QUICKIE OF THE WEEK: A short interview with Christian Grey (Villain of the Story)

written by Marko Jakob

Pix666: Hello Christian. Thanks for your time. How are you doing these days, are you alive and well?

Christian: Hey! Doing well. Life is always crazy but there’s a lot to be grateful for.

Pix666: Your band Villain of the Story was formed in 2013. Please introduce your band to the readers in a few short sentences.

Christian: We are a metalcore/rock band from Minnesota. The band’s line up is my brother Logan (who sings and writes our lyrics/melodies), Cody (guitar), Page (bass), and myself (screams). I write the music/instrumentals.

Pix666: From your point of view, what are the milestones in the band‘s history so far – but also the experiences that you will never forget, such as funny moments during video shoots, etc.?

Christian: Immediately I think of opening Warped 2017 on the main stage. We won that years’ battle of the bands competition and were given the opening spot. Walking out during our intro that day was everything I dreamed about since originally getting into this kind of music. Aside from that we opened a few shows on an I Prevail / Wage War tour that year as well. That was sick haha.

Non show related highlights we be our song Peace of Mind hitting 1 million views. It’s approaching 4M now, which is crazy to us, but when it originally hit that 1M that was something special. When you have your first song hit those kinds of numbers (without any label/manager/etc) it’s pretty wild. I always think back to when our first song finally hit 1,000 views and how awesome that felt at the time haha

Pix666: About a year ago your album ‘Bloodshot’ was released. How were the fans’ reactions to this album and were there any musical differences to your previous releases?

Christian: From everything I’ve been able to read/hear, fans really enjoyed it! I’m sure there’s plenty who weren’t fans of it but overall it was very well received.

Musically it’s pretty on par with our normal sound but I think we really stepped things up in terms of songwriting and production. It was the first album we fully wrote and recorded ourselves so it was my first real attempt at writing exactly what I wanted to.

In the past a lot of stuff would be concepts and ideas I would hear in my head, and our producer would write it and actually create it. Over the years I learned a lot about songwriting and Bloodshot was the first time I sat down and literally wrote all the orchestral sections, textures, background ambiences, etc. It’s by far the record I’m most personally proud of.

But back to the musical changes I think we amped up the aggressiveness of some of our riffs and song structures. On the flip side, I think we did a much better job at our more rock type songs. Better arrangements, better lyrics, better melodies, stuff like that.

Pix666: The album was created and released in the middle of the pandemic. Did the collaboration with the band during the pandemic go differently than usual and were you able to play the new songs live in front of an audience at all?

Christian: Our process was similar to what we’ve normally done, however it did cause some delays in when we were comfortable enough to set up times to travel and get Logan to MN for recording. We also decided to stay home and record everything ourselves instead of all going to a studio and stay there to record.

Sadly no we haven’t played any shows since before the pandemic. By the time we play live again we’re more than likely to have the next album out haha

Pix666: You were under contract with the label Stay Sick Recordings for about 18 months. Now you are a pure independent band again – without label, managers and agents. Why did you decide to take this step?

Christian: it hasn’t been officially announced yet but we’ve actually just signed with Out of Line Music. Very excited to start our partnership with them soon!

Being a fully independent has been what we are most used to so we were excited to go back to being unsigned when that all happened. Honestly in hindsight we didn’t signed a favorable deal but luckily our contact / main operator at the label (Mike Milford) is a super genuine dude and actually gave a fuck about his bands haha. So after the record came out and we weren’t really getting the push support or finding we were hoping, we wanted to start the next album but we were essentially told no and we’re going to be shelved. But Mike had a talk with us and gave us the option to leave our contract early in order to do all the things we wanted to do.

He could have easily just kept us under contract but he wanted us to grow and keep moving forward. There were just some back end issues happening with the label at the time that were out of his control which is what was leading us to being shelved.

Once we were released from the contract that’s when we went in to do the next album Ashes. This was a crucial point for the band due to us funding the first EP and album, not having a favorable record deal, and now being left to fund another album completely on our own. We were so in debt at this point. The band wasn’t making any profits really. So the choice to fund an entire album while still being in debt to the first album was a lot. Luckily we were able to grind it out and eventually Peace of Mind single handedly turned everything around.

Eventually Ashes as a whole grew to a point where we made our entire debt back and finally started to profit a little bit. It was at this point where we started to gain some momentum and find our groove as an independent band. We learned so much and for the most part “knew” what we were doing. Obviously still so much to learn but we were in the best position we had ever been in at this time and I think we did an alright job at managing the band from then up til now. It’s just exciting to feel like after almost 8 years, we’re just getting started. Can’t wait to launch this next chapter with Out of Line.

Pix666: Nevertheless, your song ‘Peace of mind’ from the album ‘Ashes’ has almost 4 million views on YouTube. A remarkable number. How do you still manage to spread your music so well?

Christian: Honestly, Peace of Mind is wild to think about. I don’t think we ever pushed it or advertised it. We maybe made like 3 posts about it for the first bit of its release.

I feel you could say it’s luck, because it really came down to the YouTube algorithm picking it up and sharing it into a snowball effect. However I believe a lot of times you create your own luck. I think the fact that I tried filming that video like 3-4 different times with different storylines and footage in completely different locations is how we ended up with the current version, and the current version is what resonated with so many people.

I believe if we would have released any of the other cuts of the video it wouldn’t have performed nearly as well. Or if it did it probably would have taken a lot more marketing or time to catch on. But I think it came down to us not settling for the first idea, just to release something. Choosing to scrap idea after idea until the right story was capture and told is what made it all click.

It was around this time that I started doing our own videos. As mentioned before when recording Ashes we were super in debt. We need to change our business model and save money so we invested an entire normal video’s budget into a camera so that I could film and edit videos, thus saving costs in the long run. So because I was the one handling the Peace of Mind video I had the ability to decide if the cut was good enough or not.

I’ve learned more about film and editing since then so there’s plenty I would change to the video now, but being that it’s still doing as well as it is I’d say I managed to capture and tell the right story that I was going for at the time and I’m happy with it.

Outside of Peace of Mind usually we run ads online, which I’ve spend a lot of time learning about ads and algorithms and stuff in order to reach the desired audience. We haven’t been doing ads for awhile so I suppose lately it’s just been organic growth and engaging with our fans.

Pix666: I’m a fan of statistics of all kinds. What about you, Christian? Do you look at the numbers of streams, the views on YouTube, or do you know, for example, in which countries the people who listen to your music live?

Christian: yeah I love knowing all the details behind things. Who’s most interested, where, and why. I think it helps define who you most ideal fan is and helps you figure out more about them and yourself with what you’re trying to accomplish.

I’ve learned to not care as much about number however, which ever since I really taught myself that my mental health has been better haha. Early on I feel I was probably too focused on the numbers and cared way too much. Too me away from being as connected to the music and the fans as I am now without worrying at all about it. So I love statistics but I also try to balance how much I love them haha

Pix666: In the past you covered Songs from ´N Sync, Nickelback and Bullet for My Valentine. Why did you choose these songs and are there more songs that you have covered?

Christian: I believe those are all the covers we’ve done as a band, but we chose the Nickelback stuff for a few reasons. Mainly we genuinely enjoy Nickelback haha. Logan especially. So we wanted to covered them anyways but let’s be honest they’re basically a huge meme that a lot of people dunk on so that’s gotta be a big reason for anyone to check out the covers in the first place. But you best believe we jam Nickelback daily! Haha

The **NSYNC cover was our first I think. That was kinda a last minute in studio idea at the time and it was so much fun recording. When it comes to covers we’ve always wanted to do older throwback songs or songs not normally covered.

The bullet cover was an idea just because at the time we had already done a Nickelback song (Someday), and we wanted to do Animals with a joke video so following that up with a more serious song would show off both aspects of the band. Waking the Demon was a favorite growing up and felt like a song we could make our own. Although I now realize after some online criticism that I played the main guitar riff slightly wrong hahaha

Pix666: With cover versions, you can of course take a lot of negative criticism. I hope it was different for you – tell me what the feedback was like?

Christian: overall I’d say our covers have been received very well. Obviously with so many not liking Nickelback those kinds of rude comments are bound to come in but we’re aware of peoples attitudes towards them haha. We did covers for fun and I feel for the most part that was received by people.

Pix666: What are your plans for the future? Are you already working on songs for a next album?

Christian: yeah our next album is completely finished! We should be set to roll out our partnership with Out of Line on December 2nd with the release of the next album’s first single.

We’re planning to have a handful of singles and videos during the first half of 2022 with an album release (hopefully) around summer time.

Pix666: As a musician, you surely spend most of your time creating music – but what else do you do in your free time when you want to distract yourself – are there any interesting hobbies you pursue? 😊

Christian: Logan actually is a full time twitch streamer/YouTuber, he’s been growing like crazy and I’d almost say is more known for that than the band at this point which is hilarious and awesome.

I’m super into video games and film/shows/movies. For the most part outside of music related stuff I’m playing games and watching films/shows with my wife and hanging out haha

Pix666: Do you have any other news about Villain of the Story or some interesting personal things about you that you would like to share with the fans?

I think all I want to say a the moment is that I appreciate all the support for what we do and that I can’t wait to release these new songs. I think it’s my favorite album we’ve done and I’m excited to share what we’ve worked on. Thanks for having me!

Pix666: Thank you very much for the interesting answers – Good luck and stay healthy!



photos © by Roxy Faith Alexandria & rileydownsphoto