Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An interview with David Kowalski and Todd Ingram of KING GIANT

KING GIANT come from the Amercian State of Virginia and self-released two albums so far. Their second record “Dismal Hollow” is causing quite a stir in the last month or so and I would say that all the praise given is absolutely justified. This is some real rock, the headbanging kind of rock, captivating and raw, that will make you forget about neighbors while turning up the volume to the max and scream your lungs out on a show. Apart from being great musicians and caring immense power with their music (have I mentioned that Hammerly’s vocals are some of the best rock/ metal vocals around nowadays?), KING GIANT work very hard and know how to do things. If this is not the right and working formula for success this world is definitely fucked-up...
These guys also have a lot of interesting things to say, so you'd better find some time to read while listening to the tunes – both their albums are streaming through Bandcamp for our enjoyment.

First of all, thank you for agreeing to do this interview! Now, who is “King Giant” and does the original idea of forming the band comply with what the band is now? And who are KING GIANT when not making music?
David Kowalski - Rhythm Guitar
Todd Ingram - Lead Guitar
Dave Hammerly - Vocals
Floyd Lee Walter III - Bass
Brooks - Drums

DK - The original intent of the band was for a bunch of friends to get together and jam and have fun. So yes, the intention is still true today. We all have full time jobs, and various interests outside of KING GIANT, but most importantly we are all music fans. We get excited about discovering new bands or listening to a classic album just like everyone else.

It took you quite a while to get the new record done but I must say it is receiving very positive feedback. What was the biggest challenge for you while making the “Dismal Hollow”?
DK - The biggest challenge was staying focused and staying on schedule. As I stated earlier, we all have full-time day jobs, so the making of the album took up all our free time.
However, we actually had the album done in the spring of 2011. We spent 4 months trying to shop the album to a label, with no avail, so we decided not to wait anymore and put it out ourselves. Sean at The Path Less Traveled Records graciously offered to partner with us via a distribution deal.

Is the sounding of this record the result you wanted, musically and production wise?
DK - Production wise, it ultimately got to where it needed to be. Early on, I experimented with certain mixing techniques that I wasn’t happy with so I had to re-mix half the album. But the final product, I’m very happy with. As for musically, we didn’t have any set idea or “sound” in mind when we started, we took each song one at a time and made sure that we were happy with it. In the end, we are very proud of “Dismal Hollow”.

TI – We are very lucky to have production, engineering, and mixing skills within the band. It provides us the flexibility to capture the raw tracks in a studio and then refine and experiment without a meter ticking away and running up the bill.

The vocals are one of the most remarkable things on your records, without underestimating the rest of the band of course. But having a good singer really matters. And when you add another good singer, like you did with Alexia Church in “Tale of Mathias”, the result is just stunning. You should seriously consider adding her to the band.....Tell me something more about Alexia, where else can she be heard?
DK - Well, this was her first recording experience. She sings in a band that a couple of my old high school friends play in. I asked one of them if she would be interested in lending her voice to doing backups, and she agreed, without ever having heard the song, or KING GIANT for that matter! She was definitely a good sport about it!

Cool, hope to hear more from her soon! To be honest I wasn’t very impressed with “Southern Darkness”, it is not bad but there is something missing. I think you’ve found it in “Dismal Hollow”. What do you think that “thing” might be?
DK - Alexia Church? I don’t know, it’s too hard to say, I’m too close to the music. Besides, musical taste is so subjective. But if I were to hazard a guess, the new album is a little more melodic than the last one.

TI – In some regions “Southern Darkness” received a lukewarm response; in others people went crazy for it. As David says we’re too close to it. But I was talking with Victor Griffin before Dismal was released and he told me that while he was touring with PENTAGRAM they listened to “Southern Darkness” quite a few times while on the road. That made me happy. I figure if they’re listening to it more than once, it doesn’t suck.

Not impressed for me means that I don’t feel the need to get back to listen over and over again. There is something very catchy and haunting in “Dismal Hollow” that invokes such need......... Could you describe the way you write your music? Do you have one person that comes with the main idea for a song and the others build around it or you write as a collective?
DK - It all depends on the song..... But Todd and I usually are the ones that come up with initial ideas and then we all build from there. Hammerly for the most part comes up with all the lyrics himself. In the past, we’ve encouraged him to write more narrative lyrics, and he’s really found his voice, his style in writing that way.
TI- David set up a full mixing board and microphones in our rehearsal room so as we are writing we are able to record everything and mix it appropriately. We can take the core track and work on things on our own. For example I can work on harmony lines or solo ideas, Hammerly can work on vocal patterns etc. Additionally, it also captures the accidental jams that may fly by unnoticed until playback. “Road to Eleusis” started out like that. If we hadn’t been recording our writing sessions in their entirety that song may never have happened.

Southern or northern? I get the feeling that you don’t like much that ‘southern’ label....
DK - We’re a Hard Rock / Metal band with Americana overtones.

Fair enough. What is it that you want to achieve with KING GIANT, short and long term? Is there ambition to become “big” and do you think you can make a living out of music?
DK - For starters, a short term goal would be to simply break even financially! Everything has been paid out of our pockets. Recording, Manufacturing, Video, Advertising, etc... Playing in a band is expensive! Don’t let anyone tell you different. But it’s all a labour of love. We do it because we love playing and making music.
Sure, getting “Big” would be wonderful, but I think mainly for the financial independence more than anything else. But really, if we can still have as much fun playing and writing 10 years down the road, even if it’s just for ourselves, that would be great!

TI- We dig the response “Dismal Hollow” is receiving. So our most immediate goal is to increase the number of people around the world that know the name KING GIANT and say “Those guys f**king rock!” And as David said, it would be very nice to break even financially.

And if the Gods will it, someday a label will find us to be a good fit for them. I think anyone that looks at the sum of what KING GIANT brings to the table can tell that we are very passionate and professional about our approach to song writing, recording, and production, videos, packaging, and marketing. We are used to doing it all ourselves, but it would be nice to have a partner in this to help with some of the expenses related to manufacturing and distribution and access to new marketing channels. On the other hand we don’t want to be just another band on the roster with a quick press release and then forgotten about.
KING GIANT is our priority. And you wonder, “Would anyone would put as much passion into to pushing King Giant as we do?” Just about every waking hour someone in this band is thinking of ways to improve what we are as a band or ways to get KING GIANT to the next level. For example, very few artists make videos anymore, not even bands much bigger than us with label support, full page ads, tour buses, roadies and all the trimmings. But we do and those videos make us look like we are on a major label because that is the only way we know how to do it. So what if I have to sell an amp or guitar every now and then to make it happen. Just looking at the end product lets me know we’re doing it right.
And regardless of whether or not we make it “big,” it is a privilege to be in a band with these guys. There are no attitudes in this band, just the constant goal of pushing it just that much further. Everyone is focused on what serves KING GIANT. It’s a beautiful thing.

I think people are really excited seeing new videos. I saw the video for “Appomattox” reposted about one million times on Facebook. Could you tell me something more about this video, you asked fans to help with the funding and it was obviously a successful move?
TI - It’s all about timing and sequence. You have to have the video come out first to create the buzz and the demand for the actual album. But paying for recording, mastering, manufacturing, promotion, distribution, and a video on the scale of “Appomattox” is very expensive. We recognized we couldn’t fund all of this at the same time yet it still needed to happen in close sequence.
So we decided to hold a presale of sorts for the new album using a Kickstarter page. The fans that participated in the presale were able to download a few songs from the album before it was released and they were the first ones to have the finished product. Additionally, we created limited edition shirts and hoodies specifically for this effort. The amazing amount of support that followed allowed us to take the video from concept to reality. Also many of our fans volunteered their time and talents during the video shoot. Some were zombie makeup artists, some were actual zombies and still others helped out in any way they could. The bottom line is, KING GIANT fans rule and we are very lucky to have them.

Without me being closely related to music except as a listener, what you said above is my idea of how the music should happen. Recently I talked to another band whose members have exactly the same attitude and all the skills to produce music, videos, etc. by themselves but for a long time they had exactly the same problems getting a good record deal. I can name a few more such bands actually. (WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, LABEL PEOPLE!!)What do you think might be the reason? Looks like being self sufficient can be an obstacle?
TI: -The reason? I don’t know. Many of labels you know of had a chance to hear “Dismal Hollow” before it was released. But they decided it wasn’t for them. Perhaps the great reviews we’re getting from all over will cause them to take a second look, then again, maybe not.

What is more important for you as a band – making more albums or playing more live shows? Are you a touring or a studio band?
DK - Ultimately, albums are more important because the music is there captured, timeless, it’s your work of art and it will outlive you, whereas a performance is fleeting, gone after the last note has rang.

TI - I agree with David, those LPs are going to hang on my wall at home and be blasting through my stereo when I’m an old man, so they better stand the test of time. That said, nothing will replace looking someone in the eyes and seeing them so into the music you are playing that they are screaming it back at you. Given our schedules we have to be smart about when and where we tour. I know we’d love to play some shows in Europe. We’ve been getting lots of new fans from across the pond since the release of “Dismal Hollow.” It would be great to play for them someday.

It would be great to catch you in Europe anytime soon. Some European crowd may even change your opinion whether albums or playing live is more important ;)
DK – We’re trying! We’re in the process of contacting a few booking agents to see if they want to help bring KING GIANT over to Europe.

Fingers crossed! Is there anything I didn’t ask about and you think people should really know?
TI – The first pressing of “Dismal Hollow” has been moving quickly. We are almost sold out in our online store. So if you want to pick up a copy in LP and CD formats please visit the following websites: Best Buy, FYE, Amazon, Music Direct, Barnes and Noble, Newbury Comics, Soundstage Direct, CD Universe and many others.
For those of you in Europe please visit: HMV.com and Plastic Head.

DK – I’m having some issues with my leg right now that’s keeping me from being able to play live at the moment. So in lieu of playing live, we’re going to starting writing new material for the next album. Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk to you and get the word out on KING GIANT!!


***Interview by Vania***

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