Vocalist, guitarist, singer-songwriter, promoter, rock 'n' fucking roller. Christian Larson is the total package.
Formerly of black metal luminaries Venomous Maximus and early-day guitarist for traditional metal rising stars Eternal Champion, Larson pushes boundaries of space and time through his black metal outfit Necrofier and retro-inspired shredders Night Cobra. Factor in full-time concert promoter, booker, and operator of the epic Hell's Heroes festival in Houston, TX, and Larson has his fingers in more than one scorching hot metal pie!
Larson sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into his love of the old school, crossing between black metal and NWOBHM, his brief period in Eternal Champion, the rise of Hell's Heroes and much more!
Night Cobra, and I could totally be off on this, is such a homage and love letter to the '80s. The NWOBHM type sound, different videos and the aesthetic to it, to me, is throwback in the best possible way.
That's exactly what it is. It's like a tribute to that retro '70s and '80s "future past" kind of stuff. I mean, it's funny, a lot of those themes fit in with today's world, so it kind of makes it less fantasy based, and now it's more almost factual. All the cult worship stuff, all the synths, the way I try to make the videos look, and then the video content and everything like that.
The first thing I remember noticing from Night Cobra was the video for "Escape From Earth." That's the most fun video I've watched in a really long time. I'm a big Escape From New York, Snake Plissken guy. How fun was that for you?
I'm like the same way with all that, especially Escape From New York and L.A. I was all like, "there was supposed to be an Escape From Earth, and this never fucking happened?!" I mean, obviously, Escape From L.A. bombed at the box office, and I have tons of friends who say I'm completely crazy for liking that. I absolutely love it. I was like, "OK, cool, I'm going to write a song about a rough kind of tribute to the third movie that was never made, you know?"
Luckily, one of my friends does videos and he was slow during the pandemic and stuff because there just wasn't work for him, and I was like "you want to do this?" And he's like "absolutely! This would be the coolest thing ever!" And we kind of just ran with it. And luckily it kind of all came together even better than we planned it out.
Your outputs have been pretty incredible in terms of what you've been able to do with Night Cobra with Necrofier. Has it been weird when touring was largely grounded? At least in those early days of the pandemic.
Sure! There was a whole year of nothing. There was a couple of times some dudes were like "we're going to play a local show" and I was like, "I don't fucking care." I don't want to sit around and play someplace with people seated and whatever. And my job, like I'm a concert promoter. That's what I do for a living. So I really didn't have anything to do.
I just sat around and worked on music the entire time. I guess I probably did other things, but I had a lot more free time to actually just be like, "Cool what I'm going to do today? Oh, OK, I'm going to do this regular stuff I do. And instead of spending all day on emails and phone working on shows, I'm just going to work on music."
So it was a lot of fun. People have been talking about the pandemic and they got stuck doing whatever they did. It kind of changed my thoughts like, "OK, this is how I should do things instead of the constant hustle of trying to find shows or booking shows or then getting ready to play shows." All that was all gone. So that actually added more like, Oh cool, we can actually just work on music.
For you as an artist and heavy metal fan, I feel it's such a cool leap and transition between New Wave of British Heavy Metal and traditional metal with Night Cobra, and black metal with Necrofier. Does that come naturally, embracing different sides of your metal fandom? Is it weird to get into different head spaces?
If I'm going to work on something I usually kind of try to separate it so it doesn't kind of make me insane. Night Cobra wasn't originally kind of sci-fi based, but I pushed, especially on this first record, super far that way so I could just distance it further from anything even being like Mercyful Fate-ish because I'm like "it's too close to Necrofier for me." I do a bunch of random falsetto and other things on the record. I can sound like that, but I don't want the imagery to be what I do in Necrofier. I like to separate them. So it kind of almost forced Night Cobra to change its direction a little bit.
Hell's Heroes is just this massive hidden gem that fans of NWOBHM or traditional metal have to experience. As a lifelong metal fan, how cool is it to be able to feature these up-and-coming talent alongside legends like Candlemass, Cirith Ungol, or Dark Angel?
I put a lot of work into how the line up should be. There's nobody on there where I'm like "This band sucks," because I just won't do it. And I won't be a dick about it. It's my fest and if I don't back the band, I don't want to really have bands on it like that. I want to be where you look at it and you're like "Fuck, what the fuck is this line up?"
And it's entertaining dealing with like the newer bands where everybody's all kind of eager and wants to do stuff. Dealing with the older bands is just case by case basis, but it's fun actually chasing down some of those bands that don't play and then kind of figuring out like, "so what's up? Do you not play shows? Are you guys retired?"
Have you been surprised at all at how quickly the festival has grown in popularity?
I was surprised anybody showed up the first year because, honestly … Houston is not the coolest city, so it's not like I'm doing something with heavy metal on the West Coast, in California or wherever where I feel like the scenes are a lot stronger. So I was like, "OK, let's see how this goes". A lot of people came in from out of state, so I'm thinking if I do this right people will travel. But the first year was a super blast, and it did good. So I was like "OK, this can work." And then the second year got better, and then technically the third one will be this year, even though the third one never happened, you know?
There's a lot of the same acts, except I dropped some stuff and then added another day. Also, I think part of the reason is that I was only doing one day. I feel like people traveling for a fest that's one day, they want to commit to having another day, I guess. I don't fucking know.
In your second life as a promoter, have there been any horror stories of bands that are just miserable to deal with, or times where everything went wrong?
I mean, some people just want to make your day hell, just because. Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe they don't like the venue. Maybe the band's terrible to deal with. But nothing specifically. Thank God I don't have to work shows anymore. I did that for 12 or 13 years where I would be at every show and settle every show. It's really time consuming.
But now I can just go to shows that I want to go to, which is way better. But some dudes just want to make your life hell, or there's bands from the 80s that got ripped off a bunch so they treat you like you're going to rip them off. And some people are really fucking great and it's an easy day.
Has there been a case in person or just the back and forth with management where you're thinking "these guys are going to be a fucking nightmare", and you ended up pleasantly surprised?
Sometimes it's not even the band, it's just whoever their tour manager is. I mean, it's like a night and day difference, especially if they'd been to the venue before, my staff or I know them and they're just like what's up? OK, cool. Even if there's problems, we're like "hey, let's make this work." The only thing you can really do, cause problems are going to happen, is just be like "alright, let's try to fix it." And then some people either respond to that good or scream at you. It just really depends.
There's some people I'm like "oh great, this is going to be fun." I would like to book Manowar at some point, even though I know it's going to be the [biggest] workout ever. I mean, they fucking cancelled Hellfest.
I'm very curious about your time in Eternal Champion.
Eternal Champion started, [Jason] Tarpey was doing the band, and then he was talking with Greg when I was in Venomous Maximus and he was like, "We want to do this band". So Greg wrote two songs and me and the drummer Bongo, Greg brought us in and then Jason's friend Sean, from Austin, played bass. We rehearsed for a little while and recorded two songs, and then Venomous was doing a bunch of stuff at the time, and basically we couldn't do both. Tarpey got a new line up for the band and whatever. Jason's still a really good friend of mine. At the time it wasn't some "What the fuck!" it was just like, "cool, we don't have time to do this, obviously."
I forget all the fucking time. I forgot about it until I think the Necrofier record came out and somebody's like "this shit rules. It's like black metal that has a bunch of heavy metal influence". And someone's like, "Yeah, it has a former member of Eternal Champion!" And I was like, "who the fuck was in Eternal Champion? Oh, that was me." The only reason some of it doesn't sit is because we never played a show. We did some songs, but I feel like a show makes it feel finished. Like "OK, we're a band kind of thing." Because that didn't happen, sometimes I just forget.
Bandcamp has been so amazing to artists during the pandemic, and Night Cobra is certainly no exception to that. I feel like it's become a real hub for growing trad and NWOBHM.
I started Night Cobra with Bill because I was kind of fed up with where Venomous was going. We just didn't practice that much. The band was becoming a hassle and I was like let's just start a rock, maybe heavy metal [band] and see how it goes. And then it started to become more heavy metal. I was like cool, let's just record this EP and put it out.
When the pandemic hit I was like this band is never going to start doing anything. We released it in like August and all the tapes sold out the first day. I was like what the fuck?! We sold out all the vinyl and made it to the Bandcamp monthly thing. It did super well off the bat.