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Interview with Royal Anguish by Raven

Royal Anguish may sound like a new name in metal to some, but the band is now in its 13th year of existence. After overcoming many trials and tribulations, Royal Anguish has returned to keep Hybrid Metal alive with a new CD, “Mysterion”. Their first release since 2002’s “The Collection, vol. 1”, “Mysterion” is a classic example of dramatic and captivating metal that definitely deserves several spins in the CD player.

Recently, we were able to sit with all of the members of Royal Anguish after a performance in Ybor City on February 27. In this exclusive interview, the band fills us in on the details behind the making of the new album, their goals for the future, and the concept of “Hybrid Metal”.

Misty Brantley: On the band’s website, you have listed that you are “the innovators of Hybrid Metal”. How would define or describe “hybrid metal”?


Matt Knowles: Hybrid metal is basically not writing in a box; it allows us to be more free with our writing and to not be afraid of any genre. Don Wisby: It could really be considered “genre-free metal”.

MB: Would you consider your band to be theatrical in nature?

MK: Definitely, I would say we’re more theatrical. Katy and I have very good chemistry and we definitely like to put that to good use on stage. We want people to feel like if they blink they will be missing something when we play. We want to make sure there’s a visual that accompanies the music.

MB: What is your opinion of how hybrid metal compares to other types of metal?

MK: Hybrid metal is moreso a concept than a genre. The reason I started to use the term was because I felt like the music really didn’t fit here or there. RA pulls from everywhere. I definitely like writing in this fashion because there are no limitations. Whatever we feel like writing is what we’ll play, period. It’s not about being better than someone else – its just about writing freely.

MB: Who came up with this concept and what attracted the band to it?

MK: It was definitely my brainchild, but it wasn’t something that attracted the band, it was more a product of necessity since the music was already there and I truly had no idea where it would fit in the scene. It’s definitely extreme, but past that I’d be hard pressed to think that any of the genre labels currently in use that could do it true justice.

MB: How long has Royal Anguish been in existence?

MK: Royal Anguish actually started back in 1991. It was myself, Tommy Taylor on drums, and Alex Frasier on bass. Howard Card [from Habitat] stepped in to fill the lead guitar slot for a time to play with us and to help write [our first EP] Shocking The Priest. Bryan Murray then approached us about playing in the band and Howard suggested he’d step aside before the EP’s recording.

That lineup held together only until the completion of that EP. For different reasons both Alex and Tommy were both no longer members of the band and Bryan and I recruited Paul Mattox on bass and Damion Smith (no relation to current drummer Anthony Smith) on drums. This was the most influential lineup from the early years, but ironically it has the least amount of recorded material to show for it.

MB: How long has the current lineup been together?

MK: Anthony and I have been playing together for four years. As the production of our CD, Mysterion, was coming to a close (the spring of 2003) we knew it was time to transition things from the studio into a live setting.

Katy [Decker, female vocals], Kaitee [Elliott, keyboards], and Don [Wisby, guitars and vocals] have been with the band since the spring / summer of 2003, and Marius [Kozlowski, lead guitar] has been with us since the fall. We’re currently using a session bassist named Greg Andrews, who had only one week to learn our material before our first performance earlier this year. His performance on such a short notice totally blew us all away. Earlier this year Don decided that he needed to scale back because of a lot of other personal issues, so he’s basically in an “assisting” role now also. We all hate to see him scale his role down, but we totally understand why it needs to be done.

MB: What musical influences inspired the band?

Anthony Smith: Tool, Opeth
Kaitee Elliott: Dream Theatre
Greg Andrews: Pantera
Marius Kozlowski: of course Metal... (Iron Maiden was actually what got me into guitar)....but later on..it's pretty much...some Classical, New Age and everything in between...

MK: I’ve always been a big fan of extreme metal of the day. Things out of the ordinary have always influenced me, too; video game soundtracks and even new age music have played a part in what I like to write and play. What we do live is also shaped by the fact that I have some acting/stage experience and Katy has a wealth of experience in the opera world for us to draw from. Don’t be surprised to see us portray characters or take on roles as each song dictates. It makes them come across a little more real and emotional to us. It’s almost like you get a concert and a play at the same time! [Laughs]

"Don’t be surprised to see us portray characters or take on roles as each song dictates. It makes them come across a little more real and emotional to us."
MB: Can you explain the writing process of Mysterion over the past few years?

MK: It’s taken quite some time to finish. Part of the problem came from the fact that 95% of the money [to produce the album] was used on 20% of the record itself. On top of that, the album went through a ridiculous number of revisions.

The recording itself pretty much started out as a solo project of mine. I had a ton of ideas and thought I had a pretty good handle on it, but that was far from the truth. When Anthony and I went into the studio the first time in February of 2000 I think we both realized we got in a bit over our heads but neither of us was going to admit it.

The CD over time saw multiple full and home studios utilized (I lost count but its something in the vicinity of 8-9 studios in total that some kind of tracking). I spent countless nights in the dungeon (my home studio) recording and revising and recording and revising again. I call it the dungeon cuz I go in but I can’t seem to ever get out.

When RA hooked up with Henrik Ryosa (from MetalHQ.com) in 2002 that’s when the CD as a whole finally started coming together. H and I made quite a bit of contact and actually had a great deal of debate and discussion as to what this CD would morph into.

H had one final hurdle to overcome on his end that delayed the final production for a bit, but the spring / summer of 2003 saw us FINALLY get the tracking finished and mixed.

Once MetalHQ.com’s part was done the CD was sent to Derek James in Saskatchewan, Canada for the final mastering. Then it was just a matter of getting the material to the label and getting it pressed and out there.

MB: How did guest artists, like Chad Bailey and Howard Card come to play on the record?

MK: There were several people that played on the record with us. Chad and Howard played on it, as well as Henrik Ryosa and Corey Steger. Some of them have been in the band previously and helped us out again, and some are just good friends of ours who stepped in where needed or wanted to contribute to
the album. Howard Card also did the artwork of Mysterion, which is much appreciated.

Henrik is a guy I know through the web and he played quite a large part in the final product which of Mysterion. He and I collaborated quite a bit and were very patient in piecing together the songs (he did the mixing and original master on his end, along with selected spots musically on the CD also).

MB: What is the band wanting to tell their listening audience about Mysterion?

MK: Mysterion is a latin word that means “divine mysteries”; or things that are bigger than or exist out of our realm of understanding. Concepts such as the true meanings and reasons behind love and heartbreak, existence and death, etc… exist beyond our scope of understanding, and that’s why they
remain mysterious to us. Why do we love? Whats our real purpose here?

Most all the lyrics come from personal experiences or thoughts of someone in or around the band. We definitely write “a thinking person’s lyrics”. We want people to feel like they are experiencing the lyrics and the music that is there.

MB: Where can Mysterion be purchased and is it available through your website?

MK: It’s available through our website (www.royalanguish.com) and through smaller distribution outlets. We’re trying to work on the distribution end of it and make it bigger. Our label is trying to secure some distro avenues on a little bit bigger scale. As soon as we have any info we’ll let you know!

MB: What are the future touring plans of the band?

MK: Once everyone is more localized (later on this year), we should have some better opportunities opening up. We want to play out as much as possible within Florida currently and we are shooting for the spring/summer of 2005 to see if we can get something going on a larger front.

MB: Are there any bands in particular you would like to tour with?

MK: There are a few, but one particularly out of Canada, Into Eternity. I met them back in March and they are some of the coolest guys in the scene. I totally love everything they are doing (their new CD Buried in Oblivion is amazing). We’d play with them in a heartbeat.

MB: Have you started writing new material?

MK: Yes we have. We’ve done a little writing recently and have quite a bit of new material for another release in concept. We are currently discussing our plans for this material and how we’ll get it out to the fans.

We also have a label, Bombworks Records, out of Texas that will be doing a release of our 1995 CD “The Chronicles of Autumn Sorrow”. This should be out sometime this spring / summer.

MB: What are the band’s overall goals for the future?

MK: In the short term we just want to be able to enjoy what we’re doing and to do what we love. We love making music that can impact a crowd or a label or any number of things. We all truly enjoy playing in a band with each other and as long as we enjoy what we’re doing the rest will come.

Of course our long term goal is world domination, and then maybe even the entire cosmos. If they find any life on Mars we might shoot them a CD also. [Laughs]

--Raven

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