Interview with Marcus Kampher Metal Masters Magazine Germany

transcript of a snail mail interview letter response

first published in Metal Masters Germany April 1993
transcribed by Vengeance Incorporated editor

Marcus Kampher, Metal Masters: Ok, first off, why should anyone buy your record particularly? Why isn’t Vengeance Incorporated just like any of the other 1000 metal bands that have sprung up?

Guy: I think we come from a completely different frame of reference than most metal bands today. I don’t think, at least its my perception, that most of these guys knew any music existed before Iron Maiden or Metallica. I mean, I don’t wanna sound like I’m just trashing these bands, but so many of them do come from the “gloom and doom” school of devil-worshipping speed thrash. I mean, when is there a limit to how heavy, meaning dissonant and monotonous and loud, can it get before its just a joke? Ozzy is the perfect example of how metal has become a charicature of itself. I prefer bands like Extreme with some depth.

MM: So how does being aware, or exposed to other bands make Vengeance different?

Guy: I feel like we are more attuned to harmony, musical structure, melodies, etc. than bands who are just thrash or power-driven. I’m not saying we aren’t heavy, we do plenty of the ominous and speed and crushing stuff, its just we try to do it with one ear towards musicality as well as power. I believe music with a little more depth will outlast the current metal wave, and will stand as songs, rather than just riding the wave of a popular genre.

MM: So who were these influences that shaped this sound?

Guy: Personally, it was first and foremost The Beatles, specifically Paul McCartney, as well as the whole genre of music he shaped and led: Raspberries, Emitt Rhodes, Nilsson, Bread, America, Queen especially.

MM: How exactly do these influences manifest themselves?

Guy: I have tried to, from the first, do a lot of stacking of guitars, ala Brian May (of Queen-ed.) in counter melodies and harmonies. Also, we add really big backing vocals on many tunes, sometimes Mike (Mike, one of the lead guitarists) and I do 32 tracks of harmonies, and bounce them down for a really thick sound. We also try to do off the wall harmonic chords with the vocals. For instance on “Nomad” we do 9th, 11th, 13th chords, basically horn chords from the old jazz and big band numbers. I should add Alice Cooper as an influence, he’s one of the few bands who did stuff like this in heavy music.

MM: That’s fine for technical studio stuff, but how did these influences determine your song-writing style? How would a listener who is not a musician or experienced at studio work recognize your music as being unique?

Guy: Most of our songs are typical “riff-based” songs to begin with, but I always put a lot of time into the melodies, and several were written with the melody first and the instrumental accompaniment after. Even the very minor or songs written in a strange mode, like mixolydian in “Beijing”, there is a lot of thought given to the melody, and the harmony structure. I want to point out there are a number of songs that really go against the grain of metal completely, making us much more diverse than most of our contemporaries. “Meltdown” is an example.

MM: In what way?

Guy: Its very hard to pick apart your own stuff. I leave that to reviewers or to individual listeners to put their own take on what our music is about. I can’t always describe it, but you know it when you hear it. I know that sounds like I’m copping out, but its just weird parsing your own stuff this way. Ok, Meltdown has a unique structure, no real verse or chorus, it just flows more linear than anything. Then there is a long semi-a’capella. section at the end, a lot of strings and cellos, plus the stacked guitar orchestrations and stacked vocals. Then on the next song we are kicking ass on powermetal in Damned if you Do, but even that one is different, part is in 7/8 time and it changes time signatures and tempos a dozen times in the song. But its not just for effect, its a valid composition and all the changes make sense. I think its a very well composed song, but heavy as anything you hear today.

MM: How do you write a complicated arrangement in a piece like Meltdown? Does the whole band participate? It doesn’t sound like a song a band would throw together, it sounds more composed.

Guy: That particular song I wrote myself and played all the instruments on, and Chuck later overdubbed the drum program with real drums. I own the studio, so I compose songs like this and throw them together myself, sometimes late at night for weeks, then the band fills in parts. Mike helped with the background vocal arrangements on this one too. But most of our songs are a group effort, even some of the really involved ones. I gotta say the band is really supportive of working out crazy ideas I have for songs, and very dedicated at working out a song until its right.

MM: What’s an example of a song the whole band worked on like this from “Bad Crazy?”

Guy: Well, the title track for one, “Bad Crazy“. We worked for several weeks to come up with a beat that made the main riff work. I believe we lifted it from some Aerosmith song, I forget which one now. Also, Curt got very annoyed with me while we were working out the break. He thought it was too broken up and strange, but after I got my idea across he liked it. All the guys are pretty good about that.

MM: Where do you see the band’s direction going from here?

Guy: I’ve already begun writing some songs for the next record, and while there are some definite rockers, there are also some that are in a very different vein than previous Vengeance songs. There are some straight ballads, some bluesy stuff, some acoustic based songs, a pretty wide variety. I think this next record will be the closest I’ve come to doing what I’ve always wanted to do without being trapped in a crotch-rock metal thing. I’ve found it more and more restraining as we progress recording. I think in the next few years metal will have played itself out and we have to grow or we will just get passed by. Groups like Poison and Cinderella are killing metal. Its getting to be a real joke. And that’s the kiss of death for a popular music form. A satire of itself, as punk and “new wave” became, that’s why they are gone. And people like Ozzy biting heads off bats doesn’t help, either. But getting stagnant, repeating yourself, is the quickest way to die as a musical force, I believe. For better or worse, our next record will be very different from our previous ones. Personally, I’ve always wanted to be like bands like Beatles or Queen, or even in some ways Aerosmith, able to ebb and flow, get heavy then lay back, exploring many musical styles. I’ve never wanted to be trapped in a band that is as one-dimensional as say AC/DC or Motorhead, god bless ’em, but every song on the goddam album sounds the same. I wonder they don’t get sick of themselves.

MM: I’ll be sure and talk to you when the next record comes out then! Sounds like we will have plenty to talk about!

Guy: Well, for now I just wanna say, hey kids, go out and buy “Bad Crazy“, its a great record!! And its heavy enough to give you an orgasm just listening to it.

MM: Thanks for the interview, Guy!

Guy: Any time man, glad to do it.