Kurgans Bane: The future is now !

DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean

Interview

"The Future Lies Broken" is the title of the new album of Kurgan’s Bane from Baltimore. I don’t think that this title is reflecting the situation of the band – "The Future Lies Open" would fit better!

Sorry, but I don't know a lot of things about your band, so at first some "standard questions"! Please tell me something about the history of the band, something about the members!

To make a long story short – Pete and Jeff moved to Baltimore in 1994 hoping to start a band. They formed KURGAN’S BANE within a year or so and played a lot of shows, but still didn’t quite have the sound and group dynamic they were looking for. They found Luis in early 1997 and recorded their first CD in early 1998. Shortly after that, they decided they needed to replace their singer.

They didn’t want to hire a singer until they found someone who was a good fit for the band, so they ended up doing all-instrumental shows for about a year while they auditioned singers. Lisa auditioned in the summer of 1999 and joined the band immediately. In January of 2000, the band recorded their second CD, "The Future Lies Broken".

Jeff Laramee – drums: Jeff started playing when he was 12. He and his brother, Pete, are originally from Vermont and they played in circuit bands throughout New England and northern New York before moving to North Carolina where Jeff played in an all-instrumental trio called T-Bo. Jeff’s influences include YES, MARILLION, and JETHRO TULL.

Pete Laramee – guitar: Pete’s been playing for almost 20 years. He played in a jazz band while in college, where he earned a B.S. in Communications. His influences include VAN HALEN, THE DREGS, and all of the ‘80s guitar players.

Luis Nasser – bass: Luis grew up in Mexico City, where he performed for many years with RADIO SILENCE, now known as SONUS UMBRA. Luis moved to the United States in 1995 to pursue his doctorate in Physics. He joined the band in early 1997 and still records with SONUS UMBRA. Luis grew up listening to PINK FLOYD, THE WHO, and RUSH, among others.

Lisa Francis – vocals: Lisa has been singing since she could talk, and began performing with local cover bands at the age of 15. Her influences include numerous heavy/classic rock bands from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

What about the name of the band?

PETE: It comes from the first "Highlander" movie. Clancy Brown played the "bad guy" they called the Kurgan. So, the Highlander is Kurgan’s Bane.

Do you think about adding a second guitar player?

LUIS: With all that Marshall beef? Nah, no second guitarist. I've always thought we should have a string section, a tuba player, a Tibetan monk and a couple of hot, scantily clad Brazilian dancers with castanets and maracas, but I'd settle for someone to help us onstage playing keyboards. That way, me and Lisa could concentrate fully on bass and singing, respectively. Actually, if we had the dancers I think everything

else would take care of itself...

JEFF: I’ve never thought about adding any additional musicians. It would feel fluffy to me. I like to see us as being lean hard rock. Even though a couple of us aren’t exactly lean.

Was is your intention to work with a female singer or was it more pure chance?

PETE: Complete chance. We were doing all-instrumental shows while we were looking for a singer because we didn’t want to just "settle" on someone. We were hoping to find someone who complemented our style or the best singer around – fortunately, we found both.

For me your sound is "retro" - would you agree? But why sound "retro" in the present?

LUIS: I totally disagree with you. If you can show me a single song on the CD that sounds like James Brown or the Beatles, then I'd be willing to accept your classification of our sound as "retro". Note that if by "retro" you mean that we don't sound like Limp Bizkit, I think there is ample need for more "retro"-sounding bands. Maybe I'm too old, but all that metal hip-hop, "Tune-the-guitar-down-to-BFlat" nonsense thoroughly bores me to death. It's about as musical as farting in the bathtub, and personally, a lot less enjoyable.

JEFF: I think we would try to be futuristic if we really had a choice, but we play what we like and it comes out the way it does.

How does the songwriting work in the band?

LUIS: The music on "The Future Lies Broken" was mostly a collection of tunes written by Pete which we all worked on and arranged as a band. The stuff I brought in was essentially finished when we started to play it together, but everyone contributed to give it the current feel and sound as well. We always work together on the music, the only exceptions being "Just Look At Me Now" and "Broken Clock", which came from our demo and were written and arranged entirely by Pete and Jeff before either Lisa or I joined the band, but even those have evolved somewhat.

The lyrics tend to be written once the music is essentially complete. Jeff and I both love to scribble, so we hoard as much of that action as we can. On "The Future Lies Broken" the vocal melodies were either written by Pete or myself, and arranged by Lisa, but I think now that she's more comfortable singing in the band she'll be writing a lot more of the vocal melodies and arrangements for the new music herself. Maybe even lyrics, but she'd have to drink as much as we do first.

What about the cover artwork?

LISA: Our original cover was Luis’ doing – he found an image of shattered glass on the internet and we used it for the front and back covers. Record Heaven hated it – in fact, their only condition of signing us was we had to change the cover! Johannes Lindstrom found the artwork that appears on the European version. We still like our original cover, but the guy tearing out the puzzle pieces on the European cover is pretty cool, too.

How did you come in touch with your current label?

PETE: Luis searches the net constantly, looking for contacts, labels, etc. Johannes Lindstrom from Record Heaven showed the first and the most interest. Actually, he seemed more than just interested because he really seemed to like our stuff.

What is the best thing in musical business? And - on the other side - what is the worst thing?

LISA: The best thing is when someone you’ve never met before sends you an email and says "hey, I just heard your CD and I love it!" The worst thing is trying to market ourselves – none of us seem to have a knack for it.

LUIS: I guess you answered your own question; the best thing about it is that it deals with music, and the worse is that it is, at the end of the day, simply a business. Creativity, talent, and dedication by themselves are not enough. You really need a guy in your corner with the greased-up hair, a sharkskin suit, and a briefcase full of marketing mischief and innuendo to work his magic for you. We are simply not getting that part of the job done.

Is there a most important event in the history of the band?

PETE: I think it was when Lisa joined the band. She was the missing piece of the puzzle. Sure, we’ve played some important shows and we signed with Record Heaven, but I honestly don’t think that would have happened without her vocals.

What do you think about the situation of your musical genre in the present and what will change in the future?

JEFF: We need more young people to get into it if there is going to be a future. There is a cool underground scene and some younger people are getting into DREAM THEATER, and hopefully that will spread.

What kind of compromises would you make to push your career?

LISA: I think we’re all pretty stubborn about what we are and aren’t willing to do. But we’re not unreasonable, either. For instance, when Record Heaven wanted to change our cover, we were open to the idea. Of course, we insisted on final approval! We’ve also discussed what we’d do if a label ever wanted us to release a shorter version of one of our songs – we’d be willing to do something like that if it would help get our music on the radio. But again, we’d want final approval to make sure the integrity of the song isn’t lost in the editing!

LUIS: I draw the line at choreography, spandex pants, hairspray, and make-up. I'm sorry (sort of) if this offends any ‘80s metal fans out there, but can you imagine what it must be like for the guys in, say, QUEENSRYCHE, looking at their band photos and videos from the "Rage For Order" era today? In my opinion, there are no concessions which alter the band image while respecting the integrity of the sound. I would do anything I could to reach a wider audience, just as long as it wouldn't disfigure any aspect of this 4-headed hydra we call KURGAN'S BANE.

Where did you get your inspiration?

PETE: I love movies, television, and baseball, but I also get influenced by life experience itself.

LUIS: I like some movies, I hate television, and even though I don't understand baseball, I truly admire the courage of someone who would face an incoming missile, moving at close to 100 mph, armed with nothing more than his reflexes and a wooden stick. I guess in many ways, life is like that when you decide to take a chance, and that is what I tend to write about. Life, as seen through my eyes, or else experienced vicariously through the books of people like Miller, Patchen, and Baudelaire.

How would you describe your relation to new media as internet, virtual reality, mp3...

LUIS: Well, obviously we wouldn't be having this little email exchange without it. We wouldn't have sent a copy of the album to Record Heaven, had I not discovered them on the internet. We really owe most of our humble and tenuous notoriety to the internet, and the continuing efforts of Alfredo Nava, our webmaster, who has kept us in cyberspace. As far as MP3, it's great to have audio samples available for download. Emphasis on SAMPLES for all of those greedy bastards out there. We recently discovered that we are on Napster, thanks to an honest girl from Quebec who wrote and said she wanted to buy our album after some of her friends who had downloaded played it for her. Obviously we're less than thrilled by the news because that kind of shit isn't doing us any favors as far as sales are concerned. We're really like an endangered salmon here, suddenly beset by inbred yokels in the mood for grenade fishing. On the other hand, it is quite flattering that someone would take the time to upload all of our music, and maybe that little online diffusion will really help us on tour.

So you could have the possibility to make this record again. Would you change anything?

LUIS: There are always little details one might like to edit here and there, but in the big picture I think it is an accurate portrayal of the band at that time. I'm very proud of the album overall. If nothing else, it gave us new life. I guess the only thing I would change is the cover...

Is each member of the band absolutely satisfied with each song on the record?

LISA: Every time I hear the CD, I notice little things I wish I could do over. But I think most musicians are like that – its’ the nature of the beast. Overall, I think it’s a great CD and I’m proud to be a part of it.


© 07/2001 Renald Mienert
DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean
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