Interview with VIRAL TYRANT

Interview with VIRAL TYRANT

- in Written interviews

“Vultures Like You” combines elements of doom, sludge, black, and thrash metal. How did you manage to blend these diverse influences while maintaining a cohesive sound that represents VIRAL TYRANT‘s unique style?
Dylan – “I think that blend is what makes a cohesive sound for us – the blend of all of those influences is what produces the Viral Tyrant sound and it stems from all of our individual and collective influences and interests. So all of those influences get distilled in the writing process which is highly collaborative – and the end result is a cohesive and hopefully really unique sound incorporating all those elements. The last thing we want is to be just another doom band playing fuzzy stoner riffs through loud amps. I mean there’s nothing wrong with it, but we want to bring an edge and heaviness beyond that to our music which makes it a little more aggressive. Vocally as well, that’s the reason for our approach with the dual vocals with primarily Eric’s unclean/blackened vocals leading the way often.”

The band’s music is labeled as “Blackened Hardcore Psychedelic Sludge,” a genre that isn’t often seen in today’s doom metal scene. Can you elaborate on the sonic characteristics and themes that define this genre and how they are reflected in your music?
Eric – The “Blackened, Hardcore, Psychedelic Sludge” labeling is more a descriptive label than “genre” label. The general themes of these individual genres all relate to our creative goals. Lyrically we got most of those marks– Dark themes= blackened; societal critique= Hardcore; psychedelic= abstract mysticism; Sludge is how we approach song structure. We love all of these genres individually but do not wholly commit to any of them so it blends into a “descriptive sentence to describe a genre label”. Sonically it’s unavoidable due to our love of these types of genres. We see and feel the similarities that these genres share- The washed out wall of noise that is black metal relates directly to the psychedelic wall of sound jams; the simplicity of a heavy break down groove in hardcore relate to the simplicity and warmth of sludge. Then there is our tone. The overall tone of our music (amps, drums, feeling, subject matter, etc) is parallel to all of these genres simultaneously. Basically, we fall into this genre because it’s what we unintentionally are.

“Vultures Like You” was mixed by Rob Wrong and mastered by Tad Doyle. How did their involvement contribute to shaping the sound and overall vision of the album, and what was it like working with these renowned figures in the industry?
Dylan – “Working with Rob was an incredible experience – his studio is small, very cozy and somehow he manages to produce the most incredible drum sound in his space! He is truly devoted to furthering his craft and is constantly iterating and improving his equipment and technique as a producer. We had all of the songs fully written and formed but his input on the mix, especially, was invaluable and due to his experience it ended up sounding amazing. He has been playing this style of music for a long time and all of us have been huge fans of Witch Mountain and Iommi Stubbs so it was a natural fit for us – we view ourselves very much as in debt to his contribution to the scene in the Northwest. Similarly with Tad – Rob has worked really closely with Tad on mastering for a lot of projects, so we trusted the recommendation implicitly. The vinyl master of this album is truly next level – I highly encourage everyone to give this a spin on vinyl on good speakers, it’s a totally different experience and that is due to Tad’s expertise! Casey and I especially are northwest born and raised and are huge grunge enthusiasts so it was an incredible opportunity for us to work with Tad.”

How has the addition of drummer Mitch Meidinger impacted the band’s sound and dynamics, and what does each member bring to the table creatively?
Dylan – “Bringing Mitch on board is the single biggest factor in the evolution of this band. He is an incredible player, with an incredible ear for nuance and detail in the music. He pushes himself to get better all the time and that makes us better. He is equally comfortable locking into a slow doom groove as he is pushing the pace with some double kick, but his real quality is his understanding of dynamics – he more than anyone contributes to dynamics within a song and that is tremendously important to us. To have tonal and atmospheric diversity within songs and from song to song is really important to us, and Mitch really plays a key role in that. Beyond that, this band is a true collaboration. Myself and Eric usually write most of the riffs (though Casey certainly contributes), so we will usually bring a riff or even a full complete set of riffs, and then it will morph and change from there with more or less equal input from everyone. We like to play instinctually and not over-think things, but we also take time to really feel out each idea and make sure it fits within a given song. Also we jam a lot, and many of our ideas have stemmed from us just picking up and playing – that also helps to build chemistry between the members musically and I think that is a huge part of what makes us a good band – we really know and understand each other musically now and that came about through jamming and writing but only after Mitch came on board. We have him to thank for leveling up, no doubt. One day we would love to play a fully improvised jam set, as self-indulgent as that may be.

Mitch – “It is an honor working with each and every member of this band. When an idea hits the table everyone has their own take on the song. When we write together everyone is playing what they feel – and as long as there is a solid backbone driving everything, it always ends up working. As a drummer it is nice to have pure trust from the rest of the band to give me ultimate freedom behind the kit. The raging guitars and funky heavy bass lines are fun to say the least, the vocals are like poetry from Eric and Casey. Dylan always has the licks and organizational skills.”

How would you say your sound has evolved and progressed since Blunt Force, and what experiences or influences have contributed to this growth?
Eric – “In the lead up to the Blunt Force demo I (Eric) had just joined the band. With this, our style began to really develop. I brought an aggressive approach to vocals and add a new tonal variable to add to Dylan and Casey’s solid song writing culture, along with their fuzz and thunder. Once the addition of Mitch on drums was established, the sound/ideas/compositions really began to solidify. Mitch’s contribution lit a fire under our proverbial asses. We liked what we heard and began to go forward with more vigor. Our sound has tightened up, the songs have evolved with a bit more sophistication.

Could you discuss the lyrical themes and concepts explored in the album and how they align with the band’s overall artistic vision?
Casey – This is a big question because we’ve actually been a “band” since just before I joined in 2016. I came in on an invite based on a previous member hitting me up during that pre Viral Tyrant incarnation and I was in a phase of my life where I was trying to say ‘yes’ to people more rather than staying isolated. I remember the first riff we were all playing all the time was the riff that would eventually become the song “Vosturan” which is our first single! We decided that incarnation of our band wanted to do our best to be a “doom metal band” whatever that means now. At the time, it felt like being a Sabbath-worship sorta thing, so this riff was our tribute to Sabbath in it’s root kind of way. We have since expanded beyond these ideas, but at the time we had this idea that the band’s identity was all about a resistance of screens and social media. And the idea behind Vosturan was that it was our own Lovecraftian Elder God that was a sort of puppet master that cast its hooks down for its cultists via screens and technology to distract from the real problems that plague us, some sort of cyber-oriented demon. Everything we write lyrically has an aesthetic that matches our sludge/doom/death/black/psych vibe which we infuse with our own message that is often conceptual.”

What are your expectations and aspirations for reaching new audiences with your music, and how do you plan to captivate and connect with listeners in live performances?
Casey – “We only expect to do our best to create new and interesting metal that can offer something to the genre for people to be stoked on rather than just the same old tropes. We want to take some old school and mix it with new school but keep our personalities prevalent, and our own influences. We give each other space for contribution while pulling it all tight as something that is cohesive. As for our audience… We just wanna be homies and share. We’re not gatekeepers but we aren’t newbies either – it’s like let’s just make killer music and share it, right? Plain and simple. We want to entertain and are figuring out the best way to do that with every show as we go along, without going too theatrical. We don’t want to create a wall between us and the audience. We’ve come a LONG way playing live. We were more reserved when we started getting used to playing live, but I’m a natural born ham. I will stand up and scream all night and smash beer cans against my head or amp up the crowd to keep the faith of real metal alive. Eric is one of my favorite musicians I’ve seen play live because he is old school and has the energy to lean his whole body into his craft. Dylan goes all transcendental and into a whole other world and Mitch is just a fucking monster behind the drum kit. I ended up sort of front and center for whatever reason and decided as an old theater nerd to lean into it, being loud and a party monster while also ripping it up the best that I can.

Can you shed some light on the inspiration and symbolism behind the artwork and how it relates to the album’s themes and music?
Eric – “Artistically the images come from myself – with suggestions and inspiration from everyone else. The theme for the album art was one of a sick decrepit patriarch that is insane and has nothing left but a crown -The Viral Tryant. The album’s image is entitled “The King of Nothing”. This is a critique of our modern culture and western civilization. The imagery is meant to be a theme like many Legends of metal and rock–i.e.- Eddie of Iron Maiden, Vic of Megadeth, Oderus of Gwar, etc. The other imagery we have used deals with new life evolving from the old/death- Like a pile of skulls blossoming into mushrooms….. A sword wielding Minotaur sitting up on its pile of conquest…. Vultures… anything that screams heavy metal!

How do you distinguish VIRAL TYRANT from other bands in the genre, and what sets you apart in terms of musical approach and attitude?
Eric – “The way we are distinguished from other bands in our genre and the like is the blend of lack of predictability mixed with the comfort of familiarity. The tonal qualities and song composition build a sense of security for the listener while the variety of subject matter, lyrical approach and sonic dynamics add intensity that engage the listener. The variety of responses we have had from our fans and listeners alike reflects this with comments like “you’re like Doom Thrash metal” or “that was like a punk rock ’45 played at ’33” or ” it’s like Slayer and Sleep had a baby”…. Those kind of comments are what we live for.”

As individuals with diverse musical influences, how do you manage to incorporate these various inspirations into VIRAL TYRANT’s music without diluting the band’s distinct identity?
Dylan – “we all pull from slightly different influences but all have our core and are centered in a true, unabashed and deep love for heavy metal in all of its forms. Casey leans more progressive, as well as a strong interest in funk and jazz and has a huge grunge influence. Eric leans into the thrash element (which has become a huge part of our sound) as well as incorporating a love for bands like Godflesh, as well as garage and noise stuff like Stooges and Sonic Youth. Mitch is a true punk rocker at heart and cites Poison Idea and Dying Fetus as huge influences. I myself am influenced by epic heavy metal (Eternal Champion and Spirit Adrift are my current favorite bands!) but also equally by Northwest atmospheric and traditional black metal (Wolves in the Throne Room, Immortal), blues and old country music (George Jones, Albert King and SRV specifically as two of my favorite players) as well as psychedelic element stemming from my personal love of the Grateful Dead (metal deadheads, we exist!). We are far from a band that only listens to or is influenced by doom metal – we all love doom metal (especially Pallbearer and Yob, absolutely our favorite touchstone for doom in this band. If we could be 1/4 as good as Yob we would consider ourselves truly blessed) but it’s not the project of this band to be another cookie cutter Candlemass or Sabbath worship act. That stuff is totally cool and there are amazing bands right now cribbing that 70s vibe and doing interesting things with it but that’s not us – we are a true distillation of these influences without needing to pay homage or serve a particular sound. That doesn’t interest us at all.”

How has Portland’s environment and music scene influenced your sound, and what role does the location play in shaping VIRAL TYRANT as a band?
Dylan – “Casey and I are Northwest born and raised and the other two guys have lived in Portland for a very very long time, so we have seen this city through many different eras and incarnations. I am fiercely proud and protective of this city – Portland has maybe the most slept on heavy music scene in the country at this point. There are so many killer local bands here elevating the scene – way too many for us to name here. I really believe that the events this city has dealt with in the last few years have been transformative. There has always been a rebellious streak to put it mildly, and I think that this scene is one of love, respect, celebration of difference – that matters to us and certainly informs what we do and that comes from the scene here. The music is also just insanely good for a scene of this size. I extend that to mean the wider pacific Northwest scene too! At least for me, I want to be known as a Portland band and am very proud to carry that torch as part of this band. It matters to me.”

Could you share some insight into the songwriting process within VIRAL TYRANT? How do you collaborate and develop your music, and what factors contribute to the band’s ability to create powerful and cohesive compositions?
Casey – “Eric and I are the main lyric writers. We both have a very different approach but we create just as well as the other. And when Eric writes lyrics for a song, I contribute with a handful of my own in a synergistic way that lends itself to his vision. He does the same when I start a song with a concept, adding harmonies and droning guttural vocals. And I’ll do gnarly screaming shit over the top of his ideas. We are about 50/50 when it comes to vocal work. So I don’t want people to think that I’m a front guy cause we work in tandem and always will. Music comes first. Lyrics come after. Classic, pretty much, I think?

Do you believe that the choice of format (CD, LP etc) can influence the listener’s experience and perception of your music, and how do you envision fans connecting with the album in different formats?
Dylan – “we are all big vinyl heads. I strongly believe this record is best experienced on vinyl – the vinyl master by Tad Doyle sounds absolutely huge and through good speakers is by far the ideal experience, outside of a live show! We are all collectors of and really appreciate collector culture around music without getting too obsessed over having 100 different variants. Ripple Music (our label) has an approach that really matches ours when it comes to vinyl! Hopefully we have a chance to put a cassette out too one of these days – we want people to listen to it in whatever format they prefer and certainly to stream the shit out of it! That helps us a lot”

Looking ahead, what are your plans and aspirations for the future of VIRAL TYRANT?
Dylan – “We are looking forward to a west coast tour hopefully this fall. We all have careers so touring is something that can be really tough but its also the most fun part of playing in a band so we’re committed to trying to get out there! We would LOVE to come to Europe one day – a bucket list thing for us for sure. Next year we will likely complete work on our next album, which we are currently writing. We are celebrating the release of this record with a show opening for mighty Bongzilla here in Portland at Mississippi Studio on 8/27 – come out if you’re local!”

As a band that draws influences from various titans of heaviness, what are some of the most significant lessons or inspirations you have learned from these influences, and how do you incorporate them into your own artistic expression?
Mitch – “Music comes from the heart and soul, every titan of heaviness exposes that. Besides that lesson, I have learned to try to reach as deep and organically as a band can. I try to incorporate strong drive and of course there has to be elements of fun and happiness. Originality is very important and it is necessary to look within your own band for influence and answers, a lesson many titans teach.

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About the author

As a passionate devotee of heavy, psychedelic, avant-garde and progressive sounds, my enthusiasm for music journalism has been steadily building since 2020. My writing has encompassed a broad spectrum, ranging from in-depth analyses of album releases to illuminating interviews with exciting new artists on the scene. During my leisure hours, I relish attending live concerts and delving into the thriving local music scene in my Zurich community.

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