Interview: Steve Colca (Destroyer of Light)
I’ve grown weary of the phrase “road warrior.” Not only because my social media feeds have been blowing up in reference to the new Mad Max movie [Which is amazing-Ed.], but it seems like every band that takes advantage of long weekends feels the need to call themselves just that, “road warriors.”
When Steve Colca used the descriptor on his doomy four-piece, Destroyer of Light, my first thought was, “Not again…” Then he told me how long his band has existed for, how many tours they’ve gone on and the length of their longest run: Three years, ten tours and four-and-a-half weeks respectively. Okay fine, you win this round Colca. I chatted with the busy guitarist, vocalist and booking agent as he was getting ready to prep for Destroyer of Light’s latest jaunt across the country, a run designed to get them to the Psycho CA festival in Santa Ana and back. Topics included classic Italian horror flicks, their upcoming split with Godhunter and of course, the sheer brilliance of the Invisible Oranges-approved Immortal Bird.
So you just got off work, right? What does that entail exactly?
I do catering delivery in Austin, so I drive around this crazy town during the lunch hours and shit like that.
Do you get to listen to music while you’re driving around?
Yeah, it’s great. I’m in my car, I get to listen to whatever I want. Don’t really have to deal my boss or have to talk to anybody. Today’s choices were Dio - The Last in Line and Dream Evil.
When you were making Bizarre Tales Vol. 2, were you listening to rough mixes at work?
Totally. Whenever we do a new release, we always try to listen to it in the car, a shitty stereo, a good stereo, a computer… Every album, we try to listen to it and see how everything sounds.
One thing about you guys that I thought was interesting was that your first release was a live record. Jane’s Addiction and The MC5 did that, but it’s still kind of a gutsy move to make.
We did that live album at a club in Austin before we released our full-length. We actually record all our music live in the studio, but we did do a live album. But yeah, thanks man. Me and the drummer have been playing together for five years now. I moved down from Michigan to Texas to live with my aunt and uncle. I didn’t know anybody down here. I put out this really thorough ad saying what I wanted to do musically, and someone put me in touch with our drummer. We wrote two songs and. the chemistry was really tight. We’ve both been musicians for over 15 years, we’ve had struggles getting bands going. People weren’t able to tour, didn’t have enough push to get the momentum going, all that stuff. When we wrote those two songs, we were like, “Let’s be serious about this,” and went full force. All we want to do is write, record and tour. We got asked if we wanted to get a live recording done and it had professional video shot, the sound was straight from the board, so we figured, “Let’s just do it.” That’s how that came about.
So the obvious homage that I spot with Bizarre Tales is the Weird Tales magazine.
Yes, exactly. Weird Tales and Tales from the Crypt and that whole horror comic book and sci-fi thing, it’s an homage to all of that.
When I heard the song “Forbidden Zombi Ritual,” the first things I thought of were the Dario Argento movies and the soundtracks from Goblin. You guys are fans, I would assume?
Yeah, that’s definitely true man. Horror’s my favorite genre and I have my Dario Argento collection, I’ve got Opera, Demon, Suspiria, Deep Red, Zombi—I’ve actually got the Zombi poster hanging up in my room. I’m big into horror movies, our other guitar player is big into mythology and mystery, so we tried to combine both of our loves and create stories. I titled the song “Battlefield” after the John Travolta film as just a funny thing though. [Laughs]
I don’t know if you noticed, but the cover of Bizarre Tales has every song on the cover. “Lost Time” is about alien abduction, so we have the UFOs. There’s two zombies attacking, there’s the witch from “Year of the Witch” burning at the stake and “Obliterated by Cosmic Fire” is about asteroids raining down, so we have that too. We wanted the artist to visualize all the songs on the cover, so it turned out really cool.
You’ve got that split with Godhunter coming up. Will the pulp/horror themes continue there?
So it’s pretty funny how that worked out. There’s going to be two new songs and we re-recorded a song from the first album called “Coffin Hunter” and we did a cover of “Forever My Queen” by Pentagram. We do a really slow version of it. We did several tours where people were like, “We want it on a record!” So yeah, we decided to lay it down. “Coffin Hunter” is about a vampire hunter trying to track down his wife who was seduced by a vampire and he’s on a quest trying to find the head vampire. When he gets to his wife, who’s been turned into a vampire, he has to kill her—that kind of deal. The two new songs that we wrote—I wrote one and the other guitar player wrote the other—without either of us knowing, both of the songs turned out to be about kinda the same thing.
His song is about kind of a higher power looking down on people below and he’s upset how everyone has turned out. He turns into something else to manipulate these people and mass murder them and mine is about a Jim Jones-type character that coerce these people into thinking their lives are horrible and that they’re in pain. He rules them to their own deaths to reach fulfillment. So it’s like both new songs kind of tie in together. It was weird, almost like a natural chemistry thing. We wrote the songs and I read his lyrics and I was like, “Dude, mine’s about the same thing,” and I showed him my lyrics and we both were like, “That’s fucked up.” [Laughs] But it was really cool at the same time. The cool thing about the split with Godhunter is that there are some rock n’ roll moments, some doomy evil moments, it’s really a showcase for our style of writing.
Splits seem to come from more of the hardcore punk ethos, like the Faith/Void split and whatnot. Not so much from doom bands.
Right, exactly. We’re really good friends with David [Rodgers, co-founder of Battleground Records], and we became pals with Godhunter when we played them here in Austin about three years ago and we just stayed in touch. We ended up playing Southwest Terror Festival here and we’ve been in talks for a while and he’s like, “Wanna do a split?” and we had just released Bizarre Tales last year and wanted to get some new material out. We’re putting a lot into it, the vinyl is gonna be really very cool. It’s gonna be a killer release. Like you said, it’s a doom band doing a split. So each of us has a full vinyl record, it’s two-LP split. It’s a very cool thing, and they’re also into the old-school comic book thing and ‘50s horror movies.
I did want to ask you how Austin’s music scene is for metal bands. I know there’s supposed to be live music every night there, is it like being a small fish in a big pond?
Our music scene here in Austin is pretty tight, we’re all friends with each other and we try to go out and support each other. There’s a big collective of doom and sludge bands and thrash and death metal. Black metal’s starting to come up a little bit. We all try to play with each other and support each other. Being from this town where we have tons of festivals and big names coming through, it’s easy to get jaded when you’re a smaller band. A lot of people just won’t come out to your shows. We try to support each other, we have some killer clubs that do a good job of getting local bands on bills with bigger bands so people can check them out. But yeah, it’s kind of hard to expose yourself in your own town. Me being an outsider—I’ve lived here four years, so now I know—when I first moved here, I played with bands in Austin and we just wanted to get out of town to play. That kind of helps us at home too, people see us as road warriors that go out and tour constantly. We didn’t want to just stay in Austin, we want to be a traveling band. That’s been our goal since day one, because we knew that we were small fish in a big pond. We kind of want to take another route, show people that we’re going out and doing things and really make people pay attention to us in our hometown. You kind of got to go out of your way to make yourself known in Austin.
So when you come home from a tour, are promoters nicer and more amenable to you almost immediately?
Yeah, I think by our fourth tour we got asked to open up for Holy Grail at this club in town. I used to do this thing called “Austin Heavy Music” where I do YouTube videos of live bands in Austin. I’d go out and record them, then put them up on YouTube. That’s what I did when I first moved into town. They liked what I was doing, so I started booking around town. I booked local bands at a good venue with a great sound system and everything like that. It opened up doors for me and opened doors for our band. We’ve opened for Witch Mountain and SXSW is always a good time, we opened for Weedeater… It’s definitely helped us get on bigger bills, people see that we’re out staying busy and active.
You’re a booking agent too then, huh?
I book at a club called Holy Mountain. I used to do more, but occasionally they’ll throw me dates and I’ll try to do a local metal show. I do booking there and then I’ll also help friends book tours. If they’re having trouble with some cities, I’ll help them with those dates. I’ve become friends with promoters all over the country from touring so much. I call that end of things Heavy Friends Booking and I just helped Immortal Bird from Chicago book some dates.
That band is awesome.
Dude, they’re fucking great. Rae [Amitay, Immortal Bird vocalist] hit me up about helping her book some shows. They were just in Austin last week, they stayed with me and I showed them around the city. They’re really cool people, and they’re fucking great. They’re not just a black metal band, there’s more to them than that and I love it. They have really cool guitar parts.
How did you end up getting the Pyscho CA gig then? Just more promoter contacts?
We got contacted by Evan from Thief Presents. He hit us up and was like, “Hey, want to play this festival?” and I remember it used to be Psycho de Mayo and then they changed it, and then they did Day of the Shred. We looked up the lineups they had in the past and we were just like, “Yeah, we’ll do it.” We didn’t even know what the lineup was but when they finally released it, I was floored. We were going to be playing with all these killer bands. Going back to what we were talking about earlier, us being known for staying busy on the road definitely helped us land this gig for sure. Word spreads and it got to Thief Presents I suppose. That’s what we’re trying to do and we want to push to the next frontiers, put in the hard work and take as many of these kinds of opportunities as we can. That’s been our ethos since day one, and it’s an honor to do this Psycho CA thing.
How long did it take for you to be tourable?
Six years before I moved to Austin, I worked a corporate job where it was Monday through Friday, not 9-5 but rather 7-3:30. I did that for six years and I was still playing in bands at the time and I saved up money to move out to Austin. I told myself and I told my job, “You’ve got to be cool with me going on tour.” I have the kind of job where I can tour as much as I want and still have a job when I get back. Everyone else has a similar situation or if they lose their job, they can easily get a different one somewhere else because of their experience and stuff like that. We’ve gotten to the point with our merch where when we come home from tour, we’re in the black—we aren’t losing money. It’s just being smart about saving money before you go on the road and when you’re out, doing things like family meals, not staying in hotels. That way you’re not blowing money left and right. When we first got together, we took it easy. Five dates here, five dates there, “Those went good, let’s do a week.” Then it would be, “The week was good, let’s do two weeks. Three weeks. Four weeks.” Right now, our biggest tour has been four and a half weeks. Maybe one day we’ll give a two-month tour a shot. We just try to plan it ahead where we can save enough money to where we’ll be fine when we have to pay our bills.
Did it take a few tours before you starting turning a profit on a tour?
Let’s see, we’ve done ten tours and only one of them has lost us money.
Not bad at all. The last two tours have been extremely successful where we’ve really made some dough. It’s really improved the show too, we picked up new amps, got some more cabs and all that stuff. Whatever we make on the road goes back into the band, into merch and all of our equipment.
One last question: How long is your ideal album?
That’s a good question because we still haven’t really put out a full-length album. But in terms of just in general, I would say probably anywhere between 45 and 55 minutes.
That’s a common range that people say and I’ve always wondered, is that because is 50 minutes the time a vinyl record can be cut at before the quality dips? Is that just what people were used to back then?
I think vinyl definitely played a huge part in it just for that reason. The thing with doing EPs and doing shorter albums… Back in the day when people did full-lengths, they focused on doing two or three singles and the rest of the album was whatever. Sometimes I think you try to put too much material on there and you end up with filler. We want to focus on only the stuff that we think is badass and what we’re proud of, and not worry about adding a song that you’re just adding just because you need the time. I think the shorter the album, the more staying power it has. It keeps people wanting more later on. I’m a huge ‘80s metal, ‘70s rock fan. Thin Lizzy, Ozzy, Ratt, Van Halen, all that stuff. Those guys made full-length albums and they were great but with doom, I think a shorter and more cutthroat approach makes a difference. If you look at like Reign in Blood, it’s only ten songs in 30 minutes. It never loses focus.
May 20, 2015 - San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
May 21, 2015 - Eugene, OR @ The Black Forest
May 22, 2015 - Richland, WA @ Ray's Golden Lion
May 23, 2015 - Seattle, WA @ Victory Lounge
May 24, 2015 - Portland, OR @ High Water Mark Lounge
May 25, 2015 - Boise, ID @ Crazy Horse
May 29, 2015 - Colorado Springs, CO @ Triple Nickel Tavern
May 30, 2015 - Haysville, KS @ KC's Too Bar and Grill
Jul 29, 2015 - Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
Jul 30, 2015 - Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room
Aug 14, 2015 - Hamden, CT @ The Ballroom at the Outer Space