Warlok who? you might ask. If it was spelled with a “c”, I am pretty sure everyone would have known that we were in for a piece on the now defunct German act fronted by Doro, but Warlok is something completely different. As it is now, this one man project has released a demo, available on tape only so far, through Swords And Chains. As a writer you’ll often wonder which band member will turn up to answer your questions, in this case it was no other choice than let Matt Edwards do the talking.
As far as I understand, you have plenty of other musical projects going, from where came the idea and inspiration to do Warlok?
– I have always been a big fan of power metal and traditional heavy metal, but I never really felt myself up to the task of writing in that genre. A few months ago I was going to do some mixing for a band called Sanctifyre and to be sure I could get a good traditional metal mix, I wrote and recorded the Warlok demo as a test. I showed them what I had come up with and they really encouraged me to run with it as a serious project. I wish I could say that it had grander origins, but that’s pretty much it.
From what you say here, it sounds rather easy for you to write songs in this genre. Was it easier than you expected and easier than creating material for your other projects?
– It wasn’t hard to write, but to be fair the stuff on the demo is pretty simple in comparison to a lot of other bands in the genre. I didn’t really give myself time to orchestrate more complex arrangements or dream up really unique riffs. It was more just jamming out some simple, hard-rocking, if rather formulaic and cliche, riffs and singing about wizards and Mad Max characters. Compared to other projects of mine, Warlok came much easier. With the other music, I like to be as new and unique as I can with each release, trying to make songs and sounds I’ve never heard before. With Warlok, there was a sound in mind that already had lots of clear examples to follow. It was more just filling in the blanks to get the songs where I wanted as opposed to the “starting from scratch” mentality I try to take with some other projects.
How do you switch on and off when you jump from one project to another? I guess you have to be in a different mode when composing for Warlok compared to for instance Terra Deep?
– The inspiration seems to come in waves. I’m quite incapable of working on different projects at the same time. I’ll have several weeks where I’m really only writing for Terra Deep, then the inspiration will fade and I end up transitioning to Warlok, or some other project. I find it difficult to sit down and try to create something worthwhile for a project unless I’m in that phase at the time. It’s a pain when I have to get something done by a deadline and my mind is off in some other genre, but at the same time, when I cycle back to a certain project I’m totally reinvigorated and able to approach the music in a new way, rather than just trying to force an entire album or EP out of a single, static mindset. It’s that application of different approaches over the course of a single composition that keeps it interesting for me. I like seeing how work I did two months ago meshes with the brand new ideas coming out of each new wave of creativity.
Originally Matt didn’t have big plans for Warlok, but those plans have changed somehow with the reception of the demo.
– I figured the demo would come out, no one would notice, and I would move on as has happened with a few other things I’ve put out. Since it has become as popular as it is, I’ve definitely reconsidered. Maybe it’s a fluke, or maybe I’m on to something with this, but either way the reaction I’ve seen has definitely convinced me to keep exploring Warlok and this sound. For the time being, having just released a Terra Deep full length, Warlok is my priority. That will probably change when it comes time for the next Terra Deep release, but I don’t see Warlok falling too far from the top anytime soon.
You seem a little surprised by the feedback on the demo?
– I think most surprising was the range the demo has seen. With digital releases, it’s not too surprising to see lots of overseas sales, but I was pretty surprised by how many fans in other parts of the world had gotten a hold of the cassette versions, especially considering the limited size of the pressing. I’m completely flattered that people found this music good enough to go through the effort and expense of getting a physical copy here in the digital era.
Judging from the title of the demo, and maybe also the band name, you seem to have an interest in gaming?
– It’s that obvious, huh? Yeah, gaming for me has a lot of the same purpose as metal music. They’re both forms of escape and exploration. Good music, like a good game should be able to transport you. When I’m in that space I feel like I’m somewhere else entirely. It’s cathartic that way, to go somewhere else in your head to sort your shit out, and come back to reality more grounded and level than when you left. Gaming does this for me, and so does good music.
The demo was first released in digital format only. What was the purpose, to recruit band members, to spread the name around or to have it released “properly” on physical format?
– Digital is cheap. Like I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t planned to do very much with Warlok when I first recorded the demo. At the time, with this being a totally new project with no fanbase, I didn’t see having the demo made on a physical format as anything other than a good way to lose money. I followed the precedent set by pretty much every other thing I’ve released and put it out as a free download, giving fans the option to pay if they want. Maybe I’m just a terrible businessman, but I think removing as many barriers as possible between fans and music is the best way to build an audience and create interest. Metal fans will support artists that they like, even when given the option to get music for free.
It seems like Swords And Chains are actively looking for stuff to put out on tape. Was this how you hooked up with the label? Are you satisfied with how the tape version of “Summoning Sickness” turned out?
– Mike from Swords And Chains sent me an e-mail out of the blue not long after the demo went up asking me if I was interested in a cassette release. This was really the first inkling I had that Warlok might be something worth pursuing in the long run. The tape version of “Summoning Sickness” is amazing in my opinion, but I suppose I’m biased… The music seems to really come to life in analog. I’m extremely grateful to Swords And Chains for taking a chance on a complete unknown, and for investing the time and effort they did into really pushing this demo, and Warlok as a whole.
What is your relationship to the tape format? Do you think 100 copies are enough to satisfy the demand?
– I’ve always been a fan of analog. I’ve had a couple other releases on tape with various projects, and I’ve always love the more living sound that things seem to have on tape and vinyl. 100 copies is a good number for a demo. It’s not a massive setback if it sells poorly, and it’s limited enough to give a nice sense of rarity and collectibility if it does well. With the widespread proliferation of digital media, music itself can’t really be rare anymore. Tapes and records function as collectors items now, and limited releases like this serve that market quite well.
There’s already been some whispers about a possible vinyl release, and Matt sees the possibility of squeezing all three track onto a 7″ inch, but thinks it might be easier to record a few more songs and put it on a 10″ or 12″.
Apart from a guitar solo, you have done everything on the demo yourself. How competent are you performing the different instruments? What was the main challenge for you?
– I feel very confident on guitar, bass, and vocals. I’ve been playing guitar and bass for 13 years about, and singing for seven or eight. I was nervous about the vocals, to be honest. I’ve never really done vocals for this style. I’m more used to death and black metal growls and screams, so really focusing on the quality of my singing was pretty new. I also had to push my voice higher than I was used to. I’m naturally a lower baritone, so the higher notes on the album were an interesting experience. Drums, however, are a different beast. I’ve never owned a drumset, so I’ve never been able to play them particularly well. While programmed drums have worked fairly well for me, I think having live drums would really make the music come alive. For future releases, I’ve been nagging several drummer friends to sit down and record with me, so we’ll see if that pans out.
Do you prefer to make and record music on your own, or is it more a case of not finding the right musicians to work with?
– It’s a little of both. Creating music by yourself can be both freeing and limiting. You’re free to put into the music absolutely anything you wish, with no need to pass the muster of bandmates who may have different ideas about the path a song should take. Many times, I feel the democratic songwriting process results in less interesting work, as it has to appeal to the base preferences of a group of people, leaving the more unique sounds and ideas to be voted down. The other side of that coin is that by working alone, you lose out on a lot of potential by restricting outside influence and limiting the frames of reference in which the music can be approached to solely your own. This ideal of pure collaboration seems to only be possible when all parties are in harmony about the nature of the music they want to create, so without others who are of a similar enough mindset, working alone is preferable. Losing less to dissonance and democracy is preferable to me to the potential gain of bringing in others to appraise my work.
Matt has Nikki Krimson from the band Sanctifyre doing a solo on “Night Rider”, since he feels he is not a great soloist himsel.
– I’m especially bad when it comes to trying to shred. “Night Rider” needed a speedy, dirty solo, and I didn’t feel I could pull it off. Nikki came by and layed it down in, I think, two takes. Dick.
The three songs on the demo, are they the ones you had ready at the time of recording, or did you choose them from a wider range of material?
– Those were the only Warlok songs in existence at the time. With the short timeframe in which I wrote and recorded it all, I didn’t create enough to really be picky about it. Almost none of the demo was premeditated, and even some of the lyrics were improvised while I was tracking. In the future I’d like to write more than I need and have the freedom to parse it down to what is best for a given release.
Matt isn’t a stranger to the idea that the short timeframe and the improvised nature of parts of the recording, could be one of the reasons people appreciate the demo.
– I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s a lot to be said for inspiration channeled in the moment versus the planned and refined works. It’s quite easy to overwork a piece and in trying to smooth out the edges, ruin the shape. Overthinking can sometimes drive out the humanity. On the other hand, being able to take your time can allow you to hone a song to get the best fit for whatever you’re trying to convey. Each has their place in the creative process, and going forward I hope to be able to strike a balance between the two.
The track “Night Rider” is a fast one, and a pretty obvious choice as the opener, I guess?
– I actually struggled with that one for a while. It was going to be “Night Rider”, or “Summoning Sickness”. While I thing “Summoning Sickness” is a better song, “Night Rider” makes a better first impression right out of the gate, and sets a good tone for the rest of the demo.
The two other songs are a bit more moderate in tempo, but with strong hooks and riffs. What are the main ingredients when composing a Warlok-tune?
– They have to be catchy. One of the things I strive for is memorable riffs and catchy hooks and choruses. I probably spend more time working on good vocal lines and patterns than I do on riffs at this point. As far as the steps to composition, it really depends. Sometimes one good riff will open the door to a whole song, other times I’ve come up with a really cool song title and just built the song around that. I like to keep a theme or small concept in mind when I write, so the finished song feels more coherent and focused, instead of like a patchwork of riffs.
Not surprisingly, Matt confirms that he already has other songs ready to go.
– I have three in the works right now. I like to think they’re similar to the demo, just better. I’m taking more time on these, so the riffs, arrangements, vocals, and lyrics are more interesting and well put together. I really plan to expand on the vocal arrangements especially. It will definitely grow and change as time goes on, but I haven’t the slightest clue as to where it will go.
Have you had any interest from labels in the wake of the release of the demo? What are you looking for in a future collaborator?
– There has been a little bit of interest from a label in Germany about releasing the demo in alternate formats, so hopefully that pans out. I’m not looking too hard for collaborators as much as live members. I’d like to take Warlok to the stage in the near future. Here’s hoping!
How much experience from performing live with other acts do you have? What is it about the Warlok-concept and the material you have, that tempts you to go on stage with it?
– I’ve been playing live in one band or another for the last ten years or so, with a few gaps here and there. It seems to me that there are two kinds of bands: those where the record is the product and the performance is just promotion, and those who put out a record to get people out to the shows. Most of the stuff I do falls into the first category. Playing live is an afterthought, which gives me a lot more freedom creatively to put in elements on a record I couldn’t reproduce live easily, if at all. These projects also seem to be the ones that require the thought out and laborious writing processes. Warlok seems to lean towards the latter. I think these songs would really shine in a live setting. The relative simplicity makes it easier to really perform on stage and put on an exciting visual show.
Somewhat belatedly discovering the demo and I’m enjoying it! There is an honesty to the songs that probably comes from their spontaneous nature. Looking forward to hearing more…