An Emerald Flame – Exclusive interview with Interloper

Left to right: Andrew Virrueta (Guitars/Vocals), Miles Dmitri Baker (Lead Guitar), Aaron Stechauner (Drums).

It’s rare Nuclear Blast sign a band that have no prior discography on other record labels or a growing buzz in the mainstream metal magazines. The home of Machine Head, Sepultura and Meshuggah is more likely to snap up legendary artists in search of a new deal, such as Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, rather than a debut artist. But Interloper are not just any band. Guitarist, Miles Dmitri Baker, and drummer, Aaron Stechauner, earned their stripes in technical deathcore stars, Rings of Saturn, and have been building up the Interloper fanbase on social media and on the touring circuit for the last four years. Now with the world’s premier metal label behind them, they’re ready to storm the globe.

The LA trio will remind you of Cynic in 1993 with their prior experience in an established band bringing them to the attention of a wider audience before they even release their debut album. Like the legendary prog-metallers, they also operate in the same experimental sphere where death metal and mind-blowing technical instrumentation merge with trippy elements and enchanting melodies that would not sound out of place on an intergalactic jazz-fusion record. But if that reads like a recipe for self-indulgence, think again. First and foremost, Interloper emphasise the importance of song writing and letting their compositions breathe. They also call their music ‘progressive heavy metal’ with an emphasis on the anachronistic last two words. 

Completing the trio is singer and guitarist, Andrew Virrueta, who is just as much of a guitar prodigy as Baker. But Virrueta has a unique vocal style that mixes muscular fry screams with the hazy harmonies of King’s X. At times ghost-like and haunting, his voice anchors the technical aspects of the music in the type of gravitational melody few artists can muster with such ease. The band demonstrated this unique approach to metal on their debut EP in January 2021. We awarded A Revenant Legacy a glowing 9 out of 10 review and observed how ‘At first, you’ll question if his vocals are powerful enough for the exquisite rhythms and imperious drums. By the end of the record, you’ll wonder how this band could exist without his [Virrueta’s] hypnotic dual harmonies.’ This is quite an achievement when you consider the band started out with vocalist, Mike Semesky of Ordinance, behind the microphone until his departure in 2020.

With their debut album, Search Party, due to hit the shelves on 11 June 2021, we contacted guitarist, Miles Dmitri Baker, to find out more about the emerging phenomenon that is Interloper…

Above: Miles Dmitri Baker.

Interloper identify as a progressive heavy metal band, with a deliberate emphasis on the old ‘heavy metal’ tag instead of the modern catch-all term of ‘metal’. Heavy metal can mean Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween and Manowar, but it can also mean the sleaze of Sunset Strip in the 1980s. What does the term ‘heavy metal’ mean to you, and why do you identify with it?

Haha, the sleaze of the Sunset Strip. What a good description. Well, heavy metal means anything heavy to me and of course there are the typical things that accompany it, such as distorted guitars, fast drums, and harsher/grittier vocals. Overall, though, I would say heavy metal is any music featuring those things, and music that makes you want to jump out of your seat and do something.

I identify with metal because I love the instruments and the feeling it creates. I also feel like it’s a pretty cool community overall. Something I feel I fit into pretty naturally over the years, and that is why I gravitated towards it.

Let’s talk about your debut EP released on Nuclear Blast in January this year. We understand you wrote most of the songs on A Revenant Legacy five years ago and had already emancipated beyond this style of music by the time you finished composing your unreleased debut album. The staff at Scream Blast Repeat love your latest EP, not least for its mixture of chugging metal riffs and mellifluous melodies. How can we expect your upcoming album, Search Party, to differ from A Revenant Legacy?

Well, thank you! I am glad you love it. I wouldn’t say the songs are quite five years old, but they’re definitely in the three-to-four-year-old range. I think Search Party differs from A Revenant Legacy quite a bit. We developed A LOT as individuals, musicians, writers, and as a group. We honed in on the things we love, don’t love, and what we do best together as a group, and that collective effort is what created Search Party. These songs in my opinion are a lot stronger, cohesive, catchy, dynamic, and developed than what was on ARL. That is all what should be expected and what any artist strives for in my opinion. We grew a lot, and I feel that shows in the music.

You and Interloper drummer, Aaron Stechauner, were members of Rings of Saturn from 2014-2018. How important was this in bringing Interloper to the attention of the A&R department at Nuclear Blast?

I would say that had a pretty big impact on bringing us on the radar. We worked pretty closely with NB during our time in Rings of Saturn. We developed relationships and showed our work ethic. I think that was definitely something that contributed to us landing with NB for Interloper.

Continuing this topic, explain the moment when you got the call from the legendary Monte Connor to offer Interloper a deal at Nuclear Blast.

Haha, you know what is funny, I don’t think I or anyone in the band has ever spoken with Monte. We went through Gerardo and Tommy for the most part. I have heard great things about Monte though!

Your guitar playthroughs on YouTube showcase the highest standard of technical attainment, yet Interloper are clear that the main emphasis is on song-writing and simpler song structures. Why did you move away from setting new shred records and sweep-picking your way through every song?

Absolutely man. The song is always number one. As the song writing has become more and more important and focused, it led to us staying away from just ripping constantly. Don’t get me wrong there is some ridiculously difficult stuff on this record. Guitar solos and wild riffs/licks are no stranger on this record. They’re just there in a more fitting and tasteful way. They compliment the song instead of being the forefront of it.

The modern metal band needs to diversify their income streams to make a living out of music. The best example is Periphery, where Misha Mansoor has a pedal effects company and a stake in GetGood drums. What other income streams do you have, and how much of this revenue do you derive from teaching guitar online?

It is just the band, teaching, and income from companies I am endorsed by. It’s mostly teaching since we have not been able to tour with Loper or do any session work with other bands we tour with for any sort of income because of Covid.

Aaron Stechauner (left) and Miles Dmitri Baker (centre) both played on the Rings of Saturn 2017 album, Ultu Ulla.

Let’s talk influences. We hear Cynic, Dream Theater, King’s X and Meshuggah in your music. Which artists inspired the music of Interloper?

Well, we all come from a very diverse musical background. There are some bands we all love, two of us love, or only one of us loves, haha. For me, personally, my biggest influences were Children of Bodom, Nightwish, Wintersun, In Flames and Arsis. There are a lot of new bands I am into nowadays, though. Been into a lot of other styles of music lately. Big into the new Marilyn Manson record, End, The Struts, and some more electronic type music like Black Tiger Sex Machine!

It’s a bedazzling experience watching you and Andrew Virrueta do a guitar playthrough of the song ‘Drift’ from your upcoming debut album. But one must spare a thought for your drummer, Aaron. How many times does he come back to you upon receiving a demo to complain that it’s impossible to write drum parts for music with so many intricate changes?

Thank you very much. I am glad you enjoy it. Hahahaha, that doesn’t happen often at all. Aaron is really great and creative with his drum writing. The only thing we stay away from now are the super high tempo songs with blast beats and ridiculous kicks. Outside of that, it’s a piece of cake, and he nails it every time!

As a prog metal band, which non-metal genres do you envisage Interloper incorporating into your sound in the future?

That’s a great question. Haven’t thought about that too much. I mean, I would personally be interested in exploring having some electronic elements salt and peppered in a song. I would like to maybe have some more acoustic based things too. So many things to explore, it’s tough to say what may or may not happen in our music.

How approachable are the members of Interloper after a live show? What gifts – other than beer – do you welcome from your fans?

I would say we are all very approachable. I definitely go out of my way to make myself available to talk to, hang with, take photos, or whatever with fans after the show. I know I always liked that when I was younger, so I try my best to do the same for fans now. Haha, pretty much anything. People have written us letters, drawings, 3D printed items, etc!

Interloper in their earlier days with former vocalist, Mike Semesky (third from the left).

The great Sean Reinert (Cynic/Death) advised the attendees at a drum clinic in the late 1990s that the best musicians should study another instrument in addition to their main one. What are your thoughts on this, and is it something you’ve put into practice?

I think being rounded is a great thing. I haven’t studied any other instruments, however, I have studied music theory for years, and I feel that gave me a great grasp on understanding how other instruments work in the sense of their function and how you would play them. Technique for that is a whole different ballgame. The understanding is there though.

What are the top three achievable goals you would set for Interloper over the next five years if somebody asked you to write them down?

Touring full time, touring comfortably (bus/bandwagon), playing the festival circuits every year, having our records listened to more and more each cycle, and having our full income be from the band.

Final question: Which of the following UK festivals would you like to play in order of preference?

a) Bloodstock

b) UK Tech-Fest

c) Download

d) ArcTanGent

That would be Download, Bloodstock, UK Tech-Fest, and AcrTanGent.

*** Interloper release their debut album, Search Party, via Nuclear Blast on 11 June 2021. You can stream their current EP, A Revenant Legacy, on all major platforms and read the original SBR review here. ***