2013 has been one hell of a year for Battlecross. In support of their new album, War Of Will, the Detroit group embarked on endless touring that found them playing on numerous club tours, touring festivals, and even Metallica’s own music fest held in their home city. And along the way, they even helped prove that crowdfunding can be done well via their own Kickstarter campaign. And yet even with less than two months left of the year, they’re not even done as they’ve still got select holiday shows with GWAR to perform (not to mention their own Christmas show!).
However, it was during the band’s stop in New York City with Death Angel last month we caught up with guitarist Hiran Deraniyagal. While in the lobby of Webster Hall’s Marlin Room, Hiran talked with us about the past year of playing to enormous festival crowds (including James Hetfield), how crowdfunding is beyond a timely fad, and about Battlecross’ search for a new drummer.
This year’s been pretty massive for Battlecross, not only releasing a new album War Of Will but also appearing on Mayhem Fest and Metallica’s Orion Fest. How would you describe the feeling you get from playing such a massive festival and how does it differ from playing in intimate club settings?
The big stage is really awesome because you’re exposed to so many people—there’s so many people there. It kinda puts more pressure on you, but at the same time, when it’s a good show it’s this good feeling of, “Holy crap, we just played in front of all those people! We just had this big crowd in the palm of our hand!” Mayhem and Orion were pretty much like that. A lot of the cities, we were pretty well receptive, so it’s cool playing in front of new people. When you see people roaring and cheering for you, it’s a good feeling. It’s awesome.
But I got to say that, though, that the clubs are kind of my favorite because the clubs are so intimate and up-close. I kind of feel more comfortable. I can hear everything better. When people come to club shows, it’s kind of like to me it feels more of like a diehard fan kind of thing. With festivals it’s like, you’re going to have some diehard fans come out—and we did—but the majority of people are just either checking out the band for the first time or whatever. But with club shows, everyone’s there to see a certain band. It’s just an intimate, up-close feeling. Some of the best shows I’ve been in have been in clubs. Especially when we do headliners and things like that, you have more people that are there to see you that are into it. It’s more of a party, and you kind of let loose because you’re like, “Well, I don’t have to worry about this large sea of people staring at me.” It’s like, I know the stage is comfortable and I’m here to have fun.
Well the reception, though, from Orion alone was fantastic.
Oh, it was amazing! Orion was one of the best shows we’ve ever done. On top of being in our home town, having Metallica introduce us, it’s unbelievable. James Hetfield was cool as fuck, he came and bullshitted with us before we went and played. That whole weekend was such an awesome vibe—hometown, our friends and family there supporting us, and people that hadn’t heard of us—it was just cool, it was just so much fun. And the first time to have [the festival] in Detroit and we got to be a part of that, it’s awesome.
The band launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the band’s run on Mayhem. What was your reaction to the enormous response the band received?
It’s awesome. It’s really humbling to know that people want to support you like that and are willing to basically put money towards your dream, you know, and that’s huge, man. Some people kind of look at it in a negative light, like bands are begging for money, and I don’t look at it that way. I think it’s just another way for fans to support the artists. It’s just like buying a CD or doing a preorder. I mean, you do a preorder you’re basically giving a band money upfront so you can get your CD, and that’s kind of what Kickstarter is—it’s like investing in the band so they can do what they can do so you can see it and you can be a part of it. It’s not like we were asking for money and that was it. We were offering all kinds of cool perks, some people got to come on the road with us for a couple of days and hang out and they got the CD early and stuff like that. So it’s like cool little things that basically put the fan more interactive with the band, and at the same time you’re kind of directly supporting the band because the way things are is so tough. There’s not much label support when it comes to touring now because there’s not as much money as there was in the industry. So I think Kickstarter campaigns and Indiegogo and stuff, I think it’s the next wave of the future for artists.
So you would call it the future and not just like a fad?
Exactly—I wouldn’t call it a fad. I think more people are jumping on it and I think more people are down to support it because it’s one of those things where when you support a band you get to directly support them. It’s like, you get to basically decide their career, like whether they advance their career or not. So, I think it’s awesome and I think people love it and I think it’s something you’re going to see more and more people do.
What was the biggest difficulty or surprise that came from your crowdfunding experience?
Well, the difficulty I think was that it was something new for us, so there was a lot of trying to coordinate shipping things out in time, and our manager handled a lot of that so kudos to her cause she took out a lot of that stuff and that was a headache because you have all of these orders, shipping things out and then we had people who came out to the show and had guest passes. You’re trying to focus on what you had to do for that day, but then at the same time it’s like you’ve got to fucking worry about taking care of somebody. So it’s like that balance and stress of like, “I got something to do but I got to take care of this dude.” You’re basically working out all the kinks so that person’s taken care of. There’s little things like that where you learn from your mistakes and you learn from little things like what not to do next time or maybe something to do better.
Then the surprise I think was how many people are supportive. We actually went over our goal, which was $25,000. That’s huge! I didn’t expect that, I honestly didn’t think we’d make it to that point. To me it was new and honestly I was a little skeptical at first, I was like, ‘I don’t know about this. I don’t want to be one of those bands that like, does that, and asks for money.’ But in a sense it really wasn’t and I kind of realized that. Honestly, the reaction of the fans was like, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done. Like, this is so awesome, I’m so glad I did this.” So, you knew it wasn’t like the fans were pissed off, they loved it and they loved the idea of being a part of it. And we tried to make the best experience for them as possible.
Would Battlecross do it again?
I could see it maybe happening again. It’s one of those things I don’t want to do too much, you know what I mean? You don’t want to overdo it. It kind of seems like, “Okay, well, why does this band keep asking?” Maybe, if it ever comes down to it, for some special thing, but honestly, I’m glad we got to do it once and I’m so thankful that the fans were so supportive. We might do something similar in a different fashion, like some sort of a fan club thing—another way for a band to make money to do what we do but also get the fan more involved in it. But, at the same, with the whole thing when there’s perks like hanging out [with us], part of me is like, ‘I don’t want people to pay to have us hang out!’ because we always hang out, we’re always at our merch table hanging out. I feel like no one should have to pay for that shit. Like, you are already here at the show, you support the band, it’s a given that you get to hang out with the band.
But having a fan on the road with you, that’s a really cool perk!
That’s different. Yeah, and that’s definitely an awesome idea. Who knows? We might do something like that again. Definitely not opposed to the idea, I just don’t think we’re ready to do it again right now.
Battlecross has been utilizing the services of numerous drummers on the road, with All Shall Perish’s Adam Pierce filling in on this tour. Has the band started to discuss plans to find a permanent new drummer?
We’re definitely always keeping our options open and some of the guys that have come in are almost like, feeling it out. But at the same time it’s not just if we’re interested, it’s if they’re interested too. So we’re kind of taking a relaxed approach—we’re not in a hurry, we’re not in a rush to find somebody. Yes, we do want a permanent drummer, but it’s awesome that we get this opportunity to play with such killer drummers. At the same time, we don’t want to rush anything and we really feel like someone’s got to basically be the right fit. It’s not just about how well you can play, but it’s “are you the right dude for the band?” So we’re just taking an opportunity to kind of explore our options.
Like you mentioned, you’ve been playing with some really killer drummers (having had Shannon Lucas play on the album, and Kevin Talley play a handful of shows with you). Is there one “dream” drummer that you wish you could’ve pulled in that maybe just didn’t work out time wise?
I would’ve really loved to have Shannon play with us full time, but I gotta give props to Adam, man. Adam is one of the best drummers that we’ve ever played with. I think we’ve sounded the tightest we’ve ever been with him playing drums. I mean, it’d be sick to play with dudes like Gene Hoglan, Paul Bostaph, Dave Lombardo, you know, legend drummers. There’s so many other good drummers out there, but at the same time it’s about finding that right fit. Like I said, between Adam and Shannon, those guys have been awesome. And Kevin–Kevin’s a great guy, too, man, and a great drummer. Yeah, I would say that Adam and Shannon are like the two guys I’d honestly wish that maybe, if it could all work out some way, one of those guys would be sick.