We were fortunate enough to grab an interview with San Diego, California’s Blood Dancer.
Feel free to listen as you read.
It’s cold and rainy here in Middle Tennessee. I have to know, what is the weather like in San Diego?
Hate to rub it in, but like most Decembers, it’s sunny way more than it’s not! The sunsets have been especially amazing – bright pink, turquoise and red. We’ve had a few rainy patches but it’s mostly been another glorious month in Paradise: Warm weather, Hot babes, Big swells.
You got a couch I can come crash on?
I’m sure something could be arranged!
You said you have a lot of family in these parts. Are you from this area? What led you to Cali?
Everyone in the band was born in San Diego, but we all come from different backgrounds. Chris (vocalist) and Cory (lead guitar) are brothers and have family living in Nashville and Charlotte. They try to get out there as much as possible. Brian (drums), Paul (rhythm guitar) and Tony (bass) are San Diego natives through and through.
Is there a noticeable combination of influences that might be credited to the merging of these southern roots with those of the southwest coast?
Well, musically my influences come from all over. The South is a huge hub for inspiration. I grew up with bands like Skynyrd and their deadly triple-guitar layering, Johnny Cash as one of the penultimate storytellers, Creedence Clearwater Revival – although they were from southern California, they did write swamp rock songs like “Born on the Bayou.”
As far as metal goes, the Florida death metal scene of the late 1980s-early ‘90s was a huge influence; bands like Death, Atheist and Obituary – those bands with the cool one-word names. I know Pantera was a big influence on Brian Rumsey and myself with their relentless, heavy riffs. Although they’re from Texas, I think Pantera can be seen as eponymous with the South.
Obviously I read your bio, but for everyone else, can you break down how Blood Dancer grew from concept to its current status?
The band was formed in the summer of 2010 by Cory Barclay, who had written a bunch of metal songs. He just needed a vocalist and a way to record them. Since he also happened to live with a brother (Chris) who sang pretty much whenever possible, finding his vocalist was a no-brainer.
The brothers then approached high-school-buddy-turned-music-aficionado-turned-sound-engineer Brian Rumsey, who had a home studio in Mission Beach. And while Brian recorded their first self-titled EP, he also contributed drums and bass so he was recruited as the band’s drummer. Although things slowed a bit over the next year – what with college and work – more songs were written and the band’s tone matured into a more melodic, less screaming, sound. This led to the band’s first full-length album in early 2012.
When Cory returned from college in Santa Cruz that summer, he asked his friend Paul to join the band as rhythm guitarist. Then Brian asked Tony if he was interested in adding his bass guitar to the mix and, with everyone already familiar with each other, things gelled quickly and the band began playing the local circuit in July 2012.
Were you able to maintain a balance between school and music? What did you study? Have you graduated?
I graduate after this winter quarter with a degree in Modern Literary Studies. I study creative writing, music and business – big surprise there. It hasn’t been hard balancing school and music because while I’m away at school there aren’t band practices and such. I write much more when I’m away (easier to concentrate, not as many distractions) and also use the time to promote upcoming releases/events.
What inspired the name?
(Cory): I wish there was an exciting story here. One night my brother and I started throwing out some names. Then we polled our friends. One name – Bone Dancer – made the initial cut but was voted too weak. Another candidate was Blood Orgy, but that sounded too brutal (and might already have been taken anyway). So we mashed the two together and out popped Blood Dancer.
We figured it added some mystery (we’re getting used to everyone asking what’s with the name), plus maybe a dab of eroticism (though we’ll let our fans decide on that one). At the very least it sticks in people’s minds. But maybe we should have gone with Blood Bone Orgy Dancer.
That just makes me cringe…
True, but there might be a correlation between notoriety and ridiculous band names – just look at bands like Dying Fetus, the Goo Goo Dolls and Limp Bizkit.
You describe the band as ‘an epic journey through the rips and folds of humanity’s brutal history’…what books do you read? What inspires these stories?
(Cory): First and foremost I’m inspired more to WRITE stories. Especially ones “outside the box.” Which is why many of my songs don’t have choruses and don’t follow the typical “verse-chorus-bridge” formula. I try to make them journeys or adventures with beginnings and ends and all sorts of middles. That goes for my riffs as well as my lyrics. Plus I’ve always been fascinated with, and inspired by, all things medieval. Such a brutal, yet straightforward, period of time – complete with multiple mythologies, religions and beliefs mixed with ritualistic violence. I tell stories about the past and correlate them with the present. How today is really not so different from then. And how today evolved from these times.
I also love writing about historical people and events that aren’t well known. The myths from pagan times and religions during the Middle and Dark ages and the wars that came with them.
Many of my songs are also inspired by historical epics such as Paradise Lost by John Milton, as well as from all sorts of fantasy books, Norse poems like the Poetic Edda, and even Greek literature…
I thrive on taking a great story – no matter the source – and turning it into my own epic song.
I have yet to master the art of shred guitar. How did you get started? Who (or what) helped you learn the most?
(Cory): I started playing when I was 17, just out of high school. I’m self-taught, but I think the trick is to really just sit down and play all the time. I know that sounds easier-said-than-done (when you’re just out of high school you tend to have a lot more time than, say, a family man working in the real world). But if you practice an hour a day and organize that hour around things like “15 minutes of finger warm-ups, 15 minutes of learning cover songs, 15 minutes of trying to write songs, 15 minutes of doodling,” you’d be amazed how quickly you start accomplishing your goals.
Second to daily practice is jamming with others. For me it’s the absolute best way to learn rhythmic timing, scales, chord structure. And I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of friends to jam with over the years.
What songwriters or bands influence your style and sound?
Besides the bands mentioned above, I’m influenced by the bands from the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead. I love the rhythmic structuring and blistering melodies from that period. Of course the fathers of metal: Sabbath, Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Neil Young and Bob Dylan have always been huge favorites of mine in terms of storytelling and style.
The founders of thrash: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer. Death metal bands like At the Gates, In Flames and Opeth. Black metal bands like Immortal and Dissection.
My list of influences is bigger than I originally thought. What it all comes down to is trying to take certain aspects from a wide spectrum of musical styles and somehow incorporating them into the music I write.
What’s your favorite guitar / amp combination? Any favorite pedals?
Schecter Hellraiser and a Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18 are what I use in the studio and on stage. The amp is only 18 watts but it shreds! It also has a great sounding direct output. My favorite pedal would have to be the ISP Decimator. It really helps keep our stops clean and noise free without affecting the guitar signal.
Great tip! I am sure any of us who have experimented with metal tones have had this issue.
Indeed! It’s always a good idea to hit up the local guitar shop and mess around with pedal/amp combinations to get a feel about what works for you. We found that other noise gates seemed to cut out the strength of my guitar signal. All I use is the Decimator, a tuner and occasionally a delay/reverb boost for solos.
When you guys were in the studio, how did you maintain that classic metal sound? The album sounds beautiful.
First off, thanks! This is really a question for Brian Rumsey. He’s the Wizard at all things Sound. He’d ask me what I wanted my guitar to sound like. I’d say something like: “Crunchy and Awesome.” He’d work his magic with the dials and settings and, voila, out would come “Crunchy and Awesome” – flawlessly! He approaches each instrument with the utmost respect – which results in the most even tones for the mix. He’s also recorded dozens of different genres of music, so he’s no stranger to diversity and creating a unique, heavy sound.
I also think recording in a small apartment gave the album an older, more classic sound. (When you don’t have funding, you work with what you got!)
How was it recorded? Digital? Analog?
We recorded digitally. It keeps things easy. However, no triggers or fake sounds were used.
What equipment and software did you use?
Digi 002 and Pro Tools. Two SM57’s for guitar, a Beta 58 for vocals, D112 on the bass, and all of those plus two KSM32’s for the drums.
Is there a tour in the works? Are you actively playing shows in San Diego?
We’ve been actively playing in San Diego since July 2012. We debuted at a venue called the Ruby Room, packed the little place with about 150 people and have been playing 4 to 8 shows a month since.
While maybe a bit in the future, we’d love to tour the West Coast, and then eventually Europe.
What role has the Internet played in building your fanbase and marketing this new album?
The Internet has made a big difference more recently, but in the beginning our music gained attention through grassroots efforts. It helped that we had product ready-to-sell at our first show – we weren’t just five unprepared dudes who decided to be rockstars. We had a CD out before we were even a band.
Then, once the CD caught on, people began asking “when are you gonna play shows?” So evolving into a “playing” band was pretty natural. Probably the reverse of how most bands start but it worked for us.
Since then, the Internet has helped grow our fanbase beyond the local scene. It also helped us find awesome ezines and blogs and sites like yours! And there’s no question the Internet will continue being a huge marketing and promotions tool over time.
Describe this album in 20 words or less and tell everyone where to grab a copy.
Fist-pumping metal, with tasty riffs and soaring vocals – from the lost era of classic heavy metal!
Any last shout outs? Final words?
Thanks so much for the interview. And hope you all enjoy our stuff as much as we do making it