Made in America
CoC chats with Jeremy Wagner of Lupara
by: Jackie Smit
Starting from scratch is never easy; just ask Lupara's Jeremy Wagner. A veteran of more than fifteen years with US death metal stalwarts Broken Hope, he saw the band that he formed as a teenager ground unceremoniously to a halt following the release of their fifth full-length, _Grotesque Blessings_. Rather than cash in his chips and call it a day however, Wagner returned last year with the self-titled debut of his latest creation, Lupara.

A gattling-gun assault of unrelenting metallic savagery and hardcore grooves, the album is a far cry from the comparatively more docile efforts of his former Broken Hope cohort Shaun Glass in Soil, and by the looks of things, they're just getting their engines revved up. On the day of our interview, Lupara are preparing to support Emperor on a rare appearance in Chicago, but before we even get into the mechanics of Wagner's new musical vehicle, I can't resist asking him for the skinny on why Broken Hope really decided to call it a day.

JW: Well, we'd gotten to our fourth album and we'd paid a lot of dues and had been working really hard to get out of Cannibal Corpse's shadow, basically. <laughs> You know, people early on had always painted us as a Cannibal Corpse clone band, because we had the gory lyrics as well; and what they don't realise is that we both started around the same time. But anyway, when _Loathing_ came out, we were really hitting our stride as a band, I think, and unfortunately from there everything just went down the fucking tubes, which was due to a combination of things. We'd just done our first nationwide headlining tour -- travelling coast to coast across the States with Vader and Monstrosity opening. It was a great, great package and an amazing tour. So we came off that, but the issue was that we weren't getting, nor had we ever gotten, the support that we needed from Metal Blade in Europe. We did a shitload of press for Europe; spoke to every magazine and whatnot, but there was just no support. I mean, I remember picking up a Kerrang! and reading an article about _Loathing_ and them actually saying that unfortunately Broken Hope wouldn't be making it over to Europe to tour in support of the record, and I was just like: "What the fuck?"

CoC: That hadn't even been discussed with you guys at that point?

JW: No, not at all. The guy from Metal Blade Europe who was meant to be pushing us -- he wasn't a fan of the band at all, and he just had it in his fucking head that this was the way it was going to be. So with all the press that we had done and all the good reviews we got for _Loathing_, it felt to me like we'd almost been sabotaged. We finally made it to Europe when _Grotesque Blessings_ came out, but that wasn't with the original line-up; and even though the tour was great, we should have been there fucking years before that. But going back to why the band split up, we'd come back off the US tour and then it was down to a combination of factors. I mean, you can't change the past, but I'll tell you what I would have done differently. For one, we had a manager -- this girl that used to work at Metal Blade Records -- who was dating one of the band members. Lethal fucking combination. Just ask anyone in Sepultura or Ozzy Osbourne. <laughs> That situation just can't work out. There are a lot of issues there. So, long story short, we ended up getting dropped from Metal Blade, which really pissed me off. I mean, we had always sold well, our albums always recouped, and I had a great relationship with Metal Blade in the States at least; Brian Slagel and everyone else there -- I still love those guys. But we got dropped because of people representing our band; problems with management that pissed the label off. So we started shopping around for the next label, but in the meantime a few other factors had cropped up as well. Right after we got dropped, we got rid of our drummer, Ryan Stanek, for reasons I don't want to go into -- but let's just say that he acted inappropriately on some things. So he went. Then we still had this manager, and we ended up going with her label, which was a big mistake too. I mean, we were the biggest band on the label, and the recording budget and the distribution network was there, but other than that she didn't have a proper staff or anything like that; so in hindsight, we should have just gone with a legitimate label. That caused Shaun Glass, our bassist, to leave -- he was disgusted with where we were going business-wise with the new label and all that. That really bummed me out, because to this day, he's one of my best friends, and we were always fucking partners in crime.

CoC: How so?

JW: Well, he contributed a lot to the band -- not just musically, but it was just great being in a band with him. So he was fucking gone. Then we put together _Grotesque Blessings_ with basically just Brian [Griffin, guitars], Joe [Ptacek, vocals] and myself and some hired hands. It got great reviews, and we did a tour but that wasn't very good either. There were a lot of things that were just half-assed on that tour -- a lot of shit that was just done at the last minute. So when we came back from that, I was just totally disgruntled and I was going to call it a day then. But we got the offer to come to Europe where the album has just fucking blown up, and by this point Joe had left as well, so there was another hired hand in his place. I mean, don't get me wrong -- the tour was great, because so many people had been waiting to see us. But when we got back, the band basically got divided into two camps, with one half wanting to do one thing musically and the other wanting to get things moving in another direction. No one could get on the fucking same page, and it just didn't feel right. I had been doing fucking Broken Hope since high school, and I had been recording and touring all through my twenties, but I don't know. Some relationships just get to the point where they aren't meant to be, I guess. Don't get wrong, even with the original line-up Broken Hope was dysfunctional as fuck. We got pretty far and I always thought that we could go even further, but nonetheless the chemistry was gone and shit just went downhill to the point where I just said: "Broken Hope is fucking over, I'm done."

CoC: And that was it?

JW: Well, I'm going to tell you something now that I haven't mentioned to any other website or magazine. Three months ago, the original Broken Hope sat down for the first time, face to face, in about six years, and we discussed -- like the Blues Brothers -- putting the old band back together. I'll tell you how it happened real quick: Shaun Glass heard from Joe Ptacek, who I haven't heard from in years, and over time a lot of bands have been referring to Broken Hope as one of their influences -- the guys from Slipknot are big friends of mine, for example, and when they brought out their first album, they actually went and said that Broken Hope had been a huge influence on them. And as time has gone on, a lot of bands have been coming out of the woodwork and talking about us. Then in the last year, we've had a couple of booking agents get in touch with us, and they've talked about putting us together and putting us on tour. So I talk to Shaun all the time anyway, he mentioned that he and Joe had been speaking and that he was really into the idea of getting back together again. Brian Griffin is the tour manager for Lamb of God these days, so he's busy as fuck, and Shaun Glass is busy with Soil all the time. But long story short, the four of us communicated, agreed to meet up when time allowed, and that happened about three months ago. So the way it will work is that once we all have a bit of downtime, we'll put aside a couple of weeks to rehearse and we'll play a couple of shows to start us off. The only way we're doing it, is doing it fucking right -- full spectrum of all the albums, booked properly and advertised properly, and if it happens it will be a proper reunion with all the members. Then we'll go from there, and see where it all takes us. Some of the people that have approached us are the people that helped put Obituary back together, so there you go.

CoC: With all that you did with Broken Hope, it seemed almost a given that if you did come back after that band had split up, you'd come back doing a death metal project. What made you decide to go a different way?

JW: I had some downtime after Broken Hope, and I mentioned to people that I felt like a fucking lost soul. I had been doing Broken Hope for such a long time, I didn't know what to do with myself. I was still writing music, so I started to do some shit with people here and there, but nothing substantial and it was really nothing serious. The music I was making with these guys wasn't up to the standard that I was used to. It lacked the extreme elements that I loved and it lacked the level of technicality, and it just wasn't happening. It really sucked for a while, man. I tried a couple of different projects, some of them totally not death metal or anything like that. Then I decided to put Lupara together and I just realised that I was going to have to bite the bullet, put fucking ads out in music magazines, make sure I get the right musicians in the band and just do everything the right way. I mean, having done those projects I mentioned before, I had encountered so many half-assed rock star wannabes; no one that I could relate to on any musical or personal level. Their musicianship just sucked, and they had this really narrow-minded, unambitious mentality that didn't work for me. So it took me a while and it wasn't easy starting from scratch, but there you go.

CoC: I remember getting a copy of the first Lupara demo off you and it did sound quite a bit different to what the band does now.

JW: Well, yeah, absolutely. I think there are a lot of bands whose first demo isn't necessarily representative of what they're capable of. I mean, the first Slipknot recordings for example -- I've heard those and they are way fucking different to the shit that they went on to make. So the first demo put our name out there, but I really don't like the music on there very much. The second demo got a little bit better, but getting to the debut album -- you asked why I didn't decide to do another death metal band, and listening to the record I've got to say that I personally haven't ever strayed too far from my riffing style. I think I still make music that tends toward being death metal. But what you hear in our band is that fusion. We've got this guy, Tom Brandner, who fucking loves Napalm Death and all this hardcore stuff. So I still have the bands that influence me and I still have a similar outlook on music, but the outside influence is what probably makes Lupara sound the way it does. Personally I still love death metal and grindcore, and that's definitely on the album; but we also have Tom's punk and hardcore stuff on there.

CoC: How receptive were the labels when you started shopping Lupara around?

JW: You know, it's funny because a couple of the labels contacted me and I contacted a couple of others -- especially guys from the industry that I knew. It was quite mixed. A lot of them didn't quite know what to do with this, or felt that we were too heavy to be sold along with the metalcore stuff, but not heavy enough to be death metal. Some of them gave us a standard spiel about how we need to be prepared to tour in a van and push our stuff on MySpace, and I was like: "Well, no shit -- who do you think you're talking to here?" I mean, I did that for years in Broken Hope, so I know all about paying dues. So a lot of the shit with bigger labels didn't quite pan out. I was very keen to get us on to a label that could guarantee worldwide distribution, and eventually Crash stepped up and talked and talked -- and they weren't the biggest label in the world, but we felt like we definitely wanted to put out a record rather than do another demo. So we did that, and so far, some really amazing stuff has happened actually. Crash have come through on all of their promises: they've given us a video budget, they've come through on all the advertising that they said they would, and we've been pushed in the press really hard, the reviews have been great so far, so all of that has been fucking great. We've also done the video for "No Pity on the Ants" and that fucking thing has just blown up on the Internet. We've had something like 12,000 plays so far and we've been requested so much on Launch that we're in the top ten up there with Lamb of God, Slayer and whatnot. So things have been going fine, nothing happens overnight and we're just going to continue on our present course. We're already working on the second album, and that's going to have more of the slow, sludgy, groovy riffing and a lot of my faster, technical shit as well. So give me another album or two and hopefully we'll be in every fucking store on the planet, and touring the world. <laughs>

CoC: So apart from getting your next album done, what else is on the cards for Lupara?

JW: Well, this summer we're going to try and get some shows going. We don't have a solid booking agent, but we're lucky that our manager runs a major venue in Chicago and he also books for about thirty other places. So we'll probably do a couple of weekend warrior shows over the next couple of months, and then hopefully be in the studio again by the fall or winter at the latest; get that second album going and see what's going to happen with that. We just want to stay busy and progress and keep the momentum going.

CoC: One of your other projects that some people may already know about is Earthburner, which is the grindcore band you've had in the offing for a while now. What's the status there?

JW: Yeah, Earthburner was actually put together straight after Broken Hope broke up, and it was Shaun LaCanne from Putrid Pile, Steve Murray from Fleshgrind and a couple of other guys. We actually already have a shitload of songs written and recorded, but for some fucking reason we recorded all these songs but we haven't done anything with them yet. We're still talking about it and we want to get it done, so we'll probably get together one weekend and take the same approach as Terrorizer did with _World Downfall_ -- just knock that whole fucker out in a day or two. It's going to be pure Terrorizer and Napalm Death grind worship with a couple of ideas that stem from a Broken Hope record that never happened. It was going to be called _Flesh Mechanic_ and it was going to follow up _Grotesque Blessings_, and I actually had like five or six songs written already for that. So I'll pluck some riffs and some pieces from those and they will definitely make an appearance on the Earthburner record, which absolutely has to see the fucking light of day soon.

CoC: Well, thanks for your time, Jeremy. What would you like to say in closing?

JW: I'd like to extend a big fucking thanks to every person that's written or met me in person and said that they like Broken Hope and that they gave Lupara a chance and loved it. That means the world to me. Then secondly, I'm grateful for all the new fans we've turned on to what we do and hopefully gotten them to step away from stuff like Avenged Sevenfold. And to anyone who hasn't heard us who might be reading this -- check us out if you're into brutal metal.

(article submitted 12/7/2007)

7/18/2005 A McKay Lupara: The Shotgun Approach
11/10/2006 J Smit 8 Lupara - Lupara
7/23/2005 J Smit 4.5 Lupara - Self Titled Demo 2005
12/26/2003 J Smit 4 Lupara - Advance Rough-Mix Demo
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