The reason? Well, if you know your music and/or popular culture history, the Big Apple has been on the cultural front lines of rule-breaking since as far back as the late ’50s with forward-thinking creatives, who, by the mid/late ’60s, exploded with the early rumblings of Garage Rock right through to the likes of The Ramones, Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, Studio 54, the infamous NYHC movement, Max’s Kansas City, CBGB’s, Club USA, Michael Alig and his fanatical Ketamine hazed Club Kids, Thrash Metal, Cross-over, Hip-Hop, etc… you get the picture.
It’s one of the worlds great melting pots. Every kind of creative spice, flavour and taste can be found in this city. From the piss-drenched back allies of the Lower East Side, right through to the high-rise, cloud-tickling coke and champaign parties in Manhatten. NYC can offer it all.
You can now [hopefully] get the gist of what I’m saying, New York, enables free-thinking and celebrates the adventurers in all aspects of art and culture. One such explorer is Imperial Triumphant’s Zachary Ilya Ezrin (Guitars/Vocals), who together with bandmates Kenny Grohowski (drums) and bassist, Steve Blanco have been caving a blueprint for something different, something refreshing and very left-of-centre.
Their new album ‘Alphaville‘ [released via Century Media back in July] is somewhat of an appropriate zeitgeist for 2020 and will no doubt require your full attention when emersed in its chaotic/beautiful and equally tormenting content.
We get a little deeper into the ethos of the band with Zachary below…
OD – Firstly, I have to ask about the need for media to brand a style of music, they have to box it into somewhere. How do you feel about the tag ‘Avantgarde Metal’ or ‘Dissonant Jazz-Influenced Black Metal’?
ZACHARY – I don’t really care about the tags and it doesn’t really bother me one bit. I get why people feel that they need to find a box for us and for what we do. I don’t really know if there’s a specific genre to describe what we do because we incorporate a whole slew of different genres and that’s a very typical New York thing to do.
It’s been happening in this city for the last 80-years. A lot of musicians from New York tend to get outside the box. It’s one of the benefits of living in this cultural epicentre. I think a lot of people like to be fully in control of their work and pulling the strings of every aspect of what they are doing but for me, I’m quite the opposite. I like to put my faith in other artists that are far more talented than myself and put something together from aspects of what those people have done in the past.
OD – Now, ‘Alphaville’ is the bands’ 4th studio release and it seems the album that’s really got everybody talking. What is it about this album that you believe is connecting with people rather than previous releases?
ZACHARY – Yeah, I would feel it a lot more if we were touring based on the crowd sizes but from the online interest and album/merch sales, it definitely seems like more people are enjoying this album as opposed to our previous releases which is a tremendous feeling.
The reaction to this album has been fantastic so far. Its’ really just all the stars aligning at the same moment. I think we’re also really hitting our stride with regards to figuring out our sound, and overall concept. Of course, Century Media are part of the picture now and they have given us the chance to create something that was incredible.
Of course, this album was way more expensive to make but they [Century Media] helped us all along the way and with their in-house PR, as well as us being booked for way more shows [prior to the lockown], which has opened up so many opportunities, so all of these things we’ve been doing in the past have finally come to play and it’s really beginning to pay off!
The only thing that sucks is that we can’t get to be on the road and actually perform the album. I’m just really grateful that the album was made in time prior to the whole Covid-19 outbreak.
OD – What stuck me with Imperial… is that most bands that use masks, try to keep some kind of anonymity, while you are happy to be filmed/photographed without, is it purely for a live enhancement, or is there another reason?
ZACHARY – Well the makes are simply a visual representation of the music and that’s their only purpose. We really only wear them when we are presenting the music or if we’re doing some promo etc.
We haven’t changed our names or anything like that, that’s not what this is about. It’s just, I want when people to see us before they hear us. It’s important to me how people are experiencing us both visually and sonically.
Masks, in general, have been used to hide identity but in this case with us, like say, GHOST, is kind of similar. They can play that music just as good without the whole visual thing going on. But they are doing the same thing as us in one way. They [GHOST] are very intent on the specific aesthetic that goes with their brand. They are careful in the way they curate the overall experience with their style and presentation etc.
OD – The Black Metal influence is heightened somewhat with the use of symbolism and of course, the masks, are you or any of the band in any way spiritually inclined either towards organised religion or do you not have any beliefs of higher entities or forces at work?
ZACHARY – Personally, no! I can’t really speak for the rest of the band but from what I can gather none of us are very spiritual or religiously inclined. Our music is OUR music. We not trying to present ourselves in a ‘Death Metal/Black Metal‘ badass way [laughing].
We’re just creating music that is interesting to us and want to influence people to hear the music, delve into the artwork and the bigger picture of what we do. Sometimes our music transcends into the artwork, videos and live shows etc. We really care about everything we do.
OD – The beautiful cover design/artwork is a homage to the 1920s, what was it about that era that captivated you?
ZACHARY – A huge part of the Imperial Triumphant aesthetic is influenced by that particular era and we thought it was only fitting to show a level of that on this new album. It’s not like we want to be a 1920’s Black Metal band or anything ridicules like that [laughing].
OD – When you create such a luxurious and labours project like this, do you have any internal fears that you may not be able to surpass bar that you have raised?
ZACHARY – I’m not worried about that. This is not just about me. Imperial Triumphant is a collaborative effort that enables us to cast a wider net of influence and opportunity. A lot of what we do comes from influence.
In order for us to get inspired to become better at what we do, we need to absorb as much influence as we can. Reading books, finding out about new things, new music, ideas, art etc. It’s all relevant to the creative process.
Sometimes new ideas will just hit us at times and we’ll try to proactively use that influence to push things forward and try to do the best that we can.
OD – Imperial… were recently involved on Behemoth’s ‘In Absentia Dei’ immersive Livestream. Can you tell me how that came about? Did Adam [Nergal] approach you?
ZACHARY – Yes, he [Nergal] reached out to us. He’s a fan of what we do and when he asked us to be involved as an opening act for this, of course, we were totally on board. Behemoth could have asked anyone to be involved so, as you can imagine, it was a great opportunity.
He [Nergal] is someone how gives new bands a chance. The fact that he actually likes our music is very validating for me as I’ve been a Behemoth fan since I was about 15-years old.
OD – When you saw that stream, was there a desire for Imperial… to undertake something as elaborate as that or do you find that type of stuff a little over the top?
ZACHARY – Yeah, for sure! Musically we’re not too similar. They are pushing more of a Satanic-style visual and we are more of a New York City Metropolis style, but we both create ‘Extreme Music‘ and are similar to the degree of attention to the live production etc. We are trying to outdo ourselves when it comes to stage production and as are they.
It would be fantastic to go out on tour with Behemoth. Those shows would be incredible with reference to production and attention to details on the visual side of things. I would be like stepping into another world. They are also similar to us as they put a lot of their own money into their shows, albeit, we are working with a way smaller budget but the enthusiasm is there in abundance.
We want to present our music in the very best way that we can and that requires us to really put a lot of thought and energy into new ideas which we invest our own capital in trying to achieve, so, I really admire that about them [Behemoth] among other things.
OD – With touring at a standstill due to the pandemic, are you using the time to write new material for a follow-up LP, whenever that maybe?
ZACHARY – Yeah, we’re also looking at other ways of creation and I’ve been looking to get into under-scoring for computer games as that industry is just crushing it at the moment, unlike the film industry which is also at a standstill due to the pandemic.
I think the music that we create is not the standard ‘Heavy Metal‘ music used in movies etc, Imperial Triumphant has a cinematic/soundscape quality that offers many levels of emotion and dramatic moods. I’d love the opportunity to dive into that world. It would be my absolute pleasure to get something off the ground with that.
We’re also jamming a bit and have a bunch of mini-projects coming out in December.
OD – Would you like to share any info with us?
ZACHARY – Sure! I’ve been working on a project called Folterkammer, which is German for ‘Torture Chamber‘ and it’s New Wave Black Metal meets Opera. So we have Andromeda Anarchia who is also on Imperial Triumphant tracks such as ‘Happy Home‘ and ‘Transmission to Mercury‘.
She is an unbelievable classically trained Swiss Opera singer who, on this project, is singing in the style of Henry Purcell Opera [English Baroque Composer 1659-1695] over Darkthrone-quality lo-fi Black Metal which is a really cool combination in my opinion. That album is released on December 10th but we have a single out now ‘Das Magnificat‘ [see below]. Find out more about Folterkammer here.
OD – With regards to the overall vision of ‘Imperial…’ do you believe that you are in the realms of what you wanted when you set about when the band formed in 2012, or do you believe that you have more of this journey to go in order to reach your inner vision?
ZACHARY – When I first started working on Imperial Triumphant stuff I had so many visions and goals but in life, things are constantly changing. I’m achieving all of my goals in one way or another, for example, being involved in the Behemoth in some capacity, that was something I’ve always wanted to do.
I’ve toured Europe and have a steady band which are two other goals that I’ve always strived to achieve and thankfully I have that now. Also, the style of music that I’m playing! I never thought I’d be playing Avantgarde Death Jazz, with a gold mask on [Laughing]. When I was younger I was thinking of playing/writing something that is a little more primitive to what I’m doing now, so that can only be a good thing.
My biggest goal was always to be able to be creative and to be able to survive from doing that as a living. To be able to travel to different parts of the world and connect with people that are interested in hearing the music that I’m involved in creating, all the while expressing my ideas and thoughts in a creative way be it music, artwork, videos etc…that’s the ultimate goal. Essentially we are three people with ideas that come together and make one big idea and creative force and for that, I’m grateful.
Imperial Triumphant ‘Alphaville‘ is out now via Century Records. Pick up a copy from your local record store or order online.