After covering Conquest in a recent article, I had the unique opportunity to talk with Derrick Brumley, lead singer and guitarist for this killer band. I found him very friendly, intelligent, open and extremely conversant about his band and how it fits into the music business. If you have not heard of Conquest, you have now. What are you waiting for? Go check them out! But first, a conversation with the man himself…
After some preliminary greetings, Derrick was talking about a show that took place in Illinois, two days before…
Odyssey: So, do you play often these days?
Derrick Brumley: Yes and no. We play a lot sometimes and then take a break, that kind of thing. We had a great show Friday night and we will be in Chicago next week. Actually, we will be taking some time off after that during June and July for writing another original record and then go back into the studio in August, September and November.
Odyssey: Do you have to finance your own tours?
Derrick Brumley: When the world fell apart and the economy fell apart in the early 2000’s, the music industry fell apart and made it ten times harder to do this kind of thing. But yeah, touring is very important in today’s world and bands want to play as much as they can since they are not selling records anymore so the next best thing you have to do is play live as much as you can and keep as many people out of the middle as possible. With us, it is sometimes hard for us to travel too far. We usually don’t mind going three or four hours but when you get up to eight and nine hours, it has to be worthy shows like three or four in a row to make it worth our while.
Odyssey: Could you tag along with other bands then?
Derrick Brumley: Sure, sometimes but again, the pay is so minimal you might as well plan on bringing a lot of your own money with you.
Odyssey: How has this changed for you guys, since you have been around so long?
Derrick Brumley: Kind of what I was saying a minute ago. There was a time when we could all kinds of support, but those days are long gone. Even for bigger bands like Shadows Fall or bands of that magnitude that are great bands and their sales are pretty decent, they can’t get any tour support. It has just gotten really hard to do. You go out and see some of the top-notch bands and there are only eighty, ninety or a hundred people there. A few years ago there were thousands. That really hurts touring.
Odyssey: I know what you mean. A while back I saw Death Angel and there may have been twenty people there.
Derrick Brumley: Sure. That’s what I mean. You know who Death Angel is. I know who Death Angel is and what they were, but the numbers of people that know that have diminished over the years and even still want to go. How many new people have they picked up lately. No very many, so Death Angel was an 80’s band and they kind of still are, you know what I mean?
Odyssey: You have covered a lot of these earlier bands on your album “Under the Influence”. What other songs have you played that could have been on the album?
Derrick Brumley: We play a lot of songs. We get tired of playing the same thing, so we play something else just to playing it. We play a lot of Dio sometimes, maybe some Sabbath, some other Metallica and a bunch of Priest songs. Pretty much anything from early Priest we have touched two or three times before. On the album we included two of the Priest songs because we played both of them and couldn’t decide which one to leave out and ending up keeping both. We liked them both and decided it really didn’t matter.
Odyssey: Any plans for second one?
Derrick Brumley: I don’t know. We’ll see. We are working on another original record right now and there were a couple of tracks that were going to be on there, on “Under the Influence” that we haven’t used and may end up on the original record as well. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, you know.
Odyssey: Yeah. I really dig what you did with these songs. They sound like Conquest but you didn’t stray too far from the originals.
Derrick Brumley: Yeah, thanks. When you are messing with classics like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica and bands like that, I am never going to say that I am better than them, so why change the things that make them iconic and the reasons I like the songs myself, you know. So then I say “I play like this” and you just kind of play your version of what they play the best way you can, adding a bit of your own flair. Like some of the songs, we kind of sped up, maybe intensified them a little bit, but sill didn’t alter the flavor of the song. Do you have a favorite?
Odyssey: I don’t know. I would probably have to go with Pantera. There are not many people that can play that solo correctly and give the original justice.
Derrick Brumley: Yeah. Right on. Mike did that. He beat himself to death on that because he wanted to make sure that he honored Dimebag one hundred percent. Very cool you noticed his efforts man.
Odyssey: Obviously, all of these bands have influenced you over time and when doing my research, it is pretty well documented that you played around with a lot of different styles. What have you played that didn’t work for you?
Derrick Brumley: We have always been a Hard Rock and Heavy Metal band from the young days and matured into just Heavy Metal using our own sound. I personally never wanted to do cover tunes when I was a kid. I wanted to write my own music and had a fascination about it. So when everybody else was learning “You Really Got Me” I was trying not to learn it but trying to figure out how he was playing his leads so I could play lead but I didn’t want to learn the whole song because then I would learn how to sound like him, you know what I mean? As a young guy, I would go out to a party or something and there would be a band going on and they would sit down and start playing. I would say I don’t know it and they would think that was crazy but I wanted to be an original artist and write my own songs so if I couldn’t develop my own sound I would sound like everyone else. I learned the chord progressions and the chord changes and just kind of ran with it. So those were the early days and that was the way it was. As I matured people started calling our sound “Bay Area Thrash”. There’s definitely some of that in us but there is also a lot of Power Metal and Hard Rock in us too. I don’t like it, some people do, to put on a record and songs one through through ten are within two beats per minute between each other with the same approach and the same style throughout the whole record. That’s pretty much what I try not to do. Even when I am writing records that have stories wrapped up in them; concept records like “End of Days”, there’s a lot of that going on as a conceptual piece. That’s how we got to where we are as a band, having our own sound. You know, growing up listening to Priest, Maiden and Black Sabbath and other bands that you wouldn’t think of with us like Foghat and UFO, stuff like that when I was really young. That’s how it all came about. There were a couple of records early on that had some of the Pop Metal vibe, like Dokken and Motley Crue and we may try that again in the near future, but it was just not our thing.
Odyssey: What newer bands are influencing you today?
Derrick Brumley: I don’t know. Avenged Sevenfold kind of stuff. Not a whole lot of what I am hearing in the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal world is attracting me, unless you know of something I haven’t heard, man. I tell you, though, I really like the new Queensryche record. I do like the new Stryper record. The last Overkill record was really strong. And the Testament record. I still dig all of the Testament stuff. That’s just one of those bands for me that can’t make a bad record.
Odyssey: Yeah, Overkill is really good. You heard the new Metal Church?
Derrick Brumley: Metal Church. I haven’t heard everything they have done, but what I have heard, I really like.
Odyssey: The new Flotsam and Jetsam is really, really good too…
Derrick Brumley: Oh man. Cool! I will definitely check that out and that’s a fact. I have played with those guys before and they’re cool cats, no doubt about it.
Odyssey: Being one of these “older bands” like Metal Church and Flotsam and Jetsam, are you attracting new fans or do you pretty much stay with guys like myself that have been around forever?
Derrick Brumley: We play this place in Illinois. It’s called Pop’s Concert Club and I would say in the last six months that things have changed. We have been through, like four variations of here it comes, there it goes and we are right there in that gambit now where, if all goes well, we will get a resurgence of younger kids gravitating towards us. On our Facebook page, ConquestMetal, you’ll see the header picture with all the fans behind us from the stage Friday night. If you look, there a whole lot of kids in the audience. You know, eighteen to twenty-five year olds and they all have their Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera, and Sabbath shirts on. It’s really cool. Some even have Conquest shirts. We sold a ton of shirts that night. It’s really cool that this is happening. Is it happening all over the world and the rest of America? I don’t know, but I can tell you, in this region, it looks like something is starting to happen again and I have to believe that if it is happening in Illinois that this is probably happening somewhere else.
Odyssey: Well, I wish someone would have put Conquest on my radar a long time ago. I could have been listening to you guys for years now…
Derrick Brumley: Cool. Thank you! So you listened to some of the older stuff too so you can hear the wide variation there, right?
Odyssey: I have listened to all of the material that I could get my grubby little paws on but tend towards the “dirtier” sound; not overly processed like the stuff in the middle there. I mean “dirty” like comparing “Kill ‘Em All” to “…And Justice For All”…
Derrick Brumley: Right, right. Very cool. But remember, as an artist in the studio, you want the best sound with today’s technology has to offer. I can tell you this though; on all of our records, we sound just like that live. Sure, I add something like some harmonies here and there and even some double tracking when it comes to bridge parts and stuff like that, but everyone does that for simplifying the live process to make it sound like the CDs live.
Odyssey: I can definitely hear that on videos that I have seen and the bonus songs on “No Boundaries”.
Derrick Brumley: Yeah, “No Boundaries” was more of a Rock record, I thought. Even though, just before “Just Before the Dawn” lead the whole thing off, it was kind of the love song for that era.
Odyssey: At least it wasn’t a Power Ballad.
Derrick Brumley: (Laughs) Yeah, I know. I have written a few of them, and they are really not that bad for the time but we have never played them live. Sometimes it’s just fun to put them on there for something different. A different vibe, a different mode you put on like the eighth track. For me, it’s all about the live show. Once we fire up the jets we are going to roar.
Odyssey: It was a different time though. At that point, early on, a Power Ballad was almost expected to show up on any Metal Record. Today, since it is less common, you can get away with something slower without tarnishing your Heavy Metal rep.
Derrick Brumley: The thing is though, if you could put a song out there tomorrow that wasn’t necessarily your favorite thing and generate revenue for your band, you could actually afford to play and record what you really want to put out there, then, hey, awesome. Know what I mean? If you notice with a lot of these bands, what will happen is they cheese out on just one creation but the next thing you know they are out there playing much harder music than that one song, you know?
Odyssey: You speak much more like a savvy businessman than the quote, unquote and stereotyped, dumb musician.
Derrick Brumley: No. I know. Dumb is not something I am. If you want to be able to play in a band and continue to exist, you have to know how the business side works. There is a skill and art to it, especially as an original band. To have a record deal and promotion and be able to pull that off while you travel around the Mid-West and play Heavy Metal. Real Heavy Metal. It is not an easy task.
Odyssey: No, no. I definitely get it and really appreciate your skill to continue. Another thing I find really interesting, is that, minus a few bass player changes, you guys have stayed together since Conquest’s inception. What has been your key to staying together?
Derrick Brumley: Well, pretty much work ethic. I learned a good work ethic a long time ago. When I was a little kid, I was in a lot of regimental situations so I learned that when you apply it to everything in your life, including what you like to do for fun (when we were little kids, we all wanted to be rock stars) plus hanging out with the right guys. Back in ’86, when Tim Fleetwood joined the band, Tony Restivo was my bass player. He was he bass player from ’86 all the way up to ’98. He was primary for all of those years. What changed before that, in the early ’80s was that we had a different singer. He played for a couple of years and then left. I really didn’t want to be the singer, man. I really wanted to find another singer back then. Tony kept telling me: “You should just do it”. I didn’t want to be the singer, though. I wanted to be the guitar player. That’s just the way it was back in that era, you know. Then by about ’88 or ’89 when we had all the struggles with the other singer, Restivo was like, “man, you just do it” but I still wanted another singer. Man, with all of the egos of the ’80s, it was a trial, and I just don’t like to deal with it so I tried it. We had a development deal, what they called it back then, and they looked at me with the long blonde hair and told us that we should do it like this, so we went that way and cut a record that was Pop Metal, more or less. Then that whole Pop Metal thing burst and that went away. Anyway, I ended up being the singer when Adrian Vesper came into the band and we both played guitar. We put out a Pop Metal record “Wicked Ways”. That was kind of the wild variation. But you know what? We gave it our best effort. We really tried. It was really not my thing and I really didn’t like doing it, but, back then I really couldn’t sing at all. It was like a big dart board of outcomes. It was really hard work. Let’s just put it that way. By ’93, we were back playing music that we really wanted to play that was much heavier. We were working on some stuff for a demo called “The Killing Time” that ended up showing up around ’94 or ’95 which brought the departure of Adrian Vesper. Mike Crook came in ’95 and been with us ever since. Mike’s turned into a phenomenal guitar player. He’s been the guitar player longer than any other. Today, he does most of the lead playing, but I do leads too even though we have diverse approaches to song writing these days. Rob Lloyd, our current bass player, actually played with me before any of those guys way back in the early ’80s when we were little kids in school, making noise and wanting to be rock stars, so to speak. We were freshman back then, I think.
Odyssey: We are about the same age then.
Derrick Brumley: Yeah. Unfortunately. No. I am glad of what we are. When we played Friday night, we were firing on all cylinders. I would put that show up against any performance we have ever done as far as energy and talent goes. We are the best we have ever been.
Odyssey: Going back to the regimental upbringing, were you in the military, by any chance?
Derrick Brumley: No. I grew up doing martial arts as a kid. Back when we were kids, martial arts was taught right, you know what I mean?
Odyssey: Part of the reason I asked was dedicating an entire album to 9/11 and the greatness of the United States and your patriotism. How was this received and what spurred the subject?
Derrick Brumley: Sure. If you look back at our 2003 release, “No Boundaries”, there’s a song on there called “9/11, No Mercy”. I wrote that song on my way back from California after doing a little tour thing. On the morning that 9/11 happened, I was supposed to be getting on an airplane and coming home, right? Obviously, I wasn’t getting on the airplane so we rented a vehicle. Driving across America that week right afterward, I wrote that song. I don’t know. That kind of what’s wrong with America. We have lost who we are. I have always felt that this is what creates great things. If we lose that, we will end up killing ourselves when it is all said and done. Hopefully we don’t do that, but that’s what it means to me. Then, ten years later with “Never Forget” came out as a ten year anniversary project, look where we are at today. We can use all of the patriotism we can get and was our way to inject that through our music. Same thing with the new on by Megadeth. Dave Mustaine has come full circle, man. As you get older you realize that it was cool to have fun and it was cool to be anti-social and all of those things. But, in reality it is cooler to have something that is working and people are enjoying. Look. Metal is loud, aggressive and obnoxious but it does not mean that it has to be loud, aggressive, obnoxious and STUPID. You don’t have to dumb it down, you know what I mean? There is plenty of music that is done that way but I just try to write something with a worthy message and something that we love to play.
Odyssey: Do you do a lot of veterans benefits and stuff like that, then? It seems like you would attract that sort of attention…
Derrick Brumley: Well, yes and no. It is kind of funny you say that. Yeah, we have done some of them for sure but some won’t allow us to do it. They’ll say that we’re too heavy; too violent. It’s crazy. Put it this way: from 2011 to where we’re at now, man, the world has changed. Our opinions of who we are. Look at local TV. I used to be to get on local TV all the time. Yeah. I’m with Conquest and they would put me on there. Bam, bam, bam. Now, if you’re not rapping or playing Rhythm and Blues, you are violent and dangerous. Even with their lyrics. Pretty crazy. All of my political feelings and who should do what, and where, I keep to myself and leave that alone in the big world. You know, there are too many people that actually love your music and then and then all of a sudden they hear that he thinks what? And then never listen to the music again. It’s just all so silly, so, knowing the world that we live in today, it just blows my mind how some can be so stupid.
Odyssey: What’s on the horizon for Conquest?
Derrick Brumley: I have to tell you. It’s stuff like this that get us recognized so that we can get down to our listeners’ neck of the woods. All I can do is talk to who will listen and give you guys ammunition. You guys pull the triggers. We send out promos and material to get us out there, man. That’s just how we roll. Right now, we are getting ready to go into lock down and work on the next record. There should be lots of cool things to happen with it. It might be a double record. I don’t know. We started off with a little and now we have a lot, but that’s the way it goes. Maybe a double. Maybe not. Might just trickle some out in advance. Maybe do a full album and trickle out after that. Not sure, but I can promise you, it’s going to be good. Maybe even send out some little fifteen or thirty second teasers before. By the end of the year, we’ll be playing more gigs unless it’s really something cool in the dead of summer, I would rather just work on new material because the clubs are empty and the tours are small.
Odyssey: As with any Metal Nexus interview, the floor is yours…
Derrick Brumley: A big shout out to all the Metal fans out there. If you see a band you don’t know. Check them out. You never know. There is always new music coming out. One thing about the “Under the Influence” record. We weren’t trying to be better than those bands and that was not the objective. It was to pay tribute to them, Conquest style. I think we did a pretty good job with that. I have had a couple people tell me that I am no Rob Halford. Well, I never claimed to be Rob Halford. I praise him every day and just try to get close. Check out our records. Derrick (me), Tim, Mike, Rob all thank you! If you ever see our name out there, come out and see us. We’ll give you a good show, I promise you!