UTG INTERVIEW: Kingmaker’s Alex Gaspar Discusses the Creation of ‘The Cradle’

kingmaker

Kingmaker have always been a group that thrives on progression. Since bursting onto the scene in the summer of 2009, the Lake County quartet has undergone a number of style and lineup changes, all leading to the release of their latest full-length effort, The Cradle–a bold blend of abrasive riffs, ear-shattering percussion, and poignant lyricism.

We recently spoke with guitarist Alex Gaspar, who not only gave us all the details on the band’s latest album, but also elaborated on what they have in the works for the rest of 2015. Read our conversation below, and keep in touch with Kingmaker here.

Back in February, you guys released your highly-anticipated new album, The Cradle—how does it feel to have it completed and in the hands of fans?

It definitely feels really good considering it was a project that was well over a year [in the making]—we recorded it the very first time back in January of 2014, and then we ended up trying to record it again in the summer, and it wasn’t until the end of the year that we finally recorded the version that we released. It was just such a pain trying to get everything put together, but it felt really good, and we’re really proud of it.

Very cool. As you mentioned, this album has been in the works for quite some time, and despite a number of lineup changes and instances of uncertainty, it has always remained The Cradle. What’s the significance of this title, if any?

Honestly, I think with a lot of the stuff we come up with as a band–I don’t know–I don’t want to say there’s not any meaning behind it, but it was honestly just something we were like, “This is really, really sick” [laughs]. It just kind of became this blanket name that we were like, “Okay, yeah, that’s cool–that’s really awesome, maybe we’ll build something lyrically around it,” and we never felt like we wanted to change it. It always felt like that was sort of the destined name for the project. I can’t remember exactly how it was formed or discovered, but I know Andy, our other guitarist, came up with it. It may be from a movie or something–I can’t really remember, but it’s really bad-ass.

I couldn’t agree more. In much the same way, “Serpent’s Song” has also withstood the test of time since first appearing on Less Faith. Is there any particular reason this song keeps popping up, or is just one of your guys’ favorites?

Originally, we were actually going to put “Blood Thirst” on The Cradle–that was on the original six-song version that we did back in January ’14, but we took it off because we didn’t love it. I think in hindsight it would’ve been cool to maybe replace it with another newer song, but I like it, and we all really liked it, and it was a song that we felt just could’ve been better the second time around. Once we recorded it in the different tuning and in a different tempo (it’s a little faster), we were like, “You know, this song is good enough to bridge the gap between kind of the old Kingmaker and the newer version with Kyle,” and kind of help people get reacquainted with it a little easier. I think that was the reason it stuck around on that record particularly.

Nowadays, there’s sort of this expectation for bands to progress their sound with each new release. Listening to some of your guys’ earlier work (Stay Pissed, Catacomb), you guys clearly have, but this seems especially true of The Cradle. What do you feel sets your newest record apart from your past releases?

Well, like you said, we’ve always been doing something different, and there’s a lot of bands that sound different from release to release, but I think it’s been noted with us because so many of our older fans are such enormous fans of the first three releases specifically. There was definitely a considerable amount of backlash when the style changed. I mean, Less Faith is even way different than the first two. The first two are very old-sounding, kind of beatdown records, and then Less Faith was like a lot darker–no breakdowns on it–and Stay Asleep is very melodic, sad, foreign. The Cradle was kind of a testament to the fact that we refused to stay the same. And a lot of that came from just wanting to play different music now that we’re all in our 20s. Catacomb was written when we were 16, and now we’re a lot older so it’s just different. A lot of it too is the fact that Kyle’s in the band, so you know, we don’t want to play an old style with his vocals, we want to write a style of music that also serves his vocal strength.

Was that shift in sound kind of a unified decision that you all talked about ahead of time, or did it occur naturally as you were writing?

It’s a combination of both. I mentioned that first recording back in January–we recorded it in New York in the studio, and it was a way different record. As we kept writing, months after that recording, we wrote “My Savior,” “My Only Devil,” “Brain Burner,” Awful Disclosures,” and stuff like that, and I don’t know…it was definitely a combination of both. We found that it was a premeditated thing; going into it we had this set idea, but then as the record kept getting pushed off and re-recorded, and as we kept rewriting and readjusting, we realized like, “Oh, we’re really figuring out a lot of stuff.” The final version–the one that we released–is so significantly greater than the original recording, from a songwriting standpoint especially.

You sort of touched on this earlier, but what role did the addition of your guys’ new vocalist, Kyle, have in the direction of The Cradle? I think he has a very unique delivery.

He has an extremely unique delivery. His vocal style is just so different, and his lyrical style is very poetic. He specifically as a vocalist experimented on The Cradle because we brought Kyle into the mix very late in the songwriting process, and he absolutely shined on it. It definitely was one of those things where we kind of rushed him a little bit just because of the time constraints, but he did a great job and met all the deadlines perfectly. But it was definitely a trial period. It was like, “Okay, this is his first time with this band and he’s about to record a record,” [laughs], Overall, I think after this record was said and done, and after we kind of talked about it as a band, he kind of recognized the strength of what he did great, and he knows what he needs to improve on, etc. His role in this band is super huge now, and it’s awesome to have him on board, and have him deliver what he’s been delivering.

Kind of spring boarding off that last question, are there any artists that you feel majorly influence your guys’ sound or style?

Yeah, definitely. As a band, we’re all over the board—-we really like Daughters a lot, Botch, Converge–a lot of those early, mid-2000s mathcore bands. We’re all really big fans of thrash music, like Encrust and stuff. I don’t know…old Norma Jean, like Oh God, The Aftermath. I just saw they’re announcing their 10-year anniversary tour for that record, and I think a bunch of us are going to try to go. That’s a pretty big one for us.

Hell yeah, definitely a classic. And do you personally have a favorite track off the album?

They’re all really good, but I’d probably have to say “My Only Devil.” I think that’s Kyle’s best song, and it’s probably my favorite. It’s got a really cool ending, and I really enjoy that one a lot.

In addition to a more out-of-the-box sound, the release of The Cradle saw sort of a physical rebranding too, mainly in regards to the imagery you guys have been using to represent yourselves. It all seems very premeditated and cohesive. Could you tell me a little bit about that?

As far as like the visual stuff, it’s just specifically supposed to be for this release. We all really enjoy when bands have a myriad of art created for an album, and I like that. I like that theme. It’s kind of like a comic book, punk style, drawn artwork kind of stuff; there’s a lot of yellow in the imagery and things like that. And yeah, a lot of it was just experimenting with different stuff and seeing what looked the coolest, and once we landed on it, we were just like, “This rules, let’s roll with it.” After The Cradle, we’ll retire what we made for that and move on to something else entirely.

This question may be a little premature, but what do you see as the next evolution of Kingmaker’s sound?

Well, we are writing right now. We’re actually taking the summer off, and this is the first summer we’ve taken off from touring since our first tour, which was four years ago in 2011. We’re just writing songs right now, and it’s just going to be for whatever the next release is, and I can definitely tell you that it’s going to be cool [laughs]. You know, every band says “It’s going to be heavier” and “It’s going to be this” or “It’s going to be that,” but it’s just going to be us expanding and trying to make our sound even cooler. We want to make sure the kids are going to like it, and it’s always going to be something you can headbang to or throw an elbow or two to. We’re really excited, and we’ve got some really cool stuff in the works, and we’re excited to reveal it in the coming months.

That’s awesome. I’m stoked to hear it. And while on the topic, do you guys have any other plans for the future? Any touring on the horizon?

We definitely see more touring in our future, for sure. As much as this summer was like, “Oh, we’re bummed we couldn’t get on the road,” it was definitely for the best. I think we really needed to take this summer off and really focus on hammering out songs and just sort making our next few moves. I can promise that in the next two or three months–or hopefully around that general area–we’ll be releasing some information, so definitely stay tuned for that stuff.

We definitely will be. That’s all I’ve got for you today, so is there anything else that you would like to add or would want fans to know?

I guess rather than using this time to talk about anything self-serving, I just want to give a huge shout-out to some bands that are really awesome and really good friends of ours. There’s a band called Our Lady, from Springfield, Illinois, and they’re awesome. We have friends in this band called Ghost Of A Dead Hummingbird from the Chicago suburbs who are a really great band. Arkham from Chicago, Illinois, are really awesome, and yeah, we just have a ton of really, really talented friends, and I of course would spend forever listening to all of them, but those are three that I think a lot of people should really check out that are from our general Illinois area. There’s just a crazy amount of good talent coming up right now, and I’m stoked to have a lot of our friends be a part of it. They all have Bandcamps, so give ‘em a peek.

Interview written and conducted by Kyle Florence
Feature photo courtesy of David Mullis

Kyle Florence

Kyle Florence is a proud Wisconsinite, a dinosaur enthusiast, and a lover of all things weird and whacky.
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