There are times when I feel like I am new to metal and not a veteran of over 30 years but there are so many bands to keep track of that I cannot keep up with em all. But I do my darndest. So here I bring you BYZANTINE. Answers from Chris Ojeda. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
Every band has to introduce their music to new people. What is it that you want people to get from listening to you guys?
-I want people to experience the journey. We try to make our albums like a good book. Each chapter moves the story along from the next. We try to structure our albums to have a good beginning, middle and end with a nice ebb and flow throughout. If they come away satisfied and believe we gave them some top-shelf heavy metal, our mis- sion was a success!
How hard was it for you guys to pick a name? What had that name have to have to fit your music?
-The name was pretty easy to pick. I had a list of about 10 names and that one was about the only decent one on the list. Byzantine is the name of the empire that suc- ceeded the Roman empire and was known for its complicated and labyrinthine judicial structure. The longer our band exists the more we resemble an Empire. I think our mu- sic has always been labyrinthine in our experimentation. We have dabbled with multiple genres since our 2004 debut. I doubt we could have chosen a better and more succinct band name than Byzantine.
Everybody is influenced by certain things. What band(s) was it that turned you on to the kind of music you play? What inspires you today?
-When we formed we were pulling most of our inspiration from Testament, Meshuggah, Opeth and Pantera. We started to dig a little deeper on our 2nd album and brought in touches of Forbidden, Dark Angel, Godflesh and Exhorder as well.
Today I listen still listen to all those older bands but also listen to Katatonia, Porcupine Tree, Gojira as well as alot of 80’s music like Tears For Fears, The Cure, Hall & Oates, etc…
When you formed did you do so with the intent of knowing what to play or did you do so from the point of having a band name and then picking a sound? How did you settle on the name/sound combo?
-When Byzantine formed it was members of two local bands. 3/4’s of Byzantine came from the band New Family and the other 1/4 came from the band Temper. Both New Family and Temper had some of the familiar stylings that made up the Byzantine sound. Once we hired Matt Wolfe (drummer from 2003-2015) we solidified the sound we have been known for.
I believe that digital is killing the album format. People’s changing habit of how they listen to music will result in there being no albums. Is there anything good with releasing single tracks only?
-Other than the normal PR and marketing side to it, not really. Today’s market is driven by single releases because the younger generation tends to like their music in smaller doses. I think it’s cyclical and will most likely return back to younger fans enjoying the full albums and luckily, heavy metal is still a genre that sees full albums being bought more than other genres. It’s up to us to play the game and release contact however the fans want it released but also write strong enough albums that the old school fans who take an hour of their day to listen start to finish get a strong listening experience as well.
What part does art-work and lay-out play when you release new recordings? How do you best catch people’s attention?
-Artwork brings the theme together, if there is any. We typically try to make the art- work tie in with the Album Title. We’ve never done a concept album but try to make the artwork and layout encompass the album as a whole. Now that vinyl is starting to make a comeback we have tried to focus on more visually stimulating artwork. Vinyl allows you to see the artwork on an expanded form which works great when you work with an artist like we do, such as Christopher Lovell.
Has social media re-written the rules on how to promote your music? Or do you go about doing promotion the same way?
-It totally has. Our social media presence has always been lacking and therefore, we tend to be labelled as a very underrated band. We are just now grasping the full concept of how to properly market our band with social media being a major focus. Most people get their music news through their phones or laptops. I don’t know anyone with a Revolver Magazine subscription anymore and back in the day, we ALL had it!
When you play in a band, does that make you feel like you are a part of a scene, of something bigger and grander?
-I would say it would give you that feeling if you are from a bigger scene but we reside in West Virginia which is pretty isolated from the Heavy Metal world and the touring world in general. We have a pretty decent camaraderie within the band as we are all from the same region of the state but we also feel a sense of outcast since we have been an unsigned band for 13 out of the 17 years we have existed.
How much of a touring band are you? Is touring/gigging still a great way of spreading the word of the band?
-We tour very infrequently. For most of our career we have had no booking agency so we would just do a week or two here and there mainly on the East coast of the US. I would say in our 17 year career we have done the equivalent of what a full time band would do in 3 years. I assume we will begin touring more now that we are on an estab- lished label and have an established booking agency working with the band now.
What will the future bring?
-You will see us doing more touring in the future, which is something that will greatly benefit the band. We will never be a “full time touring band” as we are far too domesticated for that but, Metal Blade knows our situation and knows that we are willing and able to tour enough and write and record enough music to propel our band to a whole different level. It just takes time and time is something we still have on our side.