Wild Throne: Take on the world

by Brent Cole

Only a handful of local bands have ever had the opportunity to accomplish what Wild Throne is about to. The trio of Josh Holland, Jeff Johnson and Noah Burns are on the the cusp of releasing their latest long player, Harvest of Darkness, on Roadrunner Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers. Their music will be distributed to fans across the US and beyond – a hell of an accomplishment for a band tucked away in our corner of the Pacific Northwest. But, Wild Throne isn’t just any band.

The history of Wild Throne goes back to the days of the legendary local band Cicadas, when Noah and Josh played together for several years in the 2000s, while Jeff performed bass in The Russians (though he filled in on bass at times in Cicadas). As the decade came to a close, and Cicadas had called it a day, the three formed Dog Shredder – a natural extension for them, though with slightly more musical sensibility. In 2013, the band renamed themselves Wild Throne.

“Noah and I had been in bands together before but we were still kinda learning to play with each other,” Josh stated, recently. “I had come out of another band situation that had toured and recorded a bunch and I wanted to move forward from that experience and apply the knowledge to something with our own vision and was a little more ‘me.’ Same with Wild Throne. We got better, more confident and we honed our ideas to a place where what we were striving for was beginning to far surpass the box I felt we had put ourselves in.”

In addition, Josh began singing, bringing a new dimension to the band, though initially, they weren’t clear how it would work. “I wanted to sing, though I wasn’t sure I could yet.”

As the band progressed, they developed “their” sound. “We wanted to experiment with our innate weirdo prog tendencies by somehow applying them to traditional song structure,” he said. “Wild Throne is an experiment among so many other experiments we’ve tinkered with.”

Which is where we have landed, in warp speed. What initially came across as a linear expression of spastic prog rock sans any vocals with Cicadas has turned into a brutal and punishing rock machine, keeping their prog rock heritage and including powerful dynamics in their songwriting.

The coming Harvest of Darkness, being released Oct. 2, was recorded by legendary producer Ross Robinson.

The build up to this record began in earnest when Josh lucked into a dream situation – he was asked to fill in on guitar for LA rapper Hyro Da Hero’s band (later on bass) during their UK tour. Hyro’s band included Daniel Anderson, who at the time was living in Bellingham (formerly of  Idiot Pilot) and also had an album produced by Robinson.

“It was a bizarre lucky break and probably never should have happened,” Josh stated.

Daniel’s connection to Ross became fortuitous; Dog Shredder was ready to record in Seattle when Daniel gave Robinson the band’s EP, Brass Tactics. He contacted the band and they “stopped everything.” After coming to a show, Ross and the band talked about working together.

“From there it was on,” Josh said. “We slowed down, thought about what we wanted to do and we worked really hard for three years to turn the record we would have made back then into Harvest Of Darkness.”

Along the way, Robinson also recorded the band’s Blood Maker EP, released in 2013. It gave fans a hint of what was to come, and the band continued to tour and work on their sound.

“We started writing songs for Harvest of Darkness right after the Blood Maker EP was released,” Jeff said. “When we were ready to hit the studio at Ross Robinson’s house, we spent two months there restructuring what songs we had, and even writing new songs with Ross. It was a long, but very exciting process for us.”

The band’s sound on Harvest of Darkness, while different from the Dog Shredder days, is a logical extension of their sound. “We’ve been working on it from Dog Shredder’s inception,” Noah stated, “It’s a really nice mix of old and brand new. Of course all the old is completely reworked, but the seeds from the past are there.”

During this time, the band was talking with different labels, and decided to sign with Roadrunner Records, home to such acts as Opeth, Rush and Slipknot.

“When they (Roadrunner) came out they had really done their homework on us. They had their eye on us for a couple of years, which we didn’t know,” Josh said. “There were a couple of other labels we were talking to about doing the full-length and we could tell they were interested, but we could sense their caution for sure. These small town spaz kids coming out of nowhere is a bit confusing for sure. But with Roadrunner it was just on. When the time was right they came at us, they understood us and wanted to get behind it and let us be us 100 percent. We trusted them from the start.”

Jeff added, “Yeah, their enthusiasm was off the charts! It was easy to tell that they genuinely wanted us to have a successful career doing what we love.”

Working with Roadrunner has been all the trio could have hoped for, notably huge amounts of support getting their record out without any entanglements of sound. The band is also learning more about the industry, while maintaining self-preservation.

“So far it’s been awesome having the support of a major label,” Jeff exclaimed. “Roadrunner set us up with a great team, and we’re learning how to navigate the business side of the industry each day. For me personally, I still consider us a local band. Always will. Signing a major label deal isn’t going to change that.”

Noah added that while signing to a label with major distribution is great, they have been cautious every step of the way. “At every juncture or big decision we try to step back and make sure we’re doing what we want, and so far, there’s really been no compromise. The change in our sound was natural, not a major label decision or some other horse shit.
Basically we’ve gotten incredible support in exchange for our intense dedication to our band. This is our life now. It has been a major part of our lives for years, but now it is THE part of our lives, and we’re officially responsible for it.”

The band is thankful for the continued support from the Bellingham community and look forward to what’s coming, including their fall tour.

“Bellingham is our home,” Noah stated. “We’ve all lived here for a decade or more, and have carved out great lives for ourselves.”

He added, “We’ve managed to accomplish so much from up here, so many things that conventional wisdom would have mandated that we move to the big city for. We love it here. We love our families here, and we don’t see any good reason to leave. The music scene here has always been supportive and inspiring. That has never changed. As long as I love here I’m going to be part of it.”

For more about the band, see www.wildthrone.com or follow them on Facebook.

Published in the September 2015 issue of What’s Up! magazine