First, I might come off as a bit self-centered starting an article this way, but I promise, I’ll get to the point. Soon. After listening to mostly bigger bands, and especially the Noise Records-acts during the late eighties and early nineties, I slowly started digging into the underground stuff during the mid to late nineties. Subscribing to the German Rock Hard, and reading other German publications like That’s It (later That’s Metal), Heavy, Oder Was!? (later Heavy) and Underground Empire, I searched them for new bands, but also for the addresses of distributors selling underground stuff. I don’t have a clue how many CDs and tapes I ordered from Germany by stuffing German Marks into envelopes and sending them off, hoping for the best. At first I was dragged towards the progressive power metal-scene, with bands like Auditory Imagery, Reading Zero, the first Eldritch-demo and stuff like that, but some years later the focus had shifted to heavy metal, and my hands still tremble a little bit as type this, thinking back on when I received the debut of Skullview and October 31 in the mail. Bands I had just read about, but never heard. It simply didn’t get more exciting than that. With the internet, things have changed. As most music is only a click away, some of the excitement has gone, but still things happen that make your heart beat a little faster. Discovering ETERNAL CHAMPION was such an experience for me, filling me with excitement and also an urge to find out more about these musicians. I soon discovered that the singer, Jason Tarpey, was the same as in Graven Rite, who put out an excellent demo, “The Summoner’s Pit” last year. I hooked up with him to get the details on ETERNAL CHAMPION, but also managed to squeeze in a litle update on Graven Rite.
When you chose your band name, you were probably aware of the Italian epic metal band Domine and their debut, called ”Champion Eternal”, by many still regarded as the band’s best album? Why was ETERNAL CHAMPION the perfect name to suit your musical vision?
– Yes I was aware of Domine and their debut “Champion Eternal”, which is a great album. I listen to their demos a lot, I prefer Stefano Mazellas vocals, especially on the “Champion Eternal” demo tape. (Morby is singing on the album) I took the name for my band because I’m a huge fan of the Elric/Eternal Champion Saga. I went through just about all my favorite dark fantasy books and pulled a name from each, compared them all, and ETERNAL CHAMPION seemed to be the best.
I guess Michael Moorcock and fantasy literature in general is a huge inspiration for the lyrics. What’s the biggest challenge when you try to put music to fantasy related words? Or does the music always come first?
– Michael Moorcock, and fantasy (to use a general term) literature is a huge inspiration for the lyrics. I wouldn’t even be writing lyrics anymore if it weren’t for Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Fritz Lieber, Tolkien, etc. It’s actually not too challenging for me to write songs after reading a good story, that’s when I’m most inspired. I just think of a vocal pattern and go with it. Some songs I’ve written have been about my own characters and stories, but even then, it’s very derivative of some of the “great’s” work. I don’t want, or care to write lyrics about the world we’re living in, or my personal life. I’m just not interested in doing that at all. That would be a challenge.
ETERNAL CHAMPION was apparently formed during the last month of last year. How have you spent the first four or five months of your existence?
– We practiced a few times in December ’12 and January of this year, wrote the first two songs and went straight into the studio to put ’em down while they were fresh in our minds. The other guys in the band are very busy, so I didn’t know when we’d get another chance to get together and record them, so we did it really quickly. Now we’re just trying to write some more songs for our debut full length. Got a few down so far…
I was quite impressed with the Graven Rite-demo released last year. Is this band history? Does it have something to do with quite a few of the members being involved in Ancient VVisdom? As Graven Rite also showed some respect to the likes of Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, and the music wasn’t aeons away either, would you say that ETERNAL CHAMPION is a continuation of the ideas behind Graven Rite, only executed by other musicians?
– Thank you. I’m not sure if Graven Rite is completely history, but I doubt we will get together anytime soon. The other guys are in Ancient VVisdom, and that takes up a lot of their time. I’m not so sure if epic heavy metal is on their priority list, so I wouldn’t hold your breath…As for ETERNAL CHAMPION paying respects to some of the writers I mentioned above, that is an inseparable part of the music for me. I will always thank these authors, even to the point of redundancy, because as I said before, I wouldn’t do music at all if not for the influence that they’ve had on me. Starting sometime before Iron Age recorded our first LP, I haven’t been able to stop writing within the realms of these literary giants.
What exactly can you tell us about the former musical merits of the members, and how did you all hook up for ETERNAL CHAMPION? I noticed that guitarist Gregg Higgins was also thanked in the cover of the Graven Rite-demo, so he must have known Jason already then?
– Well, ETERNAL CHAMPION is something that Sean Weingartner, Gregg Higgins and myself have been talking about since 2011. We just finally got together and did it a few years later. Sean plays bass, he’s still doing Capricorn I believe, but they don’t play very often. He is a scholar of heavy metal, writer of many reviews, interviews, and liner notes for various releases. G Lee (guitar), and Bongo (drums) play in Venemous Maximus, a killer band from Houston that just got signed to Napalm Records. These guys are some of my best friends, Gregg is also my tattoo artist, and was around a lot when I was doing the Graven Rite demo. He even did some artwork that, sadly, never got used.
There is a seven inch coming soon with the two songs that’s been online for a while. Tell us a little bit about the creative process that lead to “The Last King Of Pictdom” and “War At The Edge Of The End”? Are these the first two songs you finished? Also fill us in on the details of the recording process…
– A cassette tape and 7″ version of “The Last King of Pictdom” are being released soon, the tape version on June 2nd, the vinyl’s gonna take a few more months. They were our first two songs. “The Last King Of Pictdom” was the first one. I wanted a song about Bran Mak Morn and the Pictish clans. There’s not very much concrete data, or written history concerning the Picts, so there’s already an aura of mystery surrounding them, which is appealing to me. Actually, the lyrics are written more around what Robert E. Howard did for the Picts, which is give them a face, a history, a culture…”War at the Edge of the End” is a pastiche story of my own, but is written in Moorcock’s multiverse. It’s about an incarnation of the Eternal Champion, defeating Death and becoming a reluctant guardian of his world.
Listening to these songs, it makes perfect sense to put them on a single together, as they are different enough to complement each other, but at the same time similar enough to indicate in which direction you’re heading. Was this, or something similar, an actual thought behind the release, or was it more a case of putting out two songs that were ready and that you were satisfied with?
– I’m glad that our song selection sounds intentional, but alas, it is not. They’re just the first few we wrote. The new ones we’re working on are in the same vein, but a little more varied in tempo, and longer in length.
Both songs from the single is available on YouTube. Check out “War At The Edge Of The End” here:
The recording sounds very natural and the songs are certainly not overproduced. Did you work with an engineer, or did you handle everything yourselves?
– We didn’t want our first recording to be overproduced. I think it’s a fair representation of our live sound, and I would agree that it’s a natural sound. Our next record will sound better though, less of a demo vibe, more of a big, early eighties sound.
I guess most people would label your music as epic metal. What are the essential elements in this genre, in your opinion? Also what is the perfect epic metal-song and album?
– Hmmm, I’m not much of a musician, so I don’t know much about crafting a song, musically that is. I think if it’s epic heavy metal, the music itself needs to evoke some sort of feeling, it has to put you somewhere else, and in some way have a grand, majestic, quality to it. Lyrically, I would consider the theme to be very important to a song’s epic-ness. Perfect song and album? “Mystification” by Manilla Road’s album of the same name.
I certainly won’t argue on that. Which bands would you name as influences, both when it comes to forging the sound of ETERNAL CHAMPION as well as filling yourselves with motivation and lust to create inspiring heavy metal?
– Iron Maiden, Sacred Rite, Warlord, Omen, Griffin, Legend (both), Militia, S.A. Slayer, Jag Panzer, Deadly Blessing, Liege Lord, Candlemass, Oblivion Knight, Baron Steele, Cloven Hoof, OZ, Heavy Load, Fates Warning, Solitude Aeturnus, Agent Steel, Judas Priest, Manilla Road, Blind Assassin, Black Sword Thunder Attack…
Have you already had interest from record labels wanting to release your first full length? How much material do you have at the moment? Will the release after the seven inch be an EP or a full length?
-Yes, we’ve talked to a few labels about putting out our next record, which will be a full length. We haven’t made a concrete decision, but we have some time yet. We have five songs right now, and a few instrumentals. We still need to get the 7″ out first, which will be a joint effort by myself and a few Greek friends.
You’re going to perform at Chaos In Tejas early this summer. Will this be your first gig, or will you do a smaller sized show to prepare to warm up for Manilla Road? How do you feel that your sound will fit in at a festival with all kinds of metal bands?
– Yes the Manilla Road show will be our first gig, I know what an honor that is for a new band. Timmy, the founder of Chaos In Tejas, knows that they are my favorite band and did me a solid by putting us on. I’ve never been nervous, in 15 years of playing live, until now! I think our sound is different for Chaos In Tejas, but now that Timmy is branching out and booking different kinds of bands, people are more open minded as to what they might see.
You’ve got some amazing feedback on the net, and a couple of hundred likes on Facebook only in a few days. Did the feedback surprise you, or had you already tested the waters locally or among friends so that you knew what kind of feedback to expect when you posted those two songs?
– We had no idea what to expect, I had only showed the songs to a few friends. I can speak for the rest of the guys when I say we’re pleasantly surprised by the reaction so far.
Back in the eighties, bands from Texas, both when we talk about bigger acts as well as demo only-bands, were well known for their original sound. Does ETERNAL CHAMPION share a vision of making what’s commonly regarded as original music, or are other aspects more essential when it comes to songwriting?
– One of our main goals is to try and bring back the glory and might of the Texas scene in the 1980’s, which was without argument one of the best in history. And you’re right, the demo-only bands were just as good as the one’s that managed to put out a full-length or two! I hope that our music is considered original, although I don’t think it will ever be too difficult to determine our influences.
At the moment you’re also working on a Bandcamp-site. What’s your stance in the debate about digital versus physical format that’s ongoing at the moment?
– Yeah still trying to get that Bandcamp site up, we are all very busy with work, school, other stuff, but we’ll get the songs put up soon, promise. I don’t have a strong opinion on the physical vs digital format. I try to get as many physical copies of records that I like as I can, but if the band is extinct or their records are impossible to find, I’ll download the shit out of it.