Do you love symphonic blackish metal then you’ll need to check out this US band. Kinda like Bal Sagoth on steroids. ©2015 Anders Ekdahl
As I am not at all familiar with your band perhaps you could introduce it?
-We’re Magma Dragon, a symphonic/majestic/fantasy/power metal band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Thanks so much for getting in touch with us, Anders!
Individually we are:
Kara Phillips – vocals
Mercy Skye – keys/vocals
Fabian Beets – drums
Zakk Attakk – bass
Dan Clark – guitars/vocals
How hard was it for you guys to pick a name? What had that name have to have to fit your music?
Dan: I’m a huge fan of tabletop role-playing games, especially Pathfinder by Paizo, and my original concept was to write songs about the games I was running, and friends’ characters they’d created and the adventures they had, and so I wanted to pick a band name that came from that world, that mythology. Magma Dragons are a type of Primal Dragon in the Pathfinder/Dungeons & Dragons/fantasy mythology, and they’re probably my favorite kind of dragon, plus they look awesome and the name sounds cool, I think, so it was a perfect fit.
What band(s) was it that turned you on to the kind of metal you play? What inspires you today?
Mercy: I actually don’t listen to much metal, really. I AM inspired, though, by playing metal with intelligent people.
Fabian: It’s difficult to name just one band, as i pick and choose different techniques that I like from many bands. I try to incorporate grooves and patterns that I’ve picked up from rock, pop, jazz and other metal groups and apply them to our music. What inspires me is the near limitless possibilities from fusing genres but keeping it metal!
Kara: Insomnium, Eluveitie, Katatonia, Amon Amarth, & Alcest are some of my favorite bands and do influence me in some way or another. Lately I’ve been getting into Nightwish, DeLain, ReVamp, and Arch Enemy; bands with powerful front-women. I am consistently inspired by being the best musician I can, and realizing my full potential as a vocalist.
Dan: I’ve been listening to metal for so long now I honestly can’t even remember when it started. I’ve always loved Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, plus I loved a lot of the 80’s guys. I was a big fan of Racer-X, Tony MacAlpine, Vinnie Moore, Yngwie, lots of the shredders. As for inspiration, in terms of music, I listen to a bit of everything, like most folks. In terms of metal I’ve been enjoying Pryti and Look Right Penny lately, and in general I’ve been loving Daughter’s most recent record, Jenny Owens Young, and I’ve been devouring everything by the Toronto, Canada-based hip hop crew called Droppin’ Science. The new Purity Ring record is really great. I recently discovered Doll$Boxx and they are completely and utterly amazing. Lots of stuff. Lots of stuff. I just really love music and try to listen to everything I can.
What is the advantages/disadvantages of cd verses vinyl these days of internet promotion?
Fabian: I honestly didn’t know people still made or bought vinyl, really.
Dan: For my part, I hate physical media. I buy all my music digitally from BandCamp whenever possible, anything that lets me give more money to the artists. I like that, because then I’m paying the artist directly for their effort. When I buy a spinning plastic disc, part of my money is just going to reimburse people for the raw materials; the discs, the cases, the paper for the inserts…etc. Most of the time, that has nothing to do with the artist. It’s incidental. I’d rather pay musicians to make music, and that’s something I love about digital – I’m paying for studio time, for writing, for recording, stuff that’s directly part of making music rather than some physical artifact that’s really just a container for the music, you know? So, for me, the difference between CDs and Vinyl is arbitrary since I think both are utterly ridiculous and unnecessary. A lot of folks like to go on about the differences in audio quality between different media, but all that is dependent on the quality of your playback device. As an audio engineer, I’m perfectly aware of all the ramifications of listening on digital vs. analog and how little it means given the relative quality of most playback mechanisms (phones, consumer-grade turntables, CD players, etc.).
Is digital killing the album format?
Kara: We talked about this a bunch before we got our CDs produced, especially in terms of how many we were going to get made and if it was worth it and all that, and we were pleasantly surprised when we found that we actually got a lot of CD orders from all around the world from people wanting the full-length album as a physical product. People wanted signed copies, a couple label owners and record store owners wanted multiple copies…that sort of thing.
Mercy: If you mean the album format in general, like, listening to a specific grouping of a songs played in a certain order, then digital is definitely killing it since people can buy songs a la carte, and can shuffle songs…they are under no compunction to listen to the songs in the order we placed them.
What part does art work and lay out play? Any message that you want to bring forth with it?
Dan: We definitely want our album art and flyer art to be consistent with our sound and lyrics, so we try to make sure things line up in that regard. We’re really lucky to have a great designer available to do all our layouts and liner art and shirt designs and stuff, and that’s Dave “H-Bomb” Herman of Bizzlewerks. He does awesome work and is always right on point with keeping our visual material on-brand.
Is it a whole different way to promote a cd today with all these social media channels? Or do you go about doing promotion the same way? Playing live and word of mouth.
Mercy: Social media? Well, it keeps Kara busy. (laughter)
Kara: Having the Social Media route opens up a lot more opportunities to share our music with people in general. At the same time, word of mouth is still very prevalent, both just from people talking and from people seeing our shows. So I think it’s really a nice balance of both sides of it.
Dan: We try to take advantage of as many avenues as make sense given our audience and how much time we have. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once — and who would want to be? — but the easy access to so many different social media platforms makes it tempting to TRY to be everywhere at once, but that’s a recipe for frustration and burnout. It’s good to focus on a few things that work well for you and do your best there. None of us are getting famous or rich doing this, and as John Szarkowski said; “the only real reward to be had from art is the doing of the work”, so if the work you’re doing is tedious or boring or just generally making you crazy, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
Do you feel like you are a part of a scene, locally, nationally and internationally?
Kara: Most of the metal in our city – Milwaukee – is death metal or black metal, so we’re really kind of excluded from that. We feel more connected with national and international acts, especially based on where most of our albums are selling, namely Europe and Asia.
Dan: Yeah, we definitely feel more kinship with European and Asian bands, I think, since we take more cues from them in terms of sound and subject matter.
Mercy: It’s really hard to talk about a scene when metal is split up into so many sub-genres that it’s almost just a bunch of cliques all trying to establish their own identity while losing site of the bigger picture.
Kara: Yeah, sometimes it feels like people are just trying to “out-brutal” each other around here, and that’s definitely not our thing.
How much of a touring band are you? Is touring/gigging still a great way of spreading the word of the band?
Dan: We play as much as we can given everyone’s respective schedules. We all have day jobs and most likely always will, so we work around that. We definitely want to tour, but we want to wait until it makes sense to do so since touring is very hard work and requires a great deal of planning to do well, and we want to make sure that we can go places where people actually want to see us. We’re all about spreading the word by playing shows, but you can’t spread the word when the venue is empty, you know? (laughter)
What will the future bring?
Fabian: Music! and rainbows and kitties and stuff
Kara: I would say, continuing to evolve as a band, incorporating more and more inspiration from our lives and musical interests.
Mercy: Gaming! More gaming.
Kara: Yeah, I’m trying to resist going back to World of Warcraft.