The name Reuben W. Storey should be familiar to many of our readers, especially those who dig some heavy metal and/or death metal. As the former bassist for Quayde LaHüe, the drummer for the now-defunct Christian Mistress, and the former drummer and vocalist for death metal band Funerot, it’s safe to assume that you may have come across Reuben’s name once or twice by now. Like many musicians, Reuben has spent the last year, mostly in isolation, creating solo music. Last summer, he released a death metal demo under the name Horrible. He told us back then that 2020 was the first year in nearly two decades that he’d found himself without a band of other musicians to play with. But supporting band or not, Reuben seems to have hardly missed a beat in his tireless mission to bring his ideas into fruition. So when he hit us up at the beginning of the new year, asking for our address so he could send along a demo, we knew something interesting was on its way.
“After I finished up the Horrible demo in June of 2020, I kept on writing riffs that were not appropriate for that death metal-oriented project,” Reuben tells us via email. He remembers, “I couldn’t seem to shake the heavy metal muse so I just rolled with it.”
When we first reached out to Reuben after receiving our tape copy of Iron Exile, the Lords of Quarmall demo, we asked him who all was involved in the project. At the time we didn’t know anything about the band or the demo except that it was tremendously killer.
Reuben told us “LoQ is a solo band, but with a lot of help from [old school fantasy writers] Harry Otto Fischer & Fritz Leiber.” He later told us, “There’s only one song I could attribute to Leiber, and I’ve yet to write a song about the band’s namesake, which originates from Fischer, though I’m sure I will.”
He goes on to explain: “I use antiquity as a setting for the lyrics for a few reasons, but mostly because the language is pretty tried and true for heavy metal; it just fits. I can sing about boring shit like loneliness, but within the framework of sword and sorcery genre fiction, it can still sound cool. Plus, I get to use neat pictures of castles and crap like that to wrap it in!”
Makes perfect sense. What we want to know, though, was it only the pandemic that made Reuben go for it by himself on Iron Exile.
“I’ve been in a few bands before and it can be pretty difficult,” says Reuben. “There will always be compromises. There’s definitely a beauty to it, a uniqueness that can come about when you get multiple experiences blending together to create one new sound, but there’s also scheduling, expectations, limitations, smells, egos and so much more that comes along with that.”
(So far Reuben has earned two legitimate LOLs from us, just in this interview. The first being “boring shit like loneliness” and now with “smells.”)
He continues: “I was pretty burnt out on doing the band thing at the start of 2020 and with the pandemic, well, that deterred any temptation to continue cooperating with a band. I found I still had a compulsion to create music, however. After retrieving my drums and finding a place to store and play them, I cut loose. Talent be damned, I’m determined to make records, haha!”
We ask Reuben if he can reiterate some of Lords of Quarmall’s influences for our readers, as we had already talked with him about this in a series of private emails, at which point he told us that Lords of Quarmall was heavily inspired by “late ‘90s/early 2000s San Francisco heavy metal.”
“Musically, my biggest influence is and has always been Metallica,” Reuben says, as if setting the record straight. “One of my first cassettes was the $5.98 EP, gifted to me by my older cousin Randall when I was 8. Then I bought a copy of the Cliff ‘Em All video from a store in the mall… it was all heavy metal from that point on. Though, I would be foolish to not acknowledge another San Franciscan group that LoQ owes much to—The Lord Weird Slough Feg. I greatly admire their economy of songwriting. Don’t know how to finish the song? That’s ok, just write another one starting in the same key or a complimentary one and splice ‘em together in sequencing, haha! I’m only half-serious about that, but I really do like seamless sequencing seen on Down Among the Deadmen with the “Beast in the Broch”/ “Heavy Metal Monk”/ “Fergus Mac Roich” / “Cauldron of Blood” mini-epic and the same approach [can be heard] on Atavism, Traveller, Animal Spirits and others.” Reuben says, “The drumming of Greg Haa has been a huge influence on me. Just love all the excessive double bass work. Too much is not enough!”
He adds: “Seeing as my favorite era of Fritz Leiber’s is when he was based out of San Francisco, you could infer that I have something of an affinity for the region!”
During our earlier correspondence, Reuben told us that “December 2020 was consumed by Lords of Quarmall.” But we had this tape in our hands by mid-January. We want to know, does he always works so quickly?
“When working on my own, typically!” Reuben exclaims. “Another benefit of not working with other people,” he laughs. “To paraphrase Neil Young, ‘What you did the first time was the right thing, and then you just fucking move on.’ I think he said that in reference to the Tonight’s the Night sessions and since reading it, I’ve adapted a similar approach. Follow the muse and don’t dwell on your art, it’s not precious and there’s (hopefully) more where it came from, so just finish it, put it out, and on to the next.”
Yet listening to Iron Exile, it’s clear that both Reuben and his muse are well-versed in what they’re doing. We ask Reuben for a breakdown of how Lords of Quarmall’s demo came together.
Here’s what he tells us: “OK, so the main melody from ‘Inopia Scriptorum’ was written at the beginning of November, and was pretty much the catalyst for the entire recording. I ended up recording drums for it in early December after halfway sussing out an arrangement. I finished the recording for that song and my wife suggested I go into a halftime feel after all the speedy double bass shit so I wrote ‘The Prophet’s Mirror’ rather quickly and tracked it the same week. I wanted to [have] a gallop song, mostly to practice my double bass, so I banged out ‘Iron Exile pt. 1.’ I had written and demo’d ‘Altars & Jesters’ on a whim in August and that seemed to fit the style so I tracked the drums for that one at the same time as I.E. pt. 1. I knew I wanted a breather in the sequence, something of an intentional three quarter lull, so I started messing around with keyboards and wrote the ditty for I.E. pt. 2. ‘Megapolisomancy’ was based on a riff I wrote in July but had struggled with the arrangement. Aside from the first riff, all of that was written and recorded in between Christmas and New Year’s (which was also a hellish work week, haha… I was really burning it at both ends!).”
We ask Reuben what were some of the highlights of the recording process.
“My process is a fairly ridiculous one,” he admits. “I record the drums in a studio space above a skate shop on a cassette 4-track, bring that home and dump it into the computer, then track guitars, bass and vocals in the garage, then move my computer back inside and mix in my wife’s home office. I typically like to focus on one song at a time so everything is fresh in my mind (and so I don’t forget how to play the riffs!), that makes mixing a real toss-up. Just trying to get a similar enough guitar sound and especially drum sound from track to track is enough to make you wanna rip your hair out! Also the balance between enough-beers and too-many-beers is like walking a tight rope when doing all this shit yourself,” he laughs. “Not many anecdotes to share, but I almost puked after recording ‘Inopia Scriptorum.’ I hadn’t played drums in a couple of months so I was pretty out of shape! It was definitely a cold sprint.”
One must suffer for their art, we suppose. We ask him to go a little more in-depth about the individual tracks.
According to Reuben, “Prophet’s Mirror” was “actually inspired by an old dirty joke about a man that buys a mirror that he thinks is a portrait of his father. Here’s a link to a version of it, I can’t for the life of me remember where I heard it.” Reuben continues, “So, that was the inspiration but the song itself is about questioning the idea of destiny and coming to terms with your own insignificance. As far as the leathery voice… you’re right, I should probably stop smoking,” he laughs.
Reuben goes on to tell us he “took the title [‘Altars & Jesters’] from an old Robert E. Howard poem about an opium dream. There are some great lines like: On the tiles, above my screeching strident, / His jade nails clanked like desert gongs, / And I could not move as he raised his trident / And through my buttocks he thrust the prongs. Really great shit that really has nothing to do with the song… I only smoked opium once and experienced no such fantasies.”
Reuben goes on to explain the two-part title track. “Iron Exile, pts. 1 & 2” Reuben says, “is a little two parter about isolation, partially inspired by the pandemic and partially inspired by seeming to be out-of-step with the world for the entirety of my life, haha! The subject of the song is eventually burned for clinging to the past, so after being socially outcast, he is physically cast out of life. Bummer!”
And the song “Megapolisomancy,” Reuben tells us, “is all Fritz Leiber.” He continues: “The lyrics kinda just oversimplify and dumb-up the plot & themes of Our Lady of Darkness. I’ve always wanted to write a song about it, it’s likely my favorite novel. I highly encourage your readership to get a copy from their local library. It’s quite the yarn!” So that’s Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Lieber, gang. I know we’ll be checking it out!
We tell Reuben how truly awesome it was to receive Iron Exile on advance tape before it was ever out on the internet. What made him want to take the old school approach, so to speak, we ask.
“Oh, I don’t know about that, it was actually on YouTube in late December, just as an unlisted video,” he laughs. “But I do want to share it physically more than virtually. I don’t think I really need to go into a whole spiel about ‘the old ways’ but I will say I value a letter over an email, a CD over a Bandcamp profile, a video tape over a stream, a book over a kindle, a phone call over a DM, etc. And in doing this band by myself, I can do it just how I want and when I want, haha! Can you feel the power??!” Reuben adds: “‘It’s my party and I can cry if I want to…’”
Lucky for our readers, Iron Exile is now officially available to the public.
Reuben explains, “Pro-tapes and pro-CDRs are available as of the posting of this article from http://www.cbcentauri.com or you will soon be able to get them from these fine distros & stores: Headsplit Records, Landfill Rescue Unit in Portland, Rainy Day Records in Olympia, End of an Ear in Austin, and more!”
So what’s next for Lords of Quarmall?
“That is to be seen!,” Reuben teases. “In 2020 I recorded four 15 minute EPs (under various entities) so I think 2021 should bring a Lords of Quarmall full-length album.”
We seriously can’t wait. For those of you who like adventurous and tough American heavy metal, swords against sorcery-type brawniness, would do well to support Lords of Quarmall immediately.