To start things of, can you tell us why you started Affliktor?
I starting listening to some music that I haven't visited for a long time; the early works of Pestilence, Morbid Angel, Kreator, Hellwitch, Sacrifice, Infernal Majesty. I couldn't help but be inspired and I remembered how important these albums were for me. I became curious if I still could make music along the lines of thrashing death metal. I wondered if I had any aggression or testosterone left to create something similar and mean it. I think I did, I hope I did. This album is a homage to so many bands. Affliktor is just another Toby Knapp solo album but obviously I couldn't do it under my name or people would think it was instrumental.
What or who made you start playing guitar? Which guitar players have influenced you?
I took formal lessons early on but became discouraged because I couldn't play a C chord or something. I was exposed to the roots of rock music and watched it progress to hard rock then to heavy metal and so on. My parents left Led Zep, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Mountain albums lying around when I was a toddler so instead of playing with toys I listened to albums and then I dreamed of making albums. I hit the guitar hard and never looked back after seeing the Led Zep movie 'The Song Remains the Same'. Jimmy Page started it for me and then eventually it was Ritchie Blackmore and then on to all the guitarists from the Shrapnel Records catalogue. I also really like Robert Fripp and Akira Takasaki.
What kind of bands were you into when you started listening to music? And what is it that makes the music you make and produce now the genre that fits you?
It was the albums my parents didn't listen to anymore; Alice Cooper, Uriah Heep, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Black Oak Arkansas, Rush and so many more. I kind of float amongst a few genres of metal. I like instrumental music, Death Metal, Black Metal, Traditional Heavy Metal, Thrash, Classic Rock.... I've done things in all these genres. All I am certain of is the genres I avoid; nu-metal, groove metal.... I like Groove Metal if Overkill or Exhorder are doing it. I am set in my ways though, I'm not gonna tune down or get a guitar with more than six strings on it. If it's good enough for Leslie West, it's good enough for me.
How did you come up with a band name like Affliktor?
My favourite movie is called ‘Affliction’ so I put a k in there and of course 'tor' to make it sound more metal. These days most band names are an entire phrase and it is getting out of hand, and everyone is using the same key words so I didn't want that and the only option if you want a one word band name is to spell it incorrectly. It looks good on a shirt too.
What idea did you have in mind for this record when you started writing?
To cross Kreator's 'Terrible Certainty' with Morbid Angel's 'Blessed Are The Sick'. I wanted really mean thrash metal and that meant incorporating Black and Death Metal influences. I wanted to create an exhausting and raw album. I also knew that if I could pull this off, fans of old-school extreme music might enjoy it. I don't take any influence from what has been going on the last decade or two. I wanted seething evil rather than grooving machismo.
The album artwork is very cool and ‘thrashy’. How did the cover come about?
Artist extraordinaire Mark Riddick designed the entire booklet and drew the album cover, logo and some other incredible pieces relating to the album. I was completely blown away when I saw the album cover. I am proud to have his art accompanying the music. He also created the 'Where Evil Follows' logo for my other project a few years ago. We've been working together on music these last few years so I go to him for art if I can be lucky enough to acquire his services.
The music you make is not for the masses. How would you describe your audience or who would you want to listen to your music?
I want whoever wants to listen to the music to listen to it. My audience seems to be people that really search for what they want to hear rather than just accepting the latest trend in metal. I've always been underground so the listeners have to dig to find my music. I don't really think my audience is expanding too much but I do see them becoming more intense about what I do. I don't want to be pretentious and say "loyal" but it seems the more work I do the more loyal the audience becomes. The agreement I think is; as long as I'm cranking out crazy music the diehards will support it.
You seem to be releasing your music the old fashioned way, through small labels, and you are in total control of the creative process I guess. Would you ever consider signing with a major label?
I was on Shrapnel Records when they were still relatively big and then went to Century Media a few years later. I liked being on Shrapnel because it was really cool as a guitar player to be a part of something that influenced me so much. About Century Media, the exposure was really good and because of what I did early on with those two labels I can do what I do today. They laid the groundwork so I'd actually have listeners. This year I did albums for four good indie labels; Moribund, Pure Steel, Transcending Obscurity and Crushing Notes. That covered the globe, different projects marketed in different areas. Affliktor getting recognition in India while Necrytis is doing well in Germany, the last instrumental album did decent in Greece and Waxen did well in the U.S. I like being in control and I like the efficiency that a label like Moribund Records utilizes. I've gone to several record shops and have seen the albums I have done with Moribund on the shelves. I'm pretty happy actually.
Would you consider joining one of the great bands you admire, one of the really big ones if that means you have less influence on the output?
I've seen how that works. It is about who you know. I don't know anyone really. I'm not currently in any elite musical circles. I know guys that kiss ass, step on toes and climb ladders all fucking day long to get "the gig" or tour or whatever. I wouldn't do that... I have been a "hired gun" and it did not go well and I had to be removed from the situation. If I have to view a rock star on an ego trip that affects me I will not sit by and suck it up for the career doors it might open. If a band I liked approached me and were decent human beings, I would consider it. I have had really close calls with getting into some bigger situations and guess what? With the exception of Mayhem, the bands were completely rude. It goes like this "we wanna get ya in the band but we have to listen to guitarists a, b and c first and then we need to hang out with you for a few weeks to see if we like you as a person and then have more auditions. I say no, take it or leave it. I still have people that offer to hook me up with bigger things and I change the subject.
What goals did you set yourself when you started making music and did you reach any of them?
The first goal was to play well enough to get a record deal and make an album. Then some years later I wanted some tour experience- I achieved all that. The goals that really mattered I have reached and I continue pushing forward with music and trying to be creative. When I was younger there were superficial goals but those naturally fell away as I got older. I don't need to be famous or whatever and it really isn't a problem working a regular job. It would be nice to work on music all day every day, and I have had points in life where music took up my life, but there is more to life than that. Many bands that make money are making it by touring a lot - not royalty checks, but what about when those tours end? What about your family? I'm married and have responsibilities at this point. I'm still going to make music though.
How do you write your songs? Does it start with a riff, or what gives you ideas for songs?
I write songs with so many methods. Sometimes I collect riffs and when I have enough I create songs with them. Sometimes an entire song will come to me very fast. Other times I improvise with some drum patterns and come up with stuff that way. A song or riff can hit you anytime, you can be brushing your teeth and all of a sudden "dat dat crunch crunch dat dat whammy" a riff comes to you and you have to keep it cycling in your brain until it is captured and recorded. I can't write however if I sit down and say "I'm gonna write".
How much practice does it take to have your music described as “six string sorcery”?
I think it is more a matter of longevity and sticking to your musical guns. I have been able to sustain something that started twenty-five years ago. I don't make big breakthroughs, but I seem to always make a series of "small comebacks" through all these years. I'm just determined to make music and hopefully it's good and as long as there is room for improvement, more albums will happen. There is plenty of room for improvement so I'll keep practicing and will be around for a while. I have done four records for Moribund and they referred to me as that in their promotional materials. The key is they said it, not me. Other guys who haven't done anything just say "fuck it, I shred dude".
A bit of a technical question, but what is your favourite guitar to play on and why? What guitar gives the greatest sound?
Right now I have a light blue Buddy Holly fifties styled Strat with Dimarzio fast track pickups that I am using a lot. You can go from a real bluesy tone to total Akira Takasaki crunch. I really like that guitar right now as it provides everything I need. Fender Stratocasters with either some sort of stacked coil, humbuckers or really hot single coils have been my thing since 1988. The old pics of Blackmore playing his strats and later Yngwie, I just thought it looked killer. I have tried many other guitars but only the Stratocasters work for me. They are simple and take a lot of abuse, the perfect workhorse guitar.
How do you feel your music has changed or progressed since you started?
I don't think it has progressed at all. The key is relearning some of the songs and licks I did as a teenager! It depends what genre I'm working in, whatever fits the genre. If you listen to some of the Waxen stuff it sounds like hell- but it's supposed to sound like that. If I'm doing a Black Metal album and I make a mistake I don't go fix it. This second Necrytis album we are working on however, we have touched upon some progressive elements that at least I haven't used in the past. I had to learn new things on the guitar to make the music better. When I was young I initially wanted to play as fast as possible...I still want to do that, but if there is slop in it I won't do it until it's clean and purposeful and services the song. I am working on a solo instrumental album for Moribund Records right now and it is strict regarding what I'm going to allow on it musically. No trace of Affliktorisms will be found.
Modern metal is always produced in a more or less clinical way with ProTools and other programs helping bands to create a slick sound. On the other hand you see that about every band releases vinyl again. Where do you see music go in the near future? Will vinyl take over again, including a more organic production? Do extreme music and a slick production even go together?
That is a hard one for me to answer because I don't use pro tools. I use Fostex digital 4 to 6 tracks. I think a lot of the new stuff I hear sounds the same, maybe too produced and glossed. At the same time I love a good production on the Immolation and Morbid Angel albums but I don't want to hear polished big budget Black Metal. Much of the vinyl that is being issued is coming from pure digital sources so the LP actually sounds like a cd. If we want LP's to have their full charm we need to return to at least some analogue sources when initially making albums.
You have played in a lot of bands/projects with a great diversity in styles but do you want to play all your music live as well?
It is very hard with my situation. I work with one musician nowadays and that is the drummer for Necrytis across the country from me. I want to do some live stuff and maybe cover a little of everything musically. I actually did that a few years ago totally alone. I played a show with pre-recorded bass guitar and drum tracks and it went over really well. Maybe I can do that more since there is only one person accountable for showing up to rehearsal. Sometimes I think maybe I'll do a few more batches of records and then concentrate on just playing live, supporting a lifetime's worth of music.
Are there any non-metal bands that you like and can recommend?
I like classic rock and depressing AM radio music from the seventies. There aren’t any current artists that I can think of. Outside of metal I always liked Kate Bush, The Gypsy Kings, Van Morrison, The Cure, The Smiths, Michael Hedges, The Fifth Dimension, Big Country, The Police and just an endless list of stuff. I'm a big music listener and record collector. I would say King Crimson, but to me they fall in the metal category. We can talk music for days.
How would you convince the pope to listen to your music?
I would tell the pope that he and his priests all need to hear Affliktor or Waxen to get a little taste of Hell. Maybe if they heard the sounds of hell they would think twice before messing with innocent kids.
Finally, will you be playing live shows to promote the album?
Unfortunately I just don't know. Circumstances in that regard just change and no matter how I try to make things happen they will not fall into place. I can say the prospect of playing live under the Affliktor name isn't flowing at this time. Some things work out wonderfully and other things will just not move. Maybe things can change and Affliktor will happen as a live entity, I certainly welcome it, but I don't know. The album has been doing well so a tour isn't even necessary. I mean we are talking about getting rid of 1000 units. It will happen. I don't sweat it nearly as much as I did even a few years ago.
Any final words for our readers?
Thank you for taking the time to read this! A big thank you to Lords of Metal for these great questions and conducting a cool interview! You can keep up to date on all kinds of stuff I'm doing by visiting Toby Knapp website. Cheers!!
Official Affliktor Bandcamp
Transcending Obscurity Records