JANUARY 28th 2013

DARK EMPIRE out of New Jersey took some time to sit down with Metaltitans and do an exclusive interview, check out what they had to say…

Welcome to MetalTitans. Guardians of Metal entertainment, worldwide. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us.

1.  The band formed back in 2004 , what made you decide to form a band then ?

The band started life as a studio project, actually. I was still living on Long Island at the time, and I had been out of school for two years and was occupying my time teaching guitar and working as a waiter in a sushi restaurant. I wanted to get a band going, but where I was living on the eastern end of Long Island in the early 2000s was not exactly a breeding ground for musicians to form a progressive metal band with. I decided instead to put out a studio album on my own, with musicians from all over the world. I really didn't want to call it a Matt Moliti "solo" record, because even though I was featuring my guitar playing on it, my focus is on song writing and vocal songs, not on instrumental guitar showcases. It sounds very different from where Dark Empire is now, but the basic seeds of our sound - the fusion of progressive metal influences and more extreme metal influences - were still present on it.

I moved to New Jersey right as production was wrapping up on the 2nd album, Humanity Dethroned, and it was at this time that I thought I could turn Dark Empire into a performing band. We did a handful of shows in 2007 and 2008, but with the dispersed location of all the members (our singer was living in Sweden at the time!) it was clear that in order for the band to really move forward as a live act, I needed a more localized lineup... and it wound up taking me 4 years to find it! The current album, From Refuge to Ruin, was written and recorded in the middle of that process, so we are eager to start writing again to feature the full, current six-man lineup.

2.  How did all the band members come to be in the band ?

Our singer, Brian Larkin, I've known for years and years, since I was a teenager, actually. He even filled in during some shows in 2008 when our singer at the time, Jens Carlsson, couldn't be flown over from Sweden. It just never occurred to me until halfway through recording From Refuge to Ruin to ask him to join. Nevertheless, I'm glad I did, because he's a killer vocalist and he contributed lyrics and melodies to two standout tracks on the album, Lest Ye Be Judged and The Cleansing Fires.

Randy Knecht, our bassist, I found via a craigslist ad, and surprisingly enough, he had lived in Sweden for a time and had known and hung out with our former singer, Jens. So its a crazy coincidence he joined Dark Empire, even though Jens had left by the time he joined.

Christian Colabelli, our 2nd guitarist, I met via working through the School of Rock franchise I teach out of in Chatham, NJ. He taught there for a while, and we became friends pretty quickly, both mutually impressed by each others' playing ability. Like Randy, we wound up sharing some mutual connections, as we had both gone to Berklee College of Music and he had already known the producer that Dark Empire was working with at the time. We tried him out live throughout gigs in 2012, and it became apparent that he should be offered the full time position, especially since I could see that he would be able to contribute to the writing process in the same way our former guitarist, Andrew Atwood, did.

Harris Bergsohn, our keyboardist, I had been friends with for quite a while, and both of us share a love for 70s Prog Rock bands like Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, etc. The way Dark Empire utilizes keyboards is more for atmosphere and texture, and we specifically go for a vintage, analog, keyboard sound, using mellotron and Hammond organ sounds instead of modern digital string/choir samples and synthesizers. I knew Harris would "get" where I was coming from with that, so that was why I asked him to join.

On drums we have been working with a session musician, Matt Graff, since recording From Refuge to Ruin. Right now, I view him as a "permanent session" status, but we'll see what the future holds!

3. Do you classify yourself as one particular genre, or you prefer not to be stuck in one style ?

I prefer not to be stuck in one style, but there are definitely elements to the Dark Empire sound. When we started out, the first album, and to an extent the 2nd album as well, had a definite power metal influence that has pretty much been phased out by this point, although I've learned that when you have traditional metal style clean vocals, you tend to get called power metal regardless of how the rest of the music sounds. So we still get lumped into that, even though I think anyone coming to us with expectations of Helloween or Dragonforce are going to be very disappointed, haha! I love the brutality and intensity of extreme metal as well as the musicianship and melodiousness of progressive metal, so Dark Empire is my amalgamation of the qualities I enjoy in both. This is why I tend to refer to what Dark Empire is doing and where we are going musically as "Progressive Extreme Metal" or "Extreme Progressive Metal" these days. I think anyone who has an open mind to all types of metal and enjoys well written songs played with stellar musicianship is going to find a lot to like in Dark Empire.

4. What made you decide on the band name “DARK EMPIRE” ?

This is kind of silly... I was hanging out with some friends and one of them was really into power metal and suggested the Freedom Call album "Crystal Empire" would make a good band name. I said in response, "nah, that’s not badass enough, if I were to use that I'd call it Dark Empire." It was as simple as that!

5. Were you interested in music as you went through school ?

Very. I was always around music since I was a kid. My dad played keyboards in local bands while he was growing up and always had recording equipment and instruments in the basement. I guess it was inevitable that I would gravitate towards music. I'd say I've known that I was going to be a professional musician since I was about 15 or so. There was no other choice for me, really. I knew it had to be that.

6. What kind of music did you enjoy when you were young ? Do you think that had some influence on what you play now?

Absolutely. As I mentioned before, my dad was an amateur musician, and being a keyboardist, especially, he was really into progressive rock bands like Yes, ELP, Genesis, and King Crimson. The first concert I ever went to, my dad took me to see Genesis on their 1992 tour when I was 9 years old. Of course as I matured, it was their 70's material with Peter Gabriel that I really gravitated towards, and I would have to say that classic lineup of Genesis is my favorite band of all time. On my own, as I picked up guitar, I discovered Pink Floyd and Rush, and those became some of my earliest influences on guitar, David Gilmour and Alex Lifeson, I mean. My search for more progressive bands eventually led me to discover Dream Theater, which opened me up to the world of metal. I'm kind of a unique case in this regard, since most people I meet wind up discovering prog rock through metal bands like Dream Theater and Opeth... I was the other way around, I found prog rock first and discovered metal through Dream Theater. The rest is history!

7. If having a band didn’t turn out, what would you have done instead ?

Wow, that is a good question. At this point in my life, I have no clue. I can't really do anything else besides music. I really enjoy cooking as a hobby, perhaps if music never worked out for me I would go to culinary school or something.

8. When you write the lyrics for your albums, who does them, and where do they get their ideas from ?

I write the majority of the lyrics, but now that our current vocalist, Brian Larkin, is in the band, he's into writing them as well. I can't speak for Brian, but I get the majority of my inspiration from life. Some are commentaries on sociological things, some are introspective and deal with relationships between people. The way the human mind works and the way we interact as people, particularly our shortcomings in this regard, is something that fascinates me.

9. How do you decide on who does the artwork for your albums ?

From day one we've worked with a Brazilian artist named Gustavo Sazes, who has also worked for bands like Arch Enemy, Firewind, and Morbid Angel. Gustavo has been really good to work with, so we haven't really thought to try anyone else out. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

10. What kind of plans do you have for DARK EMPIRE ?

Right now, we've got a pretty big gig coming up on March 10th, where we will be opening up for Nile at BB Kings in NYC. Long term plans for 2013 include a short northeast run in May, and beginning work on a 5-track free download/giveaway EP. The EP will take a small sidestep away from some of the longer, more progressive aspects found on From Refuge to Ruin and instead focus on shorter, heavier songs, similar to tracks like Lest Ye Be Judged, Dreaming In Vengeance, and Dark Seeds of Depravity, or also Possessed (from our 2nd album, Humanity Dethroned). We'll return to more of the extended progressive songs on our next full length.

Is there anything that you would like to add for people to read, that I might not have asked, or you want them to know about your band ?

Thank you Metal Titans readers and fellow metalheads for checking us out! If you happen to be in the New Jersey or New York area, we play out often, so please like our facebook page  http://www.facebook.com/darkempireband to stay up to date on our current and upcoming show schedule! We love interacting with our fans and hanging out at our gigs with them, so come out and have a good time with us!

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview here with us at METALTITANS.