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Rise Of The Witch: An Exclusive Conversation With ICARUS WITCH Guitarist Quinn Lukas

By Larry Petro, News Monkey
Saturday, September 29, 2012 @ 2:17 PM

On The Band Being Remembered: "It'll probably be dressing up like Y&T in El Paso"

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Have you ever gone to a show and seen a band you have never heard of before? Well, that's what happened to me with this band, ICARUS WITCH, when I saw them as the opener for Y&T in 2010. I had never heard of them, but was left with an incredible impression. Now, the band has recenlty released their newest musical offering called Rise, and with it the band seems poised to do just that, rise. I had the opportunity to chat with guitarist Quinn Lukas as he talks about Rise, the band's recent lineup changes, their new video and more! Check it out!

KNAC: Your new CD Rise was released at the beginning of July and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Was the band surprised by that?

LUKAS: I was surprised that they keep coming in that way. We didn't really know what to expect going into the release of the album because of the lineup change, especially the frontman. You hope people get it but you're never really sure, so we were hoping for the best and preparing for maybe some backlash but everyone's being really positive about it. I canít ask for any better reviews, they're really good and it makes us feel good as a band.

KNAC: Speaking of lineup changes, the band has seemed to have had more than its share of lineup changes over the years. Let's go back to your last album, Draw Down the Moon. So you finish that album up and at what point was it that Mathew (Bazilia, vocalist) decided to leave?

LUKAS: We were out on tour for the release of that album with Paul DiAnno and at that point none of us were happy with the way the band was going as far as artistically. We all enjoyed the material on Draw Down the Moon but I personally wanted to go some different routes and Matt wanted to go some different directions on the other end of the spectrum of things. It had just become apparent over the course of that tour that we had started to grow artistically apart. Whenever we returned home it just naturally transpired to that course of things.

KNAC: So how did Chris (Shaner) come into the picture?

LUKAS: Me and Chris used to be in a band together before I was in ICARUS WITCH and I knew his talent and I knew the way he can just command the crowd, just his live persona and how professional he is, the way he carries himself not just onstage but in everyday life. I knew right away, this is the guy, this is the dude we gotta go for. We didnít hold any auditions or anything, we just invited him down to jam. He knew quite a bit of the material cuz he's gone to see us before. It just clicked, it fit.

KNAC: So then you guys get tapped to open for Y&T on their US tour in 2010. That had to be a big shot in the arm for the band as far as exposure goes.

LUKAS: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, it was the whole demographics of the audiences. It was an audience that primarily wouldnít stumble upon us in any other circumstance. It was really nice to be playing in front of people that enjoy melodic, hard rock who arenít catching us on a metal show or something like that. For us being the heavier band on that bill it was a balance of being heavy enough and melodic enough that these people are enjoying it and getting what we're doing. The exposure from that tour has gone a long ways towards projecting the band forward.

KNAC: Now I'll be honest. I had never even heard of ICARUS WITCH prior to the Y&T show in Houston, but I was completely blown away by your set. Did you get a lot of that on the tour?

LUKAS: Yeah, I mean a lot of people really didn't know what to expect from us. There were a lot of people from that tour like you said, that had never really heard of us, and if they did, it was probably all material with our previous singer and maybe that wasn't their cup of tea. Chris did a really great job of making all that material presentable to people and opening up listenerís ears to what we're doing. That tour was great for us. Every night we were talking to people who were like "How long have you guys been together? Wow, really, you guys have more than one album out?". It was really neat.

KNAC: So, the tour's over and you now have to replace two more members, bringing in Tom Wierzbicky on the drums and Dave Watson on guitar.

LUKAS: Whenever we returned from the second Paul DiAnno tour, which was after Y&T, it became apparent that we had to make a switch behind the kit. We started auditioning guys and we had 3 or 4 guys lined up and at one point the rehearsal space looked like a doctorís office. You got a guy waiting for this guy to get done. Tom came in and he just, completely from start to finish, he knew more songs than we did. We gave everyone like 4 songs to learn and he was like, oh, I learned this one too by the way, and I hadnít played that in 3 years! His attention to detail on all the old material was amazing. I havenít heard it played that way since we recorded it. He did a fantastic job so it was hands down "ok dude, you got it".
Dave was another natural progression, sort of like Chris was. Ed (Skero) had to leave the band, he couldn't do the tour and stuff like that anymore, he couldn't make it work with his schedule and, you know, you have that. Dave had produced "Tragedy", which was our single at that time because our long time producer moved out of the country and we were like, crap, now we need to find a producer. We went to Dave to produce "Tragedy" and he knew exactly what we were talking about, what we wanted and how to make that happen in the studio. I've known Dave for awhile and Jasonís (Myers, bassist) known him for awhile and when it came time that we needed a guitar player his band, MANIC RITUAL, had just disbanded too and some of his guys moved back to L.A. so it was kind of like perfect timing. We said, hey man, you want to jam?, and he was like, yeah, actually I need a band, so it was perfect.

KNAC: When it came time to produce material for the new album did you already have song ideas down on paper or was this a start from scratch endeavor?

LUKAS: We had, like I said, "Tragedy" was the first one we had written with Chris, so we knew that we wanted to release that on the album as well, but we rerecorded it. We had that, and a handful of others like "Rise" were written. We were working on "New Revolution" at that time and "Pray" I believe whenever Tom had come into the band and then whenever Dave had come into the band we already had maybe 6 pretty much, not finalized, but had played them out a couple times and we were throwin 'em in our live set at that point to try them out and make minor adjustments, so whenever Dave came in we finished up the writing then and some of the songs really did come from scratch, like "The End". "The End" we wrote right before we went into the studio. Two weeks prior to going into the studio we were like, we should write a dedicated opening track and it was so easy because Jason had this rhythm idea for the beginning of it, Tom had this drum idea and then Dave started jamming on it and I walked in and was like, whoa, that is awesome! Two practices later the song was finished.

KNAC: One thing that's very apparent with the new CD is the sound direction that the band has taken seems to be a bit of a departure from your prior releases. What did you guys d this time around to bring about such an obvious change?

LUKAS: It was a culmination of a few things. Automatically you change the dynamics of the band when you change your frontman, your singer, because when it's all said and done they're the ones translating to the crowd or to the listener. So, we knew it was going to change the dynamic of the band automatically and I was all for that. Thatís fine by me. Also, with the all around production I wanted bigger guitars, bigger sounding drums, a little bit more modern and polished, but still have that traditional styling to it, you know? So whenever some of these songs were starting to come about it was like, wow, that's really different for us. It got us all into it like, this is fresh again. That was really basically how it came out. Chris being a guitar player as well helps greatly in the writing process. He came with a lot of riffs and song ideas, things that wouldn't automatically jump out of my head. That helped out a lot too.

KNAC: The new sound probably took a lot of your loyal fans by surprise, but at the same time it was heavy and melodic, to me reminiscent of classic JUDAS PRIEST and QUEENSRYCHE from a musical standpoint, certainly something that could expand your fanbase.

LUKAS: Yeah, absolutely. No matter what you always kind of wear your inspiration on your sleeve at the end of the day. You can tell what an artist is into by what they're producing. QUEENSRYCHE of course is one of my favorite bands, same thing with PRIEST. We added a couple more of our favorite elements like WHITESNAKE and some of that stuff in there too. So its like a big collage of everything we like. Itís kind of like what this band has always been about, to write music that we want to hear. Not enough bands do that, they're not really true to who they are.

KNAC: Right, and certainly no offense to your prior vocalist, but it think that Chris' voice fits perfectly in this band. He has such a powerful vocal presence and is really more of a singer, in my opinion, than Mathew was. He's more refined and seems to have more of a vocal range.

LUKAS: Yeah, I mean absolutely. I think that his voice is open to so many more people. No offense to Matt either, he's a great guy, we're still really good friends and I think the guy's a hell of a singer, but it's kind of like one of those Dave Mustaine things, you either like it or you don't. Some people hate Axl Rose and some people love the way he has a gritty voice and stuff like that. With Chris, it's more open, more, like you said, refined and smoother and it really translates to people, people really get that now.

KNAC: Of course, he does justice to your back catalog as well.

LUKAS: Oh yeah, it's like I told him from the get go, don't try to sound like Matt, do it your way and just sing it the way you would. And he does, and it's like, wow, it's really good.

KNAC: The one tune i really enjoyed, and i enjoyed your entire set, but the one tune that kind of took me by surprise was when you did your cover of DEF LEPPARDís "Mirror, Mirror". That was one of the best versions of that song i think Iíve ever heard and that was one of my favorite DEF LEPPARD songs, too.

LUKAS: Absolutely, that's kind of why we did it. It's always been one of our favorite albums. Its weird cuz everyone's like, how did you guys even get into those old albums and stuff? Hey man, we all had older brothers. This is what i listened to every day in our bedroom. Itís like, Can I borrow your MAIDEN album? Nope.

KNAC: Are there any songs on the album that you're more partial to than others?

LUKAS: On the new one?


LUKAS: I don't know man. I equate them to if I had children, it's the closest thing I have to children, and so I wouldnít want one to feel left out . I definitely have favorite ones to play live. I love playing "The End" live, i love playing "In The Dark" live. those are probably two of my favorites to play live. I think it's just the energy behind them, you know?

KNAC: The band just recently also released the first video from the new album, for the song "The End", which was basically funded by family, friends and fans through a project you created in Kickstarer, which for the readers that don't know, is a website where you can go a create a 'project' of some kind and ask the public for donations to 'fund' your project. You set up your monetary goal and then decide how long you want the fundraising to last. No oneís pledges are charged unless the goal is reached within the specified timeframe. What made the band decide to go this route for the video?

LUKAS: I don't know, that's a really good question. We got the idea from a couple of other bands we saw doing it and we were looking at their goals of like, $45,000, and it was like, oh my God! We could fund 2 years of touring with that! So we kicked around the idea and were like, sure, let's giving it a shot. That way we're not taking more of a risk with the label or anything like that. It really gives you a chance to incorporate your fanbase into it, make them feel a part of it. Right there, point in case, we wouldn't have been able to do it without them, or it would have taken us longer or we would have had to take out another advance or something. I can't say enough thank yous to those people that got involved behind that and pledged money for it. It really kind of makes you proud when you step back and watch people commenting and pledging. Man, that's really cool! Now, Iíll get hit up with a Kickstarter thing and Iíll check it out and if it's something really cool, something worth it, absolutely. I think it's a great thing for artists of all kinds, whether it's musicians or painters. It's interesting to think that in this day and age you see stuff like, but it does work and for any band, especially if you're a new band and you're struggling like that, definitely check it out.

KNAC: I was one of those who pledged a contribution and....


KNAC: You're welcome. And the main reason why I decided to was because of the rewards that the band offered. For example, again for the readers who don't know, for the $20 that i pledged, I got an ICARUS WITCH sticker, a personalized, signed promo photo of the band, a signed, limited edition 11X17 photo of the album artwork (of which there were only 30 made), AND a signed copy of the new CD. That was certainly a nice to give back to the fans for their support.

LUKAS: At the end of the day we didn't want to ask for a handout. It was like a science project, letís see if this thing works. We would never want to ask our fans for money, or just like , hey man, could you give us some money?. I would never do that, i would never ask that of anybody. It's a no brainier to get people involved and be like, you can get the new album before it's released in stores. It was a really cool thing to do.

KNAC: For me, the CD alone was worth the $20, but to get all the extra stuff included with it, you know, all the autographed stuff and even the promo photo personalized was great. I would have liked to have seen someone the $500 or $1000 to where you guys would have to go play a show somewhere (pledges of $500 got a personal, acoustical performance from Quinn and $1000 got you a private show by the band, but of course travel and hospitality was not included).

LUKAS: Yeah, i was waiting to see if i was gonna have to grab my acoustic and hop on a plane.

KNAC: After watching the video I was amazed that this was all basically accomplished with the $1,400 that you raised, other than the initial green screen filming that you guys paid for in advance. When you sent the video off to have the finishing touches and special effects put in did you specify how you wanted the final product to look or did you just let the guy have a go at it?

LUKAS: Matte (Lundberg) is a pretty artistic guy and we told him what videos we were watching and what stuff we were interested in visually. We kinda gave him carte blanche on it, saying go ahead, take a pass at it and send it back. we got the first draft of it there were things that we really, really liked about it and there were things that were like, nah, that's not gonna work, things that were maybe a little over the top. We gave him some options, some ideas for corrections and the second pass was like ,wow, that's really good. That basically was his brainchild and he came with the basic direction of it.

KNAC: So, watching the video, I have to ask, where does the dog fit into it?

LUKAS: Um, there's some stuff, some crazy, creepy, grainy footage we used in the background and there's some weirdness going on there. We really can't explain, I don't know. That's a good question man.

KNAC: You guys just finished up a short tour with WHITE WIZZARD and WIDOW. During that tour, while in Canada the band became victim to thieves. What happened?

LUKAS: We figured out that it probably had to be right after we were onstage. While we were onstage there were people walking back and forth outside that were part of the tour and they were around the van stuff, so they would have seen anything. somebody got the idea that they were gonna try to basically break in the locks. Well, the locks weren't giving so they finally got brave enough that they just smashed the window out and it was like, really? The funny part of that, if anything could be funny about it is the first show in Chicago I had all my shoes in a bag and I had like stage shoes and extra sneakers and sandals and stuff like that. I thought i left 'em in Chicago and here someone put them in one of the merch cases and so i didn't know where they were for like 4 days. So, in Montreal Tom comes in and he's like, i found your shoes. Yes! So, i could change and wear different boots onstage and stuff and when I come out to the van they took my shoes! It was the shortest lived celebration ever! Man, I hope you like used Converse.

KNAC: Luckily though, all the band's musical gear was already in the club, right?.

LUKAS: Yeah, yeah exactly, none of that was taken. There were a couple of computers that got taken and that was kind of like a kick to the groin, you know. We had a merch girl with us and she had all her stuff in like a big tote bag and they took her computer, her keys, keys to her entire life were in that bag and I kinda felt bad for her, she's a college girl going for music marketing or something like that and it was like, well, welcome to the business!

KNAC: So you guys weren't ever able to recover any of that?

LUKAS: Nah, no

KNAC: So that tour is done and what's the next step? I would hope the band is planning a more extensive run across the states.

LUKAS: Yes, absolutely. We're basically just kinda throwing it out into the waters, the booking agents to see what else is out there coming up. Right now we're doing some regional shows like we played KAMELOT Saturday and we just played with SAVING ABEL last night (Tuesday, September 25). Two amazingly different shows, but two amazing shows nonetheless. It was neat last night because it was kind of our home away from home in Erie. We play this club quite often (Sherlock's) and to see that many people come out was awesome, thank you guys! We do have a couple more of those regional shows coming up. We might be going back to Canada in November. northing is set in stone yet as far as touring.

KNAC: If ICARUS WITCH could be remembered for one thing, what would you have it be?

LUKAS: Oh my, something tells me it's going to be dressing up like Y&T in El Paso (TX). Something tells me it's gonna be one of those pranks. I don't know, I mean if we could be remembered for one thing, hopefully it would be writing music that touches people, grabs 'em, and really makes them involved. But like I said, it's probably gonna be the red turbo shorts I know.

Rise is out now and is one of those CDs that you can just pop into your player and let it go, itís that good!

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