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Kingdom Of Giants’ Dana Willax On New Album ‘Passenger’: “This Is The Most Cohesive We’ve Ever Been”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 14 October 2020 at 13.05

"I’m just so proud of everything this band has done." - Dana Willax

Kingdom Of Giants are set to release their new album 'Passenger' this Friday (October 16) via SharpTone Records. 

Years in the making, it's a richly layered and decadently debaucherous example of modern metalcore done right. Punishing, pulsating and perfectly balanced, it's a record that's as much about where you've been as where you are heading.

We jumped on the phone with vocalist Dana Willax to find out all about it....

It feels like this album has been a long time in the making. How does it feel to be able to talk about this record as a finished product and something that’s about to be released?
“It feels really good. It’s been an extremely long time coming and we’ve put so much of our own time into it too. From the arguments to the blood and sweat and tears, it’s everything that has brought us to this point. It’s been three years since we’ve put anything out. We dropped that one single, but I know that people have been waiting. Even from a band perspective, when you don’t hear something from someone for a while you start to wonder, ‘Did that band fall off?’ You never know what’s going to happen. So we’re glad to come out of the woodwork and say, ‘This is what we’ve been working on’.

“There’s been some contractual stuff that we’ve had to work out so that we could do the SharpTone stuff and then there’s been a bunch of money involved and then COVID happened and we had to decide how we were going to put it out and when and how. It’s just been a bit of thing, you know?”

How did you start piecing the first bits of this album together? What did it originally look and feel like and how has that changed?
“Now having three full-lengths out, we started to think, ‘What do you actually want to write about?’ Do we talk shit about the government? Am I going to tell everybody to love each other? Am I going to focus on religion?

“What’s cool is that this is the first record with our new bass player Jonny [Reeves] who has an amazing voice. He took a lot of the reigns in terms of writing his own vocals, so it cool having someone from the outside who hadn’t had any input on our lyrical concepts before be able to step in and put things in a new light and put a bit of a spark into the fire. He’s dealt with different life experiences than the rest of us, me in particular, and we got to see things from a different perspective. Jonny and a couple of the other guys deal with a lot of anxiety issues and that’s something that I don’t personally have a hardship with. Getting to know that side of things and understanding how big of an issue that is and how many people that affects meant that we wrote a lot of songs about that.  Shedding some light on that was one of our main goals, but then it became more about any hardships that we can try and spin positives out of is always important to us.”

Being able to understand that someone in you own band and who you spend so much time with has a completely different view of the world around both of you helps create a completely different thought process when it comes to making art together…
“Totally. Jonny grew up inside of Christianity his whole life and was raised to believe certain things and then I’m on stage yelling, ‘Choke on the scripture’. You realise that you have to start thinking for everybody now.”

What was it that you wanted this record to represent thematically? How did talking between yourselves in such a way develop that?
“We put the lyrics aside and wrote all of the instruments at first. I’m really heavily involved in those instrumentals so it’s really hard for me to finish a song and then work on the lyrics for it because there are other songs instrumentally that need to be written to. I like to write all of the lyrics at one time instead of over the course of two years, where thematically it can go all over the place. I could be a totally different person at the end of those two years and not believe what I wrote at the beginning anymore.”

“We really wanted the theme of this record to come in more within those instrumentals. We wanted to make this album feel like you were almost watching a movie. We wanted the sound to be almost cinematic. We wanted the sound and vibe of the record to come from movies like Blade Runner and TRON. Yet imagine if those visuals were a metal album.”

There really is a technological and scientific feel to this album, both within the textures and structures of these songs. Much like a movie soundtrack, it feels like there’s no real limitation to these songs…
“Right, and then with the title ‘Passenger’, you’re along for that ride with us. You’re a passenger with us, you’re a passenger to these songs and we’re all passengers in this life. We’re passing through and we do what we can along the way and then we’re gone.”

How has the process of making this album, with the ins and outs of how you have arrived here, changed the course of what this record ended up sounding and feeling like?
“For sure, and I think a lot of it is in a good way. I’ve got to give so much credit to the rest of the band for stepping up within that writing process. Once the instrumentals were done, I moved away probably 7/8 hours away from the band. They were in the studio everyday and I was just tracking my own vocals, as was Johnny. They worked together as a team on those clean vocals and I feel like you can really hear that. I would say this is the most cohesive we have ever been when it came to writing a record and it shows that this sound hasn’t just come from one or two people. It’s come from everybody.”

How do you feel as though your personal vision for what you want to band to represent on that bigger level changed over the course of making this record?
“I know that sound wise and how Kingdom feels is on the same page of what we want to be and who we want to be. We’ve found this middle ground where everybody is happy. I don’t think we have ever been able to make all six of us completely happy before. I feel like this album is what I’ve wanted to make for so long, but it’s hard to get to this place. The thing is you want to keep your fans happy. Imagine that we had just released our first album and then we dropped this one next, it sounds so different. It takes two or three albums to get through that transition.”

There’s a choice you have to make where you can do those changes and experiments very publically or you can keep yourselves to yourself and work on them behind the scenes. Both have very different results and have very different risks…
“Totally. If we had been working this whole time but struggling on what to actually write and it didn’t sound cohesive and we weren’t super proud of it and then that came out after three years, people would have been like, ‘Damn, it took them three years to write that?’ There’s so much going on in the background of our music now. We recorded the instrumentals over the course of ten months. We toyed around with a couple of things here and there and there are some bits that didn’t make the record. There are probably 15 or 20 songs that got started and when we were 50% or 60% of the way through got put on the backburner as we started writing new ones and cranking those out in a day.”

What do you feel are the moments on this album that you feel the most proud of?
“Overall, Matt Thomas who mixed our record added a lot of production elements to these songs and I’m so happy with it when I listen back. It’s what we’ve always needed to show what this band should sound like. There are also moments where a lyric will come out and I’ll go, ‘Fuck I wrote that lyric’. Then there’s a certain synth sound where I’ll say, ‘I can’t believe that this is our sound’.”

As we move forwards with this rounded version of Kingdom of Giants, how has what you want the future to hold for the band changed?
“I think I’m just so proud of everything this band has done. I’m proud of how long we have grinded for. We’ve never been the sort of band who has been handed anything. We’ve been on the road for 10/12 years, touring relentlessly. We’ve watched all of our friend’s bands get huge and sign to labels around us and we’ve enjoyed our own ride alongside that. Right now, the appreciation we have for being part of SharpTone alongside so many of our friends and getting the opportunity to go out and do these huge tours is massive. It finally feels like we are now able to join the party with all of our friends after having to work late. We don’t take any of it granted though.”

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