The Plantbased Runner & Hypnoatremia

I often use this blog as place to “store” my writing that otherwise gets censored or lost in translation when I do interviews for foreign press with my music. In this case I wrote much of this for New Balance as their resident coach in Raleigh NC. These are my opinions. They are not objective and do not represent New Balance. Much of this was chopped down by our marketing company to be factual, objective, non-political, and not emotionally-jarring in any way. I am doing some public speaking in the Raleigh & Durham NC store concerning running and nutrition/hydration so this blog is meant to be a counterpart to these clinics. Again, during these speeches I’ll remain objective but here’s where I can “let it rip”.

Part 1 deals in nutrition. Part 2 is an interview as well as cautionary tale with myself speaking to ultrarunner Roy Gilb about the very reason runners pop salt tabs: hypnoatremia (or) water intoxication. Lastly, my wife Mary is currently working on getting her Plant-Based Nutrition cert from eCornell. We plan on taking to the streets preaching the gospel of eating plants wearing some neo-60’s jesus-cult-esque robes so they’ll know we mean business! And no, we don’t live anywhere near California. We’re in Raleigh NC, arguably just about at the epicenter of some of the greatest ethical issues surrounding the plant-based topic, but that’s another blog. The point is, we’re in the thick of the action and not “screaming in the echo chamber”. While I was insanely jealous of my best friend’s neighborhood in Louisville CO, where he is surrounded by snowy mountains and “environmental voter” bumper stickers, it’s probably more productive to be trying to get the message out down here in ‘Ol Dixie. At least that’s what I tell myself now before I drop off the grid and become an organic farmer in Hawaii.

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PART I:  The Plantbased Runner (Eat & Run)

Eat & run. I wish that meant what it means to me to most other Americans. I also wish we’d take the word “diet” out of the vernacular we use when educating people on food, wellness and a healthy lifestyle. It implies an impermanent state of deprivation as opposed to a positive shift in lifestyle. It’s my observation that diets are perceived by many as some obligatory and nearly insufferable, yet mercifully ephemeral state of tribulation in which they eat things that disgust them to keep The Body-Shamers at bay. I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, “I dieted for two weeks and all I lost was two weeks.” This rather droll and sardonic quip encapsulates the ethos that permeates large pockets of our culture. One day in the park I ran past an older lady and and a small child. The child asked her elder about me, “Why’s that man running?” The elder replied, “He’s trying to get healthy.” Sure, I remembered it, I held on to it, and something about it stabbed my ego. I’d considered myself an accomplished runner who’d been “healthy” for several years. Couldn’t she see that? The sheer nerve! With a little space and time, I got over myself and  saw the bigger picture. The lady’s opinion is seemingly indicative of a larger shared paradigm. A collective myopia enabled by an innumerable indifferent agencies offering us what we want to hear. When your pendulum swings too far in one direction, all you need to do is “get healthy” then go about your business. I perceive that there is a significant preponderance of those who view exercise as an “atonement band-aide” for habitual poor decision-making. Is it Southern culture? I love my parents and I’d like to believe my thinking isn’t erring towards agism, but the aforementioned ethos looks a lot like some wholesale generational public health blunder from my perspective. I cannot help but see mathematics like this: High-fructose corn syrup in The 1970’s = ⅓ U.S. adults obese now. I quit drinking and smoking by changing my mindset and submitting to the truth of my addictions. I did the same with pizza. I know there’s stigma around comparing food to cigarettes but consider this statistic issued by the CDC:

As many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue, according to a new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2010/r101022.html

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I know we can go down the rabbit hole debating the objectivity and thus validity of funded statistics when we unveil their often dubious benefactors. Sparing us all a day’s worth of googling comparative perspectives on America’s obesity problem in the left vs. right media, and which industries and organization make strange bedfellows, I’d venture to say that the brunt of scientific opinion can meet in the middle on our obesity epidemic. I’d say we’re due for a collective paradigm shift in the narrative we tell ourselves concerning food. Most of us in Western Civilization have experienced life through a lense where there’s a veritable blitzkrieg of conflicting and frantically ever-changing messages and signage on how food correlates to your health. Butter is back! Sugar’s the Devil! Low Fat. Zero Fat. Now with more Protein. Extra Fiber. No preservatives. Gluten Free. Non GMO. Organic. What the hell is going on!?!?!

Dare I say at the risk of sounding a bit conspiracy theorist-ish that I think we’re overthinking it. People don’t want to be told what to eat but irrespective of our American values (namely freedom), we’re bombarded relentlessly and daily with assertions about what we should put in our mouths. If choose you not to burden yourself with the quest for a personal understanding of nutrition, then you’re choosing to put the matter in someone else’s hands. Normally that person is actually business and businesses are in the business of making money and not holding your hand on your journey to wellness. I’m not hating on our Capitalist system or our country. I love both. It is your personal obligation to yourself to take dominion over your own health. Think of food as that which you pick up with your hands, put into your mouth, digest and make part of you. What process could be more intimate? I like to know who I’m doing business with and if you’re following me, I keep the company of fairly transparent characters. You know – the likes which don’t historically seem to have many “skeleton in their closets.” I’m talking about the produce aisle, stuff that came from the Earth, stuff that God made, stuff that doesn’t come in a box, and stuff that rots. I’m talking about whole foods. Mr. Orange & Mrs. Broccoli. Those are the “people” I like to do business with. They’ve never let me down.

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When I was trying to bridge the gap between marathoning and ultrarunning I was vaguely aware that there was a disparity between what I ate and the lifestyle I aspired to. I’d run 30 miles and eat an entire pizza under the assumption that due to my unique caloric deficit I was entitled to eat like a billy goat. Warning: corny intended pun coming your way. I had a “gut feeling” that all the cheese and grease was holding me back. I googled “ultra running diet” and found Rich Roll’s book “Finding Ultra”. The book resonated with me on a very personal level for reasons completely removed from any dietary advice it gave. Towards the end of the book he challenges the reader to try a whole foods mostly plant-based “diet” for 30 days and that if it doesn’t change your life dramatically, then no harm no foul. I’m paraphrasing the latter from memory lest there be any fact checkers trolling about. The challenge changed my life. I hope everything I’ve said here doesn’t come off as overtly “less than objective” as I simply want to relay my experience and would hope that it helps others as it’s helped me.

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If I’ve peaked your curiosity, a recent episode of the Rich Roll podcast features Cardiologist Kim Williams discusses eradicating Heart Disease with a plant-based diet. It’s not a bad place to start if you want to hear some very grounded and intelligent conversation around this topic:  

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-rich-roll-podcast/id582272991?mt=2&i=1000394450471

As for runners and food stuffs here’s the general idea: Within a half hour of your run, supply your muscles with fluid, carbs and some protein. Aim for a 4-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein. I suggest non-processed foods. When I was trying to bridge the gap between marathons and 50-100 mile marathons my nutrition was the prime factor holding me back. When I switched to a whole foods – mostly plant-based diet my muscles repaired at a dramatically faster rate and continue to years later. The runner’s body is a big personal science experiment you should be lovingly, mindfully, and safely conducting on yourself. Afterall, if you’re an endurance runner (that includes my 5k peeps to my 100+ miler peeps), you need not to to only condition your core, leg muscles, ligaments, VO2 max etc etc – but also your gastrointestinal system. When we’re distance running we’re dealing with a unique caloric deficit which our body isn’t used to. You need to find what your stomach accepts and what fuels you best. We’re all very different. Doctors, experienced runners and nutritionists van point you in the right direction but ultimately it’s up to you to figure out.

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I’ll be doing two public speaking in-store clinics on Nutrition and Hydration for Runners in both the Raleigh and Durham New Balance stores Nov 28-29.

Discussion led by Scott Waldrop (ultra runner, RRCA Certified Coach, New Balance Coach, The Herren Project Ambassador Runner). Covering multiple topics specific to NUTRITION & HYDRATION, while sharing stories of personal experience with the intent of keeping us healthy and happy while running. In-depth conversation, visual demonstrations, and Q&A. Drinks, snacks and seating provided. No running, clinic only.

In these clinics you can look forward to the following discussions, demonstrations and features:

  • How changing what I ate changed my life, the mindset that was involved and how I arrived at it all.
  • Demonstrations on making delicious green smoothies with Scott’s Vitamix (yes I’ll make it right there and you can try it right there!)
  • Juicing vs. Smoothies?
  • Examples of my daily meals during training and in-general
  • How a poor dietary lifestyle can have counterproductive effects on your training in ways you may not have imagined
  • leveraging H2O with Electrolytes – why it’s key to performance and possibly dangerous
  • Demystifying all the white noise around diet fads and the conflicting news about what you should and shouldn’t eat as an athlete and human.
  • What’s up with the Ketogenic diet? What’s up with Paleo? What’s up with Plant Based? What’s up with gluten and organic? We’re all going to die, why can’t I just eat steak??? Arrrghhh!!! …I’ll help! 🙂
  • Talking about making traditional dishes that taste wonderful and are GOOD for the body
  • Why we crave what we crave and breaking the cycle of poor eating habits

Connect with me at www.ultrarunvegan.com twitter, youtube, strava, instagram, facebook, linkedin: @ultrarunvegan.com

PART II: Hypnoatremia

Today we’re talking about “water poisoning”, “water intoxication”, or if you like your “50 cents words” it’s proper name is “hyponatremia”. It’s not as simple as there being a toxic substance in your water supply. This condition first came under my radar in the 90’s when I was hiking down into the Grand Canyon. The rangers warned us not to drink too much water as can become  toxic in your system. That sounded preposterous to me at the time as it does to most people, and I didn’t think of it much again until I became a running coach and started doing 100-mile races. In The Leadville 100 handbook they break the condition down into such simple terms that its cause suddenly made perfect sense to me (probably because at that point I had pretty much figured it out on my own). If I may paraphrase it says something to the effect of, “you drink so much water that you urinate excessively which flushes all the essential minerals out of your system”. It’s funny how “The Universe” connects the dots and brings the right people along at the right time. This coming week I’ll be speaking in The New Balance Stores about proper hydration and nutrition for runners.To preface the following statement so that it makes sense, I’m a “man of many interests” I suppose is the best way to say it. Aside from being an ultra runner and running coach, I have a long history as a musician. If I’m being honest, when my heavy metal guitar partner of some 20+ years (aka Dave Boyd) told me that a co-worker suffered “water poisoning” during a “marathon”, I instinctively took it “with a grain of salt” – no pun intended but my oh my it just fell right in there! I presumed the individual in-question to be a “weekend warrior” trying to earn a 26.2 oval to stick on their commuting cruizer. I assumed a versed marathoner would have their electrolyte knowledge under control. Nonetheless, I thought that a story on hyponatremia from an “every person” would engage most sane runners (unlike myself who will run 50+ miles for a “psychological” training). Man, was I humbled by my dismissive assumptions when I read Roy’s story! This guy’s not only an experienced marathoner and ultrarunner, but a great one. I got into ultra as I was a slow marathoner. Roy can run great distances and he’s fast. Thus, we need to go ahead and “throw out” the notion of this story reflecting common running conditions. We are indeed putting an outlier runner under the microscope. While it doesn’t suggest that every runner is highly susceptible to hyponatremia. this account provides detailed insight into the conditions from which it can arise. I also wanted to say that It is not my intention to carve out the Odyssey Trail as a dangerous race. I thought it was pertinent information which would help paint the picture of Roy’s ordeal. And let’s be honest, inquiring minds want know. Furthermore, When I ask Roy about his H20 intake just subsequent to his malady, bear in mind how tentative we both are on this issue. It’s a very nebulous guess. With all that out of the way, let’s dive in.

Scott Waldrop: Please give us a synopsis of your history with running and athleticism in-general which lead you to the particular race where you experienced hyponatremia. Go!

Roy Gilb: I’ve always loved running, but I was drawn to it in earnest when I was a junior (16 years old) in high school and joined the cross-country team. I then did indoor and outdoor track and stuck with all of those until graduating high school. I took a running break my freshman year of college, and then fell back in love with running soon after. I ran a couple half-marathons, 10ks, and 5ks the next couple years, ran my first marathon in 2013, and caught the long-distance bug after that. Then I moved to Cape Town, South Africa after graduating where I read McDougall’s ‘Born to Run,’ and got really into trail running out there. When I moved back to the US in 2015 I signed up for my first ultra (Mt. Hood 50 Miler), which I ran in the summer of 2016. I was truly hooked after running that race, and went on to do the Richmond Marathon, the VA Beach 50k, the Promise Land 50k, the Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k, some half marathons, and then the Odyssey Trail 40 Miler, where I had my hyponatremia mishap.

Scott Waldrop: Okay, so this makes the whole equation more interesting! I had a preconceived and terribly presumptuous gut-feeling that you might be a marathoning newb or something to that effect. I stand humbly corrected. It would seem we’re cut from the same cloth in that we’ve got the “trail & ultra bug”. I think we all to some degree find catharsis and solace within those long hours in the wild devoid of right angles and human clutter. As ultrarunners we both know that this sport isn’t something you can fake. We need to experiment and condition our gastrointestinal systems and attempt to figure out at least a few the innumerable self-specific variables to fueling that allow us to complete these treks. Knowing your running history makes me feel like I need to unpack assumptions I have about myself and whether or not I really have any quantifiable mastery over knowing how to “put gas in the tank”. I know I constantly experiment with it and screw up, albeit not with the catastrophic results you experienced. This once counter-culture sport is gaining mainstream appeal much to the well-publicized ire of some of its seminal community. A lot of this has to do with the grassroots nature and familial ethos being diluted. Another source of the ultra community’s ambivalence towards its popularity (I believe), stems from the idea that people want to “hack” the ultra so they can put the sticker on their car. I think there’s this perception that there’s now hoards of ill-prepared runners puking-up the courses who are contributing to the sport’s attritional infamy in their sheer numbers coupled with the inherent dangers of ultrarunning such as cliffs & snakes. I’m not distancing myself from this riffraff and I’m not lumping you into this category as you have a demonstrated running history. it is uncomfortable for me to really face my own forthcoming question as I am part of the aforementioned “new ultrarunners numbers statistic”. I’ve seen several extremely frightening medical emergencies transpire on ultra courses in a brief time. During my RRCA Certification course one of the main coaches predicted this trend will result in an unnecessary number of injuries and possible death due to general inexperience (I’m paraphrasing). You had a near-death experience. What would you say to the people who think this sport is too dangerous for the general public?

Roy Gilb: I would use the old trope and say to go out and experience life rather than avoiding something that could be scary or dangerous. If you enjoy it, then do it. There’s inherent dangers in almost everything – tell them driving to the race is more dangerous than running it (disclaimer: I don’t know this for a fact, but it must be true, right?). Also tell them to be smart in their training and nutrition; at least smarter than I was in September.

Scott Waldrop: I highly doubt that assertion requires a fact check. So, which race did this occur at and what was the distance you were running?

Roy Gilb: The Odyssey Trail 40 Miler in Douthat State Park :

http://www.oarevents.com/10-information/33-trail-running-rampage-2017

https://www.facebook.com/Odyssey-Adventure-Racing-36116978690/

This was a really beautiful and well-run race! Highly recommend it.

Scott Waldrop: What were the atmospheric conditions on the day in-question (as you best recall)?

Roy Gilb: It was a beautiful day, albeit a bit hot for ultra-running. I think it was sunny, clear, and 65-75 degrees most of the race.

Scott Waldrop: In retrospect and if you can remember, during said race, where you cognizant of imbibing what may have seemed like an inordinate volume of H2O? I (think) I know from experience, that this condition doesn’t creep out of wanton carelessness, being clueless, or having some freakish anxiety about becoming uncomfortably thirsty, but rather, the fact that the heat, humidity or altitude  are dictating that you hydrate more – you know – you are thirsty. You need that water. You just don’t really think about what you’re flushing out. Was that your experience as well?

Roy Gilb: I was not cognizant at all that I was drinking too much water. I think it was a combination of factors that led to the over-imbibing. I’m a bit OCD about most things, and staying hydrated is one of them (sipping on a 32 hydroflask of ice water as I type this). I just feel way better when I drink water. During the Promise Land 50k back in April I had decided to run with just a 16oz handheld for water. It turned out to be really hot that day and tons of people were running out of water well before the aid stations. This turned into a dehydrated/leg-cramping death march towards the end of the race for me, so I was determined to avoid that situation in the future. Fast-forward to the Odyssey Race – I was in the lead at the marathon mark and feeling really good. During an uphill climb, I started to feel a twinge of muscle-cramping in my quads. My brain went into OCD-mode and I remember drinking a ton of water during that climb to ‘counteract’ the cramping, which I KNOW is not always the right thing to do. The in-the-moment excitement and past cramping experience made me throw common sense out the window. I was peeing clear the few times I stopped during the race, so I figured: “Great, I’m staying hydrated.” Bad call. I’m much more cognizant about ‘drinking-to-thirst’ now, rather than ‘staying ahead of thirst.’ This past experience, combined with my OCD tendencies led to bad hydrating decisions on my part.

Scott Waldrop: That’s impressive that you were in the lead and interesting that the “high” it brought on clouded your judgement. I can see that. I’ve been in race situations where I was doing well so I put my brain on “stand by” and let it rip. It resulted in cramps and fartleking the last few miles. So, again with my presumptions – but I’m guessing by “OCD” is a euphemism for that classic runner Type-A personality. If you have OCD then I apologetically digress. Irrespective of the psychology, I’m wondering if there’s insight competitive runners can glean from your description of the situation. Many of us have “gone out the gate blazing” in a race just to see what will happen knowing that if we bonk and pull a positive split, so be it. We figure the worst that will happen is that we’ll just feel like crap and be embarrassed as the other runners fly past us. In your case this gritty mentality which we need as competitors did not serve you. Will your experience degrade your ability to “let go” and test your body’s full athletic capability or will you approach endurance running from more of a “live to fight another day” conservative approach?

Roy Gilb: I don’t think the experience will change how I approach races in the future, except obviously I will pay much stricter attention to nutrition/hydration. However, I tend to play it safer (damage-control) as I try new and longer distances, which will definitely be the case as I give 100ks and 100-milers a shot in 2018.

 Scott Waldrop: Ultrarunning gear nerdery time! What “delivery system” were you using to drink? Where you rocking the hydration backpack, water bottle belt, or handheld water bottle?

Roy Gilb: I had a 2 liter Nathan running vest that I used for water. I also had a 16oz bottle I would refill with HEED from the aid stations.

Scott Waldrop: I’m admittedly rather generally aloof as my wife will attest to, therefor if it were me I’d probably never be able to even approximate what I’m getting ready to ask you. Premature apologies aside, do you have any idea how much water you were taking in and how often and if not get you take a stab at a wild guess?

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Roy Gilb: This is definitely a wild guess – the course was three 13.1 mile loops and I would estimate that I drank 1.5-2 liters of water per loop. So 5-6 liters total? Typing that out makes me realize how absurd that is.

Scott Waldrop: Despite the outcome, during the race were you taking in any electrolytes via tablet, food, sports drink etc?

Roy Gilb: Starting the race – I was eating a GU or 3 Cliff Block gummies every 45-60 minutes, as well as a saltstick capsule every 90 minutes. I also had a 16oz water bottle I was refilling with HEED (not a fan of this stuff – I usually go with NUUN or Tailwind) from the aid stations every 2 hours or so, and had a couple handfuls of pretzels throughout the race. This general nutrition plan has worked for me in the past, but I was clearly taking in way too much water, and my eating schedule fell all out of whack after ~30 miles or so as I was getting more delirious and not thinking clearly.

Scott Waldrop: It rather freaks me out to hear that you were taking salt tabs on what I consider to be a very responsible shedule. Coveresley, your nutrition situation is a huge red flag. I can definitely seeing myself throwing caution to the wind in the situation whilst “killing it”. How strongly do you feel that if you had forced yourself to take in the requisite calories you would have had the clarity of mind to monitor your water intake appropriately?

Roy Gilb: Hmm, that is tough to say. I would imagine that more calories late in the race would have definitely helped my presence of mind, however I think that I already flooded myself at that point. I made sure to stick to my nutrition schedule for the marathon this weekend and felt great!

Scott Waldrop: I don’t think there’s much point on ruminating on those “gray” areas anyway. It’s all pontification after a certain point but thanks for entertaining my frivolous inquiry. So, were you aware of hyponatremia acutely or even peripherally prior to your endeavor?

Roy Gilb: I was peripherally aware of the condition, after I had heard about a friend-of-a-friend who experienced minor hyponatremia during a marathon. But it was a vague “that-will-never-happen-to-me’ abstraction in the back of my head. Definitely did not see it coming.

Scott Waldrop: All right man, here’s where we need to unpack things, get real, and get weird. The next few questions will be about the experience itself. Your ordeal was undoubtedly frightening and emotional, so please just walk us through your “break down” being as in-depth, vulnerable, and graphic as possible while maintaining your personal comfort threshold. Be mindful of the fact this will be published, people will probably find it on google and you may save a life if not more than one. Here we go. Do you remember feeling “off” or certain symptoms began to manifest first?

Roy Gilb: Sure thing – happy to get weird. Honestly, this was one of the scarier parts, in that I didn’t feel very ‘off’ until I was well past the threshold of dangerous consumption. At one of the last aid stations (mile ~34) I stopped for a snack, where the volunteers asked how I was feeling (also where the 2nd place guy passed me to take the lead – I didn’t even realize he ran by!). I gave an honest answer that I was feeling pretty good, but a bit woozy and wobbly on my feet. These feelings became more amplified the closer I got to the finish, but I still never even considered that there was an imbalance or something wrong with me. I figured it was the longest race I’ve run this year, so I must be feeling extra exhausted. Nothing more.

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Scott Waldrop: Was the onset of your symptoms and ultimate illness, slow, sporadic, or sudden as you recall (if you recall)?

Roy Gilb: You know that boiling frog parable? The one where a frog is in a pot of warm water that is heated up so slowly that the frog can’t perceive any danger, and then it eventually ends up boiling alive. I would equate the experience to that frog. It was such a slow creep of delirium that I never even perceived that I was endangering myself. I’m not sure this is the case for other people who have had hyponatremia, but that’s how I remember the experience. No perception of danger at all, mostly because I was unaware of the symptoms of hyponatremia.

By mile ~36 however, this delirium started to affect my stride and I felt intoxicated, like I had taken a couple shots of whisky back-to-back or something. This hit a breaking point at mile 39, where there were some undulating rocky trails. I took a misstep and face planted hard on the trail. I gashed my head open, blood everywhere, saw stars and the whole shebang. I did a wobble/stumbling walk for a bit to regain my feet and I felt very out of it – eventually continued jogging to the finish.

Scott Waldrop: Was there a moment when you definitively knew there was something very wrong with you? Describe the last things you remember before things went completely south.

Roy Gilb: I still didn’t even realize that there was anything wrong with me after my spill at mile 39. I thought it was a run-of-the-mill trail misstep that led to a face plant. Hindsight is 20/20, and I definitely should have clued into how woozy and drunk I was feeling around mile 36, but my goal was in sight and I just marched on. I didn’t even hear my Dad or girlfriend cheering for me as I crossed the finish line, and some fellow runners were looking at me like I was a ghost (bloodied face, unfocused eyes, etc.).

Everyone walked me right over the EMTs after washing my face off – I’m so thankful they were there. They took my vitals, asked me some questions (age, location, what happened, etc.) as I slowly lost consciousness. They informed me that I had to go to the emergency room for my head wound and strapped me onto a stretcher. *Funny aside here: I had duct tape over my nipples to avoid the dreaded chafe, and the EMT said, “I have to ask, what the hell is up with the duct tape?”*

Things started to get extremely nebulous now, and the last thing I remember is looking at my Dad and saying “I’m scared.” I had never fainted in my life up to that point, and it felt like an extremely deep sleep was enveloping me, whether I wanted it to or not. I passed out a few seconds later for 20 hours straight, and woke up in the ICU at the UVA hospital with 6 IVs, a catheter, medical-glue on my head, and my hands all wrapped up to prevent me from tearing things out of my body in my sleep, and my family in the hospital room with me.

Scott Waldrop: From what I understand you were in The ICU for a few days. Give a description of this time including the pain level(s), psychological disposition, and bodily sensations you were experiencing.

Roy Gilb: I was unconscious for about 20 hours from the end of the race until I woke up in the hospital. The only vague memory I have during that time period was semi-waking up in a feverish nightmare and having to pee more than I ever have but I couldn’t do it. I had a distended bladder from all the liquid. Other than that I don’t have a single memory or dream from that time period.

While I was out-of-it, my family was going through hell. Apparently the ambulance took me to a small hospital near the racecourse, where they were putting me through a bunch of tests and one doctor said I might have neurological damage. Somebody made the decision to transfer me to UVA where there were better resources. My family was worried to death about me, since they didn’t know if I’d wake up normal again. Throughout the day while I was unconscious, my family recounted to me that I was in a sort-of ‘waking dream-state.’ I would open my eyes and stare right into their eyes, put on a sleepy half-smile and mumble some incoherent words. I don’t have any memory of this.

When I woke up I felt extremely confused and groggy, however there was no pain at all aside from the bruises where I fell, and a slight headache. I felt tired, slow, and generally ‘off’ for about 5-7 days afterwards. It would take me a bit longer to formulate my thoughts or think of a certain word, etc. It felt like an extended mind and body hangover. I felt 100% a week or so later.

Scott Waldrop: The 20 hours of sleep – was this the nature of hyponatremia or did they have you sedated to get your body back in balance?

Roy Gilb: This 20 hour sleep was all from the hyponatremia – no sedation from the doctors. Another aside that my family reminded me of – I was grinding my teeth something fierce while I was passed out in the hospital. Interesting side effect from the condition.

Scott Waldrop: Did your doctors have any profound insight into this condition such as things they may have said which punctuate your memories in the hospital?

Roy Gilb: I learned surprisingly little about the condition while I was in the hospital. This was partially due to how groggy and out-of-it I was feeling, and partially due to all the inherent jargon associated with hyponatremia. I was of course informed about what happened, that I need to ‘drink-to-thirst’ in the future, and that the biggest symptoms of exercise-induced hyponatremia are headaches, poor balance, muscle cramps, and impaired thinking ability. They also told me that they had to inject saline into my system slowly to get me back to stasis. I plan to learn much more about nutrition in the future.

Scott Waldrop: I’m no stranger to catastrophic sports injuries. When I was 13 I flew of my skateboard which shattered my elbow leaving a splintered and bloody bone penetrating my skin. I woke up in the middle of night more than a day later alone in a dark hospital room. My entire left arm was suspended and mummified in thick cast. That’s all I remembered noticing before I  proceeded to have an epic projectile barfing session all over myself. My surgeon told my father that he wanted to round up all of the skateboards in the world and have one giant bonfire. So, what was the general discussion your doctor and caretakers held with you and did they express any negative feelings towards your sport?

Roy Gilb: Ouch! That sounds like a rough hospital visit.

This was actually pretty interesting. Since I was at UVA, a research hub, I probably had 10-15 different doctors/nurses take care of me or come talk to me about the experience. At one point, there was a group of probably 20 people gathered outside of my room taking notes from the head doctor about what had happened, since I exhibited the most straightforward example of exercise-induced hyponatremia they had seen: a relatively young, healthy, athletic-type with off-the-charts low sodium levels.

There were various opinions from the doctors, many of which said I was crazy for running too far (I’m sure you know that schtick very well), all of them said to monitor my hydration levels more closely in the future, one who said I should stick to shorter distances in the future (not happening), and one who was an athlete and said he knew I would get back to running soon. So, only one semi-negative response about ultra-running from the ensemble of doctors.

Scott Waldrop: Yes, I know all too well the “you were asking for it” ethos that permeates “popular opinion”, ha ha ha. I’ve always been attracted to lesser understood “fringe” sports so of course when there’s not a larger frame-of-reference for folks to draw from, it’s easy for you to become the “posterchild”. Anyway, I’m going too far down a tributary so I digress. Sorry if I’m getting overly metaphysical for your sensibilities with the forthcoming question. I’m a rather “airy” dude and love touching upon ethereal subject matter as it tends to pull a degree of very-human authenticity into conversation (in my opinion). I think that a common thread among many runners is this ethos of “seeking” and by that, I mean that many of us run to clear our minds, find our limits, or look for better versions of ourselves. Conversely, others among us hate running and do it because the doctor said so. Not sure where you stand on this. That said, did you glean any profound or existential wisdom from your experience you be willing to share?

Roy Gilb: I really like this question, and as much as I wish I could answer with some profound insight, the fact is that I didn’t gain much orphic wisdom from this experience. I know that the feeling of ‘going under’ was very scary and a powerful reminder of my mortality and that I am not invincible. I would have died if I wasn’t taken straight to a hospital, and that is a very humbling and terrifying thought.

Tangentially, as an ultra-runner – you know that elusive, ecstatic feeling deep into a race or training run, whether it be mile 10, 30, 50, or 80, where the rest of the world disappears and there’s nothing but you, the trail, and a stream-of-consciousness with revelations about life, our place in the universe, human history, family, friends, pizza, time-travel, etc…? I have had this feeling during every ultra-race I’ve done, except for this one. It’s the feeling that helped hook me into the sport and keeps me coming back. I think that the intoxicated/hyponatremic condition muted by mind’s emotional response to the endorphins, and I felt more like a zombie towards the end of the run than an ecstatic human being who just ran through the mountains for 7 hours.

Scott Waldrop: Not a tangent at all! Again, this freaks me out as it resonates deeply with me.. As endurance runners we pride ourselves on being tough as nails and embrace the delirium. I’ve talked myself out of all sorts of dark thoughts while running through the night and feeling generally screwed up. My past is marked by drug and alcohol abuse which I (sometimes) believe makes me uniquely qualified for this support in that I’m skilled in the art of feeling like garbage. Hearing your story, and knowing my personal threshold for physical suffering, makes me question how close I’ve come during ultras to a similar disaster. We’re stubborn to the bone. During a 100-miler I will experience all sorts of physical, psychological and emotional fluctuations which I am constantly taming. As an alcoholic, the word “intoxication” sounds like I really wouldn’t mind the sensation if it occurred, especially while I’m already whacked out of my mind from exertion. Of course, I know what you mean about that “elusive, ecstatic feeling” as an ultrarunner, and I think it comes out of the phantasmagoric euphoria created through the mind-willed kinesis which propels your body through distance, time, two dawns etc. The distinction between the “intoxicated/hyponatremic” state you describe and the “wackiness” you feel deep in an ultra race still seems rather blurry to me. Can you definitively articulate the difference between the two?

Roy Gilb: After cogitating on this for a bit, I think that the line between the intoxication and euphoria I described is inherently blurry, at least in my mind (and how I experienced it). Also, perhaps ‘intoxication’ was the wrong word to use here, since that could be spun with a quasi-positive connotation. Inebriated? Muddled? I can’t seem to find a fitting word here. Anyway, those last few miles seemed like some of the more negative affects of excessive alcohol consumption (unsteady feet, poor depth perception, muddled thoughts), coupled with complete body and mind exhaustion. My mind seemed to laser focus on one singular goal – death marching to the finish line, even though my body was on the verge of shutting down. Alternatively, that ‘euphoria’ I described from other races was a much happier, psychedelic experience – interconnected tangential thoughts about anything and everything.  

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Scott Waldrop: Will this deter you from running again, why or why not?

Roy Gilb: Definitely not – never even crossed my mind. It was a (hopefully) one-time scare that will better equip me for future adventures and makes me all the more grateful for the two legs and functioning body that I have. I can’t imagine not running again. Although it was torturous to sit in a bed for 2+ days straight – I’d never done that before.

Scott Waldrop: Cool! Roy, thank so much for taking the time to entertain my inquisition regarding what must have been (for lack of a more eloquent vernacular) just a really spooking and $h!t+? tribulation my friend. Do you have any last thing you can leave to our readers which really encapsulates what you went through which they can take with them? Feel free to add anything I didn’t ask you which you think is important.

Roy Gilb: You’re welcome! I hope this is helpful for people. I don’t have much more to add, other than the old trope ‘listen to your body (and mind),’ and be grateful for your legs!

You can follow Roy on Strava and check out some stats from the race in-question at:  

Further Literature on Hypnoatremia:

 

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Walpyrgus Part II

INTERVIEW WITH Heavy-Metal-de

Hello Walpyrgus! You´re getting interviewed for the German heavy-metal.de online zine. Please let me know who is answering. Here we go!

So, you are now Newbies, that’s for sure. In 2012, you all gave birth to this band. What was the driving force, so to say, to establish a band that´s down to your personal influences? Please let us on your euphoria participate!

SCOTT WALDROP: We formed Walpyrgus because we were all friends living in the same city (Raleigh NC) who knew each other well – and we also knew that if we came together we could create a great band. Of course, me, Jim Hunter and Jonny Aune are all from Twisted Tower Dire but Peter Lemieux is one of the best (and creative) drummers I know + he is old friends with Jonny. Same thing with Charley Schackelford – I’ve known him through the metal scene and been friends with him for many years. I specifically wanted him on guitar for this project as he’s one of the tightest metal players I know and his solo style is unique -somewhere between Zakk Wylde, Schenker, Warren Demartini & Eddie Van Halen – everything that I am not, ha ha ha! When we first got together we agreed to learn two songs which I had already demoed on my own – “The Dead of Night” and “We Are the Wolves”. For our first practice, we also learned “Light of a Torch” by Witch Cross & “Doomed by the Living Dead” by Mercyful Fate to get our playing style together moving forward. I cannot speak for all the other guys’ influences (thought they are similar) – but I’m the main song writer and for me, my favorite contemporary music which influences my song writing and aesthetic is/are people & bands like: Maiden, UFO, Lizzy, Scorpions, Sabbath, old Slayer, Ramones, Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, Willie Nelson & Bob Marley (not necessarily because of weed but their souls). So, the translation into English is a little weird but what you mean by “euphoria participate” – I guess you mean “what was it like to be a part of this band?” It was great putting all these songs together. We had a lot of mutual respect going on and everyone had their special place in the band so it all came together quite effortlessly and magically.

In 2014 you did the EP and Tape, with four tracks on it. None of them was used for your long play debut. Every musician has different thoughts on that topic, using so called demo songs for the regular album. What were your thoughts?

SCOTT WALDROP: I’m a very fast & prolific song-writer. If I had the chance, I would sit around all day and crank songs out. Most of my ideas don’t even make it out of my brain. That said, with the demo songs, we felt like they were well-produced enough that they didn’t need to be rerecorded or re-visited to drastically change them. We were off to new ideas with the album songs. As a matter of fact – all the album songs were demoed (some of them three different times) before we recorded them in their final version. Moreover, there are demos of the EP as well, ha ha ha. Peter had a home studio in his basement when we were writing this stuff and he’s uber crafty with “Reaper” and “Garage Band” so we would demo our songs often to “digest” them and decide if we needed to change little things. I also have a home studio where I create the first versions of the songs with a drum machine so we felt like those songs had all been “through the ringer a lot”.

‘Dead Girls’ is kind of the Punker on “Walpyrgus Nights” and differs a bit to the rest of the material. Is it the middle finger pointing alien on the album? 😉

SCOTT WALDROP: I wouldn’t say it’s a “middle finger” to anyone – not at all. I love my metal brothers and sisters. I’m not trying to actively piss-off any metalheads that really hate punk. For a while I denied my punk roots because I was so annoyed with how post-punk became commercial in the 90’s w/ bands like Green Day then Blink 182 etc. I wanted to disassociate with it because I was an angry 20-something. The fact is, I grew in Washington DC where Fugazi & Bad Brains were like a religion to teenagers, and my sister was cranking The Ramones through our house since 1981. In the late 80’s I was very culturally and stylistically caught between metal culture and the punk/skate culture of the time. I think the metal won out in 1989 because I had a skateboarding accident so nasty that my bone splintered and stabbed through my elbow. I was in a cast for more than half a year and to this day my left elbow is more “metal” than bone from all the plates and screws holding it together. After that I really started to focus on guitar playing rather than skating and sports – it was this time that I started learning AC/DC / Ozzy songs on guitar while I was stuck in my room and started “leaning” into the metal more than punk. Once I had a decent handle on guitar it was much more of an afternoon challenge to learn a Maiden song rather than a Misfits song, ha ha. But still, I love the old punk bands I was into at the time and even some new stuff. Also, now that I’m older I realize that punk music is more about concise song-structure whereas metal is more about “riffs”. So anyway , it’s NOT like I’m trying to say, “fuck the metal people, I’m going to write a punk song.” – I’m just being myself by including a song like this. It’s very important to me that people understand that this is not a statement against  my (OUR) beloved metal genre. If you look at my personal social media pages you’ll see I’m into a lot of “un-metal” activities because there are different facets of me: I’m a very avid and involved long distance runner, charity-worker, a vegan, I love the outdoors, the ocean, surfing, skateboarding (yes in my 40’s) etc. etc. My point is, there are so many things that make up who we are and there’d no need to hide any of these to make it seem like you “fit” in a certain category. That’s what makes people so interesting: their history and the sum of their parts. I’d rather everyone know who the real Scott Waldrop is – and if that means having a song that sounds like The Misfits/Ramones then that’s fine. If I wrote a Manowar song right now at this particular point in my life, then it wouldn’t be authentic and I’d be attracting things to be that weren’t supposed to be there. What’s the point of that? Ha ha. It’s important to be true to yourself, otherwise you’ll never quite be on the right path or have the people & things around you that you that are supposed to be there. So, when you talk about “True Metal” and stuff like that, it’s not only about the influences such as Maiden/Priest but really – who is creating said “True Metal”. You know, I wrote “Axes & Honor” w/ TTD and I’d say that’s a very “true metal” sort of song. At the time it was very indicative of how I felt musically but you cannot erase your past and the truth is that in the late 80’s I had a bleached blonde half long-hair, half shaved head and my bedroom was full of skateboards and sex pistols posters so ya know – this is what you get with me, ha ha.

Your music stresses out two major things: You do the old school thing, but in a very refreshing way so to say. Was that something you wanted to achieve?

SCOTT WALDROP: First off thank you! Yes, I (we) do this on purpose but it really is done without effort or too much thinking. Me and my friends (in this case the guys in Walpyrgus) of course all have a very similar musical background. Me, Charley & Jim are the “older” guys in the band so we like The Misfits, Exodus, old Slayer – you know, that’s the stuff we grew up with – we didn’t have to seek it out on the internet. Jonny and Peter – they’re Millennials and they have certain bands they love which us older guys don’t really relate to, like Edguy and The Darkness but you know – those are sort of “retro” sounding bands anyway and it just works when we get together. We don’t fault them for something we may stick our noses up at when we know they don’t have the same frame of reference as us old farts. It’s most important that we be authentic. I should mention that there are a couple things that make Jonny and Peter unique: Peter was raised with metal. His Dad plays guitar in a Black Sabbath tribute band – and an AWESOME one at that!. The only time I’ve seen Iommi’s style replicated so closely was seeing Iron Man (Washington DC) when I was a kid. Also – Peter and Jonny grew up together playing music in the school band. They completely developed together as men and musicians so that is such a special partnership which is something I very specifically wanted for Walpyrgus. Those two are an amazing musical team and I don’t even understand why they hang out with me! Also, Aune grew up playing music in his Dad’s church so he has that angle of having understood how to layer harmony since an early age. As for me, I’m the main song writer in Walpyrgus and I think if you want to get deep and psychological with me, there is one major factor in how and why my songs sound the way they do: I grew up in a musical environment. We had a piano and guitars in the house. My grandmother played the organ (a 60’s Hammond) which I loved. My brother listed to Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, The Who, Simon & Garfunkel etc. I would watch him play electric guitar when I was a kid and I absorbed it like a sponge. My Mom & sister tried to get me into riding horses and my Dad tried to get me into golf but the guitar took hold of me when I was about 7. My brother brought home an electric guitar and when I watched him plug it into the stereo (yesthe stereo) and play Deep Purple riffs I was just fucking mesmerized. He may as well have been Merlin the fucking Wizard when I saw that. I thought my older brother was the coolest human on Earth, ha ha. He’s 13 years older than me (I was an accident) – so he was into late 60’s-70’s hippie rock (I guess you’d call it). So, he taught me songs like “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals and “I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After which started me off. I think those two songs still stick with me a lot in how I write music because they’re both rather earie and strange chord progressions. Also, my sister was listening to The Ramones, The Go-Go’s, The Cure, U2, REM in the very early 80’s before some of these bands really broke out, she was always into discovering new music. She was that teenage girl who would constantly blast the stereo and make the house shake. We had a monster of a sound system back then – a Yamaha tuner w/ tubes and these massive speakers. And another major thing about my music past was discovering underground speed metal/hardcore through my step cousins. So, when I was about twelve I had these step cousins Tony and Cindy who were very into the punk/metal scene. Tony had a big mohawk and listen to the Cro-Mags, Bad Brains etc. and Cindy showed me Dark Angel, Voivod, Slayer etc around 1987 or so. Around then, I had a lot of family problems – my real Mom was not totally in my life and my step Mom was dying of cancer so I was very much left to my own devices and I started drinking and doing drugs – plenty of pot was involved but I was also doing LSD & PCP. It was the Washington DC suburbs so kids get their hands  on shit like that back then. I think having gone through that era and started abusing chemicals before my brain was developed, all the while I was discovering all this new metal music (I would lock myself in my room and learn AC/DC, Maiden, Ozzy, Pink Floyd etc) – I think it has put me in a state of “arrested development”. By that I mean that I believe my mind is sort of stuck in a musical “holding pattern” around that time of my life. I’ve never had much interested in consciously straying from my musical roots. I hear new music and I like much of it, but it doesn’t seem to inspire me to change my ways when I sit down with the guitar. I’ll always revert to the early days of sitting in my bedroom and figuring how to 80’s metal with that foundation my brother gave me by teaching me the 60’s music. So – I’m sort of like a time capsule I suppose.

The title track reminded me – just in the beginning – of dark moments of Psychotic Waltz. In general, most of the songs have this slightly sinister tone, but as I also mentioned in the review: All your songs are pure summer festival anthems… A contradiction? Your thoughts, please!

SCOTT WALDROP: Tom and Jim are big Psychotic Waltz fans. I never grabbed on to them. I know when I was writing them that I wanted them (the songs) to be ghost / occult stories but I didn’t want them to be delivered in the typical “metal package”. I really went backwards and embraced my early influences. You’re hearing choruses that were inspired by my sister cranking “Beauty and The Beat” non-stop for years. You’re hearing the aftermath of my Dad subjecting me to Neal Diamond and Anne Murray for hours on end in the car. My family played “The Sound of Music” and “Hair” and Bing Crosby Christmas records incessantly. I’d be sitting there on the floor playing with Legos absorbing this stuff unknowing it would manifest later in life into this, ha ha ha. Yea, I think you’re hearing my childhood music meeting my adolescence in some bizarre marriage of light verses dark. Like Ozzy Osbourne meets Bing Crosby. I find very strange joy in the contradiction. I understand it can be annoying to some people. You want happy music to have happy words played in the major scale and sad music to have sad words played in the minor scale. But, my whole existence has been based on disparity. I’ve always taken pleasure in being a misfit yet with friends. I would say I was a popular kid – I like sports and art and I was able to walk both worlds. I’ve always had this feeling of “I don’t want to miss out on anything”. Maybe my brain is scrambled from psychedelic drugs. Who knows? You very much understand me though by using the word “summertime”. I love the summer and I think it’s a defining word for me. I was born in late May. Give me the outdoors, bug bites, sunburn, the ocean – I love it all. But I’m also terribly fascinating by “all things creepy”.

You had the guts to put some killer choir moments on the record, that doesn´t sound cheesy and weak, like it is heard a lot on silly plastic Power Metal Albums…. Congrats to that!

SCOTT WALDROP: Thanks. It’s funny. Tom said to stop tracking all those “Blind Guardian” vocals as he didn’t like them. I think we got in the habit of this when TTD recorded with Piet Sielk of Iron Saviour. I think though, that between me Jonny, Peter, Jim and Jonny Wooten (Widow) his kind of like the 7th member as a vocal producer, we can all sing so it was almost stupid to not exploit that. I told Tom to use which vocal tracks he wanted (we recorded 100’s) and I was under the impression he was going to use very little of them, but surprisingly most of them showed on the album. I guess Tom saw the merit in them in the end. I’m sure it was a massive pain in the ass to sort all those layers so kudos to him for that. Those backing vocals were really a total group effort though, all the members (except Charley because he hates doing it), sang and put their ideas in and Tom undertook the massive task of bouncing all those layers so that Kevin (mixer) could wrangle them in a timely manner.

You should go on tour with the German bands Naevus and Metal inquisitor. Check them out! To be serious: Any plans to conquer Europe?

SCOTT WALDROP: I know them both! Traded demos with them and were pen pals back in the 90’s when I started Twisted Tower Dire. Great bands and very cool people. Naevus – I feel has always been under-rated as many of those choruses were really genius. “Streams” was such a great song! I thought they deserved to get bigger. No Europe plans just yet for Walpyrgus. If we get a cool offer and can afford to go we’ll be there. Thanks for the interview! You can buy our merch and connect with us and all of our social media at: http://www.walpyrgus.com. Also, I need to get my personal plug in but it’s a worthy cause: I do charity work for people struggling with addiction. The organization I work with is called The Herren Project and this August I’ll be running a 100-mile race (The Leadville Trail 100) to raise money to help people who were in my position. You can read my personal story about alcoholism & recovery at www.ultrarunvegan.com. The gist of personal message is that you can stop your bad habits before the ruin your life. When I noticed I was hiding my drinking from friends and family I saw the signs that things were going to unravel for me. So – it’s all in there, give it a read anyone could find it helpful. Feel free to connect with me, share your story, read mine, donate if you like… My personal Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram handles are @ultrarunvegan …Thanks so much for the interview and giving me a voice. Much gratitude! -Scott

INTERVIEW WITH Neckbreaker.de

Hi Scott. this is Ralf from Neckbreaker Webzine.

How are things at the WALPYRGUS Camp? Are you excited about the release of „Walpyrgus Nights“?

SCOTT: Things are great in The Walp Camp. We have a CD release party in Raleigh coming up next month and we wrote a couple new songs with our (not so new now) drummer Carlos. Yes, we’re really enjoying sitting back and seeing peoples’ reaction to the album.

How did it came to the foundation of the band and why WALPYRGUS not WALPURGIS?

SCOTT: You have to take the story backwards a bit to my other band Twisted Tower Dire which we started in the 90’s up in Washington D.C.  – this was my only band for a long time but as the years passed on, I found myself moving 4 hours south and separated from Marc Stauffer (TTD drummer) and two hours from Dave Boyd (TTD guitar). It was so hard to get things moving quickly the way we used to in TTD and I really missed just getting together in the same room with guys and practicing. Back in 2012, I wasn’t doing much with my music. I had all this great talent around me in Raleigh and I had all these song ideas either swirling around my head or already demoed – so I decided to put a band together here with people I knew well and trusted. So, I called up Peter, Charley, Jim & Jonny, asked if they wanted to start a new band and everyone unanimously agreed that it was a good idea and that they wanted to do it. The band came together and flourished very naturally as I imagined it would. Spelling the name differently (if I remember correctly) was Jim’s idea. There have been a few Walpurgis’s before us and we wanted to set ourselves apart so we’re distinct.

How important is FATES WARNING for you guys? Have you ever visit the Brocken here in Germany?

Scott: Fates Warning is huge in our camp. It was one of me, Tom & Jim’s favourite bands way back in the day. When I met Tom, none of my other friends liked Fates Warning because back in the early 90’s in DC it was all about death metal and even my friends who still admitted to liking traditional metal at the time saw them as Iron Maiden clones. So, it was cool to meet people that saw the genius of their song writing, musicianship and especially John Arch’s unparalleled (no pun intended) voice and lyrics! My god those lyrics were fascinating! You knew he was a deep person by the sophistication of those words and the incredibly bizarre phrasing & melodies that he came up with. When I was 16 it seemed like he was channelling his musical abilities from another universe, ha ha ha. So, yea – probably if I had to dig in my mind to find the exact spot where the inspiration originated for the band’s name, it would be the song “Night on Brocken”. That end chorus is so beautiful that it completely transcends musical genres. The Ramones, Dolly Parton or Pavarotti could sing that ending and it would still be incredible. No, never been to Brocken. I really would love to visit Europe one day and see things like this and really have the time to enjoy them. Every time I’ve been in Germany it’s been on official metal business.

Your music is pure old school stuff with occult or dark lyrics and twin-guitars, right but your music has this positive touch and catchiness…Do you agree?

SCOTT: I listen to a lot of different stuff and lately most of the metal stuff I write tends to be inspired by melodies I hear in older music like 60’s pop music or old country, folk, classical etc. Then when I go to transform the rough song idea into a “metal” song it feels like three sources always seem to prevail in its translation: The Scorpions, Iron Maiden and The Ramones. Those three bands already are pretty “happy-sounding” for heavy music or punk so especially when you consider that I write songs in a more traditional manner, then filter them through these influences, it comes out sounding rather chipper. I’ve never been a particularly dark person nor prone to depression or perpetual anger. For me things like Heavy Metal, ghost stories, horror movies, and creepy artwork etc. – they’re all just entertainment. I think shows like Scooby Doo had some sort of weirdly profound effect on me as a kid because if you look at some of the background artwork in that show, it is incredibly dreary. The background colours and imagery are very evil and oppressive yet the theme music is totally groovy and the characters are all these bright psychedelic colours. I think I picked up on contrast like this at an early age. Really, if you look at most metal imagery it’s a cartoonish depiction of evil – Walpyrgus just takes this juxtaposition to the next level. Look – it’s okay to be happy. You’re supposed to enjoy your life as you only get to live it once. I love heavy metal and I also love the beach, living healthy and being in the sun all day. That’s just me. That’s what you get when I write music.

How did you come in contact with Tom Philips (WHILE HEAVEN WEPT)? And are keyboards necessary? (I really love em – but there so much key-haters among us…)

SCOTT: I’ve known Tom since I was about 16. We met somewhere around ’91-’92. We were both from Northern Virginia (Washington DC suburbs) were and when the death metal scene was huge and primarily paraded around Deceased (in my memory and opinion). It should also be mentioned though that the DC scene of the 70’s’s-90’s was more famous for its punk/hardcore scene (Minor Threat/Bad Brains) and the Maryland Doom scene (Pentagram & Hellhound Records bands) which we were also into. But back to death metal – He was in a band called Parasitic Infestation and I was in a band called Golgotha so our bands played together at this goofy Roller Skating place that was turned into a teen hangout. Anyway, he had started While Heaven Wept way back then and that material always impressed me as away from the death metal crowd, he had already been creating “real” music composed with scales and structure as opposed to the a-tonal nonsense we were used to: beer & weed-fuelled teenage boys of the time would create after digesting too much Slayer & Earache bands. Yes, I love keys in rock music. I love Blondie, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Journey, and Nocturnus for that matter! I also love Slayer and Darkthrone – those are two of my favourite bands. I understand getting down with evil disharmonic music. But that’s not all of me and when it comes down to it, you know, it’s okay to embrace being vulnerable, sensitive and happy. You know why? Because I’m very comfortable with myself and I have no issues or worries about how tough or cool I am or appear. For Twisted Tower Dire, it makes no sense to suddenly create a keyboard-laden album, so I figured Walpyrgus may be my one chance to do so. That said, I wrote most of these songs with keys in mind.

The Vinyl issue will have a special comic. What can you tell me about it?

SCOTT: So, I was running one day because that’s one of the other great passions in my life along with my family and music – I’m a long-distance runner. I get a lot of my ideas in these drawn-out, isolated and meditative hours. I had been reading The Walking Dead comics and thinking about how much I would love to create something like that. Then I thought about how I’ve got all this stuff going on in my life and I doubted that it was realistic to take on a new project. I could take years to create something and then I’d probably have to self-publish it. Sounded like a new world I just didn’t feel like diving into (I’m also a certified open water scuba diver – for real) – then I thought, “you’ve got an album coming out where you wrote all the lyrics, you went to college for art, you should really take this opportunity to create a comic book for it”. So that day I started to work on it and bit-by-bit, it slowly came together. I had a clipboard with drawings I took with me everywhere for about two years. If I was waiting in line at the post office I would stand their drawing. I didn’t care of little old ladies were seeing a grown man drawing pictures of naked ladies, skulls and devils. I just kept drawing and made it happen, ha ha ha. Many of the drawing were stippled (many little dots) – so it was such a long-term project which makes the comic book very much analogous to my long distance running in that it was a vision I had were the completion was far in the future. I find that I tend to incorporate similar disciplines in my sport and music in this regard.

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Please give short statements  

  1. a) KING DIAMOND or MERCYFUL FATE – Mercyful Fate, I love the signature “boogie riffs” and Black Sabbathy rawness. Mercyful Fate sounds truly earie whereas King Diamond is very “produced” and really delving into the strangeness of that man’s awesome mind. I love both but MF really is one of those special bands for me. When I was a teenager they really gave me a sense of team work as you can hear all these crazy little parts you can just tell were added by all the super-talented guys. You know – MF sounds like a “group effort” like Iron Maiden, whereas when you listen to just King Diamond you’re getting just him. Also – when I saw them as a teenager on the “In the Shadows” tour I noticed something that always stuck with me. I worshipped these guys. I thought they were golden gods. While watching them play I was transfixed and studying them carefully. I noticed Hank Sherman fuck up something and very calmly and slowly grinned at the audience and over at the band then very assured of himself just kept playing his solo. It was so human and graceful and it showed me that he was letting loose and having fun. He was trying to give the audience his best but he was a human and a human moment by hitting a bad note – and that’s okay. That really stuck with me as a template for how conduct myself on stage – though I do my best to not fuck up at all, ha ha.
  2. b) best METALLICA-album – “Ride The Lightning” no question. One of the coolest guitar tones of all time, wonderfully arranged song order so that the album flows like a finely-crafted novel, and it’s epic like “Powerslave” yet evil and violent.
  3. c) worst MAIDEN -album – I hate this question because I love Iron Maiden unconditionally but I won’t cheat by filibustering – “Virtual XI” because I feel like they started doing things that I thought (at the time at least) were antithetical to the Maiden ethos which of course is some nonsense I created in my own mind as a fan – It’s not “my” band, ha  . What I mean by that statement though, is that I felt they were straying lyrically from what I thought had been a consistent legacy of epic, heroic and poetic word-smithing. I don’t know… I think I just didn’t like that image of Eddie in top standing in front of a casino boat, ha ha ha. It was just too goofy. It felt like someone should have been there to tell them “no”. That imagery to me (Mississippi River Boats) are just this corny Americana stuff that I didn’t associate with Iron Maiden.   
  4. d) OSTROGOTH or SORTILEGE – Ostrogoth. I’m a song guy before a metal guy and I think their songs are stronger. I like songs that can translate across genres and I feel like Ostrogoth does that well. I think our bass player Jim Hunter might disagree though, he loves Sortilege a whole lot.
  5. e) best TWISTED TOWER DIRE – “Isle of Hydra” – we were in our sweet spot then as a group of friends and it was really a group collaboration. I remember that time in life just being fun.

What are your influences (musically, books, movies) – I can also hear some punk vibes

SCOTT: Musically – Iron Maiden, Lizzy, old Slayer, Blue Oyster Cult, Misfits, Ramones, Scorpions, Sex Pistols, Mercyful Fate, Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Sabbath, Willie Nelson, Bob Marley, John Lennon. Books – Poe, Lovecraft for fiction, for “life-changers” Eckhart Tolle “The Power of Now” & Rich Roll “Finding Ultra”. Movies – The Shining, Aliens, Rambo II, Revenge of The Nerds, This Is Spinal Tap, Conan The Barbarian, The Road Warrior, The Empire Strikes Back.

Is it true that TWISTED TOWER DIRE is still alive but sleeping?

SCOTT: TTD is alive but in a new form. We used to be an extremely tight group of friends (still are), but we’ve grown up and live further apart. Right now, Dave and Marc are writing the new album and I’m kind of just making little suggestions here and there so essentially TTD lives on but Dave and I agreed to flip roles for this album, so he’s the main song writer. In Raleigh, I’m just over-extended with projects – I play in 3 bands outside of TTD, am a running coach, and train regularly for ultra-marathons (foot races between 50-100 miles) which are often cantered around charity. I just though it would be best for now if Dave wrote it because it would give fans a new perspective and mainly because I’m spread so thin. I would normally never want to give up control of “my baby” but Dave and I kind of “grew up” together as guitarists so our styles are invariably interwoven and he knows exactly how to deliver the TTD “brand” – maybe better than I do at this point. The stuff he’s come up with is just awesome. I know TTD fans are going to be happy. A lot of his songs give me chills with just the music (no vocals) so that’s the highest compliment I can give. I’m not bragging about my own band – I’m just saying Dave was really inspired to write the next TTD album and he put so much heart into it there’s no way you can’t hear it. That said, the album is really coming along and we’re deep into the process now. I’m sort of watching and listening from the side-lines as a fan of him, ha ha. I’ve written lyrics for about 5 of the new songs and I’ve been working in the “happy supernatural” world of Walpyrgus so long, that it’s been really fun to return to writing just straight-up “meathead” violent metal lyrics about wars and fighting and all that uber-metal fodder which I decidedly refrained from in Walpyrgus’s overall aesthetic.

How are your plans for a live show – WALPYRGUS is a band with a very visual concept?

SCOTT: We wanted to be visual but not at the same time not “fake” or “reeking of effort”. We liked how The Ramones look like a gang of guys that “fit” together so we sort of channelled that by simply agreeing on the following band rules: we all were black, we have gang symbol medallions we wear so everyone knows they’re dealing with The Walpyrgus Boys and that they’d best not tangle with us, and the last rule is “no nerds are allowed” in the band – that unfortunately is something we’ve agreed on out loud, spoken and agreed upon. You hear that Carlos? You passed the “cool” test. I think we watched the movies “A Clockwork Orange” and “The Warriors” a few too many times perhaps.

Anything planned regarding gigs, festivals Europe-Trips?

SCOTT: We’ve had a few people say they’re interested but it’s a matter of getting us all over there, it’s very expensive to get all five us over there so we’ll see if we can make it work. But the true answer is “No” but we want to.

The Last Words are yours:

SCOTT: Thanks so much for giving me a voice and taking interest in our music! I seriously have much gratitude that people care about what we’re doing and creating. Without the fans who listen to our music and encourage us forward – we’d not have the motivation to create music, so in a sense you helped create this album as much as we did. Also – I do charity work for people struggling with addiction/mental addiction (drugs, alcohol, cutting – all forms of addiction). I don’t judge anyone but let’s face it, a lot of metalheads love their booze and substances. Many of us get lost in it. I know I did. I work with an organization called The Herren Project, founded by Chris Herren who at one point was additcted to heroin while at the same time played for The Boston Celtics. If anyone has had themselves or had a loved one struggle with addiction please read my story at www.ultrarunvegan.com, My personal story is there. It has to do with arresting alcoholism before it becomes something that completely takes you down to the very bottom. You can notice the signs of addiction before it’s something that ruins your life. Also – it’s never too late to totally turn yourself around. A few years ago I was 50 pounds heavier, smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and I drank (a lot) every day. Now I’m in the best shape of my life and running The Leadville 100 in August 2017 (widely considered one of the world’s toughest races). I’m not selling anything or want anyone to think I’m bragging or putting myself above them – I’m just saying anyone can turn things around and be a force of good. It’s possible for anyone. You can connect with me personally on Twitter / Instagram with the handle @ultrarunvegan. And back to Walpyrgus, you can connect with us and all of our social media outlets (AND) by our merch at www.walpyrgus.com Thanks so much for time!

Interview w/ UUHH TUH TUH HUH

 

  • How did you come to the creation of the band? How long have you been together? 

SCOTT WALDROP: I was sitting alone on the beach back in 2012. I was doing nothing, drunk, smoking cigarettes, and feeling sorry for myself. I’m typing this interview in the same location funny enough, looking at the beach on the porch of my family’s place in The Isle of Palms, South Carolina – but right now things are much more peaceful. Back in 2012 it was a pathetic scene of self-destruction & self-pity. I was thinking about all the other cool things my friends were doing with their music and wondering why I couldn’t seem to get my shit together. Dave and Marc from Twisted Tower Dire lived far away so I knew I’d never get the momentum back with that band like we had 10 years prior. I finally decided I was going to stop having a loser mentality and I was going to stand up and start making some changes in my life. Funny enough – it started with forming a new band and not addressing my alcoholism – but that’s another story. When I took assessment of my local options, I knew I had the perfect band in front of me just waiting to be formed. I had long-time music partner/collaborator in Jim Hunter living in the Raleigh near me. Again – I had long-time collaborator and singer of TTD Jonny Aune in Raleigh, who was sitting around and pretty much also doing nothing with his musical talent other than the occasional TTD show and singing/playing in his church’s band. But I also had two others “Secret Weapons” in my proverbial “arsenal” just waiting to be busted out and deployed at the right time: Peter Lemieux and Charley Shackelford. Peter was one of the BEST drummers in Raleigh for rock music. I say he “was” only because he moved to Los Angeles a few years ago. He is a good friend and played in Viper with Jonny Aune in high school. The two of them grew up playing music together and they have a knack for harmonizing and complimenting the timbre of each other’s voices the way Waters/Gilmour of Pink Floyd (I guess that’s a good example) would. They’re just musically “supposed” to be with one another in my opinion. So, a big part of forming Walpyrgus was to get those two back together in a band because they’re mighty powerful together. When Viper disbanded Peter joined Widow and Aune came to Twisted Tower Dire. Then there’s Charley – again he’s one of those local guys who’s just revered for his playing. I met him back in ’98 when he played in a band called Iskariot which are Raleigh legends now. He was great back then but he kept getting better and better at guitar. I think at one point he really locked himself away and carefully studied Zakk Wylde. He had been playing in Daylight Dies through their big success period and then years later started his own band Hellrazor here in Raleigh. When that band came out you could really see how his guitar playing had evolved. They’d cover Ozzy “Breakin’ All The Rules” and the town would be abuzz and gossiping about how Charley nailed the solo and how amazing his guitar tone was. So, prefaced with all that back story, here I am back in 2012 sitting at the beach drunk and ready to take back a hold of my life. I called Jim, Jonny, Charley, and Peter all within the same hour explaining that I wanted to start an all original band. We were going to sound like Iron Maiden/Scorpion & Ramones/Danzig, the songs were going to be about the occult, and there were to be lots of guitar harmonies and vocal harmonies. Everyone agreed very enthusiastically on the spot that day and so now – years later, you have this album. So, we’ve technically been together for 5 years but Carlos Denogean of Salvación joined on drums a couple years ago so we’re a new version of Walpyrgus post-Peter, but still rocking and having fun playing together.

 2- Why did you pick Walpyrgus as a name? Sounds like witches, but written in a peculiar way… 

SCOTT WALDROP: I think subconsciously I liked that it sounded like “Waldrop” ha ha ha. Tom Phillips was the first to call me out on that and it made me crack up laughing because I hadn’t really thought about it but I knew it was true. That’s how it is when you’re buddies with someone for over 26 years. They know you better than you know yourself, ha ha ha. Me and Jim were the ones who brain-stormed band names and landed on Walpurgis, then changed the spelling to Walpyrgus. Changing the spelling was Jim’s idea. We wanted to set ourselves apart from all the other “Walpurgis” metal bands and if you google us with the weird spelling you’ll ONLY get us, so – I believe there was some deep nerd-thinking involved. Really, here are the main concepts behind the name: First – it was inspired by Fates Warning’s “Night on Brocken” lyrics which is a religiously important band (especially their early work) for me, Jim and Tim. Second – HP Lovecraft refers to the holiday quite often in his mythos and he’s probably my biggest literary influence in the way he “paints pictures” with words. Third – we wanted the band to be occult based aesthetically with our imagery & lyrics. Fourth – the holiday involves witches which are related in modern culture to darkness – yet the holiday celebrates the rites & coming of spring – a time of light, renewal and hope (symbolically). I feel like the holiday itself is a juxtaposition or almost a contradiction only in its modern context. Walpyrgus is about the tension between light vs. Dark. The lyrics are often rather gruesome yet the music is often jovial and celebratory. This is done on purpose for no other profound reason other than “I like that sort of thing” ha ha ha. It’s like Scooby Doo or The Munsters – American kid’s shows I grew up with. They were creepy and fun.
 
3- Though this is the first “official” album, you already collected a significant experience. What were the most relevant steps of it? 

SCOTT WALDROP: When we got together we all agreed that the end goal was to put out a full-length album and we agreed we wanted to create it very “organically” the way we would back in our 20’s or teens. That meant agreeing to get together at least once a week (the guitar players Charley and I would get together even more often to sort out timing and harmony intricacies), we would play all the songs live and often to see how people reacted to them, and then we would slowly adjust the arrangements until we got them the way we liked them. So, if you look back over our social media you’ll see that we’ve been playing lots of shows in the Carolinas over the past 5 years. We also put out an EP to get recording experience with this band. This was also part of the grand plan – demoing the songs repeatedly.

legions114- Already two, yet unofficial, live albums. Why? What’s the magic of playing live for you? 

SCOTT: We just happened to get to decent sound recordings from that bar “Deep South” down here in Raleigh and yes, we did practice quite a lot and we were proud to showcase that in those live albums. Peter’s Dad was who had those recordings done. In a day in age were bands are so fake in the way they’re produced and function we wanted to show that we’re the “real deal”. Also – they’re only 1 buck on our bandcamp and we figured we’d give our fans something to check out while we were working on the album. Also, it’s so easy to put stuff on bandcamp these days and just have it available – if you’ve got stuff to give the fans then why not? We’re not self-conscious of our “slightly imperfect” live show ha ha. Those live performances aren’t perfect but that’s okay. Nothing wrong with being human! It’s also the only place (other than YouTube) videos where you can check out our covers of “Evil” by Mercyful Fate and “Dirty Women” by Black Sabbath. Check us out at: https://walpyrgus.bandcamp.com There’s free Walpyrgus music there for all you bargain hunters and freegans!
 
5- How do your songs get conceived? Any recurring formula? 

SCOTT: They come from my body – I make them myself like a human baby. That’s partly true. First, I’ll get an idea for a song, and then typically I’ll chill out on my sofa or porch with my dogs and strum chords, singing the melodies and scribbling the words out on a notepad. I try to channel my inner-Willie Nelson or Bob Marley – you know, thinking to myself, “How did traditional song writers go about creating the classics,” I remember seeing that raw footage of Bob Marley playing “Redemption Song” in its early form and that had a big impact on me – seeing this song-writing master hash out the song by himself. I try to be mindful about how the phrasing of the words roles off the tongue with the vocal melodies and how those words & melodies are married to the guitar progressions. I ask myself, “Do these chords really sound like what the words are trying to convey?” I try to make sure that the chords and words are supposed to be together. I want the words and chords to really come together and complement one another so that they paint a picture (if you will) for the listener. First, I want it to be a SONG, not a metal song. To me, “Octopus’s Garden” by the Beatles is a song. You don’t remember any riffs, you just know that it really “sounds” and “feels” like hanging out with an Octopus and swimming under the peaceful sea. Anyway, after I feel like I have a true “song”. I’ll take the project upstairs to my man cave or “metal office” and I’ll begin to deconstruct the song. If the chord progression for the verse is G,C, D with a 1/16 swing time then I’ll create a simple “Black Sabbath” riff with those notes in that time signature. I’ll record all the song in “metal riffs” with a drum machine and then I’ll add my example singing over it. The I’ll email this “finished song” to the band so they can get a clear picture of the song. If everyone likes it (not all songs pass the Walpyrgus consortium) we come together at practice and begin to fine-detail it. Charley will make the riff more disciplined and technical. He’ll make us agree on exactly how to down pick and triplet timing etc. We’ll sort those nuances out with the drums. Jim will usually hyper analyze drum beats & fills then lock in with them on the bass also taking consideration vocal & guitar lines so that in the end the bass dances & weaves around the whole song melodically & time-wise. Jim adds and suggests removing so many parts in songs that final product really has a lot of his influence in it. He’s the “edit master”. Aune adds his own perspective on phrasing, melody and often repletion. Peter’s drum parts speak for themselves – so creative! So that’s pretty much how it goes. I come to the band with a very raw and simple tune, then we all go to work cleaning it up and detailing it.
 
6- The traditional metal background is clear, though you show a great variety of influences… What leads you to write music? 

SCOTT WALDROP: Some strange force whose origins I cannot perceive compel me to write and create art. That is the truth. I have no idea why but I was born creating music and art I think. Sometimes I don’t even if feel like it’s me who writes the stuff sometimes. I would probably be a more eclectic song-writer these days if I had the choice, but I started off in metal and metal has given me a voice and platform so I stay true to it and feeling comfortably beholden to our beloved genre. If you go back and listen to seminal hard rock (what was to begin metal) – stuff like Blue Cheer, Sabbath, MC5, Mountain, Deep Purple, etc – of course they had nothing to influence them except for their forerunners and contemporaries like Jimi Hendrix. Who did Jimi love? Dudes like Albert King. My thing is that I love King, Hendrix, and everything coming afterwards and everything before. I find bits and bats of music all over the place that deeply resonates with me. If I’m being honest, my favorite new artist is Sia who is as far from metal as you could possibly get. The reason I love her is because I can feel her soul through her music. I could a sense of who she is. A lot of her songs deal with the journey out of the darkness of addiction which resonates deeply with me. Also – her songs are timeless and genre- defying. Her songs are created in this beautifully over-saturated electro pop medium but they could just as easily be turned into metal or country songs by changing beats and some key signatures. I listen to music very objectively and it’s very spiritual for me. It’s no longer “fashion” the way it was when I was 15 (though I still have a drawer full of Slayer, Misfits, Sex Pistols, Venom and Bathory T-shirts because it’s fun not to grow up and be the weirdo parent at the grocery store). I’ll take ideas from anywhere – Neal Diamond, a TV commercial jingle, classical music, early America Folk Gospel and use them as inspiration for something that turns into a metal song. Sure – I still have my “riff” influences like Slayer, Bathory, Celtic Frost, Maiden, Lizzy – that’s the platform I build ‘songs” on. I write metal but the inspiration should (and does) come from anywhere – and I mean ANYWHERE. I’m not too caught up with fitting in and never really have felt that way. I just try to be my most authentic self, throw my weird ideas out there before the “proverbial campfire” and hope that people will like them. I’m blessed to have awesome bandmates and friends who believe in my ideas – see value in them – and will see them come to fruition. Without my Walpyrgus & Twisted Tower Dire bandmates willing to go down “the rabbit hole” with me, this would never happen (not to mention labels who have supported me and continue to do so like Cruz Del Sur, No Remorse, Miskatonic Foundation, Skol, Remedy and more – AND fans & zines…) I have so much appreciation for all these supporters I cannot express my gratitude enough for them (you) encouraging me onwards!

7- Your songs are incredibly catchy. Is it something you try to reach on purpose? 

SCOTT WALDROP: I get annoyed if things are not VERY catchy. I feel like music is uninspired if I do not remember it for better or worse. Example: if I have the radio station on and a jingle for carpet shampoo comes on, and I wind up getting this five-second jingle stuck in my head all day, I think its creator is a genius. Conversely – if I instantly forget a set of words with a melody I feel like the ditty is a failure or just not as good as it could have been. If you go see a live band and cannot remember anything about them or the songs then what’s the point? I cannot listen to music without pontificating on its merits and weakness or what it could be if it were written differently. It’s some form of clinical insanity I’m sure. I’ll go for very long periods of time where I only listen to classical music so that I can hear the mathematics of melody and harmony layers, counterpoints etc. because words sometimes distract me. Words in music force the listener into a specific soundscape and narrative. They “take” you into their story and force you to listen to it like you’re The Wedding Guest and it (the song) is “The Ancient Mariner” and you’re forced to listen to “the nightmares of the sea”. That was an Iron Maiden ‘ Samuel Taylor Coleridge’ reference worth a google of you’re a late 19th century literary nerd such as myself. So, look – here’s the deal: All of us metalheads who have ever written a metal song know that one thing is true. That truth is that we’ve all listened to “Master of Puppets” and grew up under its shadow and its assumption that not only is it okay to jam-pack a song with 35 disparate ideas and riffs but also that it’s desirable and honorable. Well I challenge you to listen to Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You” (albeit annoying bubble gum from the 60’s for most metalheads, not me) and try your best to write something that memorable and accessible. I bet you can’t do it! Please try because that’s what I want to hear! It takes way more concentration and thoughtfulness to strip an idea down that far and make it uber catchy than it is to string along a 15-minute metal opus. What are the aliens going to find when they rummage through Earth’s ancient dust a billion years from now? There will be more binary code for “I Only Want to Be with You” than there will be for Fates Warning “Ivory Gate of Dreams”. Oh my god, I can’t show my face at metal fests any more after that one. I’m going to get crucified – but it’s true. Search your feelings, you know it to be true!

8- Tom Phillips of WHW was involved for the album. What was his contribution? 

SCOTT WALDROP: Tom is one of my oldest friends. I have a handful of people that of stick in my life (other than family) since the 80’s/early 90’s and Tom happens to be one of them. So, for Walpyrgus we had already recorded the drums & guitars for the album in the studio at Volume 11 studios down here in Raleigh owned by Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity. Mike Shaffer had done all the engineering of the main instrument tracks and at this point we had shipped the album a few blocks over to Johnny Wooten’s (Widow) studio who’s also a very long-time friend and collaborator/producer of my music. We always do vocals with Wooten because ever since Twisted Tower “Make it Dark” we’ve had a whole “system” and great working relationship where we don’t even have to really talk – we just start working. Anyway, while all of this is going on I go to work in my home studio recording the keyboards. First, I went through all the songs and very carefully orchestrated and wrote all the parts while selecting the proper synthesizer & organ tones coupled with the effects I wanted them run through. I was experimenting running organs through my Marshall vintage modern to get the Deep Purple tones and doing all sorts of weird stuff like using a moog Theremin with a pitch corrector through various effects. Around this time, it dawned on me that I was somewhat “shooting in the dark” for the correct sounds and that other musicians have spent their entire careers messing with keyboard tones – and here I am diving into this unknown world just hoping that it comes out right. So, then I think to myself, “Okay, one of your friends has been playing keyboards professionally for over 25 years, I need help from Tom to do this right”. So, I text him saying, “could you help me out with Walpyrgus keys? I don’t feel like I quite know what I’m doing”. I didn’t know if he would give me suggestions or just record them quickly for me. So, we get on the phone and he says he loves the songs and would love to do it and that I asked him at a perfect moment between While Heaven Wept activity. Moreover, he was currently in the process of amassing a “library of congress”-equivalent of original analog key samples that he wanted to experiment with anyway. Slowly, it turned into him being interested in getting the original studio files so he could edit the drums (something that winds up costing several thousand dollars in a professional studio situation). So, I mailed him an external hard drive and he just went to work. He said he wanted to take a stab at fully editing and producing the whole thing and preparing it for Kevin 131 at Assembly Line studios (our mix man). Tom and I have spent enough time around world-class engineers and producers to know what all is involved with creating a “world-class production” but this was Tom’s first time really undertaking the momentous task of editing each track to perfection. It required several consultations with Kevin 131 but he got through it. I think he really had to lock himself away for a long time to get it done. So, it was a huge sacrifice and something I’m always going to have the utmost gratitude for. Also, it should be noted that he re-wrote a lot of my parts and made them much more sophisticated such as the keys melodies in the song “Walpyrgus Nights” and the guitar solo in that song. Also “The Dead of Night” orchestration at the end is something he really took and made amazing – my original idea was a pale shade of what it was to become.

9- Now apparently, he announced his retirement from the scene. What do you think of it? Will it change something for the band? 

SCOTT WALDROP: I can only answer this from a friend’s perspective so understand that I am not speaking for Tom. Here is what I “think” of Tom’s announcement. I must preface this statement by saying that when I first met Tom as a teenager, I wanted to be friends with him because of his intensity and passion for music. I knew he was one of the guys in my peer group that had the potential to take music “all the way” (whatever that means now, ha ha ha). That said, I’ve watched him over the years accomplish what I knew he was going to accomplish when I met him in the early 90’s. It’s been very cool to see him realize his visions and I’m very happy for and am proud of my friend. He earned everything that came his way. Music is everything to him. I doubt he will ever not have music in his life in some capacity but I think he needs to concentrate on some semblance of balance in his life. It’s public knowledge that he’s struggled with alcoholism such as I have. I can speak from experience with this that the mental affliction that culminates in alcoholism has its biproducts such as isolation and extreme behavior. I’d suspect he may be noticing unhealthy behavioral patterns in the way he approaches music, and that he needs to address them (this is conjecture). For Walpyrgus and what it means for our future is this: if we get the chance to record another album or even just put out singles, we’ve now established a certain level of quality we need to maintain. So, if we have the money (or more accurately – if a label is willing to give us the money) we will have our music properly edited and produced. Most (not all) but most, of Walpygus’s sound is indicative of my song-writing style so we can go on so long as we have a high caliber crew. He may be willing to do a cameo just for keyboards or a guitar solo here and there too. I would want him to be involved but only if it creates happiness and fulfillment for him.

10- Twisted Tower Dire is the home of some of you. Are TTD still alive? What did the TTD experience bring to Walpyrgus? 

SCOTT WALDROP: Of course. TTD is my “baby” and Marc Stauffer & David Boyd are two of my best friends ever – we’re truly like brothers. Yes, TTD is still alive. Dave and Marc have been quietly working very hard on a new TTD album while Walpyrgus has been active. The thing is that Dave has also been playing in Volture and Marc has been playing in Division so we’ve all been juggling projects and geographical distance to make a new TTD come to life. TTD also has so much history, especially with the passing of Tony Taylor that we need to be very sensitive & respectful about stylistically preserving our legacy – that goes for our fans as well as Tony’s memory. I felt like in “Make it Dark” I personally was indulging in a lot of things Tony never would have wanted TTD to do. I’ll never know for sure about this. The thing is – Tony was still alive when I wrote those songs but now that he’s in the next world, I feel like I need to keep those ideas separate hence Walpyrgus. I wanted Dave to write all the music for the next TTD because I knew he would preserve the sound that Tony loved about TTD (the triumphant battle aesthetic as opposed to my weird groovy supernatural stuff). I felt like I needed to step back from things to pay homage to Tony. Also, I’ve been so busy with other activities such as my running career, writing and charity work – I just don’t have enough hours in the day to expedite another TTD. I told Dave to take over the band and make another album while I’m indisposed with all this other stuff. I’ve been writing lyrics to Dave’s songs that I think Tony would love and I think that he’s up there smiling. So, what the TTD experience brought to Walpyrgus are a few things. First, I knew what NOT to do such as release things with a poor production. Also, it gave me a clear idea of what TTD is and why we do it. TTD is about epic songs and tales of heroism mixed with a twinge of occult. Walpyrgus is ALL hard rock and ALL groovy occult music. It can go as silly as we want and it’s okay! TTD has to remain somewhat serious. Tony Taylor was never a fan of my tongue-and-cheek humor IN THE MUSIC (he was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known otherwise, ha ha ha) But, he liked to make sure we kept the music deep, sophisticated, and “tough”. You know – he didn’t want us to be “goofy”. He used to joke and tell me that I lived in “The Star Wars Universe”, ha ha ha. I cannot deny it. So basically, that’s what we’ve brought to Walpyrgus – that unfettered compulsion I have to write groovy “ghost story” rock that I simply think I should suppress in TTD. You know, Marc and Dave were also sensitive about not going too far down this path in TTD. So, it’s good that I had them to “dial me back” and remember what TTD stands for. You know – how bands become great and stay great? I THINK, it’s because people who work well together stick together and help remind each other what they stand for and what their strengths are. So, that’ what I brought with me – a strong sense that Walpyrgus was: a very specific conduit through which to channel these “spooky rock” elements.
 
11- It looks like you pay great attention to imagery and artwork. How far do you think it enriches your music? 

SCOTT WALDROP: I do. I have been drawing ever since I can remember as well as dabbling with music as long as I can remember so I think the two have evolved in my brain together and in tandem. When I write lyrics, it evokes images in my mind and I am fortunate enough to have been given the skill to recreate and articulate the concepts visually through illustration so why not combine the two skills as its rather rare I think. I was very influenced by Away from Voivod and empowered by him. He’s not Derek Riggs. Their artwork wasn’t as bombastic and glorious like Iron Maiden BUT it was personal – created by the same person that created much of the lyrics and music. I thought that was so cool. I could aspire to be like him where Derek Riggs – I could only be Inspired” by him because a god among painters.  

12- Will we have the chance to see you live in Europe soon? Any chances for this to happen? 

SCOTT WALDROP – I really have no idea if this will happen or not. If we get offered a good slot on a good fest and we have some cooperation from promoters, then it’s very possible. Even then, we would in all likeliness be buying our own plane tickets and paying for transportation, food, not to mention taking off time from work and being away from our families, so it would have to be a very good offer. It costs a lot of money for promoters to fly 5 guys over from The USA to Europe so you know, I don’t blame anyone who wouldn’t want to pay for a relatively unknown band. Otherwise, I think our personal would be better spent on making more music for you 😊
 
13- I read you have some charity projects running. Do you want to tell us more about them?

SCOTT WALDROP: Yes! I run for a charity/non-for-profit organization called The Herren Project: http://www.theherrenproject.org Its name sake played in the NBA for the Boston Celtics (American Basketball which along with football, and baseball is pretty much what America is all about) while addicted to opioids / heroin. This organization does a lot of great work getting addicts and their families the support and help they need. We can’t help everybody but we try our best. This problem touches everyone. Everyone has a friend or loved one that has suffered from depression, drank too much, let pills take over their lives, – even eating disorders and cutting. I’ve dealt with this so many times in my own life not only with family members and dear friends – but even myself. I started taking LSD and drinking heavily when I was 13. By the time I was in my late 30’s despite having a great job, a wonderful family, a nice house, some amazing friends and a respectable run with my music – I was depressed, drinking in isolation and doing weird things that are the tell-tale sign of alcoholism such as buying cheap booze to guzzle on the way home from work before I’d “really begin drinking” which became an every-day affair. I don’t have a story where I wound up homeless, with everyone hating me and an arm full of track marks from shooting heroin with a needle. My message to people is that you can stop the problem before it comes to dire consequences. If you’re on the elevator shaft to hell going down, you don’t have to get off at the basement floor. You can get off on any floor. I’m just a normal dude, a husband, father, someone who pays their bills, and fixes their house on a regular basis. Outwardly you wouldn’t know I had a problem but I was slowly sliding down that well of alcoholism and I could see just a little bit into the future and it didn’t look good. I was also very overweight and heavy smoker. I though a healthy lifestyle was something other people could attain but not myself. I thought that it just wasn’t “meant” for me and that I was the “kind of person who tends to be fat and drinks a little too much.” Well if you tell yourself that narrative YOU ARE WRONG! You can turn things around and it’s never too late. To put my mouth where my words are I will be running The Leadville 100. One of America’s toughest 100-mile foot races at high altitude. I’m doing this for two reasons: First two show people that an overweight, chains-smoking drunk can turn things around 180 degrees. Maybe this will give someone the inspiration to take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle. It’s so very possible! Second: to raise money to HELP people that cannot pull themselves out of the grip of addiction. Some people (most) need exterior help such as expensive treatment facilities. That’s what I’m raising money for! Go to any metal fest and you’ll see am ocean of alcohol – most people are just getting drunk and having a great time listening to our favorite music and enjoying the company of like-minded brothers and sisters. That’s great! That’s what it’s all about! But some people such as myself will leave the fest and continue the party alone. The only difference is – the party is no longer a party. It’s a dark fucking place that leads to despair and self-destruction. There are a lot of people walking in the same shoes I was in. Alcohol has always been a part of their life and that point where it becomes a slope they’ll slip on and the problem creeps into its full destructive mode is quickly approaching around the bend. These are the people I want to help. Drugs and alcohol go hand-in-hand with heavy metal – let’s face it, it’s true. I’m not trying to change that. If you’re a casualty of your own mental illness and cannot stop the party once it’s begun – you’re the person I want to reach. I’m here for you! You can change, YOU CAN. Contact me, connect with me. (AND PLEASE DO) read my personal story and donate if you wish at www.ultrarunvegan.com Please share this website with anyone you think will appreciate it. You can connect with me personally (not just my bands but ME) at on twitter, Instagram & Facebook at the handle @ultrarunvegan (yes I’m a Vegan – that’s a whole different story about wellness, but something I deeply believe in too)…Now back to Walpyrgus{ Thank you so much for the interview and giving me a voice. You have no idea how much I appreciate you and everyone who gets something out of our music. Thank you to anyone who has read all of this! You can connect with Walpyrgus at www.walpyrgus.com Links to all our social media are there, our merch store is there and you can download some free music or buy some of our digital music as well. THANK YOU LOUD AND PROUD! CHEEEEEERZ!

Interview with HellHeaven (Portugal)

HH: Walpyrgus is a very strange name for a band, what is the meaning of the name?

Peter Lemieux: Walpyrgus is taken from the pagan holiday for Half-Halloween, though the spelling has been adjusted to avoid confusion! It blends seamless with the content of the lyrics, like a rock n’ roll ghost story! A Detroit Rock City for the Afterlife if you will! 

Scott Waldrop: Yea – Jim Hunter (Walp bass) and I decided if you google “Walpyrgus” as opposed to “Walpurgis”, you would ONLY get us, ha ha ha. I named the band  – always had it in the back of my mind that this Walpyrgus is a cool un-used metal name. Inspiration came from the Fates Warning song “Night on Broken” and seeing the date (or holiday) referred to in HP Lovecraft stories.

 HH: the band was formed on 2012 and after a few smaller releases you see your debut record in stores, how does this goal means to you?

Peter Lemieux: It was truly a labor of love! Especially after deciding to move to California in 2015, and laying down the drums shortly before the actual move! Seeing the finished product really brings back all of the feelings and good times from writing, adding nuances, and rehearsing the tunes with the fellas!

Scott Waldrop: I agree, while there were many cool things that happened like the EP, may shows, some festival appearances out-of-state, and lots of very fun nights jamming in Peter’s basement – this album represents all of those years of hard work and something great we created as friends.

HH: You all came from other projects, how did this idea for the band appear and which were your goals that time? Anything changed?

Peter Lemieux: One day, in between all of the madness touring with Widow, Scott called me up with the concept. Obviously I didn’t need to think twice, considering the talent level of everybody plus my longtime brotherhood with Sir Aune! I think the goal all along was to make sure we got a full-length done! I don’t think that goal changed anywhere along the way- a huge reason why were able to follow through! Looking ahead, I think we’ll just have to wait and see!

Scott Waldrop: Yes, I just called up all the Walpyrgus members one day – all at a time – and asked if they wanted to start a new band writing all originals. I didn’t have anyone to jam with in the city I live (Raleigh) so I mainly did it to keep me from going insane.

HH: On the press release you say that Walpyrgus is a combination of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Ramones, alongside with other bands, how would you define Walpyrgus?

Peter Lemieux: “Walpyrgus” – is the end result of mixing equal parts Mercyful Fate and Blue Oyster Cult inside of a horror themed bouncy-castle! 

Scott Waldrop: Those bands are my wordsI only listed those few influences to let you knowgive people a quick idea of where I’m coming from. in my mind. You could add to the list bands/people like Slayer, Scorpions, Sex Pistols, Johnny Cash etc. These are my favorites – you know, these are like the “default” : influences that pop out when I write music. We don’t play on vintage gear or try to make it sound “old school” so I think some people just hear us and are like, “These guys sound just like Helloween” or whatever. I think the guitar sound has a lot to do with that because Charlie and I play through Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifiers with modern guitars that have EMG’s pickups in them. That’s the perfect storm for a “modern” guitar sizzle sound. You know, that gives us that modern “tough guy” sound. I don’t really like that sort of music but let’s face it, modern amps sound so damn cool it’s just fun as hell to play through them. Back to the aforementioned bands wWe started the band with these influences in mind and as a basis., There of course are an innumerable amount of bands and musical influences I draw from (everything from classical to Sia) they indeed still are my main influences (all the aforementioned bands), and let things progress along the years. So, here in 2017 with the album out I’d say those influences most definitely ring true. We’re I’m inspired mainly by 70’s music – punk, very melodic song writers like Willie Nelson or Bob Marley, and blues hard rock…BUT we don’t play through 40-year old amps so whatever ingredients all of that amounts to is the sum of Walpyrgus.

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HH: with such a large range of influences and with your own identity of each one of you, how do you combine all that on your music?

Scott Waldrop: I take my demos to the band first. I will email them a song which is completely written from start to finish -, of course with the expectation that there will be edits and changes per each band members’ area of expertise. I’m not a band dictator and I wouldn’t give my friends these songs to help me manipulate them unto greatness if I didn’t trust their judgment and respect them as musicians, artists, and creators. The first thing that happens is I write the song with open chords on acoustic guitar as if I was writing a simple folk song meant to be mellow and just played by one guy alone like James Taylor or Simon & Garfunkle – whatever, something like that. Then I’ll take that idea up to my “man cave” which I call the “metal office” where I make a fairly simple demo using a keyboard drumbeat. I’ll turn the chord progressions into simple metal riffs and record example vocals. Then when we’re together as a band the magic starts when as my team goes to work on this demo song. It’s like they’re four sculptorss with rock hammers and they attack this monolith of marble like hungry lions (only they’re musicians and not lions, ha ha ha). The following is generalizing what the individual members do but this is just what sticks out in my head: Peter will tweak tempos, add his quirky fills and suggest backing vox ideas. .Aune defines the vocal melody as my demos are rather shaky, and he’ll help with arrangements, Jim edits the song andit, adds strange anomalies that bring a larger dimension to its technicality yet are very subtle. Charley takes my guitar work and cleans it up. He figures what we’re going to palm mute, general technique,  exactly how many notes are going to be in melodies and things like that.

HH: Dead Girls was the first single of Walpyrgus Nights, what is the theme about and why did you choose this song?

Scott Waldrop: The theme is loss of innocence. A lot of my lyrics are really kind of justhave hidden meanings for my own experiences with alcoholism, drug-use, and coming out of depressionit to find the light. The whole Walpyrgus aesthetics centers around, occultism, witchery, evil women etc so I have to set the narrative within those constraints. This makes the lyrics more colorful and “Metal: “ rather than me trying to be poetic and personal. Anyway – so albeit the song is about a girl, it’s about something analogous in my life – in the sense that this kid hits the streets at an early age and gets caught up in dark things (for myself it’s drugs and negativity). She gets swallowed up by the city and its seedy evil streets and becomes a monster among monsters. This relates to how you feel when ile in the throes of addiction: you’re around people you don’t really want to be around and the “true you” who was once beaming with light and potential is buried under the ugly crust that drugs and alcohol have covered you in. You know, “Beauty waned, felt her magic fade, snatched up by this evil place.” That’s addiction taking over and muting your spirit. You can interpret it for yourself by reading the lyrics but in the end, the evil spirits claim her for a moment then she’s forever just another one of the multitudes of “ghosts in the forest”. That’s an analogy for addiction taking someone unto death. I didn’t even quite realize how consistently my lyrics were tied to my own problems at the time, but it’s easy when I look back now years later. You know, I wanted the lyrics to sound cool and “metal” but I consciously wanted them to elicit a subtly emotional response from the listener. I want you to feel keenly aware that there’s a bit of higher meaning rather than me simply stringing along cool-sounding words & phrases. Okay, so why did we choose it? Ha ha ha. This song has been divisive! To preface it, I will let you know that I wrote this song in one night while drunk with the express intent of quickly writing a very catchy ode to The Ramones and The Misfits. Walpyrgus was one song away from being done  with writing all the songs we planned on writing for the “Walpyrgus Nights” album. Fand for this last song we all agreed we needed one song that sounded like “a single”. We needed our “Neon Knights” or “Living  After Midnight”.  I brought “Dead Girls” to the table at this 11th hour and Charley brought a song with a totally AWESOME Black Sabbath riff but no lyrics. Charley’s song was vastly superior in its “metal-ness” and guitar-work but mine was such an obviously well-crafted and generally “good” song. Charley conceded immediately after hearing “Dead Girls” that we needed to go with my idea saying that “guitar-wise it weaker than his but it’s obviously a better song.” That really honored me at the time if you’re reading this Charley. , ha ha. I should probably tell that to you in-person though, ha ha ha. As a band, we were all a little bit apprehensive about the song as we knew it was glaringly SOOOO punk and NOT metal it was going annoy some metal people. At the same time, we knew it was great song and that we couldn’t not pursue it. I think Enrico at Cruz Del Sur kind of didn’t quite know what to make of that song when he first heard it. This is just going off of what Tom Phillips told me as initially I let him deal with the label so Enrico didn’t have two guys pulling him in different directions. I let Tom have control of the band during production as he’s one of my best long-time friends and I fully trusted him (better than myself) to navigate us to a superior album. I think Enrico thought this song and perhaps this whole band (Walpyrgus)s was a little too rock & roll or commercial for CDS and rightfully so – I mean, I knew we were giving him some seriously very happy- sounding “bubble gum” music. We wound up releasing commercial YouTube videos at first (before Dead Girls). The first song let out was “Palmystry” and it just had the band photo, album cover and release date & details. Now, you’d really have to ask Enrico why he agreed to this as I never asked him personally, but if I had to guess it was he had confidence in the song , by then. So, when the time it came to himcame to releasesing a full single lyric video, he asked what song we wanted to  us to use. Me & Jim wanted to use “Dead Girls”. We actually wanted to use “Dead Girls” as the first song on the album but Tom thought it was a massive mistake and he perhaps was correct because the song does confuse a lot of people. To be honest, that is the kind of song I’m into writing these days. I think it’s harder to create something simple and infectiously catchy rather than something convoluted and epic. It’s like I think, “, pick your BEST ideas and CONSOLIDSATE that shit into 3 minutes or less.” That’s tough for a metal artist and I’m damn proud of that song. So that’s why it’s the single! Next question…GO!

HH: Each song seems to tell us a different story, is there any real concept around the record and where do you get the inspiration for songs like Somewhere Under the Summerwind or Lauralone?

 Scott Waldrop: Most definitely there is a unifying concept. If you listen to (or read) the  lyrics to each song you’ll find the exact same concept: One individual journeys into darkness (whether literally or figuratively), finds evil that’s been waiting for them there, and then transcends from it or descends into said darkness. It’s all analogous to addiction and depression within the constraints of a metaphors using heavy metal vernacular to paint a scene of witches and the supernatural. There is a main   female character in the story line of all the songs on the album save the Witch Cross cover of “Light of A Torch” although it should be noted that this song is also a song about journeying into darkness and being terrified to turn on the light and see what’s there – again a very clearly defined analogy for addiction and that song is about rats no less! If you think in terms of the songs being about one particular girl, you can look at the story progression and arc this way: “Dead Girls” is about the little child growing up into a dark adolescent. Then, “Lauralone” is about the adolecent who longs to seek their own path. She thinks she’s tougher than she really is and dark forces attach themselves to her. I believe dark forces are real and will attach themselves to you if you aren’t strong mental and physically – for real, no bullshit, I’m that weird and airy. Next, if you look at “The Dead of Night” that adolescent girl has become a fully mature and very evil woman who is fully swallowed by evil, so much that she becomes inhuman. The only song based on a true story and not coming all directly from my inner world is “Summerwind” as there is a famous house in Wisconsin. Check it out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summerwind I took liberties with the lyrics to make them poetic but much of the lyrics are based on the true story. Again though, the haunted house is analogous to the human soul. A house becomes an almost living and breathing entity brimming with the energy and residual emotion of the hands that tended and mended it’s boards over decades. When the spiritual cacophony in a dwelling becomes so disharmonic with ghostly emotional crosstalk that it can no longer be inhabited by mortal humans, it becomes that ominous grey structure damned to loom in the forest unto ultimate oblivion. It wanes in despair and disrepair in futile longing for its long-since-dead guardians. That is the addict and their baggage. Perhaps that chance for a miracle can come true for them and they can find redemption. Sometimes death is the only way to know peace for some souls (and houses) who’s storm only can be quelled in eternal silence. This is Summerwind. This is the tragic nature of mental illness. This is the metaphor.

HH: After all this wai surrounding the debut record you gotta be anxious regarding how people will react to Walpyrgus Nights, which are your expectations?

 Scott Waldrop: I do not get attached to outcome. The universe has provided for me wonderfully for over 40 years. I’m a live still and doing just fine so why worry about the future? Wwhy worry about what people will think? I’ve spent much of my youth caught up in that sort of thinking. I spent a lot of my vitality and gave myself to a lot of the bad side of “what ifs” and it did not serve me. Sure, tragic things happen in life. I had a troubled childhood. My house burned down. Many loved ones have died in bad ways. Some drank themselves to death. I saw my beloved Grandmother fall into dementia. One of my best friends died in an unspeakably tragic motorcycle accident (RIP Tony Taylor). But, I’m still here. I’m sober. I’m healthy. I’m fucking thriving. Why worry? I know if I am afraid of failure I’ll never try to succeed. That’s why I put myself publicly “out there” as out-spoken advocate for addiction recovery. That’s why I’m unafraid of displaying my lifestyle aspects which could be construed as antithetical to the “metal ethos”.  I’m cool with saying I love ABBA. That’s why I do fringe sports like a 100-mile mountain marathons. That’s why I put out songs like “Dead Girls”. I do these things because it’s possible I could fail. Often in life you need to fail to succeed. When you perceive an endeavor such as creating an album and its reception by the public as a success you feel stronger. You feel like you’ve grown and that you’ve proven that you can try new things and that those things will turn out okay. When you fail you still grow. You learn what doesn’t work. Either way you win because you’re expanding and ever-learning. So, I am not attached to expectations. I just do what I do and hope that I can bring a little light, happiness, andor aspiration (or) perhaps even inspiration into someone’s life. Life is all about interacting with others and helping. Iand so if I have one expectation or “hope” for this album, it’s that it will bring new opportunity and give my fellow humans art to enjoy.

HH: If you look to the future how do you see Walpyrgus?

 Scott Waldrop: I think Walpyrgus is kind of like Twisted Tower Dire is right now. It’s an entity. So long as I exist it will exist in some tangible fashion, provided that the atmosphere is advantageous for its storm and that its founding fathers (Peter, Carlos, Jim, Jonny, Tom, Charley, and I) don’t feel that its legacy is being defaced in any way. What I mean in less airy words, is that if my band mates are enthusiastic about keeping it going then we simply will. Like TTD, Walp has a history and a back story now. If there is demand for it then we’ll keep going. Humans are funny like that you know – from the moment we are a small child we do things and people will be like, “Yea that’s great! Keep doing that.” So, we keep doing that and it helps mould shape our ego and thus “personality”. Conversely, as a child when you do something stupid, antisocial or generally-fucked such smearing shit on your face and running naked through the streets, people will be like, “No no no! Don’t do that!” Of course, we take the advice and allow the heard to shape us a little bit more. It’s a bit ridiculous. Sometimes it’s best to listen to yourself instead of the rest of humanity whose energy is a chaotic mix. Bands are no different than that a little child taking input from the other humans. We read the reviews. Some say we suck and we should all be killed. Some say we are Golden Gods and that they would like to eat the corn kernels from our shit (no one said that). I do not see the future. I let the future unfold in the present moment. Right now the present moment for Walpyrgus is good. I would like to do another album or put out singles but I’m not going to “fight” to put it out. It will materialize organically or not at all. .

HH: Would you like to leave a message to Portugal?

Scott Waldrop: Thank you very much for the interview! So glad we have fans  in Portugal and we hope to make it down there one day. Please connect with us on social media, buy our merch, listen to our tunes and buy them all at www.walpyrgus.com Also, I am a long-distance runner for charity. I n run with a non-for-profit organization called The Herren Project and I’ll be running The Leadville Trail 100-miler this August. I’m doing this to raise money to help people who are fighting addiction/alcoholism. Please read my story and or donate if you like: www.utrarunvegan.com

If you or someone you know suffers from depression, alcoholism, addiction – we are here to help. Please feel free to connect with personally at the instagram, twitter and facebook handle @ultrarunvegan.com –  Also, there are resources for addicts and their families at http://www.theherrenproject.org/ Many of us at THP have gone through this and understand! 

Walpyrgus

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I figured it would be fitting to release this now as my band Walpyrgus is about to travel to Ventura, California to play the “Frost and Fire III” Festival which is somewhat the “climax” of our year’s activity what with the release of our debut album “Walpyrgus Nights”. So, here’s an epic conglomeration of WALPYRGUS interviews in one place. Much of this was translated into other languages so here’s some Walp literature in English.

First off congrats on the album it sounds retro but with a totally fresh spin on it – how long were you guys working on this before you went into the studio?

Peter Lemieux: ‘The Dead of Night’ and ‘We Are the Wolves’ were the first demos I ever heard, so really since the formation of the band!

Scott Waldrop: Yes, Peter had a home studio right there in our jam space so we recorded lots of demos of these songs right when we started the band in 2012. It was about 3 years of long nights in the basement and several gigs in The Carolinas – and at some Fests to “test” the songs in front of a crowd. There were different incarnations of the tunes and we tweaked them several times before eventually going into “Volume 11 Studios” here in Raleigh NC to get the drums and guitar rhythms done. We of course, are all inspired by older bands from 70’s prog to 80’s punk, but we use modern gear. For instance, Charley and I play through Mesa Boogie amps with modern guitars containing emg pickups. Him and I discussed guitar tone when we started the band – whether we wanted to play Gibson SG’s through old Marshalls or go full “meathead” metal with the sound. So, we opted to use our pointy guitars with sizzle tones and that ethos of “modern tone” verses “old school song-writing” followed us aesthetically unto the album’s completion. Basically, the philosophy was, “Let’s write cool classic metal songs in the vein of the early 80’s masters but let’s take advantage of technology and not make this band a retro novelty by going out of our way to track down vintage gear and record on analog”.

How did you write for this album – does it start with a guitar riff? Lyrics? Does everyone bring ideas to the studio or do you rule with an iron fist?

Peter Lemieux: Scott, for the most part would come up with the skeleton tracks, i.e. rough guitar and some vocals! We would flesh out the songs together, at rehearsal, but also on the side with guitar jams and rhythm section practices!

Scott Waldrop: That’s right. I will write a song in my home studio with a drum machine. I’ll do a simple guitar version with my example vocals/lyrics then take it to the band. At band practice, we’ll pick it apart and scrutinize all the tempos, the rhythms, chord progression and fills. I give the guys something simple so that they can all bring their expertise to it. Peter will add all his cool quirky drum fills, Aune will fine-tune the melodies and vocal harmonies, Jim is always the “master” editor usually adding the minutia that give our songs their signature dynamics, and Charley basically just swoops in and polishes our guitar playing up completely. He obsesses over how many time we’ll palm mute on a 16th note and have us bend our Schneker harmonies 100 times until he’s somewhat “okay” with them, ha ha. He gives me the kick in the ass I need to NOT be a sloppy hippy of a musician. It’s like if Gary Holt from Exodus was hired to come into The Grateful Dead’s practice and whip the guitarists into shape, ha ha.

How was the recording process? Did you guys use a lot of analog gear or was it all plugging right into the desk?

Scott Waldrop: No, we were in a proper studio for most of it but at the same time we did record in Pro-Tools. We didn’t use analog at all but Tom went to great lengths to make the album sound as organic as possible. It’s funny – we were tempted by those “reels” as both of the main studios we recorded the main tracks in down here in Raleigh NC have working vintage reel to reel machines. First, we went to Volume 11 Studios (owned by Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity) so it’s like the C.O.C. “nest” in there – full of all kinds of amazing boutique effects, amps and vintage gear. Mike Shaffer of local thrash legends Blatant Disarray engineered the drums and rhythm guitars. He even played some rhythm on “Torch” during the solo section which he didn’t get credit for on the liner notes so I’ll give it to him here, ha ha. Recording everything in that studio was incredibly fun. There’s such a cool atmosphere and history in that room. It’s rad being surrounded by Corrosion of Conformity’s road cases and there’s this guitar stand Motorhead gave them, guitars Metallica gave them etc. Anyway, then we took the album a few blocks away over to long-time collaborator and Twisted Tower Dire engineer/vocal coach John E. Wooten of Widow and just a long-time friend. He’s the guy I call if we need help with vocals or if I need help moving a piece of furniture. That said, recording vocals with him is pretty much the “fun stuff” being in a band is all about. When we get together in the studio and start working we joke around between takes, laugh at ourselves, and you know- it’s like we’re still 20 years old. Wooten did however, wind up going to college for audio engineering and was mentored for a long time by producer James Lugo (if you google this guy his resume/client list is insane. I went over to their studio one night to help fix a cable and they were recording vocals for a Disney movie, ha ha ha. Anyway, so Wooten helped us produce the vocals. Many of the vocal melodies are his ideas and he probably should have received a little more “defined” credit on the liner notes as well. He (Wooten) sang with us a lot on the album too on the back-up vocals. After vox, Tom Phillips took over orchestrating keyboards and editing EVERYTHING. He painstakingly nudged things bit by bit to keep the organic integrity of the album. The hours he spent doing this were unbelievable but it’s the main thing that holds the album together as sounding “vintage”. Once you “snap to the grid” it sounds like modern robotic production which turns a lot of people off including myself. I really wanted something between “Powerslave” and “Nevermind The Bullocks” when I referenced the overall ”sonic wall” I wanted to hear. After Tom was done putting it through the “While Heaven Wept” ringer (which was an epic process to say the least), he sent it over to long-time trustee Kevin 131 of Assembly Line studios to mix it (again, look at his resume – the guy’s a bad ass) and finally over to Kevin’s mastering counterpart Bill Wolf to give the album its final polish. And there you go! That’s a how a Walpyrgus album is made.

You and bassist Jim were in OCT 31 together right – how did you guys meet? There has to be a good story there!

Scott Waldrop: I’ve never got this question, ha ha. It is a good one! Jim and I grew in the DC Metal scene and we were both Deceased fans. I saw his band Springheel Jack play with Deceased one time (we must have both been under 18 at the time) at the legendary Safari Club and I knew one day I would “steal” him ha ha. He was a totally awesome bass player back then already. He was this super tall and gangly kid with hair down to his ass and looked like Cliff Burton. I thought, “I need dudes like this in my band!” Anyway, we knew each other for a while from the scene and when October 31 needed a singer Tony Taylor (TTD) tried out and got the gig. I think Tony kind of talked King into bringing me along as a “side package” because they wanted a rhythm guitar player after losing Kevin Lewis. Tony knew I was a big Deceased and that it was kind of like a “dream come true” for me to play in a band with King. So, Jim and I wound up riding together a lot on October 31 trips because I drove this little ford ranger pickup that only seats two. We’d haul the gear in the back and put the other guys in Brian’s car. Jim and I were immediate kindred spirits with very similar senses of humor and tastes in music so having each other’s company made those long rides across the Midwest tolerable. So, yea, we have like 20+ years- worth of voices and comic routines we entertain ourselves with on car rides to this day. Our bandmates pretty much just sit back and listen to us talk nonsense in weird voices for hours on end. I suppose the most pertinent bit of information is that him and I discovered early on that we had a very natural-flowing relationship when it comes to writing music. It’s very easy for us to sit down with guitars and get creative and we know each other’s weird quirks, as well as likes and dislikes. He can analyze seconds of me playing a guitar riff, then say, “Keep the first ‘Dead Kennedys’ dinga-ling, keep chugging on ‘Seek & Destroy” and do the ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ funk stop,” – and I’ll know exactly what he’s talking about.

How did you find vocalist Jonny? Historically for so many bands, everyone spends years learning how to play guitar, or drums, how to write songs whatever and many singers are just like “yeah let me try that” whereas real singers like Jonny usually are very hard to find

Scott Waldrop: Jim Hunter was the talent scout that found Jonny, ha ha. He called me one day back around ’07 and was like, “Man, there’s this band of teenagers in a band called Viper I just saw last night and they’re way better than us!” We were looking for a singer at the time so Jim insisted I go check them out. So, I went out and saw Viper play at The Berkley here in Raleigh and was amazed by this guy’s stage presence and voice. Jonny is one of those guys who just resonates good vibes to everyone he comes across. He’s very magnetic which is the most important aspect of a lead singer. He’s the sort of person who’s just great at whatever he tries to do. He was a great athlete in high school. He knows how to look cool and present himself aesthetically that’s a little more over-the-top than most be never seeming to appear as though any effort is put into it. Woman universally love him and nonetheless he’s married to his high school girlfriend. I don’t know what the hell it is but the man has some swagger and some sort of “it” factor that is very special. So those are some of the things I love about the guy and why I like having him as our lead singer. I’m just glad he wanted to be friends with me, ha ha ha. He’s like this super charming, talented, beam of light who helps me channel my creative ideas. So, yea, we were just EXTREMELY lucky to find him when we did. You know, aside from all of his natural talent & mojo, he grew up playing bass & singing in his Dad’s church. The Aune’s are a very interesting and tight family. They’d been grooming him to be an awesome musician since he could walk & talk basically. He knows music theory from stacking hymn harmonies as a second nature. I’ve played with guys that have formal classical music training/college degrees like Tom Phillips and Jonny can have a conversation about counterpoints, Mixolydian, and minor 3rds with the best of them. I remember his Dad saying at his wedding that one of the things about his son that amazed him was his ability to excel at the things he loved to do. They had photos of him being projected on the wall from when he was this badass high school athlete, then there were photos of him when music came into his life and he was starting his own bands, and then lots of photos of him and his (now) wife & mother of his child Nicole growing up together. My point is, he’s a very focused, intelligent, loyal, dedicated guy. He’s the architype of the sort of person I want as a friend and a bandmate. I never worried about him. He’s solid.

In my opinion, its great seeing younger guys like yourselves playing almost a throwback to 80s style metal – tons of great guitar parts but also super tuneful songs. How did you guys get into this style of playing?

Scott Waldrop: As far as “music career” shelf life is concerned – I’m way passed my expiration date and indeed am older than dirt! Me, Tom, Jim, and Charley are in our 40’s. You must have been looking at Carlos, Peter or Jonny, ha ha ha. Thank you though! I feel young physically and mentally. Well, Charley I met back in the mid 90’s and he grew up with the whole Raleigh North Carolina scene – bands like Corrosion of Conformity, & Confessor. Me, Jim & Tom grew up in the 80’s/90’s in the Washington DC music scene which entailed everything from punk/hardcore like Fugazi, Bad Brains, Minor Threat and the massive death/thrash metal scene centering around the community King Fowley of Deceased created. Up in D.C. there was ALSO the whole Pentagram / Maryland Doom Scene. You know- like most of the Hellhound bands were from the DC/Baltimore area like Revelation (Jim’s old band), Iron Man, Internal Void etc. In the city there was some awesome grass roots seminal heavy music & punk we were lucky to be a part of and witness. But a few miles out in the suburbs there was something else going on. Kids were watching MTV and seeing the California hair bands. In 1984 my neighborhood was full of teenagers who had their bedroom walls covered in Motley Crue & Van Halen posters. That music was like teenage religion back then so it made a big impression on me.

Peter Lemieux: Believe it or not, my dad got me into playing the old school traditional metal! He took me to all the concerts while I was growing up and we’ve gone to see each other’s bands play countless times! The Dude plays Tony Iommi in a Black Sabbath Tribute for, Pete’s sake!

Are you aware of bands like Sumerlands and Eternal Champion who are also kind of in this modern retro genre?

Scott Waldrop: I’ve heard of Eternal Champion and I know this genre has been stirred up and that it’s simmered repeatedly since the mid 90’s so it’s never really gone too far out of fashion in the grand scheme of things. I used to be very involved in meeting and fraternizing with bands and I’m sure there’s lots of amazing talent out there, but now that I’m 41 I like to spend my time differently. I don’t drink alcohol anymore and just prefer to stay away from too much nightlife when possible. It’s not that I don’t care or want to encourage younger people to carry on this music or feel jaded in any way. I just have but so many hours in my day and days left in my life so I’m budgeting time between writing music and perusing new horizons like the world of ultrarunning and charity work (not to mention most importantly my beloved wife and teenage son). So, yea, I know about them but don’t go out of my way to listen to new music and I do wish them well. I supposed I’m just acting my age. I’m still and extreme person but those characteristics of my personality just manifest in different ways rather than me going out and getting wild and crazy. When I play with newer bands I always very much enjoy seeing younger people playing this music and loving it as I do – it proves that the genre is timeless which is a beautiful thing. When I look around at all these younger bands it makes me feel like heavy metal has won. When I say that I mean that heavy metal has carved out a place for itself in popular culture. It’s universal in its energy so new generations keep tapping into it. It’s here to stay. I think metal will (in the long run) be a very defined genre separate from rock, rap, blues etc. It has its own culture which is ever-flowing, so kudos to bands like Sumerlands (I love that name) and Eternal Champion for taking “carrying the sword with a burning skull impaled on its tip”. That run-on phrase sounded cooler and more metal than “carrying the torch”.

Am I right in thinking Walyrgus is a variation of the word Walpurgis ? In Germanic folklore, Walpurgisnacht literally means “Witches’ Night”. Are any of the band practicing pagans? if so what faith?

Scott Waldrop: Yes, we wanted the band to be about occult and supernatural topics. No, we aren’t into anything like that at all. It’s all about dark fantasy metaphor because the words involved in its general vernacular sound cool. I’m cool with a lot of wiccan ideas and I’m very much into spirituality but I’m my own animal. I navigate ethereal matters on intuition and through meditation. I don’t identify with any religion or group in-particular. I feel like to be in touch with spirit you need to remove yourself from religion or groups. Too much vernacular and dogma blur the focus of the mission which is to know spirit and not to belong to a secular group. We’re all stardust that will succumb to the same final singularity. The second you ever arrive at any feeling like, “Okay, I’ve got this, there’s nothing more to learn or understand”, you’ve cut yourself off from the possibility of further growth. Health and wellness have become of paramount importance to me as a sober alcoholic. I think it’s incumbent upon on all of us to continuously evolve as individuals and a species. That entails letting go of ego and seeking mindful consciousness as much as we can access it. Religion groups with which we identity our spiritual or philosophical perspectives is all too often fashion. What’s worse is conviction, as it drives a wedge between people with conflicting beliefs. So Walpyrgus is just nonsensical tales of witchery and cartoon Armageddon. We’re no less or more serious than Scooby Doo is about catching ghosts. Let’s keep it real! I’ve seen what those dudes look like in the Renaissance Festivals. You think those boys could hold their own in The Viking Age??? Those were some scary times. You could legally walk up to some dude and be like, “I want your house, your wife, your children, …and I’m going to fight you to the death for them.” And if the dude killed you, he got to keep all your stuff fair & square! So, no, there’s like some Pagan “nature energy stuff” I relate to but I’m rather glad I don’t have to make my way in The Dark Ages. I like doing 100-mile foot races. That’s my idea of channeling my inner pagan-toughness. That’s where I find a lot of my spirituality. I’ve been to a lot of conventions, festivals – even people’s houses who were practicing wiccans, purported witches, and voodoo practitioners and it felt way too much like Cosplay to me. I’m like the saxophone player from “The Lost Boys” ‘cause “I still BELIEVE”.

While we are on the subject of the name – what’s the correct pronunciation and who came up with it?

Scott Waldrop: It’s pronounced “WALRUS PENIS”. Okay got that joke out of the way. The proper way to say our name is: “WALL PURRRR GUS” That’s “Wall” as in “The Great Wall of China” or Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” if you like. Then “purrrr” as in the sound a cat makes. And lastly “GUS” as a dude named Gus or “Gus G.” if we want to get all Heavy Metal Nerdy about it.

You guys are from North Carolina right? How’s the metal scene down there? The Carolinas have a long history of producing great bands: COC, Confessor, Nile etc. Any idea on why the 2 states are so prolific considering you don’t have the population numbers like say California, NY or Florida does?

Scott Waldrop: Yea I think it’s because of the college scene down here. There’s a huge art/music culture which has existed here for a long time. You have just in one small area some of The American South’s top colleges clustered very close together in the Raleigh area. I’m talking about North Carolina State, Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, Duke. And then you also have a bunch of very old and venerable smaller colleges like Peace College, Meredith College and so on and so forth. There’s a constant influx of intellectual people flowing in and out of the area so there’s never been any shortage of clubs to play at or bands to play with. There’s a special “energy” here that’s very conducive to playing music. For instance, in downtown Raleigh there is one giant building that houses a club called The Maywood which is a great nightclub for metal/punk/indy bands. In the same building, there is a studio owned by Mike Dean from COC called “Volume 11” studios which is famous around here. Also, still in this same building – there is this massive labyrinth of rehearsal spaces so you can walk through there on any given night and like here like 20 bands rehearsing at once. COC and The Connells are in there sometimes. Also, downtown one of our main landmarks is an outdoor amphitheater you see as you drive through the city called The Red Hat. Slayer played outdoors there last week so all of Raleigh was being shook by “Angel of Death” ha ha. This amphitheater has a mosaic of a giant oak tree (our city’s symbol) which softly changes color like one of those meditation salt rock lights (if you have any idea what the f**k I’m talking about by that). It’s a very giant breathtaking art installation which really accentuates the city’s skyline and I know it must be surreal for artists on stage to look out on this see of faces under this trippy flickering mural. I saw Blondie there while there was a full moon over the buildings, over the hue-shifting mural, and over the amphitheater full of faces dancing on grass. She commented on how magical our city is. I turned around to take stock of what she must have been taking in from the stage and I, “Yea our city is pretty damn awesome.” Just within Raleigh, you have tons of clubs to play in like Slim’s, King’s, Deep South, The Pour House, Southland Ballroom, Berkley, Black Flower, The Lincoln Theater, The Ritz etc. etc. That’s not even talking about Durham and Chapel Hill which as two close-by cities with lots of other clubs. So, yea, we have it good down here culturally as a place for musicians to fraternize. Also, you know – when you’re talking about the music scene down here and you only mention metal, you’re only “scraping the surface” of the actual music scene because Indy Rock, Indy Folk, & Punk down here are pretty much everything. There’s a whole radio station devoted to it and of course the scenes cross-pollinate a lot. I think also it’s slow-paced down here compared to DC or Atlanta. In the Carolinas, we pretty much grow crops, go to college, brew craft beer, swim in the ocean and hike in the mountains. I’d say our state is a fairly “existentially aware” sort of place as the culturally there seems to be an emphasis on enjoying life and you know – not giving too much of as shit about what nightmares are transpiring in The White House. There is room to breathe here and really think about art and music. This wonderful state is a place people come to visit for Holidays to have fun. It’s a major sports destination. It has the best beaches on the East Coast of North America and the most beautiful mountains (The Smokey Mountains) in the East – google photos of them, they are right out of a J.R.R. Tolkien story with their ever-rising mists. Our beaches are the cleanest, full of beautiful shells, ancient lighthouses, and boast most of the best surfing on the East Coast. To the west in Asheville you have some of the best mountain-loving hippy right wing liberal culture in the country. In the middle of the state, you have Charlotte and Raleigh which are major metropolitan hubs generating big income, sports, and influential people. To the east you have a beach culture so distinct and desirable people come from all over this giant country and Canada just to spend a little time here. I think all the aforementioned is why you have such a perfect breeding ground for bands to be born out of. We live in a place that celebrates life and places value on the quality living and not necessarily “how much you can get done before you drop dead”. I was born here in North Carolina so I have to give it a big “shout out” and I believe everything I just said despite my inherent predilection for this place. This is my home and I love it. Great things manifest here!

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Have you guys done much touring on this album yet? If so what has the response been so far?

Scott Waldrop: We haven’t toured. The furthest this band has gone out of The Carolinas was Chicago for Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse and also back to Chicago this year when that fest became The Legions of Metal Fest. We’re going to Ventura California this October for Frost and Fire III https://www.facebook.com/frostandfiremetalfest/ (Thanks Jarvis!). The response has been quite good from all the reviews I’ve read. Of course, there are bad reviews of our music because not everyone will like your music but I’ve never heard us be accused of be sloppy or uninspired on stage. I’ve got a great team and I practice guitar a lot to keep up with those dudes. It helps that Carlos has been touring with Weedeater too because when he comes home and we do local gigs, he’s really in shape on the drums. People seem to consistently say the band is “tight” and that our enthusiastic energy is infectious on the crowd. So, that’s exactly what we set out to do in the very beginning back in 2012. I want people to watch Walpyrgus live and think, “These guys belong together, they look like a gang, you can tell they work towards a common goal, they have vision, they’re a team, there are no weak links, no one looks like they wish they weren’t on stage, etc. etc.” Yea, I want you to think ALL that, ha ha ha. You know when you see a band and they’re great but there’s that one person that just looks like they don’t quite belong and that the band had to “settle” on this individual as a bandmate? I want us to never have to be like that. You know, there’s always that opening band were each member looks like a very dedicated metalhead musician with sweeping chops and wild hair and all that… BUT they’ve got that one guy: a mediocre bassist who’s “competent” but playing with a pick. He’s wearing khaki Old Navy cargo shorts and some “regular person” T-shirt (maybe a well-worn white “Hard Rock Café” Las Vegas” shirt). We’d like to avoid that. It’s painful for the audience to look at something like that. It’s awkward for everyone involved. In Walpyrgus as a rule, each member is integral to our live show. When we started this band one of the points was to be a great live band. When Peter left it was crushingly sad for us as I could not think of anyone that was worthy of replacing him down here – at least anyone that I knew personally already and trusted. There was only one guy I was willing to replace Peter with (and this was Peter’s suggestion too) – Carlos Denogean from Salvación. The only problem was that Carlos lives 2.5 ours east on the ocean in Wilmington. Still, it was worth us to travel to have him to hold our integrity as powerhouse line-up. That’s not to say he doesn’t sacrifice to drive to us as well because he does and we much appreciate it. Carlos kept this band alive.

What can we expect from Walpyrgus for the rest of the year?

Peter Lemieux: You can expect to see us in Ventura, California the weekend of Oct 6-8 at Frost and Fire III with tons of other great bands! (including Twisted Tower Dire featuring Jonny, Scott, AND Jim!!!)

Scott Waldrop: We’ve got a very cassette version of “Walpyrgus Nights” coming out. Watch for announcements on that if you’re a tape person. I’ve got lots of new songs demoed. If Enrico at Cruz Del Sur wants another Walpyrgus album we’re going to start putting it together. Jonny and Charley have young kids so that makes things trickier with timing things. I have a teenager, several other music projects, and a whole “career” (if you will), around my distance running & charity work so I need real momentum or enthusiasm for projects (running or music) to justify focusing my time on them. I spend so much time in the studio and out on trails training that budgeting my time & sleep while not letting my family life suffer, has become an obsessive science. That said, I’m sitting back and watching how “Walpyrgus Nights” is being received throughout the year to gauge whether or not The Universe is pushing me in the direction of a second album or just allowing the legacy of this one great (in my opinion) set of songs to stay intact & unblemished. We know if we do a follow it cannot be half-hearted as we put what I would call an almost immeasurable amount of thought and energy into these songs. If we tried to rush a follow up without enough forethought I’m sure fans would notice and may be disappointed. So, as with everything – the future of the band is tentative but generally bright.

Any final words?

Scott Waldrop: Yes, thank you so much for taking interest in us and letting us talk. Yes, as an end note to plug my charity – I’m an ambassador runner for The Herren Project. We raise money and awareness around mental illness and addiction which is born from it. We want to break the stigma society holds around these topics. It shouldn’t be considered weak or embarrassing to ask for help when you or a loved one suffers from something like alcoholism. No, this sort disease is not like cancer – it is psychological and we humans don’t know much about our own brains. In cosmology we pontificate and hypothesize about the implications of dark energy yet we unable to quantify our own consciousness!? I believe these problems (mental illness & addiction) shouldn’t be considered taboo and that people with mental illness need to be helped – not be made pariahs or unnecessarily incarcerated. Obviously, drugs and alcohol effect many of us “music people” and for some of us the day comes when the party ends and we find ourselves alone in dark places. If you relate to this please check my page http://www.ultrarunvegan.com There is help. You can also connect with me personally on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at the handle @ultrarunvegan …As for WALPYRGUS, you can also connect w/ us with the handle @walpyrgus on FB & Twitter. Better yet – you can find links to all our social media, book us for shows, buy our merch, buy & listen to our music http://www.walpyrgus.com THANK YOU & GOOD BYE (FOR NOW)!

All of you have “serious,” long-running bands. What kind of outlet does Walpyrgus provide?

Scott Waldrop: Walpyrgus is specifically my writing style of hard rock/horror punk/metal. With pre-“Make it Dark” Twisted Tower Dire, you were hearing a mixture of Marc & Dave’s thrash influence with Tony Taylor’s “seriousness” lyrically. In While Heaven Wept you’re hearing Tom’s brand of progressive neo classical doom which is also of a very serious nature lyrically. I can’t really speak for Daylight Dies as I don’t know the main song writer well but of course they’re a very technical, very depressive doom band that’s rather humorless. That said – with Walpyrgus (again) you’re really getting a picture of my song writing style: Hard Rock with often “uplifting” and almost old country style chord progressions, and with rather dark yet humorous lyrics. Musically you’re looking at a hybrid baby of Thin Lizzy, old Slayer & The Sex Pistols. Lyrically you’re getting another weird hybrid baby birthed by the sardonic humor of The Ramones, The Misfits, Dead Kennedys, old Slayer (again) and a healthy dose of 25 + years of Lovecraftian nerdery on my behalf. I would say moreover – that Walpyrgus is an entire band dedicated to the sound TTD left off at after “Make it Dark” – punctuated by Peter’s rock & roll style drumming, Charley’s uber 80’s Van Halen solos, Tom’s grand keyboard orchestrations, ted together by a very distinct vision of the band’s overall aesthetic centered around an almost cartoon perspective on the occult.

Is it the kind of band where since there’s no pressure, it becomes even more enjoyable?

Scott Waldrop: Yes – but only in the sense that there have been no expectations. It’s not While Heaven Wept or TTD so there are no preconceived notions of how it should sound – no long-time hardcore fans to disappoint. Juxtapose to that though – we do collectively come from a legacy where our music is rather well known in the underground so there is a certain expectation as to the quality of music that fans of our other bands expect us to put out, and pour our hearts into. Given that there have been no TTD or While Heaven Wept records in years, people are expecting us NOT to put out a piece of garbage. While there was no external pressure, we placed a lot of internal pressure to do right by our fans by being extremely mindful of every decision we made in the production of this album. Every word, every note, the production, the performances – they were all executed with as much thought as we could muster without falling into obsessive compulsion and getting too lost with over-thinking. I think me working with Tom again for the first time since we were (basically) kids, coupled with the very stylized playing of Peter & Charley, leant this whole project to a very fresh and energetic atmosphere as we knew at the time we all had great synergy.

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The word “fun” is used in your bio. Sometimes that’s a bad word in metal, but it applies here. Is there a genuine sense of love and appreciation among one another in the band?

Scott Waldrop: I know metalheads like to take themselves too seriously quite often but we prefer to keep it real and be ourselves musically and in dealing with one another. You only live once and you’re going to die – so if you’re not having fun and finding fulfillment in whatever it is that you’re doing – flipping hamburgers or writing songs about witches & warlocks – you should seriously consider changing your life’s trajectory. Why do you go to metal shows? To have “fun” or be entertained (same thing). What’s the most “serious” metal band you can think of? There’s humor in there somewhere – guarantee it, you just need to look. And to really get to the crux of your question, yes – we’re all great old friends who got together to write music solely out of mutual admiration for each other’s talents. That was the entire point of this band & album – and it was fun as hell putting it together. Each of those guys is like a brother to me.

Because each of you have other bands, how do you work Walpyrgus into your schedule?

Scott Waldrop: Yes, we have to because there are so many other bands in our gene pool. If there are shows booked we treat it as a “first come first serve” situation. So, if I text Jim, “can you play July 22?” and he comes back saying there’s an October 31 gig that night – it’s no sweat and we don’t worry about it. Besides, all the other people in all the other bands we play in are (almost) all good friends, so we want the best for each other. We’re too old to have egos and get upset about petty stuff as no ones’ individual success is really hampering the others’

With so many seasoned veterans in the band, who takes the lead when it comes to songwriting? Or, is it a group effort?

Scott Waldrop: I write the first draft of all the songs myself. I’ll usually start with an acoustic guitar and some open chords while scribbling a first version of the lyrics in a notebook. Then I’ll go into Sonar and convert that simple open chord country-like song into one with basic metal riffs with some drum beats I find in my keyboard. I’ll record the song with me singing so Jonny gets and idea of the phrasing and vocal melodies. Then if the band likes the demo, we learn it and start deconstructing it at practice. Charley will make the riffs more polished and add some technical things that he wants to lock in with the drums. Peter and Jim would often add all sorts of very fine details to songs during practice. So really – all those layers and details you’re hearing in these songs – most of it is not on my original demo. For instances: The “Black Sabbath” riff at the end of Palmystry where the keyboards get crazy – that was Charley’s riff and everyone working together adding small details to it. So in essence, we take these simple folk songs I write and sort of “Slayerize” them as I say.

While you could be described as a classic metal band, there’s an obvious punk influence, which most metal bands rarely let shine through. Who and/or where does the punk influence come from?

Scott Waldrop: I was a punk/metal skater kid from the 1980’s in Washington DC. I didn’t grow up in England listening to Saxon/Maiden nor did I grow in California listening to Motley Crue/Van Halen although I love all those bands. When I was a kid the skate subculture was inextricably linked to the music scene. My sister was really into the Ramones too and so, I had albums like “Pleasant Dreams” (my favorite) going through my head as a very small child. When I was about 12 I started getting into stuff like Maiden, Ozzy, AC/DC & the metal of those times as I was picking up the guitar because that music was so awesomely guitar-driven. Then, around ’88 or so I had cousins that turned me on to the local punk/hardcore scene that was brewing right in our backyard: stuff like Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, Minor Threat etc. They were also into the “harder” metal like Slayer, Voivod, Dark Angel etc. They turned me on to this whole world as well as the underground zines & tape-trading, so that completely opened my world up. But being a DC kid, that punk stuff is so in my blood I have no problem letting it shine through. We live in a post-punk era and metal has so many schizophrenic off-shoots that (for me), going back to the Sex Pistols is a lot cooler and tougher than trying to be assimilated into the “Vans Warped Tour” ironic metal aesthetic. This old music is part of me, there’s nothing ironic or fake about it to me. I love old punk, it still fills me with adrenaline, and letting this shine through is the most authentic version of myself I can give to people. You know – at the same time I’m a metal musician so it’s not like a see it as a license to play the guitar sloppily or put out music which is poorly recorded.

Can you describe the 56-page comic book? Will it become an ongoing thing for Walpyrgus?

Scott Waldrop. In a word: “Insane” – because that’s what I went drawing it. Most of it was done stippling pictures of witches and zombies for about three years. No – I doubt I’ll make another because it was extremely time-consuming. If I do another it will be drawn much quicker and the art quality will (maybe not suffer so much) as it will be a more “scribbled” version of my drawing style. So, I got the idea while I was running a few years ago that if I started (that day) to begin working on a graphic novel for “Walpyrgus Nights”, I could probably have it done by the time the album came out and this might be the one chance left in life that I have to fulfill this life-long dream I’ve had of creating a comic book. So, I began – I took the pictures with me everywhere and worked on them in my spare time. I’d stand in line at the post office with a clipboard drawing some “demon woman” while I was standing next to little old ladies. What it is, is the visions I see (or saw) in my head while writing the lyrics. So, I think you’re getting a unique experience by seeing what the lyric-writer was thinking through their own drawings. I know Away from Voivod does it so I’m not busting down any paradigms completely, but I still thought it was a cool thing to give to the fans.

How does Tom Phillips factor into all of this? Obviously, his work in WHW is monumental, but what was it like having him contribute?

Scott Waldrop: Tom and I have been friends since 1991. I was recording all the keyboards myself when I stopped and thought, “Hmm, if I call To and see if he could do them, they would come out way better”, ha ha ha. So – I called Tom and he loved the idea especially because I caught him in this weird “purgatory” moment for While Heaven Wept where that band was kind of re-collecting themselves, I suppose is the best way to put it. It was totally great having Tom work on this album. He’s incredibly detailed unlike anyone else I ever met in music. The more involved he decided to become, the more I was happy to hand over the steering wheel to him, as I know while it can take him a long time to get things the way he wants them – it is worth it. I’ve watched him comb over his productions obsessively over the years. He’s always been like that – ever since he was a teenager. I knew that him and I would inevitably argue about me cutting corners, growing inpatient and trying to save money, but of course he talked me out of all my bad decisions along the way (ha ha ha) and we now have a great album. That’s what I wanted him to do. I knew I needed to be talked out of dumb half-baked decisions basically. But really – the coolest part about working with him was hearing him put his own style over the music. In the song “Walpyrgus Nights” I can tell it’s Tom who wrote those keyboard melodies. All the notes he chose are very indicative of his style. Love it!

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What’s the live show approach going to be after the release of the album?

Scott Waldrop: We keep the songs mainly as they were at practice in the basement when we first put them together (without keyboards) and do not attempt to replicate the keyboards live. Instead, we do different versions where they keyboard lines are swapped out for totally different guitar solos. Some of the keys I transcribed into guitar solos such as the ones in “Dead Girls” and “Walpyrgus Nights” because those melodies are important to the song’s identity, but they also come across well live and are fun for me to play. I think that’s the thing – those who are in the audience can tell if we on stage are not really enjoying ourselves, so we try to find the balance between what feels natural for us as musicians to play within our abilities, and what the audience will miss if they don’t hear it. We don’t try to recreate the huge sound on the album – instead we focus on giving the audience the best version of the songs we can recreate with our abilities and equipment. If our guitar playing suffers because a backup vocal line is messing us up at practice, then we’ll cut it out. It’s more important that when we we’re playing live, you see & hear us performing in our comfort zone – where we can still move around, bang our heads, and feel the music. If you like to watch a bunch of uptight stoic nerds looking at their fret boards the entire time whilst also getting a guitar & math lesson out of a show, then you probably won’t be coming to see us anyway. We try to give you everything we’ve got and be as professional as possible with out playing and tone, but it’s not lost on our minds that we’re rocking out for metalheads drinking beer that just want to cut loose. I think it’s most important for a metal band to deliver somewhat an athletic performance rather than harp on fine details. After all – you got to see people playing loud “off the rails” music. We’re more a gang of guys playing music than we are a symphony – No?

Finally, what’s on your agenda for the rest of 2017?

Scott Waldrop: We’re playing Frost and Fire III in October. Our plan for Walpyrgus is to see how well the album does and if we feel like the demand is there, then we’ll write and record more music. I already have a lot more Walpyrgus material ready to go so I’d like to keep it going if the momentum is there. You can connect with us, hear music, and buy our swag at http://www.wapyrgus.com. As for Twisted Tower Dire, Dave and Marc have been hard at work writing a new album so that’s coming along. No real time estimate as of yet but I think we’re doing 11 new songs. As for me, I am running a rather infamous (in the running world) footrace called The Leadville 100 in Colorado this August for a charity called The Herren Project who raises money to help people with mental illness and addiction. You can check out my personal story at: http://www.ultrarunvegan.com – It’s a crowdrise donation platform where you can donate, but you can also just read about my persona plight with drugs & alcohol / recovery through ultra-running. If it’s insightful or helpful to anyone that’s great. If you’d care to donate a little cash towards my cause even better! You can also follow me on Twitter & Instagram @ultrarunvegan …Thanks for the interview!

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 Waldrop: 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 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 Waldrop: 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 Waldrop 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 Waldrop: 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.

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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 Waldrop: 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 Waldrop: 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 Waldrop: 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 Waldrop: 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 Waldrop 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 Waldrop: 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 Waldrop 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 http://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 http://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 http://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 🙂

The Great Epiphany

Great epiphanies follow sobriety. It is not the other way around. Most addicts don’t have singular life-altering epiphanies. Angels can sit down with us on the bus and talk our ears off and we’ll tune out their blathering. Most of us just wind up wanting to crawl out of the loathsome phantasmagoria we’ve created externally and internally. You normally cannot quantify the moment where things pivot for the better. Most of us aren’t even sure how it happened. I’m grateful that I went through darkness. Without the darkness, I may never have seen things from the perspective I now have. I don’t feel sorry for myself or want you to feel sorry for me. My hope is that some authenticity and availing myself may give hope.

1985

I had no epiphany that made me stop drinking. I had millions of moments that should have shaped me up. Cracking my head on the bottom of a pool at 3 a.m. wasn’t enough. Being holed up in jail in the middle of Texas without a phone call for days didn’t strike me as being “off”. Unintentional 180’s and wrong-ways down one-way streets didn’t do it for me. Jumping medians making my car go “Dukes of Hazzard” airborne didn’t impress me much. What didn’t kill me made me suicide-proof. Dropping acid at 13 and really grasping the visceral meaning behind the Pink Floyd lyric “There’s someone in my head but it’s not me” wasn’t a big problem for me after “The Real Scott” eventually crawled back home days later. Looking back on “my pivotal moment” is to peer into pandemonium: a flushing commode of orange vomit littered with the bobbing surfaced detritus of my past & future descending again into the abyss from whence it came in some mindless cycle. I’m prostrate with cold sweat propped against my bathroom wall glowering at the whirlpool and dehumanized by it. Each time my familiarity with the toilet’s cold porcelain surface was reinforced it took another part of my soul with it into the netherworlds with the previous night’s alcohol.

1990

I was never an angry drunk or got a DUI so I figured the alcoholism that runs through my family wasn’t going to sink its claws into me. In my late 30’s that started to change but for some reason I was ignoring the signs. Every time I cracked a beer open while driving I had this peripheral inner monologue, “You keep doing this man. You do it all the time dumbass. You think you’re going to do this the rest of your life?” I indeed kept doing it and every time I was a little more freaked-out by my behavior. I was anxious because I wanted so badly to chug the cold numbing-bubbles down and have that “oh-so- pleasant carefree-glaze” fall over me while I’d crank tunes and smoke cigarettes with the windows down. That carefree abandon was tainted – almost negated, by the looming inevitability of being caught. I was pushing 40 and I’d been driving drunk or getting drunk for way more than half my life – since 13 to be exact. My number was up soon and I was upping the ante all the time. Finally, on a Wednesday evening after band practice the darkness in my Tahoe’s cabin was illuminated by the dreaded frenetic strobes of neon blue angrily ping-ponging off my side and rearview mirrors. I immediately accepted my fate. I drank 13 beers. I polished off a 12 pack and bummed a beer at practice. I was screwed.

“How much you had to drink”, it didn’t take the officer long to ask. The equation for such a contingency was second nature to me as I now realize that every time I completed a drink (normally counted in wholesale denominations of six packs or twelve packs with side orders of gas station malt liquors) and looked at the clock, I was calculating a web of complexities involving hours, drinks and meals which might satisfy the question as to whether I was legally impaired. Of course, the numbers would always need to be drastically “fudged” and “rounded” to the point of being an egregious and borderline sociopathic lie.

“Well I left the house around seven, had four beers and dinner, so it’s now 11 and I feel totally sober”, I fibbed to the officer. Four beers were the magic number – a bit too much but honest-sounding and justification for why my sour Budweiser breath clam-baked the entire cabin of my SUV as undoubtedly when I rolled the window down to greet the officer the tell-tale miasma rolled out like cartoon sewer fog.

“Why were you going so fast”, the cop asked secondly.

I replied, “I guess it’s just been a long day and I was just thinking about eating my food and go to bed.” I gestured to my passenger – the jumbo Taco Bell bag sitting shotgun which contained a sumptuous variety of that novelty slop which is so gratifying for the drunkard to ghoulishly gorge upon lonesome in front of the television.

The officer bought this utter crap spewing from my mouth and sent me home with a speeding ticket. I could not believe it. It was surreal that I circumnavigated my near-nightmare-come-true. I fully deserved jail. This experience didn’t curtail my drinking. It did (however) in the future, become one of several dots I connected to reveal the “you’re an alcoholic” picture. If I look back and concentrate on what that special “pivotal” moment was which initiated the start of my recovery, the aforementioned scene comes up to the surface as part of a montage but it’s not “the” singular epiphany – there was none. When I look backwards into that fog which was my depression and alcoholism and I peer around for profound moments of clarity, I only see some shaky cryptic footage – an amateur compilation of aesthetically disparate shots on some off-brand camera. Still, it is from the perspective seen through my own eyes at the time. I see those crackling blue lights shatter the serenity of my black “dream drives”. I see myself kneeling on the rocky dry red Carolina clay under the gas lamp in my front yard. I’m weeping with hands clasped beseeching the sickly pale moonlight cloud-painted sky through the menacing silhouette of towering pine branches. Their scrawled and evil outlines are consigned to memory resembling desiccated-balled-up-dead spiders and clawed skeletal hands clutching down at me in want. There I weep and pray to some unknown force I’m certain of. I beg to regain my bearings. I beg to return to the before-time when I was a child. I want to default my settings back to a time when wondrous love and possibility fueled excitement and empowered me with forgotten wherewithal. There was a remote past before alcohol hexed me into suspended animation in which I’d negotiate the entirety of adulthood hobbled by its trance. The next scene materializes into some vision where I’m now out-of-the-body being escorted through recent events by a black figure. I’ve managed to bypass the benevolent “Ghost of Christmas Past” and am side by side with The Reaper. We watch me howl “Pancho and Lefty” on an out-of-tune guitar to our captive guests and my wife. I’ve spent the whole afternoon learning it while drinking whisky so I can reveal it later just one time to 3 people. Way to spend your day Scott! I can’t get through the “performance” without crying. It reminds me of burring my dead dog. I’m pouring all my heart into it but it’s just terrible and I’m out-of-my-league. I’m an imposter human. It’s 7 pm. The guests have just arrived. I’ll soon pass out. My wife thinks I’m pathetic and rightfully so. This is normal now – blacking out around 8 pm. Then the scenes flicker in a warp-speed hypnosis like the intro to an apocalypse-themed b-movie: I’m by myself in my truck in a large parking lot in a derelict industrial district downing an entire blackberry sparks (a malt liquor energy drink) in one gulp. Next, I’m screaming at my wife while our little boy watches from next room with tears streaming down his beautiful perfect little face – he too is screaming, his face is red and contorted weeping violently while wailing, “Stoooop!” This is what it looks like when I think back on the moment that made me “quit drinking”. So, am I coloring this with mellow drama? Yes. But, when I look back at my life it seemed like I was in a waking nightmare when I think of my latter day drunkenness. Of course, there were good times and I functioned but if I recall the final days of my drinking I think of these dark scenes. If I think of my youth and alcohol I have very different memories. I had great times drinking. I wouldn’t have drank otherwise. Alcohol gave me courage in the beginning and turned on me in the end. I never thought it would.

1998

Any one of the scenes I mentioned should have catalyzed a polar shift in my thinking but addiction just doesn’t work that way. The walk out of the alcoholic wasteland was a long one. When you spend a lifetime drinking and finally wake up with your (hopefully) last hangover you tend to find yourself proverbially naked in one hell of a weird place. I was determined to make it home but I was far away and the road ran through lingering darkness wherefrom shadows leered in wait to yank me back into their brambles and waylay my journey. What the hell are you talking about Scott??!! Those “shadows” represent every time I attempted to “cut down” on my drinking only for it to come back stronger. Forgive me, I’ve spent the last 25 years writing heavy metal lyrics drunk and on drugs. This vernacular sure seems appropriate for the bad things you do and go through while using. The nature of this mental illness is that it habitually tricks you until you become perceptive of its presence. That’s why so many people refer to alcohol as a demon. That’s why you need to admit The dreaded “A” word to yourself & others to gain traction on the trail home. I never needed to learn moderation. I needed to banish my enemy.

2008

The grand epiphany that makes one stop drinking is a myth – more rare than a unicorn that one should seize upon a defining moment when they’re fumbling through their sickness and confusion. I know it happens. I know love at first sight happens. It’s just more often than not the opposite. My epiphany happened long after the alcohol dried up. It came to me with clarity. The Universe continuously gifts us with opening doors but we’re often too blind to see them in sobriety, much less when we’re in some chemically-addled swoon. Months into sobriety when my running had really started to shift from being a painful weight-loss tool into a fulfilling athletic pursuit, I was beating myself up over my own bad thoughts. Sometimes you have faint glimpses of wisdom that you know to be ultimate and profound truth but you don’t hold on to them or keep them with you for long. This one was different. This one stuck. That truth was and is that every time I had a bad thought I could acknowledge it and redirect it. And maybe, just maybe, one day I would be able to redress a life’s worth of habitual negativity. With (a lot of) trust in the process of this newfound insight, perhaps I could slowly redirect my inner mind to a peaceful state. This is my journey and it’s unending. It begs the questions: What is really important to you in life? What are you going to do with your time here? Are you enjoying yourself? Are you going to leave the world a better place when you leave, the same, or the opposite? We’re all dying right now. It’s a beautiful fact and proof that life is a gift. Glimpses of clarity leave me with more questions than answers but to seek purpose as opposed to hiding from it provides a degree of placidity we all yearn for. So, in my not-so-plain English: All that crap you’re afraid of dealing with, all that catching-up with a lifetime of wasted time that feels overwhelming to start out upon, all those emotions buried in your inner wreckage like gruesome decayed and dismembered body parts you fear to exhume and detangle, the truth about who you look like when the ugliness is wiped away – these fears are all worth facing. It’s the only way to find yourself again, and no matter who is on the other side is the person you are meant to be. Moreover, It’s the person you want to be.

Check out my charity at http://www.ultrarunvegan.com
Connect w/ me at ultrarunvegan@gmail.com (or) twitter, Instagram, fb handle @ultrarunvegan

 

It’s All Fun & Games Until Someone Gets Alcoholic

Is there a time in my life when I need to consider taking myself more seriously? Am I really doing my best? Can I drink 2 beers and go home for the rest of my life? Have we grown up in an environment that champions binge drinking? Is pop culture a little too accepting of substance abuse, and a little too quick to abandon those who can’t hack it? The following is going to sound colorfully judgemental but bear with me because there could be an eater egg or two hidden therein for those willing to jump into this dark well with me. We’re standing at the edge of blackness. Hand in hand we’ll jump into the horrors of my retarded mind (it’s not an epithet if it’s mine). Below is my swirling madness…and jump.

What criteria makes one a “bona fide” recovering alcoholic or addict? An old shoe box full of Mardis Gras coins under the bed juxtapose to a newer one with a few AA sobriety coins? Your own proverbial “Trail of Tears” dotted with sworn eternal enemies and crestfallen Al-Anon Members? A self-titled memoir with “A Precautionary Tale of Desperation Fellatio” in parenthesis following your name? I’m not making light of the terrible things addicts do to feed their demons, so much as I’m pointing out the often high thresholds others have as to what categorizes one as an addict. Can’t we reel back our definition of addiction before its victims’ woes metastasize into a veritable pornography of symptoms? Can’t the addict just pick up life’s remote control (or Wii U controller, whatever – I’m a decrepit old motherfucker) and change the channel before it comes to all this? I think so. After all, you don’t have to keep binging on your own private “COPS on Location – Greensboro”, even when the remote’s across the room or out of batteries.

Some question your sobriety should even be called “sobriety” if you don’t amass the obligatory “RAP sheet” some insist on checking off before you’re deemed a true “fuck up”. No twelve steps, estrangements, or arrests? Some (naysayers) will say you quit drinking because you’re a control freak.  It’s not true. We Fuck-Ups come in all forms & degrees – and as I’ve heard others say, “It’s best to get off the elevator before it hits the basement”. I was aware that my situation was on the fray and I’d estimate that I got off on about the fourth floor of a rather tall 27-year old skyscraper. It was when the elevator still contained a few other socially inept party-goers overstaying their welcome. Even my drunkard cohorts had the clarity to alert me to my habitual breach of party etiquette – such as a slovenly piss fail – resplendent with gaping zipper and peekaboo dick. Despite a myriad of hints The Universe provided for me to change course, I hid my alcoholism “pretty okay”, and for the most part  was possessed of some seemingly supernatural power to evade Cops.

I’ve been fortunate to escape the throes of addiction & depression without the aforementioned “credentials” of the self-imagined bona fide user – all-the-more reason I should see it fit to help others who are in worse scenarios than I ever was (but we’ll get to that in a minute). I suspect that folks like me who drink excessively all the way through our 30’s, tend to internalize and deny the true scope and magnitude of our ever-deteriorating condition with serial behavioral patterns we weather throughout adulthood. We surround ourselves with like-minded accomplices so that Budweiser Weekends and impromptu weeknight “dinner parties” are the comfy, cozy, coping mechanisms of the nagging arduousness (making money, boring jobs, home repairs) which is obligatory to proper modern “adulting”. What do we get to do after a week of hard work we hate? We reward ourselves by escaping into a booze fueled-fantasy world which our imaginations manipulate into a reality way cooler than it is in actual reality.  Yes – Jolly as an old ass-groove in a recliner, is the 45-year-old Dad in an Atari T-shirt air-guitaring to “Cheeseburger in Paradise” during his multi-family vacation at Myrtle Beach. In his mind he just lived out an MTV video from ’84. Adoring onlookers will talk about his performance for years to come. In reality he was wriggling about like a freshly beached whale while people frowned at him. He’ll catch wind of the National Institute of Health saying 14 drinks per week is excessive but will still manage the ‘ol, “Oh that can’t be right” with a dumb dismissive grin. If you’re getting pissed off at me because I’ve just described you – I’ve just described a version of myself as well. As a 40-something, I grew up with the “Revenge of The Nerds” party culture. I waited until my Dad was asleep to switch on the TV and see Betty Childs’ boobs and hear Booger’s epic beer belch which was integral in The Nerds’ triumph over The Alpha Betas. I see a world where Gen-Xr’s like me long ago used a memorandum entitled “The Party’s Over After Your Romantic & Experimental Early 20’s”, folded it in half, and used it to slide shake into their bongs. I’ve found that my old 90’s friends “Weedfog” and “Bingey Beer” are still normalized in suburban America from Backyard BBQ’s, Beach Culture, and Christmas Parties as a mainstay carried over from a youth culture. It’s the “Oh everyone does it now” mentality which pervasively lingers among us “Man Babies”. Did I attract like-minded  energy? Maybe my ponytail was the beacon device. No matter, as the fact is that I woke up to find myself morbidly overweight, resenting my soul-leaching and bleak career path to which I felt obligated to by an antiquated narrative, and ultimately wondering what my point & purpose here on Earth is, and moreover – exactly when my life stopped imitating some lesser-known yet awesomely quintessential 80’s movie? When you’re in the heat of the party action, and everyone expects you to be Mr. Good Times, the last thing you want to bear is the shameful lowly exposure of being a confirmed alcoholic – especially when you know in the back of your mind that you are one. We celebrate drinking here and now.  If you can’t handle your drink and need to submit that you’ve got to call it quits, you’re forever cursed to have the “bummer cloud” loom over your head. You committed a party foul, so your Carnival Cruise mates marooned you – forcing you out upon a sea of antipathetic faces whilst wearing the “game over – shit got real” stigmata carved into your forehead. You’ll be the ugly example of who not to be. You’ll be the loser who got smacked by the big-red-rubber-don’t-serve-him dodge ball and has to sit on the puke green gym floor and watch their peers frolic. You’ll be the lame, party-pooping fuck-o who couldn’t get his drink right.

There is a fear of further isolation by confronting your disease. Addiction is not unlike death in this sense. We don’t like to confront death, so we put Grandma in the cemetery, say a few kind words and drive back home. The world is for the living. Similarly, if you’re life’s a perpetual gallivant in “Alcoholic Fun Land” with Spuds McKenzie sitting shotgun, you’re not terribly interested in considering whether or not your current habits will cast ever-lasting shadows nor is the company you’re likely keeping thinking any deeper. Addiction is a manifestation of mental illness. We don’t know much about the brain. Is Addiction like Cancer? No, not really. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have mercy on the afflicted instead of making them the “Failure Pariahs” we whisper about and glower towards during Thanksgiving; The Banished Foes of The Mighty Spuds McKenzie himself! Mind you, it is admittedly all but my own mellow-dramatic and perhaps neurotic conjecture that I glean any insight into a cultural pattern among my age peers, but I think I’m on to somethin’ somethin’, hashtag urban dictionary. The moral is to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Quit while you’re still not a pathetic parody of yourself. It’s like Devo said:

“When a good time turns around
You must whip it
You will never live it down
Unless you whip it”

I don’t know what inspired this silver-tongued word-smithing but it’s sound advice to be sure – because, sometimes when you do some really fucked up shit at the party, you need to make it funny or waddle away before they find the evidence and you need to run; like shitting in a wok or pissing in a convertible corvette. Again, I don’t know exactly what party crimes Devo perpetrated, but their words will forever haunt me. They were weird nerdy dudes. It must have been a commensurately weird party foul. I digress…

blog

Thus, out of my blathering convoluted web of superlatives & sophomoric metaphor,  I’ll finally get to the point: Running pulled me out of my depression and boozing. The gratitude & happiness I felt after coming out of the fog is something worth sharing. It’s my obligation. I’m running The Leadville Trail 100 with The Herren Project Ultra Team to help others that are too deep in the hole to get out. Life is amazing and infinitely more vibrant through the lens of sobriety. You’d never believe it if you’re marinating in beer and whisky (among other things) as I was – but I promise you it’s true. I ran myself out of, and away from, despair. Soon I found myself running to something and not away. I brought my brain chemicals back up (I’d be feigning any commanding knowledge of neurotransmitters without some bullshit google search) and back to normal through running. I replaced smoking, drinking and general  drug-doing with running. I was in a bad way and I was able to intellectually understand that my chemicals were off when I didn’t feel motivated or enjoy life anymore. I was leaving voicemails with Psychiatrists and they weren’t calling me back! Fuck! It was up to me – so I ran – pretty much like Forrest Gump. I knew alcohol was the surface cause of my present problems and that the onion layers would reveal themselves if I could work backwards by eliminating the immediate threat. I understand that not everyone has the “fuck this shit, I’m done” moment let alone can successfully act upon it. It’s hard. You feel sick. You kick people out of your lives that you love – knowing that the relationship is not serving you. People say you’re taking things too seriously. You’re trusting in some unknown force. It’s not a likely road to redemption. For those of us who need treatment (and most do) it is exorbitantly expensive. Most people who are ready for it have nothing left of monetary value with which to procure treatment. If they are lucky enough to have people that love them and still believe in them, a proper long-term recovery facility is still often an insurmountable financial hurtle. Some people are forced to mortgage their homes just to give someone they love a chance at redemption. It shouldn’t come to this. The Herren Project helps people get this treatment. This is why I’m running.

For those of you who enjoy getting yo drink on – I’m not hating on you. I don’t judge anyone for drinking. I think it can be done responsibly. The pictures I painted here are me judging myself. Alcohol isn’t everyone’s personal demon. It’s not The Total Devil – it just really wasn’t working for me at all.

For info on my campaign, my story, and to make donations, check out: http://www.ultrarunvegan.com

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