For Detroit, For Valor
The strong-willed warriors of Battlecross bring their passion and dedication to the Orion stage.
Published: June 5, 2013
“It was a year-long process,” says Deraniyagala. “We had recorded our album in 2009, and we had been shopping it out to all different types of labels. We ended up self-releasing with our old vocalist. Right around that time, I hit up Metal Blade and after three months they hit us back but we had just lost a vocalist. We got Kyle in the band and had him go in the studio and put his vocals over three songs we had already recorded. We sent it to Metal Blade and they really liked it, and they kept in touch with us. It wasn’t like they heard it and immediately wanted to sign us. We built a relationship with them, and the final piece of the puzzle was [Shannon] Lucas from the Black Dahlia Murder who really helped us — he vouched for us. We practiced in the same place that they did. We were talking one time and I gave him a CD because he wanted to check out the studio we recorded it at. He listened to the stuff and helped us out, bridged the gap that Metal Blade didn’t have because they’d never seen us live. Building the relationships, having the good product, and having the good people behind you to back up what you’re doing.”
In this day and age, though, with downloading and streaming so prevalent, are labels even important anymore? “I understand what people are saying about labels, and as far as bands making money it’s a lot harder than it was,” says Deraniyagala. “But I think the labels are still relevant, because they have those connections to a broader audience that you wouldn’t have independently. We’ve gained so much access to new markets and being able to get our music out to a large audience because of being on a label. As far as sending stuff to a radio station, being an unsigned band versus being on Metal Blade, who do you think they’re going to listen to? They’re going to hear when the label has contact. Exposure-wise, it’s important. Bands have to find new, creative ways to make money. Record sales: it’s all different; the labels are still relevant but with times changing, they’re relevant in a different way.”
Getting on a label with a big reputation certainly hasn’t hurt Battlecross. The Canton-based band has seen its reputation blossom, thanks to a series of big tours and a high profile release of Pursuit of Honor. The next album, due out this year, will likely see them shift up another gear. Of course, do all that and the crazy fans will start to surface.
“I’ve seen our logo symbol, the star shape, tattooed on a couple of people, and I’ve also seen the lyrics to “Destroy” tattooed on a guy,” says Asta. “That’s pretty cool. It’s wild to see that kind of love, passion and dedication. It was a dude I’d never met before. Since then, he hit us up online and we talk back and forth. Keeping an open book with the fans, chatting and hanging out, we’re all about that.”
The two guitarists in Battlecross are noticeably humble, as well as witty and intelligent, dudes. They’ll talk about their band forever, but it is with passion for the music rather than misplaced ego. It’s impossible to begrudge them their spot on this weekend’s OrionFest. Asta can’t wait. “Metallica are my favorite band,” he says. It’s amazing, surreal, a dream and it’s happening. It’s one of those things that I’m really excited about, but I know that until the day of the show, I just won’t ever feel as excited as I will on that day. I’ve never seen Metallica before even though they’re my favorite band. Being able to afford to go is hard, so it’s cool that the first time I get to see them I’m on the bill. As far as it being in Detroit, that’s really cool too. Detroit really needs any help it can get as far as bringing music and events to the city.”
He’s not wrong. Those restaurants along Jefferson are going to love Metallica after this weekend, as will many businesses in Detroit. The festival is a blessing. Asta isn’t sure whom else he’ll be checking out though.
“Honestly, I really don’t know who else is playing,” he says. “There’s only a handful of metal bands. I would like to see the Deftones, but I really don’t know too much of their later stuff. I know Adrenaline, Around the Fur and White Pony, but anything after that I’m not sure what it is so I’ll just be listening to a bunch of songs I don’t know. I have a bad feeling. I heard them from afar in Montreal last year. We headlined the second stage for some crazy reason but earlier that day Deftones played and I got to see them from a quarter mile away on the jumbo screen.”
At least he knows what the Battlecross set will be like. “We’re definitely going to play some new stuff,” says Asta. “We’ll play a lot of stuff off Pursuit of Honor, but we’ll also play a handful of new material. I’m itching to play a new set because we haven’t played anything new on stage in forever. It’ll be great to not play the same set over and over again.”
And when Orion is over? “We have Mayhem Fest coming up with Rob Zombie, Mastodon, Machine Head and a bunch of cool bands,” says Asta. “I’ve got my fingers crossed on Europe too.”
The future, it seems, is bright for Battlecross. This weekend, the band gets to play in front of a big crowd, with one of the biggest metal bands in the world, in their hometown. It really doesn’t get any better than that. Now get those horns in the air.
Orion Music + More takes place on Belle Isle on Saturday June 8 and Sunday, June 9. Metallica and the
Red Hot Chili Peppers headline.
Brett Callwood writes about music for the Metro Times.
> Email Brett Callwood