Mary Zimmer from classic Ottomon Empire days...
photo by Laura Koeppel
So you wanna be a rock ‘n roll star? Well, listen now, to what I say. You shopped around your demo, attracted some major label interest, and – viola! – you got signed. Now it’s time to live the dream, right? Elaborate catering requests on riders, swanky tour busses, swimming pools, and groupies lined up down the hall of the Embassy Suites. You’re on easy street, right? I’m sorry to say, the trip may not be as rosy as a baby’s bottom, after all.
Enter Luna Mortis. The last we spoke with the Madison-based metallions (Oct. 2008), the heavy quartet had signed with Century Media Records, and we were predicting their local show, at the time, to be the “last chance to see Luna Mortis in an intimate setting before they blow up.” Well, the term “blow up” may have been a prophecy. The band hasn’t been together for 3 to 4 years now, after the label dropped them like a smokin’ hot potato. Fans of Luna Mortis will finally get a chance to see the group back in action though, Saturday, July 20, at the Regent Street Retreat stage (Annex) for a reunion show. In anticipation, I sat down with singer Mary Zimmer, guitarist Cory Scheider, bass player Jacob Bare, and new drummer Adam Maltby, to get the details on what the hell happened, and what the future may now hold in store. Guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Brian Koenig was still in North Carolina at the time of this interview, where he was finishing up his graduate studies.
Before discussing their misfortunes, I wanted to hear about some of the positives that occurred in the wake of their signing. Mary spoke up first, “We got some good publicity, an article in Decibel and some other cool magazines. We got to record the rest of our album with Jason Suecof. Four of the songs on ‘The Absence’ are from a demo we did with (Jason) that we were shopping to Roadrunner. Those were then sold to Century Media to become part of the album. Then we did the rest of the songs with him. He’s an incredible producer. It was a good opportunity to work with him. Century Media (has) had some big, big, bands like In This Moment, Lacuna Coil, Buckcherry, Arch Enemy… bands everybody knows.”
In the back of my mind, I was still imaging life in the fast lane, and assumed the group was immediately signed up for a tour. However, Mary set me straight, “No, there was like a nine month gap. The reality about record labels is that they don’t really do anything for you. Nowadays, people don’t need a record label. Put yourself back in 1986… you needed a record label because you couldn’t have access to things like distribution (or) radio, that are (now) increasingly irrelevant. You can do that all yourself, get a booking agent (or) publicist, (or) do your own publicity. Sales are not what they used to be (so) a record label can’t give you enough money up front to make a difference. We were trying to get a manager (and) a booking agent. Century Media wasn’t helping us with any of that. They insist that you tour, but they just left us hanging. They gave us some access, but when it came to getting (us) a booking agent or manager, they were hands off.”
Jacob added, “The common misconception is that you get signed and you get all this crap handed to you. I don’t want to completely give CM a bad rap, because they did front us some pretty decent cash (and) let us do some good shit.”
Cory seemed to be introspective on the subject, and said, “I think there (are) three pieces you need: the label, the management, and the booking agent. You somehow have to find all three of those, and fit them perfectly in place to make it work. We had the label, but we had a really hard time getting a manager or a booking agent, to help us out. It took a little while. Once you get signed, you’re still on your own.”
Jacob continued, “What’s funny about that triumvirate is, although they all know one another, they don’t necessarily play nice with each other. Having one doesn’t guarantee another. They’re separate entities. The (label) will give you access (and) contacts, but at the end of the day, it’s really up to your own gumption to get it done. The analogy I used back then is that we were doing well regionally, like doing well in high school, and we were good in high school – regionally. We got accepted to a decent college, but you’re a freshman now, and you start all over again. You’re not going to get a hand out. It doesn’t work that way.”
The tours must’ve been a blast though, right? EVERY band dreams of touring! Mary pointed out the highlights, “We gained a lot of North American exposure. We got to go all over Canada, and the Canadian audience was way more into it than the American audience, so we played to bigger crowds. The Canadians are more tied in to music from a European perspective. They’re into metal. Everyone is into metal, except Americans. Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, Japan… they’re in love with metal (and) have huge metal fests. America is the only place that doesn’t have that huge, huge (metal) following, probably because we’re so conservative here. The same type of fests in America, like (WJJO) Band Camp, that draws like 10 to 15,000, would draw like 70,000 in the right European situation. So, the Canadians, especially the French Canadians, are more fans of the European style. I think our biggest crowds were in Montreal, like 2,000 people. They’re way more in tune with metal from that more global perspective, rather than from an American perspective. Just when we pulled up (in) Montreal, there (were) kids waiting with these Century Media calendars I did, handing them to me to sign, (and) in America, that’s not happening! We were touring with a European power metal band called Edguy (who) are arena-popular overseas.”
Which begs the question: is metal on the decline, in America? Mary’s thoughts were that, “America’s just about what sells. I think other cultures are a little bit more about art”, and Cory added, “I think the true metal will always be underground. That’s what’s cool about the Internet, bands can pretty much do everything themselves (and) that’s beneficial to metal.”
It was time to get down to brass tacks and ask the hard question. What happened to cause the break up of the band? Mary’s take was that it was, “A lot of things, personal things, like Jacob and I used to be married. We’re divorced, so that had something to do with it. Also, we (all) were burned out. Basically, Brian, the founder (and) main writer, ended the band. We got to the point where we were still losing money, coming back from tour completely broke. We were signed and couldn’t get any help. Industry people wouldn’t touch us with a ten foot pole, like we were frickin’ contaminated.”
Jacob continued, “We went through management issues at the same time, and we were working with a booking agent who was not exactly stellar. It was easy at the time to be pissy about certain business aspects, but we had some expectations going in to it that were probably over the top. If I were to do it again, I would spend less time giving a shit about the label, the advance, and the coverage, and spend way more time focusing on who was going to get us on tour.”
Mary agreed, “There were problems with the territories too, they didn’t want to release us in Europe, even though we already had two records out independently in Europe, and had sales to show for them. One of our biggest audiences was cut out. They don’t want to invest in artist development. They think they can just ride the wave of the work you’ve already done, and throw a little bit of money at you and make it all back without doing any work. So, when we didn’t sell enough records, they dropped us.”
Jacob claimed, “The ultimate irony is that, instead of sending us to our market – Europe – they booked us with a European band in America. That’s completely backwards.”
Now that the dust has settled, and there’s been some time to reflect, what led to the reunion? Why now, I wondered? All fingers pointed to Jacob. “Yeah, that’s kind of my fault. I’d been tinkering with the idea for a while, and the timing was never right. Brian has now finished his master’s degree in music in North Carolina. I was down there in November and we were sitting outside a coffee shop near the university, and I just sort of brought it up to him as a potential bookend, because things kind of unraveled. There was never any kind of finality. It just sort of fizzled, and that always bothered me on some level. (Brian) entertained the idea, because (he) was stuck in grad school with academia and sick of all the bullshit. So, I did a teaser post on Facebook, to see how people would respond.”
Mary chimed in, “We got an overwhelming response! More than we could have ever imagined. That’s really my main motivation behind this, is the fans. We plan on doing (these) shows, and then after that, who knows? We’ve all got other bands and projects, and we’re fortunate enough to have Adam, (who) has two other bands. So, if people want to come see us, they should, because I don’t know when it’s going to happen again! It’s going to be very exciting for a lot of people who have been waiting a long time, and we’re happy to share that with them.”
So, listen up, pilgrims! I know YOU are one of those people, and you don’t want to miss this rare opportunity to catch the awesome Luna Mortis in concert. Here are the dates: Tuesday, July 9, at the Wisco in Madison on Max Ink Radio and the Jimmy K Show. Monday, July 15 is a feature/interview on WORT’s Mosh Pit program. The official reunion gig is Saturday, July 20, at the Regent Street Retreat in Madison, and then Luna Mortis headlines Dame Nation V at Reggie’s Rock Club in Chicago on Thursday, August 15.(6235) Page Views Luna Mortis Online:
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