Interview: Poltergeist (CAN)

We’re very happy to present you an interview with Kalen Baker from Poltergeist. Two years ago, I talked to him about Iron Maiden lyrics and Metal lyrics in general, you can read his statements here (in English). As you can see, Kalen is a smart guy who knows A LOT about music. I predict that this will not be our last chat for our blog. Enjoy reading.

Hi Kalen, how are you doing?

I’m doing fine. This pandemic has made things difficult especially as a musician but I’m managing. I’m grateful to have a job that’s been relatively unaffected by the state of things so I’ve still been able to work safely in a socially distanced office and listen to music alone. 

What was the last record you listened to before this interview?

Wytch Hazel‘s new album III: Pentecost! It’s such an amazing album and is an impressive follow up to II: Sojourn. The songs are well-written, the production is rich and beautiful and the whole thing flows together so nicely as an LP. Stoked that my girlfriend snagged me a copy of the cloudy purple/transparent vinyl for my birthday. 

And what was the last record you bought?

The last few records I bought were Frost and Fire by Cirith Ungol, Mind Freeze by Haunt, and the early Minor Threat demo. 

Are you a fervent vinyl collector?  

Totally! Vinyl has always been super important to me so I like to try and get most of my favorites on wax. Although, the prices of vinyl have gotten really high especially after shipping and currency conversion so I buy cassettes more than anything these days. Which is great because tapes are equally as important to me and make it really easy to support independent bands.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your current project Poltergeist? How would you define your musical style? Are there any epic elements in your songs?

Poltergeist is a project I started when I was living in a small city to work my first radio job (I’m a writer/producer). Initially, I was just recording song ideas and was liking how they were coming together so I released the Cold Breath demo with little to no expectations. I was surprised to see a pretty positive response from a small number of people so I worked harder putting together the Yesterday Fades demo and that one’s gotten even more attention. I mostly consider Poltergeist to fit in with the Post-Punk genre with bands like Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, and The Chameleons. But Metal was my first love so there’s a very strong element of Traditional Metal, NWOBHM, and a bit of Black Metal. Anything from Mercyful Fate to Rotting Christ. The third genre that plays a big role in my sound is Shoegaze, but that’s a bit more subtle than the Post-Punk and Heavy Metal influence. I think there are a fair bit of epic elements in my songs. That’s mostly apparent in the guitar harmonies and a few of the riffs. I try to bring a bit of that Sword and Sorcery vibe into the lyrics and imagery through more of a gothic lens. I’m really inspired by writers like Tolkien and Michael Moorcock which are big staples of the Epic Metal genre. The song “Glory and Doom” from Cold Breath is directly inspired by Moorcock’s second book in the Eternal Champion series. 

I think there are a fair bit of epic elements in my songs. That’s mostly apparent in the guitar harmonies and a few of the riffs.

Kalen Baker

What are your future plans with Poltergeist? Do you think this project will be your most important one? 

I’ve been spending the past year improving my music production/mixing skills while writing music for the next demo. I’m about halfway into recording and it’s already sounding so much better than the first few demos. I plan to just try to build up a following and eventually try to get live members together to bring these songs to the stage. I have big plans for the future and hope for Poltergeist to really take off. I’d love to be able to tour Europe and open for bands I look up to. 

Sounds great! Another topic: Is Whyte Diamond still alive? I bought Scream in the Dark two years ago – and I thought: Well, sounds promising, the longplayer debut will be fun..

Unfortunately, Whyte Diamond is on an indefinite hiatus. I had to move away from my home city for work and we had already been having a hard time finding a permanent drummer for months at that point. I was 17/18 when we did that EP and I’ve always been disappointed I didn’t get the chance to fully realize Whyte Diamond‘s potential. We had been working on some new songs that were very Epic Metal inspired. I hope to one day revive the project even just to put out those songs. However, I consider Poltergeist to be a spiritual successor to Whyte Diamond. I carry a lot of the same NWOBHM and Trad Metal influences from the Diamond days and try to make sure some of that ends up in Poltergeist music. In fact, the song “Will We Ever Live Again” from the Cold Breath demo was supposed to be a Whyte Diamond song! My hope is that fans of Whyte Diamond can see the similarities and still appreciate Poltergeist

You’ve told me that you’re a big fan of Atlantean Kodex, one of my favourite bands of all time. What’s according to you special about this band? Can you point out a favourite song or record?

Yeah, Atlantean Kodex is rad! I think they make some very passionate, thought-provoking and cathartic music. The lyrics are poetically mythical and everything together just has a level of sophistication that’s uncommon in Heavy Metal. It’s very “highbrow” metal. My favorite song by them is “Twelve Stars and an Azure Gown” but I think The Course of Empire is their greatest piece of work. 

Yeah, Atlantean Kodex is rad! I think they make some very passionate, thought-provoking and cathartic music.

No doubt about it!

Are there any other Epic Metal bands that you appreciate? On Instagram, I noticed a Cirith Ungol poster on your wall…

Like I mentioned earlier, I really enjoy Epic Metal. Bathory is probably the pinnacle of that style of Metal for me. Cirith Ungol, Medieval Steel and Manilla Road are also classic bands that I love. I also really like a lot of the newer bands that are perfecting that sound today; Gatekeeper, Atlantean Kodex, Eternal Champion, Smoulder… I have a Spotify playlist called “Epicus Heavycus Metallicas” with a bunch of tracks I enjoy from this style!  

What do you generally think about the Canadian Metal scene? In my opinion, the creativity of young acts is mind-blowing. 

The Canadian Metal scene is a hotbed for great new bands right now and I’ve been trying hard to break into the scene for years. There’s a lot of bands playing old school styles of Metal and doing a great job of it. Would love to see more festivals that focus on the New Wave of Traditional Metal and its adjacent genres. These bands need to be seen on the same bill together. Cauldron and Spell have been big influences since I was a teenager. When I was doing Whyte Diamond, Skull Fist and Riot City were also inspiring for my sound back then. Right now I’ve been really into Smoulder, Hrom and Wormwitch as well. It makes me happy to see bands from Canada making a name for themselves and bringing more attention to our music scene. 

What’s your favourite band of all time, regardless of genre?

It’s hard to pick one band as a favorite but I’d say Bathory because they’ve always stuck with me since I was a young teen. Their sound and influence encompass a variety of different sounds and feelings so they’re really enjoyable no matter what mood I’m in. I even have a tattoo of the hand with the devil horns that can be seen on their early albums and all the vinyl re-issues!   

Kalen, thanks a lot for your time. Stay healthy!

Thank you for featuring me! You stay safe, too! 

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