A faint blue glow covered the stage as the crowd’s excitement grew. We were at Sonia’s in Cambridge, MA, listening to orchestrated intro music for the band. The stage door opened and they all walked out, led onto the stage by band mastermind, Boba Sett. A roar of happiness greeted them as the band got into their positions. They opened with a blast of the “Main Theme”.
About 3 hours earlier, I was able to sit down Chris, the lead guitarist of Galactic Empire. Out of his Dark Vader mask (yes, Dark Vader), he answered a few of my questions about the music, the future and, of course, Star Wars.
Geek Girl Authority: First off, how are you?
Chris: I’m good. I’ve been on the road for almost a month so depression is setting in but other than that I’m good to go. (Laughs)
How has the tour been so far?
Tour’s been great. Yeah, very good responses. It’s our first major U.S. tour so we’re very happy with the turnouts that we’ve had. Is it okay to say doing well financially? Yeah! We’ll go ahead and say that. (Laughs) But yeah it’s a really good experience so far.
Which is good, I wasn’t sure how big of a response you guys would get.
So far yeah I mean we did 4 dates in the States earlier this year and then we were in the UK in February, which went really well and this is going well. Yeah, reception’s good overall.
How did you all meet? And why Star Wars?
In terms of meeting – our drummer Grant and our bassist Carson run a recording studio in Lancaster, PA, where we’re from. And they’ve done a bunch of big bands there. So I, a number of years ago when I was in college, I interned at that studio. So that’s how I knew them. One of our guitarists, Mike and I are in another band outta Philly, and then CJ our third guitar player was actually a client at Grant and Carson’s studio. So that’s how everyone kinda came together.
As far as the band goes, Grant made a drum video for the “Imperial March” a few years ago. And then eventually decided he wanted to expand on that idea. And that’s when he got me involved. We knew we were gonna put guitars on it, we just didn’t really know how it was gonna pan out but we ended up just doing a one to one transcription of basically the orchestral arrangements, just redoing everything on guitars and then just adding drums to it, essentially. And then it was “Wouldn’t it be funny if we did a video, wouldn’t it be funny if we did it in costume, wouldn’t it be funny if we had a green screen”, you know what I mean? It just kinda snowballed from there. But yeah, that the condensed version of it.
What are your biggest musical or more specifically your biggest metal influences? (besides John Williams of course)
We’re all metal musicians, obviously. I don’t really know any existing metal bands sort of influenced how we interpreted the music. Just because, none of the quote unquote breakdowns that we have, we didn’t add those. Those rhythms are in the orchestral arrangements. So we’ve had some of the metal elitist people be like “Oh it’s lame you put breakdowns in it” or whatever but John Williams wrote the breakdown, you know what I mean? We just put drums to it. So, I don’t really know that there’s any specific metal band that sort of led us to how we interpreted it, it just happened to lend itself very well to heavy music. We all have our own individual influences but since we didn’t write this music, it’s not really something that we can kinda put in there.
What is your individual influence?
For me, at least in terms of what I can apply here, probably John Petrucci (of Dream Theater) is the biggest one. I can’t play anywhere close to how he can play but in terms of desired guitar tone and just kinda having everything smooth and fluid and whatever, that’s kinda my biggest influence. But yeah I mean we’re all into a variety of different bands so it’d be kinda hard to go off the list.
What’s a typical day in the studio like?
Well, we haven’t really had a typical day in the studio because the album was done over a course of a year or so. Just like any time we had free time. Between them having clients and us having day jobs. So, a typical day would usually be after work, Grant carves out a couple of hours programming his drum parts. And then once we have all the drum parts programmed, he’d learn them and then went into the studio and knocked them out in about a week. I did a lot of my parts at home and then sent them over. I spent some time in the studio, it was all really pieced together. We’re hoping the next album, we’re shooting to have a more traditional studio experience where we have a month or two to just sit down and do the whole thing. Cause we should be able to have that luxury now that we have a track record. But before it was us just doing it all ourselves.
The album sounds fantastic, so if it’s all hobbled together, that’s amazing.
(Laughs) Well thank you, I appreciate it.
What was the process in picking which songs? Because there’s a ton of them and at that time, the new film hadn’t really come out yet. So what was your process for picking between the older saga and the newer saga music?
That is all Grant. It’s all our drummer. I mean we’re all huge Star Wars nerds, obviously, but he is arguably the biggest one. I don’t think there’s been like a single Star Wars trivia that he doesn’t just get everything right. So he was the one that kinda went through it. The thing is, the first album was fairly easy, I would imagine, to pick things out because you pick all the memorable ones. There’s 11 songs on that record, I think. Maybe 8 of them are super iconic, super recognizable.
The Force Theme..
Right. And then the other ones are just kinda “Oh well this sounds cool, I’ll put that one in”. A lot of it, I think, was common sense. For lack of a better term. But things like “The Forest Battle” and more obscure ones – I think those are the ones that he knew he liked. So that’s why he went with those. I can’t totally speak to his mindset during that, obviously. But that’s what I would imagine what occurred. (Laughs)
So for the sophomore album, is it gonna be Grant that’s picking more of the songs?
Grant has already picked and pre-programmed the entire album.
Oh my goodness, okay, is there anything from the new movies?
Yes. Yup. I won’t give anything away but we do have stuff from the new movies. The cool thing about it this time is that it can go into some of the deeper cuts. It’s definitely gonna be a lot heavier than the first one. Cause there’s certain songs that lend themselves even better to the metal stylistic approach.
He spent a month in Australia on the job just doing a record. And any time he had free time, he just cranked stuff out. Songs that he thought were cool. And then by the time he was done, he just sent us the whole thing like “Hey, here’s all the pre-production”, we’re like “Alright, sick, let’s go”. (Laughs) It helps when the mastermind behind the band is a professional engineer. So he can knock things out pretty quick.
So what is your first memory of Star Wars?
Probably sitting in my Aunt and Uncle’s house. My Uncle was a huge nerd. He was into Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He’s one of those guys that could play chess without a board. Yeah, hardcore. I’m pretty sure he was the one to introduce me to Star Wars. Because he had a bunch of memorabilia hanging around and stuff. I think I watched the first movie there. It’s kind of hard to remember. All I remember – when I was a kid, I was a huge Batman fan. It was all just because he had a cape. And then when I saw Star Wars, Darth Vader also had a cape. So it was a very easy connection. My parents were like “But Darth Vader’s the bad guy” and I was like “Doesn’t matter. He has a cape. It’s fine.”
Do you have any valuable or special Star Wars memorabilia that you have?
I don’t have any movie official, cool stuff. Really all it is, since the first video came out for this band, every gift that I’ve gotten for a birthday or Christmas or any sort of event that involves presents from friends or family, it always involves something Vader related. So it’s Pez dispensers, Hot Wheels cars, I have a Vader piggy bank, I have Legos that I put together because I guess why not?
Do you have the Vader Hot Wheel where the front of the car is Vader’s face?
Yes, I have that one. It came in a set. It’s the Vader and a Jedi tunic which I guess is supposed to be Obi-wan. I guess it would’ve been weird to like, have an old man’s face be the front of the car. But yeah I don’t have any super cool like “This is from 1970-whatever”, I was born in ‘92, so I’m late to the party on literally everything.
I kind of am too. I have the VHS tapes from ‘95 before they turned into the special editions.
See, I started on the special editions. The VHS tapes that I have at home are the special edition ones. So I don’t totally despite the, I don’t know what it’s called but whatever that musical number is in Return of the Jedi, like in Jabba’s palace. I just remember as a kid being like “this song is sick”. (Laughs) And apparently that’s like a huge sin. I mean I understand why people have a problem with it, it just didn’t bother me too much. But I grew up on the prequels, so I also didn’t have the best source material. (Laughs)
Same, I mean, I loved Jar Jar cause I was a kid when he came out.
Right. I mean, he was comic relief, it was funny, he has a silly voice.
Which one’s your favorite movie?
Empire. Easily. Most compelling, best plot development, easily the most recognizable and iconic plot twist in history. I think as soon as “I am your Father” was uttered, I think every director and writer was like “Alright, we gonna try to do something like that.” No one could believe it. So Empire, I believe, is an all around. The band has generally agreed that’s the best one.
[Empire] was actually my favorite as a kid because I liked Hoth.
When I was a kid, in terms of original trilogy, I liked Jedi, just because, Luke was good at fighting now, I liked the green lightsaber, he had a black outfit.
He was mature.
Mike aka Red Guard was sitting beside us and chipped in “The Hoth Lego sets, that’s ALL I wanted as a kid. The little snow speeder was so cool.”
(Laughs) But yeah, as I grew, I came to like Empire more because of the reasons that I mentioned. There was more obvious action to me, in Jedi. I like the lightsaber battles, is really what it comes down to. Like in Episode II when every Jedi in the entire galaxy just shows up, I thought that was the coolest thing in the world when I was a kid. Like a year or two ago, I saw a gif of all of the actors just on the set in front of a green screen, just doing this [he swings his arms] to nothing. And I’m just “Oh god”. (Laughs) Just, everything was on a green screen and all the dialogue was redone in post-production. So they had to act and emote to things that weren’t there. And then re-do the performances of acting and emoting to things that weren’t there. So that was the biggest downfall of the entire thing.
Since you’ve been on tour, what has been your favorite live experience so far?
Favorite live experience, probably Atlanta. Well at least on this tour. Atlanta was our most successful show on this run. Craziest, loudest crowd. As far as overall, I’d probably say Glasgow, when we were in the UK in February. The Scots are madmen. They were very, very loud and enthused. I imagine fairly intoxicated. It was a good time.
CJ (Shadow Ranger) and Mike mention that there was a rugby team in the audience. But Chris doesn’t remember. Mike adds “They were chanting DabGuard when I walked out, you don’t remember?”
That’s awesome. So, Glasgow and Atlanta so far. (Laughs)
That’s a weird mix.
I would expect like Denmark or somewhere up there.
We haven’t been yet.
Is it this upcoming tour in the fall?
I don’t think we’re hitting Denmark. It’s a short run in October, it’s only 10 days. The UK tour was like 16 days and it was just the UK. Just England, Scotland and Wales. We’re definitely looking forward to Europe a lot. See if people get crazy over there.
I’m sure they’re gonna blow up.
I hope so.
Thank you so much to Chris, Mike and CJ for letting me sit with them during down time.
The show had opened with three other bands. One I had missed completely and one was playing their last song when we got in, a band called Without Warning. But I was able to catch the entire set of their tour partners, DangerKids. They were a band from Ohio with two singers, a female drummer and a whole lot of positivity.
After Galactic Empire took the stage, the crowd really filled in. It wasn’t so tight that people couldn’t move, there wasn’t any shoving that I noticed, which was great. And with the “Main Theme” opening, it really sends a happy vibe in the crowd. It may be a metal version, but you can’t help but smile hearing the theme.
One of the things you immediately notice, outside of the various Star Wars clothing and costumes, is children. I was in, what I’m going to lovingly call the kid pit, as I was around 5 kids and their dads. Another fan had graciously given them lightsabers for them to play with. And some pesky Jawas were delighting (and in one case scaring) the kids. It’s an all-ages concert and that’s a highlight.
The band immediately followed the “Main Theme” up with “The Imperial March” before we were entertained with their first skit. Since there’s no lyrics and they’re in character, they have to take a different approach in interacting with fans. Because of this, they all have to rely on their body movements and, most brilliantly, the skits. Done in pre-recorded audio clips, they were able to pick someone in the crowd and call them “Tim”. “Tim” would tell them how they’re doing after a few more songs. In addition, they were to show us the Death Star as a fully operational metal machine. However, it failed. The embarrassment was too much for Vader so we cut to another song.
One of the other great things was that it wasn’t just a let’s-play-Star-Wars-music-and-go-home concert. They put a lot of detail and work into the set. There’s a great light show that happens, the speakers have Aurebesh on them, they have sound effects sprinkled in. It’s full-blown entertainment. With this being their first US tour, they put a lot of effort into their costumes and set design. It will be exciting to see them out with their sophomore effort with more fun with even more Star Wars gems thrown in.
The band was able to play most of the album, ending very appropriately on “The Throne Room/End Title”. However, the people wanted more. Graciously, they came back out and played “Battle of Heroes”. I have to point this out because the drum work in this song is mind-blowing. Boba Sett really nails it. Each of them are an incredible talent, so it was great to see them, despite how tired they were, really killing it.
The interplay between the band is great as well. Since I was in front of Red Guard I saw him the most. He was able to interact with the kids a bit, giving out fist bumps, dancing with an Imperial-dressed roadie. He also rested his head on Vader’s shoulder while Vader was shredding “Across the Stars”. Bass Commander is a wild child on the stage – constantly jumping around, headbanging, looking like he was having the time of his life. I have no idea where he gets the energy. Vader was almost a beacon – not moving very much as he commanded the stage. Shadow Ranger was his companion in that, not moving from his spot as much but able to have fun with the fans. And of course Boba Sett was able to get fans to wave arms, throw up horns and clap along to particular songs.
They put on a great show. Not only is the music fantastic, it’s just a fun time for fans to rock out to some of the most iconic songs of all time. While their US tour is ended, European fans can see them this October on the European leg of the tour. Can’t see them? Their debut album is on sale for you to purchase and we’ll have to wait to see them again. Hopefully not too long, though. Thank you to the group for a fantastic night and their time. Galactic Empire rocks!
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