I write most of the lyrics, been writing lyrics since I was a kid. But with this new line up everyone is throwing in ideas.
How would you describe the metal scene in Fort Collins? Are people pretty receptive to your music over there? Are there a lot of good clubs and bands to play out with?
Oh yeah. We are up in Northern Colorado where the scene has really grown. There have been many recent articles all over the state claiming Fort Collins Colorado as the best music scene in the state. We have one band- Allegeon – that just signed to Metal Blade. Another band –Arcanium- recently toured with Megadeth. Next month we are playing the Fort Collins Music Experiment Fest- 200+ bands at 20+ venues for $15! (www.focomx.org)
Let’s talk about working with famed producer Sterling Winfield (Mercyful Fate, Pantera, Hellyeah) on the new album "Primortal". What was that experience like for you? Did you walk away from that experience feeling like you had a new perspective on recording in the studio? Do you feel like you learned a lot from working with Sterling?
Sterling was a very hands on producer. He helped us with song structure, lyrics, every aspect of writing. I cannot even put on paper how much we all learned from him. Whether it was Vinnie and Dime stories, or just really practical things we had never thought of before. Did not just gain a professional relationship with him, but we really ended up being true friends. The biggest thing I learned is not to just make music that impresses musicians, but how important it is to create music so that everyone can understand the message you are trying to convey.
In hindsight, what was the most challenging aspect, in your opinion, of writing and recording "Primortal"? Do you feel like you guys really pushed yourselves to the limit musically on this record?
The most challenging thing for me is to go from the feeling and emotion of playing live, to having every note under the studio microscope. Yeah I do feel like we were pushed beyond anything we have ever thought of, as far as recording and writing an album. The microscope was on us and we saw things we did not even know existed.
What would you say are your favorite tracks on "Primortal"? Do any of the songs or lyrics hold a special meaning or signifigance for you personally?
My favorite track on the album is “Become Wise”. I think it really showcases our diversity and has a really catchy hook. The song “Hindsight” is about something we went through as a band that is extremely close to my heart.
What was the reason for the five year gap in-between the release of your new record "Primortal" and its predecessor "Awakening: The Revelation"? It seems like you guys really took your time crafting the new album…
There were several reasons for the time span. We went through our first band member changes in 10+ years. We had a nationally publicized tragedy we went through where, our ex bassist went to Iraq with the army. He came back a changed person and ended up shooting his wife (my sister in law) and himself. Leaving behind a 15 month old little girl (now my daughter) Then, before we were completely done recording with Sterling, he had to leave to record the new Hellyeah album, which took quite a bit of time. When he came back we had a bunch of new ideas to finish the record. Let’s just say it’s a long story..
What are the current touring plans for Immortal Dominion? Will you guys be hitting the road in support of the new album "Primortal"?
We plan on playing constantly every opportunity we can. We are in talks with some of the summer festivals, as well as other things.
Who are some bands that you think would make a great fit for Immortal Dominion to tour with?
Clutch, Black Label Society, Hellyeah would be great bands, and I feel we could connect with their crowd. We recently opened for OTEP, and had an amazing response. There are so many quality bands out there it is hard to narrow down just a few.
Immortal Dominion scored the soundtrack for the award winning indie horror comedy "Teeth". How did you guys end up with that gig? Are you guys all pretty big horror movie fans?
Our local distributor-Morris Beegle with Fist Music- had another band on the soundtrack. They broke up and were arguing over rights, so Morris sent them 15 of his other bands. They picked us and asked if they could use 5 songs instead of one. We thought it was just a B horror flick from the premise, but it ended up being a very funny, well done film. We do love horror movies.
Tell me about who or what originally inspired you to pick up a guitar in the first place. How old were you when you started playing guitar?
I started playing seriously in high school. Music has always been a great escape for me, and I have always written lyrics. So I started learning Pink Floyd, and Metallica covers. Still to this day while others are playing video games or watching T.V., I am fooling around on my guitar.
How about how you originally got into heavy metal music? Who were the bands that made you proud to raise the horns and call yourself a metalhead?
I have told the story several times but it is true. When I was about 7 years old my mom belonged to the Columbia Tape Club where you get music and have a few days to return it or you had to buy it. She accidentally forgot to return KISS–Love Gun, and did not like it. So, she threw it into my toy box. I wore it out and have loved rock and metal ever since. In high school I became addicted to thrash music and every weekend I was going to see Exodus, Forbidden, M.O.D., Sacred Reich, Kreator, Coroner, etc live. Going to see live metal bands has been my life ever since. From there the list of bands is so massive I don’t know where to begin.
So after doing the Immortal Dominion thing for the last fifteen years, what advice would you give to kids just starting out as a garage band? How can they reach that next level of success, given the current playing field in the music industry?
If you love it stick with it. Find yourself some band mates you can trust and be around a lot without strangling them. It is a cliché but don’t major on the minors, and learn from everyone you meet. Once you think you have arrived, and know it all, you are doomed.
What’s next for Immortal Dominion? Is there anything else you’d like to plug or publicly address?
We are just getting started with our new line up. In addition to the other band members I mentioned we have also brought in an amazing new drummer in Casey Glass. He has been in Drum Corp since he was like 7 years old, and had brought a new work ethic, and energy to the band. We are already demoing out some new songs.
I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk metal with me today Brian. Before we wrap this up do you have any last words for your fans reading at home?
Thank you for all the emails and messages asking us to come to your town and play live. We are going to make it out and meet you all!