Back in March, Dallas, TX native guitarist Ben Randolph released a debut album by his instrumental Heavy / Doom Metal project Emperor Guillotine. Completely written, recorded and produced by Randolph, he created a record that doesn’t follow any trends, but rather pay tribute to some of the musician’s favorite bands and records from the 1970s.
Prog Sphere talked with Ben about the creative process of the album.
Define the mission of Emperor Guillotine.
To not suck. [laughs] But seriously, to create solid metal that harkens to the foundations of the genre. To make music that I, myself, enjoy and would like to hear. Music that captures the essential elements of what makes metal great.
Tell me about the creative process that informed your self-titled debut album.
I tend to space out the recording process, doing no more than one song a week. That keeps my mind fresh. I like to start with a solid rhythm section, so I lay down drums and bass first. Most of my songs start out as bass riffs and go from there. When composing with guitar, it’s easy to go out into the weeds with some idea, but with bass, you tend to stay grounded in the foundation of the song.
Although the record is fully instrumental, is there a hidden message that you are trying to give with Emperor Guillotine?
No hidden message. I suppose if there’s any message, it’s that there’s no “filler” on the album. I tried to create something that was a personal reflection of what I like and think is good. Was I successful? I’ll leave that to the individual to judge.
How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
I usually start with a scratch demo involving bass and a drum track. This gives a pretty solid foundation for the song. It makes the guitar parts so much easier to write. Often, I’ll do the rhythm tracks and then guitar in separate sessions. I record everything into Logic X.
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?
Yes, probably more subconsciously than anything. I grew up in the age of albums. I’m dating myself here, but my first music was on cassette tape. I suppose that made me think of Emperor Guillotine in terms of album “sides.” I wanted each “side” to have a synth and speech “intro” (entrance of “Emperor Guillotine” and “Unleash the Nucleon!”). “Ursa Minor” was envisioned as the final track of “side one.” It served to bookend the sides.
Describe the approach to recording the album.
I try to focus on each song individually from beginning to end. I’ll record no more than one song a week. Everything is tracked digitally into Logic X. I record mostly “dry” with very little in the way of effects. I add a bit of reverb to the drums and delay to the guitars, but mostly I go for a very organic approach. Rhythm guitars are double-tracked and panned.
How long Emperor Guillotine was in the making?
About three months.
Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release? I suppose that Black Sabbath is an obvious inspiration here.
Oh, the usual suspects. Sabbath, as you mentioned. Iron Maiden, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin. If you can’t hear the influence directly in the music, they have at least influenced me to continue music.
What is your view on technology in music?
I think we’re living in a technological golden age. Not just with effects and recording, but with distribution. Back when I was a kid, it was a pipe dream to record something professional sounding at home and have it heard worldwide. Now, anyone with interest, talent and dedication can get their music out to the world.
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
It is very therapeutic for me. Really, it started out as a way to prove to myself that I could actually do it!
What are your plans for the future?
I’m working on a follow-up, tentatively entitled Robot Monster. I hope to have it released in the next year.