Being a music fan, you always love when one of your favorite bands comes on with something new. Alustrium has been one of those bands that stuck to me quickly and I listened to them for a while. Then to hear that their guitarist, Chris Kelly, was in another group, doing something quite unique. A Star Wars themed band, Galactic Empire! Not to mention he was portraying your favorite character from the movie series, Vader. Galactic Empire is made up a group of really awesome characters, all puns intended.
Walk with me as we take a little walk through the days and nights, the busy musical life of Chris Kelly.
Buckle up, it’s going to be quite a ride!
Give the readers a quick introduction of yourself, be as simple or as off the wall as you want.
Chris: My name is Chris Kelly. I’m a musician and recording engineer from Philadelphia, now living in the Lehigh Valley. I play guitar for a progressive death metal band called Alustrium and also for the recently notable Star Wars themed band, Galactic Empire (I’m the guy behind the Vader mask).
What age did you decide that you wanted to play the guitar? Was it your first instrument?
Chris: I was about 10 when I decided to pick up guitar. After seeing the movie School of Rock and, I kid you not, Freaky Friday, I came to the decision almost immediately. Not sure what it was about Lindsay Lohan pretending to play guitar that got me so stoked, but it ended up paying off. It was technically my second instrument (I played sax in elementary and middle school), but it was certainly the first one I had a true passion for.
Alustrium, I have to say is one of my favorite bands out there, really love the sound. Lucid Intervals is one of the best tracks.
How long has the band been together? Give us all a little insight to how the band started.
Chris: Thanks! That’s definitely one of our most “out of the box” songs as far as our music is usually concerned, so it’s cool to hear that someone digs it besides us. Alustrium has been around for almost a decade at this point (if you count the various stages of the band that eventually became Alustrium). The origins of the band aren’t really anything extraordinary. Just a couple of awkward, angsty high schoolers who wanted to play mean sounding music. It took us a good while to hone in on what our current sound is, but I think the shitty stages are essential to any growing band or musician.
What kind of gear do you use when playing/performing? What would your dream guitar be?
Chris: Being a self certified gear nerd, the list gets fairly extensive. I’m very proud to represent PRS Guitars, Fractal Audio and Bare Knuckle Pickups. Aside from those brands, my rig varies based on which band I’m playing with.
For Alustrium I run a Kemper profiler with a Fractal FX8 floor unit and Mike uses an AxeFx II XL+. Both of our rigs run into a Carvin TS100 stereo power amp which powers our Orange cabinets. For smaller shows we each use a PPC212c and for larger shows Mike will use a PPC412c while I run both of the 2x12s.
For Galactic Empire all guitarists will be using Fractal AxeFx units which will be run to power amps that power Mesa/Boogie 4x12s.
As for my dream guitar, as I said I play PRS guitars so that’s already a big dream crossed off the list. I guess if I had to think of something it would be the typical rockstar dream of one day having my own signature guitar with them.
Growing up, who inspired you to want to become a musician? who inspires you now?
Chris: I do believe I gave Lindsay her due credit early on. My current inspirations come from a much larger number of players. I tend to take more of an interest in songwriting as opposed to musical prowess, though most of the music I usually listen to has some level of prowess built in. Some of my biggest influences that have been with me since the early days of playing would be John Petrucci, Mark Morton, David Gilmour, and James Hetfield.
Now people will know you as Darth Vader in Galactic Empire. This seemed to blow up overnight with your viral video for the theme to Star Wars. As a huge Star Wars fan/geek, whatever you wanna call it, I love it! How did the whole idea of GE come about? Where did this brain child hatch?
Chris: For legal reasons I should specify that I am “Dark Vader”. We do our best to keep ourselves within the confines of fair use because Disney has a pretty solid team of lawyers. The rapid climb to viral status was definitely something that surprised all of us. We knew it had the potential to be popular, but never expected it to rise that quickly.
The idea was originally from our drummer, Grant McFarland. He did a drum play through over the London Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the Imperial March a few years ago. Eventually Grant texted me one day asking what I would think of expanding on making a sort of “metal” kind of Star Wars band. Naturally I thought it was an awesome idea. Over the next number of months Grant and our bassist, Carson (who both own Atrium Audio) spent a lot of time arranging the songs for our instruments. Once everything was demoed out we got to recording the final takes. All of this, along with the first music video ended up taking the better part of a year.
Did you expect it to gain a fanbase like it has? Did any of you expect the video to go as viral as it had?
Chris: I seem to have a knack for answering questions before they’re asked. As I said, we always saw the potential for the concept but we had no idea it would take off like it had. The response has been incredible and we couldn’t be more grateful for the support we’ve received.
I basically have two jobs, I write plus I have a day job at a pharmacy being a data entry tech. How do you juggle your time between two bands, Alustrium and Galactic Empire?
Chris: Easy. I have no life. I work a full time job and every ounce of free time usually goes to one of the two bands depending on which one requires my immediate attention. Luckily I have other members of both bands who are extremely helpful in picking up the slack to keep things moving so I can spend some time with my wife and my dogs every now and then.
What goals do you have set for both bands as of right now?
Chris: Both bands share the same goal; to do everything in our power to grow as much as humanly possible. We all believe in what we do and will continue to try to improve on it. There’s often a lot of work for no reward, but that’s part of the job. In this business, perseverance is everything.
Have you seen a life change since GE really blew up on the scene? I mean come on you guys were on the Red Carpet of the Oscars…… that’s pretty epic!
Chris: Absolutely. I mean, as far as our normal lives go things are more or less the same. Our musical lives, however have changed dramatically. We’ve partnered with some of the best names in the business, acquired endorsements we had never thought possible and we’ve been given a number of opportunities that make us go “since when do we matter to people?”. The red carpet gig was pitched, organized and executed in less than a week. We got the email from E!, we said yes and the next day we had our flights booked. That kind of thing is just unreal to us.
How much fun is it to make the videos all dressed in the costumes, playing as a band?
Chris: ……Not as much fun as you might think. Ask anyone in the band, I am CONSTANTLY bitching about those costumes. Mainly because the ones we had in the videos are just meant to be higher end Halloween costumes. They’re not meant to be worn for eight hours of filming. They’re extremely hot, we can’t move, we can’t see, some of us can’t even sit down. All of this, along with the legal issues that come with using someone else’s intellectual property is why we are currently designing new costumes for when we go on tour. They will still have enough of the original features to be recognizable, but they will be their own versions of the characters to keep us in the green. They’ll also be way more comfortable and maneuverable.
I’m not playing favorites but I have ALWAYS loved Darth. I have amassed a collection of Darth items, always looking for the next awesome piece….. So tell me, What’s it really like to be Darth? Do you get recognized out of costume?
Chris: It’s definitely cool to be “the face” of the band. Most people know that the core of the band is me, Grant and Carson, but it’s no secret that Vader is the most recognizable of the bunch. He was always one of my favorite characters growing up so it’s sort of like my inner child is finally able to dress up without getting yelled at. As far as being recognized, no. Not at all. Partially because I myself am not nearly important enough for that level of notoriety, but mainly because the videos that have millions of views have us all under masks.
You very recently got married, congrats to you both!! What does your wife think of all this?
Chris: Thanks! She has always been extremely supportive of my musical pursuits. I wouldn’t be able to do this without her.
Got to ask this question…… the Red Imperial Guard, is he as big of a dork as he seems like he is?
Chris: When we were deciding on alternate names for the characters, my pitch for his was “Red Idiot”. That should say enough.
Galactic Empire is doing a tour of the UK this coming fall, such great news! Are you guys ready for this? Tell us how it feels….
Chris: It’s an amazing feeling. It’s pretty unreal to have our first tour ever be an international one. Liam, our agent at Artery Global has been absolutely amazing. These next few months of prep will be harrowing for sure, but we’re more than excited to take on the challenge!
Where would you love to travel and play after the UK tour?
Chris: Anywhere and everywhere.
Do you think that Alustrium and GE could ever tour together?
Chris: You never know! We don’t exactly have the same target audience but I don’t think anyone would complain about doing a joint tour.
what would your idea of an EPIC tour lineup be?
Chris: I assume you mean a tour that includes one or both of my bands, but that’s a pretty tough question. Honestly just getting the chance to tour with any established band in the genre would be a dream come true for all of us. Whether we’re fans of their music or not really isn’t relevant. We respect those who have pursued and refined their craft to make a career out of it and to be anywhere close to that level would be a great privilege.
With the state of the world right now (gonna get serious for a moment). Every day we turn on the news and there’s more tragedy and sadness, violence around every corner. What do you think needs to change? Do you think music is a healer of pain? I’ve heard for others, as well as myself, that music can change alot…..
I think music can only help individuals. It certainly has a lot of power, but I don’t believe it’s something that can end a war or feed a nation. To try and hone in on what exactly needs changing is just too large of a conversation to fit in here. However, I will say that I truly believe 24 hour cable news is the worst thing to happen to the world. Back in the day there was just the news. It came on twice a day, you got the big stuff and a few little highlights of smaller stuff and that was it. Nowadays everyone has a motive, everyone has an agenda; some type of external motivator that has nothing to with bringing people the news. We can never receive terrible news and be allowed to deal with it; allowed to heal. News breaks of a shooting and its immediately a gun debate. News breaks of a wrongful death and its immediately a race war. No one is allowed to form their own opinion. Opinions are now fed to the public and we’re all expected to pick a side. The fact of the matter is the world will never get better as long as we allow the shitty people to keep us hating each other.
Without music, where would you be?
Chris: Much fatter, likely alone and certainly a virgin.
Can you give us a sneak peek into coming attractions for either band? Any surprises up your sleeves?
Chris: They wouldn’t be surprises if I spilled the details here!
Now this is where I always ask to leave your own final thoughts, like your very own open mic… The floor is yours.
what would you like to leave us with?
Chris: Oh god. Uhhh…..thanks for reading? Thanks for allowing me to indulge whatever part of my ego felt it appropriate to do an interview in the first place! Go listen to both bands. Hopefully you dig it and buy stuff. That would be cool
Thanks for taking this little trip with me through world for Chris Kelly.
If want to check out more about Chris and his bands Alustrium and Galactic Empire, look them up on the following platforms:
@Alustrium @GalacticEmpire8 @ChrisAlustrium
Until nexttime, keep that music loud and keep aiming high for those dreams!
This is Stacie and I am Stack Attacks Music.