Kristian Lee - Thanatopsis

January 27, 2002

Give us a little background on the band.

I started the band in 1994 as a metal band and we released a CD in 1997, Breaking The Chains, which didn't go anywhere because two band members quit and I just didn't publicize it enough. The band was metal, the timing wasn't right. It was 1997 and music was changing. I had to actually get new members of course. Then I started rewriting songs. Writing new songs. Then I got a new guitarist and we worked on finding our new sound. We came up with a new style and shorter songs. More to the point, more rock based. We got a new bass player which was more of a funk player so we started to include a little bit of funk into our sound. Not a lot though because I wasn't a big fan of total funk. That's basically it. We've been going pretty strong since then. Got a new drummer in late 2000. 2001 became a banner year for us. We performed for the big radio station out here, Q101. Their Jamboree. They have an all day show and we opened up for their post party after the show. We play a lot clubs, make a lot of contacts. Last year we played a lot of shows. Our website hits have been going up drastically. Our name's been put out and a lot of respect for our new style and sound. This year we just lost our guitar player because he's going back to school so we're looking for a new guitarist. We're going to start recording a new CD and we're talking to management right now for booking.

You haven't found a new guitarist yet?

No, we're working on finding a new lead guitarist.

Tell us about your CD with the three songs on it.

We had to come out with the demo CD because like I said, we were metal before. We wrote these new songs so we needed to come out with a CD to give the clubs and to try to promote the new sound which we describe as heavy rock Chicago style. We went in the studio and did that. We had a drummer that I knew, an old drummer of ours actually, come back and do the drumming parts on that CD. That CD did us a lot of good. I mean there are only three songs on there. It's just a demo. We spent a good thousand on it. We get a lot of compliments on the sound of the CD. Everybody likes the songs so far too. It's sort of funny because we call those the old songs. Now we've got new songs that are just surpassing those songs right away. That's why we need a new full length CD to come out. We had one review on that CD and they said that we sound like a band in a biker bar. It's pretty cool. We've had a lot of songs come out that our fans have just totally loved. We had a group of friends of my bass player that we would have to drag to every show. I'm not lying. We'd have to be like "come on man. Come to the show. Come on". They're like "aw it's 10 bucks. Oh it's five bucks. Oh it's a half hour away". We'd have to drag them by their feet to come up to the shows. Once we got started playing last year, now they're at every show and they're asking us when we're going to play again. They're up at the front of the stage. They're singing along with the songs. They're yelling when we play a certain song of theirs that they like. In one year it's just done a whole 180 on us. It's been great. The response has been really good.

You guys have nicknames like "Voodoo", "Double G", and "Atomic Dego". Who thought that up?

I don't know. It just sort of happened. I have a good friend in a rockabilly band. He makes up nicknames for everybody. He made up the nickname for our drummer because he's Italian. He always called him "Atomic Dego" in college so that stuck. "Voodoo" came from the same thing. I started the rockabilly band with him. Of course Thanatopsis was my main project so I had to stop doing that. He called me "Voodoo" because I collect skulls. I have skulls all over my room and I wear black all the time so that's where it came from. Then "Double G", Doug actually got that from work. I don't know how he got that name. We used to call him Uncle Dougie but we had to change that because he liked Double G better. Uncle Dougie is from high school.

What do you guys do when you're not playing?

We all have full-time jobs. Double G's in college. Atomic Dego just graduated college so he's looking for a job. I have a full-time job at a trade magazine actually. I do marketing. That's helped a lot too in the marketing of the band. Learning how to do ads and stuff like that. In our free time we just chill out and go see other bands. That's a major thing. Going to clubs and checking out clubs to see where we can play. Just playing video games. Just the normal stuff. Nothing really major. We drink.

That's a good thing. Just don't drink and drive.

That's usually me because I'm not a big drinker. I always have to drive everybody.

When can we expect a full length CD from you guys?

Since we're talking with a management company, they're going to be doing the booking for us in the Chicago area and then nationally whenever we want to do national. They're saying we'll be getting pretty good money because right now we're making five dollars a gig. That's not per person. That's the whole band. We really need to make more money to pay for that CD. I just bought a house. We all have vehicles and colleges and house loans to pay for. We're hoping that it's going to come out in August this year. We've already started getting a CD cover done and then our new logo done. Our logo is the skull with the chains and the scroll around it. We're revamping that. It's like version 3.0. It's going to be this brand new version of it. It looks really good. We even have an artist doing it for us. The cover's going to be black and white and the only color on the cover is going to be the skull and then the band logo. The name of the CD is not even going to be on the cover of the CD because it'll take away from the finish.

Your band name appears to come from a poem. Tell us about that.

In high school I started a band and we were going around with names like Southern Massacre and different kinds of names. I was in Honors English and we had to read a poem one day and it was called Thanatopsis. I was like "wow that's a pretty cool name". The meaning of the poem, thanatopsis meaning a view of death in English because thanatopsis is Greek. The poem was a really good poem and it really hit home with me because it talks about dying and basically not the fear of death. To embrace death but embrace life. That calms you. It set me at ease because I had a lot of fear of dying. That's why it holds a really good meaning with me. I've had people say I should change the name because it's hard to pronounce. That's always the fun of playing new clubs because they don't know how to pronounce your name. It just holds so true to me that I don't ever want to get rid of that name. It's just very meaningful to me. If I'm going through one of those days where I think about death and having all those fears, I'll read that poem and it'll set me at ease. That's what I do and it's really helped out a lot with the webpage because people are looking for William Cullen Bryant and his poem and they want to learn stuff about him. Our name comes up on our search engine, the first one up so they always come to our site. So we finally put the poem on the side of our website so people can have that. It's come out good. I've had English professors email me and ask me how I got the name. It's just because of the poem. So I've got a lot of that kind of stuff. Because of the poem. It's the name of the band. It's helped us a lot. We get a lot of hits just for people wanting to know about the poem. It helps spread the word.

I bet it does. Who are some of your musical influences?

That's really a hard one. People ask that all the time. I love Metallica. That's my favorite band. Funny thing is I listen to country 95% of the time and I'm into the heavy rock thing. I guess more than anything that's where my reference is. I just play guitar. I even taught myself how to play. I write the majority of the songs. I just play. I figure if I learn how to play Metallica then I'm going to sound like Metallica. I don't want to sound like them. But my vocal style, yeah, people always say that it's like a James Hetfield kind of style. My bass player listens to Primus, Incubus. The Atomic Dego listens to real heavy stuff. Everybody has their own styles that they listen to. Different kinds of music that when they come together and work around ideas, it all comes out. That three song demo is just three songs but we have a variety. We have a blues type song but our sound really stays the same. That's the one thing that we always try to do. We try to incorporate new ideas and put a little more funk here in this song and a heavier riff here. We have a ballad song but we try to keep the sound always the same. If we ever get too far from that we scratch it. It's like "okay you're going too far away from what we sound like". We try to incorporate everything but keep the same sound. The style in the style.

A lot of bands tend to sound alike.

They all do. I'm in Chicago so Disturbed came out of Chicago. We've never played with them but I've seen them around at things we go to. They'll be there. After they got signed all these bands came out sounding like Disturbed. I'm like Disturbed's been signed. They've been done. The record label doesn't need another Disturbed. They have it and that happens a lot. Everybody sounds the same. We try not to do that and I think it works because everybody listens to their own style of music. I don't like Primus so when my bass player wants to listen to Primus we all roll our eyes. With him listening to Primus helps us because I don't like that music but his influence coming into ours and bringing that kind of feel into it, that Primus sound into our sound, will help us be different from everybody else.

Have you opened for any national acts?

No, we have never done that. Like I said, basically last year was our banner year for shows. We usually did only a few shows a year because people would quit. I've been through so many members in this band that it's unbelievable. I've started two bands with all different musicians. Last year was our banner year with the new style coming out. We didn't get a lot of respect before. We sounded like everybody else. We were hard metal. With our new stuff, people have really opened their eyes. We've gained a lot of respect. This year's starting a little slow because we don't have a guitarist but it's really hard because we don't want somebody to just fill in. We want to play for the long haul. I think it scares people that we've already recorded a CD. We have a booking management with a minimum of two shows a month with them. We're ready to go. We have contacts to go farther. I guess that's that.

Any other thoughts or ideas?

If people are looking for a band that is new, that is driven, we're the one to check out. I don't think we're the best in the world but I don't think we suck at all. We've come a long way in a short period of time. For me it's been basically eight years but for what the style of music we've done and created, it's just been relatively two to three years and we've only really been hitting the club scene for one year. That kind of reaction in one year is phenomenal. Like I've said, we've got a booking management already wanting to take us on. We're looking at that because we don't want to just sign a contract and get walked on. We all have college degrees so I'm not going to risk everything in my life. I'm not stupid. I'm not going to sign a contract that's going to rip me from all my royalties. If people want something new, that's fresh, but still incorporates the old rock, we are a band to check out. We have a hard sounding name but it's not that bad. Thanatopsis.