IKILLYA Interview

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, April 9, 2014

IKILLYA will be releasing their new album Vae Victis on April 29th via Megaforce Records. The band has released two tracks from the album so far, the title track and “Jekyll Better Hide.” Both of these songs caught my attention as they took the familiar groove metal/thrash template but had riffs that actually stood out and more variation than most. The NYC group is also preparing to head out on a lengthy US tour before heading back to the UK for a brief run of shows. I had the chance to email some questions to vocalist Jason Lekberg and guitarist Eric Jackson to learn more about the band.

While the IKILLYA name may be new to some listeners, the band has been around since 2005. How did your members meet and come together as IKILLYA?

Jason: I sometimes feel like we’re the NYC Spinal Tap with members. I joined what became IKILLYA through a Craigslist ad in October of 2005. The bassist, drummer and I played together rotating through guitar players until 2010 when Dave joined after being found through an ad on Skullsnbones.com. Eric was one of those rotating guitarists and is now back in the band permanently. He and I met because we both answered an ad from Dream Theater to sing backups on their new album. I don’t remember which one it was, but this was 08ish. The ad specifically said to not line up on the side of the street the studio was on (so you didn’t block another building’s entrance) and to not line up at all until 15 minutes before they were going to let people in. Eric and I were the only two people who followed those instructions – and subsequently didn’t get in because of it. We’ve been friends ever since. Our drummer Bill played in another local NYC band who I saw at the Knitting Factory and was very impressed by. When I heard they had broken up, I asked AJ from Ashes Within to introduce us. He fit right in!

Eric: Yeah it was back in 2007 when Dream Theater was recording Systematic Chaos, they invited people down to some studio in NYC for the crowd chants on that album. I remember getting in the area around 10 minutes before you were “supposed” to be there and being bummed out by seeing a line of people going all the way down the street. That’s where I met Jason. We actually stood on the opposite side of the door from the crowd and as Mike Portnoy pulled up in a taxi, one of us–I forget who–introduced ourselves by saying “Hi Mike, we’re the 1 o’clock” line. That didn’t get us in. Jason then told me about his band and how they were looking for a guitarist.

I think I played with the band for about a year after that. We played a few shows but I wanted to focus a bit more on school and wasn’t in the right head space at the time.

I sort of laid low after that for the next 6 years or so. Musically I was playing with experimental ambient/microtonal/avant garde music. Then around the middle of last year I had a real desire to get back into the metal scene and join a band again. As it turned out there was a very particular band that was looking for a guitarist, IKILLYA. The timing was perfect.

Vae Victis releases on April 29th. How long did it take you to write/record the album, and did you approach the process any differently compared to Recon?

Jason: We began writing Vae Victis when we were on tour in the UK in the spring of 2012 and then went into the studio to track music in June of 2013. I tracked the vocals in August of 2013 and it was finished around the end of October. Recon was 8 of the first 9 songs we ever wrote together so it wasn’t a planned, focused album. When we started Vae Victis we sat down and talked about what we wanted to say and where we wanted this album to go. It’s much more focused and developed that Recon. We have a clearer vision of exactly what the IKILLYA sound is and were able to execute far better. I think it’s Recon’s older brother.

The title track hits really hard, but “Jekyll Better Hide” sinks in a bit slower and lets some melodic sections take the spotlight. I really like the variation between these two songs, as they make an impact in very different ways. What will the rest of the album have to offer compared to these two tracks?

Jason: Thank you! Those 2 songs are very representative of the album as a whole. There are songs that are a bit more progressive like the time changes in the verses of Vae Victis and we go the opposite direction with a jazz/horn break at the end of Bear Your Name. The songs are still heavy and throw some big hooks, but we tried hard to be a bit more diverse with this album. I feel like Recon is unrelenting and on Vae Victis we really wanted to have more dynamics to make the heavy sections hit harder.

How did you hook up with Megaforce Records and what makes them the right fit for IKILLYA?

Jason: Missi Callazzo and I spoke briefly when we were putting out Recon and it was great to have more to offer this time around. The distribution deal we did with her is right for us because it offers us a bit more freedom and control, but requires more work. We’re all about hard work so for us that’s a great trade off. There is a huge benefit to doing a standard deal and having a full label plus their money behind you but if we’re able to have success under this model, I believe we’ll have a more sustainable career. Personally, it’s just an honor to be associated with such a legacy. Megaforce was the first label whose name I ever recognized. All my heroes were on Megaforce when I was younger.

You have tour dates lined up throughout the U.S. and then head over to the U.K. in May. For those who have yet to see you play, what can they expect from your live performance? Additionally, what has been one of your favorite tour memories so far?

Jason: Yeah! The tour starts in 6 days! It’s kind of hard to believe it’s here already. We’re really looking forward to getting to some parts of the US we haven’t been to before and making it back to the UK! The thing IKILLYA prides ourselves most on is playing our album properly. We didn’t do any studio tricks when recording it and so what you hear is what you’re going to get live. We’re going to play our hearts out and hopefully it’ll move you to throw down with us. And, I’ll do my best to not fall off stage.

My favorite memory thus far is a hard one. It’s really the little things that mean the most to me. On the last UK tour we checked in to a hotel at like 1 in the morning and 7 hours later were sitting in the attached cafĂ© eating breakfast. Our waitress came up to us and said “oh, you must be that rock band that’s staying here”. That may not seem like much, but to me, being recognized as a professional musician is pretty damn cool. That and opening for Danzig to a sold out Hammerstein Ballroom wasn’t too shabby either.

Eric: I think our live shows really convey the essence of these songs–which is that they are truly ensemble pieces in every sense of the word; while there are stand out guitar, bass, or drum parts, you don’t get an IKILLYA song by looking at only that one piece–you get it by experiencing the whole thing, and live you really get a sense of that collective force.

I saw Eric did a piece on Final Fantasy VIII’s fifteenth anniversary. Since we also cover video games, do the other members play video games and if so what are they into?

Jason: Eric’s not only a gamer, he makes a living writing about games as well. Games, and other stuff, but games are his passion. Dude’s like a level 74 Dungeon master or something. (there’s probably not a level 74 – shows what I know) When I was growing up we didn’t have any gaming systems so if you put me in front of one I still try and make Mario jump by moving the controller up in the air. I’d love to be better at them but I just don’t know when I’d have time. I don’t actually know if Bill plays. We all work constantly so I think the only reason Eric has time is because it is his job.

Eric: I hope you enjoyed that piece! Video and table-top role playing games really make up the rest of my life outside of music. While a lot of musicians talk about how music was always there for them, it’s the same for me but with video games. It’s always been about the emotional connection which is why I’m so heavily drawn to games like Final Fantasy VIII. I play virtually all games except sports and music & rhythm. Whether it’s the tactics and intensity of a good shooter, a deep emotional ride like The Last of Us or a sweeping fantasy like the earlier Final Fantasy games or Mass Effect, I love it all!

If you were going to create a video game or movie that featured IKILLYA’S music as the soundtrack, what would you choose to make?

Jason: Oh man, I would love to see a 70s style anti-hero car chase movie. Like Vanishing Point or Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. I’m a HUGE Mopar guy so a high adrenaline, old school muscle car movie where the bad guy wins by taking his life into his own hands – perfect!! I think our music would fit with just about any action packed game or movie. We’d also be great for the part in the RomCom where the main female gets sent on a blind date who turns out to be a crazy rocker dude that makes her realize how much she really loves the wimpy dude she dumped. But I would NEVER watch that so someone would have to tell me how it was.

New York City has always had plenty of great bands. What are some other local acts you’ve played with that our readers should check out?

Jason: SO many good bands. Resolution 15, Lies Beneath, Ashes Within, Alekhines Gun, Seas of Wake, Hellshot, White Widows Pact, Goes Cube, Family, Meek Is Murder, Hull….. I know I’m missing a bunch. The blog Metalsucks.net has a killer series of free downloads called NYC Sucks that are a great place to start. There are 3 volumes of it out now and their stuffed full of great metal bands from all different genres.

Eric: Alekhine’s Gun puts on an unforgettable performance, always awesome to get to see them throw down. Resolution 15 is also another wild band. Though they’re not metal, Bear Hunt Controversy is a pretty sweet band featuring two friends of mine I grew up with and used to play music with wayyyyy back when. You won’t be thrashing around to this stuff, but it’s some really nice song writing and they put on a great performance too!

What else can we look forward to from IKILLYA in 2014?

Jason: Touring, and hopefully another music video or two. Our number one goal is to get out on the road as much as possible and bring this album to people. We’re going to keep the tickets as cheap as we can so just come have a good time and if you dig us, grab a shirt or the album so we can come see you again!

Thank you Chris!

 

I would like to thank Jason and Eric for taking the time to answer these questions. If you like what you hear, Vae Victis can be pre-ordered here and you can also check out IKILLYA on Facebook.

 

Tour Dates:

4/12 Syracuse, NY 3 Fat Guys
4/13 Indy, IN Birdys
4/14 Chicago, IL Cobra Lounge
4/15 Appleton, WI Venue TBA
4/17 Denver, CO TBA
4/18 Salt Lake City, UT Dawg Pound
4/19 Vegas, NV Venue TBA
4/20 Anehiem, CA Venue TBA
4/21 LA, CA LoadedHollywood
4/22 Phoenix, AZ Joes Grotto
4/24 Dallas, TX The Boiler Room
4/25 ATL, GA The Masquerade
4/26 Fayetteville, NC The Rock Shop
4/27 Wilmington, DE Mojo 13
4/29 New York, NY Duffs
5/2 Peterborough TheMETLounge
5/3 Belfast The Limelight
5/4 Keighley The Exchange
5/5 Edinburgh Opium
5/6 Glasgow Ivory Blacks
5/7 Huddersfield The Parrish
5/9 Halifax Cookies
5/10 London TBD

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