If you start a band with the explicit intention of getting famous, touring the world, buying a private jet and drinking champagne with a bunch of Playboy Bunnies in your hot tub, you, my friend, have just purchased a one-way ticket to Pathetic Town. Population: you and Bret Michaels.
If, however, you start a band first and foremost because you and your buddies love playing music, and you don’t want to get bogged down by worrying about making it big or getting rich, then you’re on the right track. You’re going about it the right way. That’s why metal band In the Kingdom of Nightmares is making it work, playing shows (like next Friday’s concert at 103 Ultra Lounge in Orono) and recording music right here in Maine.
In the Kingdom of Nightmares formed in early 2008, after Milo-based metal band Tomorrow’s Tragedy broke up. Tomorrow’s Tragedy featured current ITKON members Miles McIntire (guitar), Gary Porter (drums) and TJ Washburn (vocals). The three recruited guitarist Chris Manos and bassist Anthony Matarazzo to round out the lineup, and then got right to work.
“We went into this band getting back to the original reason that we all started playing music: to have fun and not worry so much about touring,” said Washburn. “The old band had gotten pretty serious. We were burned out. We just wanted to play music, and whatever else happens, happens.”
With a new outlook, ITKON found it much easier to write new songs. They were all just different enough to complement each other, but similar enough that they all had common ground. That common ground is heavy, heavy, heavy metal — though tastes range from Matarazzo’s love of progressive metal to McIntire’s influence from newer bands, like Parkway Drive and I Killed the Prom Queen.
“There’s that old cliche that when a band breaks up, it’s for ‘creative differences,’” said Washburn. “Yeah, well, that’s true! There are five totally distinct personalities in this band. We all have different ideas, and yet what’s cool about us in particular is that we all kind of end up on the same page, eventually. We have a really good way of working together.”
Nice guys that play brutal metal. It seems like an oxymoron, but as any metal fan will tell you, the metal community in Maine is as warm and welcoming as could be. More so than many scenes, metal fans love their music and want to rock out. They come out for shows because they enjoy it — not because they want to see and be seen.
“I think we’re really lucky to be able to form these personal relationships with our fans,” said Washburn. “We have a really loyal fan base. I hear from bands that tour from other parts of the country all the time that Maine metal fans are really warm and fun. They stay for the entire show and watch all the bands, and don’t just show up for the one band they like and then leave. That’s a very Maine thing.”
ITKON has played for crowds of just a handful and for more than 5,000 people last summer at the Oxxfest 2009 concert, which featured more than 20 New England metal bands playing for an adoring crowd. The show the band will play on Friday, Oct. 30, at 103 Ultra Lounge falls somewhere in between those two extremes. Washburn loves both kind of audiences equally, though.
“They’re both cool, of course,” said Washburn. “Smaller crowds are great because they’re right there, pushed up against the stage and reaching up and singing along. But man, a big crowd is great too, when there are hundreds of people screaming. It’s a great feeling to see 5,000 people freak out while you’re playing.”
ITKON plan to start recording a new full-length album next month, the follow-up to their debut EP, “As Daylight Turns to Dusk,” released in December 2008. The band also plans to release a DVD of its live shows around the same times its new album comes out. Technology is a friend to modern bands — though it doesn’t take the place of the tried and true method of pounding the pavement and meeting people face to face.
“I think in some ways all this new, free technology has made some bands a little complacent,” said Washburn. “It’s leveled the playing field, so bands that don’t have a lot of money still can get heard. But I think since that’s happened, it means you have to work that much harder to stand out from everyone, and to get your name out there. I think a lot of bands don’t realize that. They just make a MySpace and think that’s enough. You still have to put up fliers and sell tickets. That’s never going to change.”
In the Kingdom of Nightmares will play with Wolves Among Sleep, Savior: Serpent, The Divine Ruin, A Constant Battle and Fight For Blood, starting at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, at 103 Ultra Lounge in Orono. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door, and door tickets will be $2 off if you bring two cans of food to be donated to area food banks. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/inthekingdomofnightmares.