An interview with Gary McCaffrey vocalist for Circle of Nero 10.10.03

So what's the story behind the name of the band? Can you give us a brief history of how you all got together?

The name Circle of Nero is based on the ancient Roman Kross of Nero. This was a torture device used by Nero in his persecution of the Christians. However that's not the reason the name was chosen. The Kross of Nero is also a primitive peace sign. It's representative of the sound we aspire to achieve - brutally heavy at times, like you'd associate with a torture device, or blissfully peaceful. We didn't want to be boxed-in by a name.

Also, the name "Circle of Nero" was chosen to imply some sort of subversive secret society. I guess I just blew that!

The band was originally formed in 1997 by Jake (Vorrath, drums) and Koky (Flores, guitar). Since then we've had the opportunity to play with some great bands, such as Savatage, Fates Warning, Overkill, and Yngwie Malmsteen. Plus, we released our first CD in 1999, "Massive Obliss", but they had a different vocalist back then. The band was looking for a new sound, including clean and death vocals, along with a new direction in writing. After Massive, I was invited for an audition and everything just clicked. About that time, they had just added a new element with keyboards. Scott (Carter, keyboards) is an alien residing on this planet behind a human skin mask. He adds crazed Gothic and melodic elements to the band.

It's a bit hard for me to peg down your sound since it has elements of nu, prog, thrash, death and power mixed in, but it is primarily modern sounding. Is that due to different musical influences within the band?

You nailed it. Each of us bring in diverse musical backgrounds, but we're all completely open to listen where each of us are coming from, even if we don't agree at first. Somehow, it all manages to come together, no matter how much blood is shed during writing the process. Sometimes I think I contribute just by being a pain in the ass.

Is it hard to find a niche with your musical diversity?

I don't think so. But, the jury has yet to deliver a verdict in the form a viable recording contract, we're prepared to put Brutal Harvest out independently. The feedback from the live shows has been amazing. The stuff is being played all over the globe, including the U.S., Spain, Peru, Poland, Belgium, Canada and even Siberia. The reception to the demo material has really been amazing.

Do you all share in the musical creation and the writing duties?

Absolutely. The genesis of a typical Nero tune could begin with a guitar riff, lyrical theme, drum beat, whatever. We push each other to bring out the best in each of us. Jake is a great lyricist and wrote the lyrics to "Time is the Killer." In another song, Scott introduced a beautiful symphonic orchestrated piece ... and that song ended up culminating into a complete black metal symphony!

Are you looking for a major label deal or would you guys prefer to stay in the indy scene?

I wouldn't rule out a major label deal. A major distribution deal would be very cool. But, we'd hate to compromise our creative control over the songwriting process in order to meet someone's sales quota.

Can you write a little about the following songs:

Time Is The Killer - For the most part, this tune was completed from beginning to end when I joined the band. Jake showed me these incredible lyrics he wrote and the melodic vision just poured out. We're all racing the clock to create our legacy, to leave our little hash mark on this tragedy of existence. This is essential Circle of Nero.

Sanguinarian/Bloodplay - While there's definetly a vamp theme happening in the lyrics, this song is really about being controlled against your will by others. People are always trying to suck you dry to achieve their own objectives, whether it's government, business or some forms of organized religion. I think everyone feels like puppets or a cog in the machinery of life from time to time. As the song evolves, the tables get turned and the victim decides not to take it anymore. This "Blud's" for you.

Stigmata - Ok, there's the movie where the chick is dangling from the ceiling while the priest takes note. But, the real point to be made is about going through a life changing event, an awakening of sorts.


Gary McCaffrey - vocals
Koky Flores - guitar
Thomas Staples - bass
Jake Vorrath - drums
Scott Carter - keyboards

Band Website

Serial X - This should be on the soundrack to Freddy vs. Mike Myers, or for Saddam Hussein's regime. There's no socially redeeming qualities, this tune speaks from the vantage point of the criminally insane, describing the sybiotic relationship between the captive and captor.

Scattered Remains - A somber song of loss on the battlefield. When I first heard the music that the guys came up with I was going through some heavy shit, emotionally, spirtually, financially. I also had the opportunity to see the World Trade Center site within months of the attacks. By no means is this tune meant to be a symbolic of those attacks, but that experience just contributed to my general state of mind at the time. The lyrics just poured out. The main vibe I hope this song conveys is that there's triumph in defeat.

With all the mention of blood, does somebody in the band have a vampire fetish?

Yeah, I guess that would be me! Actually, we share common fascinations with sci-fi, horror, and other forms of escapist, slash-your-wrists, entertainment.

Since you're still unknown to the world at large, where do you guys primarily play at?

We've been playing gigs in the Northern Virginia/Maryland area at some of the major venues such as the Thunderdome in Baltimore, MD and Jaxx in Springfield, VA. We're aiming to really broaden the scope real soon, including some of the bigger national and European metal festivals.

"A major distribution deal would be very cool."
Which songs do you get the most kick out of performing live?

Time Is the Killer is perhaps one of the most interesting and challenging spectacles, especially if I blow my voice out during the 14 songs that we played earlier in the evening! We always give it all, energy-and performance-wise, from beginning to end. I think we each have our favorites.

Any chance you'll get out here in Southwestern Virginia? I know a chick who is a big fan.

Definetly. We're putting the final spit'n'shine on the album and continuing to talk with labels. We plan to do some serious gigging beginning in early 04.

How did some of the other bands you've played with, like Overkill, treat you guys?

The band has had good experiences with all the nationals that we've had the opportunity to play with. The Overkill experience occurred before I joined the band, but the guys tell me that they were great and very accommodating.

What were some of your best moments playing?

Probably headlining at a gig with a bunch of hardcore and nu-metal bands at a regional festival. We were able to deliver the goods without compromising and won over many new fans during the process.

Is there anybody you'd like to go on tour with?

For me, I think Circle of Nero with Cradle of Filth, Killswitch Engage, Children of Bodom and Mudvayne, would be an incredible show.

What's next for Circle of Nero?

Shop the album, put it out, whether independently or with some label backing, and get out there and promote the hell out of it.

How could somebody get a hold of your stuff and by stuff, I mean your music?

Anyone can get a couple of tunes by visiting our website at www.circleofnero.com. Stigmata and Time is the Killer is there free for the taking.

Any final thoughts?

Thanks a lot to you guys at Maximum Metal for your interest in Circle of Nero. Look out for Brutal Harvest in 2004.

Gary McCaffreyFrank Hill10/10/2003

Brutal Harvest Demo
Frank Hill8/26/2003

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