Darktusk Records owner and Invert the Idols guitarist James Gillham spends most of his time these days either out rocking with this band, promoting other metal acts or plugging away at the control room of his studio working on the next metal masterpiece. (Special photo)
LEEBURG — A vibrant music scene can put a community on the world map and generate countless revenue dollars as musicians and fans flock to a locale like Athens, Ga., or Austin, Texas, to see or become the next R.E.M or Drive By Truckers or Fabulous Thunderbirds or The Sword.
But music meccas like those, ones not necessarily benefiting from being in large cities like New York or Los Angeles, don’t just emerge from the ether, the product of some divine alignment of the stars. It takes a music-hungry fan base that appreciates the efforts of local musicians willing to play dive bars and house parties for nothing more than free beer and exposure, as well as the vision and hustle of venue owners and promoters who, more often than not, just want to spread the good news about their favorite acts.
Such is the case with James Gillham who, as owner of Leesburg’s Darktusk Records, has devoted most of his spare time over the last few months to championing the area’s burgeoning heavy metal scene.
Those efforts will be on full display June 14 as Darktusk presents “Summer Chaos 2014” at Albany’s State Theatre. Summer Chaos is being billed as an all-ages metal show featuring six metal bands, including Gillham’s own Invert the Idols and Albany sensation Dog Head, whose debut EP released last week is being distributed by Darktusk.
Dog Head set to unleash 'Abomination'
If Gillham can turn Summer Chaos into a success, Albany could follow in Savannah’s footsteps, incubating an intense metal scene reminiscent of the one that gave birth to acts like Kylesa and Baroness, who are considered, along with Atlanta’s Mastodon, among the best metal bands to emerge from the Peach State.
“It’s maddening trying to pull this together, but I think it’s worth it,” Gillham said over coffee recently. “From a music perspective, Albany and the surrounding area have a lot talent. There’s a lot of talented musicians. And not just metal musicians.”
Of course, having grown up a metalhead, in bands since he learned to play guitar at age 14, the former Marine who served two tours in Iraq is primarily concerned with the local metal talent and the possibility of Albany becoming a hub for purveyors of the genre.
“There’s just no reason Albany can’t be a hub for metal in south Georgia,” Gillham said. “There’s plenty of great metal bands around here, and they are looking for places to play.”
In fact, the issue of places to play gets to the heart of Gillham’s mission.
Gillham moved to the Albany area from Barstow, Calif., with his wife and son to take a job as a contractor at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany. He said he’s heard repeatedly since he’s been here that the scene can’t get off the ground and that he should have been here a few years ago when there were more places to play and more shows.
“I met some people like (Invert the Idols’ current drummer) Allen Hall, and when we first started talking he’d tell me I needed to be here in 2006,” Gillham said. “I started looking around and asking, ‘Where are the metal bands?’”
As it turns out, those bands were honing their skills at home and playing gigs out of town or simply disbanding, convinced their was no chance of finding places to play.
About four or five months ago, though, something changed that seemed to kick-start the local metal movement.
“I can tell you what happened,” Gillham said. “The Oglethorpe Lounge started booking metal bands. That was the only place metal bands could play. They started booking bands, and bands playing out of town would invite bands they’d met in places like Columbus and Tallahassee, and things just picked up. Different places are starting to catch wind now. People are starting to pay attention to what we’re doing. That’s big. Our responsibility as musicians and fans is to make people pay attention. If we can do that, then maybe we stand a chance.”
Part of grabbing the attention of fans, aside from hosting shows like Summer Chaos, has been Gillham’s founding of Darktusk Records in his home.
Gillham first started working on home recordings roughly seven years ago and has slowly acquired both state-of-the-art equipment and certain production skills that have helped him create recordings of his various projects, including Invert the Idols.
Wanting to do more than simply record music, Gillham started Darktusk with the intent of using the company to help other bands with promotion, CD production, distribution and marketing. Having forged a friendship with the members of Dog Head, Gillham talked to them about manufacturing and releasing the band’s debut EP, “Abomination,” and Darktusk Records was born.
“I really kind of started it to help Dog Head,” Gillham said. “They had spent all this time doing a great recording and were considering just burning CDs at home and doing a small, fold-over sleeve. Chris Lodge (Dog Head lead guitarist, songwriter and producer) has a great ear and did amazing music. It needed more. Money was a concern, so I said, ‘Let’s work something out.’ I handled it for them, and the thing turned out great. They have professionally-made CDs with a full booklet and digital version you can purchase on iTunes.”
So far “Abomination” is the only record outside of Invert the Idols EPs that Darktusk has distributed, but Gillham said he’s currently in talks with other groups. His main focus, he says, is just providing opportunity and working to develop local interest.
“I’m not trying to get rich off this,” Gillham said. “I don’t want to be a big label like Metal Blade. I want Darktusk to be a platform for bands to get to another level by putting out a professional product.”
As if devoting so much of his energy to Darktusk isn’t enough, Gillham and the other members of Invert the Idols are working on new music, performing and taking in as many shows as possible to make connections and enjoy the music they love.
“It’s stressful, but I enjoy supporting the scene,” Gillham said. “The more bands there are, the more music we have to enjoy locally.”
Gillham is hoping the community will have plenty of music to enjoy at Summer Chaos. Not only has he worked to put together a solid lineup of performers, he has also been collecting music of unsigned artists from around the country to play in between each band’s set.
The show, which starts at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.), is billed for all ages, and there will be a cash bar for those over 21. Entry fee is $8, and the featured bands are Invengeance, Misplaced Shoreline, Dead Hand, Poser., Invert the Idols and Dog Head.
Sponsors for the event include Darktusk Records, P&N Phillips & Nemajovsky, Mile High Production, True Vapor, Pure Deathcore, and Pig Squeals and Breakdowns.