Metal On Loud Magazine had a huge pleasure to talk with the founder and guitarist of fantastic power metal band from Florida Seven Kingdoms Camden Cruz. The band releases their Decennium album on May, 5th to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the band.
Hi Camden! How things are going in the Seven Kingdoms world?
Thank you! All is good! We just did the deal with Napalm Records, I am getting ready to get the band on a road with Evergrey, the tour is coming up soon, it starts on May, 6th…Honestly, we have been so busy, I haven’t had a second like to sit down and look at it…because the stuff with Napalm happened, I was on tour with Pensilvation, I have come home a month ago or so, so had to make everything ready with Evergrey as a tour manager…
So, a lot of happenings! Its very nice! By the way, congratulations with the Napalm Records deal!
Oh, thank you very much!
How is progressive/power metal scene doing nowadays in US, in your opinion? What do you, as musicians, do to be unique, different from other bands?
You know, the whole prog/power scene over here, in US, is pretty strong. I think the main thing, the prog/power people have done - they kept the forefront for the prog/power scene, for the minds who are over there, and it is a big thing to the United States – the festival. So, because of that, a lot of bands get to play there, get to tour around, it brings to people an extra opportunity…So, I think that because of this and other things, it’s good as it has ever been. The size of the crowd on the ground is constantly growing, and as far as what we can do is a kind of stay. It’s funny, I had the interview this morning, and it was one of the questions, and my thought was that us specifically is that …there’s not a lot of new, brand new power metal being, I hope it makes Seven Kingdoms very rare in the modern music industry, the power metal scene started to get saturated, therefore, just because we are continuing go in this direction makes us unique. There are no someone else new, there are forefathers…
Talking about forefathers, who are your personal idols? If you have…
Blind Guardian is an inspiration for all of us, and we got lucky to tour with them, the same with Stratovarius…Our drummer is heavily influenced by Halloween, Sabrine has a hardcore country/bluegrass background which is kindly unique. Kevin and I are power metal people, Aaron, he pulls inspiration from everything.
I am curious how you would characterize your music in a few words? Imagine, you have a task to make a slogan for the band, what would it be?
If in three words, I would say: thick, fast and catchy.
Ahhhh, exactly! This is what exactly about your music. Very nice! Please, tell Metal On Loud Magazine readers more about the process of songwriting. What is contribution of all band members into it?
Usually it starts with myself and Kevin. Usually all starts with guitar, vocal line melody, which is made on the guitar first. Usually it starts with some sort of riff…We get there, Kevin and I. Actually there are two of us. Then we bring this riff kit, Keith, his brother, starts putting drumming over it. So, he gives a touch, and when this happens, we work on keys and bass line, rhythm tone and all that stuff. It’s interesting how Aaron writes the bass line, it’s not like playing a guitar, it’s not super easy to write bass all the time. Basically, we make a demo and bring to Brian to write lyrics. Sometimes he will already have a story written, so he trims it a bit to make it a song…
What are your preferences in music instruments? What gears do you choose to play your music?
Kevin and I have endorsement with Caparison guitars from Japan, also EVH amps, EVH 5153, brand new. So, Caparison and the EVH - this is what on the guitars side. Also we have endorsement with Bare Knuckles pickups. All our guitars have Bare Knuckles pickups. It’s funny, I haven’t announced it yet, but Sabrine has got new endorsement with Audio Technica, so she’s got the new mic. Aaron is playing Howard basses. Keith plays Yamaha Custom, he uses all cymbal he can afford (laughs), hopefully we will be working on his endorsements. So, we are basically not bad withal the endorsement starts.
Your initial lineup had some changes through the years. How were you choosing musicians for your band? What were the main criteria? Are you happy with the current lineup? Who is the most valuable member, besides you...?
Basically we started with the friend of mine playing a bass and Brian as lead vocals who still writes lyrics for us. Please, keep in mind that we were in a high school, the kids who started a project, so…People liked that project, were requesting us to play live. We kind of evolved into a real band by the second album. So, there were made first lineup changes. You know, we were friends at that time, some just didn’t want to pursue that time needed to do it right, so, they a kind of stepped aside for other people. So this is the actual mix right now, the band members. A lot of that were friend relationship, then Kevin and I were seeking for people who were listening to and playing to power metal. That’s how we found Aaron. People who were familiar with music we were playing. We never had drastic member changes. We were a kind of lucky, everything fell on its place.
So, there were no tensions among the members…
No, no, I am still in contact with ex-members of the band.
Your fans know that your music is heavily influenced by George R.R. Martin novels. So, Game of Thrones series were named after you, lol, joking! Ok, seriously, why did particularly fantasy genre become your inspiration? Can listeners hear this influence in all your albums?
Oh; Game of Thrones…Originally it started with what Brian did. Brian brought that cool idea – touch of the novels, fantasy literature for inspiration. I got familiar with it after he mentioned it to me. Obviously, it was a good stuff. It’s interesting that the first album was released before they launched the series on TV. All we had to admit that it would be the theme where it is now. It is very cool for people who are familiar with rock music, you tell them: do you know Game of Thrones? Check my band out! It’s a kind of a good start of a conversation…
By the way, have you ever tried yourselves in a game development industry? I know that some bands are looking for contacts in a game or TV industries to offer their music as soundtracks to games and TV shows…I think your music perfectly matches this kind of stuff!
Oh, definitely, we should, I hope Napalm will help us with this stuff.
I wish you good luck in this field! Looking forward to hearing one of your tracks somewhere in an Xbox game.
What are your literature preferences? Poetry? I know that you are composing, not writing lyrics…
Honestly…Personally I am so busy, so I barely read what is not on my phone – contracts, offer sheets (laughs) in the last six months. Sabrine reads and she is a huge fan of books like Game of Thrones. Kevin reads novels, stories, I think he is the biggest reader of all of us.
Talking about not fiction, but real life, there are so many changes in the United States…Have you ever had temptation to write songs about real life, politics, for example?
Sure! We had a couple of songs about real life, political, one of them is on the last record, when everyone seemed to be politically tensed. The Son of Hollow on the Decennium. And The Underwoods too..
Let's talk about your newest album...Can we call it conceptual? How does it differ from your previous works? Decennium seems to be softer than previous releases.. .Or, is it only my opinion?
It’s not necessarily a concept. The whole album title – Decennium – it’s about us being 10 years as a band. So we added 10 songs to it, 10 years…You know, what we planned, as it’s not necessarily decline, but there is no new power metal, it is hard to find a parallel in the industry, brand new, high quality power metal music, so we wanted to write a record which sounded as all the best you can find in this music genre. That is why each song is pretty fast, there are no slow songs on the album. The whole album sounds as what we are and what hooked us in this genre – full throttle power metal, you know what I mean. It is not that fantastic, it is good in its novelty. Real, true power.
What are the key songs in the tracklist of the album? Which ones can become metal hits, in your opinion?
It’s funny we haven’t played shows yet with Decennium material yet, waiting for the release party. We were playing Undying, well, actually we were playing four songs, but it was before the album was out. But it was in tiny weekend tour, here, in Florida. These were absolutely fresh show, without pre recordings, but you know, the reaction was great for the newer stuff for sure. I know for sure that at a live setting even a small overall tempo change to the faster one as it is in the new album are gonna be good as it seems that people are enjoying our faster songs, or the heaviest on our live settings.
And your personal favourite songs from the new album?
I like them all, but I think that Castle In The Snow will be powerful live, and I think that Kingslayer will be powerful too. We will see at the live shows this weekend.
Yes, we will see if your opinion coincides with your fans’ one.
Yes, it will be very interesting. You know, we made a crowdfunding and made a small independent release, and then Napalm came along, we just finished giving out kickstarter CDs, the official release will be on May, 5th, so we are really curious how people will react.
About crowdfunding campaigns…You announced a crowdfunding campaign to produce Decennium. We see that the bands are doing it here/there... What's going on in the music industry? Do you think that it's a future of the industry - to make fans help to produce albums?
Honestly, I believe that’s the future, I mean, especially for younger growing groups, artists. You take someone like Kamelot, I really don’t know what their financial situation is, but you take Kamelot and Seven Kingdoms, for example, for sure it will be more beneficial for a young and upcoming band. In our case, for instance, the next two albums will be crowdfunds for sure in conjunction with Napalm, as I set it up like that. So, we are gonna do crowdfunding for the next two records.
You are hitting the road for the North American tour with Evergrey? How was this choice of touring partner made?
Actually, I did, as the booking agent. You know, in 2015 I started off as a tour manager for everybody in the United States, as an Everglades tour manager, I liked them, they liked me, the guys really worked well, then Strassford in a year, had asked me to book, I said, yeah, sure, then I booked a few deeds with Pennisalvation, this was recent, abs this will be, I guess, my first cool booking, totally, also Infinity concerts, Basically, everyone is coming here; as a booking agent you need to build a roster, I was taking a lesson with the Evergrey voyager last time, and I was thinking, this is very prog, I saw that they drew the same crowd, not exactly the same, but the same kind of people. As soon as Evergrey are on the prog side, I wanted to add something contrastic.I said: wait a minute, we just wrote a record, and it’s full power metal, I can make a full prog/power tour of this. And it worked out like that. I think it’s a strong package: will have Ascendia as a power/prog start,Need is very prog, then middle -Seven Kingdoms – pure power metal, then you have a class act – Evergrey.
So, it will be like a mini prog/power festival…
Yeah, 60 percent of prog and rest power metal show.
What bands would you love to tour in future?
To be completely honest, we had massive tours even in Europe with Oliva’s Pain and Stratovarius, what I would like to try is something new, also to try to get a deal something like a .work tour, as I think it will get us to the new level, to the new crowd, so, I think instead of touring with a mindlike bands, we should try to stretch our fan base, appeal to a different audience.
So, its your strategy for now.
Yeah, for the next five-six years. We are still in a kind of a grow period…Maybe, in five years we’ll have a talk, and I will say: hey, we can headline now! (laughs) It’s a kind of a goal.
I wish you to become a headliner! Any plans for Europe?
Yes, sure! Next year. As soon as I come back home after the Evergrey tour, I will be working on planning next shows, including next year tours, and, of course, a European tour. We need to find something nice, I hope Napalm will help us to figure out.
Looking forward to seeing you next year in Europe! You have mentioned your strategy for the next five years, but, imagine yourself in thirty years… What would you want your grandchildren to say to their friends about you as a musician?
I hope in thirty years my grandchildren will tell me: you did a good job raising mummy and daddy, first, second, I imagine if had grandchildren, the band would be successful after I got to continue the next thirty years, continue growth, got paid for doing what we love, it would be the goal.
The banal, but necessary question (laughs): what should we expect from the band in the nearest future, besides touring? Any new material in your pocket?
We haven’t actually written a first thing for the next record yet. Honestly, we were so busy for the last few months, we had to do shipment by hand literally for our last kickstarters, one after another, 600 packages for each, we are self managed…it’s a lot of stuff, you know…We are shooting a video for Kingslayer this Sunday, we’ve got a tour coming up…We may be releasing our catalogue in vinyl, which will be announced, possibly, after we get home from the tour, I guess we might do it while its hot, as vinyl is moving right now. And after that just start planning for the next year, really…
I wish you good luck in all your endevours! And my last question: what would you wish to the readers of Metal On Loud Magazine? We have a lot of metal fans as well as young musicians among our readers…
I consider myself a young band, not so different than them…so, my wish would be: keep doing it, keep going for your goal. Thank you for support of the band, I hope you will be always doing it.