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Interview

Prototype's Kragen Lum Ignites A "Catalyst" In The Metal Scene

Six years after sophomore full-length album "Continuum," the L.A. metal act Prototype has now returned to the scene with new album "Catalyst," released earlier this month through Nightmare Records. With the album out now and pummeling metal fans into submission, guitarist Kragen Lum got in touch with us to help get the word out about the new release.

A transcript of our chat can be read below, which offers a look into the sci-fi concept on these new songs and covers how the band changed up the sound by using seven string guitars. You can also find out info about Kragen's other band's Heathen and Pyschosis, along with his thoughts on the state of the current L.A. metal scene.

xFiruath: What’s going on with the new album “Catalyst” and how is it different from previous work from Prototype?

Kragen: It’s the first concept album we’ve ever done. We have a number of songs that use a sci-fi theme, but this is probably the first one that tells a full story. It’s also the first time we’ve used seven string guitars, so the album has a different sound to it because of that. It’s a little heavier, but also more melodic. It’s a little bit of a departure, but it’s still Prototype.

xFiruath: How did the seven string guitars change your writing process and did you plan to go that route ahead of time?

Kragen: It’s something we decided ahead of time, but on our last album we actually had one song that was done with a seven string called “Probe.” We demoed that song many years ago and it was demoed with six string guitars, but when we were recording it there was a part that we wanted to be lower I guess, so we tried it with a seven string and it sounded cool. We started writing some stuff with that, we liked how the sound of those songs were coming out, so we continued down that path. We didn’t really think about it after that, we just kept writing with the seven strings.

xFiruath: You mentioned a sci-fi concept to the album, can you tell me more about what’s happening with the lyrics and themes?

Kragen: For specifics I think Vince is going to put together a story document and post it on our website, because he really has it all mapped out in his head. Essentially what it comes down to is that it’s a story about any planet or a planet similar to Earth and there’s a race of people and an alien civilization comes to feed off the negative energy of the people there. That’s how they sustain their life, and it’s the story of what happens to the humans or whatever when they come to accept and meet in the middle. It’s really complex and there’s a lot of different pieces to it. The lyrics explain it, but only so much. We want to give people an opportunity to read the lyrics and interpret them how they want to interpret them.

xFiruath: This album is coming out on Nightmare Records, which has had some interesting records lately. How is it working with Nightmare?

Kragen: It’s really good, we’ve been working with Lance and Nightmare Records for a few years now. Nightmare released our last album and they did a digital re-release of our first album, which wasn’t available digitally. He’s been really good to us and we enjoy working with him.

xFiruath: Are there any upcoming tour dates for this new album?

Kragen: Not at the moment. Our recent time table has been set on “slow.” As you probably read in the bio, it’s six years since “Continuum” came out and much of the music for this album was written years ago, some of it was written before “Continuum” came out. As far as the touring and stuff, we’d love to, I’m obviously in a position to do that, I play in Heathen also, but not all the guys are able to do anything extensive because of family. We’re looking to try to find something to jump on and get out and play. It’s been a long time since we played live. We are rehearsing though.

xFiruath: A couple of months back I saw you guys had a track come out on the Rock Band Network. What was that process like of converting the track to that format?

Kragen: The way that came about, I spent 12 years working for Activision and I worked in the video game business as a producer. I worked on several games and while I was there we were given the opportunity to put a song in the Guitar Hero 3 game, which ended up being the biggest selling video game until Call of Duty or whatever came out. That song was called “The Way it Ends” and we worked with the music team at Activision to get the song in there and have it playable. We were approached to put that same song in Rock Band, because a lot of people liked it from Guitar Hero. Since Guitar Hero isn’t being made anymore, Rock Band is kind of keeping the whole music game genre around. With the Rock Band Network people can download tracks and play them on the pre-existing game. So essentially we sent the same tracks to the developer putting things on the Rock Band Network and they sent us some tests to review. We let them know what parts didn’t seem like they were right, and it was really cool. People can download it and enjoy that song in a different way than just listening to it.

xFiruath: Are any of you guys working with any other projects right now?

Kragen: Yeah, Vince and I are in a band called Psychosis, which Prototype actually sort of evolved from. We decided to start doing that and have it be a little more of a straightforward thrash band. So we did that with the bass player who was on the “Lifeforce” EP, and the singer is a guy named Bruce Hall and the drummer Jimmy Schultz has been in a ton of bands. So we do that and that’s really fun. We put out an EP in 2010 and we have one that’s coming out later this year. I also play in Heathen as I mentioned before and we’re done touring for the last album now and we’ll be writing for the next.

xFiruath: What’s happening with metal in L.A. these days?

Kragen: I was just thinking about this the other day, we’ve been playing live shows on the L.A. scene for almost 25 years or something like that and the scene is pretty much exactly the same as it was back then. It hasn’t really changed, but at the same time it’s not as friendly to original music bands. The clubs here all pretty much require pay-to-play, which essentially you are buying on to play shows and you have sell tickets to make your money back. It’s a way for the promoters to essentially pay to guarantee a headliner without the possibility of losing money on the show. Unfortunately there are a lot of bands that will do this and don’t have a problem with it. We have a big problem with it. We have done it the past. We played with Fates Warning and Death and a bunch of bands back in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and we ended up on some of the shows selling more tickets than the headliner, and then getting screwed in the end with having our set cut short or whatever. It’s a business the clubs here in L.A. have made. Unfortunately that means all the original bands have to play in little dive bars and stuff like that, unless you are willing to pay-to-play. It seems like lately the way you have to get gigs is to play with cover bands. We do what we have to. Psychosis has been playing twice a month playing dive bars or wherever we can.

xFiruath: What else would you like to say?

Kragen: We’re really proud of the album, we spent a long time making it. We really hope everybody enjoys it and that’s really it. If you want to support music and these bands, I highly recommend that you support them by buying directly from the bands or directly from the indie labels, because that’s the way this kind of music will continue to thrive. We appreciate the support we’ve gotten from everyone over the years and hopefully we’ll be able to call this album a win as well.

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur is a freelance writer who writes for both entertainment and technical instruction sites. An avid fan of many different forms of metal, he has been involved in reviewing music for several years and is currently a contributing editor for Metalunderground.com

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