By: Rob Cavuoto
Although Immortal Dominion has issued several releases thus far, the latest from this Colorado-based band Primortal (on 427 Records), is undoubtedly their strongest yet. Comprised of band members Ray Smith (vocals), Brian Villers (guitars/vocals), Louis Micciullo (guitars), Bryan “Ed” Schmidt (bass), and Casey Glass (drums), the group has teamed up with renowned producer Sterling Winfield, who is best known for his work with such best-selling metal acts as Pantera and Mercyful Fate.
The end result is an album that simply kicks ass and sticks in your brain long after the final note rings out. With the release of Primortal the word will soon get out that Immortal Dominion is a serious heavy metal contender. I recently caught up with guitarist Brian Villers to discuss their new release.
Rob Cavuoto: Tell me a little about the band’s history?
Brian Villers: We’ve been together since 1993 when Ray and I met right out of high school. I was taking music performance classes in college and I brought in Ray to accompany me. At the same time, he met a few guys that were starting up the band so we all joined up. In ’95 and ‘96 we started playing bars and clubs in Colorado.
Back then there weren’t too many places that played heavy metal, so we had to rent out arcades and we even rented out the local gay bar when it wasn’t open [Laughing]. We had to really work hard and be creative to play and get heard. We’ve been rocking and making music ever since.
Rob: Why so long of a break between CDs?
Brian: The most recent break was a mixture of tragedy combined with line-up changes. Our ex-bass player and one of the founding members came back from Iraq and was messed up. He ended up killing his wife, my sister-in-law, and himself. At the time they left behind a 15 month old baby girl that my wife and I fought to get custody of.
It went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court. She is six now and doing great, she’s my little girl. On top of that, Sterling Winfield our producer went to do the HellYeah CD half way through our CD, which held us up almost a year.
Rob: How was it to work with Sterling as a producer?
Brian: It was great. He got into the lyrics, the song structure and even helped with writing riffs. Sterling was more hands on than any other producer we’ve had in the past. In the past our producers were more producers on the technical side. Sterling not only had an obligation to give us what we wanted, but also an obligation to the listener to give them something they could understand and like.
Rob: How is your new CD Primortal different from your last CDs?
Brian: This CD has a lot more catchy chorus’ that we think will be accepted by a wider audience. We’ve always had catchy choruses to a degree but, but they had a lot more death metal and thrash in the mix.
Rob: You really nailed a great and unique guitar sound, what gear did you use?
Brian: Thanks. I mostly played a Parker Fly Artist, which typically isn’t a metal guitar, but DiMarzio made me a set of custom pick- ups that gives the guitar its edge and metal sound. On certain parts, our studio here in Colorado had some killer vintage guitars like Strats, Les Pauls and SGs that we were able to use.
For the most part I just plugged in to a Marshall Stack and played. I have to give a lot of credit to Sterling for the ultimate sound of the guitars. He truly worked his magic and shared his great experience with us on microphone placement and compression. I’m not really a gear-head past effects and processing. Maybe it was just the raw balls of a tube amp?
Rob: Tell us about the songwriting process for the band? Did each member contribute to the writing of Primortal?
Brian: 80% of the music writing is written by Ray and then it’s flipped with me for the lyrics. The new guys in the band are also bringing a lot to the table.
Rob: What was your first break?
Brian: Opening for the national bands like Fear Factory and DRI and getting to play in front of those big crowds. The crowds that follow local music are small, so to get in front of large crowds with a national band was a great opportunity. Also, about four years ago we landed 5 songs on an independent film called Teeth, which was probably the biggest break we could have gotten.
It’s based on an ancient Mayan story where woman had teeth in their vagina and would lure warriors and kill them. This was a modern day version of that. It won an award a Sundance film festival and Lions Gate picked it up for $5 million dollars. At the time in the UK it was the 7th top film in the nation under Indian Jones and Incredible Hulk for a few weeks. It’s a weird move but not like a B-flick. [Laughing]
Rob: For a relatively new band, what is your marketing strategy for getting your music heard and getting some attention?
Brian: I read and researched quite a bit what other bands are doing. To understand that you didn’t need a label to get played, yet get half a million downloads on YouTube. For the most parts it’s about being creative with your merchandise and hiring professionals such as viral marketing firms that get us out there. These companies set up your My Space, all your online communities and your social networks, as well as tap into every free online outlet possible.
Rob: How did you come you come up with the name?
Brian: Unfortunately there isn’t a great story behind it. In ‘93 Ray and his Mom pulled out a dictionary and just started looking for cool words and then marring those words together until they came up with Immortal Dominion. On some level it just fits.
Rob: What are your touring plans?
Brian: With the CD release being delayed it was hard to solidify anything. We are having a CD release party here on April 2nd, then playing the Vapor Fest and Fort Collins Music Experiment where they take 250 bands and put them in 50 different venues over 2 days, so you get to hear all different times of music. We’re talking with some festivals and hoping to hop on with a national act in the summer.