Lance King

Lance King is known as many things. The singer of many bands (Pyramaze, Balance Of Power, Ilium, etc.), a solo artist, a label owner who’s quite important in promoting metal in the states. A bit of a renaissance man, one would say. He’s been a little all over the place when it comes to his musical output (ie been in many different bands etc.), but probably because of circumstances, rather than choice. The common denominator, in all the releases he’s been involved in, has however been a certain level of quality that characterized all of them! Having released a surprisingly solid sophomore solo album this year, we caught up with him to find out what’s going on in Lance-ville, and he was gracious enough to tell us a lot more than we expected.
Lance King pic
Lance congratulations on “ReProgram”. It is your second solo album. Tell us a few things about its creation. What exactly spurred you back into solo action after a number of years? How long do you reckon it took you to come up with it and if it wasn’t a gradual over the years effort?
L: Time got away from me. A number of family dramas happened that put my professional life on hold. Shortly after the release of my first solo album, my mom, had a heart attack, then not too much longer after that she got breast cancer. As that passed, my wife came down with 3rd stage Colon Cancer… thankfully she regained strength after her surgery… but then we took her mother into our home because she had developed Dementia and was unable to safely care for herself any longer and the county she lived in wanted to put her in an open bed and take her home and business. We thought that was pretty shitty, so we moved her out of her county and in with us. This has proven to be a very challenging change for us and as you realize we kept pretty busy with caring about her.
But I would say the largest motivator for me to get back to music though was my almost dying after a routine knee surgery. I developed a blood clot in my leg that eventually broke up and went to my lungs. I had a triple pulmonary embolism and the emergency room peeps told me I had about 5 minutes left by the time I got to them. This pretty much made me look at what my life had become and made me think about what it was that I really wanted to do with the rest of my life. It was a pretty immediate realization; I wanted to make more music. So, I focused on writing again, it took my co-writers and I about 6-8 months this time to complete the new album. I’m extremely proud of what we created, and I feel it’s some of my best work thus far. I intend to do another soon!
Cool to hear about a new album, sorry to hear about that rather unfortunate turn of events, you had it quite rough I guess. The title as well as many of the songs seem to be concerned with social subjects, the human condition etc. – is that a sign of the times? How much do the things around us reflect into your artistry?
L: Well I would say the things that I’m effected by show up in my lyrical content. Because these are the things that I’m noticing, the things that are making me think, and feel… so of course, I want to share my perspective about them via my music. I feel it’s a better place to share than social media, where everything is just an echo chamber of political agendas and ideology. I tend to be somewhat repelled by the two party system. It’s just become way too polarized with the politicization of so many trigger issues. It’s gotten to be a complete parody of itself. It’s quite simply gotten farcical, hard to take seriously. And yet, it seems more important than ever lately to really know your position and wake up to the fact that your mind is being programmed at almost every turn in this consumer based corporatism that rules our society. Every ad we see is designed to push us into an action. Today’s data banks of Facebook and Google are designed to give advertisers more ammo to target our real interests and while that may in fact make some of us happy, it seems that the effect is seriously leading our conscious perspective of reality in much more effective ways. Which I think is dangerous if we’re not aware of how this is being done. We must be much more consciously aware and intentional of what we “agree with” that we see out there because of there being as much disinformation and partial truths being sold as truth on every platform. It’s almost better to completely disconnect from these sources of information than it is to explore them.
That is a genuinely, interesting perspective I guess. How did you select the musicians to participate in the album, did you have some of them in mind, did some come recommended by others or did you go out looking for willing participants?
L: It’s always about who I personally want to write with, who has made me feel something in their music, someone that blows me away with their talents and ability to play. I seek them out, but in general, I’ve reached out to people I know via my record company Nightmare Records, in some way. I haven’t gotten a chance to work with everyone I’ve approached about this, because we’re all busy and schedules don’t always allow our time to align to make it happen. But I can say that the synergy of working with those that have been available at the same times has been amazing to be a part of.
Listening to the album I felt you were able to capture the brilliance that seems to be lacking from some of the more recent works of some rather big artists/bands and a knack for crafting nice choruses. After a rather long convo with a guitarist friend about songwriting, I wanted to ask from your perspective, do you first come up with lyrics and set them to music or are you trying to write lyrics over music? Or it could be either?
L: I like to be inspired, as a frustrated guitarist myself, I very much appreciate working with amazing guitar players that just make me go wow, that was so cool… I love that. When I’m inspired by music, my creative juices are on fire, it ups my personal game considerably with regard to lyrical concepts, melodies, chorus’ hooks, and song structures. I don’t like to limit anyone else’s creativity, and I think this is why our tunes are diverse and interesting. I had no idea this time what I would write about, I just knew I needed to write. So, we started, when I had enough songs for an album written, I looked at them all and interpreted what the group of them was trying to say, what was the overall theme that my lyrics had taken. I realized that a book I had read about a year before had really affected my perspective and had made it into my lyrical intent. That book was a wonderful easy read called “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz”. This book completely helped me step back and see my life’s experience from a completely new perspective that I very much appreciate.
You ‘ve sung for quite a few bands, but never really stayed with one, Balance Of Power your longest stint in a band. Is there a particular reason you don’t seem to stay in a band? Is it by choice, design, or circumstance?
L: It has been and lot of various rides of awesome over my career. I consider myself very lucky to have worked with everyone I have had the pleasure of playing with over the years. Sometimes we reach places where it seems that the synergy, excitement… the chemistry and magic just doesn’t seem to be flowing anymore. It’s generally tainted by a personal disagreement about something at the time, that after many years seems pretty trivial, but at that time seems to be an affront to ourselves in some way. So, we choose to either move on or end up getting fired from our position. I’ve experienced both scenarios, and most of my tenure has ended up to be about a 6 year stint. It was this in almost all of the bands I’ve been in with the exception of one that lasted 10 years but was the least serious of any of them (lol). What I can say is that I’ve learned what not to repeat in that situation. I like to continue to grow as a musician and as a person, so I’m not a very good static person. What I mean by that is I don’t like to repeat myself creatively, I like to explore and play more with music. When you become too derivative of what you’ve done in the past, it becomes so stale for me personally. There’s no fun in it; it becomes boring and that is translated into our performances live or recorded I think. So, the most important thing for me personally in music is to be excited and inspired by everyone I’m working with. That may sound fickle in a way, and I guess in a way it is, but for me music is all about the feeling I get from it when I hear it. “Does it make my heart sing, does it make me feel like rocking out and banging my head, does it make me want to share my feelings with others…?”, music is a very subjective thing, and I think we’re all pretty fickle with it despite how open we might be to many different styles and kinds of it we enjoy. For me, it’s about resonating at the same vibe / frequency as those I’m working with I guess. Which I realize may not make sense to a lot of people but it’s all about feeling good and feeling right.
You‘ve done a number of albums… which of them was your proudest moment?
L: Well, that’s pretty easy actually because I do have my personal favorites for various reasons. For me, each album I’ve done of the 30 plus over the years is fun to revisit and listen to, I’m always proud of the work that I’ve done, though some of it more than others. My favorites over the years, have been: Gemini – “Out for Blood” (1992), Balance of Power – “Perfect Balance” (2001). Shining Star – “Enter Eternity” (2005), Pyramaze – “Legend of the Bone Carver” (2006), Lance King – “A Moment in Chiros” (2011) and Lance King –“ ReProgram” (2019).
Are you content with what you’ve achieved artistically, or wish you had been more focused either as a solo artist or maybe staying with a band ? Any regrets?
L: Good question… I have a few regrets, but I’ve reconciled those for the most part, and have forgiven myself and others for our actions that have affected the direction I’ve taken. We all have these kinds of things that happen in our lives, we can choose to be a victim or a victor in our own story, so I choose not to be a victim. I won’t allow myself to dwell in the past, I like to live in the moment, let go of the past, and not worry about the future. I do my best to stay present and do the best.
You’re also known as the owner of Nightmare Records and in its way, it’s been an important proponent of prog/power metal in the States. When you were starting – did you have that scope/dream? How easy/difficult is it to run a label in the States?
L: Right, well I started the label as an indie distribution company that helped musicians I knew get their music out to a broader audience. I was very grass roots in this and began by working with a couple of smaller distros called one stops and then I gradually started trading product with labels from around the world. Mail order was pretty small on the list for me at that in the early to mid-90s. In the beginning I started with a lot of different kinds of music, but it was apparent what I was selling more was melodic power metal and some progressive metal. I’ve kind of always had an affinity for these genres, so it was a natural fit for my music and the label. When I started the company it was initially just as a sideline, a supplemental income that would work hand in hand with my being a singer/ musician, it was about networking in a different way. It grew a lot more than I expected and I was working with far more artists than I ever thought I would. Which was both good and bad depending on how you look at it. Good from a business perspective, but it took me away from making music full time, which of course was always my main goal. In truth running a label is not an easy thing, especially a metal label focused on prog/power metal in the USA. But I did pretty well I think with it, and feel it’s done quite well over the years. I’ve helped champion from several really excellent unknown bands that have grown and are well known now around the world. But the music world changes every day, it’s up to labels to change with the times if they want to remain relevant and effective.
Again as a music professional, where do you see the whole distribution of music model heading, right now, there’s super expensive physical (ie vinyls and special editions, a declining portion of CDs), a decline in downloads and a lot of streaming, which tends to pay little and spread the earning during an entire lifetime. Also a lot more music than in the past? Do you see a solution to this?
L: I think that it’s a completely different game now, it’s not just a given that an artist can put out a decent record and sell. There has to be a lot more to it, and the artist has to have something really great musically to offer. It’s kind of a natural balancing act to the ease in which artists can put out a new album. The cost and ease of digital recording and distribution has changed the game in a huge way. But the natural balancing act is that even though there are 1000s more releases every year than the previous year, that only the cream of the crop is remaining relevant and will sell. Further that artists and labels need to be on the cutting edge of PR techniques to get their music heard initially and find or expand their fanbase. Artists now more than ever have to learn an indie mentality, so that they can connect with their audience. If they don’t know how to connect with their audience, and the label is failing at that for them… today even if you have a great album, it could and very likely will fly under the radar of everyone, even the bands longtime fans. So, now more than ever, knowing who you are as an artist is more important than ever, because you want to connect to those fans that are into what you do.
Prog seems to be drawing in a steady crowd, but there also seems to be a slight shift in popularity from more virtuosic bands to ones that tend to be a little more atmospheric, not necessarily less technical but more based on soundscapes than out and out shredder or difficult passages. Do you think that it’s a fad or again a shift?
L: I think that is true of an aging fanbase, we all generally tend to mellow with age somewhat, but I don’t believe it’s something that will take over virtuosity; it’s only being added to the plates of fans as something that fits their moods at various times. Everyone that enjoys metal has a vast plate of styles they enjoy (IMO), sure there are purists and traditionalists, but in my experience the prog/power crowd is much more open minded than most fan bases about what music they enjoy.
On a different note and back to your album, have you considered touring for this release, or at least doing any of the relevant “fests”?
L: Yes, but I first wanted to see how it was received before I put a band together to do shows, I found that it was quite well received so, I’ve put together a kick ass band to do festivals next year, and some other kinds of shows.
It’s time for our “Weird Questions”!!! If you could travel in time would you go to the past or to the future?
L: Both… and I would love to!
If you had to give one album to the aliens to demonstrate rock/metal, which one would it be ?
L: Hmmmm, for me I think that album would be Crimson Glory’s “Transcendence” album. You know out of the world performances, spacey cover, I think they’d enjoy it. But ask me 100 times and you will most likely get a different answer each day… tomorrow it might be Pagan’s Mind!
If you were a god for a week, what would you do?
L: I would explore the multi-verse and play!
If you could undo something in the music scene, what would that be?
L: Un-invent/market 8 track, betamax and laser discs (lol)… failed formats don’t do anyone any good!
If your wife sold your record collection to get herself a ring, how would you react?
L: I’d take the ring and loose the lady, she clearly doesn’t understand how important music is to me, so we are not destined for a happy relationship!. Always hypothetically speaking.
Salute the GR readers and the band’s fans.
L: All you lovely people, hey. Hope you check out “ReProgram” and that you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.