Starkill – Emerging from Shadow

Thursday, 10th November 2016

Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of melody, “Through the Darkness” and “Piece of Paradise” are some of the most melodic tracks you’ve done. Where’d the inspiration come from to branch out in your sound in such a way?

Jameson: When we were writing the music for Shadow Sleep, some of the songs and riffs were up to two years old. We started really heavy on the pre-production, actually 12 months ago exactly. It’s funny, Facebook reminded me of a status I posted one year ago today – “just finished the recording of the solo for Burn Your World.” So it’s officially 12 months in the works for some of those songs. Sarah officially was added to the studio line-up after about half the tracks were written. So we went back and put her in songs like “Captive of the Night” and in the choir section on “No Savior” and “Razor’s Edge” and once we realized that she was available, that’s when I wrote “Piece of Paradise” and “Through the Darkness.” So those are the two newest songs on the album. I don’t want to say that they are pushing our envelope to far – it’s still reflective of bands that I listen to. I just wanted to make the album diverse – I think every Starkill album is diverse, this one more so than the other ones by far. It was like, here’s other stuff that we do that we like – get used to it [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: In terms of Sarah and her involvement in the band, how are you going to handle that aspect when you play live?

Jameson: Currently she is still in school, so I know we are going to have her on the Milwaukee date, and I think the Chicago date [of the Dark Tranquillity tour] and stuff like that. If we get bigger and more applicable tours, then we would obviously try to work her into a full tour. I think that “Piece of Paradise” and “Through the Darkness” are her biggest ones. She’s got little bits in “Shadow Sleep” and “Captive” in more of a Cradle of Filth/Fleshgod Apocalypse-style application so for songs like that, we have all of the choir – we layered her up a couple times to get those bigger sounding things – those are going to be tucked into the tracks for atmospheric purposes. On the dates that she plays with us, then we’ll have her behind a mic and doing everything. I would hope that maybe we could get a Delain-like tour or something like that – where we could actually bring her out and showcase the full musical range that we put on the album and do it live. The setlist we have for Dark Tranquillity has a few songs that have her ambience kind of filling in on the songs. For now, we are just waiting for a tour that would make sense to bring her out.

For album four, which we are writing, we are already employing a lot more of her. For Shadow Sleep we started writing without knowing she would be on it. Now we are writing new music knowing that she is available, which is changing how we are writing some of the newer stuff already.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you plan on spreading out into different types of tours with the more broad sound of the new album?

Jameson: Absolutely. I think anyone who has met any of us know that yes, we play in a metal band, but we are not very metal people. Some of our favorite bands are everything from M-83 to Michael Jackson to Adele. There are people who would straight up hate our guts for admitting that publically but it’s like…we still listen to a lot of melodic music, big fucking deal. I played saxophone for ten years. We absolutely want to do more diverse tours. I think even non-metalheads can appreciate the musicality and the melodicness behind Starkill’s music, and I want our music to be exposed to more people than the typical guy in a Pantera jean-vest [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: There’s a lot that you can do with that approach. If you limit yourself to just going out with melodic death metal bands, you are going to repeat youselves [in the market]…

Jameson: I’m stoked for Dark Tranquillity, and I would love to go out with bands like In Flames and Soilwork, because that’s amazing and I think they are applicable tours that we would jump on in a heartbeat. But I definitely wouldn’t mind more melodic, less heavy stuff too, just for the sheer diversity factor. Keep in mind, it’s also something that we have to work with and listen to every day. So any variation in the dynamic of the tour lifestyle makes it more interesting, and we learn things from every tour we are on. You take something away from Sepultura, you take something away from Epica, and from a professional standpoint, and I like seeing how different genres and bands do their things. That also affects the writing process after the tour too. But I like keeping new things coming in for the experience.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you do or any of the band do lessons when you are out on the road?

Jameson: I haven’t – we would like to, but sometimes there’s a limit as to what the first band on the package is allowed to do. If you are the headliner, you can do whatever you want – you can guestlist people, you can have people pay you for a guitar lesson in exchange for a guest pass. If I were to do things like lessons, it might conflict with the formality and respect behind the headliner. We are contemplating maybe doing a string of headlining dates early or mid-year in 2017 so it’s something we would consider. I do teach guitar lessons and Spencer does teach drum lessons, but the logistics behind letting in a fan into the headliner’s venue…it’s a respect thing. Down the road, yes – but it’s not something we can currently do.

Dead Rhetoric: I know we’ve talked about it already, but to flesh it out in terms of the fourth album – you’ve already started writing and thinking about it?

Jameson: Yeah – for album three, some of the riffs are between two years and 8 months old. The newest song on the record was “Piece of Paradise,” which I wrote in March when we were finalizing the pre-production for everything else. But we write all the time because we like it, and we have to, and it takes a while. Like I said, it’s been twelve months since “Burn Your World.” What we like to do is listen to new songs incessantly, play them in the practice space and see what needs to be tweaked. If you listen to a song after you play it with your bandmates, you think about parts you can harmonize or add some flair – so we like to write stuff well in advance so we have time to rehearse it.

As far as different stuff that we are already experimenting with – I think that after everyone listens to Shadow Sleep, people will be less surprised by the differences between album four and three…I know the shock factor that is going to come when people hear Shadow Sleep vs Fires of Life or Virus of the Mind. We are definitely doing a more Epica/Nightwish/Trivium kind of thing. There’s a lot more bombast than album three. There’s a very big catchy factor on album three, which we are still slightly employing on album four, but again, we know we have Sarah from the start so we have added more exclusive verses and choruses featuring her. She’ll play a bigger, or at least a different role. We currently have 5-6 tracks that we know will be on the record. I have no idea what the remaining six will be like…we all engineer and we all record so there is always new stuff coming in every week when we jam.

Dead Rhetoric: By writing as you go, do you feel it weeds out some of the weaker songs before you get to the studio?

Jameson: Yes – that was another difference between Fires, Virus, and Shadow Sleep. We walked into the new record with 22 songs almost fully written and if they weren’t strong enough, they didn’t make the cut. We never did that on Fires. It was the first 10 songs I ever wrote, and they all ended up on the album. On Virus on the Mind, we booked the studio time when we only had 5 songs completed so we were finishing up the songs while we were in there. It was weird and it was a challenge, but I’ll never do that again [laughs]. We already know we will be engineering album four a lot, if not more so than album three, which makes it more comfortable and easier and lets us experiment with sound and vocal harmonies and stuff like that.

Dead Rhetoric: I also seem to remember talking about some cover songs at the beginning of the year. Did you end up recording any of them?

Jameson: We did a couple covers that are sitting on my hard drive that needed more time. We did a lot of the engineering and tracking by our home studio, and then we had Chuck Macak, who works at Electrowerks – he did our previous two albums and does work for Fall of Troy and Oceano – we didn’t have the time for him to mix some of the more huge things we were working on. We were working on a Foo Fighters cover, which is super badass. We did a Sum 41 cover, and we were thinking of maybe doing a cover EP in the next year or two. If not that, I’d like to slap them on the next record as bonus tracks.

The other thing that I’m working on right now is for the Indiegogo. One of the perks was that we’d play any song that someone wanted in our own style. Right now I’m working on a Boys II Men cover which is almost done and a Dream Theater cover, which is turning out super amazing. They are private releases for the people who individually purchased them, but I think this Dream Theater one might end up being more expensively recorded down the line because it’s a really good fit for us. Then we are doing an Ozzy cover also, which is very applicable and very Children of Bodom-y the way we are going about it. I like doing cover tracks. I think the only cover track that we have played live is “The Kids Are Alright” by The Offspring, which is pretty hilarious with a huge brass section…it’s really cool. Down the road we definitely want to do something with the Foo Fighters cover and probably something with the Dream Theater cover.

Dead Rhetoric: You have the Dark Tranquillity tour rapidly approaching – what comes next for Starkill after that? Anything solid or is it all just tentative at the moment?

Jameson: Tentative is definitely the word. I’m working on a tour that might come together but can’t really talk about for Feb-March, and we are trying to put a headliner together for the late spring. I won’t know more for another week or two. But if everything goes the way it’s slated out, we will probably be on the road again in North America in February, and then doing something either again in North America or Europe…we are really trying to get back there and headline, maybe April-ish. We always have these 25-30 minute setlists, and it’d be fun to go out with an hour-long set where we can play stuff from all three albums. With Shadow Sleep, some of the songs are like 3-minutes long so we can play a ton of them, but if we want to play something from Fires of Life, where there are a couple of 6-7 minute tracks it’s harder and less economical to throw those on. So for the Dark Tranquillity tour, we aren’t playing anything off Fires…tracks are too long and we are trying to promote the new stuff. We’ll save the headliner stuff for the spring.

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