The Voice of American Power Metal – An Interview with John Yelland
It is well known that a power metal band needs a great front man to succeed. Most singers tend to stick with one band, although many have multiple bands/guest appearances throughout their career. John Yelland falls into the latter. Fronting 3 bands (Disforia, Judicator, and Dire Peril), holding a ton of guest appearances, and maintaining his own YouTube channel (including covers, among other bizarre things), John stands out in the United States power metal (USPM) scene as one of the most prolific and talented musicians. We got together for a little chat and talked about his career, what he aspires to, the USPM scene itself, and a few questions from our own curious writers.
Randall: To get things started off, and to get readers who are unfamiliar with your work up to speed, tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to lately.
John: What I’ve been up to lately! Well, I’m writing lyrics for the upcoming Dire Peril album, and I’m about ready to start on lyrics for the upcoming Judicator album (we’ve chosen to go back to historical themed lyrics for this one.) I’m also finishing up guest vocals on two other songs, and once that’s done I’ll start on some guest songs for Lascaille’s Shroud.
So hopefully by the time I’m done singing the Lascaille’s Shroud material the Dire Peril and Judicator lyrics will be done. I’ll be pretty much non-stop singing from now until about January, haha!
Very busy! You’re currently the lead singer of three different bands. How challenging is it to juggle the different styles, demands, and locations of all three?
Well, I’m only able to do that because Tony Cordisco and Jason Ashcraft are such hard workers. If I had to put as much work and time into Judicator and Dire Peril as I do Disforia then it would be impossible. It also helps that Judicator and Dire Peril have long periods of time where we can work at our own pace, such as now. Dire Peril does have some tour plans, and Judicator plans to do more extensive touring next year, but because we plan so far ahead and plan so thoroughly I’m not worried that I’ll die trying to make it happen. Tony and Jason are so talented and hard working with logistics, planning, and financing. It’s because of them that I’m able to give 110%.
But really, I don’t have a plan and I kinda just make it by the skin of my teeth every time, haha! I have a hard time saying no to people, so I’m always involved with something. But again, I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’ve met some of the best people in my life because I’m always active.
So with Disforia, you’re active with every aspect of the band, but with Dire Peril and Judicator, Jason/Tony are able to manage it at a level that allows you to focus on vocals/lyrics without having to worry about the rest?
Exactly! But in fact right now I’m not even able to contribute as much money, time, and energy into Disforia anymore, due to my schooling. So from now until graduation other members of Disforia are probably gonna have to pick up the slack if we’re going to keep pushing forward. But yeah, Tony and Jason are some of the hardest working people in the underground metal community I know. I cannot give them enough kudos, and I’m thankful to be working with like-minded hard workers.
You’ve loaned guest vocals and voice acting to over 10 different projects, and you also have quite a few cover videos up on YouTube. You’re obviously not afraid to introduce your voice through as many mediums as possible. What keeps you motivated while working for 3 bands, your own YouTube channel, and multiple guest spots?
I’m going to try not to sound like the stereotypical pretentious artist here, but really it’s just a constant need to express myself and explore new, interesting places vocally and lyrically. I’m so damn happy to have so many creative outlets. The world needs plumbers and doctors, they all serve a vital function in our society. I’m of course studying film production and German, but my heart is with art, and I never want to give that up. I have a deep need to create. I hate downtime, and having so many creative outlets keeps me looking forward. I never want to be without a project or goal.
I have Disforia, Judicator, and Dire Peril, but guest vocals allows me the opportunity to do things with my voice that might sound out of place in my own bands. I love hearing my voice interact with different bands, sounds, and musicians. With Lascaille’s Shroud I’m able to go all out by creating ambient, layered operatic vocals, or by going all out and doing blackened death metal vocals. The YouTube channel is really my way of expressing my love for classic rock and other songs that don’t fit with anything.
I think most musicians can relate to what you just said. Due to the high volume of guest work, it’s safe to assume you are well known not just in the United States, but also the global power metal scene. How did you build your career, and how do you plan to capitalize on the work you’ve done so far?
Career? Hahaha! I wouldn’t call what I have a career. Some fine day though it would be fantastic to make enough money to tour and make at least a little money.
But to your question, I’m a man without a plan, drifting from place to place, album to album, I let chance and opportunity guide what I do. So I guess my only plan is to work my ass off, keep doing what I love no matter what, keep having fun, and always seize opportunities.
But speaking of the global power metal scene and careers, I will say that my #1 life goal is to be in a band that’s a headliner at Wacken: Open Air. So everything I do has that end in mind, whether I’m 30, 40, or 50 when it happens.
So it would be fantastic if Judicator could get over into Germany for a 2 week tour in 2017 or 2018 for a start smile emoticon
Sorry, I kinda ranted there haha!
Fully answered questions are better than quick answers! Based on your experience so far, how would you judge and/or classify the US Power Metal scene?
Underground but thriving!
The US Power Metal Scene seems to be really healthy. I was actually thinking about this about a week ago, we have so many damn great underground bands these days: Seven Kingdoms, A Sound of Thunder, Shadowstrike, Helion Prime, MindMaze, Vacant Throne, Cellador, Noble Beast, Tanagra, and many more. I can imagine ten years from now people looking back on this explosion of immense American talent as ‘The American New Wave of Power Metal’ or something, haha! There’s so much talent these days it’s ridiculous, and by ridiculous I mean amazing! The only crazy thing (which actually might be a blessing in disguise) is none of these bands seem to be making it big yet, perhaps with the exemption of MindMaze and Seven Kingdoms, but even so they’re not yet on the big boy level. So yeah, I just gotta say in my own view the US Power Metal scene is thriving and growing, and I would like to see it rise up and become the next big thing.
It’s an exciting time to be around for sure! Power metal is not as popular as other metal genres in the United States. Why do you think that is, and what, if anything, do you believe can be done to change this?
Man, I have no idea. You would think power metal would be one of the most popular, simply because it’s a genre strongly focused on melody. I’ve actually shown Blind Guardian’s ‘A Twist in the Myth’ to friends of mine who aren’t into metal and most have absolutely loved it!
So the frustrating thing I think is that power metal certainly has everything the everyday listener would adore, but because power metal (metal in general) doesn’t get very good promotion and advertisement in the everyday media like pop does, pop reigns supreme, and contemporary pop is largely uncreative, castrated trash.
So I guess to answer you question in one sentence, I would say power metal has everything the everyday listener wants, but because metal doesn’t get the exposure it deserves, it remains in the underground.
What about creating fans within other metal genres? Such as fans of death, stoner, black, etc?
That just comes down to personal taste. I wouldn’t try to push Hinduism on a Christian, or Indian food on someone who doesn’t like curry. Most metalheads are already familiar with the other sub-genres, so if they want to get into power metal then they’ll do it on their own time. I know plenty of metalheads who like Blind Guardian but not much else in power metal.
I will say additionally, however, I am all for cross-pollination at metal shows. I actually really like it when in one show you have multiple styles of metal. Metal as a whole is a delicious smorgasbord and it would be a shame to limit yourself.
Some of our other Toilet authors had some quick questions for you. “Why would you continue with this genre when Pantera already conquered it?”
WALK! ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?
“If you were interrogated and sentenced by the Spanish Inquisition, what heresy would you have committed?”
“If you could be any of King Arthur’s Knights, who would you be?”
I would be Galahad, hands down! He went on adventures, killed his enemies, saw the Holy Grail, and even got to choose when to die.
“If Judi would write about a despised historical figure or a historical “villian” so to speak for an album, who would they pick?”
Well I already wrote King of Rome about Napoleon, and many people hate him! Lol! But if I had to choose someone else who is very interesting yet potentially polarizing, I might choose General Robert E. Lee.
“What’s it like to play shows exclusively to neckbeards?”
We learned really quickly that we had write songs about being friend-zoned so that we could be relatable to our primary demographic: neckbeards. I have a beard though, so I’m a sort of role model. It took some convincing to get Tony on board with our new stage attire: fedoras, buttoned up polo shirts, and dress shoes. We also have Mountain Dew catering at our shows.
Last question. What is the best piece of advice you can offer young bands and musicians, in any genre?
If you’re interested in fame, money, a career, or women, stop. Don’t waste your time or anyone else’s. Follow your dreams, your REAL dreams. If you want money, work your ass off to be an engineer or something. If you want women, be a rocket ship. If you love music, art, people, traveling, hard work, and camaraderie, then join us. It’s a healthy, growing, vibrant underground community that is always hungry for more talent.
You can find John’s bands at these bandcamp / Facebook links: