Interviews > Gregorian BC
GREGORIAN BC
Interview by Athena Schaffer

Just as invading Conquistadors setting out from Spain to the New World in the 16th Century, Gregorian BC sets out to conquer new worlds of his own with his debut album Conquistadors of War (Gregorian BC Records). However, he appears to have done what the Conquistadors of old failed to do in their quest – proverbially he’s found the musical equivalent of the mythical Eldorado – the City of Gold.

The lush, deep vocals immediately grab the listener, they’re imbued with a haunting, mystical quality. The only vocals the Crowgrrl has ever heard like that were occult author Konstantinos’ foray into the musical realm with his song”Below” that was included in Cleopatra Records’ Goth Box – excellent song, also haunting but flavored with tasty EBM/Darkwave. Gregorian BC, on the other hand, creates his own dreamscapes with an eclectic stew that blends ingredients of Rock and Blues with vintage elements of Gregorian chanting, acoustic flamenco guitars – the result is both organic and powerful.

Check out the first single from the album, Live Today.

Gregorian BC – whose real name is Brian Chupp – commented, ”I’ve been called the Conquistador of Music because, like the 16th Century Spanish Knights, I like to go into uncharted territory, conquer, and create something new. That’s the daredevil in me.”

The Crowgrrl recently caught up with Brian via e-mail to find out more about his unique and addictive music!

How did you come up with your signature eclectic mix of musical elements?

At my core I'm really a concept musician. I want to contribute to rock n roll by doing new things, being creative, original, being myself. I don’t follow the trends. I listen to a vast variety of music.

As far as the record I released, some of the songs come from Gregorian-like chants I create in free singing periods. I take this and then incorporate guitar rifts and arrangements and see how it comes out. That’s the sound of the “Gregorian Starlight” and “Live Today.” I'd say this is my signature sound.

How did you learn to play Flamenco guitar? Do you prefer acoustic to electric? How does that translate in performing live?

I find Flamenco guitar to be an awesome, mysterious, unknown art form. It’s really rare in the States to find an educated Flamenco player. I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and there was no Flamenco there. I couldn't find anyone who could teach me that style, so I bought DVDs. I left Iowa in 2004 and moved to Florida where I found a teacher in Tampa named Victor Moreno. He was the real thing. His wife was a dancer associated with professional Flamenco. They did it all, toured the world in the art form. I studied under him.

Acoustic or Electric?

I go through phases where one dominates the other. Sometimes I'm sick of one and wanting to do the other exclusively. Right now, I'm honing in on Electric.

Live performances can be done with a Flamenco guitar that has a pickup system inside, much the same way as acoustic/electric guitars. I mount this guitar on a stand designed to hold it while I have my electric hanging on my shoulders. I've seen this technique used in live performances before. The infamous Yes guitar player, Greg Howe, has this mastered.

Do the lyrics come first? Does the music come first? What is the songwriting process like for you?

Usually the chant builds the songs, at least for the heavy pieces like “Gregorian Starlight” and “Live Today.” I get obsessed with some gothic chant I’m come up with and then I get an electric tuner to pick out the notes I'm singing to find the key it’s in. I build it up and water it daily like it’s a garden and watch it grow, sometimes rather slowly, sometimes having to prune the songs and sadly some don’t live on and become digital graves in my studio of a once promising-sounding chant. The rest of the songs came from guitar first.

Three tracks – “The Rise of Spain”, the title track, and “The Spanish Armada” – focus on Spanish history….what is behind your fascination with that subject matter?

Ah, I wanted to attempt to blend Flamenco and Metal and wondered hmmm, what could I sing about with such a mix? On the one hand you have an ancient cultural music indigenous to Spain; on the other, the power of a full metal band. I pondered this and came to the conclusion I'd sing about the wars, legends, conquests and victories of Spain. I'm not even Spanish. I bought books on Conquistadors, the Spanish Armada, and the whole period of Isabella and the formation of that empire. So, I sang about that.

Were you doing the percussion in “The Spanish Armada”?

No, Billy Ashbaugh did all the drums and percussion

I love “Gregorian Starlight”! What were your inspirations behind that song?

Thank you! It’s also my favorite on the record! I love to take the chants I come up with and turn them into songs. Where the chant comes from is a difficult question to answer. I sing free form chants quite a bit. If I can get into them, I record them, identify which key they’re in, and build them into songs. I call them Goth chants. I've got dozens of them in my studio.

Oddly enough, I came up with that chant about 10 years ago while a pharmacy student at Drake University in Des Moines. But, without the money or studio to record, it had to wait its time.

Any plans of doing a video for Live Today?

Most probably a video for “Gregorian Starlight” or “Arise.” The fans that are coming onboard right now have indicated that they like “Gregorian Starlight” and “Arise,” just like you.

What’s your personal favorite song on the album?

“Gregorian Starlight” - it’s purely me.

Nice sword you’re holding on the cover – is it a replica of the Conquistador period?

I don’t know honestly, but the hilt is definitely Spanish looking!

You have your own label? How are you handling distribution?

My producer Jim Morris [http://www.jim-morris.com/home.htm ] knew a showbiz attorney around Tampa, where we recorded the majority of the record. I had no music business knowledge at the time, so I wanted to make sure the horror stories I heard didn't befall me. I meet with the attorney throughout the process of writing the record, over the course of a year. I'd learn about copyrights/trademarks/record labels, all the stuff nobody wants to deal with. The attorney set me up in this way and I'm glad. As far as distribution, I use only online channels, like iTunes, Amazon, etc. I am interested in seeing what opportunities there are out there, but that might be down the road.

Tour plans?

This act is just getting started. I've already started writing the next album. To do a full tour would be difficult just now. Hopefully something will open up for me in the not too distant future. Otherwise I'll continue to work and gig around Florida until my Gregorian empire builds to the level where I can go forward. And I really want to tour Europe in a big way.

What is your live show like?

We rock the heavy stuff first, drop the show down to the slowest piece, “The Clock of Time,” and then do all the Spanish pieces together.

Besides the album itself, what kinds of merch do you have available?

T-shirts, hats, posters and more to come down the road.

What do you do on your “down-time” on the road? Do you bring movies or videogames? If so, which ones?

Down time is a rare thing for me. I'm really a fighting underdog that works in health care to push my dream into existence. I love the sci fi action genre like Conan/Aliens/Dracula - you know, the good stuff!

Are you filming any shows to possibly include in a future long-form DVD plans?

Eventually.

You’re also a pharmacist?!

Yes, working heaps too. That’s really the source of income I've had to fund this dream. It’s a pretty busy career. For the month of November, we shot a video in Orlando at the Full Sail University, while at the same time I worked overtime as a pharmacist and also studied myself dumb faced to become certified in Florida to administer vaccinations. The month of November just flew by.

How Hands-On are you with your Website and Myspace pages?

It’s a growing process. Actually Facebook is the site I prefer the fans involved with. Eventually I'll be blogging on my own website, www.gregorianbc.com

Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you want to tell our readers?

I freaking LOVE you!!!!! Never give up!!!!!