Trends come and go but heavy metal will always pervail. We who love metal are in it for life, like the US band WALPYRGUS. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
You are supposedly a conglomerate of heavy metal heroes. Do you feel like you are a metal conglomerate? What was it that made you want to do WALPYRGUS in the first place?
SCOTT: We are a conglomerate of heavy metal heroes through and through! Not just heavy metal heroes – but heroes of a multitude sort, but I digress. No – if I’m being honest we don’t feel like a “conglomerate” at all because we’re all old friends that happen to have been in other bands that found some sort of success in varying degrees: While Heaven Wept, Twisted Tower Dire, Viper, Daylight Dies, October 31 etc. etc. The fact is, I’ve known Tom Phillips since high school back in ’91 or so. Jim – I
I used to watch his band (Springheel Jack) open for Deceased while growing up in Washington DC when I was a 15 years old. I planned on getting him in my band one way or
another all the way back then. When we (Jim and I) played in October 31 together in the early 2000’s is when we became “real” friends and he joined TTD. I met Charley
back around 1998 when he played in a local NC death metal band called Iskariot. He was always an awesome guitar player – incredible riffing precision & really
psychotic about lead technique. Charley and I always hit it off drinking beers and shooting the shit so he was another guy I planned on “stealing” one day when the
time was right. As for Jonny Aune – he’s of course been the singer of Twisted Tower Dire for about 10 years now. He played in an awesome Raleigh band called
Viper – they grew up coming to see TTD shows but by the time they were 18 they were already better than TTD – just incredible musicians. Jonny’s best friend Peter
was the drummer for Viper . They grew up together learning to play and had this incredible talent for harmonizing vocals together – the sort of team that can only get that
good by developing together. Viper basically broke up – Jonny sang for Twisted Tower Dire and Peter went to play with Widow (if TTD has a best “band” friend it’s Widow) for
a long time. Anyway – one day back in Summer 2012 I was just lying around doing nothing but drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and looking at the ocean, when I decided I was doing nothing with myself musically but languishing (the other TTD members lived far away at this point and presently). So I called all these people up – one after another: Charley, Peter, Jim & Johnny and said, “We’re putting together an all-original Raleigh-based metal band with these guys in it, who’s in? Everyone agreed on he spot with a “definitely, let’s do it” attitude so that’s how it all came about. Really, the point was to have a band where the 5 of us could get together very regularly and hash out an album’s worth of songs by slowly crafting them in the basement and in Raleigh bars to perfect them over time (there were many different versions of these songs before we wound up recording them).
I often wonder how people discover that they can do what they do. How did you discover that you can sing and play instruments?
SCOTT: Fabulous magical powers were revealed to me one day when I held a lot my sword and said, By the power of Gray Skull, I command you!” But outside of this unlikely revelation – I just really wanted to do it (play music). I was fascinated by music as early as I can remember. I had an old 60’s children’s record player that my older siblings used to play with and I’d spin these 45 records all day while playing with my toys. Stuff like the Styx, The Wombles, KC & The Sunshine band etc (this is when I was like, 5) There was always music in my house, lots of records being played by my parents & siblings. My Dad would listen to old country and contemporary adult rock of the time like Neal Diamond. My sister would listen to college rock of the early 80’s: The Cure, REM (before they were big) My brother listened to The Who, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan etc. There were plenty of instruments around the house to plink on: guitars, piano, an organ at my Grandparents’ place – I loved messing with tem all. Early on I had some sort of a penchant or talent for getting the right group of people together to play (I started this when I was about 12). I think it had a lot to do with the people I chose to be friends with. If there was a really cool talented musician who I thought shared my vision – I made myself friends with them. My brother gave me his SG copy guitar back in the late 80’s because I was obsessed with it. My Dad got me lessons and then I spent a lot of time absorbing albums like “Live After Death” & Ozzy/Randy “Tribute” which was the metal of its time when I was coming of age. Also – growing up in the Washington DC area – I really took notice of the whole Minor Threat “Do it yourself” attitude. I saw all the Xeroxed flyers for shows in basements everywhere. So – I too just started “doing shit”. In 6th grade I played “Wipe Out” at the talent show w/ my drummer friend Gary. Then in middle school
I started finding friends who were into metal that really wanted to be serious about music. I begged my Dad & sister to drive me to their houses so we could practice. Then
when I was 16 and got my own car and it was on. I found guys that wanted to practice at least twice a week. In the early 90’s I kicked tons of people out of my band for various reasons – mainly because of drugs, girls, & booze being more important than being a “real” musician. Funny enough – the drugs, booze & partying – that was all important to me too. I just needed to find guys that wanted to incorporate band life into (that) instead of aimless drugs-doing in the woods or whatever. As far as I was concerned we could
do drugs & drink all we wanted – just be playing our instruments. As time went on, I started gravitating towards people who were very serious about it around ’94, that’s when
TTD formed. I’m not saying everyone was doing drugs – just some in case anyone’s parents or employers are reading.
When did it become a revelation that you can do this and maybe get paid for having fun, instead of just putting out all the money?
SCOTT: Never. I still want that revelation. Ha ha. I watched Motley Crue “Uncensored” when I was a kid so I set the bar too high.
No- the first time I was amazed someone would put up their own money up to help me (us) Twisted Tower Dire, was when Tom from Iron Rainbow (RIP Brother)
in NY called me and said he wanted to do a split 7″ EP w/ TTD and Cold Mourning. Then when I got the records in the mail and I could sell them through the snail mail
trading circuit – that was a very empowering moment. Even my Dad thought it was cool and he thought meal really REALLY sucked. It gave me a lot of steam and lit a fire under my ass, encouraging me that I might just be able to push TTD out of the basement. in 1998 when Rich Walker of Solstice wanted to put our album out – that was the second big “boost” I had in my musical journey. It felt awesome to have someone at a higher level believe I you. So those two things were really big moments for me. In 2002 when Remedy Records put up the money for us to have Derek Riggs so our (TTD) album cover – that blew my mind!!! Literally – gray brain boogers & skull splinters splattered the wall. Still to this day, I’m amazed and uber grateful when anyone gives my music a chance. These days that gratitude is directed towards my bandmates in Walpyrgus – in particular Tom who took it upon himself to completely polish my songs with his “While Heaven Wept” psychotic micro-analyzing awesomeness, and Enrico fro Cruz Del Su Records who continues to believe in my musical “brand” or whatever you want to call it.
When you spend an amount of your life on a band does it ever feel like you have wasted time, that you have fought one too many windmills?
SCOTT: You can’t ever think like that if you want be a happy person and available to others. You have to be grateful for what you have and for your past & present, or you’ll be forever suffering. You can’t compare yourself to others. I’m glad I have everything I have. I’m grateful for every break and also for every fuck-up or road block as it’s been a valuable learning experience. I’ve done more with my music than most people who get a guitar as a kid, so why would I look at that as wasted time? I spent too many years of my life drinking and using. but that wasn’t music’s fault and moreover – I never would have reached the incredibly vibrant place where I am in life (currently) if I didn’t go down a very dark road. A decade ago, I was drunk every day, obese, chain-smoking, one of my best friends Tony Taylor had died when we were on bad terms. I was very depressed, even suicidal despite my beautiful son & my soulmate wife Mary who I’ve been with since I we were 17. My music was also going nowhere fast. Fast forward through a few life trajectory-changing epiphanies which are their own separate story. Now – I’m sober, in the best shape of my life, running ultra marathons, and my relationships with friends & family have never been better. So – I think (sometimes) you need to have those very low moments in life to come out shinning bright. Maybe I could have stayed steady and I’d be dully trudging along. Never look too much in the past nor future. You cannot change the past (nor do you ever record it accurately in your mind) – and you cannot know the future – so everything except for this present moment is an illusion. You gotta be happy now. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal so I can’t look back with regrets. We’re GOING to die. All of us. If you need to remind yourself to be happy every 5 minutes on the minute, so be it. Do it and don’t beat yourself about being an insolate bastard that needs to do it. Live your life doing something that gives you purpose and spreads your spirit to others because if you sit around waiting to be happy later it ain’t gonna ever happen. I need to enjoy what I have in this moment – my wife, kid, parents, brother, sister, friends, dogs my old clunking Chevy Tahoe that breaks down weekly and my fucking dishwasher! I appreciate it all.
No matter how small or big you were as a band you will leave a legacy behind you. How do you want people to treat this legacy?
SCOTT: I want to be back on Wikipedia again, ha ha. We (TTD) got taken off – I must have pissed someone off in one of my drunken escapades. No seriously, I don’t
give a shit about that. The legacy is not really mine to have an opinion on how it’s treated. It’s just art that me & my friends created at one point in our lives that
reflects that one moment we made it in. If you get caught up in how people treat your memory you’re not really living in the present moment – you’re projecting into some imagined future and moreover – you get caught up in another illusion – this idea of the “you”. The idea that this version of “you” who identifies with your music and whatever – it’s all some narrative the mind tells itself to feel like it exists outside of consciousness. It’s pretty ridiculous to expect that even a fraction of the world will know we (TTD, WALP – whatever) existed 100 years from now, so all I can really hope for is that our music has made more people smile or empowered rather than the opposite, and that however it abstractly and peripherally ripples out into eternity – it’s a positive vibration.
Is digital taking away the mystery of waiting for a new album now that you can upload as soon as you have written a song?
SCOTT: No it’s great. Any song I ever loved is always in my hand and a click away. Music isn’t about money. It’s a religion. It can effect the way people physically feel! That is something I think is often taken for granted – how powerful music is in its power to PHYSICALLY effect us. It’s the clearest illustration of the mind’s power over the body.
Music makes you cry, it gives you chills, it makes you smile, it records memories, It’s therapeutic & calming. “Angel of Death” makes you want to rage and ass-kick. If I thought of it any other way I wouldn’t let it consume my life. It’s no different than what it was 100 years ago around the campfire. Music circulating wholesale is a WONDERFUL thing. If I gave a shit about money in-general I wouldn’t be typing this to you right now. It’s about humans communicating esoterically. Music is just story & art. The mode and time through which it travels and is delivered is inconsequential to its allure. It was simply different back when you had to wait for a physical record to come out, then go out and buy it. That too was but a moment in time in music history. I’m sure in some remote Neolithic past, our hairy troglodyte cousins were getting excited because
“Uncle Ug” was working on a new chant in his cave which he was getting ready to bust out at the harvest moon sacrifice. Same shit. Different day. It’s all good.
How important is image in separating you from all the million different styles of metal there is out there?
SCOTT: Well we dress in black and have long hair with matching medallions so I’d say we’re not arresting any paradigms any time soon. I do think there’s something to be
said for a band of dirtbags who have sacrificed their self-image – foregoing corporate image & well-paying jobs, just to exude the bona fide “rocker” swagger whilst
conducting themselves public-wise. It’s a bummer to go out and watch a bunch of dudes in Saint John’s Bay clothes with “haircuts” play “metal” lacking any real
purpose or vision. It’s just like being a human – you need to be able to quickly justify your existence. Band’s need to be able to justify their existence. The fact is: I love old Slayer, The Ramones and Iron Maiden. I want our listeners to know what they’re getting into when they see us. It’s not like we “work” at it though. The fact is (also): we’re a group of friends with a collective vision and therefor we “look” the same. There’s no discussion about obligatory eyeliner wearing or a minimum of 5,000 spike accessories on your person at any given show or public appearance. It’s more like – “how do we show everyone we’re a “gang” while being true to ourselves” – much like The Ramones – we were black t-shirts and wear jeans. Period. No identity crisis or poser accusations in this court. We stuck together because we sacrificed mainstreaming it for our love metal-making and metal-being. So, we are ourselves without trying. We are the some of our experience. And We in Walpyrgus ARE “Metal Beings”. Natural and true.
Do you deal in different topics lyrically or do you keep to one, just using different variations?
SCOTT: For Walpyrgus it’s all about the occult, supernatural, before-time, evil women, witchcraft, folklore, ghosts & evil. – That whole realm. It leaves plenty of room
to speak of different things lyrically but these topics are so universal and can be used metaphorically for real life circumstances. Thus, I never have to feel compelled
to write a song about “the devil” or whatever just to appease the greasy little thirteen year-old-crushing-a-beer-can-on-his-zitty-forehead-inside-of-me. For instance “Palmystry” is about a lost & lonely soul captivated by a gypsy seer from another life. But – conversely it’s really a metaphor for life’s purpose and planned destiny.
Do you consider yourself a live artist or do you like to spend most of the time secluded in a studio?
SCOTT: Both equally. I love writing songs but I also love the comradery of band practice, plus the feeling of playing live on stage. It’s cathartic to get ideas & emotions out
of my head and watch them flourish into something that exists “outside” of my head” – such as the music being on a piece of vinyl. I love watching the other guys take my ‘ideas and sculpt them into something more detailed, thoughtful and polished. I love going to band practice – the accountability & teamwork aspect of it, and seeing ideas flourish organically from that process as well as the gratification you get from a group of people getting tight musically through repetition. It’s a lot like a sports discipline in that regard. The studio seclusion is fun as well because that’s the time you’re really “painting the painting” you’ve been talking about for (sometimes) several years. And then – once you finally get all these ideas out “on paper” in their immortal form – these little accidental, sporadic, fleeting and sudden ideas will spring forth in those “what if” moments – and you’ll wind up with these sonic embellishments that change a song’s feel or strengthen it somehow. This was the case with “Lauralone” as a lot of those back-up vocal ideas came about suddenly in the studio. One of favorite parts of the album is the “chance to believe in a lie” call-back vocals and those just Peter saying, “what if” while
we were singing them in the studio.
How much of a touring band are you guys? What memories do you take with you?
SCOTT: Not really into it so much anymore. Most of us have kids now. We could manage a week or two, maybe even a month but that’s about it. We all have careers outside of music. I compete in a lot of long distance running events these days in my newfound sobriety, so the idea of sitting in a van all day, then being around a bunch of booze all night – all the time – makes me cringe. Personally, I live for the sun, the mountains, the forest, and the ocean. I think I’d find road life too depressing at this juncture. In my 20’s it was the best time ever and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. The inside jokes from being stuck together constantly in this surreal “touring world”, and all the inside jokes that percolated from that will last a life time and will always be hilarious. Memories of ass-beatings (beating up a drunk Russian asshole in a whorehouse in Germany), sleeping in weird places (purposefully sleeping in the back room of a strip club in Chicago), having our driver pass out with a bottle of Jack Daniels between his legs in Puerto Rico and the cops peering into the car and just laughing (the cops their wear these Mad Max-like Road Warrior battle armor there), Staying in the mental ward section of Toronto and getting lost by myself – drunk & stoned out of my mind – and hanging out with this old lady who had been outside sweeping the sidewalk all day (with a little broom)…lot’s of shit like that. I’m not even coming close to thinking of the best stories. I’m just vomiting my thoughts here – typing fast as fuck. Music definitely provided a crazy life for me, met the weirdest motherfuckers that walk the face of the Earth and became one at the same time.
What does the future hold?
SCOTT: No one can answer that truthfully! For Walpyrgus: Hopefully go to Europe if we get an offer and can do it financially. We’re playing Frost and Fire 3 in Ventura CA this-coming October. This coming weekend we’ll be in Chicago doing the Legions of Metal Fest. If the demand is there and we all feel like doing it, we’ll record some singles or another album – this is just very much up in the air. It’s so expensive and emotionally tolling to create this stuff correctly (music). It will have to be a perfect storm of everyone having enthusiasm as well as the finances to make it happen. I have the songs already. Go to www.walpyrgus.com for news, merch & to connect with us! As for myself: I’m running The Leadville Trail 100 this August to raise money & awareness around mental illness / addiction – issues near & dear to my heart. It’s a 100 mile foot race at high altitude in The Colorado Rockies. Please check out my story at www.ultrarunvegan.com – donate if you like or just read the story. It’s all good. It’s my story of pulling myself out of depression & the throes of alcoholism. Reach out to me if you feel so compelled. My handles are @ulrarunvegan for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also read my blog at www.veganultrarun.com – As for Twisted Tower Dire, Dave Boyd has been very hard at work the last few years creating a new album. The next TTD is really going to be “The Dave Album” – I wrote some lyrics and helped here and there ever so slightly with arrangements, but this is really going to be “his baby”. I need to give Marc Stauffer credit too because he’s been helping Dave write & demo the songs