“The Whole Thing Was A Joke”: Shred Lord ‘Dark Vader’ On How Galactic Empire Converted Metalheads To The Dark SideWritten by Brenton Harris on October 29, 2019
A long, long time ago (2015) in a galaxy far, far away (the USA), five prog-metallers decided to dress up as the bad guys from Star Wars and shred their way through the original trilogy’s iconic soundtrack. They uploaded a video of their exploits and within months, the galaxy was converted to the ways of the darkside.
Those metallers Dark Vader (lead guitar), Boba Sett (drums), Bass Commander (bass), Shadow Ranger (guitar) and Red Guard (guitar), are collectively known as the Galactic Empire and they’re set to launch a br00tal sonic offensive on Australia next month, when they bring their renditions of John Williams’ classic score to life before thousands of cosplaying fans, ripe for conversion to the darkside.
Music Feeds were brave and fortunate enough to speak with the Sith Shred Lord, Dark Vader himself, ahead of the tour.
MF: Dark Vader, thank you for talking to Music Feeds, how’s the galaxy treating you today?
DV: No worries, man, it’s good, it’s good, it’s fine.
MF: Where in the galaxy exactly do we find you today?
DV: Pennsylvania, so not a particularly exciting part of the galaxy, but that’s where we are.
MF: Well Galactic Empire are about to make a journey to a more exciting part of the galaxy, Australia, next month. How are the preparations going and are you looking forward to the quest?
DV: I am absolutely looking forward to it. I honestly have absolutely no idea how preparations are going for it, I’ve been moving in to a new house, so I’ve just been letting everybody else do my bidding for me. I’m going to hop on a plane completely blind and trust that everything will be alright.
MF: That’s always a solid plan I reckon.
DV: Yeah right, then if something does go wrong, I can always just blame someone else.
MF: It’s very in-keeping with the Dark Vader character as well.
DV: Hahaha yes, exactly, someone else to blame.
MF: Whether they be innocent contractors or willing participants!
DV: Haha, yes that’s right!
MF: You’re making the voyage with your fellow darksiders to shred some Star Wars classics, when did you realise that John Williams’ score was the metal project you’d be looking for?
DV: I don’t know, it just sort of happened. We just thought, ‘hey this would be cool to do’ and we just sort of did it as a joke, and did the video and then the video got popular, so that’s kinda what lead us into this as a career path. The nature of cinematic scores in general, but particularly the Star Wars stuff, already lends itself well to metal arrangements, strictly because it is very powerful and dynamic and very dark at times, so the mood fits, so it didn’t really take much finessing on our behalf to make it fit the prog-metal mode.
MF: It is a really good fit, and people absolutely seem to be enjoying it. You’ve converted many to the Galactic Empire, has it become bigger than you expected?
DV: Absolutely. The whole thing was a joke, we made a video with absolutely no intention of making it a band, we just did it for fun and somehow made work. Once the first video blew up we were getting phone calls and emails from all over the place, so we thought “okay people want us to make this a thing, so now we have to try and make it a thing” to have spent the last few years, touring all over the world in different types of venues and arenas and festivals is definitely nothing that we ever would have dreamed of.
MF: I think it’s particularly interesting in a couple of ways, firstly the speed with which it blew up is not something typically experienced in 2019 and secondly that’s especially true for a project that doesn’t feature any vocals.
DV: I mean, let’s be honest, we have the benefit of a built in audience! We didn’t make the world love Star Wars, we just kind of capitalised on the fact that it does. The fact that people hear the Star Wars melodies and they immediately get stoked on it. It helps to make a good impression when there’s already proof of concept and there’s no original material!
MF: You’re starting to sound like Disney!
DV: Hahaha yes, the pressure was off from the get go!
It definitely is a unique thing, I’ll pay that, it’s a rare thing for a band to just jump onboard the international touring circuit the way, I really think the gimmick is responsible for that. There are a few examples of bands that have had that kind of quick rise, but not quite in the same way, and that’s due to how weird this band is.
MF: Fans sure do like to cosplay at your shows, is this something that you actively encourage and are there any characters you wish people would stop dressing as, or characters you wish that they would start dressing as?
DV: We absolutely encourage it, because we feel stupid enough in our own costumes, so if anyone else is willing to feel stupid with us, we absolutely encourage that. There’s not really any characters that we wish people would stop dressing as, other than perhaps sometimes a guy will turn up in one of those super-realistic Darth Vader costumes that they’ve clearly spent 10 grand on I’m up there in my grocery store, off-brand, non copyright infringing version, made up out of foam in my bassists garage, and I’m thinking to myself “come on man, you’re kind of making me look bad”. But, no, everyone is there to have fun, you cannot be part of a band like this and take yourself too seriously, because it’s already so ridiculous to begin with.
MF: Now I understand that your initial quest was ordered by Emperor Palpatine, which raises an interesting question for you, is he about to make a true return or has he been cloned?
DV: First of all, I’m not someone who gets super critical about the movies to begin with, I just like to experience them for what they are. That being said I was a little put off by the idea that he might be making a return, just because I feel like we had a really fitting end to the character, and it just seems like blatant fanservice to bring it back. If they are going to bring him back, I would hope that they had a really good reason, whether as a ghost or in the flesh. If it’s just a clone, I don’t really know how I would react to that, it wouldn’t make any sense to me!
MF: I suppose you’re in a catch 22 position here, in that in order for you to keep making music, you kind of need there to be more movies, but that means you run the risk of having to play music from bad movies.
DV: Sure yeah, well here’s the thing, I think that all the iconic scores have been done, because everyone has had 40 years to marinate on the original trilogy, so even if the scores are as good or better than the ones from the original trilogy, they’re never going to be as iconic. Or at the very least, it’ll take another 40 years for that to happen. So in terms of music that is worth touching on, we’ve kind of got all of it. The cool thing about this band is that it’s just a cool joke thing anyway, so no one will care if we play the same setlist for our whole career. Having said that I would much rather have a movie that I enjoy!
MF: You’re kind of like one of those first four Metallica album cover bands, the first force perhaps.
DV: Yeah haha!
MF: Given the chance to play creator rather than destroyer in the Star Wars sandbox, what choices would you make or would you have made to improve the newer films?
DV: No I don’t think so, there wasn’t really anything that stood out to me as not making sense or that incensed me that much. Having said that it is a while since I watched any of the newer films. People complained about Snoke, coz he lacked a back story, but it didn’t really bother me so much. I’m pretty satisfied so far.
MF: That’s nice to hear from a happy Star Wars fan! I don’t speak to many of them these days!
MF: What may I ask is your favourite Galactic Empire tune?
DV: The Cantina Song, because everyone can dance, everyone has a great time, so that’s the one.
MF: I’ll make sure I do exactly that at your Melbourne show! Before I let you go do you have anything else you’d like to share with the people of Australia?
DV: Just that I hope that everyone that comes out to the shows has a really good time.
MF: Awesome, I’m sure they will. Thanks for talking to Music Feeds, Dark Vader, I’ll see you in Melbourne and may the force be with you.
DV: And also with you man, see you in Melbourne.
Galactic empire 2019 Australian Tour Dates
TICKETS ON SALE NOW
Friday, 1st November
Supanova, Adelaide Showground
Sunday, 3rd November
170 Russell, Melbourne
Tickets: Destroy All Lines
Tuesday, 5th November
The Basement, Canberra
Tickets: Destroy All Lines
Thursday, 7th November
Factory Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: Destroy All Lines
Friday, 8th November
Supanova, BCEC Brisbane
Sunday, 10th November
Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast
Tickets: Destroy All Lines