DRAGHKAR is a US band that blew me away. All answered by BW. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
How hard is it to come up with a band name that says what you want it to say?
-Coming up with a band name is an ordeal that is always uniquely difficult to that specific band. Sometimes, that means that it’ll be easy and natural; sometimes, that means it’ll take weeks or months. In the case of Draghkar, it was the latter. Anyone who is familiar with Robert Jordan will know that the Draghkar is a monster from his epic Wheel of Time series, which is where I initially pored over various locations and monsters in-world to find us a working name. As I was near the end of a re-read of the entire series and Wheel of Time was instrumental to my taste in fantasy novels as a young teenager, it felt appropriate to name this band after it. However, finding a good match proved to be difficult, and we initially were named after another monster entirely, the Trolloc. A few months later, we realized that Trolloc is a terrible band name, and I sought a new one. Draghkar was the replacement, and we’ve been using it since 2016.
What was it that made you want to be in a band in the first place?
– From the very second that I first picked up guitar, I was writing music. I’ve never been satisfied with just learning covers, nor with endlessly running scales or practicing my chord shapes. While that’s certainly a detriment to actually getting better at guitar, it’s meant that I’ve always wanted to write new songs, and the second I felt capable as a guitarist, I was looking for other people to play with. My first band was just over a year after I started playing guitar, and though we never went anywhere or released anything, I think that’s a pretty good indication of where I was at! A couple years after that I was driving on the freeway in Los Angeles listening to Massacre’s From Beyond, had the idea for a riff, and while I drove home I mentally composed the skeleton of a song. A couple hours later I had recorded the very first Draghkar song (which remains unreleased, with good reason!) and used it to recruit people. Thus Draghkar was born.
As I am no musician I have no idea how it works, but how do you make your own music based on what influences you? What parts do you pick?
– It’s a tough question! A lot of people never really figure it out. I think that the key is to just keep making music, and to try to let it flow organically if you don’t have a firm idea of what your band wants to do. For Draghkar, we started off just jamming out riffs and our focus was on maintaining a consistent sound rather than on figuring out our own sound initially, and that’s where the first demo came from. After we had a better idea on how to write songs for Draghkar, I wrote the split, and that put us further towards where we are now; with the EP, now that we have a firm sound that we want the band to sound like, I can just write songs that sound like that. It was definitely an iterative process to get to here! Now that I know what I’m generally going for, when I songwrite I just don’t use riffs that don’t work quite right for the band, and it’s as simple as that.
Do you feel like you are a part of a movement, that you are a piece in a bigger puzzle?
– I wouldn’t say so. A movement implies some sort of conscious development to something greater for me, and while death metal is great, it’s a spread out and disparate scene. There is no worldwide death metal elite pushing for the advancement of death metal or anything like that; there’s a global fanbase of fans and labels operating independently, and while they sometimes line up, it doesn’t work towards anything, and my only global interconnection is due to my own networking. I love death metal and I love a lot of the community, but to describe being in a band as being part of a movement is just deluded, I think.
How important is it that you look the part in promo shots and stuff? How important is the graphic side of the band?
-I think that it’s pretty damn vital to getting people to check us out, but it pales next to the actual songwriting. The music is all that’s ultimately important, but people listen to music as much because the aesthetics drew them in as for any other reason, and a firm set of aesthetic boundaries are inherent in extreme metal. I want our promo pictures to be cool and I want our album art to represent us well, so in that way it’s important; however, once the shots are taken or the art is commissioned, I stop thinking about it because it’s far, far less important than the actual music. I love a good set of band pictures, and I live for good album art, but I can live without those things if the music is good; on the other hand, good band pictures or art are fundamentally pointless if the music lacks substance.
What would you say influences your lyrics? How important are they?
– Draghkar’s lyrics stem mostly from different fantasy novels and video games that I play, and are always conceptual. I tend to start writing songs before I know the storyline I want to use, but I always at least know the storyline (if not the exact words) before I get towards the end of the songwriting process. Though lyrics are admittedly the least important part of songwriting for me, as I care more about the vocal placement and the tone than the actual words, they do have some impact on the overall song order and some of the moods I try to write because in Draghkar all lyrics are conceptual. In other bands they’re less relevant, and I’ve written lyrics on the spot during a final recording before, though vocal placement is always finalized before that point.
Is the album as relevant today as it was in the 70s and 80s? Is digital killing the album?
– I think that the album’s relevance depends a lot on the scale you’re looking at. Across all music? Very much a useless format for most people- the average listener has shifted towards singles, as has the average pop band. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a very different approach to music than most underground metal goes for! For any sort of underground genre, though, albums are still king, and metal is no exception. Every metal publication in the world does an album of the year list, and there are more labels than ever before releasing music, supporting bands and good albums. Though digital sales, streaming, and pirating have largely killed the ability for bands to get “big” in the same way as Sodom or Entombed, those bands were always the exception anyways. Underground metal has always been about the music more than the sales, and there’s just less exceptions these days.
V Where will the future of format end – digital verses physical verses whatever?
– I think that we’re already at the end of the line in the format war. Physical media is objectively obsolete, so only true enthusiasts buy it. I am a huge fan of vinyl, and I buy a lot of albums on wax despite the fact that I don’t need to. This is where most fans are at that are still buying physical media, and I think that it’s a balance that perfectly suits extreme music anyways. Underground fans are the only supporters of most of the better bands in the scene, and they’re also the ones that will always be buying CDs, tapes, and vinyl.
How much of a touring band are you?
– Draghkar is going to embark on our first ever tour in August, and we’re really excited for it! Our plan is to do at least a tour a year from here on out, but to always keep them pretty short- maybe a week or two a year. As for what our live shows are like, our first one is the Los Angeles date of our August tour. We’re embarking in a trial by fire, and you can ask again after tour how we are live!
What does the future bring?
– Draghkar is for all of us one of several bands. I am also active in Grave Spirit, Skullsmasher, and Serpent Rider. DK is in Grave Dust and Ossuarium, and ES plays with Tyrants of Hell, Grave Spirit, and has a solo noise project. Though we all love Draghkar, Draghkar is inevitably going to be a bit slower-moving than our other bands because we’re pretty spread out geographically, so our local bands are more of a daily priority even as Draghkar takes a longer-term one. The future of Draghkar is going to take place in infrequent touring, festival appearances, and an album every few years, but don’t expect it all to come quickly! I’m looking forward to debuting Serpent Rider in the near future myself, and hopefully to having full length albums out for Grave Spirit and Skullsmasher next year. Expect a new Draghkar album probably in 2020, and catch us on the road before that!