A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, nerds with hardcore tendencies could rock the frak out to some Star Wars-themed heavy metal music. By "a long time ago" I mean now, and by "a galaxy far, far away" I mean this galaxy, and by "Star Wars-themed heavy metal," I mean the sweet, sweet sounds of Galactic Empire, whose first album came out earlier this week.
John. Williams. Get. Rekt.
I first came to be aware of Galactic Empire when a friend of mine, who knows me very well and yet still opts to spend time in my presence for some Sithforsaken reason, told me that there was a Star Wars band playing a show at New York's Webster Hall a few weeks hence. "A Star Wars band?," I asked. "Are they jizz wailers?" A) They are not jizz wailers, and B) yes, "jizz wailers" are a type of musicians in Star Wars canon. Swear to God, hand to the Thrawn trilogy, I am not making this up. They are musicians who play jizz, which is the Star Wars version of jazz, except it's called "jizz." There's an instrument called the peel rod.
Forgive me. I'm getting off track. When I ventured out into the snow one Hoth-esque January night to see Galactic Empire, I saw not jizz wailers -- well, maybe, I don't know what they do in their spare time -- but a quintet of musicians rocking the frak out to the Star Wars soundtrack, heavy metal-style. While dressed in costume. "The Imperial March," obviously. "Duel of the Fates." The main theme. "Across the Stars." "Cantina Band."
The music was well-played, and the attention to detail was impressive ... most impressive. The roadies were dressed as Imperial officers and Darth Vader introduced a song by saying it's about how he "loves Padme ... and hates sand." Later on, he choked out a dude dressed as a Jedi. (The crowd was an impressive mix of hardcore metal-heads and hardcore nerds, though I'd venture a guess that everyone was a little of both.) Two of the guitars looked like they were covered with the skin of Jabba the Hutt. It's a lucky thing that I'm here writing this today, talking to you all about Star Wars and jizz wailers, because I about died. I certainly had a sore neck for days, due to all the headbanging. Here's a taste:
The Pennsylvania-based band -- except the Star Wars clone version of Pennsylvania, so Pennsylvaania, hyuk hyuk, a little nerd joke for all the Legends fans out there -- released their debut album on February 3 and is now touring around the UK with upcoming stops in Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and more. You can see all the tour dates on their Facebook. (Or should I say ... Spacebook. Ha ha. I kill me. Force choke myself to death.) You can buy the album on their website or iTunes, or you can check it out on Spotify. Though the band's pretty busy, none other than Darth Vader himself -- or his non-sue-able doppelgänger "Dark Vader," which would explain why the costumes and character names are all slightly off, because if anyone has the cojones the sue Darth V himself it's Disney -- took the time to answer some of my pressing questions.
How did you guys meet each other?
Dark Vader: [Boba Sett] and [Bass Commander] own and operate a studio called Atrium Audio in Pennsylvania that I was an intern at a number of years ago. Since then the three of us have kept in touch, so when [Boba Sett] told me about the idea to make metal versions of Star Wars songs I jumped at the chance to get involved. [Red Guard] and I are in another band together called Alustrium and [Shadow Ranger] is in a band called Unparalleled Height which has recorded at Atrium multiple times.
Which came first: A love of Star Wars or a love of metal?
A love for Star Wars, certainly. We all grew up on these movies. Metal did not come into most of our lives until our adolescent years.
How long have you all been playing?
Each member has at least ten years under his belt. [Boba Sett] and [Bass Commander] are a bit older than the rest of us so they've ahead of us a bit.
Which is the best Star Wars film, in your opinion?
The Empire Strikes Back to me is the quintessential Star Wars film. It has the most character and plot development, as well as arguably the most iconic plot twist in movie history.
Which is worse: The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones?
The Phantom Menace, hands down. No joke, I seriously think that's one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Aside from Darth Maul looking cool, the whole movie is borderline useless to me. [A/N: There's also a lot of sand in it.]
FMK: Wicket, Jabba, Jar Jar Binks?
Frak Jabba because it's once and done, marry Wicket because he's adorable and obviously kill Jar Jar because his existence is an abomination.
What do you do when you’re not shredding to metal Star Wars songs?
We all sit in separate rooms in wooden chairs and wait for the next show.
What cities have you done shows in so far? What’s been your favorite part of being on tour?
We've only done US shows so far. We've played in Lancaster, PA; Cleveland, OH; Pittsburgh, PA and New York City. The first show of this UK tour will be our fifth show ever.
How'd you come up with the idea to do a Star Wars-themed metal band?
[Boba Sett] made a video of himself drumming along to the Imperial March a few years ago. Eventually that gave him the idea to add guitars to the same arrangement, which is when [Bass Commander] and I got involved. By the time we finished fleshing out the idea we found ourselves with 11 complete songs all from the Star Wars saga. Everything that happened beyond that is a result of us just seeing how ridiculous we can be with it.
How did you feel about that scene in Rogue One where Darth Vader made a pun?
It didn't bother me. [Red Guard] can't stand it. I mean, it was a lame line but I was too busy drooling over the fact that Vader was on screen again.
What’s your favorite song to play?
It's probably a tie between "Duel of the Fates" and "Battle of the Heroes" for me. Those are by far the most epic songs in our set.
And finally, this might be an obnoxious question but I'm a pedantic Star Wars fan and have to know: Why is Boba Fett in your band when he is technically not a member of the Empire? Is he a freelancer? Or a temp? Does he have to carry his own gear? [A/N: Look, I'm sorry, but I'm not exactly shy about being unimpressed by Boba Fett. He's a great drummer, though. Who knew?]
Drummers are notoriously problematic. We figured it best to do an outside hire so that we can have a clean split if things go south. So far things are working out so we hope it stays that way.