by Sara McCarthy
– Senior Photojournalist –
Battlecross, out of Michigan, delivers their version of hardcore thrash, laced with screaming guitars and intense vocals with a determination and energy that most bands would envy. They are touring as the opening act for the Metal Hammer Trespass America Festival, headlined by Five Finger Death Punch. With a reputation as hardworking musicians, Battlecross has been blowing audiences away and raking in new fans at every venue they pay. Recently, Hiran Deraniyagala, guitarist for Battlecross was kind enough to answer some questions regarding the band.
Hardrock Haven: First I just want to say that you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today. Pursuit of Honor is Battlecross’ debut album, it has been well received and garnering great reviews, considering a large amount of the material was written prior to Kyle and Don joining the band, how have their talents affected the songs?
Deraniyagala: Definitely, the band’s been together since 2007, we had a different line-up and when Don joined the band in 2008, he added a lot to the song writing and he actually helped write “Man of Stone” and also added in his whole take on bass on the other songs adding a whole other level to it. Then we had our original singer who left in 2010 and then Kyle joined the band in 2010, he joined right about the time the original singer left, and when he joined he actually only got to re-write one song on the album because all the other songs were written by the previous singer. Even singing our old singer’s material, he still took it to another level with his voice and also just the live performance and stage presence that he adds to the rest of us. Definitely when those guys stepped in it added another level to the band, which was really for the better.
Hardrock Haven: Now that you have found your missing links in Kyle and Don, how will/has the writing process change?
Deraniyagala: It’s changed because now we almost have a third person writing songs, where is me and Tony did, now we have our bass player writing and it’s almost like you have three guitarists writing songs which is cool. Kyle has a very different and unique style to his vocals, so I think you are going to see an evolution in what were writing now and going upwards. Were working on new material now already and it’s sounding pretty good. We haven’t heard Kyle doing any vocals through it yet, we normally kinda wait until the song is done before he steps in, so he doesn’t go do a part and then we change something. We have a really good feeling about the material were working on, there’s not a lot of stuff that is done, we’re still focusing on Pursuit of Honor, as far as touring and all that stuff, but we are working on new material and its definitely an evolved step of Battlecross.
Hardrock Haven: The band’s sound is a diverse mix of different rock genres, death metal, thrash, what bands have some of the major influences for your music?
Deraniyagala: I think overall I would say Pantera, Slayer and Metallica are the big three that are huge influences for maybe all of us. Once again, we all come from different influences individually, Tony and me were very into the old-school stuff, and he’s into a unique style of bass playing. He is actually very highly influenced off of video game music. He would play video games as a kid and listen to the theme songs and hear the bass lines, grab his bass and actually try to play that. Ya know Primus and Gwar for him, so he has a different style than Mike, who is somewhat old school but also somewhat influenced by some of the new metalcore bands out there like Black Dahlia Murder but he’s also into Sepultura. Kyle’s very into Black Dahlia Murder also, Cannibal Corpse was one of his big influences. So we’re really just all over the place, we all have our different metal influences, but that all comes together and creates our own sound. When we write, we don’t necessarily think, oh we need to write this way or this songs needs to sound this way. It’s building off of a guitar riff and then going from there and seeing how the song feels and if it feels right for the song.
Hardrock Haven: You’ve been signed by Metal Blade and since have a pretty heavy tour schedule set up for 2012. Since being signed, has the band’s workload increased dramatically?
Deraniyagala: Our work ethic has definitely been pushed harder, and we’ve been working harder because just definitely because we have been out on the road, traveling and we’ve had to make a lot more sacrifices than normal. We’ve always been a hard working band and we’ve always been very professional when we do things. So I would say now it’s the grueling of touring and on top of touring, staying on top of social media and all that other stuff that comes with it. Ya know meeting the fans and putting a lot more work as far as everything in general, everything you do for the band beyond playing, it’s beyond that too. For us, it’s keeps us busy and some of us have had to sacrifice jobs in order to go out and tour. We know what it takes and were all just very hungry to do this and go as far as we can with it and do whatever it takes to get there, to be successful.
Hardrock Haven: I’ve read elsewhere that you have a day job in an industry very different than music. Do you still have the job and if so, how does your tour schedule affect your availability?
Deraniyagala: I’ve been working for a company for five years and there were some tour schedules that they definitely worked out for me to be able to leave and come back. At one point there just wasn’t enough time for me to take off, the company wouldn’t allow me to take that much time off, so I actually had to quit my job, but I was able to work something out, so now I come back as a temporary employee, so now I just work as a temporary employee in-between tours at the same job. It was nice to be able to keep my job but I’m not technically an employee of the company anymore, just a hired contracted employee. I found a way to make it work because I definitely need the money when I’m of tour.
Hardrock Haven: That’s really cool that your employer was willing to work with in that regard.
Deraniyagala: It is really cool that they are so supportive and they are one of those companies that support their employees perusing their dreams and that sort of thing. It wasn’t just me being a regular employee and me just doing my job, it’s not like I slacked off or anything, I put in my work at my job and showed that I’m a good worker. What I do outside of Battlecross, I work just as hard as I do in my regular job and Battlecross. Basically, I have been able to prove myself as a good employee and a good person to keep around. It’s good to have that positive attitude and it opens more doors and opportunities for you.
Hardrock Haven: You are currently on the “Trespass America” tour headlined by Five Finger Death Punch and features many other bands. You’ve been out for about 3 or 4 weeks now, how is tour going?
Deraniyagala: The tour’s been great, we’ve been having a lot of fun with the Killswitch and Five Finger guys and all the bands have been very cool. The crowds locally have been pretty good from when the doors open so its been a great exposure to us, playing in front of different crowd every day. There are people who surprisingly do know us. Playing these cities and seeing people singing your songs that you’ve never met before that’s a really cool thing. It’s a whole new experience for us and we’re taking it very seriously and professionally, but also having fun with it. The response from the crowd has been good so far, and we’ve been throwing in a Pantera cover in there that grabs the audience’s attention right off the bat. That helps, when you’re the opening band, you have twenty minutes, you only get so much time to make your point to the crowd. We pretty much tried to fill in that short amount of time our best songs and throw in a cover just to get people to know, “Oh hey, they covered this song and it was awesome!” Try to get them warmed up and then they’re thrashing out to your last two songs and then your twenty minutes is up, next thing you know you’re off the stage and they’re wanting more, but it’s good to leave them hanging, wanting more. It’s been great meeting all the new fans, coming to the merch booth, signing stuff; take pictures and all that, so it’s been great.
Hardrock Haven: What bands would you be willing to go out and purchase tickets to see in these tough economic times?
Deraniyagala: Any band that I support, I will spend my money towards. I still go and pay for shows and buy shirts and everything. I’m a firm believer in supporting the artist and the band even the local bands. I have local bands that I love and I still go to their shows around here. Like I said I have a firm belief in supporting the bands, the fans, and the scene, it is what keeps bands going for the audience.
Hardrock Haven: What is next for Battlecross? You mentioned that you are writing some new songs, and the rest of this year will be spent touring, do you have a plan for when to go back into the studio?
Deraniyagala: No immediate plans, like I said we are still working on new material, we’ve got the Mayhem Fest Cruise coming up in December, and another possible tour in the fall, but nothing is official yet, basically we’re just going to kinda ride this out now and then hopefully by next summer we will have something ready to go and new material done. Overall the plan is just to stay busy on the record.
Hardrock Haven: Hiran, once again I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me today and answer my questions.
Deraniyagala: Well absolutely, I appreciate the time you took to interview me, it’s just as much an opportunity for you guys to interview us and get out in the press so we really do appreciate it.
Official website: http://battlecrossmetal.com/