Karma to Burn Interview

By Max Hofacker

Published on Thursday, December 9, 2010

Alright, we’re rolling. I’m Max, I’m here talking today with Will of Karma to Burn. We’re getting ready to watch them tear up here at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. I guess to start, first and foremost, tell me a little two minute history on the band, what you guys have been up to, and how you started out doing what you do.

Well, let’s see here…Rich and I got together in ’93. We had met through other bands we had played around with, and we decided it would be a good idea to start up our own thing, ’cause we both seemed like we were on the same page. We started in ’93 and then shortly after that we started giggin’ around. By ’94 we were signed to Roadrunner Records…and, then, that was kinda disastrous. So we just kept on going. [We] had a couple drummers, and then Rob joined in ’98, and then we started touring around, we put out a couple more records, went to Europe a few times, did well over there, and then 2002 rolled around, and everybody was fuckin’ drunk, or on drugs, or whatever…dependency problems…so, we split. We decided that this ‘rock-n-roll’ thing was probably gonna put us in the grave, so we took about a 7-year break. Got back together a couple years ago and started touring immediately, and…I mean, we’ve been to Europe five times in two years, and a couple US things… now we’re doing The Sword tour. [We] put out a record over the summer, and we’re slated to hit the studio again in February to do another record with our new guitar player, Daniel Davies.

Very nice, alright!

So we added another guitar player and he’s doing a couple vocal bits here and there.

Cool. Now you guys have an odd history with vocal parts, you know…some vocals, but mostly you’ve been staying away from vocals in the past.

Yeah, mostly instrumental. We- It’s not like we didn’t try to get a singer; we’ve worked with some guys, and it just…it never fuckin’ works out. Never. Just…you know…I don’t even know how to get into that one, it just never works out. But now Daniel’s in the band. Daniel’s been in the band now for about 7 months I think, and it’s working out pretty well.

Are you gonna start doing more songs that are, uh-

More vocal tunes?

More- yeah, more vocal tunes.

Yeah, yeah we are. We’re not gonna totally ditch the instrumental thing, but we’re gonna have a couple songs on the next record with vocals. Like, probably should be maybe about…four, four or five songs with vocals on the next record.

Is that gonna be about half, then?

Yeah.

Nice! Alright, I’m gonna back a little bit: You said you were on Roadrunner and that it was a ‘disaster’? What was so disastrous about that?

Well, that started our whole ‘insane downfall’ with vocals, because when [Roadrunner] saw us, they saw us instrumentally. And when they signed us, they signed us instrumentally. When we recorded the record, we recorded it instrumentally. Then, when it was all said and done, they turn around and say “Nope, we’re not gonna release this record unless you put vocals on it.”

…After you’d already done the whole thing? 

Yeah! Like, we recorded it in ’95.

What album was this?

It’s just self-titled – Karma to Burn.

Self-titled? Ok.

We recorded it in ’95, but it didn’t come out until ’97 because it took us so long to find someone to fuckin’ sing on it! And, not to mention, all the tracks were tracked instrumentally! So we couldn’t change any of that, so we had to fit the vocals to what were already instrumental songs. Made it even harder, you know?

Of course, and you didn’t want to go back and re-record everything, or even, you know, write new stuff.

That wasn’t even an option.

Nice of them to let you know!

Yeah, people at Roadrunner reeeeaaally fucked us over. I’ll hate that label ’til the day I die. (scoffs)

So what did you guys end up doing? Did you end up doing just that, recording vocals over top of the existing record?

Yeah, we got a friend of ours to do it. It was weird, I went out to a bar with him one night- he was my next-door neighbor, he was a good buddy of mine, and we decided to go out and get a couple drinks in us, and, uh…you know, I’ve got a tear in my beer, I’m just like “This goddamn label, this fuckin’ label, they won’t release our record, they got us on fuckin’ standby, it’s killin’ us…” After a few more beers, he just turns to me and says “Fuck, I’ll do it.” And I said “Well…”

Was that the plan? Be honest. 

Well, that turned into the plan!

Ah! You didn’t go there with the intention of getting him to jump on board? It just happened? 

No, we just wanted to get some vocals down, you know? I mean, we had to convince [Roadrunner] that, “Ok, we found a guy, here’s our singer.” So we went in the studio, recorded it, and then shortly after that, we were back to being instrumental.

Because of that, you guys- did you end up leaving [Roadrunner], or did they end up leaving you? Which of the two?

Oh we got booted. Yeah, they dropped us like a bad habit.

Such is life.

Yeah…but to this day they still release our shit without our permission, and stuff like that…[it] really fuckin’ sucks! They sold the rights to our first record to some Polish label, they made it into some kinda box set, and we didn’t see a goddamn dime from it. Nothing.

That’s absurd.

Roadrunner’s absurd! Roadrunner is probably one of the worst labels to ever sign to. (with exaggerated severity) Don’t do it!

I’ll keep that in mind…if I ever get a musical thing going, I’ll listen to those words of wisdom.

Stay away from Roadrunner.

So, now when you said you’ve got a new album in the works, you’re working on- you said you have a studio appointment coming up?

We do, February 10th to March 1st. We’re actually gonna do it at the Foo Fighters’ studio in LA.

Nice! Do you have stuff written, or are you still in the writing process? 

We’re six songs into it, so I figure if we write another three before we hit the studio, we should be good.

Mm-hm. How long do you think it’ll be before that comes out? When should we look for the album to hit stores?

I don’t really know for sure, but it’ll be done at the end of February, so that would probably put the release date somewhere around, oh…probably the end of May.

Really? Like, almost early summer?

Yeah.

You got any titles in the works? Any idea what you’re gonna call it?

Yeah, we’re working on that one.

Yeah, titles you can just stick it on at the end, you know, the music is what you’ve got to focus on first, I suppose.

Yeah, write the music first and then we can start thinking about titles. What we try to do, though, is, since we all started in West Virginia, we try to incorporate [either] the state, or the slogans, or stuff like that. The last album is called Appalachian Incantation. The one before that’s called Almost Heathen, which is a take on-

‘Almost heaven, West Virginia’, yeah.

And the other one’s called Wild Wonderful Purgatory, which is the state’s slogan ‘Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia’. So we try to play off that.

Now, what part of West By-God do you guys hail from?

Morgantown.

Morgantown? Ok. I grew up in Cumberland, that’s where I’m from originally- 

Oh shit, really?

Yeah, I mean- next-door neighbors.-

Yeah, you’re an hour away.

Yeah, I mean [we’re neighbors] to at least that part of the state. That’s pretty cool. 

I’ve gone through Cumberland so many times, but never stopped. (laughs)

No one ever does! Unless they hit up, like, the Wendy’s or something that’s right off the ramp.

Right. I always wonder, what goes on in Cumberland? Like, what happens there? ‘Cause it’s not a small town…

It’s, uh…it’s a little smaller than Morgantown, it’s, uh…it’s on the larger end of ‘small’, I guess, but, you know, not a lot happens. 

I noticed there’s a lot of churches.

Steeples everywhere, yeah…that’s the skyline for you. I mean, it’s like- people always say if you live somewhere else, they always say “I wish I could move outta this town, this town sucks”, and I’m like “What are you gonna do when you move out of here? What do you think people in Baltimore do? Same thing we do – you go out, you find people, you drink, and you have a good time.” You do that no matter where you are, doesn’t matter if you’re in the city…

Baltimore’s burning, by the way.

Is it? Oh, well, because of the [Steelers vs. Ravens] game yesterday?

No, no, no –

Not even that?

No; we were passing Baltimore on our way here on 95-

Oh it’s literally burning!

Yeah!

Holy shit. 

In the middle of the city, there’s just black smoke billowing out…I’m talking about, like, where all the big buildings are.

Yeah, like downtown.

Yeah. I had my friend Donna look it up on her iPad, and it turns out that the porno district is ablaze.

Oh shit, I know where that is! There’s a [concert] venue just like two blocks up the street from that. 

The porno district is ablaze and it’s catching everything else on fire! (laughs)

Oh my God, that’ll make the news.

Yeah, I mean, I couldn’t believe it – we were traveling on our way here to DC, and I’m just like “Holy shit, there’s a huge fire coming out of the middle of Baltimore!”

That was today?

That was today.

Huh. No one told me. I mean, I don’t know anybody living in Baltimore…

Yeah, I mean, we passed there at about 3:30, and it was full-on black smoke just…pouring out of Baltimore.

That is…that is wild. Of all the places to go, the porno district…

Yep. Glad we’re not playing there tonight!

Guess so! That’d really suck. 

[We] couldn’t go to the porn shops.

I know, right? All the clubs would be outta business…you’d be shit out of luck. Alright well I think that’s just about all I have in the way of questions, I mean…do you have anything that you want to add? 

Um…I don’t know, look out for the new record and, you know, if you want to, go on the- go on our Myspace, or on our website, check out the band, see if you dig it…hopefully you do…the more support, the more we’ll keep on doing it! (laughs)

For more information on Karma to Burn visit their website at http://www.k2burn.com/.

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