Rock|Life Band of the Month: Cold Kingdom
Breaking into the scene in 2015, Cold Kingdom released their hard hitting EP, “The Moon and the Fool” and haven’t looked back. I had a chance to chat with Danielle Engum, singer of Cold Kingdom about how the band came to be and what to look forward to with their second EP coming out in 2017.
Rock|Life: Who is Cold Kingdom?
Danielle Engum: Cold Kingdom is a female fronted active rock/hard rock band out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
RL: How did CK get started?
DE: It started off with Evan writing a whole bunch of songs. I mean, the kid’s head is full of music, every day nonstop. The amount of genius in putting together a song, or writing a riff, is obnoxious actually. (Laughs) He decided to start recording these ideas as demos, and he approached Ian Combs, the producer, about trying to find a female vocalist for the songs. I had done some work with Ian, on some voice-overs for commercials and a few other things we worked on together. He suggested that I come in to record these demos, and that’s all we thought they were going to be, just demo work. So I came in to sing for the demos and Evan was there with Ian and our old drummer. The person who was singing them before had more of a light fluty voice, which is not what my voice sounds like at all. Because of how she was singing them I asked if that was what they wanted. Ian and Evan both said, “Yes, that’s how you should do it.” So I started singing that way and it just sounded off, it sounded uncomfortable. So I said, “Hey, fuck it, can I just go for this? And he was like, “Yeah, fine, whatever.” So I said, “This is gonna be loud.” I hit the first note of “Let It Burn”, and everything goes into the red on the recording equipment and the producer whips his chair around, and was like, “what’s going on?” So I sang the rest of the song that way, and it ended up working really well to where I wasn’t just coming in to sing some demos. We decided, “Hey let’s make this an actual project.” So we started auditioning musicians and found Jason and Aaron, our former guitar player. We did a couple of member changes. We knew Aaron was starting a family so we would need to bring in another guitar player. At the time we already knew Zac and his kick-ass-take-no-prisoners stage act. How he doesn’t lose his head, or break his neck every time, I don’t know. So we brought him on, and a similar situation happened with another member, so we brought on Chris Morley for drums and couldn’t be more pleased with the two of those guys. We all mesh incredibly well. We’re quite the little family now.
RL: How did you come up with the band name, “Cold Kingdom?”
DE: Well, we are a Minnesotan band. We wanted to pay homage to that somehow. We love Minneapolis. We love Minnesota, and we love the Midwest frankly. There’s something beautiful about this place in the winter and in the cold of everything, there’s nothing to do. You can’t go outside, you can’t go hang out, you can’t barbecue… You’re stuck inside; it’s dark out, and something about that that makes you more motivated, and more creative as a person. You can get so much done in the dark winter months. Look at all the creativity that has come out of Scandinavia. I firmly believe the climate that we live in and the cold that we come from here shapes the sound that we make. And actually “cold” was the second word that got added. Evan really wanted the name to have something to do with kingdom, or something of that likeness, and “kingdom” was the word we ended up choosing because we sort of went by this saying of, “My creation is my kingdom.” You know in this crazy messed up world that we live in, there are so few things that we are in control of. There’s always somebody higher up right? There’s always somebody telling you to do it some way, or telling you that you’re doing it the wrong way, or telling you how to do something. But the one thing that you are in control of is what you create. And so we believe that the music we create is our kingdom, and we are in control of that, and we make it the way we want it to be. And that’s the beautiful thing about being an artist, in any sort of genre, is that you are the king of that creation.
RL: From the release of your first EP, “The Moon and the Fool” in 2015 to your second upcoming EP, how has your writing process changed?
DE: It’s totally changed! Evan had a bank of songs for our first EP. For our second EP we’re doing a lot more collaborated writing. Zac has a ton of ideas that he’s bringing to the table and Chris’s drumming style brings something a little different as well. It’s so much fun to write this way. Working through the things together, we’re open to everybody’s ideas. Granted we’ll turn around and be like, “Fuck you, that’s a terrible idea!” (Laughs) We’ve had so many unique things come out of this upcoming EP. You’re going to hear a huge difference. So many interesting things, it’s so unique. We’ve all listened to it, and were like, “We’ve never heard anything like this before.” Our producer, Eric Bass, from Shinedown, is producing it. Eric did amazing things with it, and his ideas are so cool and it meshed really well with our style and the energy we wanted to put forward. It’s raw, it’s heavy, and like I said, it sounds really like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
RL: Do you have a release date set for the upcoming EP?
DE: Sometime in January. We got to listen to it November 12th. That’s the first time we’ve listened to it, and that was pre-mixed. It’s being mixed over Thanksgiving break, and then it’s going to get sent out for some mastering.
RL: How did CK get hooked up with Eric Bass?
DE: It was a lot of people connecting with our management, the Browning Group and we connected with him because of his production work. Not only is he the bassist for Shinedown, but he’s done an enormous amount of production work. A lot of different genres, types, and styles. They thought it would be an excellent fit, and it definitely was.
RL: What was the experience like working with Eric Bass?
DE: Trust. We had to trust in it. Of course I can only speak for myself, even though we did have the conversation about how we were going to let him just do his thing. Which is not an easy thing for an artist to do, to give up that much creative control, especially for myself. But we just trusted him. I had to record vocals in a way that I’ve never had to do before, and it was nerve-racking. I had to put 100% trust in that he was getting the right takes, and that he knew what he was doing. It was an exciting experience, but “Trust” is definitely the one word to describe the experience.
RL: What was different about the recording experience for you?
DE: I didn’t get to listen back to the takes. He told me, “If I have it, I have it.” And I was thinking, “But, are you sure?!” I didn’t say that, I just let it happen. He told me when we started up that he was going to do that. We did all sorts of jumping around and yelling. I think it came across as energy in the recordings. He was very clear as far as his direction. He told us from the beginning, that he was very picky on singers and very picky on drummers.
RL: Do you have a Single picked for the upcoming EP release?
DE: I think I know? Though I’ve only listened to the songs once. I’m interested to hear what the guys say, what the management group says and what Eric thinks. We really want to listen to everyone’s opinion.
RL: Do you guys have a favorite meal while on the road?
DE: (Laughs) Oh yeah, I could tell you every one of the band members favorite foods right now. Zac likes Xyience energy drinks and he’s a big-time candy hoarder. He really enjoys Mike n’ Ikes and Starburst. His favorite drink is a Caribou Lou and he enjoys Taco Bell. Well, we all enjoy Taco Bell. For some reason he doesn’t really eat breakfast food. Oh and Doritos!
Evan’s favorite food is crab legs, though I’ve never seen him eat them. He just talks about them a lot! (Laughs) He’s very into micro brews. He’s the beer snob of the group. Every time we go to the gas station he’ll eat those truck wagon sandwiches.
Jason is always eating danishes. He’s always the one in the band that if someone’s going to order a salad, Jason will order a salad.
Chris… Chris just puts down food. He just eats all the food. I’ve never seen him consistently get something over and over again, unless maybe Old Dutch Parmesan Garlic chips? But whatever he eats, it’s like he gets the biggest sandwich, or he’ll order more tacos than anyone else. He just eats, which is good for him and his stupid metabolism.
He also likes the Monster Zero Ultra energy drink. We actually all love the Zero Ultra. We buy them by the case at Costco because we love them so much.
RL: What about you? What’s your favorite road food?
DE: Oh I don’t know. You’d have to ask one of them what I consistently eat. I need Orbit Peppermint gum, constantly! I cannot perform without Orbit Peppermint gum. I always have to have it. I typically pack my own food because I’m vegan. So whatever is in my weird little cooler of food, is what I’m eating. I’ll be the loser who goes in the back of the kitchen and microwaves my food there, and if not, a Taco Bell bean burrito with no cheese and no sour cream is where it’s at… Oh with extra red sauce and onions. That’s my crack right there. I’m telling you Taco Bell is the only restaurant we go to after a show. It’s nice because it’s easily vegan-ized for me. Everybody can get what they want. Honestly, I can tell you everyone’s Taco Bell order because we’ve been there that many times.
RL: What is a fun story from the road?
DE: At a twin cities show, we wanted to do special effects because it was a huge show for us. So we decided that we were going to release artificial snow in the middle of the set. There’s actually video of it. If you go to our “Let It Burn” live video, you can see the snow falling. We contacted the venue before, and were like, “Hey is it okay if we do this?” And they were like, “Yeah, absolutely.” Well, when the snow got released it got into the lights and caused thousands of dollars in damage and labor to their lighting rigs, and they were so upset. Because I guess they thought it was paper artificial snow? Which is what you use for special effects artificial snow, it’s like paper confetti. We released the stuff you get at Home Depot, which is like plastic. Unfortunately when plastic is in front of hot lights, it melts. It got into all of their equipment, all over their cables. They had to take everything apart and clean it out. Long story short, the guy running house sound that night is now our manager, so… (Laughs) he didn’t hate us forever. But it was one of the most embarrassing moments ever. I was mortified that this had happened. I thought we were never going to play in Minneapolis ever again. We felt, and still feel really awful about it. We’re two years beyond that point now so we can laugh about it a little.
RL: Aside from the upcoming EP, what’s next for CK?
DE: We’re actually going to be at the NAMM conference in January. We’re going to do some acoustic sets there, for the lovely people at ElectroVoice, a lovely Minnesotan company. We partnered up with them. We went last year and had a good time so we’re looking forward to that.