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2016/06/09 - Jason Conde-Houston (Skelator, Split Heaven)

1. Hi, thanks for accepting this interview. Before I ask you some questions about Skelator, please tell me a little bit about yourself as an experienced vocalist. Who influenced you the most? Why did you want to put together a metal band? Finally, please tell me about Domine, and what sets them apart from all the others that influenced you and Skelator.

My first real inspiration was Robert Plant. My mom owned Led Zeppelin I and IV on vinyl and I used to crank them all the time. Later on I got into Slayer and Metallica and that’s why the first album is so thrash heavy. Then I heard Powerslave and knew that that’s what I wanted to sound like. After that was Judas Priest and I listened to them 8 hours a day singing along. That helped me with my diaphragm. Then I got into Manowar and that helped me with my falsetto and paved the way to our epic True Metal journey. I think my falsettos hit their peak during the Death to All Nations era. On the next couple records I decided to cut back on falsettos and focus on my chest and head voice. Like that I don’t blow myself out like I used to and when I do a falsetto it can shine even brighter.

Domine was a BIG influence of mine back in 2004-07. I could listen to those first 4 albums in a row like everyday and not get tired of them at all. Morby’s voice is just so unique and high as fuck! Also the Moorcock obsession of theirs really turned me on because I was on that boat at the same time. One day I was reading “Eternal Champion” while listening to the track “Eternal Champion Suite”. While I was reading a passage of the book all of a sudden Morby is singing the exact line that I was on. One of the coolest/nerdiest moments in my life. I would say alot the track “Death to All Nations” and “Rubble and Ash” have the most Domine influence.

2. What's Skelator currently up to now? I know that the band released King of Fear not too long ago. Musically speaking, what makes it different from the previous three albums?

Right now we are writing new material for our upcoming album and we are putting the final touches to the 7” split with Substratum that will come out later this year. But as far as King of Fear is concerned I would say it’s our most mature album in terms of songwriting. Agents of Power was very ambitious with the whole Elric Suite taking up more than 40 minutes of the whole album. Death to All Nations was our first solid sounding release and had 3 7-8 minute songs and more falsettos than most albums can ever need. King of Fear is full of variety and nothing is too serious or overdrawn. The production itself is light years ahead of the past albums. Plus most of the songs were conceived after Agents was released whereas most of the tracks on DtAN and AoP were ideas that we’d been milling for up to a decade (ala Elric). I think when you keep songs like that in your pocket for too long you have too many expectations on it and you end up not liking the last result as much you hoped. King of Fear just sounds fresh and full of vigor. We aim to do something similar with our next album but we plan to make the production stand out even more than ever before.

3. You formed the band in San Diego, California, but eventually moved it to Seattle, Washington. What factors led to the relocation, and are you satisfied with the changes?

Mainly we moved to get away from the SoCal mentality and the everlasting draught of good venues and inconsistent crowds at shows. Also we all still lived with our parents and needed to grow up and move on with our lives. Patrick came up here to finish his degree, Robbie moved up here to record more music and I came up to continue Skelator. I miss San Diego for many reasons but it’s mainly the fact that I could go to Tijuana anytime I wanted to. Playing down there was always a blast.

4. What was the reason for the fallout with Metal on Metal Records, and how did you get signed to Swords and Chains Records? What other labels were you also considering?

Metal on Metal did alot for us over the 7 years we worked together. But we had some pretty bad communication sometimes. I figured if we got a smaller label here in the states it would simplify things and give us more control over what we want our albums to sound/look like. I was already in communication with Mike from Swords in Chains because he wanted to buy our cassettes. When I met him in Chicago I addressed my issues with Metal on Metal and we decided to start working together.

5. With the band's discography in mind, are there any plans of a reissue, such as having Live Chaos officially put on CD? Will there also be any vinyl releases through that label?

Live Chaos is a cute concept but if we do another live album it’s gonna be with our current lineup. I would rather put Live Chaos up online for free at this point. One thing I’d like to do is put the Swords EP on Vinyl and obviously put King of Fear on Vinyl.

6. Looking back at when Skelator played a style closer to thrash metal, how do you feel about those early demos to this day? Also, what was the general atmosphere like in the year 1998, when there were very few heavy metal bands around?

Well back then all we wanted to sound like was Slayer and throw in some random stuff like Maiden, Cannibal Corpse and Cradle of Filth (haha yes I said it). I think those tracks are rad when you think about how young we were and how hungry we were to play metal. Back then I didn’t even know any metalheads I had to get into the bands by looking at album covers at the store and if it was a used CD store I could actually sample the music and see if I liked it. There was a radio show that me and my buddy Max would listen to called Another State of Mind hosted by Norm Leggio of Pschotic Waltz. We would record every show on to cassette so we could not only listen to the songs again but remember the band names so we could buy the album later. That’s how we got into Maiden, Manowar, Helloween and Savatage. Thanks Norm.

7. Now, please tell me about your style of lyrics, and how they all flow together. The most obvious theme here is taking influence from Michael Moorcock's novels. What fascinates you the most about his stories and characters, such as Elric of Melniboné? How does it all work together with Skelator's music and imagery?

My style of writing was first inspired by Iron Maiden. They always paint a picture and tell a story in every song and that’s what I wanted in Skelator from the beginning. But the reason I like Moorcock is because he breaks the mold of fantasy good vs. evil and turns it upside down. The idea of infinite realities has fascinated me since I was a child. Also the Anti-Hero is one my favorite concepts as well. I never liked the “Good Guys” growing up, hence why my band is named after a villain. But the basic concept of the balance between Law and Chaos is just amazing because no one is truly right or wrong, you must question everything in the universe or else you are a slave to one side or another.

8. How often have you been playing shows in the last couple of years, and which ones were the most memorable to you? Which other countries would you like to play in?

We try to play at least once a month depends on what is going on within the band and how good are the show offers. In the last year or so we have opened up for Manilla Road, Riot V, Satan and even Steel Panther (never saw that coming). I would love to finally play Mexico City. But I really want to play in Spain, Italy, Greece and Poland… I mean all of Europe but I know we have many fans in those countries. Obviously I really want to play Japan someday as well.

9. Being that you are a lyricist, how do you find the inspiration to keep your songs sounding fresh?

We are a bunch of nerds I think we can keep writing about our favourite books, comics, anime, video games and movies until the day we die.

10. Please tell me a little bit about the Mexican heavy/speed metal band Split Heaven, in which you recently joined and have just finished releasing your debut album with them. How did it all come together?

Split Heaven are the tequila drinking speed metal demons from Queretaro! I first heard them in 2009 when we were slated to play a show together here in Seattle. Then had to cancel their tour due to lack of visas but I kept in touch with their drummer and kept up with all their albums. When needed a new singer for the second time I posted that I wish I could join them but it would be too ridiculous to pull off. Tomas immediately messaged me saying that I was the perfect singer for the band. I decided to do an audition and they loved it. They wrote all the riffs and structures and sent me a solid demo with predetermined song titles. So then I listened to them like crazy and thought of vocal melodies and lyrics. I flew down to Mexico and recorded all the vocals in 2 weeks. It was hard work and it was hot as HELL in that studio, but we made a killer record and I am very proud of what I did and thankful that those guys let me join the ranks.

11. Compared to ten years ago, how much progress have you made in your music career? Is it easier for you to produce music nowadays, or do you still long for the days when everyone was hungry to get new material out there?

I think back then it was alot easier to come up with lyrics and song ideas, where as now it’s easier to come up with catchy melodies.and guitar harmonies. In our old songs we used to write alot more riffs per song and while that’s cool when you are young it’s not necessary. It’s better to write riffs that can be altered as the song goes on, it’s just more musical and catchy that way. Also we used to write songs with the mindset that they had to be long whereas now we barely ever write songs longer than 5 minutes. It just makes more sense to have shorter songs so you can fit more tracks in a setlist.

12. That wraps it up. I appreciate the opportunity to interview you. Please have your last say, if there's anything else that you'd like to include here. Thanks.

I want to thank all the fans around the globe for all their support over the years. Skelator and Split Heaven will continue to strive for Heavy Metal glory!

Split Heaven

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Great interview! A reminder that I still need to check out King of Fear sometime
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What would you say Skeletor's best song is?
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(06-17-2016, 03:45 PM)Temple of Blood Wrote: What would you say Skeletor's best song is?
Death to All Nations and Agents of Power would make for good starting points. Their material in the early 2000s was more in the typical thrash metal vein.
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