by Sean O. Murphy
Sep 10, 2012
The Venue, the most utilitarian-named space for live music in the metro, is attached to McSalty’s Pizza joint on the north side of Oklahoma City. The utility-over-aesthetic name speaks well for the space itself. It has a wooden stage and a few bar tables and stools. Black-clad teens and twenties circled the stage. The flyer ,decorated with a hand-drawn copy of the logo for the adult science fiction and fantasy magazine, Heavy Metal, promised four bands with Tanhauser Gates at the top of the line-up. Screeching guitars and banging drum sets made my middle-aged head pound, and I understood why the older guys would always wear ear plugs to shows. I shook it off and reminded myself of the Rock ’n’ Roll truism: “If it’s too loud, then you’re too old”.
My ears were still ringing, but I stuck around for the show. A few days later, I caught up through email with Bryan Kimmey, the lead guitarist and spokesperson for Tanhauser Gates. The rest of the band is Dylan Hall on rhythm guitar and vocals, Jay Yeich on bass guitar, and the drummer, Jack Erickson. While the guys have only been playing as Tanhauser Gates since early 2011, Kimmey and Hall met in high school in Arkansas three years before and shared a love of classic rock and metal. The two bought guitars and began to jam together daily. They thought their days of playing together were over when they went their separate ways for college, but they stayed in touch and reunited in Oklahoma City. Bryan had moved here for graduate school. They began playing open microphone nights as a duo. A new friend, Jay Yeich, picked up bass just to help form a band. Kimmey says that they intended to be a full band from the beginning and began looking for a drummer right away.
Though they auditioned and played with a few different drummers, they couldn’t seem to find the right fit for their new band. “One night, we saw this kid busting on some buckets in front of Hooters. I made a joke that this was our new drummer. I wrote my name and number on a dollar bill and handed it to him. I told him to call me if he ever wanted to be in a band. I forgot all about it, but a few weeks later, I got a call. That kid turned out to be Jack Erickson. The rest is history and Jack is the drummer.”
“We were more of a southern rock band at first, but I wanted to do some psychedelic metal inspired by my love of science fiction, and Dylan really wanted to add some sword and sorcery style lyrics and imagery to the mix.” Kimmey admits that he is the science fiction fan of the band, while Hall is much more interested in role-playing games and fantasy. Kimmey takes inspiration from authors such as Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and Robert Heinlein. Kimmey says, “Recently, science fiction comics from the ’80s like Warp and Starslayer have had a huge aesthetic impact. We have actually even asked Mark Brunner, the artist for Warp, to do some cover and t-shirt art for us.”
Hall meanwhile takes much of his inspiration from reading pulp fantasy like Robert E. Howard, Fritz Lieber, and R.A. Salvatore. Hall is also largely influenced by his adventures playing a pen and paper role-playing game, Rolemaster Fantasy Roleplaying (think Dungeons & Dragons). The whole band are fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and science fiction movies.
“We wanted a name to match our influences and sound. We experimented with Space Owl and MoonWolf. However, no one was completely confident in them. One day we were watching a movie, and when it reached the monologue at the end, we knew we had it,” Kimmey said.
The classic monologue is spoken by a dying renegade android, Roy Baty, played by Rutger Hauer in the final scene of Ridley Scott’s cult classic film, Blade Runner. It follows:
“I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
“Shoulder of Orion? Maybe The C- Beams? Nah! Tannhäuser Gate? We played with derivations of that for a while, until we dropped an n and made gate plural. Even though the modifications might hurt us with science fiction purists, we decided we were Tanhauser Gates.”
Tanhauser Gates played a concert to benefit those who lost homes in the Oklahoma wildfires and the American Red Cross at OKC Limits. “It felt good to lend ourselves to a great cause. OKC Limits is an awesome venue that is well managed. We were very grateful for the opportunity to play. We love the south side. We get treated very well down here. I wish the northwest side of Oklahoma City was as supportive as the people that hang out at places like the Aloha bar, K-Saloon, and OKC limits. Bikers seem to appreciate our taste in music. We’re looking for more gigs on the south side, too.”
You can catch Tanhauser Gates at The Winking Lizard on September 21st. Look for more dates on the band’s Facebook page.