About The Warrior Kings
The Warrior Kings – a hard rock band with a dark blues soul.
Hailing from Indianapolis, the band since its beginning in 2012 to today, has released 3 studio albums and 2 live albums. (Available for download at thewarriorkings.com and on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby.)
The WK features the guitar heroics of Casey Harshbarger, the bass of Austin Shearer, and the drum and vocal work of Benjamin Williams. Together, they pay homage to the 3 piece bands of rock history, while bringing a fresh, modern sound to today.
Their music has been featured on the Blues House Party on WFYI 90.1 FM and 92.3 FM WTTS. The WK have also made TV appearances on Indy’s WISH-TV 8 and on “Inside Tracks” a Xfinity On Demand TV Series. Today, The Warrior Kings travel the Midwest performing for all lovers of music.
The Warrior Kings ignite the listener with a hi-def supersonic wall of sound that pays homage to the guitar-driven 3 piece bands of yesteryear.
Performing regularly at the legendary Slippery Noodle in downtown Indianapolis, as well as other clubs, festivals, and other private/corporate engagements around the Midwest.
Benjamin WilliamsDrum & Vocals
Q: Describe the formation of The Warrior Kings.
Casey and I both met performing at various gigs around town. Both of us were slugging it out in the music scene picking up gigs to pay the bills and to make connections musically and in business. I told him that I play a little guitar and write songs. I played for him a song I wrote called ``Love Supernatural``. Of course, ``Love Supernatural`` now leads off our 1st album. I could tell he dug the riff. We maintained our friendship and a few years later, after being frustrated in with the same ol' corporate cover band scene, I approached Casey about starting a mostly original rock band that was hard hitting, bluesy, and most of all - unapologetic. I must of said the right things to him, because from that point on, it has been our mission to press forward with The Warrior Kings.
What's it like playing the drums with Casey Harshbarger on guitar?
Simply put, Casey is one of the best guitarists around. I don't even need to say that, because at WK shows, people will tell me that themselves. Other guitarist tell me that. He is on the short list of guitarists that can do it all - play rhythm, solo, play delicate songs, play like a savage, solo with grace, and even solo with shredding aggression. But my favorite is the connection we have on our improvs. Check out ``Raggedy & Dirty`` on the 2nd album. That was cut live in the studio. There is a real connection between Casey on guitar, Jeff Stone on bass, and myself. We have developed the musical telepathy where we know where each other is going in an improv situation. We do it all the time at WK shows. Its unique for this town. We are not a cover band that is going to copy the sound of a juke box. We are a band that takes chances musically.
How difficult is it playing the drums and singing at the same time?
I am not going to lie, it's difficult. There's no sugar-coating it, playing the drums and singing at the same time is hard, hard, hard work. There is a lot of practice involved, memorization required, mental concentration needed to complete a 3 or 4 hour gig. The best part of it is that I have 2 other guys who are rock solid. They make it easier for me.
Describe The WK's song writing process.
The first album, for the most part, were songs that I wrote on my own. Songs like ``Love Supernatural``, ``Robert Johnson's Revolver``, ``Chautauqua``, ``In The Night Time``, Every Night``, I wrote for myself. I handed the songs over to Casey and he greatly enhanced the guitar work. Mostly making the guitar work incredibly intricate and impossible for us mere mortals to play on guitar. And that's what I loved about the 1st album, writing songs and then letting Casey build a guitar army on each song.
The 2nd album was much more Casey and I working together and coming up with riffs, laying down drum grooves, and finding the right lyrics. An example would be ``The Spirit of 76``. First, I came up with the drum groove, then Casey developed the riffs. We followed with a bridge, solo section, and outro, then found some lyrics that would fit with the imagery of the sound. Before we knew it, an epic song was born.
Who are some of your top musical influences?
On the drums, I have been heavily influenced by John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Ginger Baker (Cream), Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience), and of course about any drummer I have listened to no matter what level. You can learn a lot just by opening your ears. Some of my favorite drummers around town would be Preston Nash, Dane Clark, and Kenny Phelps.
Vocally, well it's no secret that I am Zeppelin fan. Robert Plant, baby! Of course, Chris Cornell is probably one of the best vocalists around today. But lately there is a band called The Rival Sons. Their lead vocalist Jay Buchanan is completely off the chain, ridiculously good.
If you're stranded on a desert island and you only had 5 songs to listen to, what would the 5 songs be?
Kashmir by Led Zeppelin
White Room by Cream
Message in a Bottle by The Police (LOL!)
Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd
I Heard The Voice by The Edwin Hawkins Choir
You also give drum lessons at the Sam Ash location in Indianapolis, IN. Describe instructing emerging drummers.
I teach all sorts of ages. Drummers who are 4 years old, 10 years old, 16 years old, or even 50 years old. It is a joy to watch them grow musically. I am still learning how to play the drums, and so are they. There is no competition here, it's about learning together. I do my best to encourage and challenge them at the same time. We are all a part of the drummer community, and it's a great family to learn from.
How did you get your start in music?
I grew up a Pentecostal Preacher's kid in the South Bend, Indiana area. Music was and still is an essential part of our lives in and outside the church. My Mother led worship services; playing the piano and singing. When I was 12 years old, I was finally decent enough to get on stage and play the drums. We would do the Gospel Standards and songs from Edwin and Walter Hawkins, Bill Gaither, Ron Kenoly, or whatever moved people to worship. Sometimes our worship services would go on and on for hours. I miss that.
Unlike some of the churches I perform at today, there was no script in my church growing up. We were led by the Spirit. Which basically means, open up your ears and listen and respond musically. So, I have no doubt at all that the improv skills that The Warrior Kings display today, a significant part of that for me comes from jamming with the worship band led by my Mom back in the day. Overall, my background has really taught me how to play the drums in and through the Spirit.
Outside of The Warrior Kings, describe your musical resume.
Outside of playing in the WK, I have performed in various bands and have worked with so many talented people. Mostly I have worked with the Souled Out Band for the past 10 years with an incredible Motown sound that makes you want to dance. I did several high profile shows with a Temptations Tribute show from Las Vegas. Recently, I was honored to perform with some other local guitar legends, Benito DiBartoli, Gene Deer, and Gordan Bonham for a SRV Tribute concert at Rathskellar in Indy. Back in college, I performed in the Ball State Jazz Combo. I also studied at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, California. I have always found myself playing at different churches as well.
What are the plans for future of The Warrior Kings?
For 2016, we are going to start writing our 3rd album. From a business standpoint, we are going to continue to expand our market nationwide and world-wide. Hey, I get emails from people in Europe and South America that dig our sound. I love it!
Casey HarshbargerLead Guitar
Describe the formation of the Warrior Kings?
The Warrior Kings was an ongoing project that Ben & I started in or around 2010. We had a shared vision of what we wanted & worked in various formats to get it to where it is today. We always had a vision of the power trio as the main force of sound with a lot of improv & a hard rock edge. We had played together in a contemporary rock church band for a few years. One Sunday Ben played me a few of his original tunes & I liked what I heard ! They were bluesy & soulful as well as catchy. They also left me plenty of room to do my thing on guitar! The Warrior Kings were born on that day. The basic blueprint of the band still is going now - honest, soulful songs that are vehicles for musical expression. Passion & power are the backbone of this band. I could see Ben held that in his heart & knew he was serious & committed as a musician. We started the band with an excellent bass player named Andy Newell & the first album was a culmination of that chemistry. Jeff Stone took over bass duties on the second album & the bands sound continues to evolve.
What's it like playing with Ben Williams on drums & vocals?
First of all, to play drums & sings lead vocals at the same time like he does is mind-blowing!! Secondly, to do it as well as he does & with such passion is why we have been successful as a band. We have built our sound around his personality & the power of his vocals. On that level, Ben is the most dynamic & versatile drummer I've ever played with. He is so sensitive to a good jam & knows how to extend it so it becomes epic! I never have to look at him when we are throwing down, we just connect musically & go where the music takes us. It's effortless & the thing that makes this band truly unique. He also plays the drums with emotion!!! I know this sounds weird right? Well, I feel his grooves have a certain emotional weight that makes the songs vibrate with intensity & groove beyond simple technique & timing. In other words, most players are so concerned with what fill goes where, how perfect they line up with the metronome, etc. that they forget to play with emotion & make the groove have life!
Ben is a very sympathetic drummer to my playing - I truly am spoiled to play with a drummer that gives me room to stretch out & solo for 10 minutes! He always has my back musically & throws a fill or feel change to send my playing to the next level. A titan of a musician!! I look forward to many more years of incredible music with this dude!
What goes on in your head when you are onstage with the Warrior Kings?
A flood of emotions! I try to bring my past experiences of pain, loss, & struggle into my playing. I look at it like acting in a way. If an actor is playing a very emotional scene where they need to cry or express some kind of pain, they will conjur up a past experience & re-live it to find that emotion. In a way, they are experiencing it all over again & the acting becomes real! Over all, I try & express emotion in every aspect of my playing. If I'm executing a fast phrase, it's because it feels right to me in the moment - much like an excited person trying to make their point in a conversation. If I bend a note & make it sing, I might be trying to think of what I'm going to say next.
I lost my mom in 1997. That really hurt. She was my rock-the center of my world & my best friend. A lot of the time when I play, I'm thinking of her & feeling that pain of her being gone. It helps me connect to something greater than myself.
Music is such a powerful force in my life! It gives me purpose & a way of dealing with all that life throws at you. It is my religion. Therefore, when I am onstage-I'm at church!!! Everything I do & play is an extension of that. 'Nuff said!
Describe your part in the Warrior Kings songwriting process.
Most of the time, Ben comes up with the melody line for the vocal hook & a basic idea of the groove he wants. He'll either send me a rough acoustic guitar track with a riff idea & vocal or a fully realized drum groove with no music. I then get to work on refining the music & putting my guitar to work. I have occasionally come up with a phrase here or there. ``Kingdom of Rust`` was a phrase I came up with staring out of a window in my house to my back yard. We had a rusty old swingset in our back yard & a bunch of old rusty chairs on our back patio. It was winter & everything was cold, drab & glistening in the snow. I thought to myself, man I own a Kingdom of Rust!! Thus the song was born & Ben wrote some amazing lyrics around that theme on the decay of the world, etc. Funny how some ideas start so small!
Songwriting is a very complicated process with a lot of change back & forth. Ben typically writes 99% of the words. We always collaborate on the music by getting together & jamming in his basement until the song is done. We also send mp3's back & forth & use garageband to flesh out song ideas. It is a very enjoyable process for me!! I love the whole blood, sweat & tears of writing songs. It brings out the best in me as a musician & composer. The challenge of working with somebody else is in the art of the compromise. Ben is a terrific writing partner & we work well together.
Who are some of your top guitar influences?
I grew up in the age of hair metal! I hit my stride around 1982 or so when i began practicing 3-4 hours a day. The guitarists of the time were Eddie Van Halen, George Lynch, Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee & a multitude of other amazing electric players. I soaked it all up & was copying everyone I could! Joe Satriani was a tremendous influence on me. I loved his composing skills as well as his playing. Since he was an instrumental guitarist, he used the guitar as the singer in his music as well. It taught me that the guitar could do more than just solo. It was a good melody that mattered!!! Steve Vai impressed me with his over the top technique & amazing showmanship skills. His composing was also so incredibly unique. His playing was immediately recognizable. He taught me to find your own voice. I also love the blues-B.B. King showed me how to play less & say more. Albert King taught me to make one note last for 5 minutes! Buddy Guy showed me how to play with a sense of humor. Stevie Ray Vaughan taught me how to play with passion & make every note count. Eric Johnson is another player I greatly admire. His tone is incredible & so warm & rich. You know it's him after the first note! He taught me to find a tone & stick with it! Jimmy Page taught me to write a good riff & make it groove. Jimi Hendrix showed me how to put some sex into my playing. He also was an incredible improviser- The ``Woodstock Jam`` changed my life-10+ minutes of the most beautiful, spiritual guitar playing I've ever heard.
I could go on & on & on...... Needless to say, there are hundreds more that I could list. Ask me on a different day & you'll get a whole other set of players!! These are who I could think of at the moment. Listen, learn & play!!!!!!
If you were stranded on a desert island & only had 5 songs to listen to, what would they be?
Stairway To Heaven- Led Zeppelin
Aways With You, Always With Me - Joe Satriani
Whispering A Prayer - Steve Vai
Cliffs of Dover - Eric Johnson
Little Wing - Jimi Hendrix
You have taught guitar at Reno's Music in Fishers IN for over 17 years. Describe what thats been like.
I love teaching guitar!! In a way, it is as important to me as playing is. I have learned more from teaching than I could've ever imagined. Having to explain something to someone in a way for them to break it down & use it is incredibly challenging. It makes you understand it in a deeper ,more important way. You can learn so much about yourself when you teach. It is a skill I've gotten better at over the years. The more playing experience I've acquired has made me a better teacher. I teach rock, blues, jazz, classical, fingerstyle, & music theory. I've had so many inspiring students over the years. I've learned much more from them than they ever learned from me. That's the gift of teaching - you're students will occasionally ask a question that you don't know the answer to. You research it & find an answer (hopefully!) & realize you've suddenly gained a bit more knowledge than you had-wonderful!! I love the process. It's also cool to meet so many different people from different backgrounds. I have kids from 8 years old to adults in their 60s. I love the challenge of engaging many different musical tastes. Or just trying to get somebody into the joy of learning something new. I love it when people realize the magic of playing a instrument & the beauty it can bring them for years to come.
How did you get started playing guitar?
I started playing at around 10 years old. After a few stops & starts, I became obsessed with it around 13 years old & it has remained my focus for 30 years! I was always from my first memory attracted to the sound of a loud, electric guitar. I have three older brothers & when I was a kid they'd blast rock music from their rooms. I remember hearing ``Eruption`` by Van Halen when I was around 7 or 8 for the first time. It absolutely floored me. I wanted to be able to make those sounds - it was so powerful & earth shattering! It seemed like the electric guitar held all the mysteries of the world in it. Plus, girls paid attention to you when you played the guitar & jumped around!! I asked for & got my first electric for Christmas. It was a Kay electric - cheap as could be with the strings way high off the fretboard. It was mine though & I loved it!! Eventually, I saved some money from mowing neighbor's lawns & bought a Epiphone Flying V. It was an awesome guitar & I played the hell out of it thru my teenage years. I had several good guitar teachers who inspired me to practice & bring the most out of myself.
Outside of the Warrior Kings, describe your musical resume.
I have played with several great & inspiring musicians over the years. I played with Tony Cheesebourough for about eight years. He is a blues & R&B legend in Indy. He taught me how to play hard & hold nothing back. We hit the stage in that band with full force & often tired the crowd out before ourselves!! Cheese had an intensity that I really appreciated. I recorded three albums with that band & played 100s of shows. I also played in a reggae band called the Tides. The drummer for that band is a guy named Michael Beck who has been a good musical partner over the years. I currently play with an incredible harpist named Jan Aldridge Clark. We play all kinds of instrumental music from classical to rock. We also have an album out on iTunes under the name Jan & Casey's Groove Machine. She is a joy to work with & an amazing musician!
What are the plans for the future of the Warrior Kings?
I look at the Warrior Kings as my musical soul. I will work tirelessly to keep the Warrior Kings an important musical force for years to come. Ben & I are brothers in music & have created something I'm very proud of. We are going to branch out of Indianapolis & work as many regional markets as we can. Festivals, clubs, & stages will be won over. We are going to convince the world we are the real deal by working hard & playing our asses off!!!!!
Who are some of your top musical influences?
For bass guitar, my playing is influenced by John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience) and several rock bass players. Overall, there so many great players and it is difficult to list them all. Also, I’ve always looked up to the greats like Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller and Flea. As far as Indianapolis, my favorite local bass player is a Biscuit Miller.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and you only had five songs to listen to, what would the 5 songs be?
Song Remains the Same by Led Zeppelin
Highway Star by Deep Purple
Children of the Grave by Black Sabbath
Axis Bold as Love by Jimi Hendrix Experience
Riviera Paradise by Stevie Ray Vaughn
How did you get your start in music?
I got my first guitar for my 16th birthday. At the time, my stepdad, Rick Knapp (bassist for Walter Trout and Jimmy Thackery) encouraged me play. He introduced me to bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. These bands inspired me to appreciate music and the magic it creates. I worked hard to learn as much as I could from Rick and played in bands with him for years. These were my most developmental years as a young musician.
Outside of the Warrior Kings, describe your musical resume.
Throughout the years, I've played in country, oldies, rock and blues bands during my musical career. I’ve been playing with WT Feaster, (Mystic Records), since 2005 and other local Indianapolis musicians as well. I’m so fortunate that music has provided opportunities to record, travel and meet so many great people.