While Battlecross have been a band for 12 years now, they’ve only been in the national spotlight since 2011, when Pursuit of Honor, a re-recorded version of their debut album Push Pull Destroy, was released on Metal Blade. With their third album, Rise to Power, out now, we caught up with guitarist Hiran Deraniyagala to talk about the new album, their rotating cast of drummers, and playing new material before it’s out on album.
Rise to Power was just released. What’s changed since the last one in terms of the process?
As far as process goes, I feel for me personally, I kinda had more of a hand in contributing more versus in the past. Also I feel like this is probably the most relaxed, as far as writing and just being totally open to trying anything.. We went in saying “we’re just gonna write what we think is cool and sounds good” and go with that and not worry about. I think it was just the most natural flowing record that we’ve done where everything just came out naturally and pieced together and we all collaborated. It really was like the first time being able to write as a full band. Well, the first record we did, but Gumby came in later so when we redid Pursuit of Honor it, the lyrics already written by somebody else. Then War of Will it was like we had Shannon come in last minute to do drums so we didn’t get to like write as a full band. I feel like this time was the first time since [new drummer] Alex [Bent] has joined the band that we’re actually all able to contribute and write together.
And I guess you’ve gotten to road-test some of the songs out with Crowbar?
Yeah, yeah we got to play a couple new ones on that tour. It was cool man, it was cool to introduce those to the fans and stuff.
How do you feel about playing live songs before they’re out, knowing that there’s gonna be people probably recording it on their cell phones and putting it on the internet? Do you care?
No, no I don’t really care because I feel like if we weren’t ready to pay them, we wouldn’t play them. And as far as people hearing them before the albums out, I’m fine with that. It’s a live show, and to me, you’re really not getting the full experience of the song unless you’re either there or hearing on records so… It’s cool with me man, ya know, we’re in an age where that’s what happens and you can’t really control that so I’d rather play something new and get fans excited about it then pull it back just cause I’m worried about it being leaked earlier so it’s totally cool with me.
Sure! So you’ve had a few drummer changes. Anything in particular that lead to them?
With the different drummers that we had, we were getting a lot of guys that at first were just helping us out to get through some tours and stuff because we put out the second record, then touring was nonstop and we really had no time to find somebody permanent. We would need somebody to help out and find the best person to do that, and maybe in that process that person wanted to join or they didn’t. So it was like a part try-out, part having someone help out on the shows. I guess in a sense when you’re a touring band, the best way to do it is to kinda just bring someone on the road. Anyone you know can play the material but then they’ve got to be able to tour with you and fit in with the band, so what better way to know that by going out on the road with them? We had a few guys come out and they were all cool, but they either had things going on in their world or we just didn’t feel like it was a good fit and when Alex finally joined it was kinda like that feeling of “this is the guy – he fits in, he can play the material, he’s a great dude, he fits in with the culture of the band and who we are as people.” So it was just a natural fit when he came in.
Did you know him before hand?
No, we really didn’t. Our manager had sent some stuff in, cause she was talking to him but we still didn’t know the full capability of his being able to play our stuff. We’d seen videos of him doing stuff with this other band, but we had some other guys come in too. To us, we wanted to see someone who could play our stuff. The best way of knowing if someone can play our stuff is seeing videos of them playing our songs. So when finally everything kinda worked out, he sent a couple videos of him playing our songs and we were just like “dude, holy shit, he can pull this off, he’s really good.” We didn’t know what to expect, because he’s in California and we’re in Michigan, so he flew out and jammed with us. Then we did a tour right after that, and the whole experience with him from that first tour and working with him was awesome. And just getting to talk to him on the phone and stuff like that you could tell he was a good dude but like I said, once we were on the road with him and getting the experience just jamming with him and feeling it out it was like, “oh this is awesome, he’s great.”
A couple years ago you played the Mayhem Fest. What do you think about the fact that this year was the last one apparently?
I think it kinda sucks cause I think that festival has done a lot for metal bands, up & coming bands and for the fans. I think we never would’ve gotten the opportunity. Who knows where the opportunity was for us to be able to play in front of so many people, especially on our second album. If it weren’t for Mayhem Fest, who knows where we would’ve been? I think we made a lot of fans and got a lot of exposure for doing that. It sucks, because it was like the Ozzfest, a continuing metal festival in a sense so it is kind of a bummer. I know there is a lot of back-and-forth between the bands and the promoter and the guys running it and stuff. I mean, I can’t comment on that cause I wasn’t there but all I can say is they were investing in this festival to basically try and benefit both parties of the bands and fans. I think they did numerous years of doing that and helping young bands so hopefully something else comse about to keep that kind of tradition going.
I think you were one of the bands actually that Kevin mentioned when was talking about some of the bands that have developed from playing Mayhem
Yeah! It’s awesome! We owe a lot to Kevin Lyman and John Reese for picking us to be a part of it. It’s one of those festivals where it doesn’t matter when you play at. Everyone was there from the beginning, so even if you were an early stage band, you still got to play in front of tons of people and you can’t ask for better exposure than that. When you get that kind of opportunity. you’ve gotta seize that and appreciate it, ’cause there’s not a lot of festivals that do things like that for metal bands. As a metal band and metal fans and to the metal community in general, we have to embrace things like that cause there’s not a lot of people fighting for us, ya know? We’re very much sometimes alone in this.
Yeah, there’s definitely going to be discussion about the strength of metal in the wake of something like this happening but you have to remember that this is also a week where Lamb Of God almost had the #1 album in the country.
Yeah! So it’s still strong out there. It still exists, ya know. It’s our way of trying to get it out to the masses. A lot of people criticize some of the lineup and having a different variety of bands, saying it’s too mainstream. That’s how you bring new fans to underground bands and vice versa. though. You’ve got to stop thinking in that way, because there’s all sorts of people that like different genres, so when you get bigger bands that are more mainstream, you’re gonna bring in more of a crowd for the younger bands. I think that’s good to mix it up and basically share that exposure with everybody. Metal fans are very particular about what we like and I get that but, I think in the sense of bands trying to make it and be successful and for fans to discover new music, we have to be open about it.
You’ve been playing a lot more international festivals, at least last year or so. Do you find yourself becoming a more internationally renowned band? Do you have your eyes on the world?
Absolutely, I definitely have my eyes on the world and that’s definitely our goal. For us, we want to take this as far as we can and that means playing everywhere and anywhere possible. We strive for that and I think we made our mark a little bit last year doing the festivals and doing some touring out there but I still feel we’ve only scratched the surface over there and we definitely need to get back over there and continue to make our mark. And even here, we have a good following here, we’ve done a lot of shows and tours her,e but I still feel we’re still clawing our way through. There’s still fans that have not heard of us.
Cool… who would you most like to tour with?
Definitely Lamb Of God and Metallica. Ya know, those big bands that draw really well. To be able togain exposure for my band is what I want so those two are the two biggest bands out there right now. As a fan too, Metallica and Lamb Of God are both great bands, not just being someone in a band and wanting to be successful and getting out to as many fans and playing in front of as many fans as possible, but also just being able to see those bands play every night, getting to meet them. We got to do the Orion Fest and got to meet James Hetfield and Robert Trujillo and I think I met Kirk Hammet too. but it was cool to meet those guys and it was an awesome opportunity for us, but definitely a tour would be awesome. We’ve had some friends that we made on the road like Goatwhore and Killswitch Engage, Origin. All those guys are super cool dudes that we would definitely tour again with. Crowbar were awesome, it was one of my favorite tours to do. They’re just the nicest awesome dudes and I’m a big fan of Crowbar so that’d be cool. I guess I will mention Down, or anything Phil Anselmo does. I’m a huge Phil Anselmo fan so any project he asks us to fill, I would be all over it.