It’s hard to think of a person in the Connecticut metal scene who has been as committed to music in the face of adversity as Bill Klopfer. In spite of serious chronic health issues and many other challenges life has thrown at him, the vocalist, guitarist, and composer has been cranking out his brand of “cinderblock music” since 1998. His recent relocation to Virginia hasn’t slowed him down either — check out the brand new lyric video for his solo project Skumbagh, and read on for his thoughts on music as catharsis and much more.
Your solo project Skumbagh has an album coming out — What was the writing and recording process like for that?
This album was sort of a happy accident. I never really planned to do a full album for Skumbagh but with all the free time I have since relocating to Virginia Beach, VA several months ago, I had to do something. It started in July when I bought a new Roland JD-XI Synthesizer. I always wanted keyboards or something like a Moog synth rather than just using a program such as FL Studio that helps make industrial metal type of music. I do not have a drummer to jam with down here yet, so making an experimental, industrial-influenced cyber metal album made sense at this time. I do not see or hear a very huge scene with it, so I think it might stand out in metal if given the chance. This type of music was going on more in the 90s and that was my prime era as an early adult. Of course there are still bands of this genre somewhere in the mix. Who knows, maybe I am onto something with it. I like all genres of metal and this is just one of them.
Recently Hurricane Florence was headed straight for my new home. That really sparked up some creativity for me that helped shape the new Skumbagh album, #2 The Maze Crawler. I write songs a lot differently with Skumbagh than my other bands. I never base or start writing a song around guitar riffs because this is not a band that would normally play live, so I do not want to use the progression of complexity I can on guitar that could be used for Kaos Reign or Murder Castle for example. I come up with drum patterns and grooves some times first and then brainstorm with noise sample progressions, keyboards, or synthesizer. I keep the guitar riffs more simplistic but heavy in this project such as bands like Fear Factory, Ministry, Nailbomb, Front Line Assembly, Strapping Young lad (like the City album for example). I am not playing wacky guitar solos in this project but focusing more on imagining the song as if I was in an industrial club on the floor dancing stupidly or in a mosh pit and at the same time, making sure it is lyrically cathartic for me. This is a fun project that helps me progress as a musician and gets me to learn new things and no one else is in the band so there are no rules and critical minds thinking differently. As great as it can be in a band with 3 or 4 people, you need patience and everyone needs to agree with how the song is structured and played on their own parts of the songs. I never get to play bass often, so doing Skumbagh opens my eyes to that instrument as well in a different light.
I really placed myself into isolation for the 3 weeks of writing and recording. Lyrically I was thinking about scenarios as if the hurricane was going to hit Virginia Beach — which in real life, we just missed it by the skin of our teeth. At the same time, I am dealing with chronic pain from spinal arthritis from 3 major spinal surgeries (C5-T2 discs have been fused in neck and back, 5 discs removed in total) and creating music is what gets me through my discomfort. I can really get lost into it for hours and it’s the best distraction from absolute chronic suffering. This relocation here was not as easy as I thought and can cause isolated solitary discomfort during random moments. Usually in life, I have a day job and friends I can hang out with in the area. I do not have that here yet because I am new to Virginia Beach. I have been here for about 3 months now. Everything that I feared, worried about and wished could happen at a daydreaming moment came to the surface in these songs. It is a fucking maze down here and I feel like I woke up stranded on an island with amnesia sometimes.
Over the years I have learned a lot about recording and it is a big hobby of mine so I’m able to save some money by recording it myself. The hardest thing for me is to mic a drum set perfectly, but in this day and age there are a lot of ways around that depending on preference and what genre of Metal music I am writing and recording. I program drums in FL Studio as I have been using that program for at least 15 years. I think I have mastered that program in some ways but of course I am not trying to immolate a live drummer by any means with the Skumbagh music. This hobby of mine is not meant to change the world or start a revolution.
Also, I still use the recording software Acid with some plugins, which is half obsolete these days, but I am really progressed and comfortable using that rather than Pro-tools or Reaper for example. I have many microphones for recording, and I have an 8-10 track Tascam Hardware interface that I have been using for almost 10 years. My biggest fear is that one day it will glitch — but for now, it does the trick efficiently.
#2 The Maze Crawler will be released November 5, 2018 digitally and on CD through Bandcamp at https://skumbagh.bandcamp.com/music. Some people might love this album and some might think it sounds bizarre. However, it’s a heavy one and every song sounds different a little than the next. Give more than one track a try and jam this shit out real loud in the car. That was my post mixing intention. I got slow ones, mid-tempo and fast ones. Vocally I covered some different ground too, especially with different clean gritty tones that blend with the signature style of screaming vocals I usually do. I Hope some people enjoy this album and give it chance. Either way, I will add it to my discography of metal creations.
You have a prolific musical output between all your various projects. Where does your inspiration come from?
Everything I experience in life comes out in the music I write during that period of time. I listen to a lot of different genres of metal music. I sometimes have a metal radio station playing in my head with rhythms sporadically changing at all times. I rarely have issues with songwriting. No blockage of that yet… It might just be some kind of metal schizophrenia that keeps me addicted to writing songs.
In bands such as Kaos Reign or Penitentary (Editor’s Note: creative spelling is intentional) where we practice a lot at rehearsal, there are random moments, where we freestyle a jam and next thing you know it sounded awesome so that we used it — that’s how the song “Mercy” by Kaos Reign was born. We kept the tape recorder rolling and just made shit up on the fly together. It feels like there are endless approaches to writing. I get pretty detailed when I am writing and recording and I usually map out the structure first. I have many systems and different ways of doing this.
Now in my mid 30s, I never would have imagined I would still be a metal musician. I never wanted to be a rockstar nor be famous. I am always trying to fill the void of space, pain, fear, depression and boredom. These days I need distraction more than ever as I suffer from severe chronic pain and neuropathy in my guitar picking hand. Creating music is the best therapy I could do for my nerve damage and it is physical therapy. I use a banjo thumb guitar pick these days because it wraps around the finger because if I do not, I will drop the guitar pick within 2 minutes of a song because of the weakness in my right hand. I only perform with very light featherweight guitars such as a Dean or Gibson Firebird rather than the heavy wooden guitars such as a Schecter Damien. If I use my old Schecter guitar for example, I would be in a lot of pain afterwards.
I mentally push myself too much because If I am not distracted enough sometimes, it can really hurt my state of well-being. Metal is my passion. It is my sport and my entertainment. I hope I can do it forever and progress with it… But is that realistic to do this forever? I also need to find another passion some day to either replace it or blend along with it. Metal is my medication and without it, I do not know how I would cope with all the issues I have in my life. My philosophy is that we need to try to live and do as much as we can before it is all over. One day it will be over for all of us. I have so much pain, which in general holds me back. However, it also makes me who I am these days… Whoever that might be.
What is your main band Kaos Reign working on right now?
We have a lot of things in the works. I am sitting on the best-sounding recording of another full-length album of 11 tracks. I had this idea to re-record our favorite tunes from the first two albums and include a couple new ones. We’ve evolved the old songs in terms of tempo and performance so it was worth re-recording them in a new light. I can’t wait until people hear what we have done to these songs. They breathe new life all around. We have 3 new songs as a bonus added to it. Chris and I have gotten better at recording and we did a great job on this album. The new song “Bonescraper” is killer and means a lot to me about surviving my spinal injuries and then being reborn. We do not have a release date as of yet because we have to fix a few small things. This bonus album will be called, Alive at Practice 2018. Stay tuned.
Also, we hope to have more media on the way to YouTube. I have to finish the music video for “Dispatch the Threat” as I am dealing with some editing issues that I will conquer shortly. We were really proud of our latest album, Epiphany, and want to continue to promote it. I think more Metal fans need to hear it. I will be focusing on a lot of promotional things such as lyric and music videos as well as playing some more live shows. We also plan to offer more merchandise in the near future.
After all that, the plan is to write and record another Kaos Reign album. Whenever that happens, it has to be even better than Epiphany. We’ve all thought that the next album needs to be our Master of Puppets. I am thinking it will be a much more aggressive album and it should include two desolate melodic ballads. I think we are all getting better over the years, so I can’t wait to see how the future unfolds musically for Kaos Reign. Behind the scenes, I am sure I will be filling the vault with new songs that we hope to release eventually. We have progressed in every way each album, so why stop now? We should always create music that we would listen to. We have done that from the start with almost 40 songs in total to date. I couldn’t be more proud of what we have accomplished as a band.
Can you talk about the Europe/Russia tour that Kaos Reign was supposed to go on? Why didn’t that happen?
Sounds great to be approved as the main support band to a band such as Cavalera Conspiracy on tour!! However, being in a metal touring band costs a lot of money at first and I do not have money like Lars Ulrich of Metallica did in 1982. We are not experienced and established to the point of headlining a tour. Management companies and promoters bring contracts to the table and there is a lot of money involved on both ends. I have learned a lot of lessons so far. These management companies pull you in, and then throw other expenses at you last minute so you have no choice but to continue and then next thing you know, you’re left stranded on an island. Nothing is worth being desolate, broke, and taken advantage of.
I know this tour could have been a success, but holy shit, who can afford thousands of dollars on plane tickets and expenses to go to Russia and Europe and make minimal money back from only merchandise sales?? I am not in a band to plan a vacation and that was never our intention. The logistics of the tour were dangerous and so scattered. Anyone in their right state of mind could tell that this was a bad idea. I shouldn’t have to pay expenses for my manager to travel, eat, drink, and piss during our tour — not to mention there was an issue with having a translator accompany us. That’s just one example… The management company was supposed to benefit us and support the metal industry, but they were not doing anything I could not do on my own.
However, Kaos Reign is still alive and we won in the end. I cannot say much more than that. The music industry is full of scavengers. Please tread lightly. I have heard worse horror stories than ours from others. Still, we really wanted and tried to do this tour, but because of bad business it was not possible. Maybe one day, we will get another opportunity that is way better. In the end, I am happier we did not go through with this tour. I can now say were all safe and sound. Lesson learned…. Close call.
Following that experience (or non-experience), what advice would you have to other bands who are looking to work with agencies for promotion, tour booking, etc?
My advice is to tour your own country first and reach out to others you trust. If it is too good to be true, there is a good chance it might be. Your safety should always come first. Be careful who you invest in. The internet doesn’t always reveal all the dirt and once you find out, it could be too late. Make sure someone you trust can vouch for these agencies. If they are going to really help you, they will do it right away with a promotional plan. Before you sign contracts, set up a meeting and make sure to verbally talk with them and physically meet them if possible. If they don’t have time for you, then they’re not going to take you seriously and promote your band. They should respond to your calls, as they are not stockbrokers or doctors by any means. They ain’t that busy.
You recently relocated from Connecticut to Virginia. What is the scene like down there? So far, how does life in Virginia compare to the Northeast in a non-musical sense?
I have only been here for a little over three months and been to one show, so I am not sure yet. However, I plan to penetrate this big metal scene in Richmond and Chesapeake I am seeing and hearing about. There are some really good metal bands down here I found online. They have a place called The Riff House that reminds me of Cherry Street Station in Wallingford, CT. There are many metal bars in Richmond I am hearing about I would like to go to also.
I currently live in Virginia Beach and it reminds me of Miami but different. It is a beach city and I got a lot to learn and explore. This place reminds me of a giant maze and I have been crawling around it trying to figure it out the last few months. There are a lot of music instrument stores down here that are great. I already went to Guitar Center and had a jam session with three other people in the middle of the store. That was some fun freestyling that day.
What do you want to happen in the next year or so for your bands?
I am not sure at the moment. However, I plan to have many new metal projects/bands in the future and hopefully it will help me meet some new people down here in Virginia. There is no way of knowing how it will turn out just yet. I am sure something will happen because my drive is strong and I am still progressing as a musician and a person. I do not think I have peaked yet and I am 36 years old already. Let’s hope there is a lot more to come and more exposure. I want to have better options and more promotion. I appreciate the support from people within the scene and want to work together as a team and support metal music as a whole. The fans and the musicians keep this music alive and it has grown very big over the years. I want to make better decisions and have better outcomes. I also would like my chronic pain to subside a little more so I feel safe after a show or a practice and succeed throughout life. Either way, I will fight to be a big part of metal music until the day I die! This is what I live for.
Connect with Bill and his music at the links below and head over to bandcamp to pre-order the new Skumbagh album!