There are guys in this business who are some of the nicest people you would ever meet. I remember Keep It True VIII back in 2007 when Twisted Tower Dire peformed. It was my first time at the festival, and one of the people i bumped into was Scott from Twisted Tower Dire. I guess I went up to him and introduced myself as I had just done a phone interview with him for Scream Magazine which I worked for back then. You could really feel that Scott appreciated it, and neither me or my friend left before Scott had given us each a Twisted Tower Dire-shirt . A really nice gesture from a really nice guy.
I’ve done a couple of features on Twisted Tower Dire since, and the band has grown to be one of my faves when it comes to “newer” US metal. When the news reached me that three of the five members of the band had started a new band called Walpyrgus, I didn’t hesitate, but contacted Scott again to learn all the details about this new act. My main concern of course wast that Twisted Tower Dire was now history and that Scott, bass player JIm Hunter and singer Jonny Aune now would put eveything into Walpyrgus. Read on to learn more…
Apparently Walpyrgus was formed a couple of years ago. By whom, and what were your ambitions from the start?
– I started it because I didn’t have a band to play with regularly which I really missed. Marc and Dave from Twisted Tower Dire live far away and it’s hard to get together these days as we’re married with houses and jobs. My ambition with Walpyrgus was simply to have a band I could rehearse with at least once a week and develop songs together in-person.
Why is this important for you?
– Doing a band long distance just isn’t the same as being able to get together on a regular basis and stay focused on it for a prolonged period. It’s very hard to get songs and arrangements tight if you don’t have that repetitive process. Imagine contacting four other people and saying : “Hey, I was thinking we should play the intro riff on that song four times instead of two, so everybody remember that when we get together next Saturday, next month”. It gets tricky.
Is the name just a variation over Walpurgis, or is there something more to it?
– It’s just a variation, but we decided to warp the spelling so it was completely original. We decided on that name because its a cool word and the meaning fit our lyrics. Also, there’s never been another metal band under the name “Walpurgis” that’s gone very far, so we thought we’d snatch it up.
With three out of five members also playing together in Twisted Tower Dire, I think many people are wondering what’s happening with that band now. Some even seem to think that you have changed the band name along with a couple of members. Will you do both bands, or is Twisted Tower Dire on a hiatus from now on?
– I guess you could say Twisted Tower Dire is on a hiatus. We’re just focusing on Walpyrgus right now because it’s more functional than Twisted Tower Dire and more convenient. Yes, Walpyrgus is comprised of mostly Twisted Tower Dire members and we sound similar, but this band was put together just to be functional musicians and song writers and not replace the other.
Can you guarantee that we haven’t heard the last from Twisted Tower Dire, both when it comes to recordings and liveshows?
– Well, I can guarantee Twisted Tower Dire hasn’t broken up, but right now that band hasn’t got anything officially planned either. If the band is offered a show and it makes sense to do it, we will, but we’re not out looking for them. We’re all close friends so I seriously doubt Twisted Tower Dire will ever officially break-up. The plan for that band is to start working on a new album at some point in 2014, but it’s hard to say how long it will take us to put something together we’re happy with because circumstances for us are more complicated now than they were ten years ago.
I guess Walpyrgus must offer something in addition to what you get from playing in Twisted Tower Dire. What exactly?
– When we wrote “Make it Dark”, we stylistically changed a lot lyrically and pushed everything in more of a pop direction. That direction is really indicative of my personality, and I pushed that stuff more than anyone else. Walpyrgus is a new band and a better outlet for me to go further in that direction whereas Twisted Tower Dire has a history and people expect a certain brand out of it which I don’t think should be overly obscured by personal indulgence.
Not much is known about the other members, but I guess the guy referred to as drummer Lemieux, is Peter who played or still plays with Johnny in Viper, and that guitarist Shackelford, is Charlie who plays in Hellrazor where I also believe Jim has been involved. Were these two drafted into the band simply because you knew them and their abilities?
– Yes, we’ve been friends with Peter and Charley for a long time and always wanted to do a band with both of them because we knew the five of us would work well as everyone brings a strength to the table. Peter and Johnny have been friends since high school and started Viper together back then. Jim played in Hellrazor with Charley and I’ve known Charley since the late nineties. Charley and Peter are great players and their playing styles are different enough from Marc and Dave of Twisted Tower Dire to give Walpyrgus its own identity.
I guess there is a reason why you didn’t record these tunes with the Twisted Tower Dire-lineup? What did Peter and Charley add to the overall picture, and did they help bringing something out of the three of you that doesn’t come to the surface in Twisted Tower Dire?
– There’s no particular reason why these didn’t morph into Twisted Tower Dire-songs other than the fact that everyone in this band lives in the same city and it’s all we’ve focused on it recently. We approach everything the same way in Walpyrgus as we do with Twisted Tower Dire in the sense that I record a demo of a “finished” song where I play and sing everything to a drum machine and then we pick it apart as a band. Peter and Charley put their own ideas in the songs as we reconstruct the them so obviously Peter and Charley wind having their own fingerprints on these tunes.
I know from the interview we did when “Make It Dark” was released, that you weren’t completely happy with everything about that release. My personal opinion is also that there is a potential to reach a bigger crowd than you have done so far in the music of Twisted Tower Dire. Is Walpyrgus by any means born out of frustration over thing not going the way you would have liked them to with TTD?
– I can’t remember what I said at the time, but looking back I’m very pleased with the whole album “Make it Dark”. Walpyrgus wasn’t born out of Twisted Tower Dire frustration. It was born out of convenience and a want for exploring a slight variation in metal style. It’s been fun launching a band again because it reminds me of being 15. Walpyrgus is its own thing and we’ve never advertised it as a Twisted Tower Dire replacement or wanted people to think of it that way, although I know it’s inevitable. Starting Walpyrgus was like pressing the reset button because I can write what I want and not have to worry about what anyone expects of it.
I was a little surprised to find the material so similar to the stuff on “Make It Dark”. Maybe I shouldn’t be, as you share three members with Twisted Tower Dire, but still I expected a side project to be somehow different from your main band. What do you feel is the biggest difference between the two acts? Will this perhaps mean that Twisted Tower Dire will go in another direction with the next album?
– Yes it is similar to “Make it Dark”. I’m the main song writer for both bands and I started working on the Walpyrgus material right after the last Twisted Tower Dire album so you’re definitely hearing where I left off. You have me, Johnny and Jim in this band so it’s going to sound similar to Twisted Tower Dire even if we played acoustically and tried to have English accents. The biggest difference between the two acts are a different guitar player and drummer adding their influences. I think the music would come out sounding contrived if we really tried to be constantly aware of having a separate sound. The only differences we’re attempting to be conscious of are that Walpyrgus is meant to lyrically be based in the supernatural, and that we are able to go out of the classic metal writing boundaries without alienating a fan base. As for Twisted Tower Dire we’ve always tried to reinvent ourselves on every album and we’re in the process of figuring out how to do that again, but we’re older now, our original singer is gone and we’re not dealing with any deadlines. One of the things we’ve been talking about is letting Marc and Dave take on the primary song-writing duties. I’m hoping they’ll bring back more of a thrash attack to Twisted Tower Dire’s sound because everything that’s been coming out of me in recent years has been more hard rock with weird lyrics rather than what I consider metal.
You did most of the songwriting in Twisted Tower Dire, is there a stronger contribution from the others in Walpyrgus, or are you still the main man behind the music?
– I’m also the main song writer in Walpyrgus, but everyone helps. If I could release the crap I record at home and have people like it I would, but it would probably have the opposite effect. Ha-ha! There’s not a “stronger” contribution in this band. Just like in Twisted Tower Dire everyone helps mold the details around the framework I create and it becomes a contributive work.
The three self penned tracks on your forthcoming EP are damn catchy, at least on par with the most memorable tracks from “Make It Dark”. Would you say that the hooks and structures of more commercial rock or even pop music is an influence in Walpyrgus?
– Yes it is. I’ve always loved all kind of music ever since I was a little kid. I think anyone who says they only like “elite” metal bands is probably full of shit and just likes to play dress up. That said, at some point a few years back I became really interested in pop song structures. I think it was probably because I’ve been listening to so much metal for so long I finally started to wonder how people wrote songs before there was stuff like “Reign in Blood” because I never had that perspective. Trying to be a minimalist and string together a simple melody with a few words under a few chords that is appealing to many different people, is harder than it sounds.
On the EP is also a version of “Doomed By The Living Dead”, originally recorded by Mercyful Fate. As your own songs, at least the ones on the EP, go in a bit different direction, why have you chosen to cover this tune?
– We chose that song because it fit our style lyrically and Mercyful Fate is a big influence on me and Jim. When we first started Walpyrgus, we all learned it before we got together for the first time to jam because we thought it would be a good cover to get our heads in the right place for the overall mood of the band going forward. It has a lot of “metal” elements but it really comes down to a strong verse and chorus. The version you hear is just the way it came out with us playing it. We didn’t want to change any notes or timing and the let the listener hear how we interpret it through our playing, tones and Aune’s natural singing voice.
The EP is coming out on cassette through Swords and Chains. A very cool label indeed, but seemingly a low profile one for a band consisting of three members from Twisted Tower Dire, but I guess a CD and vinyl release is probably also planned?
– Yes, No Remorse Records from Athens is putting out a deluxe package 7” and CD of the EP together in September. We’re letting Walpyrgus earn its own wings and we don’t expect any special treatment because our other bands have reached certain levels in the past because that’s arrogant and I think it would set us a up for disappointment. Mike from Swords and Chains came to us before anyone else did and before he heard the recordings, so we were honored someone wanted to take a chance on us as an unknown band. Being “known” as musicians has surely been helpful, but we haven’t yet needed to exploit any “contacts” or solicit anyone to get things going for this band and I think it’ll be a little more honorable to let Walpyrgus develop autonomously.
Judging from your live appearances, you seem to have at least almost an album worth of material. Will the next release be a full length release, and will this one also feature the songs on the EP, or brand new material only? When can we expect it?
– Yeah, right now we have almost a full length album‘s worth of new songs in addition to this EP. We’re slowly adding new ones to the live set as they become more comfortable to play at practice which lets them go through the “live test“ before we record them. We’re not going to re-record anything on this EP as plans now stand. Sometime next month we plan on making demos of all the new and unrecorded material and we’ll see what options are available to us this fall after the EP has some time to circulate. It might be a single, it might be another EP or we might record the rest of the songs. The important thing is that we put out quality which is a matter of money.
Starting more from scratch, without the expectations that maybe yourselves and the audience have of how Twisted Tower Dire should sound, has it been an easier process writing songs for Walpyrgus?
– No, because no matter what band I’m writing for I want it to be my best. I have an idea in my head of what Walpyrgus is about and where it’s artistic perimeters end so I have to police myself while writing for that band as well. Walpyrgus is heavy metal and I’m not really into experimental stuff. The way I see the two bands is this: As a whole, Twisted Tower Dire’s sound is epitomized in songs like “Final Stand” or “Axes & Honor” where you’ve got these “aggressive epic war” tunes and the lyrics mix the ethereal with real-life morals. As for Walpyrgus it’s is all based around my song writing and lyric style dealing in dark/supernatural topics and traditional song arrangements. Twisted Tower Dire songs usually started as riffs and the lyrics followed. While writing “Make it Dark” I started writing the songs on an acoustic guitar without complicated “metal” riffs and letting those riffs come together as a band. Walpyrgus has been a continuation of this song writing technique. The bottom line is usually when a good song idea comes out, it plops right out immediately and then you slowly clean it up over time. The initial idea always comes out easy and you let the details come as you digest the tune as a band.
H.P. Lovecraft is listed as an influence for Walpyrgus. Only in the lyrics, or is it possible to hear the influence in the music as well?
– Lyrics mainly, though lyrics are married to music and sometimes the notes will follow words I already have for an idea. He was a weirdo who disliked music in-general and would refer to a “retarded music demon” so who knows what he’d have to say about his influence over our genre. I state him as an influence because I find myself wanting to emulate his mood through the lyrics and I’ve always liked the juxtaposition of dark lyrics coupled with poppy music. Lovecraft was a master of leaving things abstract by articulating how incomprehensible and thus how horrifying the unknown is and that technique lends itself to lyric-writing because I think it makes people want to figure out what the hell you’re talking about. Ha-ha!
The lyrics to the song “The Sisters” caught my attention. What exactly inspired the words to this tune?
– Maybe in-part from the story of The Fox Sisters which is a somewhat famous American ghost story about young girls that could talk to the dead. But that’s not really what the lyrics are about. It deals with the overlying theme of the supernatural in twins and adolescence. It’s about evil being encapsulated into the guise of two young girls on the brink of sexual maturity and their entire existence is like a psychic storm of unbridled malice & negativity. They bring and leave behind a path of dark uncertainty. They’re manipulative and charming sociopaths. In simple terms it’s simply about realizing the evil in someone when it’s too late.