ORATOR: Serving Music


Technical death metal act from Seattle, Orator launched their debut album ‘Kallipolis’ in July, inspired by Plato’s ‘Republic.’ Guitarist and singer Isaac McCormick talks with Prog Sphere about the record’s grand concept, influences, and more.

Define the mission of Orator.

Isaac: We’re here to write metal that we ourselves would want to hear from an upcoming band. We serve the music first and our egos last. We know what it’s like to hear an album and to connect with it in almost a psudeo-spritual manner. Music is the hand that lifts you up when life tears you down. It is the friend that is always there for you, understands you in ways that no other seems to; True satisfaction is knowing that we’ve written something worth listening to for years to come that will engrain itself in another’s soul, not something that we can flaunt like a merit badge for a few weeks as the flavor of the month then have it fade from memory. We’re here to grow as musicians and artists, not find what works, habituate, and rehash it until we fade away from irrelevance. We wish everyone to know we understand and value the time and attention spans necessary for people to give in order to listen to and digest music, and we assure you we’ve only just begun.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album Kallipolis and the themes it captures. 

I had just written a rough lyrical sketch I titled Disposable Youth when one of my friends put a copy of Plato’s Republic in my hands; I hadn’t read anything for a year or so, something I’m displeased with to this day, and once I started reading I devoured the book, taking every opportunity I could to read even if I was just standing in line waiting to order food. Once I finished the book I was revisiting the lyrical sketch, refining and building upon it, and the bulk of Emperor practically flowed from my brain through my pen as if I was merely observing the idea create itself. The rest of the concept was the same, that is, it practically created itself. Maybe that is redundant to hear, but the ancient Greeks believed that the muses were responsible for all creative successes; poets, musicians, playwrites, etc. would appeal to them before every creative endeavor in hopes that they might bless them with a masterpiece. Writing the music was the most difficult part as I refused to write anything that couldn’t or wouldn’t separate us from the general run of the mill.

Thematically, the titles/topics of the songs descend from the most powerful in a society to the least. The lyrics speak in advocacy of personal responsibility, as well as reason and resonablity. They also condemn the will to power and greed, as well as those that would embrace and pursue such. Plato states very clearly that no society will be free from its ills until the citizens of such free themselves from their selfishly superficial desires and tendencies, their lowest of natures. The album is titled Kallipolis, Kalli meaning ideal and polis meaning city-state or society, as a jest to the world we live in, where many would have us believe we live in the best society possible, and yet that couldn’t be further from the case.

Orator - Kallipolis

What is the message you are trying to give with Kallipolis?  

There are things vastly more important than yourself. So much is as it is because, short of self preservation, so many opt for complacency or ignorance rather than confronting that which plagues us head on. People would sooner stroke their egos than spend a minute, an hour, a day to try and improve even one less fortunate person’s existence. There is much that must be done, true, and one is no more than one human, but change always starts with what’s closest to ones reality and moves outward from there.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

Lyrics were always pen to paper, and I worked through at least 5, probably closer to 10 drafts for each track.

Musically I used my D.A.W (digital audio workstation) to record ideas as I worked them out, and then puzzle pieced them together as I heard things in my head. As with the lyrics I went through about 10 drafts for each track, usually starting with a foundational idea in the first and second and building on it with each following draft. Once I recognized I had the bulk of the song figured out I’d add lyrics and that would always help me finish the song.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

Definitely to a degree, though not as much as it will be with our next effort. I refused to have each track feel the exact same as it would dilute the impact of each individual track. If one is to pay attention, one will notice references in Perceiver to the songs that came before it, which also ties into the conceptual them, though that is the only instance of such.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

Marco had already recorded and sent us his drum parts, and we prepared all parts via demos before entering the studio. There was nothing that wasn’t already written when we entered, as we knew well ahead of time that our budget was extremely limited and could not afford to waste precious time on that which wasn’t written; in the end we could only afford a maximum of 20 hours, though I think it was actually 18. Thus it was necessary for us to have all parts practiced to a meticulous degree, and we spent many hours over many weeks prior to the studio practicing until our fingers bled.

How long was Kallipolis in the making?

From the time when I first knew exactly what the concept was to the final note being recorded in the studio, it took us about a year and a half. I spent a lot of time writing just lyrics, which were mostly finished by the time I realized I had a lot of preparation to do as a musician before confronting the lofty goals I had set for Kallipolis. I do not feel like I will have to do as much preliminary work for the next effort, though there is still some that is necessary for me to grow as a musician in preparation for the even loftier goals I have set for what’s next.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

My influential mainstays for certain, BehemothEvangelion, Cattle DecapitationThe Anthropocene Extinction, Fleshgod ApocalypseAgony; I went and learned the entirety of Master of Puppets by Metallica as part of the preparation process and am sure that had an influence on the release. I also attended many a Seattle Symphony performance and found those very conducive to working through creative blocks or refining many an idea. A scale run in the “Perceiver” solo was directly influenced by Paganini. In that same line of thought, the composers I listen to most, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Chopin, and Prokofiev, greatly influenced how I approached song writing and song structure. It helped me transform ideas from a cycling of riffs into what I feel are compositions.

What is your view on technology in music?

I think it is entirely necessary at this point; how else are artists supposed to record music other than in analog, which is still a form of technology? I feel the question is asking if artists rely too much on technology when creating, to which I would say yes. It is often obvious to me when artists copy paste parts in studio rather than record them live. This I feel is cutting corners, and unless made necessary due to budget limitations, is just lazy. However, technology also enables many an emerging artist to create, release, and reach vastly larger audiences with their music in ways that were never possible before, and the gear necessary to do so is only becoming more and more affordable. Someone with internet connection in the furthest reaches of fucking Antartica could look up and listen to Kallipolis! Though technology is a double edged sword and has enabled the oversaturation of all music scenes/communities, as it is easier for one who is merely going through the motions to put something together, promote and release it, I’m certain matters will sort themselves out, and it is a necessary “evil” in order to create the circumstances necessary for those that write music “deserving” of being heard to reach as many people as possible.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

I  certainly intend for it to and hope that it does! I advocated for taking better care of our environment and earth in general before listening to Cattle Decapitation‘s The Anthropocene Extinction, but after hearing that monster of a release, reading the lyrics, and realizing just how truely abhorrent our tendencies towards waste and pollution are I went from casual environmentalist to almost militant environmentalist. I would hope that everyone would read the lyrics I’ve written, and if even one person changes their mindset for the better because if it then that will be a success for me. As much as I might like to, I find it nearly impossible to write lyrics that aren’t about the present state of the world, as to make music is to invite an audience, and I feel to invite an audience and not direct attention to that which I feel ails us most is to direct attention away from such. There are many others that speak of the ills of society, just as there are many that don’t, and so my hopes is that when listening to our music people also feel compelled to think about their world and wether or not it is acceptable, or if they have just accepted what they’re told to accept.

What are your plans for the future?

Our main goal is to tour, and once we begin, save for regular health and sanity maintenance, never stop. Shorter term, we will have a lyric video releasing soon, if not released already, we are putting together a music video, and we have begun brainstorming for our next release hopefully to be out by the end of next year, budget and time constraints permitting. Personally, we intend to spend as much time as possible working to grow and evolve as musicians so that we can create the best music possible.

Grab a copy of Kallipolis from Orator’s Bandcamp profile, and follow the band on Facebook.

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