PROFESSOR EMERITUS is a trad/doom metal band from Chicago that I have no idea existed. But I had to interview them. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
We all come into music with our own baggage. We want different things from the music. How does the vision you had for the band when you started compare to the vision you have for the band today? What is this band really all about? What do you want with your music?
Lee: Musically, the original vision matches up with the current band: a strong mix of epic doom and traditional metal. Logistically, it is quite different. I started writing the music around 2010 and the project was never intended to be a full live band. But in 2017 circumstances made it possible for Professor Emeritus to become a real band.
Is there a difference in people’s attitude towards you if you don’t come from a cool place like LA or NY or London?
Lee: We are very fortunate to be based in Chicago. There are many, many excellent bands from the area, from High Spirits to Winterhawk, along with great festivals like Alehorn of Power and Legions of Metal.
When you release an album that get pretty good feedback, how do you follow up on that? How important is that I as a fan can identify album to album?
Lee: I think continuity is important, but so is branching out. It’s inevitable that bands will try different styles or approaches, and I’m sure this band will be no different. But to me it is also important that a band retain its identity even when experimenting with styles and moods. It’s definitely a fine line to walk.
What is the biggest challenge in the creation of an album? How do you write the really cool songs?
Lee: This album was created under fairly unique circumstances. I wrote the majority of the music between 2010 and 2012, but for various reasons recording did not begin until late 2014. So one challenge was selecting the collection of songs that would make the best album out of the 15 or so song ideas I had. We started recording 8, although one was deemed subpar and was not completed.
I saw Dave Grohl’s documentary about Sound City and it made me wonder what it is about analogue recording that you don’t get with digital? Have you ever recorded analogue?
Lee: “Take Me to the Gallows” was recorded digitally, and we don’t have much or any experience with analogue. Our engineer went over the analogue process with us, and it sounded like the tape alone would have greatly increased the recording costs.
What is it like to sit there with a finished album? Do you think much what people will think of it?
Lee: It is very exciting! I initially wrote the music for these songs for my own enjoyment, and had no other ambitions. But these songs have become very important to me, so it is both exciting and humbling that the album will be released soon. The most important thing is that we are happy with the album, so anyone else liking it is a bonus.
How important are the lyrics and what message do you want to purvey?
Lee: For me personally, lyrics are a very minor part of the equation. But Pat, MP, and Tyler put a lot of thought and effort into them and I don’t mean to minimize their contributions. But I generally have little interest in lyrics.
Pat: Lyrics are one of the most crucial elements of songwriting to me. A band can release a killer song but if the lyrics have no depth or are generic, I have trouble connecting to the music. It is important to me to have meaningful lyrics that either tell a story or are an expression of me coping with life as human in a weird and twisted world. Catchy melodies are equally important and can sometimes help make generic lyrics bearable. Now, if you can mix catchy melodies and beautiful poetry…that is the real challenge!
Ever since I first got into metal the art work has been a main motivator in buying a record. What part does art work for album covers play in the world of the band?
Lee: I think the album’s cover art does a good job setting the tone. Adam Burke did an incredible job turning the concept into a reality.
Pat: I often buy or at least pick up albums in the record shop that have excellent and eye catching artwork. For me, it is very important and I associate it with the music contained on the album. It is part of the package and represents the band.
When you play live do you notice a degree of greater recognition from the fans with each new time you pass through town?
Lee: We’ve actually only played live once so far, opening for Manilla Road in Chicago. The show went really well in our minds. It was actually the third time Pat and I have opened for Manilla Road. Crazy!
Pat: The hope and dream is always that with each show, you will see more and more locals show up. With this band being in its infancy as a gigging entity, time will tell!
What do you see in the future?
Lee: We plan to play a few more shows over the next year and a half or so. At that point I think the focus will shift to preparing for our second album.