Course of Empire (band)

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Course of Empire
Course of Empire.jpg
Course of Empire, 1994
Background information
OriginDallas, Texas
GenresPost-punk, industrial music, alternative rock
Years active1988–1998
LabelsCarpe Diem Records
Zoo Entertainment
TVT Records
MembersMike Graff
Vaughn Stevenson
Chad Lovell
Michael Jerome
Paul Semrad

Course of Empire was a hard-edged, post-industrial, post-punk, and alternative band based in Dallas, Texas, from 1988 to 1998.


In the band's early days, large drums would be placed throughout the audience as a means to eliminate the separation between performer and audience. Inspired by the Kodo Drummers of Japan, the band sought to use the theater of mass drumming to illustrate their vision of a future culture that would evolve as a response to the exponentially increasing human population on the planet. This practice was stopped, however, when the drums ceased to be played by ever-increasing crowds, becoming dangerous missiles instead. However, the band retained one defining feature with two drummers playing simultaneously (Michael Jerome and Chad Lovell) creating a propulsive, driving beat that underlaid many of the group's songs.

Song topics were initially of a more political and environmental stance (the name "Course of Empire" having come from a 5-piece series by 19th century painter Thomas Cole). As film students at Southern Methodist University, members of the band infused their songs with references to the environment, culture and the effects of humankind on the planet. Later, the lyrical content would take on topics related to conspiracy theories and the personal quest of spirituality.

The band released three studio albums over their ten-year existence: one on the Dallas label Carpe Diem, one with Zoo Entertainment, and one with TVT Records. Additionally, they toured with industrial-metal groups such as Prong, Sister Machine Gun, Stabbing Westward, Young Gods, and many others. The band's first two albums established the group's sound: precise, driving drums overlaid with heavy industrial guitars and hard-edged vocals. However, the group refused to conform to any particular genre, incorporating elements of Eastern and Middle Eastern music, tabla drumming, and electronic music into their songs.

The band released their first single/EP, Infested, ahead of the Initiation album in 1993. The single featured two new songs, "Joy" and "Let's Have A War" (a cover of a song by Fear), as well as a "Darwin Goodman" remix of Infested – Darwin from naturalist/evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin and Goodman from legendary big band clarinetist Benny Goodman. The remix sampled Goodman's performance of swinger Louis Prima's big band standard "Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)" and featured a different, swing-inspired drumbeat.

In 1995, producer John Fryer (Nine Inch Nails, Gravity Kills) was tapped to produce their third record, Telepathic Last Words, as it featured more electronic-edged material. Soon after, the band found support in Dallas radio icon Redbeard who promoted the album weeks ahead of release on Dallas radio station Q102, including heavy airplay of "New Maps", which was scheduled to be the lead single from Telepathic Last Words. Unfortunately, the Zoo record label folded in July 1996, just one month before the album was due to be released.

TVT Records signed the band by December 1996 after working out the licensing terms with BMG for the rights to Telepathic Last Words and the previous Initiation record. At TVT's request, the band recorded additional tracks with drummer Chad Lovell as producer. The new tracks were mixed in Hollywood at Larrabee Studios North with Dave Bianco at the helm. Some previous tracks were also remixed by Bianco. Telepathic Last Words, originally mastered by Bob Ludwig for the Zoo release, was re-mastered by Howie Weinberg in September 1997 and was finally released in January 1998, almost two years after its original completion. As part of the new deal, the scheduled national lead single was changed from "New Maps" to "The Information". The band received favorable press in the form of a two-page cover story in a local alternative weekly newsmagazine, the Dallas Observer, as well as mentions in Spin and trade publications. However, a lack of promotion by the record company prevented the song from seeing a wide release on modern-rock playlists across the United States. "The Information" was picked up by Q102 after the success of "New Maps" on Redbeard's show, but failed to gain traction and was dropped from the playlist by 1998. Plans to release either "Persian Song" or the newly re-recorded version of "Coming of the Century" as singles did not come to fruition.

"The Information" was included on the soundtrack for the film Dark City. A music video was also produced featuring scenes from the movie and was aired on MTV at the time of the movie's premiere. The band toured with Rob Halford's ill-fated "Two" project along with John 5 of Marilyn Manson fame and also opened for The Sisters of Mercy in Los Angeles that spring.

The group disbanded after ten years together over frustration with management, booking, and lack of a proper A&R rep. Their final show was in July 1998 at Trees in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas. Taking the stage after local opening acts Caulk and Doosu, Course of Empire performed some of their earlier songs, including most of the Initiation album, instead of concentrating on the new material from Telepathic Last Words. In 2004, Mike Graff and Martin Baird at Verge Music Works recording studio mixed the still-existing 24 tracks of the final performance at Trees and personally financed and self-released the tracks, titled Phone Calls From the Dead.[1]

After the group split in 1998, drummer Michael Jerome and guitarist Mike Graff collaborated with Van Eric Martin to form the group Halls of the Machine, who released their debut album, Atmospheres for Lovers and Sleepers, in 2001. The band also maintains a Myspace page under "Course of Empire".

Group Members[edit]

  • Mike Graff 1988–1998 (guitar)
  • Vaughn Stevenson 1988–1998 (vocals)
  • Paul Semrad 1988–1998 (bass, backing vocals)
  • Anthony Headley 1988–1991 (drums)
  • Chad Lovell 1989–1998 (drums)
  • Michael Jerome 1994–1998 (drums)

Other performing members: Dave Abbruzzese (drums), Kyle Thomas (drums)



  • 1990: Course of Empire (Carpe Diem Records)
    • After selling over 5000 copies in Dallas alone following its November release, BMG subsidiary Zoo Entertainment signed the band in August, 1991. This first album was reissued on the new label in January, 1992
  • 1994: Initiation
  • 1998: Telepathic Last Words (TVT Records)

Other Releases[edit]

  • 2004: Phone Calls From the Dead (Lust)
  • 2004: Hiss DVD (Self-released)
  • 2008: Initiation Demos (Self-released)

Singles and EPs[edit]

  • 1993: Infested! [CD]
  • 1994: Infested! [12]
  • 1998: The Information [CD]


  • Halls of the Machine[2]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Prato, Greg. "Greg Prato of Allmusic". Retrieved 2010-09-07.
  2. ^ "Halls of the Machine official site". Retrieved 2010-09-07.

External links[edit]