SAMTAR: "Each of the human characters portrayed on the album cover are something like a metaphor for different personalities that dominate the zeitgeist"
Our next stop takes us to the USA, more precisely Wisconsin, where we meet with the mastermind behind one-man band SAMTAR. He's gonna release his new album "Shadow of the King's Charade" on January 13th, which comes along with a great mix of styles, wonderful vocals, and a good pinch of craziness.
Welcome to learn more about the multi-instrumentalist and his amazing work here:
Hey, thanks for making time to answer my questions. How are you today?
Thanks for having me. I'm great! My cat is all recovered from her dental procedure, and I'm working on some cool new music.
Glad to hear that :-) Could you please introduce yourself and SAMTAR to our readers?
Yeah, I'm an artist who spends way too much time playing music alone. I also write, record, mix and master everything from my home.
You’re set to release your album “Shadow of the King’s Charade” on January 13th. How do you feel about it?
Really, really excited! This is probably my most cohesive and fluid album I've had since my first one. I don't think I set out to do that, but it just worked out that way. Though, I did sort of want to rekindle a sound I had on that first album to some degree.
I've also worked really hard on extending my vocal range throughout my career, but in the last year or so, things have really reached a new level - and I think that it's best exemplified on this album on tracks like "Town of Forgotten Souls," "Lost Vision," and "Cool to Me."
Things have gotten even better since then... but we'll have to wait something like another year for that. Hah.
I see ;-) It was actually your voice and amazing vocal performance that caught me from the first spin.
Let’s take a look at the eye-catching cover artwork. What can you tell us about its origins, and does it reflect the album thematically?
Each of the human characters portrayed on the album cover are something like a metaphor for different personalities that dominate the zeitgeist. Then we also have my cat - because why not?
As far as how much it reflects the album, it does entirely - at least with how I feel. However, the symbols and metaphors in the artwork are a bit different than the exact stories told in the songs. I hope that makes some sense.
Absolutely :-) Could you dive a bit into the record’s topics with us, please?
Surely. It's not exactly a concept album, so things bounce around from topic to topic.
"The Shadow From My Dreams" is sort of about paralysis and entertaining "mystical" thinking.
"Cool to Me" was the first line I sang out loud when I played the chorus while writing that song. It just felt good to sing, so I went with it. The track is sort of a rejection of meaning, and lyrics having to have deeper meanings.
"Echoes From Across The Sea" was largely inspired by the war in Ukraine (at least feeling wise) - though the actual lyrical content doesn't exactly reflect that. Kind of a reocurring theme in my music. The chorus is mostly just about not giving up, and knowing you're not alone in your struggles - ever.
"The Horror Within"... hmmm I'm not sure ;-)
Yay! The Man and The Fool! My two favorites - lyric wise.
"The Man" is about witnessing your friends struggle to find their identity, and "The Fool" is about witnessing your friends find their identity in bullshit. Except the third verse - that's just me cynically venting. Actually a lot of my songs are just that.
"She Will Have Her Revenge" is about the regression of women's rights in the U.S. since the overturning of Roe V. Wade.
"River Spirit" was sort of loosely inspired by "Spirited Away" - Love Miyazaki. It's about a spirit watching a girl grow up and watching her spirit slowly fade. That and some other random tree huggin' type stuff. Hah.
"Wild Boys" deals with billionaires being controlling dicks ruining the world. That, and just fascists in general.
"Lost Vision" is about losing your mind - basically, with "Her Shadow" being part two, which is... hmm well I'll let that one be about whatever you want it to be.
"Town of Forgotten Souls" is a total stream of consciousness. Another huge favorite of mine lyrically, but basically every line of the song is about something different.
Awesome! Thank you :-)
The variety of your music is amazing, and considering you write / produce all the songs, and take over nearly every instrumental as well as vocal part makes things even more impressive. What is your musical background, and where do you draw your inspiration from?
I never really had any formal training. I got some voice and guitar lessons when I was a teenager, and that's about it. I played in some bands in high school, and some other bands throughout my early twenties, but nothing ever really stuck. Usually, I was the only one in the bands that wanted to rehearse and play music. Everyone else just wanted to hangout and talk about being in a band... Very weird to me.
But yeah, it's just been a long life of working in my studio, writing and recording songs alone because I never was able to really find the right band.
That's a pity - But who knows what the future has in store?... I’m fascinated by your high creativity, in quality and quantity, especially as SAMTAR is a solo project. Could you briefly describe your writing and recording process, please?
Sure thing - It's really quite simple. I sit around watching TV while I dabble around on the guitar until I stumble across a chord progression, or melody that really clicks with how I'm feeling. I'll then record the guitar part to a metronome and try to write out the whole song from start to finish on just guitar first. That way I have a solid composition sitting in front of me right away. Then I'll add at least one verse or chorus, to get an idea of sort of the main theme / direction.
It certainly doesn't always happen like this, but those tend to be my best or most popular songs. From there I just decide what else I want to add. Whether that be drums, bass, synth, piano, other key instruments or whatever.
I see. How did you come up with your artist name, and is there a deeper meaning behind?
It's actually my nickname that a few close friends used to call me. I got the name in high school because I played piano at a party with power chords like I was playing the guitar. Very caveman-like. That, and I was just always inseparable from a guitar in any social setting where one was available.
How about SAMTAR live: Do you have any plans to bring your music on stage, or is it a pure studio project?
I've done a few little local acoustic performances, nothing big. I do plan to do that more, and I'd like to expand upon that act. But I really struggle with that because my main fun is creating new things, and when I'm not creating new stuff I feel like I'm not doing anything (which is bullshit but... I can't help that feeling).
How would you describe your local rock / metal scene, and is there anything special about it?
Let's just say I'm not a big fan. Though, there are a pretty cool death and power metal band, Casket Robbery and Lords of Trident. Not crazy about anything else here. Most of the rest of the scene is emo/punk and indie.
Both great bands indeed. What can you tell us about your future plans?
More music more music more music!
I've tentatively been talking with some local friends about getting together to rehearse and work on a SAMTAR live set. It's hard finding the right people, and then actually getting them together. Everyone's just always busy. But that would be ideal: Get a live band together.
Keeping fingers crossed. Do you have any further thoughts you’d like to share here?
Nope, just really appreciative for you taking the time to talk with a smaller artist such as myself. You guys rock. So thank you for that.
You're most welcome :-) Thanks for these amazing insights into your work, and all the best.