DRUID LORD has built an almost cult following in the underground since its inception in 2010. Founded by Pete Slate (ex – EQUINOX, ex – ACHERON, ex – INCUBUS) and then joined by Tony Blakk (ex – EQUINOX, ex – ACHERON), the band has released high quality Doom / Death Metal enshrouded in a gloomy and dark atmosphere. They have also crafted a style of their own, developing their identity but also retaining a classic sound that is really difficult to find out there nowadays. Pete was kind enough to answer some questions related to the past, present and future of DRUID LORD. Read on.
Hi Pete, I hope you are doing fine. First off, after your time with EQUINOX, how did DRUID LORD come to life? Were Tony, Ben (Ross – guitars) and Steve (Spillers – drums) part of it from the start, since they were your band mates in EQUINOX?
"Hails! Right, EQUINOX had gotten to a point where I was just burned out. The band had some really good albums, but it was becoming more of a task trying to keep it running rather then enjoy playing music. I took about two years off to really put some new ideas together. I had the DRUID LORD name in my head for a few years, and it just felt right doing a band in the style of Doom / Death Metal. Steve (the original EQUINOX drummer) moved back to Florida and got in touch with me. We started just writing music together. We had about four songs when I realized I wanted to get Tony Blakk on vocals / bass as his style is perfect for the band. Plus we all were in EQUINOX and were friends for many years. Ben joined after the first album and it was then we did our first live shows together."
How did the band manage to release their debut album without any prior recordings? Was there a label only demo tape or something similar?
"Our initial plan was to do a demo with the four songs. We were contacting labels all over sending music, but it was Mike Juliano from Horror Pain Gore Death Productions that really offered us our first deal. I had heard about his label from a few friends of mine that put out the Death Metal book "Glorious times" and contacted Mike. Mike liked the tracks and was cool enough to give us a shot for the first album with really no music released at all. We already had a full album worth of material, so we went back into the studio and recorded the rest of the tracks. We sent the tracks to Mike, and had artist Matt Carr (Putrid) do the front and back cover. That became "Hymns For The Wicked"."
Was your debut album well received by the underground when it came out?
"Oh yeah. We had a lot of underground Metal shows play it and help spread the word. We also did a lot of interviews and used public media to really promote it. We had a German label Witches Tone Records press the LP. Overall "Hymns…" was raw as hell and I think the fans respected that. No overproduced bullshit. It was just pure Metal in our style. It was very well received and we got a lot of attention from its initial release. In fact it was re-released by Doomentia Records a few years later with two bonus tracks in a special format."
Is there a main composer or do all members have a saying when coming up with new songs?
"I usually come up with some guitar riffs in my head that I work out first. Then as a band we organize the parts with our drummer Elden and jam out the song to make sure everything flows. We all share the input as we arrange the songs and make necessary changes. The guys may have parts to add or change. Myself and Tony will come up with lyrical themes once the songs are written. It’s really a group effort in my eyes."
You all have proven experience in Death Metal. And now you have incorporated Doom Metal into your style. Which bands would you say have influenced you (and your band mates) the most when it comes down to Doom Metal? Did the mix of Death and Doom Metal just come up naturally when the band started?
"It was a natural process for me as the inspiration for doing this type of music was always there. It was just the right time to do it. I noticed that bands like HOODED MENACE, DISMA, ACID WITCH were getting a lot of attention and since EQUINOX wasn’t doing anything I felt it was the time to bring DRUID LORD into existence. I grew up with HELLHAMMER, MAYHEM (Dead era) CELTIC FROST, VENOM, SABBATH, CIRITH UNGOL and of course in the early days of Death Metal bands like INCUBUS (FL), NECROVORE, POSSESSED, early DEATH, AUTOPSY really made an impact. I don’t think DRUID LORD really sounds like those bands, but we take inspiration from those groups."
Do you go for a certain sound when coming up with new ideas and songs or do you just let the songs evolve as you work on them?
"When composing the songs I usually hear the riff in my mind, then I jam out the parts on guitar to make sure the parts flow. I come up with a "skeleton" of ideas that I present to the band. The music must have a certain or haunting mood about it. Then from there it evolves as we add parts. Even when jamming with the drums we may have other ideas and changes until we are pleased with the final results. Other times we may write riffs around an idea or just a song title can spark the way certain guitar parts are written."
Who writes the lyrics and what is the inspiration behind them?
"Tony and I write all the lyrics for the band. It’s really just horror based lyrics that are completely inspired from old horror films from the sixties, seventies and eighties. We also draw inspiration from books, novels, real life stories of crazed individuals. A lot of dark age folklore and Gothic tales. Imagery of castles, plagues, witches, the dead. Each song takes on its own twisted journey."
Up to your latest album, "Grotesque Offerings" Ben and Steve were part of the band. Did they just leave the band or were there other reasons behind it? How did Elden Santos (drums) become the newest member of the band?
"Steve left the band during the writing phase of "Grotesque Offerings." He’s a solid drummer and we had great times but overall there were some tensions between members that just weren’t getting resolved. It was a mutual decision that had to be reached. At this point our current drummer Elden stepped into DRUID LORD. Elden adds a new dimension to the band. Ben leaving was a mutual decision. He had been back and forth for a few years but it finally got to a point he just no longer wanted to play music. Chris Wicklein from the Florida band KILLING ADDICTION has been there for us when Ben left the first time a few years ago. Chris is now a permanent member of the band since the summer. This line-up is as strong as ever."
Looking back at your first album, do you think your sound has evolved up to "Grotesque Offerings"? Did Elden had any influence on the new album or was he a perfect fit in the band in terms of keeping up with DRUID LORD’s sound and atmosphere?
"Yes, for sure. I think we started seeing the songs evolving with our EP "Druid Death Cult". Those two songs ‘Druid Death Cult’ and ‘Curse Of The Skull’ were the beginning of what has evolved today. Moody, thick horror drenched tracks that twist and turn. The songs have a certain heaviness or foreboding feeling in the sense that dread and gloom lurk until the of the track. There is no happy endings in these tracks… haha. Everything is more thought out. The lead guitar parts just add to the elements. The bass and drums work in a (certain) way and they’re are also a big part of the tracks. Elden’s drumming definitely fits the band. It’s the fills he does here and there that just blow me away. This isn’t music we just throw together in minutes. We take our time writing and recording to make sure it all works."
Do you think "Grotesque Offerings" displays what DRUID LORD is about as a band? Is there anything you would have changed if given the opportunity?
"Over all we are very pleased with the album. "Grotesque Offerings" captures the DRUID LORD feeling, and I feel it’s a true representation of the band. Changes… not really. Maybe a few minor changes with the mix but nothing major. Sometimes the drums can sound a bit mechanical in the mix. True musicians can always find flaws in their own works and recordings. However, we learn from those experiences to make the next album even better."
You were also a member of bands such as ACHERON and INCUBUS. What has changed since your time with those bands? Do you think your time with these bands influenced you as a musician and as a composer?
"I was a young guy just happy to be playing in damn great Death Metal bands of that time. INCUBUS were writing some really aggressive songs back in the day. I was playing rhythm guitar in the band right up to the recording of what would be "Beyond The Unknown" I lived a few hours away, but would drive to Tampa, Florida on the weekends to rehearse. I would practice those songs all week for weeks and they were brutally fast for back then. That gave me the mindset to keep working hard and it will pay off. Being in ACHERON gave me some opportunity to write material with Vincent. I played on the "Rites Of The Black Mass" album but I didn’t write any of that material. However, we had a band before ACHERON called MYTHOS that did have a whole album worth of material that never saw the light of day. Being in both of those bands gave me the confidence to form my own bands and write material. I really take seriously what I write and compose. I’m so much more into guitar tones and how the band sounds live and in the studio. Everything I’ve done in my past is what led me to where I’m now as a musician and songwriter."
Do you see the band evolving in its sound and concept? Or are you satisfied with the sound and concept behind DRUID LORD?
"I think there is always room to grow and evolve. It’s a natural process, but we will always keep the sound and concept true. We have found and created the atmosphere we feel is a true representation of the band. It will only get more dark and gloomy from here."
The music business has also changed a lot since the start of the "digital era". Do you still manage the band the same way you used to or have you embraced all these changes? What is your opinion on the actual state of the underground and your local scene?
"Embrace it all the way. Digital downloads are part of this generation. Myself personally I’m into vinyl, cassette, CDs. From a merchandising perspective we will continue to put out all formats. Hit it from all angles. I’m proud of the fact we’ve worked with some of the best horror artists from this genre who’s artwork has graced our album covers, layouts and shirts. The scene… I’m always torn when someone asks me about my thoughts of the scene. There are a million bands that all sound the same. Back in the day you had maybe 40 bands to keep track of instead of 400. I look for the few that really stick out from the pack. Out of 100 bands I find about 10 that I can listen to. It’s those bands that keep the scene fresh. Denmark and Finland have had some sick bands emerging over the last few years. I still check out new music constantly. To stay current you need to see what’s happening around the scene and what’s making an impact. I still buy music from bands I discover."
How many gigs have DRUID LORD played so far? Do you have a favorite venue to play at? Are there any memorable or funny stories worth telling?
"We’ve done a ton of shows over our career so honestly I can’t even being to count. One of my favorite ‘local’ venues is a small club called Wills Pub here in Orlando. A small place but it has a true underground feel. We played there countless times with bands like COUGH, INCANTATION, THE OBSESSED and others. We played a private party about two years ago for a good friend of ours. He invited all our good friends and raging manics to this big house. We set up inside and just blast the doom. One night this guy came up and asks if he can play with us. Looking puzzled I say "sure, why not" and precede to ask what instrument he plays. He pulls out a harmonica out of his pocket and I’m like "what the hell". So before the band starts to do a DRUID LORD song I just start playing a SABBATH type riff alone and he joins in on the harmonica. I was thinking "this sounds fucking awful!!" He was just blowing random, screeching notes on this harmonica that didn’t fit anything I was playing on the guitar. I just stopped playing after about a minute and said "thanks man" we gave him a gesture to just leave the stage area… people at the party didn’t know what the hell to think."
Besides promoting the new album, are there any other plans in a near future?
"I’m working on two new tracks for a new 7" EP. There are talks with Hells Headbangers for that. We are also in the process of finding a booking agent to get our asses out out the road. We want to come to Europe and abroad and play for our fans. We have a lot of interest overseas, so now it’s just find the right people to make it happen."
Thank you so much for taking the time and answering these questions. The last words are yours. Take care man!
"Thanks for the interview. We’ve respected Voices From The Darkside from our early days. It’s always a pleasure! Cheers, and look for DRUID LORD on Facebook, Instagram and our main site for merch. Doom on!!!!!!!!!!"