Guitarist Chuck Keller Talks About the
New Album, Order From Chaos and the
conduct all my interviews via e-mail. Call it what you want, I
just don’t enjoy talking to strangers. Sometimes this lends
itself to very a cold exchange of information and just a shallow
grasp of what the band is about. While reading this interview,
all I could think about was how mature guitarist Chuck Keller
sounds like. He has been in the underground since
1987 and even though his enthusiasm is clear, his experience
talks louder about the scene and his vision for Ares Kingdom.
Read on and spread the word...
- You and
Mike Miller were part of Order From Chaos, a band that was
formed in 1987. That means you’ve been involved in metal for
over two decades. You’ve seen fashions and trends come and go.
What is your opinion of the current underground metal scene?
There seem to be a lot of labels and millions of bands. Is this
aspects of it that I think are good and healthy, and others that
are sad and pathetic. I miss certain things about the atmosphere
of the 1980’s, but I wouldn’t want to go back. In terms of
fashion, I think the silliest thing over the last twenty years
has been black metal corpse paint. Band costuming has gotten out
of hand over the last ten or fifteen years as well. Some look
more like bloody cartoon characters on stage rather than
musicians. I say leave those theatrics to Gwar or Alice Cooper.
To me there’s nothing more amusing than watching ‘live
rituals’ of fully armoured, corpse painted, grim-n-evil
characters swigging bottled purified water between their
- What is
the difference in motivation between when you started Order From
Chaos and when you started Ares Kingdom?
immediate difference is that Ares Kingdom has no expiration
date, though perhaps the larger issue is that Ares Kindom’s
scope and ambition is bigger. Order From Chaos was very
conscious of what it was trying to be and staying within
boundaries that existed largely in our imaginations. Ares
Kingdom will go on as long as there is music to accompany any
new ideas or views that need to be expressed.
- One thing
I dig a lot about the Ares Kingdom sound is the rawness of it.
The music is very fluent, but you obviously keep things rough. I
wanted to talk about this. In your opinion, should metal be
perfect? Should it be polished and over produced? If so, do you
enjoy any of the over produced metal albums?
means a lot. As for metal being perfect, it’s case by case with
me. Some bands should be near perfect, like Priest and Maiden.
Then again, I’m sure if you asked them to dissect their albums
they could point out many places that are mistakes or flubs, at
least in their minds that we the fans have never noticed. But
once you cross over into thrash, death metal and such, things
can - and usually should get messier, since raw attitude is a
bigger factor. It’s part of the charm. If you’re Slaughter Lord,
perfection would be ruinous.
- What gets
me about your music is how metal it is. I may be wrong but it
sounds pretty pure; from your expressive solos and furious riffs
to the corrosive vocals of Alex Blume, if you were to describe
metal music, it is a definition that could be applied to the
sound of Ares Kingdom. When song writing what do you keep in
mind? Does anything ever come out sounding ‘not metal enough’?
ever come out not sounding metal. I have many non-metal
inspirations and influences, in fact much of my inspiration for
Incendiary came from what would be
non-metal sources, but when it comes to composing music, no
matter what the inspiration, everything I do is translated
through a metal frame of reference. Incendiary is the
evidence. No matter what I’m dealing with, family, work, other
interests, it’s how I process and synthesize the world around
me, and I’m constantly on the lookout for inspirations that can
be translated into metal.
Kingdom is signed to Nuclear War Now. How did you sign with the
funny to say, but I don’t remember how we got into contact with
Nuclear War Npw. I do remember discussing signing with them for
Return to Dust, but I know we have known Yosuke much
longer than that. We’re very happy with the dedication and work
Nuclear War Now has put into us, and most especially the free
hand he gives us in all aspects of the releases.
Kingdom recently played in the NWN Fest in Berlin. How was the
experience? How was the whole fest? While in Europe did you get
to gig around anywhere else?
The fest was
great and the camaraderie was good overall. We attempted to put
together a tour with a couple of small ‘companies’ but
both failed to deliver. Europe’s interest in Ares Kingdom is
rabid in some parts, so some day we’ll manage to connect the
dots in tour form.
- Your new
album is called Incendiary. It’s excellent. The cover of
the album depicts New York in flames. Lyrically, what are we
The cover is
Joseph Pennell’s “That Freedom Shall Not Perish,” created for
the Fourth Liberty War Loan in 1918. It was designed to shake
Americans out of their complacency about “Europe’s War,” and
bring us round to a greater awareness of what that war was
supposed to be about and our role on the world stage. The lyrics
for Incendiary deal with Islamic terrorism/religious
extremism, and with 9/11 being so fresh in everyone’s mind, we
resurrect the piece for much the same purpose. It’s remarkable
how art from the First World War is perhaps more relevant now
than it was 90 years ago.
- How does
Incendiary stand when compared to Return to Dust and
other previous recordings? Do you see it as a progression?
is the logical extension of Return to Dust. To be fair,
much of Return to Dust was written when the band was just
Mike and myself. I was able to compose Incendiary with a
full band in mind, and one with the greatest chemistry I’ve ever
felt. That security and familiarity lends a certain atmosphere
during my songwriting process that I’m not sure is possible in
younger bands, or bands with hired guns / revolving door
members. I believe the band has evolved and will continue to do
so. I hesitate to say ‘progress’ because to me that change for
its own sake, and that’s not the way we function. My songwriting
will continue to evolve, though its influences and inspirations
will remain what they’ve always been.
- In my
review of Incendiary I made a point that I would like
Ares Kingdom to get just a tad bigger, but not too much. That’s
just my opinion as a metal fan. I love underground music and I
like it to remain underground. In your opinion, is there
something as ‘too big’ for Ares Kingdom?
believe there’s such thing as ‘too big’ for Ares Kingdom,
although I’m sure there’s not much danger of us becoming the
next global phenomenon, especially after being a part of the
underground for over two decades now. We’ve spent so much time
on our own and become so self-sufficient that we’re not the most
amenable bunch to outside influence.
albums are you currently listening to?
I just got
the new Zuul album last week and am liking it quite a bit,
Mournful Congregation’s The June Frost is still high on
my playlist, otherwise I’m just waiting on the new Samael and
Gamma Ray albums.
next for Ares Kingdom? Touring, any other activities?
we’re doing shows with Order From Chaos, plus one-offs here and
there. Working on setting up some dates this summer, but no
tours are planned. But we’ll see what this year brings. In any
case, we’ll head back to Berlin in November for the second NWN
fest. We’ve already begun work on our next project, a mini-LP
that will link Incendiary and the next album, which I’ve already
sketched out and set to work on. So, no rest for the wicked…
Keep an eye on our websites
www.myspace.com/areskingdom, for up-to-the-minute news and merch
announcements. Die-hard versions of Incendiary are going fast,
so hurry if you want to get them from us.
Read the Deaf Sparrow
review of Incendiary