FeaturesKryptos – Full Speed Ahead

Kryptos – Full Speed Ahead

Photo: Vishal Dey

Traditional heavy metal has been a gateway aspect of this style that penetrates this scribe’s passion for the genre since adolescence. Artists like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Accept among others during the early 80s delivered stellar material – and forty years later, are still going strong along with a newer breed that keep people motivated to support the movement even more. Kryptos is another reliable act continually possessing the right songwriting, sound, style, and imagery to capture a global audience through their records and live performances. Decimator as the latest record could be their most electrifying set of songs to date – a half-hour wrecking ball that gets in, gets out, leaving you breathless or desiring another instantaneous playback. We caught up again with vocalist/guitarist Nolan Lewis to give us the details of their recent stolen equipment fiasco while in Europe that halted future tour plans, the behind-the-scenes outlook on Decimator including working with producer Jamie Elton, how the single choices have helped set up the anticipation of the full album, underrated metal/hard rock albums, thoughts on developing a space course to fuel the imaginations / curiosity of humanity, and what’s on the schedule for 2024-2025.

Dead Rhetoric: I’d like to start this interview with the unfortunate incident that took place while you were on the road and had your musical gear stolen (and sold off) by who you thought was a trustworthy bus / crew driver on tour recently in the Czech Republic. What exactly took place, how come you were told you can’t recover your own equipment (as he owned up to the theft), and how does this make you feel when it comes to trusting outside people relating to Kryptos endeavors especially touring outside of your home country?

Nolan Lewis: It was a big shock to us. We had hired him for previous tours, and he was a nice guy. We got along very well. We did the first leg of our recent European tour with him. Everything went smoothly and we had a lot of fun, we trusted him completely. We never imagined in a million years that something would happen like this. The first leg ended, he was supposed to take the equipment with him because we were supposed to use the same van, he was going to drive us around for the second leg and everything was already paid for. He was going to take things back to Prague, and we were going to meet up with him for the second leg in Germany, starting the second leg but he never showed up. He stopped replying to messages, he didn’t pick up phone calls, we managed to get in touch with his girlfriend, and his girlfriend tried to give us some story that he committed suicide. We had a lot of equipment, and we had to make do with what we had.

We sent him a slightly threatening message that we were going to go to the cops, we will pursue legal action if you don’t return our stuff, and that made him pay attention. We had a gig in Prague on the tour, so he sent us a message back saying he went to the police station, confessed to the crime, and tried to help us get our stuff back. He confessed to everything, and the police didn’t do anything about it. It got us thinking that maybe the cops were even involved. He sold it to a pawn shop, he gave the pawn shop’s address, and they went back to the pawn shop, checked with him, and they couldn’t find anything, yet this guy is walking free. The financial loss was super heavy on us, and we are still knee deep in the red. Because of that we had to cancel our Australian tour that we were planning on for later this year because there is no way we can get there without our gear.

A lawyer offered to help us out to get our gear. Again, there was hardly any response from the police. The cops are on holiday, so they are not going to pursue the case right now. It’s super weird. The worst thing about it was it was a guy we trusted completely. He was a friend, when we came back to India he was talking to us, he was part of the band because we spent so much time on the road together. We still can’t believe it happened.

Dead Rhetoric: You made a conscious decision not to go the crowdfunding route to recover from these losses… has there been some outside support trying to help you out even though you didn’t directly set something up?

Lewis: The thing is, we have always been against this kind of crowdfunding, unless it was a life and death situation. In this case, we suffered quite heavy financial losses but at the end of the day it’s our responsibility, we take the blame that this happened to us. It’s not fair for other people to cover for a mistake that we made. We ask everyone if they want to support us to go to our Bandcamp page, buy a t-shirt, buy a CD, buy vinyl. That’s a lot better. We are not against crowdfunding, and we see a lot of bands doing cool stuff. In our case, it’s on us so we take it on our shoulders.

Dead Rhetoric: The latest album Decimator is another outstanding effort for the band – solid as steel in your command and knowledge for heavy metal. Where do you see this record sitting in the discography of the band – were there specific elements that you wanted to emphasize this time around as far as the tones, riffs, melodies, harmonies, or other songwriting aspects?

Lewis: I guess every band says their latest album is their best album yet. We could say the same thing. I think this is our most focused effort so far. We worked on the songs to be really concise, to the point. It’s like half an hour long – there’s no fluff at all. We get in and say what we have to say, then get out. If people want to listen to it again, that’s great – come along for the ride. If you want more, you can play it over again. We could have made the album a little longer, but nowadays I see bands these days putting out 70–80-minute albums, but half an hour of it is at least filler. We definitely did not want to do that. We wanted it to have quality top to bottom, without any dip. That’s the approach we went with for this album.

It’s more of a classic style. We have always had that, but in this album a song like “Fall to the Spectre’s Gaze” or a song like “In the Shadow of the Blade”, it was like old Rainbow with Dio used to do. The title track has a full on sci-fi, epic technology meets dystopian vibe to it. It has all these different elements to it, and we have the anthems like “Electrify” and “We Are the Night” which are Accept-like anthems. It has a bit of everything. On previous albums, we had some of this, but on this album, everything is very focused and to the point. It was exactly what we were going for.

Jamie mixed, mastered, and produced the album, and that was important. We got to hear what someone from the outside thinks of what we do. He loves the classic stuff, but his perspective was different. Some of the songs got trimmed down, and it’s a great blend of those different influences.

Dead Rhetoric: What was it like working with Jamie Elton as the producer for this record? What did you enjoy most about his approach, input, or suggestions that helped the process?

Lewis: It was super cool. It was like working with an old friend. We met once in Sweden before this, but we hadn’t hung out or anything. Once we started rolling, we were sending ideas back and forth and talking every day. He’s very chill, laid back. A lot of his suggestions were amazing. Amp mics, mic placement, how you should stand when you are singing, we aren’t really into the technical side of things. That was really cool that we got to work with somebody that knew how to do all these things in the studio. It was nice that he was straight with his feedback, and he didn’t mince words at all. If something sucked, he didn’t hesitate to tell us it sucked. That was great. When you are writing your own music, you never know whether it’s really good or not.

You spend so much time with your songs. They are like your own babies, and you don’t want to hear anything bad about them. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet, you need to change things to get better. There were times when Jamie would suggest something and we would push back, we liked things the way they were. He helped us to try different things, think outside the box, and we would understand when he was right. A good producer knows more than the band. Producers always guide bands into the right direction. In that sense, he was fantastic.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released four singles to date for the record – as it seems the current business model that helps the long-term promotion for a record includes a steady, consistent song to song release schedule up to the full album hitting the streets. What are your thoughts on this type of promotion – as I’d imagine you prefer as an album-oriented act, listeners ingest music on that full front to back basis?

Lewis: Yeah. I would prefer people just pick up the album and listen to it top to bottom. In this day and age, you need to keep getting music out. There’s so much music coming out and so many bands releasing (things). I guess in that sense it’s important a single comes out every month or every two months to keep interest going, keep things fresh, and keep our name on people’s minds. That was the schedule our label made for us – a single every month and it just builds up until the album gets released. So far, four singles have been released and we’ve got a lot of good feedback from people on these songs. A lot of people have already pre-ordered the album because of the singles, and that’s a great thing. They have built up quite a bit of interest. We hope it really translates once the album comes out.

As far as our online numbers are concerned, from what we can see they are going through the roof. So, I guess things are going through the roof.

Dead Rhetoric: Subhuman Illustration handled the cover art again – and it’s another dynamic, explosive piece of work, rivalling what you would expect from bands in the 80s like Judas Priest, Manowar, and Riot to name a few. Discuss the process to come up with this final piece – and do you believe your fans/followers appreciate the full-package work ethic you put into these aspects that hopefully help them purchase the vinyl, CD’s, and other pieces when it comes to your merch?

Lewis: Subhuman Illustration, she’s from Columbia. She is a fantastic artist, and she’s been working with us for quite some time. She is really easy to work with – we gave her the lyrics to “Decimator”, a really brief concept of what things should be like, and she knows what kinds of bands we listen to, what kind of music we like. She listens to those same bands – and she popped out that cover in no time. She drew it completely by hand, that’s amazing. In this day and age of AI art, to have something that’s hand drawn is cool.

It definitely does bring to mind old Judas Priest, Riot – we love Defenders of the Faith and Thundersteel, album covers like that. The songs reflect what the artwork cover shows, a raging metal machine of an album. I guess a lot of people really appreciate the artwork, especially when they see it online. It’s very classic, and reminiscent of the good old days of heavy metal. Bands don’t seem to be doing that these days, they prefer the more photoshopped, digital kind of art. We are not that kind of band, and a lot of the fans appreciate that, keeping it very old school and staying very true to its roots.

Dead Rhetoric: What is your opinion on the use of AI within the music industry and the tools available?

Lewis: We wouldn’t use it, but if some bands use it, whatever makes them happy, that’s their prerogative. As far as we are concerned, whatever we make should be made with our own hands, and our own brains. I don’t think we would ever do an AI cover, it’s just not our style. Who knows, maybe there are some bands that need that machine-like aspect to help them.

Dead Rhetoric: Considering the healthy interest in new albums from old school artists as well as many younger, new acts putting their touch on the traditional metal movement (and its offshoots), do you believe that the scene is getting stronger in your home country as well as abroad – especially coming off of this prolonged global pandemic?

Lewis: I can’t really say it’s getting stronger as such. For our country, if you take the scene as a whole, there are more Indian bands releasing albums, there are more bands going abroad and touring. I’m not really sure how much longer it’s going to carry on, things are actually getting difficult back home. Especially when touring abroad, we just heard the US is raising fees for international bands that want to tour there, almost four times. Bands won’t be able to go to the US if that’s the case. In the UK the costs have increased. If bands don’t have an outlet to tour and go elsewhere, there won’t be as much motivation for bands here to do what they want to do.

Within the country, India has a severe lack of live venues that allow metal bands to play. A lot of these places aren’t made for metal bands to play at. In our city, most of those venues have shut down or moved on to different forms of music. There are a handful of venues that will host metal gigs. Abroad, if you look at the NWOBHM scene, a lot of the classic bands are still doing what they do and doing it well – some of them are not doing it so well. Satan is doing amazing, releasing amazing albums, Saxon too. On the other hand, new bands like Riot City, Enforcer, all great bands. I can’t really see that spirit that was there in the 80s. Nowadays a lot of bands these days place this emphasis on making sure that the sound is classic, but the attitude and feeling isn’t there. When you listened to Piece of Mind, Defenders of the Faith, even Holy Diver, you feel the emotion in there. I think it’s missing in most bands these days – they may sound the part, they may look the part, but something isn’t exactly quite right. The feeling isn’t coming from where it should be coming from. It’s misplaced.

Dead Rhetoric: We know you have a vast love of all kinds of heavy metal and hard rock – what would you consider three to five of the most underrated albums in the genre that people need to spend more time enjoying and processing?

Lewis: There are so many of those! I have to think about it. Ashbury – Endless Skies. Only the hardcore Ashbury fans talk about this, and maybe those deep in the underground. It’s more like a 70s proto-metal album, stunning guitar work, phenomenal artwork. Definitely early Fates Warning – not a lot of people talk about The Spectre Within, that’s one of their best albums. I know the most famous one is Awaken the Guardian, but I love this one. One of my favorite bands in the hard rock genre from Canada is Triumph – Allied Forces. Nobody talks about that; Rik Emmett’s voice is incredible. Triumph is one band people should look into. And Magnum for sure – the old stuff for sure. Wings of Heaven, top quality. From the newer bands, The Night Eternal, the latest album Fatale is another phenomenal album.

Dead Rhetoric: Now that you are in your mid-40’s, how have your views on life changed and developed compared to what you considered important or worth doing during your 20s and 30s? In retrospect, are there specific things that you wish you had spent more time on in the past that you value now?

Lewis: As far as the band is concerned, we are getting on in age and the band is growing quite a bit. We should have been doing what we are doing now back in our twenties. We had a lot more energy. We are all more mature, we have grown up a bit. We should have made a lot of the decisions that we are making now, the band would have been a lot further down the road. That’s just how it is, like they always say, hindsight is 20-20. It is what it is. We are making the best of what we have right now. What if we had made different turns down the road 10-15 years ago?

Dead Rhetoric: If you had the chance to develop a high school or college-level course on any subject matter outside of your music career, what would you teach and why do you think this course would be important for the younger generation to learn and absorb?

Lewis: Wow, that’s a good question. It would probably be on space exploration. People need to let their imaginations loose. It used to be the case growing up, there was no internet to feed us with so much information. A lot of unnecessary stuff these days. Back then, you could sit in a quiet room and let your mind run free and just wander. It’s what the human race should be doing, thinking about exploring more and have an open mind, not be boxed in to these compartments and fighting with each other about stupid things. We should all just free our minds, all these man-made chains that keep us locked up. I’m fascinated by space, that’s why we have sci-fi concepts in our songs. There is so much we don’t know about what’s out there – looking up at the night sky, the universe is unimaginable. That’s what humanity needs to work on, feeding our curiosity and go out there.

They need to teach this a lot more in school. Show them what humanity is capable of – not just fighting for religion, fighting about race, fighting about dumb things. It’s poisoning the minds of young people, unnecessary wars and conflicts. I remember when I was growing up, a lot of people my age were into space, we would read books on planets, think about what could be out there. Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and that was a great time. Somewhere down the line, it’s all been missing. Explore and ask questions about what is out there.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s next on the agenda related to Kryptos going into the next year or so? Are you hopeful that these unfortunate setbacks will pay dividends in the long run, not breaking the spirit or resolve for the band?

Lewis: We are not the kind of band that will dissolve. We have been going too long to let this stop us. It might take a little while to recover. We want to tour Australia; we are getting offers for festivals for next year. Things are in the works. We want to support the album. On the flip side, maybe next year people will get so used to the new album, they’ll want to hear the new songs more. We are not stopping for anything; we will keep going full speed ahead. We’ve faced enough shit over the years to not let this stop us.

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