BLISSKRIEG, A Culmination of Bands & Rock Experience
"Blisskrieg, which is bliss...love, happiness, togetherness. So, we thought, what the world really needs now is a loving war....Our music is our vessel to bring that love to the masses with our music."
By Kreig Marks, March 2021
What happens when you bring together a few former members of bands like Days of the New, Tantric, Eye Empire and SubmerseD You get one hell of a rock band called Blisskrieg. Blisskrieg is Donald Carpenter, lead vocals, Todd Whitener on guitar, Jesse Vest on bass, and Matt Taul on drums. For me, this interview is pretty cool because I’ve always been a big fan of Eye Empire and SubmerseD, with Donald’s solid vocals. So now, it’s time for me to speak to Donald and get some insight into Blisskrieg and the plans for this kick-ass new band.
TRR: Hi Donald. Welcome to Tru Rock Revival Magazine. Let me tell you, it is great to hear you are back now, fronting a band. I think the last time I heard you was with Eye Empire, and before that, SubmerseD. Both, pretty kick-ass bands. The first song I heard from Blisskrieg was “Inside Me.” When I first heard the vocals, I thought, "Man, this is one kick ass song and Warren Haynes sounds great!" Then, I read the promo and let me tell you, I was psyched! Donald Carpenter and Todd Whitener! I’m not gonna go all fan-girl on you but man, I listened to all of the tunes and, damn, you guys are awesome.
DC: Hey, thank you Kreig. I really appreciate that and I'm glad you're enjoying the songs.
TRR: I hate to ask you this question because it’s so overdone, but for my own curiosity, tell me about the name of the band. I’m assuming it’s a play on the word Blitzkrieg, which by definition is a pretty intense military engagement. So, is Blisskrieg an explosion of Rock n’ Roll?
DC: Don't worry about asking the question. I'd love to answer it. To me, and obviously this is from my perspective, one of the most difficult things is coming up with a band name. Jesse came up with the idea for the name Blisskrieg. It's something he had stored away for a while. You know, there's so many band names out there and when you think about it you're like, "Where did that come from?" But, then you listen to some of the band's music, and it's their music that makes them great, not the name. And, when we started looking at it, the actual word, Blitzkrieg, which if you know the origin of the name it usually has a negative connotation, stands for Lightning War. So, the play on the word Jesse came up with is Blisskrieg, which is bliss,, which means love, happiness, togetherness. So, we thought, what the world really needs now is a loving war. That's our translation. Our music is our vessel to bring that love to the masses with our music.
TRR: The intro guitar riff for "Rise and Fall" is awesome. Todd kicks it. Riff or words first for that song?
DC: For me, it always starts with the music. As a lyricist or singer, I always want to get to know the personality of the song or track and then translate what the music is trying to say to me. I've got a somewhat metaphysical approach to songwriting. So, with that song, it kind of started with that opening riff Todd was playing with, just jamming around on. Keep in mind that when we wrote this album, we wrote 10 songs, only 10 songs, no fillers, and all of them are on this album. So, while Todd was playing that riff, it had so much attitude to it and it spoke to me about what's going on in today's world. That's where I began to write the lyrics. I'll be a bit vague about that, but there's really a lot of attitude out there right now.
TRR: You guys wrote all the songs during this pandemic. Do you think being holed up the past year has brought out more of your creativity, and the rest of the guys in the band? How have you handled it?
DC: For me, the self-reflection has been huge. I've gained a lot of positives from the pandemic. This past year, I've been going through a lot of therapy. I suffer with some mental health issues and this past year, I was formally diagnosed with Asperger's. I have a son who has Asperger's. So, during this pandemic, I've been able to look deeper into who I am and gain a better perspective. It not only helps me be a better husband and father, but has helped me become a better artist. I have a greater focus on what I want to say and who I am and what I want to be, how I want to be in this world and all of this has been a major positive.
TRR: Tell me more about your Asperger's diagnosis.
DC: It's been a part of my therapy, trying to figure this out. You know, when it comes to your mental health, it's kind of like a finger print. It's really hard to try to draw something with a broad brush. It's really a case-by-case basis. I'll be 43 this year. We came up in a time when mental health wasn't really discussed and Autism wasn't really well-known, so my therapy has been a lot of catching up. For me, I was someone who was in that mental makeup, but didn't have the faculties as I was growing up to accommodate for that. I was forced to survive in a lot of ways. It created a lot of behaviors and certain personality traits that I now have to get beyond to really find the root of the issue or the problem or the positive, or whatever it might be. So, it's a bit of a process.
TRR: Is this something that you thought about, the Asperger's, or is it something that, in your therapy, your doctor brought up, that he felt may be a potential problem or issue for you? Because, I find this very interesting.
DC: That's a great question. I thinking being able to be open and talk about this, and possibly help other people, because I'm an open book. For me, a personal journey early on, I knew I was bipolar and manic depressive, and those were the aspects of my mental illness that were easy to put a finger on. It was like coming down the list and kind of checking the boxes. But the spectrum of Autism is so subtle and so broad. There were actually a couple of things. When my wife and I started our family, our 14 year old son was diagnosed with Asperger's early in his life. That's just due to the fact that it's just part of the conversation these days. We were looking for those things early on. So we implemented certain things and over the years, my wife and I would discuss the similarities between me and my son. It was always in the back of our heads. I would think, "I wonder if I have Asperger's too." There were so many things that attributed to his Asperger's that I have, too. So, this year, through my therapy, we were able to confirm a lot of our suspicions. It's personality traits and little characteristics that differentiate the way you see the world as compared to how other people see it. Some of it can create a negative effect because of these "quote - unquote" guidelines that society has put on us. So, these unique people sometimes feel that there's something wrong with them because they can't fit into the "norm" when in reality, nobody is normal.
TRR: I'm glad you found out about this and you have ways to work with it, especially with your music.
DC: It's definitely a challenge living with this, but being accepted and having the room to grow with it, it's a beautiful thing because these days, there's so many more outlets for people with Asperger's.
TRR: Alright, let's get back to Blisskrieg. How about the song,“New Age.” Who’s the Stevie Ray Vaughan fan in the band? That song could be an SRV song, easily. The bass line is incredible.
DC: I appreciate that. Thank you. It's a tremendous bass line. I'm a huge fan of Jesse's playing. Jesse was exhausted! His bass line never stops. You've gotta do a lot of hand stretching to make it through that. Man, that is one tough bass line to play for the entire song. One of the things I love about this record, there's so many influences. It just came out of us. The Stevie Ray Vaughan, that's so cool to hear that. As soon as you said that I totally get what you're saying. Some of the tone is like Rage Against the Machine. Some of the transitions. There's are so many influences and I think it's very cool that none of that was in the front of our minds. It just came out, it was ours, but it's a culmination of many different influences we've enjoyed over the years, without ripping them off, paying a true tribute to those sounds.
TRR: How do you think this band compares to some of your former bands such as Eye Empire and SubmerseD, which were both fantastic bands. Eye Empire seemed to be under the radar, but let me tell you, that was a phenomenal band. “More Than Fate” is still better than most stuff you hear on Octane today.
DC: Blisskrieg is a band that's lifetime is in the making. One of the cliche's I have is that we all made music in past lives. It's like we all lived these past lives and we were put on this earth to find each other. Back in High School, I was playing a lot of acoustic guitar. I grew up in the South but was in love with Metallica. So, I'm playing Metallica songs on this acoustic, kind of like a mix of metal and acoustic. Then, this band called "Days of the New" came out and it really blew my mind. It was like someone was reading my mind. That's the music I wanted to play, to make. hat was the band I wanted to make, playing metal on acoustic. Then, those guys moved on to Tantric. So, I followed them right into Tantric. And, at that time, I started my first band, "SubmerseD." And at that time, Drowning Pool and all these bands were getting signed out of Dallas. So, we signed at the same label as Drowning Pool, with Wind Up Records. That kind of started my journey. After SubmerseD ended, I found myself with a group of professional players and we called ourselves Eye Empire. We did a lot, for an independent band, but at the end of the day, it took its toll on us, and we all found different paths to take which led to this opportunity that came from Instagram.
TRR: Really? Instagram?
DC: Yeah. I had a friend who set up an account for me. I'm not a big social media guy. He said, "If you're gonna be in the game, people gotta find you." In 2 weeks, Todd contacted me. He told me he was a fan of my music. He said he used to listen to the first SubmerseD record when they were making the 3rd Tantric album. He asked what I was doing these days. When I realized it was Todd from Days of the New and Tantric, I immediately reached out and thought, this was kind of crazy. We discussed making some music. He was pretty busy at the time, this was before the pandemic, so everyone was still busy and then suddenly, everything came to a halt. That's when we decided to get the band together.
TRR: That's pretty cool. I hope you thanked your friend for setting up your Instagram account.
DC: Yeah, I did. (laughing)
TRR: The other band you were in, Eye Empire, that was a great band.
DC: Yeah, it was.
TRR: There's a song on there, "More than Fate." I'll be subjective here, that's a great song. That's still better than a lot of songs you hear on satellite radio these days.
DC: You know, it's what it is. When you're an independent with a lack of funds, it's hard. Kind of like politics. It's a money game. The more money you have, the further you can go with it. You know, yeah, it was a special time in our lives, for all of us, like fire, it was so intense, the energy and the passion, yet it just burned itself out. As an artist and creator and writer, I learned a lot from that. I love those guys to death. We try to stay in touch as often as we can. We're men! We don't always communicate or reach out to stay in touch all the time, but we do as often as we can.
TRR: So would you say that was a big stepping stone in your life to where you are today with Blisskrieg?
DC: Oh yeah. Absolutely. I feel everything you do in life is a stepping stone for the next things you do, that you encounter. Everything has a purpose and, yeah, that was a big part of my life, an important part that's helped pave the way to where I am today.
TRR: On March 4, 2019, SubmerseD had a partial reunion with you,and Kelan Luker. You guys played a one-off acoustic set for "Lukerpalooza," a benefit concert for Seth Luker, who was the manager of SubmerseD, and Kelan's brother. Who’s idea was it to organize the benefit concert?
DC: Kelan Luker, who was the bass player of SubmerseD, organized this. Kelan's brother was our manager, a very energetic, and big part of our lives. After SubmerseD, he went off to be successful in business, and he beat stage 4 cancer twice. At the same time, he was keeping all of us together. After a band breaks up, there's a lot of regret and a lot of things you carry with you. He was our rock, our counselor, cheerleader, and our biggest fan. Even after we split up, over the years, he was a very important person to all of us. He passed away on December 22nd, 2018. It was devastating for all of us and opened up the lines of communication between us, and Kelen called me to say how he wanted to put together something in honor of Seth. Mark Tremonti came out, the guys from Drowning Pool and me, Eric and Kelan got together and did about 4 acoustic songs. It was a very special opportunity and bittersweet. I'm so grateful but wish it didn't have to happen under those circumstances.
TRR: Do you think this also created a final closure on that chapter of your life?
DC: Great question. For me, yeah, it did. That regret just festers. It's hard to let it go sometimes. It's hard to watch others not let it go. Over time, it just eats at you. For me, that was special to have that opportunity to put it to bed.
TRR: After the show, were there any discussions of getting the band back together?
DC: Yeah. For me, I like the term "never say never." I'm always open to some things, but for other folks, they don't want to look back and rehash. For us, it was just great honor to such an important person in our lives who continues to motivate us today.
TRR: After Eye Empire, you fronted Million Man Army and then Nothing in Return, two fantastic bands. Your vocals on “Beautiful Hate” are phenomenal. Why was that song never released?
DC: That was from "Million Man Army," one of the demo tracks. I was just kind of sitting there playing around, and I came up with that song which has this hateful message, but was beautiful in tone.
TRR: Because of the pandemic, was it difficult recording the album? Was everyone in a studio or did you
do it remotely and then mix?
DC: We actually recorded in the studio in Todd's house. It's a beautiful space with great equipment, and we created this incredible vortex of energy. We did our homework, went in prepared, and got it all done.
TRR: How long did it take to complete the album?
DC: It took a bit, but it was a bit more tedious for Todd. There are a lot of guitar part and then the production value. Jesse got his parts in a day or two, same for Matt, a day or two, and same for me. But, it was a pretty easy process for all of us. It just came out of us. Todd feels we all just channeled it. We tuned into this celestial realm and channeled it. We can't wait to get back in and record some more.
TRR: What do you foresee with Blisskrieg now? Is there an urgency to get the music out there?
DC: We don't feel rushed to make any rash decisions. We've got balance now, at our ages. So, we'll just take it one step at a time and not rush into any one thing. That makes things a lot more successful too.
TRR: I can’t wait to promote the hell out of this band. Who’s been in contact with Grant or Jose on Octane? Gotta get some of these songs on there ASAP.
DC: (laughing) For sure. That's what it takes, and for a band like us, all hands on us. But in the end, it's about the music that people like and how it gets them inspired.
TRR: What do you think about the music industry today as compared to when you first got started? Remember that first song on MTV, “Video Killed the Radio Star?” Do you think that’s pretty accurate?
DC: It's definitely changed, for sure. Did the video kill the radio industry? I don't think so. I think it's led to a lot more changes, maybe limited some things, but there's still those opportunities. Things like YouTube probably help the independent bands a lot these days.
TRR: Your wife, Jennifer. How did you both meet?
DC: We met through the label rep of Wind Up Records during SubmerseD's first record. We went to Toronto to do a CD press junket. He took us out to dinner after we got our press out of the way, and he invited some of his friends along, and she was there and we started talking all night. It was lights out from there on. It was one of those moments when you could feel your life changing.
TRR: So you knew right then and there?
DC: There was a lot going on in my life at the time. It was heavy, so the moment I met her, it brought a lot of things into focus and everything became black and white. It was a Godsend and there were some things that were lined up that were gonna be monumental mistakes. The moment I met her, this weight was lifted a little bit, and I was able to see where I needed to go next. It was a day and a half type of thing. We met up the next day for lunch before I was leaving town. She gave me her card, she was doing some industry things at the time. I said to myself, "I'm gonna give it a few weeks before I call her" but I think it lasted only two days before reaching out to reconnect.
TRR: How are you able to balance your personal life, wife and three kids, and your music life?
DC: I haven't had to do the balance for a long time. During the Empire days, it was tough. We were on the road for about 300 days a year and that's part of the reason I had to pull back. Sometimes, you've got to choose what's important to you, and it was hard on my family, being away so much. Sometimes you've got to be in the same boat together. Now, it's just about keeping the family in the loop, all of them involved and in the discussions, how it affects and impacts our family. You've got to be an adult.
TRR: If you ever get any time off, you ever think about being a Life Coach?
DC: (laughing) I am so far from perfect. It's much easier to try to say the right things to help others than ourselves sometimes. I've often told people I'm either the best person to get advice from or the worst. But, I'm fortunate to have this opportunity and I'm humble and grateful.
TRR: What do your kids think about their dad the rock star?
DC: My older kids didn't really remember me performing because they were so young at the time, so they get to see it and experience it with me now and it's great.
TRR: Which one of them do you see as the next rock star of the family?
DC: My daughter. She's two years old. Started from scratch over the age of 40. (laughing) Yet, she's a phenomenal spirit and singing along since she was about a year old. She gravitates to it. She's always singing. She hears this Verizon commercial on TV and thinks it's me singing the song in the commercial. It's really cute.
TRR: Pandemic ends tomorrow. Where do we first see Blisskrieg live?
DC: I'd say Nashville. That's kind of where our homebase is. It would be cool to get back out there, maybe with a band like Metallica. But, let's cross the fingers that Blisskrieg is out there real soon.
TRR: Anyone you want to give a shout out to or thank?
DC: My family, for their support and belief in me. The band, Todd, Jesse and Matt. My childhood friends, Jason Guthrie. He's the one who set up the Instagram page. The GLP Foundation. That's Jason's company. So many people. Mark Tremonti. The labels throughout the years. The fans that have always been there. Marfa, Brian, all these fans. Emray from Instanbul. Hodjo from Australia. All these names I've always seen over the years. I can't thank them enough for always being there even when I wasn't performing. They've brought so much love and encouragement.
TRR: Look at that. You've touched a lot of lives all the way across the oceans.
DC: I'm blessed to be able to do that and make those connections.
TRR: Donald, thank you so much for this interview. It's been great.
DC: Thank you so much, Kreig. I appreciate all of this and being able to really open up. Let's keep in touch. We're all on the same team now.
TRR: You be safe and God bless.
Kreig Marks, Founder/Publisher, TRR
Kreig Marks is the Founder/Publisher of Tru Rock Revival Magazine.
Rock music has always been his passion, and to promote musicians. In is spare time he is an internationally recognized neuro-fitness trainer/ kinesiologist.