An Interview With Batillus
New York doom metal act Batillus has recently made their self-titled debut EP available for free download here. Batillus drummer Geoff explained how the band got together, what they're doing now, and his thoughts on subjects as diverse as vinyl records and the Opeth discography.
xFiruath: What first got you into music and made you want to become a musician?
Geoff: I think it was mostly from my Uncle for me personally, I don’t know about the other guys in the band, but my uncle was a drummer and he was probably the earliest influence on me. Got me into music in general and drums specifically. That would be the one thing above all else.
xFiruath: How did the members of Batillus all meet up and decide to form a band?
Geoff: Well those two guys, Greg and Willi, they worked in a record store together and so they started playing together. It was actually a Craiglist thing between me and those guys. They had a bunch of stuff ready to roll and they were looking for a drummer. We hooked up and it worked out pretty well from the get go. Nothing exciting there, but I guess it all came together pretty well.
xFiruath: How would you describe the sound of Batillus to someone who had never heard the band before?
Geoff: I would say dynamic blackened doom. I think that’s a fairly accurate description. But you know different people hear different things.
xFiruath: So kind of like that slower down tempo sound but with some black metal in there?
Geoff: We’ve gotten that from a few different people, the “blackened” thing. We don’t play black metal but there’s some elements in there that would lead people to say that for one reason or another. It’s basically doom at the end of the day.
xFiruath: Is there a story behind the name or did you just pick it because it sounds cool?
Geoff: Well not necessarily a story, but there is an explanation. It’s a specific ship and a class of ship as well. They were super tankers. They were built in either the ‘70s or ‘80s and they were called the Batillus class super tankers. It was the largest ship ever built, so that’s the story with the name. It’s sort of parallel to how we sound in a way. Large and lumbering, and plus it’s one word and memorable which is nice.
xFiruath: You guys are offering your self-titled demo for free download right now. What prompted that move and how long do you plan to keep offering it for free?
Geoff: It’s stay that way forever. We did a limited batch of 100 CD-Rs which are the same songs plus another song that you can only get through us directly. We’re selling them for five bucks but the digital thing is free. The debate or argument or whatever that gets thrown around these days is about how different music distribution is nowadays. The pros and cons of the internet revolution. It’s so much easier for a band to produce a good quality product and get into the hands of people than it was 10, 20, 30 years ago but at the same time there are so many more bands to wade through. You’ve gotta kinda make a splash any way you can. We’re still pretty unknown, we’re just getting started. We’d rather see as many people as possible download this thing and put it on their iPods and check it out. Hopefully they’ll remember us down the line rather than try to sell something when no one knows who we are. It’s worked out well. A lot of people have downloaded it and we’re getting a pretty good response so far.
xFiruath: Do you have any plans for a full length album anytime soon?
Geoff: Hopefully. We’ve got a bunch of new stuff written, almost enough for a full length. We’re working with a fourth member so there could potentially be an expansion with the lineup. We’ll see how that goes. We’re trying to add a vocal element to the band as well. We definitely want to get back in the studio once that’s all solidified. The new stuff is definitely better than the stuff that is available now. It’s just a matter of when we’re going to do that and getting some funding for that as well. We all have studios in mind for where we’d like to record next. Hopefully this summer.
xFiruath: What has been your favorite live show or venue that you guys have played?
Geoff: Maybe just because it’s so fresh in my mind but probably the last show we played with Salome from Virginia and Ocean from Portland, Maine. That was on the 15th of February. Overall that was definitely the best experience that I’ve had playing a show. We played with a lot of really cool bands and we’ve been really fortunate to be thrown on some great bills when no one really knows who we are. That was probably the best all around show. Great venue, great crowd, great bands, great promoter, great sound guy, all that stuff was really cool. That’s a regular monthly thing that the promoter Brandon does every month. He writes for Pitchfork and a couple of other sites. I think his next one coming up there in Brooklyn has Krieg I think coming up on the bill, probably a lot of people know who that one is. Pretty cool stuff going on.
xFiruath: Have you had any shows that have just really tanked or where the fans have gotten out of hand or anything?
Geoff: No real fans getting out of hand kind of thing, but like I said we’re just getting started so we have played shows to just like two people before. No real bad experiences though. It’s been pretty good so far.
xFiruath: What about the metal scene or the music industry would you like to see changed today?
Geoff: Nothing I can really think of in particular. I think there’s a lot of really cool stuff going on and a lot of really good bands. I see, particularly within the underground metal community anyway, a real love for vinyl and I think that’s really great. I see a lot of bands that are starting to release something digitally and then also vinyl and not really bother with the CD. Digital has the advantage of being instantaneous and then vinyl has the advantage of the quality and longevity of the physical product. It’s sort of a collectible. I think it’s really cool that the underground metal community is really embracing vinyl and that’s starting to make a comeback. As far as what I’d like to see changed, I’m sure there’s things but nothing off the top of my head.
xFiruath: What bands and albums do you listen to most often when you aren’t playing music?
Geoff: Lately I’ve really been playing the new Tombs record. It’s really fucking good. I’ve been rocking that one and just go the new Zoroaster album and that one’s really good. I’ve been on a contemporary black metal kick too, listening to Leviathan and stuff like that. I’m all over the place though. Today I was listening to some wind ensemble music so you never really know what you’re going to get with me. What about you?
xFiruath: You know I’m a pretty big Opeth fan. I stick with them a whole lot of the time. Other than that anything that has Ihsahn, anything he’s ever touched I’m into that pretty much every day.
Geoff: Cool man. What’s your favorite Opeth album?
xFiruath: That’s a tough one because it changes with whichever one you are currently listening to. I think if I absolutely had to pin it down it would probably be either “Blackwater Park” or “Still Life.” They’re all pretty awesome though.
Geoff: Yeah “Blackwater Park” would probably be mine. It’s a great record. What about song, what’s your favorite Opeth song?
xFiruath: Well, even though it isn’t from either of the albums I just said were my favorite, “Demon of the Fall” is probably their best song.
Geoff: That’s why I asked because I knew you were going to say that. That’s my favorite one too.
xFiruath: I can’t remember what it’s called but from their new one “Watershed” they’ve got one that I’ve been listening to a lot lately because it flows really well. “Hessian Peel” is what it’s called. That’s probably one of my favorites now.
Geoff: Yeah that’s a good album.
xFiruath: What did you think of the new one? I know a lot of people didn’t like it because it had so much soft stuff but I thought it was amazing.
Geoff: I like it, it’s pretty good. I’m more of a fan of the newer Opeth than the older Opeth. I find it to be a bit more refined generally speaking, obviously there are exceptions. Anything from “Blackwater Park” onward I find to be good. I can’t really get into “Damnation” though. It’s cool what they did there with the “Deliverance” and “Damnation” thing with the heavy songs and then the ballads, but I just find the drumming a little bit overbearing on that record.
xFiruath: It’s funny how you mentioned that some of their older stuff doesn’t seem as refined. I almost never listen to their first album “Orchid,” but on their latest live DVD they do a song from that and it’s just fucking killer live. The delivery is just totally different live.
Geoff: Yeah, it’s probably a production thing too.
xFiruath: It was a little murky back then. Well that’s about all my questions so is there anything else that you’d like to cover?
Geoff: Not really. I just appreciate everyone who has downloaded the EP and appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.
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