Imperial Savagery is a death metal band from Chicago, IL and they have a brand new release on Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and here is an interview with guitar player Tom Flanagan and singer Brice Dalzell
- Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Tom: we are all from the southwest side of Chicago. We have all know each other since the early ’90s.
- What sort of kid were you growing up?
Tom: In grade school, I was actually pretty straight-laced, good grades, didn’t get into trouble but I was bitten by the Rock N Roll bug early! I remember playing Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation album on a Raggedy Ann and Andy record player when I was like 5 or 6. Then a little bit later I started to get into hard rock and metal like Twisted Sister, Grim Reaper (my friends told me I was going to go to help for owning this hahaha), Kiss, Accept, etc. And then eventually getting into heavier stuff. In high school/teenage years I was miserable (laughing). The metal was so cathartic for me and still is. I would come home and crank out all that early 90’s death metal and it was just like a pressure release. I don’t know where I would have been without it, kept me sane and still does!
- So now how did you come to discover the underground? Was it something you got into right away or did it take a few listens to get into?
Tom: Hard to pinpoint an exact moment that I discovered the underground (by underground I am assuming you mean death and black metal). I guess I was always looking for that next heavier thing. After I had gotten into thrash, I started seeking out like-minded people who listened to heavy music. That often led me to kids that might have been a year or so older than me. They would be like “oh you like Slayer? Then you should check out Obituary or whatever”. I also remember high school and college radio stations that I could just barely pick up that introduced me to a lot of underground stuff as well. I’d say it was pretty organic. After I got to high school the flood gates just opened and I got introduced to so many more people and so much more music. The early ’90s was such a watershed period for death metal. I did pretty much latch on to it right away and once I heard Morbid Angel’s “Blessed are the Sick”, I knew this what I’d be doing musically. Although I was introduced to thrash first, I felt like with death metal I was coming in at the beginning of the movement, whereas thrash had been around a bit before I found it.
- Had you checked out or read any fanzines at the time? If so which ones? I know not a lot of it was going on by this time, but how about tape trading?
Tom: Yeah fanzines were very important, especially after I joined a band and started to be more active in the scene. The first fanzine I was introduced to was run by a buddy of ours Rob Campos. It was called Pagan Pages. Some other zines of the ’90s that I traded with were Brutalized Zine, Sanguinary Surroundings, Dark side zine, Grimoire of Exalted Deeds and some others. Tape trading was kind if the same thing. I think everything was much more personal back then.
- It sure was. Now both can answer this. What made you take up an instrument and for you Brice sing?
Tom: I wanted to be a conduit for evil!
Brice: My Mons parents were Irish musicians. Always live sessions when we visited Grandma and Grandpa. Piano, fiddle, and recorder. They taped the stuff, too. The metal was SO big when I was 9 or 10, too. PRIEST, MAIDEN, and KISS, etc were everywhere. Having an older brother gave me the most significant jumpstart on the game. Enthralled.
Tom: In all seriousness. I loved metal and music. I wanted to write my own music so picking up the guitar just seemed the best way to create.
Tom: Some guys pick up a guitar to learn how to play their favourite songs. That was never my goal. Sure I learned other people’s songs but I never got much satisfaction from that. It felt pretty much the same as practising scales. I always wanted to write songs first and foremost.
- So at what point did you toy with the idea of possibly starting up or joining a band?
Tom: About 5 years too soon! I convinced my friends to pick up bass and drums in junior high. That was my first “band”. None of us could play, it was terrible. That was probably a year after I picked up the guitar.
- So what was your first “real” band would you say and how long did they stay together?
Tom: My first real band was Darkfall and that went from late 92 to early 94. It was Death Metal with a lot of doom parts. I ended up playing with that drummer (Tim Frickenstein ) in other bands. The most notable being Enmortem which became The Everscathed which is still around today and Brice played the guitar and sang in for many years!
- So after you moved on from that band, who was next?
Tom: The next band I joined was Pederasty(stupidest band name on the planet). After Darkfall, Tim formed that band with Todd O’Connell (guitar) and Brian Lawrence (guitar -Enmortem’s first guitarist). Since both guitar slots were taken, I came in on bass. Brian left fairly quickly after I joined. Eventually, I switched back to the guitar until the end of the band. We got a bass player who remained to the end. Todd quit metal to play in jam bands and we brought in the old Darkfall guitarist until the end. Tim left to join Enmortem, I followed shortly after. They went on with another guitarist and drummer before calling it quits.
Tom: That timeframe was mid 94 – early 98
- Now where did you end up going next?
Tom: Enmortem from 98 to late 99. Then I founded Envy The Dead 2000 which went until 2010. Envy the Dead had a lot of starts and stops. I became frustrated so around 2008 I started working on a one-man band called Prophet of the Plague. That was the start of several Imperial Savagery songs. It was done with a cheap drum machine. After Envy the Dead finally called it quits, I asked Garrett (drums) to help me with those Prophet of the Plague songs. At first, it was just going to be a studio project but then Brice came on board and it just became too good to be just a side project. During this time, 2012 or so, I also did a brief stint in Boatman’s Toll.
- Did you think during this time maybe I’m not cut out to be in a band? Did you ever get asked to join any established bands, by that I mean ones that were already around?
Tom: No and No. I found it frustrating for sure but every time I got knocked down, I just got up as fast as I could to make sure I could still get back up.
- So now how did the coming of Imperial Savagery come together? Was it easy or a pain in the ass early on?
Tom: It was pretty effortless. Envy the Dead was always such a struggle. I forgot things could be that smooth.
Brice: Really no pains about it ever, actually. Tom and Garrett had a decent sounding 5 song recording with no vocals, tried a couple of singers out, then asked me to do it. I was taken to it right away. Then brought it home, and I remember saying whoa, this is more complicated than I thought. Then it was like a EUREKA moment, I GOT it. And these guys let me fuckin run with it. The band name, logo, imagery, themes, etc. Then Clancy jumps in on bass. Perfect.
- How did you come up with the awesome name and logo?
Tom: Again going back to that original 5 song recording. It struck me as so savage and violent. Images went with these thoughts, as well as the lyrics. Reading up on Japan’s pre WW2 trek of China may have helped significantly. The Imperial Army with such militant conviction was, well, pretty fucking savage. Still, mind-blowing in their determination. The name really fits. The logo is actually just a font, I dug it years ago. Of course, it was tweaked a bit and completed by our good friend Tim Pearson. He’s done both CD inlays.
- So when did you begin preparing for the writing of your newest release which just came out not long ago?
Tom: Actually, some of those riffs go back as far as 2014. We started putting stuff together almost right after we recorded the debut. The first song we wrote after the debut we ended up dropping and taking one of the riffs for “Frozen Ritual of Shame”. I think after the song we dropped, the first song was “Appalled in Disgraced Ruin”. That was probably no later than 2015. I remember writing the first couple riffs of “Churchgate Proclamation” in 2014.
- Now did you have a certain studio in mind when you had all your songs and music ready to go?
Tom: Yes! We knew we were going to use Dan Klein at Iron Hand Audio same as the debut. However, the game plan was different this time. Last time we paid hourly, this time we paid by the song. This afforded more time to figuring out guitar tone. I think we spent almost a whole day trying different heads. The other change was we recorded the drums and due to a scheduling conflict, we couldn’t get back into the studio for a month. I had Dan give me a CD of just the drum tracks. I practised recording those songs over and over again while I waited to get back in the studio. Because I was super practised, it allowed me to do multiple takes for songs very quickly and just pick the best of the best.
- So now how did you end up on/working with Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and how has it been with them so far?
Tom: So far it’s been great. Mike Juliano is a great guy and did a lot of promotion for the album.
Brice: Pat Clancy was in contact with Mike for the release of the SONS OF FAMINE record. I believe that’s what first garnered some interest. Again our friend Tim P. comes into play as he contacted Mike as well. We mentioned the recording, mixing, mastering and inlay were already done. The only speed bump or delay was us (well, ME) being very particular regarding the inlay/layout. Tim and I worked a long time on it. Then, it came out fucking PERFECT. Effortless correspondence with Mike Juliano, just a true fan of this style as we are.
- So what sort of things to you like to write about?
Brice: It’s best for me to hear what Tom and Garrett have come up with. A lot of times the speed and downright fury sends my mind racing, immediately putting pen to paper, digging through my notes, etc. Obviously raging and hateful Anti-Christian vibe throughout. We didn’t set out to sound like the cassettes we bought at Kroozin Music, we just kind of sound that way.
- So what was the first metal show you went to and how much do you remember about it?
Tom: it was either Kiss or Iron Maiden depending on how you categorize Kiss. I honestly don’t remember much about either other than who I went with.
Brice: OZZY OSBOURNE/ANTHRAX Rosemont, IL December ‘88. I remember my friend’s mom dropped us off and picked us up, we had zero money, couldn’t buy ANYTHING and it was super loud. We were on the main floor, really close. Still have the ticket stub.
- Now your debut release, self-titled, came out in 2014. What are your thoughts on this release? What was it like going into the studio for the first time as I.S.?
Tom: I still like the songs and the energy on that one! Brice’s vocals are vicious. The production I’m less happy with. If we ever press more, I’d like to consider getting it remastered. The studio for me was rough, probably the roughest time in the studio since I was a teenager. A lot of technical issues. I think it was a much smoother process for everyone else. That being said I look back very fondly at that release. I have a lot of great memories tied to that album!
- Now why 4 years in between releases?
Tom: There wasn’t a particular reason. Just kind of how the dice fell. I think we might have been focusing on shows for a bit.
- I got ya. Now when did you start to put together songs for your newest release?
Tom: When we were actually working on those songs as a band, I’d say Late 2014/2015 – 2017. The drums were recorded in November 2017 and the rest of the album was recorded in early 2018.
- Now that the album is finished and finally out how happy are you for it to see the light of day.
Tom: Pretty damn happy! Not only for the reason that I am glad it’s out there and people have a chance to hear it but also because it mentally frees me to really focus on new material. I can’t speak for the others but for me, it was hard to focus on the new songs while this one was sort of sitting on the shelf.
Brice: Very pleased. The packaging looks perfect and sounds the way we intended. It is CERTAINLY what any one of us would listen to or buy as fans.
- Now how do you and the label plan on promoting it so you don’t get lumped in with all these other generic death metal releases going around?
Tom: Our plan is to get the release in as many hands as possible. Gather as many addresses of zines, labels, etc. HPGD released singles for “From Advent to Casket” and “Inverting the Province of Scripture” that helped generate a buzz as well as pushing pretty hard on Social Media. As far as promoting it in a way that it doesn’t get lumped in with other releases, I’m not sure. Really hard to do in a sea of bands. It also kind of sucks there aren’t any shows right now. That really helps to get it to people.
- How did you hook up with Mike and his label? Were any other labels interested?
Brice: We were really close to releasing it ourselves exactly like the last one. Again, Pat was in contact for the release of SONS OF FAMINE – “As Razors Gnaw Like Wolves” CD. (obvious plug) And Tim texting Mike about our upcoming record (while finalizing the inlay at my house) was a certain push. Shit worked out perfectly. The first one was in some great distros, long sold out now. BMG wasn’t exactly beating down our door.
- How serious is the band and how much time is spent doing band related stuff?
Tom: We take this very seriously. The amount of time that goes into arranging 3 minutes songs is mind-boggling sometimes! We will laser focus on 30 seconds of a song for hours! Playing in a band/instrument is kind of like working out. If you aren’t using it, you are losing it. Being that we are all 40 plus with jobs/families, it is especially it important to do your homework. I have wav files of just the drums for both albums (and some new stuff too!) that I practice along. I practice an Imperial Savagery set at least once a week whether it is in person or at home. I also of course work on new material, exercises, etc. in addition to that. In the old days, you would get together 3 times a week but nothing would ever get done because no one is prepared. Now we practice less in person and get far more done.
Brice: Being in the best band I’ve ever played in with guys I’ve known more than half of my life IS a serious fuckin thing. Pulling a song out of utter madness in the practice room is serious to me. The term “band” I like to use vaguely. We’re a band of bent lunatics who agree with each other. A band of tenured friends perfecting the best Death Metal we could offer.
- The worst thing and the best thing about being in a band?
Tom: The best thing, speaking for this band, jamming and writing with people I have known since before electricity. The worst part is that particularly on the recording, you spend a lot of money you will never see again and you go in knowing that.
- If you were gonna pick 3 cover tunes to do, which would they be and why?
Tom: We currently cover “The Horny and the Horned” by Impaled Nazarene. It’s a perfect fit for our style. Some other of my picks would be something from Pre -Domination era Morbid Angel because those were some of the most influential albums to me early on. I think covering something off the first Decide might be a good fit as well because our first album got compared to early Decide. Those are just my thoughts. The other guys might have other ideas.
- So what are the plans for the band for rest of 2020 and into 2021?
Tom: Right now we are just focusing on new songs. It’s really hard to make a plan beyond that given the current state of the world. I guess right now its focus on promoting “Lashing The Feral Swine” and writing a follow-up. Hopefully, shows will return at some point in 2021.
- What exactly, if any is the Imperial Savagery sound?
Brice: Explained on a not so subtle DARKTHRONE nod with the top of the back cover. Odious Death Metal Sadism, this one. The first record spells Satanic Death Metal Cruelty. We’ve been compared to the early Florida sound in most reviews. No problem, I’ve been called worse.
- Please plug and social media sites you have.
- Horns up for doing this chat. Any last words to wrap this is the floor is yours
Tom: Thanks for the interview, Chris! Any bands, zines, etc., reading this, let’s do some trades. Hopefully, the country opens up in 2021 and we start seeing people at shows! Once again we are on Spotify and Apple Music if you want to try before you buy! Horns up. Stay Metal, never rust!
Brice: Thanks, man. Only Xerox and staples are real!! Order the disc