West of Hell's lead singer discusses the band's first album, Spiral Empire, and projects with Megadeth and Dethklok.
On May 8th, 2012 West of Hell released their debut album, Spiral Empire, on Reversed Records. I recently had a chance to talk with West of Hell's lead singer, "The Heathen," though friends call him Val, an abbreviation of his last name, Valagao.
It was an amazing year for The Heathen, along with the release of Spiral Empire, he also saw the release of Memorain, a project with members of Megadeth and his former Zimmer's Hole bandmate Gene Hoglan (Dethklok). He also co-wrote and did vocals on a project that included Dethklok members Hoglan and Brendon Small.
You're Canadian, but the rest of the band is from New Zealand, right?
Well, right now we're pretty much half and half. I'm Canadian. Our guitar player Jordy (Knute), he's Canadian. And our bass player, (Jordan Kemp), he's half New Zealand, half Canadian. And Sean (Parkinson), he's from New Zealand, the other guitar player. And Andrew (Hulme - Drums) is also from New Zealand.
The band was actually formed in New Zealand?
Yeah, in Auckland.
Then they came to Canada to fill out the roster. Why did they pick Canada?
You know, I'm not sure. I think they just looked at a map and pointed to Vancouver and said, "What the hell... let's go there."
And you guys have a new album?
Yes. Our debut album, Spiral Empire.
You guys have the album streaming though, on Soundcloud, right?
Yeah. It's available at many outlets digitally and physically. Actually, we've got a couple of videos coming out. When I'm not working on the music, I work in film and television doing special effects and producing videos. So I produced a couple of videos for the band.
I don't want to give too much away, but the first video, it's for the track "Water of Sorcery"... and it has a Zombie Apocalypse theme to it. So keep your eyes peeled for "Water of Sorcery" by West of Hell, the video trailer.
I gotta link to that, because I wanna see it myself. As soon as we get off the phone I'm going to start hunting it down.
That was a lot of fun shooting that. I gathered a professional film crew from Vancouver from my contacts of people I work with. We used the Red Epic cam, it's a motion picture camera, really high quality high definition. So we'll have like a feature film HD quality video out there for download. And the usual lower res Youtube type of video.
That's cool. So people will be able to find it on Youtube too.
Yeah, if you like what you see on Youtube, you can always download the hi res version.
Yeah, that sounds like fun and especially with the zombie thing going on because... I love zombie stuff.
I can't tell you any of the storyline because I don't want to give it away.
I know. I really hate that. Because now I'm really curious and I want to hear all about it and I know you're keeping secrets from me and that's just mean, man.
The band has only been around since 2009. That's pretty amazing, that you guys have your album out and that you're touring.
I think that we're a pretty driven bunch of guys. The chemistry was there and the songs came together quickly. And the whole process just fired us up to get it done. It sort of snowballed to where we are now.
You were already in a pretty successful band and they lured you away. How did they lure you away from Zimmers Hole?
Well, Zimmers Hole is a collection of gentlemen that are very talented and have a whole bunch of projects going all at the same time. There was some scheduling conflict and we weren't able to work together for a little while. So, you know... I can't sit on my hands, I gotta keep busy. And that's when I met the boys from New Zealand, and the rest is history.
It's a funny story. I'd been taking a little time off Zimmers Hole and a good friend of mine, Kris Schulz, guitar player (Mechanism with The Heathen and Gene Hoglan), he was at The Cobalt in Vancouver; it's sort of like CBGBs, a very punk - metal kind of place. He called me up and he was like, "I'm listening to this instrumental metal band... and you could sing for them." And I was like, "Wha? What are you talking about? You're drinking, man!"
Well, turns out the next day I checked them out on-line and instantly I fell in love with the music and I contacted them the next day and it was a few days... and a few beers, later we had a band.
Yeah, I guess with that chemistry you just kinda said, "You know what? This is what I want to do full time."
That's what I do full time, play music. I've actually got a whole lot of stuff going on. I think, this year there'll be four albums that I did vocals on.
There's the heavy metal cartoon, Metalocalypse. They've got a side project in L.A., I think it's called Asylum, and it's a bunch of cover songs, and a bunch of big name guys are doing cameos, including Brendon Small from Dethklok and Gene Hoglan. The list goes on and on... there's a lot of big names on that record. And I did my own take on the Van Halen song "Get Up." It turned out really funny--I sort of made a mockery of Mr. Sammy Hagar and re-wrote the lyrics... "Get It Up." A little tribute to Viagra.
And there's another local Vancouver gentleman, Jason Morley, he's put together a record, again with a lot of cameos from a lot of well-known metal musicians, Andy LaRocque from King Diamond fame. As far as I know that's The Jason Morley Project, which I also did a track on. I collaborated with Jason, wrote the vocals and the lyrics.
And I'm also involved in a project based in Greece called Memorain, which is originally a Megadeth side project. Megadeth drummer Nick Menza, he was involved, he was replaced by Gene Hoglan. Dave Ellefson from Megadeth wrote a couple of songs, did a couple solos. Steve DiGiorgio did the bass on that record. And then I recorded my tracks in Vancouver and then shipped them to Greece. The main writer on that project, his name is Ilias Papadakis. And that album released in European territories earlier this year.
I just talked to Brendon Small, you know he just released Galaktikon. He and I had a talk about that and Metalocalypse. Gene Hoglan seems to be the common denominator.
Well, Gene is in Zimmers Hole and Dethklok and I think it was a situation where those guys were talking and everyone's just like, "Hey, why don't we get Val to do a track?" And so they shipped me up the tracks and I did what I do.
Well it seems to me, in order to work with Brendon, you have to have a pretty good sense of humor. So I'm sure that if you just did a song about Viagra...
I think there's some commonalities between our senses of humor.
That's cool. That means maybe we can look forward to seeing you do a guest appearance on Metalocalypse. That would be a lot fun wouldn't it?
I'd love to do that. We've talked about but who knows. Lets see what happens.
WEST OF HELL is:
Vocals – Chris “The Heathen” Valagao
Bass – Jordan Kemp
Guitars – Sean Parkinson & Jordan Knute
Drums – Andrew Hulme
For more information about WEST OF HELL please visit these websites:
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