Camden Cruz isn't interested in going broke again. Once, following a 2014 European tour, was enough for the Seven Kingdoms guitarist.
Which is why his power metal band, whose name and much of its lyrical content is inspired by George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, is content to close the year with a three-city Florida swing, starting with Friday's show at Crowbar in Tampa's Ybor City.
For now, a return to Europe will have to wait.
"I'm not going out of my way to try to jump on some tour that's gonna cost us a fortune," Cruz, 29, of DeLand said.
Seven Kingdoms, which the Times profiled in a Latitudes cover story earlier this year, toured North America with Blind Guardian in 2010 and Europe with Stratovarius in 2013, but a return to Europe in 2014 left it owing more than it had in the bank.
After taking two years off, Seven Kingdoms righted itself with a bold plan to finance its 2016 EP, In The Walls, and 2017 10th-anniversary album, Decennium.
The band conducted crowd-funding campaigns to repay itself after self-financing the albums. It then signed a worldwide deal with Napalm Records to re-press and promote its entire music catalog.
We recently caught up with Camden, who works as a custom painter, booking agent, tour manager and artist manager in addition to his role as guitarist, as he completed last-minute preparations for Seven Kingdoms' Florida shows.
Last we spoke, you had just inked the deal with Napalm Records and were set to hit the road with Evergrey for a North American tour. How has the relationship with the label been working for you?
Everything's been great so far. Everything we expected has happened from the deal. The hardest thing to crack is to really try to find European representation, the booking agent that gets you the gigs over there. That's the last piece of the puzzle I have to put together somehow.
What has been the biggest benefit to the band?
They sold a lot more copies (of Decennium) than we could have by ourselves. I think the biggest thing is our stuff is made over in Europe now. With our old record label, our CDs are still imports over there. Now, our CDs are much cheaper. The costs are like the costs here. So, because of that, it's much more accessible. And Napalm is big enough that if they sign new bands, people just kind of buy what Napalm puts out. There's a group of sales that just come because people just follow the label, so that's been a help.
How has Decennium been received so far?
Everybody seemed to receive it great. It's gotten great reviews. Everyone who's reviewed it has really liked it. The end of the year lists are coming up, so I'm just hoping it places somewhere with somebody that publishes. That would be pretty cool.
You also managed a tour for Israeli heavy metal band Orphaned Land and PAIN (from Sweden). Tell me about that.
I got called out to do that. It was Blind Guardian's manager who was Orphaned Land's manager. I had applied to do Guardian when they come back, so I think they put me on that to kind of test me out. I'm pretty sure I'll get to do it when they decide to come back, but I think that's going to be two or three years away. Their old tour manager, I think, retired. I was pretty good friends with him already, so it would just be kind of easy if I do it because the guys are familiar with me. It's not like they'd be starting from scratch with the person who has to live in the bus with you.
In September, you posted an Instagram photo of a shattered cellphone from one of the shows.
That was the first day we met up with PAIN. They had flown in, so they met us at the venue and it's the first time I'm meeting the guys and their techs, so it's first impressions, and I'm sitting there panicking with this broken phone, and then I look up and there they are and they're like, 'Hey,' and I'm like, 'Oh, my god, I hope you weren't trying to call me.'
I was going to help the bus driver push the generator back in, because he was doing the service on the bus, and I set my cellphone on the tire real quick just to get it out of my hand. And then as soon as that happened, I got distracted because the venue owner came up and started arguing with me about parking. We had to turn the bus around and move, and then 10 minutes later after we moved the bus, I realized that I'd left my phone on the tire and they'd run it over. So, $858 later. … I do those tours from my cellphone. I was able to restore it, but that moment I have people calling me. I'm always constantly in the middle of sending or receiving an email half of the time on those gigs.
Is there any bigger nightmare for a tour manager?
Not really. That's pretty much it, man.
Where were you when Hurricane Irma struck Florida?
I was on the road during Irma. (His wife and vocalist) Sabrina (Cruz) was home (with her mother). I missed the whole thing. You all took a boat ride, and I was just, like, a day ahead of it the whole time. It was pretty stressful.
Is it worse being away when something like that is happening?
On top of doing everything for the bands, you're constantly back and forth. The night (the hurricane) was going over, I kind of made Sabrina stay up and every hour send me a thumbs up at least on a message. She was hitting me up pretty much the whole night.
You've also been booking shows for The Haven in Winter Park.
I work with (Peter Olen) from The Orpheum (in Ybor City) who gets most of these shows for the state, and I do the Orlando shows pretty much with him nowadays. You kind of get to the point as a promoter where you hit a roof, and that's the roof of the other promoter who's bigger than you with the bigger fish. And it's just who has been working with these agents for longer. If you've got a promoter in a city and you're a booking agent, why would you go to someone new other than who you've been doing shows with for 10 years? That's how it ends up working. So, instead of going to battle, we've decided to work together so he can do more, so doesn't have to be in Orlando all the time. He's able to go out and work on other markets that might not be developed at the time.
How are these upcoming Florida shows different from the others you play?
These are, I guess, technically headlining shows, so its pretty different actually, versus us on the Evergrey gig, because chances are the majority of the time we'll get to go in before pretty much everybody else and with our own sound guy and get the real sound checks. Sabrina can dial in her monitor. She has the time to sit there and make sure everybody can hear right. We get to run through the songs or two or three, and then they can save it because it's digital stuff nowadays. So, that extra hour or two of just set-up time makes a huge difference.
How long ago did you start rehearsals?
The set, since it's longer, we started the last week of October or so. We just kind of take off (when they're not touring). I play guitar, but I don't necessarily play all the songs all the time, so it took me two weeks just to be able to get through a song cleanly.
You did a couple of practice sessions live on Facebook to keep yourself accountable.
It's like putting yourself on a stage. You can either choke or not. And if I choke, it's like, 'Whoops, guys, sorry.' It helps me out a little bit, helps me play better for sure, or just pay attention harder.
What's next for you guys?
We're kind of waiting, just letting the bait sink in the water. Let it sit there and cook and see what happens. I'm not hell-bent on trying to make it to Europe, because that usually involves a five-figure check of some sort. Even with all the help Napalm would give us, it still would cost the band money to do a real tour over there. There's a chance we'll just start writing the next (album). Because its been nice, honestly, for everybody to not have to put money into the band again like we used to for so many years. That's why we're not hell-bent to go broke again. We finally got to where we can buy Christmas presents this year.