I have always loved discovering new bands and giving them opportunities to present their work. So it is today. Symphonic deathcore band based in Glasgow, Scotland, The Head Of The Traitor, are at the beginning of their careers. Tony Learoyd was kind enough to answer a “few” questions.
Hello Scotland, how are you?
Hello Serbia! Thank you for having me. I’m doing well thank you.
It seems the ultimate question in the past year: how is the situation with Corona there?
The situation here (Scotland) appears to be getting worse. Today we actually recorded record high numbers… Which isn’t good.
Did it affect the band anyhow? You were actually the product of Corona.
Yeah it’s actually been a real pain! So we actually were working in the studio before the country went into lockdown. Then they lifted restrictions and we got straight back to work… And then they locked us down again. It also put a massive delay on the second single release. I think it was like 5 months between singles, we were planning them to be maybe 2 months apart, but because we were shooting a video everything was just put on hold.
Did you guys already knew each other before you formed the band?
Most of us knew each other before hand. Craig, my brother (keys, additional vocals) , George (drums) and myself knew each other from years ago in our old bands gigging around the Glasgow scene. Me and George lost contact for a while, ended up getting back in contact and spent a good few years just me and him going into the studio and jamming. We have an almost identical taste in music, so we would just go in and jam covers. I knew Richie (guitar) from another band that we briefly played and we just kind of clicked as people and became good friends! We met Darren (vocals) and David (bass) on Tinder, haha. Nahh we got in contact with them through advertising. They came to hang out with us and were just awesome people!
Tell me something about the band name. I hope there is some interesting story behind it?
So the band name came from George and his wife Nichola. After George left his old band, some of the members were maybe a little bitter, and made comments about him being a Traitor (bands are serious business when you’re 16). I think they made a cryptic message about calling a band “Beheading the traitor” or something along those lines. George and Nichola thought it would be great to be in a band called “The Head of the Traitor” seeing that George is the traitor.
As a young band, in the beginning of your career you are faced with Corona which changed the world globally, so as music. Do you have any idea, if restrictions will continue to limit concerts, festivals and so on, how will you promote your music and reach the potential fans?
I think there will be a lasting effect on the live music scene unfortunately, at least for a while. But fortunately, today, we have the Internet. Back in the day, gigs, and word of mouth were the only way to promote your music. You were limited to where you were gigging as well, so unless you were touring, or getting magazine coverage, only people who were at your gig would really find out about you. Now a days, its different. We have had messages from people from India, America, Canada, Russia, all over the world really, reaching out asking for merch, or just telling us they really like our music. Things like that really show you how useful a tool the internet is. So when we can’t go out and gig, we’ll always be hard at work doing something to release.
Six band members in this symphonic deathcore creation. Tell me something about the rest of the band, who is in charge of what?
So all the members are Darren (vocals), George (drums), Richie (guitar), Craig (keys/vocals), David (bass/vocals) and myself (guitar). We’re an incredibly laid back band, some of us are stronger in some areas than others and we let whoever is best at what kind of take the lead in that area. But we really are all involved in everything going on, not just the music side of things. So much goes on behind the scenes as well. Like Richie is a tech wizard, he sorts most of that side of things. David will take care of mixing things. Everyone is bringing something to the table which is awesome.
I am just guessing, 6 people and 6 different personalities I guess, how does it look like working together?
Honestly, we’re all pretty much laid back and I can honestly say there’s no egos in the band. The biggest challenge we face as a 6 piece is there are 6 peoples personal lives to consider. Like work schedules, kids. But in terms of us all being in a room together and working musically, it’s just fun.
So far, you released two singles. The first one is “Forest of the Impaled” and the next one, “The Beginning”. How are you satisfied with the feedback?
So far the response for both singles has been amazing, and we’re super grateful to everyone who has checked us out. We’ve had people from all over the world reach out to us, saying some awesome things. It’s really humbling. Our new video “The Beginning” got 4k views in 1 week and a bunch of content creators doing reaction videos.
“Forest of the Impaled”, was released in January. As I know it was written in cooperation with Quinn Harknett (Earthlight, ex-Hjärna Waves). How did your cooperation look like since he lives in Canada as I know?
So we’ve been friends with Quinn for a while now. He’s part of a vocal group that a few of us are in on Facebook and we started chatting after he posted some videos. He actually helped us out in the early days recording some vocals over some demos we had to give us an idea of how things could sound. Quinn is amazing, his voice is so versatile, like they way he can manipulate his voice, he could be in any style of band and sound amazing. Heard it here first, he’ll be a huge vocalist one day. If anyone reading this doesn’t know who Quinn is, give him a search on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, or go check his new band Earthlight out!
The other one, “The Beginning” was launched on June 30th. It is followed by an official video. This time you have been working with Alex Ives (Litterbox Massacre), so can you reveal more details, please?
So Alex lives in Scotland too, which is awesome! He’s an absolute gent. Honestly one of the nicest people you could meet, Working with him was super easy. So he’s the vocalist for Litterbox Massacre and Artificial Pathogen, both of those bands are amazing, and Alex legit sounds like Satan. He’s got to be one of the best extreme vocalists in the UK (in my opinion).
Since this is your first video, what was your biggest challenge during the shoot?
Ahhhhh the shoot….I still have nightmares about it. So we had a few problems to overcome haha. First of all, lockdown… Really pushed the dates back, which sucked! We had hoped to have the single out sooner. It also meant we couldn’t really tie in with Alex to have him in the video. The next issue was getting George’s mammoth ass drum kit to the location… Sore.
The video is very simple, but the surrounding is interesting. Where was it filmed?
We shot the video in Dunmore Park in Falkirk, Scotland. It’s an abandoned mansion that has super creepy vibes to it! We planned on getting some more shots in the cellars as well, but for what we shot, it took all day to do, haha.
If anyone would ask me, I would put the lyrics first rather than the music. Maybe I am a bit weird, but I really love this type of lyrics. What inspires you the most and what does the writing process look like?
I’m the complete opposite haha. I mean obviously I like the vocals/lyrics, but I can also like terrible lyrical songs, if I can pick something from the music I like. I might only listen to a song because of a drum beat that was used, or a synth sound etc.
That’s also where I draw my inspiration from. I might hear something super cool and be like ‘”hat would be so cool if instead of that, you do this”… I don’t know if that makes any sense haha. I’m also huge on atmosphere. Like I think atmosphere can make things that aren’t heavy…Heavy.
For writing, I have my own methods that work for me. I always start with a structure, before I’ve even played my first note. I can’t write based off a riff. Then I’ll play around with chord progressions until I find something that I like, and build from there. I’m not the kind of guy who just sits and noodles away and suddenly have a song. I need to be in “writing” mode, with a clear structured plan haha.
At some parts, when it comes to music, especially symphonic orchestrations, I hear a bit of Dimmu Borgir influence. Tell me something more about the bands you are listening and who inspired you the most to form the band?
Dimmu Borgir have always been a huge influence! Symphonic metal has always just captivated me. Like when I was young I grew up listening to Metallica, but when they done the “S&M” album… Wow. Like it made so many songs better. Cradle of Filth were another early influence on me with the whole atmosphere and symphonic element. Modern bands are taking it to a new level, bands I listen to regularly: Lorna Shore, Mental Cruelty, Sin Deliverance, Osiah, The Black Dahlia Murder, Bonecarver, A night in the Abyss, Worm Shepherd… I could go on for a while, haha.
After those two singles, what can we expect from the band in the future?
We’re currently recording, just now! We’re recording an EP/mini album, I’m not sure where the line is between album and EP haha. Probably around 6/7 songs including the first 2 singles, and we plan to release it later in the year.
You are the guitar player. For how long are you playing the guitar?
I’ve been playing guitar for around 22 years now. I started when I was 12 and I’m old as shit now, 34.
What inspired you and made you want to learn guitar in the first place?
My parents were punks back when they were young in the 80’s, so growing up I’ve always been around guitar based music. Basically anything punk, rock and metal. I was like 8 years old listening to “Kill’em All” by Metallica and other kids were listening to “Rhythm is a dancer” haha.
What was your dream when you started playing the guitar?
I really just wanted to play shows. Like I’d watch videos of gigs where the crowd is crazy, I just wanted that kind of energy!
So, how does your practicing routine look like?
Ok, real talk… Practicing guitar is actually pretty boring haha. When I first started I would learn songs from bands I like. I honestly can’t remember the last time I learned another song now. I usually practice for (or try to) 30 mins a day at least. This is split up into sections that I feel I need to work on. Like it could be 15 mins Legato, 15 mins Alternate Picking. Or 15 mins Sweep Picking, 15 mins Hand syncopation. All with a metronome, and I track my progress. Pretty dull I know, but if you want to GIT GUD you need to grind haha.
If you could achieve anything you wished for with your guitar playing, what would it be?
To be able to make a living playing guitar, doing what you love and being happy. I don’t ask for much haha.
How would you describe yourself as a musician in one sentence?
I, Tony Learoyd, am never satisfied with my playing!
How does playing guitar and having your own band make you feel?
Ah it’s just awesome fun! Like the comradeship with the boys in the band. Networking with other bands, making friends. It’s just cool to be involved in stuff like that.
Where do you see your band let’s say in 5 years from now?
Tough question… I hope we’ve released a bunch more stuff that people vibe with, playing gigs with some awesome bands.
Ok, Tony, I hope I didn’t torture you too much. Thank you so much for your time and cooperation. All the best!
Thank you for having me Ivona! It was fun.