Rob/Jason - Skelator
Those Seattle agents of power - Skelator - have released their sophomore outing for Metal On Metal Records and they are turning some heads as the sword ruler rhythms of the chain gang continually draw listeners into their circle of bloodshed, power and speed.
I spoke with guitarist Rob Steinway and vocalist Jason Conde-Houston about their new album, its conceptual nature, the girth of steel influence, and the origin of their Eternia appellative.
MettleAngel: Greetings and felicitations my Brothers In Metal, I trust that you had a chance to read my review of your new album 'Agents Of Power' at www.metalcdratings.com.
MettleAngel: What did you think about what I had to say, aside from my few faux paus - based on blind ignorance - and only hearing a digital promo for reviewing purposes?
MettleAngel: I hear that! Just so you know, this interview will be posted at a site based in Sweden.
MettleAngel: I guess I did not even think that most of your reviews would be international.
MettleAngel: Followers of the band, and your past endeavours would promote your approach, I would think.
MettleAngel: Oh really? I first discovered you when I saw you live at "Warriors Of Metal III". I was very impressed with your performance, and even though it was early afternoon, we chatted, and then you went to my friend's hotel to bathe and unwind, shortly thereafter. Following that experience, I instantly became a fan, and now I am finally getting to interview you.
MettleAngel: I did not even know who you were then, and the name of the band made me a bit skeptical, until I caught your performance. I was unfamiliar with many of the early acts like yourself, Vanlade, Trazom, which I was told was Mozart spelt backwards.
MettleAngel: I know that it was your piercing vocals that drew me to the stage in the first place.
MettleAngel: At least you gained some following on your way to the fest, right?
MettleAngel: I agree, and I wish I could have attended the last two, but being a parent has its priorities. Just out of curiosity, I was wondering where you came up with the name for Skelator. I know it sounds a bit cliché, but is it because you are all fans of the "Masters Of The Universe" series?
MettleAngel: Maybe to a certain extent, but I watch "He-Man" and "She-Ra" with my son and wife and I like the feel of the nostalgia and the ever prevailing, still pertinent moral code.
MettleAngel: The movie is so cult with Courtney Cox and Billy Barty. I think they are planning another revamp with modern effects.
MettleAngel: I am sorry to interrupt, but I thought you said Matt Perry, and I instantly thought of the television show "Friends". Matt Rachel Perry was your original guitarist back in '98 who played on the 'Taste My Demon Seed' Demo. The artwork actually depicts She-Ra on the cover. How did you get permission for that?
MettleAngel: And yet you seem more fascinated by She-Ra, but Skelator is such a bad ass, and a love it when" Robot Chicken" spoofs him.
MettleAngel: I have not even seen the CKY video. It does seem that you have rather tongue-in-cheek approach about She-Ra. Have you ever planned to write an anthem about He-Mans' foe, or even Hordak himself? Are you fans of the works of "Filmation"? Which do you prefer, "He-Man" or "She-Ra"?
MettleAngel: Was not that the holiday Christmas special from the '80s?
MettleAngel: ...and his alter-ego Prince Adam seemed a bit epicene.
MettleAngel: They are making another live action Turtles movie too, but the original ones were so awesome! The new toys are killer, but I still have my originals still sealed!
MettleAngel: I had an original Evil-Lyn doll and she was yellow. It looked like she had jaundice. C'mon, the others lame, I do not think so, as Ram Man was the true headbanger, and skull crusher! Anyway, I know that you are also big advocates of Fantasy-based literature, as you have already written songs based on Tolkien's works. What inspired you to pursue the Elric series?
MettleAngel: Which band before you do you think best covered Moorcock? Would it be Dark Moor, Domine, BOC, other? As for me I think Domine nailed it!
MettleAngel: I agree, I love Domine, when will they release a new album, it has already been five years!
MettleAngel: I know you are also big fans of Manowar, and your cover of "Dark Avenger" is quite excellent. What do you think of their new album 'The Lord Of Steel'? I do not know one single Manowar fan who is impressed. Other than the final track "Hail, Kill And Die" this is just an utter embarrassment.
MettleAngel: I dug the EP as well. I have heard that Joey plans to remix it and re-release it again this fall.
MettleAngel: When bands like Majesty have reformed and Messenger are flying the flag, it is difficult to take Manowar seriously anymore.
MettleAngel: Did not the once revered Mel Gibson just do a movie called "Kill The Gringo"?
MettleAngel: You say that with such passion! Christ, I loved his '80s movies, and also "BraveHeart" and "The Patriot".
MettleAngel: Chris from Grave Digger? Their new album is damn good, but the (EP) is even better! Alright, back to the band at hand, Jason, when I saw you perform at "WOM III", you reminded me of a very young Eric A.K. Knutson from the early days of Flotsam & Jetsam. Do you feel that he is an influence on your vocal performance; especially, when you consider those first three unprecedented albums?
MettleAngel: Now that you mention it, I do detect a bit of Neil Turbin in your pitch, as well. Have you seen the vintage footage of Eric from F&J with the sword on stage? What other bands influenced your singing and stage theatrics?
MettleAngel: That sounds like something Sean Peck or Rob Lowe would say....
MettleAngel: 'Rocka Rolla' did not have too many highs, and it was more moody, and atmospheric, but with 'Sad Wings' and 'Sin After Sin', yes he shattered glass!
MettleAngel: I think he found his balance on the maligned 'Turbo', and under-appreciated 'Ram It Down'.
MettleAngel: I just played a ton of Priest lately having picked up the 30th Anniversary edition of 'Screaming For Vengeance'.
MettleAngel: What about James Rivera! Did you ever hear Labyrinth's cover of Sanctuary's "Die For My Sins" with Morby on vocals? I have noticed that there are two Robs in the band.
MettleAngel: I am reminded of the early days of Overkill. If you listen to those first two OK albums there is a solid blend of Thrash and Epic Metal present.
MettleAngel: Their last two studio albums are stellar!
MettleAngel: What is with the titles that you employ like Robbie Houston - "Guitar Of Power" or Rob Steinway - "Guitar Of Glory"?
MettleAngel: So you actually address one other by these OTT stage names?
MettleAngel: Hence my reference to Overkill...which is why Bobby uses the name "Blitz". Do those stage names add a bit of kitsch to the whole Skelator vibe, and if so, should we really take the band all that seriously? After all you have penned some really amazing songs.
MettleAngel: When I first heard "Circle Of Bloodshed", I was blown away, and turned many "Old School" fans on to your band, instantly. On the new album, the title track and "Rhythm Of The Chain" were quite awesome, but many of my fans did not like the bombastic, OTT approach of the "Elric" theme divided into 12 parts. What are your thoughts on this?
MettleAngel: I agree, and having both classic songs and conceptually based anthems allows for the band to create a wider appeal.
MettleAngel: Cool, you have been there, done that! If you were to classify Skelator, what genre would you feel is most appropriate? I tend to describe you as being Power Thrash.
MettleAngel: Ahhh variety...the spice girls of life...
MettleAngel: Who writes most of the music, you claim that it is collaborative effort.
MettleAngel: A song like "Dream Dictator" sounds like it might me a group effort.
MettleAngel: I did not know that Pat was so active in the song writing process...
MettleAngel: Jason, are you the main lyricist?
MettleAngel: I have to ask, who does those voice-overs on the Metal On Metal Records promo versions? I will never forget that shrill whisper in my ear when I downloaded a promo of 'Death To All Nations' from the site, "You are listening to Skelator..." spoken with such an eerie and haunting drawl. I am so grateful to actually have physical CD copies now with lyrics, photos, and no more brooding voice-overs! I think the production is better on the CD, as well.
MettleAngel: To say the least! Speaking of your label, tell me about the limited edition to 66 hand-numbered copies of the cassette reissue of 'Give Me Metal Or Give Me Death' on pro-tape format. Are those already sold out? I understand it also includes your 2000 demo 'Taste My Demon Seed' and has a three panel insert. What is the retro "new" fascination with cassettes? I love them, and still own thousands, which play perfectly.
MettleAngel: My buddies at Infernö Records are also releasing a lot of limited titles on this vintage format. Do fans go crazy for them? I actually assumed the cost would be more for a near obsolete format.
MettleAngel: Well, that sucks! What are your plans for touring? Are you playing any major festivals? I would love to get a chance to see you guys live once again. Let me know if you are coming back to Ohio.
MettleAngel: Are Attacker active again! I love their 'Second Coming' album. I heard rumours that Bobby "Leather Lungs" Lucas had joined as their new vocalist.
MettleAngel: Bob Mitchell left the band in 2008, right. Your label head Jowita Kaminska painted the cover art for the 'Standing The Test Of Time' Compilation by Attacker.
MettleAngel: You are yet another fledgling young act with such promise and no budget. I am amazed that all these crap acts get signed by bigger Independents, while the really quality bands are often overlooked. I heard this is what is happening with Zetro Sousa's new killer thrash act Hatriot.
MettleAngel: Well, if Accept & Kreator or Doro & Sister Sin can come to Columbus, then surely Skelator can attach themselves to a gig and head back my way.
Rob: We will have to see, as we are always so busy with our daily lives. Thank you Michael for taking the time to do this interview with us. Now for some shameless plugs: Check out www.reverbnation.com/trueskelator for show/tour information and to download a bunch of songs from all of our releases. Check out www.facebook.com/trueskelator for our social networking stuff. Check out www.youtube.com/user/skelatorswrath/videos for some classic Skelator live videos. Check out www.metal-on-metal.com for information about Metal On Metal Records.