XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news?
Josh: Earlier this year, we picked up a new drummer, Chris Wilson of the band Troglodyte. We’re currently writing our third album, currently untitled. We’re sorting through the material and beginning to rehearse songs. Generally speaking, the songs are tighter than on our last album, more melodic, with a few much more aggressive moments. We’re really pushing the guitar playing on it.
XS ROCK: Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Josh: Just the new album, hopefully coming out early next year. We’re trying to book shows for next year in support of it.
XS ROCK: How long has the band been together?
Josh: Since 2007, though there have been a lot of changes. Generally, the band as it is now has been around since 2013.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
Josh: A love of the music and playing guitar. I personally gotta have an outlet and purpose for my playing, playing for the sake of it isn’t satisfying like it was at one point.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Josh: I grew up listening to hair metal and classic rock, and middle school I got a guitar. Around that same time I discovered thrash and heavy metal, and I just kept digging and digging until I found more bands. At some point time I decided I wanted to play in a thrash band, so I started one with some friends, that became my other band, Ealo. A few years later I found power metal and that majorly changed the way I listened to music and wrote songs.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Josh: Very good question. I’d say we put on an image of a lot of old thrash groups, something between fun and serious. We take the songwriting and lyrics very seriously, but try to not take ourselves seriously so much. I generally like to try to put out a serious, accessible sort-of image, just in the sense that even non-fans can look at it and take it seriously.
XS ROCK: What are your immediate music career goals?
Josh: Get out the next album, hit up a variety of fests in support of it, as well as the same markets we play in plus a few new ones. We want to give this new album a really good album cycle, and we learned with the cycle for “Weapons Against Their Will” what we need to do to be really successful with it. Comes with the territory when you’re DIY and nobody really understands what they’re doing, haha.
XS ROCK: What are your long-term career goals?
Josh: Wherever we get taken. We’re here for the ride and are trying to make the most of it.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Josh: I’m gonna cop out here and say all three. They’re all a part of a great process. The feeling of finishing a new song is so incredible and satisfying. I’m also a recording engineer, and audio is one of my favorite things, so recording is one of my favorite processes. It’s also the most stressful of the three, with all the worry that it’s going to turn out to be any good at the end. Playing live is so great, the sheer adrenaline of it all. I know some people are terrified of performing live, but I love it and always have. It’s such a huge outlet of energy and emotion, and at this point I think I rely on it a bit. We all start to go kind of mad when we don’t get to play for a long period of time. I’d maybe edge it out as my favorite, but I can’t say I dislike any of the process.
XS ROCK: What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Josh: All over the place, really. I’d describe our lyrical themes as “whatever Drew Blood thinks is cool”. To give you a more productive answer, we talk a lot about history as well as social issues. For example, “Street Reaper” is about South American death squads, “Switchblade” is about African child soldiers, and “Turris Mortem” is about the Tower of London. There are a few less serious tunes, for example, “The First Flame” is about Dark Souls. Outside of that, we also like telling stories. The songs “Memories of Battles and Death”, “The Last Life to Live”, and “The Iconoclasm” are a sci-fi trilogy about an army of immortal soliders.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road?
Josh: There’s one big story, which was probably the biggest whirlwind we’ve ever experienced as a band. We were playing a festival in Texas, and most of the attendees as well as bands were in a single hotel. However, the management didn’t do the smart thing and put everyone in one section of the hotel, instead spreading everyone out. So you have a bunch of loud, drunk metalheads roaming the halls all night. Parties were moving all around the hotel, staying until noise complaints were called. Somehow, we made the mistake of letting the party into our hotel room, and it was wild. Somebody grabbed the Bible in our room, and lit it on fire. Not that big of a deal to us, but the guy was seen doing it, and we had the cops called on us. We thought we talked them down, but after we left for the fest the next day, we were told that we had been locked out of our hotel room, and had to go back to talk down management and the cops (again). We somehow got it taken care of, though they did charge us out the ass for that Bible.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Josh: Not too much, our fans are generally pretty normal. Though telling that story above reminds me of after our performance, having a drunk guy seriously interrogate us about why Drew sings instead of growling.
XS ROCK: Were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Josh: Yeah, generally. When I was younger my mom would always help me buy gear and was excited for shows. There was that transition when they realized it was actually pretty serious and not just something I did from time to time, but by now they’re accepting and supportive of it.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Josh: “Memories of Battle of Death”, “The First Flame”, and “Nocturnal Grip”. They’re chock full of energetic, chunky riffs that are as fun to hear as they are to play. Each of those songs always elicits an especially strong reaction in the room, which is very infectious. When you can get that feedback loop of energy between the crowd and band going, it’s the best feeling in the world, and always leads to the best performances you get.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Josh: Well, way back when, it was Metallica. But on top of that list, I’d say Exodus and Blind Guardian. Metallica convinced me to play in a band, and those two helped me decide how I wanted to sound. Their music gets to me in a unique way not a lot of other bands do, and always inspire me to write music.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Bit of an odd bill, but you said dream tour. Blind Guardian and Exodus are my two favorite bands, and to tour with them would be incredible. Manowar is the total band favorite, I’d say, if you couldn’t tell by our very original stage names (fun fact: Drew Blood was once nicknamed Manowar until he joined Hellevate, and Danowar was having none of that). To tour with them would be awesome.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Josh: Weapons Against Their Will, for sure. Putting all that time and effort into an album that was so well received and got us to play around the country is an awesome feeling, and I’m very proud of that album. I only hope we can top it with the next one.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Josh: I’d probably be focusing more on the audio and production stuff I already love to do, and/or working in tech in some capacity. I’m very thankful for my bands and they allow me to do.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Josh: I play ESP guitars with Seymour Duncan pickups, and I use an ENGL Savage into a cab with V30’s. As far as I’m concerned, I can’t get a better setup, and it sounds crushing, full-stop. I also use the TC Electronic G-Major live, controlled with a Rocktron Midi-Mate. I tried the pedalboard thing on the Weapons Against Their Will tour, and I hated it. Stuffing everything into a rack and just having the midi controller out front to call up presets for leads, cleans, etc. is so much easier and prettier to look at. I also put an overdrive, noise gate, and an Audio-Technica wireless unit in front inside of the rack.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Josh: The scene is generally in a good place right now. Play your cards right, you can cultivate a decent audience in a lot of places, and everywhere seems pretty receptive to all forms of metal. The local KC scene is the best it’s ever been, and we always get a great reception. It’s hard to really make money, especially when it comes to recording. We’ve had to really learn how to hock merch and make products people really want to buy. You gotta learn how to be a businessman in order to make it anywhere, which sucks for a lot of bands, but it excites me. Managing the business aspect is as fun as songwriting and playing as far as I’m concerned.
XS ROCK: How would you describe the band’s sound to someone who has never heard you before?
Josh: I’d describe us as Bay Area thrash, German speed metal and USPM with a touch of extreme metal all rolled up into one. If you like one or more of those things, you’ll probably find something to like in our music.
XS ROCK: Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Check us out at our Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram, or hellevate.com. We’ll have a third record out next year, and we intend to play at your city. Stay heavy!