Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Douglas College student aims to bring metal back to mainstream

Chris Osterman performs live with Iron Kingdom.
Cassie Devaney photo
By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

For Chris Osterman, the ‘70s and ‘80s never really died – at least where heavy metal is concerned.

At 20 years old, the Douglas College Stagecraft student and frontman/lead guitarist of metal band Iron Kingdom was born long after the heyday of acts like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and the Scorpions, the band’s major influences. But Chris and his mates feel there’s still a place for their brand of metal, and they want to bring it back to the mainstream.

They may be onto something. In November, Iron Kingdom – which includes Leighton Holmes (bass guitar), Kenny Kroecher (rhythm guitar) and Chris’s sister Amanda Osterman (drums/backing vocals) – earned a spot on Canada’s Got Talent. They performed in front of 1,800 people and received a standing ovation.

Hell bent for leather: from left - Leighton Holmes, Chris Osterman, Kenny Kroecher and Amanda Osterman.

“The biggest show we’d ever played before that was at the Vogue, so it was pretty cool,” Chris says. “The judges were freaking out.”

Their performance earned them an enthusiastic, “You’ve made it to the next round!” from the judges, but behind-the-scenes machinations saw them dropped from the contest.

No matter. The band recently returned from Toronto, where they performed at Canadian Music Week. Appearing on national television didn’t hurt their image either.

“Our video on YouTube got 1,000 views in two days,” Chris says. "As people saw us all across Canada, the video helped us reach a national audience."

Between performing, promoting, cutting records and answering emails, Chris somehow finds the time to be a top student in the Douglas College Stagecraft program. Last fall he was awarded the Raymond Burr Performing Arts Society’s Second-Year Entrance Award of Distinction, presented to an outstanding Douglas student entering their second year in Stagecraft or Theatre.

Taking up stagecraft wasn’t an easy decision. When he graduated from high school, Chris knew he wanted to continue with the band (which he’d formed in junior high). He also knew succeeding in the music world would be tough. He needed to come up with a back-up plan.

“It took me about a year and a half to find anything I’d be OK with doing for the rest of my life besides music. I was looking at the Douglas website and Stagecraft popped up. It covered everything that went on during a performance except being a musician, and I thought, hey, that's pretty cool.”

His new skills have served him well during gigs. Besides assisting with lighting, he’s taken an empty cabinet, cleaned it up, painted it and put a smoke machine inside.

“If I’m doing a solo, I can fake that my amp’s blowing up,” he explains. “I feel that Stagecraft has influenced me in stuff like that. It makes you think out of the box and helps you come up with new ideas.”

Iron Kingdom plans to tour B.C. and Alberta this summer and is looking at recording another album. Next year they’re aiming to tour across the country and eventually hit Europe, probably their biggest market, Chris says.

Find Iron Kingdom on Facebook, MySpace or their website