I had not heard SKELATOR before I got the new album. I immediately knew that I had made a mistake and that this was the stuff I’ve always been into. So an interview with Robbie Houston (Guitars) and Rob Steinway (Guitars) was set up. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
Skelator is a great band name. It is like some kind of super hero fighting evil? Where did the name come from to begin with?
Robbie: Skeletor is the arch nemesis of He-man. He is a badass villain. We changed the spelling a bit.
Rob: Not a super hero but a sinister villain! Max and Jason came up with the idea when generating band names many, many years ago. From the moment Jason heard the name he knew that it had to be the name for the band.
I get the impression that there is a conceptual part to your new album. What can you tell us about that?
Robbie: The last 12 tracks tell the story of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone. Elric is one of the greatest most twisted antiheroes of all time. He wields his sword “Stormbringer” that eats the souls of friends and enemies alike. Our album tells the story of how Elric returns to his home to overthrow his cousin Yyrkoon, who has usurped his throne, and destroy his own homeland and race.
Rob: The Elric story has a lot of variety too, which enabled us to really put forth a diverse amount of material on the album. The story itself is an epic tale, highly recommended!
When you do something like that, do you start with the music or the lyrics? How do you fit it all together to make it a cohesive unit?
Robbie: We write little bits at a time. Sometimes a riff or sometimes a chorus. We start with a little idea and add to it. Then as we get progress on a few ideas we look at how they all go together. Slowly the piece takes shape. Then we add more. Then we delete little bits that don’t work. Just bit by bit.
Rob: Our song writing process can really happen in any order. The verse and chorus of the song Agents of Power started off having the vocals and lyrics, and we wrote the musical backing behind it together. We’re very much a band where we spend a lot of time experimenting with different song ideas or the ways the songs go together and determine what flows the best. Sometimes we get frustrated with this process, especially if we’ve been working on a song for a long time, but in the end it definitely yields the best result. Skelator is not the type of band where one person does all the writing and the rest of the band shows up and plays exactly what the writer says to play.
What part does the art work play in this day and age when people download rather than buy a physical album?
Robbie: Artwork is rad. We understand that downloading us very convenient for everyone. We love to have an iPod with hundreds of albums. But nothing is better than looking at an LP sleeve while the record is playing. I hope that more people are actually looking at the digital album covers that come with the downloads.
Rob: Artwork is part of the whole package, just like the lyrics. Like Robbie said, mp3s and iPods are convenient, but physical albums are a whole experience. Metal is less about “singles” or popular songs on the radio (at least in the USA where real metal gets close to zero air time), and more about the whole album. I hope that people that check out our album get to appreciate the artwork and layout!
When you’ve been around a while, having released a couple of albums what is it that still drives you to do the things you do? What motivates you guys to better yourself?
Robbie: The things we do are what drive us. Songwriting, playing live, and recording are the things that we love and want to do. We have always done these things and always will.
Rob: In addition to that, I think seeing excellent underground bands and listening to their recordings is a very driving force. Hearing the new Slough Feg album is very motivating or seeing a performance by Midnight Idols or Phalgeron makes us all want to get back in the practice space and hash out some more tunes.
I get the impression that you’ve seen bands come and go that you could play the socks off that have been offered it all and blown it all. Does it ever feel like you’ve been passed over because you will not bow down?
Robbie: Unfortunately our style of music isn’t at the top of the charts. If our goal was to make a lot of money we would be making screamo or autotuned hiphop. But our goal is to make true metal and to continue to get better at doing so. I am proud that we have always made the type of music that we wanted and that we have gotten as good at it as we have.
Rob: We’re making metal because we love it and this is the type of music that we want to listen to. We might not have a ton of cash or have our own jet to fly around the world and play shows, but for us this is about the music.
How important is it to be true to yourself and not sell out to be able to do it all over and over with 100% integrity?
Robbie: Nothing is more important. If you lie to yourself you lose the ability to love.
Rob: Being true to yourself and maintaining your integrity is king.
Do you feel that if you stick by it your time will come too? How much are you willing to sacrifice to make the band break big?
Robbie: Breaking it big is not the goal. If we can achieve that along with making great music then it is a welcome bonus. There is no sacrifice to play and write and record. Our lives are all structured so that we can make music because that is what we wanted and is most important to us. It would only be a sacrifice if we gave up those things.
Rob: I think of it this way. In the USA, the type of band that makes it big isn’t the type of band that we want to be. Look at most labels and the bands that are on there, they’re popular right now and they’re the type of music that is popular. Give it a handful of years and they’ll fade or change styles to whatever the next trend is. We don’t care about making it big, we just care about creating epic heavy metal!
How much confidence do you have in your choice of metal? Has there ever been a time when you’ve felt like quitting?
Robbie: I only thought about quitting when I was a lot younger, before the love of this art grew to be part of my character.
Rob: Never. Once I learned about heavy metal and I picked up the guitar I’ve been completely hooked. I think we all experience the occasional musical frustration, but that can be remedied through practice.
What ideal future would you like to see Skelator on the future
Robbie: Being able to tour off and on a few times a year and making a great sounding album with well written songs every year or two until we die.
Rob: Continuing to make heavy metal with these gentlemen, put out albums and EP’s (which also get released on Vinyl – yes it sounds better!), road trip around the USA and Europe every so often so we can bang our heads in as many different countries and cities throughout the world.
Cheers and thank you for the interview, Anders. Check out our ReverbNation page for samples of our music! www.reverbnation.com/trueskelator