Thrillkiller is a hard rock/heavy metal band from the USA, active since 2015. Rob Bradley (vocals) and Sebastian Ochoa Arguijo (guitars) accepted to answer Lucas Biela’s questions for ISKC Radio Group.
1/ Thrillkiller, among all the promos we receive at ISKC Group of radios, yours immediately hooked me. Your music is fresh, positive, sunny, full of great vocal harmonies and even with a good but not excessive dose of danceability. It’s obvious from your debut EP in 2015. How did you get to have such great production and such amazingly composed and performed music from the very start?
Rob: I’m glad you like it! Thrillkiller emerged after an older band of mine ended named Aries. In that band I wrote the melodies and lyrics for the songs but never tried my hand in writing music too. I play some piano mainly to teach voice lessons so I wasn’t sure how to compose ideas I had, around that time I started learning how Michael Jackson wrote music and lyrics for various songs in his career which really inspired me. I found out that he would compose his ideas purely with his voice alone and then show his recorded acapellas to his producer. I had some ideas that I showed the guitarist I brought on from Aries to create this project, and we took the ideas to a producer I had success with in the past. Part of the process was building a song to write a good song, and whatever genre it ended up becoming was the genre it ended up as. The idea is that each part of the song can be sung by itself and each part is interesting, melody and rhythm must come first, then everything else. This was the method for all of our recordings released so far, however there have been some collaborative ideas we’ve experimented with for our upcoming material that has been very promising.
Sebastian: We had decided since the beginning that we wanted to make sure that anything that we released will be the best possible material. We were able to crowdfund our 1st album with a kickstarter campaign, so we were able to take that album to a professional studio thanks to our fans and friends.
2/ There is a 4-year gap between your debut EP and the sophomore EP. What happened in the meantime? I mean, your debut EP was a trigger to a great career (at least to my ears).
Rob: Wow, I guess it was longer than I recall, I believe Showdown was 2016 and Moto was 2019. In that time we pushed to get the Showdown album out, played as many shows as we could and I also started branching out as a writer a bit.
I wanted to dive more into synthwave and 70s/80s funk, which lead to the more experimental tracks of the Moto EP. We also switched producers in said time as well which is it’s own growing pain. In 2018 I launched the duo project, Megatronix with our drummer, Robbie which also required my attention artistically among some other synthwave collaborations I was involved with. By the time Moto was released I wanted to make sure I could give 100% of my attention to the EP. Of the releases that were out so far, Moto was the cleanest translation from my original idea to finished project we’ve seen so far.
Sebastian: Once we had our music out, we started focusing on playing shows, so our efforts went into booking and playing with other bands: during that time we were able to play alongside acts like the Dead Daisies, Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, Medusa’s disco, etc. We started venturing on playing out of state shows as well in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, etc.
3/ It’s undeniable the funk and pop factors occupy a great place in your music. It also adds a lot to the dynamics of your songs. It kind of reminds me of that finnish band named Waltari. Could you tell us what are some of your favourite bands in pop and funk music?
Rob: I’ll have to check Waltari out! For funk, some of my favorites are The Gap Band, The Brothers Johnson, Fat Larry’s Band, lately I’ve been getting into Shalamar a lot. Outside of them there are various singles from artists I appreciate like Romeo Where’s Juliet by Collage. For pop, Michael Jackson is probably my main influence, I was a session singer for a remix studio for a few years which really opened my eyes to various singers and styles translating into my original work. Everything from AC/DC to MJ I had to recreate note for note, lots of pop artists I never heard of I had to emulate.
Sebastian: Some of my favorite pop artists are Lady Gaga, The Weekend, and Madonna. I’d say those are the ones I listen to the most too. As far as funk I’m a listener of Earth, Wind & Fire and Kool & The Gang, but I’d say Rob is more versed when it comes to funk bands.
4/ I noted the heavy metal/hard rock combo is doing very well these days with bands like Hitten, Cobra Spell, High Spirits, Aktor, Vandallus, Space Vacation… Do you follow the scene and what do you think of it?
Rob: To be honest I’m not as familiar as I used to be with newer rock/metal. Most of the time I listen to the genre I fall back on some of my older favorites, that’s a list of names I’ll have to check out. Lately, I’ve been dusting a ton of Whitesnake off, to be honest.
Sebastian: I believe the hard rock/heavy metal scene is still very strong. I’ve found it very interesting as well that many hard rock bands from Europe have been bringing back a lot of the 80s sounds as well. Crazy Lixx, Eclipse, H.E.A.T, those are some I follow, and they have been doing amazing on every step they take.
5/ Throughout the past 7 years, how did the press and audience react to your music? Any comparison to other bands like I did above? Are they all as enthusiastic as I am?
Rob: The press we have gotten has been great, one review we had for Moto gave out a list of a lot of top retrowave bands at the time I appreciated that we were compared to which was really cool. So far the worst review we’ve had was I think a 9/10 which is still great, the main thing we plan to work on is simply putting ourselves out there more.
Sebastian: The response has been very well thankfully, we have worked and still work hard on it so it’s always great to see the response. As someone with Latin American roots I have been able to get our music into Spanish radios before, which it’s something that I am very proud of.
6/ Do you plan any gigs soon? Any festivals? Will we be able to see you outside the USA?
Rob: Currently we are all taking part in an upcoming rock opera event with the Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS) called “Love & Roar!”. The music is written by John Roman of the BROS with various members collaborating on music. I’ll be performing as one of the leads, this has taken the bulk of our time lately, however we do have a Baltimore show we are about to announce shortly. As for festivals, we are working on getting into a few, we just played Dragoncon in Atlanta in September which was a lot of fun. We’d love to play out of the US, we’ll play wherever there is enough demand!
Sebastian: We just played Dragoncon, which is a huge convention in Atlanta, Georgia. And right now we are all getting ready because we will be the main band for the Show “Love & Roar!” which has been put together by the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, so through all of November we will be playing shows. We have already been in contact with several festivals for next year so we may be able to be in several in 2023. As far outside of the USA we don’t have any current plans, however I would not discard the possibility of that happening sooner rather than later.
7/ I can’t stress enough how great your music is on all levels: vocal, instrumental and production. Were you approached by a big label or will you keep recording independently? I think your music seriously needs a big shoutout.
Rob: Thanks a lot! We currently have a licensing deal with Aztec Records but as for being fully signed, nothing officially on the books, however we’d love to work with the right label!
Sebastian: As of right now we may still be working independently. We have been approached by some, and we have reached out to others but nothing has come up yet. When the time is right we’ll be more than happy to work with a label, for now we’re focusing on doing the best we can ourselves.
8/ With your last song to date, “Digital Desperado”, we can hear some chiptune/8-bit music influence. Will you incorporate more of these videogame music elements to your songs in the future?
Rob: I’m glad you noticed! There is a lot of video game influence on my melody writing, there’s little melodic Easter eggs that exist as far back as the Showdown album. I’m a huge fan of video game music and am a fan of several 8 bit artists. My top two are probably FearOfDark and Watch Out For Snakes who we had the pleasure of playing a few shows with in this band and my other projects. It’s inherent in my approach to writing, so I would certainly say that there will be a lot more where it came from. There’s a lot of material currently in the vault that needs to be brought to the studio, it really boils down to cost and having the time. Once this opera is over, we’ll be able to really get to work on what’s next, we are definitely overdue.
Sebastian: Absolutely! We’re all video game fans in the group. We’ll keep trying to add as much as we can and still try to make it sound great.
9/ Speaking of your last song, it was released almost 2 years ago. I can guess Covid didn’t help push further composition for an EP or a full-length album. With the crisis behind us, do you plan any album soon?
Rob: There is enough material on the cutting room floor for several albums, it just boils down to timing really. Over the pandemic I was approached by Aztec to make a solo synthwave project, which took a lot of my time over the course of lockdowns among other life events that came up. The band went into hibernation during lockdowns due to no shows existing during said time, but the writing has always continued. Sebastian has had some ideas we’ve tinkered with, one of which we have a finished song for. He sent me a few notes on a riff that I began to play around with, which turned into this juggernaut of a song which is sitting in our vault finished as well as a really ambitious Michael Jackson cover. The next release is a priority for sure, funding and timing are the two things holding it back, but it’s in the works especially after we had such a successful year on stage.
Sebastian: We do. We have been writing and working on new songs through this year, and we’ve had the idea of releasing a new album in the near future. Once we finish with the Rock Opera, we’ll most likely start building the rest of the album.
10/ The bands I mentionned above are all in Metal Archives. Yours is not though: how is that? Did you apply for inclusion in the database? Bear in mind Metal Archives is a gateway to greater popularity among heavy metal enthusiasts.
Rob: That’s a really funny question, I have submitted not just this band, but Aries, and Megatronix to Metal Archives. I myself have a profile somebody made of my work with other bands which essentially were demos that I wouldn’t have submitted myself in the first place. All of my projects have been deemed “not metal enough”, even though between all of the projects we’ve performed with Sebastian Bach, Metal Church, Doro, Symphony X, Michael Angel Batio, The Dead Dasies, Dio Disciples and a ton of other big metal names. I think it’s the funk/pop stuff in Trillkiller, but Megatronix and Aries are mindboggling. I think all three deserve a spot on there, but it’s not anything I lose much sleep on these days.
Sebastian: So we had not applied to it, I mainly had not looked into it since I knew of another band that is quite heavier than us and they were rejected from it, so from there I had not tried, but knowing that the other groups are there I may go ahead and give it a shot and see what happens.
11/ Is there anything else you want to add?
Rob: We really appreciate this excellent interview and we are very glad you enjoyed our material! Thanks for your patience, this opera has had us a bit swamped lately, we’d love to do another again sometime!
Sebastian: I want to say thank you for having me in this interview! If anyone can catch it I definitely recommend seeing us play in the Rock Opera. Rob and Robbie also have another project called “Megatronix” that I’d recommend checking out. We also have a playlist on youtube called “The Rex Razor Saga” that has all of our videos in order to watch. Gracias!