We are jumping back into the world of Josh Willis, but this time he has a few new tricks up his sleeve. Andronikos is a dark, ice castle king that has a lot of darkness to his tracks but it tells an amazing story. This 5 track EP takes you on a ride you never expect if you have listened to any other songs that Josh may have wrote or taken part of in the past. This icy cold exterior of Andronikos holds a chamber of secrets, waiting to be told.
This interview we will see what really made Josh tick creating this masterpiece, jump into how loss and stressful times helped him write some of the most amazing tracks I have ever had a chance to listen to. I got a sneak peek before it was released and let me tell you, I could not wait for the world to hear the spectacular songs I was able to hear.
Is Andronikos the evil ruler of his ice castle like he seems or is there another side to his dark world of metal? This album is enough to make even Elsa shake in her ice-cube stilettos. Let’s enter the cold, deep, dark world of Andronikos with Josh Willis!
TICK TOCK TICK TOCK…… Let’s go!
Josh, or should I call you Andronikos, thank you for doing another interview with me. Tell me a little about this seemingly darker alter ego of yours?
Thank you for interviewing me again! I was actually on a really long drive when I had the random idea that I wanted to launch a new solo project in which I took on a different persona, wear a mask, and erase any trace of who I am in real life when it came to this new music. I thought it would be fun and interesting for metal fans to see this new one-man-band who has this horrifying and evil appearance with an elaborate fictitious backstory, while no one knows who’s actually under the mask.
You recently released a 5 song EP called King-Chapter 1: Stories from the Light, in my opinion each song takes a life of its own. What inspired you to want to write these songs?
I originally wrote the entire King album to be one album rather than two EP’s. Collectively, the songs on King tell a story that mirrors a lot of things that were going on in my life while this project was transpiring and how I overcame everything that was thrown my way. I had a couple of years there that were very difficult and heavy, but also very pivotal for my life as well. Within a very short time frame, I lost my grandmother, lost both of the bands I was in, the preexisting turmoil in my broken home was heating up more than usual, and I was having trouble with student loans preventing me from continuing in college. I could go on all night, but I’ve hit the general idea here. When things aren’t going well, I think its’s a human tendency to amplify how bad things really are, and before I knew it, I was sitting there with this distorted image of what a mess my life was and the idea that it would always be like this, that I wouldn’t accomplish anything, that the world isn’t fair, and that I just have to accept the miserable circumstances I had been given. It’s a bit alarming to me how quickly I can fall into these downward spirals, but they do happen to me. That characteristic was a huge component in crafting the main character in the King album. We have this “mad king” who at the beginning of the album shows this cold hatred towards the rest of the world and sense of independence in “The Song of Winter” which is something that I admittedly do see in myself. On both Stories from the Light alone and on both parts of the King album together, you’ll see a story of this sadistic king with a sick and twisted mind slowly reveal a soft side, a positive attitude, and a will to do good. The progression of this story, and growth of the king is a large fantasy-driven set of metaphors that represent the battles that went on in my own head throughout my life.
The very first song starts with the ticking of a clock, almost saying it’s the beginning of a new era, a new formation to your music. I love how it’s all instrumental, did you arrange it all yourself?
You’re the first person to catch and understand the clock’s meaning!!!!!!!! You’re absolutely right! Like I mentioned before, I had a very pivotal couple of years in both great ways and terrible ways. A lot of doors closed and I lost a lot, but at the same time a lot of doors opened and I grew a lot. I’ve always been fascinated by the passing of time and recognizing what changes and what stays the same. You take a look in a room in your house that you’ve lived in for years, a restaurant that’s been around for years that you’ve been going to for who knows how long, roads you travel on a daily basis. It’s very surreal when those moments hit in which you still find yourself in the same locations and environments, yet so much has changed. Different people come in and out of the picture, stories change, memories fade, and new ones are saved. Life goes very quickly and it won’t wait for you. The ticking clock symbolizes what feels like a “small period of time,” and the instruments fading into this huge orchestral piece is meant to sound like the welcoming of a new chapter/stage/era of my life that has a “LET’S GO!” attitude. To answer your second question, yes, I composed and arranged this entire piece myself. The female vocalist is the voice of Uyanga Bold; she’s one of Hans Zimmer’s vocalists and you can hear her on the soundtracks of The Dark Knight, Overwatch, and League of Legends.
There are almost elements of Avenged Sevenfold, like you put them all in a blender with a Bullet for my Valentine and Asking Alexandria. Are these influences to your music, in both your work under Josh Willis and also Andronikos?
I think I subconsciously mimic Avenged Sevenfold at times because I more or less pigeonholed my music selection in my teens to exclusively that band. They’re more or less permanently fused into me at this point, which may be for better or worse. I like Bullet and Asking Alexandria, but I wouldn’t say I listen to them enough for them to have an influence on my music. As far as Andronikos, I would say my bigger influences are Avenged Sevenfold, Hans Zimmer, and Sixx:AM, which I know is a very odd combination, but I think there are a lot of qualities to find in each artist’s material.
Archaic Anthem is probably my favorite track on the album. Has a bit of a Panic at the Disco start…. I love how it goes from a smooth piano played in the beginning and slams the guitars right in your face, I think it’s one of your best songs yet! Killer vocals as well. What song are you most proud of on this album?
Thank you for the kind words, I really like that song a lot! I actually wrote this song in my head while walking the streets of Las Vegas with my girlfriend. I love hair metal and glam metal, I love everything about the eighties metal scene even though I wasn’t alive yet. I’ve always toyed with the idea of writing a funny eighties song, so Archaic Anthem is what happened when I finally went through with it. It’s meant to be funny, have that cock rock attitude, and maybe even be considered a parody hair metal song. I’m probably most proud of Archaic Anthem and Bring Me Home. I think Bring Me Home is some of the best writing I’ve done so far, and my goal was to create an even balance of catchy radio rock and modern metal heaviness. I like that song a lot because of the strong Spanish guitar themes as well, and it’s also the most musically complex since, in addition to drums, bass, guitar, singing, I also put in a full brass section, maracas, orchestral strings, Spanish classical guitar, bongos, and there’s this huge choir that sings, “Bring Me Home” repeatedly at the beginning and during the ending of the song. I think it has some of my stronger lyrics too. Admittedly, I used to not really care about lyrics and therefore didn’t put a ton of effort into writing them. It’s just a huge song both lyrically and musically, so I’m really proud of it.
These songs take your listeners on an adventure, almost to another world it seems. Are these songs telling the story of Andronikos?
So when Chapter 2 comes out and you’ll be able to listen to the whole 10 song album in order, and it tells the story of this sadistic King who murders for fun, and generally hates everything. As the album progresses, he reveals a vulnerable side and a will to do good. The last song on Chapter 2, Conquering Andromeda, is my favorite track out of both chapters because this is the dramatic moment in which the King turns good, and the world sees the light at the end of the tunnel. When writing this story, in terms of “scenery” and environment, I wanted listeners to start by seeing Hell and end the album by seeing Heaven. The main message I want people to take away from this is that if it ever feels like you’re losing everything, I promise this isn’t the end, and sadness isn’t all you’ll ever be able to look forward to. Things always get better, trust me on that.
What made you want to make a record like this, these songs have so much power from what I’ve heard from you in the past?
Thank you so much, I’m really proud of these songs. I’m a firm believer that the more emotionally-charged I am, the better music I write. I think after taking life’s beatings, I wrote some of the best songs of my career because I put more feeling into them than anything I’ve done in the past, and I really had a lot I wanted to communicate to listeners this time around. Not only lyrically, but also musically I make it a huge priority to convey very specific feelings. The Song of Winter is a great example of this. This is a song that was meant to achieve character development of the king. The sound of wind, sleigh bells, and snide lyrics were intended to convey a cold, lonely, and heartless king with a hostile feeling towards the world. Bring Me Home sort of unveils the opposite of this. I wanted to write a set of songs that tell a story of a light at the end of the tunnel, and essentially pulling it together and conquering the world.
Now, I know you have done some pretty killer covers in the past, what you did with a Taylor Swift song was pretty fucking sweet! Can we expect to see anything like that again in the future?
Haha thanks!! Yeah those are always fun because it lets people get a different take on very well-known songs. I originally did the first Taylor Swift cover just to be funny, but then it ended up being really interesting to work on. I’ve got a couple crazy covers in the works right now that I’m really excited to tell people about.
When you aren’t creating these musical masterpieces, what have you been doing in the off time?
I don’t have off time, I’m always in costume getting into grand-scale crimes including jewelry store heists. Not really, I literally get the same flavor of coffee at Sheetz every morning and sit in organic chemistry class wishing I was at home asleep. Still in costume though, duh.
All these songs are so amazingly arranged, each is like a little piece of perfection. How much of the arrangements did you do on your own? Did you play all the instruments to loop over each other on each track?
100% of all of the instruments and vocals were performed myself. I did 100% of the musical writing, and I had some help from my producer, Grant McFarland, in writing vocal melodies. It was nice co-writing these vocals because we were able to make a compilation of each other’s best ideas and create one ultimate set of vocal parts. He really pushed me as a vocalist too on this record, which I’m grateful for. I’m still fairly new to singing and personally I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I think my voice grew a lot after working with him for days on this record.
Do you feel like you have grown a lot as an artist, from when you first began? What has changed for the good or worse?
I think I’ve learned a tremendous amount in the past few years in so many areas. I’ve learned so much invaluable material in the realm of professional music that I wouldn’t have gained without being involved in the bands that I was, even if I was only involved briefly. I think I’ve become motivated to be a better musician by actually practicing my instruments more. My writing has improved significantly since my last solo release, and I think everything is timed a certain way intentionally, so I don’t necessarily believe that anything has changed for the worse.
Can we expect a Chapter 2 sometime? What’s down the road for Andronikos? Where does he go in his downtime? I picture him living in a frozen castle on the cliffs in Norway…..
Chapter 1 has all of the calmer, radio-friendly, arena rock songs. Chapter 2: Stories from the Dark has all of the brutal, face-melting, soul-crushing, too-heavy-for-radio songs that will just annihilate listeners from start to finish. Anyone who enjoyed the slower and more peaceful pace of Chapter 1 is in for a rude awakening when Chapter 2 is released. Once Chapter 2 is out, I’d like to take King to the stage and make it a live show. I have a lot of wild ideas in mind for a live concert as far as implementing a really theatrical performance and production.
Any advice out there for any artists who are nervous about taking their music down different roads? Or even little bloggers like me……
No matter how different, outrageous, or ridiculous you think your new idea is, if you believe in it, then do it.
Great words to live by Josh, I think we could all take something from that. I know I sure can! No matter who wild your dream sounds, just do it!
All photos and use of youtube feature are courtesy of Josh Willis
If you would like to keep up on Josh and all his musical adventures, you can follow him on the following social media platforms;
Check out his music, including this amazing new record on Apple Music, iTunes and Spotify.
And please subscribe to his Youtube channel, you can find it on the video posted in this very interview!
thank you again to Josh Willis for granting me this chance to interview him. He’s a true hard working musician. Keep making music that makes ears happy!!
Leave a comment, let Josh know what you think of his new EP!
Thanks for reading!