Visigoth Interview

Interview with with Jake Rogers, Leeland Campana, Matt Brotherton and Jamieson Palmer
Interview by  Beandog

The Independent Voice sat down with Visigoth just before their debut London Show on their recent European tour.
Among other things, they talked to us about the history of the band, their plans for the future and the many challenges they face as they crusade across continents in the name of Heavy Metal.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: I thought it would be a great idea to start things off with a check-in. Thinking about all that has occurred this year. The album has been released. You’ve been touring Europe. You’re on your first visit to the UK. What does it feel like to be in Visigoth right now? Where are your most current thoughts?

LEELAND CAMPANA (GUITAR): I’ll start. It feels really good! I think I’ve managed to cognitively separate myself from everything that has happened to us, so I’m not overwhelmed by it. It’s exciting but sometimes it’s very surreal that we’ve been able to do all this, and everything seems to have happened like that… (snaps fingers). We’ve always wanted to come here, so I’m excited, but I’m trying not to think about it all at once.

JAKE ROGERS (VOCALS): I feel the same… It’s like I haven’t fully registered that we’re playing in Europe. It was always such a childhood dream, “Like, hey! Wouldn’t it be really cool, but it’ll neeeever happen!..” It’s such a cliché thing to say right now, but I always think of myself as this dorky metal fan, and I’d be the one going to festivals, trying to get front row to see the bands I’m excited to see, so it’s really weird being on the other side of the fence lately. But it’s really cool, and I hope… or I feel like I definitely haven’t lost touch with that. If we’re playing a festival, as soon as we’re off stage I’ll be digging through records, talking to people about their jackets and stuff. It’s really awesome to be able to have the opportunity to come and visit these great shows without having to directly pay for it! Haha! It hasn’t sunk in that this is OUR tour.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: Haha! So as much as you get to see some cool bands, there’s also that moment of, “oh yeah, we have to PLAY as well!”

LEELAND: Yeah, and there’s always that constant stress because we DO have to play. You can’t just cut loose, you have to remember that you do have to get up there and get on stage.

JAKE: Especially being a singer. I really have to take care of myself, I have to sleep a lot, I can’t drink a lot, I have to find TEA everywhere we go!
What about you, Matt… Where are you at?

MATT BROTHERTON (Bass):  I’m pretty good. I’ve been dusting off the cobwebs of the jetlag! I’m excited to be here. I didn’t get to come on the last European tour, I couldn’t get the time off work! So, this is total fun for me. I’m sure these guys are a little more, “oh, its just another European tour…”

JAKE: No! It’ll never be that! It’s ALWAYS fucking awesome!

MATT: I’m just really excited that I get to do the thing!

JAMIESON PALMER (GUITAR):  Same. I’m good.

JAKE: (To Jamieson) You’ve been a busy bee!

JAMIESON: I have been a busy bee, my life has been insane, but it’s “good” insanity.

JAKE: He’s getting another band off the ground!

JAMIESON: The first part is always the hardest, But we’re past the first part so it’s cruising for us now, which is nice.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: What was the inspiration for starting a new project?

JAMIESON: It’s a different style. Something I can’t really do with this band with the way it’s all worked out, y’know. We (Visigoth) have a sound and I don’t really want to go around on that.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: Have you been recording or playing shows with the new band?

JAMIESON: Yeah, we’ve been doing both of those things in the weeks coming up to this tour. It’s insane! Really fun… but it’s nuts.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: Okay, so with regard to Visigoth; you’ve started the UK tour in London. What are your thoughts about the city? The good and the bad. What do you like and what is not so great?

JAKE: Y’know, I want to experience more of London before I answer that! We flew in among the chaos of international travel and then just got here and slept!.. We flew from Salt Lake to JFK, New York, then from JFK to London… But, so far, it’s been nothing but hospitality.

MATT: I feel like I’ve seen more of the city. I went for a ten-mile run today and went for a walk around yesterday. My one gripe is that Sutton & Sons (Fish & Chip restaurant) doesn’t take credit cards! Cash only!

LEELAND: The only other place we’ve experienced is Camden, but we were all so jetlagged and Camden was so busy… It was like a scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas!
We went to the Eyehategod show, but we could only watch it for like, a minute, we were all so…. (mimes exhaustion). That’s why we’re going to sound like a mess tonight! But, it’s really cool, it seems like there’s a lot going on.

 

INDEPENDENT VOICE: Let’s move on. What I’m interested in doing is creating a picture of how it all started for you. Not just the band, but your experience of music in general.
Can you tell me about your first musical memories? When did you first “connect” with music… how did that develop into a love of Heavy Metal?

LEELAND: My parents let me watch the Blues Brothers movie when I was a little kid. Songs from that were really cool to me. Songs like Twist and Shout or Shake Your Tail Feather by Ray Charles. Then, what got me into metal? I picked up the guitar after being into bands like Linkin Park, System Of A Down and Saliva and all those terrible 90s rock bands… Through guitar magazines, I ended up gravitating towards Black Sabbath… and then I watched the Bill & Ted movies! They were like, “Megadeth, dude! Iron Maiden!” Then, I ended up getting into metal via the guitar playing that I liked the best, and it went from there! I was a guitar fan… which made me into a metal fan.

JAKE: For me, I grew up around a lot of music. My grandfather, who I idolised, was a deeply passionate fan of classical music. So, I grew up around tons of that. Especially, Vivaldi, Handel and Beethoven, all of the classic composers. My dad was an insanely passionate classic rock fan. He can’t carry a tune in a bucket, bless his heart, but he LOVES it so much! So I grew up, always with a barbeque in the backyard with Creedence Clearwater Revival, Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy and all the classic rock stuff. I was always around it and grew up loving it, but the big moment where it clicked was at home, in Utah, when my parents told me I had to pick from either the school Orchestra or the school sports programme. I was like, “FUCK, I am not gonna do fucking sports!” So, I said, “okay, I’ll do an instrument… and I picked the flute!” It was the best thing they ever forced me to do because I didn’t really want to do either. I just wanted to play video games!

Then a couple of weeks into my burgeoning, fith grade flute career, my Dad took me to see Jethro Tull. It was the first time I’d ever seen live music, let alone ROCK music. I still love that band, but seeing the rock music with flute shredding over it was a melding together of everything I’d loved but not really understood why.

On the way out of the gig, my Dad bought me a copy of Aqualung on CD. It was the first CD I owed that felt like it was MINE. It changed everything for me. I listened to it every single day that summer. I got deeply into rock music from there, I still kept studying classical music, then a couple of years later, I got into the guitar and wanted to explore heavier sounds. I picked up Iron Maiden’s, Powerslave because I liked the album cover! That’s the rabbit hole that got me into metal.

MATT: I would say that my experience is probably a little closer to Lee’s. My parents weren’t really big into music. Both of my sisters were the first people to get me into music ever, but it probably wasn’t until I was in high school that I really started getting into music… partly because of Jake! When we were in ninth grade, I met Jake and he is the person that got me into metal. He would play me stuff like Opeth in art class and it just took off from there. Then I told my parents that for my 15th birthday I wanted a bass guitar and that I wanted to play bass and I’ve been doing it ever since.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: And in terms of meeting each other, is that the case for all of you? Do you all go back that far?

JAMIESON: Yeah, Lee and I have known each other since we were 14.

LEELAND: Oh yeah, I have a funny anecdote I like to tell. Jamieson and I had this crappy high school band which I actually did the vocals for. Jake was at our show rocking out and came up to me and said, “oh hey, can I do vocals for your band?”

JAKE: No, I asked if I could try out… I wasn’t THAT presumptuous! Haha! This was before we knew each other.

LEELAND: I didn’t know him and I’d never seen him before in my life and I said, “I don’t know, man.. I’M the lead singer!” (Laughter) I was like, “pffft!” I was being TERRIBLE, but I didn’t know Jake and I wasn’t gonna give him a chance… But years later, here we are! I was stupid, stupid, stupid!

JAKE: This was all literally YEARS before Visigoth.

MATT: Years before we met as friends

JAMIESON: When I was a little kid, I always loved music; just listening to it. The first CD I ever got was a bit of a weird one… Weird Al’ Yankovic! I’m still a big fan to this day. He’s got probably one of the sharpest backing bands in history, they’re amazing!

After that, y’know I always liked the sound of distorted guitars, Van Halen and stuff. I think my mom might have listened to that while she was pregnant with me or something. Then, I picked up the guitar at twelve and got into Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden and it was all downhill from there.
I came to find out later that my great grandfather was also a touring musician, so there’s some kind of aptitude in there… but currently, I’m the only member of the family who plays and tours.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: let’s talk about touring, and just being active in a band. James, you are in TWO bands! What are you guys balancing this with? Day jobs? Families? What is life like outside of Visigoth?

JAKE: How are we doing this?… barely! (Laughter)

LEELAND: It’s extremely difficult. I’ve been through three different jobs in the past two years. Luckily, I’ve found a job now that lets me take time off as much as I want, but a lot of the times if you don’t work a certain amount you’re not going to get your vacation time, or you have to work at a place for a few years before they’ll like you enough that they’ll let you go (on tour). If you change jobs, like I do, you’re kinda screwed because it’s not good when you start somewhere and say, “I have to go on tour for two weeks….” So, I’ve been scraping and struggling and just barely found something that works for this tour.

JAKE: I’ve lost jobs for multiple tours. I think it’s hard for any band from anywhere, but in America, there is just no support system for this and no safety net. My direct supervisors have gone way out of their way to make sure I can keep a job that I probably should have lost. So, I’m really fortunate, but we all have to be in situations where someone is willing to break some rules to allow us to come back to our day jobs so we can pay some bills. Let’s be honest, music doesn’t! At least not right now… but we juggle it. We make it work!

MATT: I couldn’t get the time off last time because I have to build up enough PTO to take any time off longer than two weeks.
We went on our USA tour two years ago. I took six weeks off to do that, which means I have to work a year and a half to get the next leave of absence to take anything longer than two weeks. This tour worked out perfectly because it’s right on the two-week mark but my bosses were, “well, we don’t like it, but… we can’t tell you, no.”

JAMIESON: I’ve been “fortunate” enough that I was laid off from my job which means I am allowed to get unemployment benefits! That’s the only reason I’m not homeless. But, I went through a lot of bullshit with my job. We’re too far into this to give it up for a day job!

JAKE: Our tour manager hates our jobs!

INDEPENDENT VOICE: So, what would you say is the BIGGEST challenge you face as a working band?

ALL: JOBS!

MATT: And maintaining relationships! It can be really tough. I would say that my spouse is very supportive, but it doesn’t make it easier when I’m out, halfway across the world, doing something fun and she’s at home doing the dishes, doing the laundry, taking care of our pets and everything. It could lead to real resentment issues if you’re not with the right person.

JAKE: For me, it is definitely the job thing. I have a really good job right now, I really don’t want to lose it. This band will take priority in the long run, but I don’t want to lose what I have because right now I’m able to afford having a place to live when we’re not on tour.

LEELAND: Timing is everything. Especially with regard to finances and relationships. We are five different guys with five different personal lives, so making sure the timing is right for everyone can be very difficult! That’s the main challenge. It’s like, everyone’s life is moving at different speeds, different situations, but sometimes, all of the planets will align and it’s good.

JAKE: Yeah, having to turn down tour offers is the worst! I fucking hate it and we have to do that sometimes.

JAMIESON: I hate it. I’d be on the road every day of the year if I could.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: You guys are building some good momentum since the new album, your profile is getting stronger so I imagine you have no shortage of gig offers coming in.

JAKE: Oh, absolutely! We’ve had some pretty cool offers lately that we’ve had to say no to, but there will be a time when we’re able to say, yes! We’ll get this done (the European tour), then we’ll spend a few months at home working our asses off in our day jobs but then we’ll be doing the Frost and Fire festival in Ventura, California in October. That’s something we’ve been a part of since the first one. It’s a really important thing for us.

LEELAND: And it’s the last one, so EVERYONE should go!

JAKE: It’s worth travelling for! You guys had a Frost And Fire festival in the U.K. which was a permutation put on by the same promoter but nothing beats Ventura! If you are going to travel internationally, and this goes out to all the U.K., Scandinavian and European metal fans; if you’re fanatical enough to travel to international festivals like WE always have to, this is the American one. It’s on the beach. It’s a big beach party. Every band is awesome. There is not a single low point. Everyone gets along and you can’t even pick a favourite set, it is so good. We’ve played all of them except for one.

INDEPENDENT VOICE:  It’s interesting to think Ventura will be your first American date in quite a long time. Something I’d noticed about your live schedule, certainly for the past year, is it focuses quite heavily on European performances. Is that a conscious thing?

LEELAND: I don’t know if it’s a conscious thing, I think it’s just about getting offers. We haven’t got these type of offers for tours in the states.

JAKE: The shows that we’re playing here (in Europe) tend to be with bands that are a little more in our style. Whereas in the U.S. the offers we get are with bands that we’d love to tour with, but maybe they have a different focus or approach. The turn out of people who are here to see us or our style of metal tends to be a bit stronger here.
The other thing about doing tours in the States is you have to tour for a really long time because of how great the distances are that you have to drive. Texas is almost the same size as Europe, and that’s one state! So, if you’re going to play two shows in Texas you’ll have to drive for twenty hours!

JAMIESON: It’s a lot like touring Russia!

MATT: I also think the addition of our European tour manager has been really helpful. On our U.S. tours a lot of the logistics, a lot of them actually going and doing the thing, doing the travel. Going to their shows. It’s all on us. We’re doing the driving. It’s what we’re used to… While it’s more expensive to travel over here to play, ultimately it’s easier in an odd way.

JAKE: It’s much less stressful. Also, European promoters tend to put a lot more value on the bands that are playing. I’m sure if American bands are reading this, they will be nodding their heads in total understanding of what it takes to literally be able to afford to go on tour. People think of it as, “oh, this band is doing well, they’re on the road, they must be raking in the cash!” No. We’re not! Playing Europe is much more affordable for us because there seems to be a lot of value placed on live music here. In fact, overseas in general. You get looked after.

JAMIESON: In the U.S. promoters will give the line about how “you’re lucky I let you play in my club. You ought to be paying me!” We’ve had some rough times back home.

INDEPENDENT VOICE:  So, touring seems to be a completely mixed experienced. At it’s most extreme, what is the best and worst of it?

JAKE: FESTIVALS! I LOVE festivals! It’s like Disneyland for metalheads. I love it!

LEELAND: The best thing is the enthusiasm and… unexpected things. Our album had been out for two weeks and we were playing shows and hearing the audience sing it back. Oh, that is awesome.

JAKE: Hearing these lyrics that I had wrote on the day of recording, scribbled on napkins! Hearing people sing it back is the most rewarding thing. I never thought we’d be doing that.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: You touch on the recording process there. I’m aware there is a three-year gap between your first e.p. and your debut album. Then another three years until Conqueror’s Oath. What happens in that three-year cycle? Do you down tools and go back to family life, etc or does the creative process take that long?

MATT: It’s probably a little bit of both.

LEELAND: That’s definitely a both.

JAKE: We’ve talked about this as a band and it’s really important to us that album three is written and recorded a lot faster this time. It’s actually my impression that we wrote the music for Conqueror’s Oath a lot faster (than previous albums) but we spent more time…

LEELAND: There was more trimming. We were wanting to make it a lot shorter. There were entire songs that we wrote and scrapped.

JAKE: …Or re-wrote.

MATT: We could have had the album done a year earlier, but some of the songs weren’t fitting the way that we wanted them to, so we got rid of entire songs.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: And are they scrapped for good, or will they reappear?

LEELAND: I’ve got at least three songs that are structured out.

MATT: The same thing happened on The Revenant King. We had a song or two that we’d recorded but we didn’t put it on the album because it didn’t quite fit, but we could always maybe bring those back.

JAKE: Also, It was really important for us to fit it all on one record. The majority of us also listen to our music on vinyl back home. I got into collecting vinyl when I started to notice that there were albums that I was interested in that never came out on CD. I know Jamieson is the same way. We focussed on the average, underground, die-hard metal fans who are coming to our shows… Most of those kids are listening to their music on records. We wanted to focus really hard on fitting this album on to one LP. We didn’t want some expensive to import, expensive to ship, double LP that cost £30 or whatever. I’m really glad we did that because it tailored our songwriting to a certain restriction that actually forces us to be creative in certain ways. I really enjoyed that.

JAMIESON: Limitation is good.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: It’s the real sweet spot, isn’t it? One LP. Two Sides. A solid forty-five to fifty minutes of music.

JAKE: Yeah! It’s so much more digestible. Our first album; if I was coming to it as a listener, for me personally, I’d get bored as hell in the middle of that record! People might sometimes think I’m being too hard on it, but I think it dragged really badly in the middle. There were songs that were twice as long as they should have been, so I liked condensing the tracks (this time). That’s not to say we won’t explore the long, epic in the future. That will probably happen. It’s just that on this record, our specific focus was, “hey guys, let’s force ourselves to write more concise material.” Now that we’ve done that we can explore longer songs again but this was a really good exercise for us.

INDEPENDENT VOICE: You’ve touched on the future there. Are there any other specific future goals for the band? Maybe, how you want the next album to sound, are there shows you’d like to play, bands you’d like to play with?

JAKE: There are always bands we want to play with! Our albums are just expensive, difficult to create excuses to go and play with bands we like, Hahaha! We ticked a couple of those boxes on our last tour. We got to play with Solstice and Atlantean Kodex at the same festival. Which for me was fucking awesome! We’ve played with Kodex before, but Solstice was a first. That’s the stuff that… as we started this band, we all came from these very diversely influenced backgrounds; even within metal, because that’s the cool thing about metal, right? You’ve got European Power Metal on one end of the spectrum and technical Death Metal on the other and everything in-between. For me, it was the Bathory influenced, epic, doom-tinged, traditional Heavy Metal. So playing with those bands was huge!

LEELAND: One thing I would say about moving forward is I think our emphasis will always be on trying to make our songwriting is as good as it can be. Like, the exercise in keeping the album shorter was definitely an improvement because it forced us to think harder and be more willing to trim the fat.

I’d say it never gets easier but I feel like we’re getting a little more experienced with the tools to make that happen. So, for our third album, one thing we always try to go for is a memorable chorus line. You’ll remember hearing it, it’s catchy, you’ll sing along with it too. We always want to keep the heavy, driving element. That’s not going to go. We’re not going to become some kind of soft jazz band! The question is, can we improve as songwriters each time we attempt this. Production-wise, we’ll always try and get a clear sound… and big. That can be difficult because there’s a temptation to use a bunch of compressions to make things loud, but it squishes stuff down and we love an open sound. You’ve got to find a difficult balance between all of that to make the end product sound like how we imagine it…

JAKE: …A sound that we like but will also make the record company happy so they’re willing to release it. There are a lot of moving parts…

LEELAND: Separate from trying to just write a good song, we have to have three/four different areas of expertise all staying in play in order to make it work.

JAMIESON: We also have to have nine or ten good songs!

JAKE: For me, the big jump between records was learning a lot more about my voice and what makes me sound better. That’s the thing I am happiest with on the Conqueror’s Oath. The vocal performance, at least to my ears, sounds more confident. It was good that we took three years between records because I learned what supports (my voice) better and how not to wear it out too fast. Now I have a much clearer idea of how to go into the third record.

We’re at the point where Jamieson will come to practice and say, “let’s write a song in this key because Jake’s voice sounds good in this key.” We never really thought that way before. It’s been a weird learning curve. When it comes to singing I actually have no idea what I’m doing! I’m not trained I’ve never taken any lessons. These guys all played their instruments for years before the band started. I had never properly sung before, besides in my car on the way to school!

 

INDEPENDENT VOICE: There are a lot of positives there. It genuinely sounds like you guys are going from strength to strength. Unfortunately, I need to leave you guys to prepare for the show, but, I do have one more question for you. I love to hear about the music that musicians listen to, so can you recommend some albums for me? Whatever gets you excited.

JAKE: I hate this question! Haha! Let’s go this way, start with Jamie!

JAMIESON: Okay, the newest album that I’ve been listening to a lot is Search for a Future Past by Hällas. I love the band, They’re amazing. From there, it’s fairly standard stuff these days. Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath: You can only trust yourself and the first fifteen Black Sabbath albums!

INDEPENDENT VOICE: Yes! Screw anyone who doesn’t mention Tony Martin...

JAKE: Tony Martin! YES! Tyr and Headless Cross! YES! Totally underrated!

MATT: I’ve been listening to a lot of Caleb Schofield’s band because he just passed away recently. He was the bass player for Cave In, Old Man Gloom and Zozobra. He was a big influence for me and I’ve been listening to a ton of his albums. It’s sad.
Between The Buried And Me is another band I really dig. They’re incredible. They just put out an album in March and they have another one that comes out next week. I have that on pre-order. I’m excited to listen to that one.

JAKE: For me, I have the classics that I’m sticking to like anybody does. This is such a difficult question to answer! I’m into a lot of Eastern Block Heavy Metal from the eighties that you couldn’t get in the United States because of the iron curtain. Now we have access to these records. Hungarian bands like Pokolgép, for example. Their albums were only pressed on vinyl. That was one of the things that inspired me to start collecting records. Bands like Мастер (Master) and Магнит (Magnet) from Russia. Those bands are the classics that I am always reaching back to.

New albums, 2018 specifically, and I WILL narrow it down to just 2018 or I will never shut up! I’ve been really into the new Solstice release, White Horse Hill. Also, the new Battleroar album (Codex Epicus). The new Varathron album (Patriarchs of Evil) for Black Metal fans, if that’s your flavor. I’m a huge, passionate Black Metal fan and greek Black Metal has always been my favorite type. I think the new Varathon is the best thing they’ve done since their classic shit. Probably the best one since Walpurgisnacht and I cant get enough of it. Also on the Black Metal token, the new Angantyr record from Denmark is a total riff salad!
Beyond that… a bunch of Thin Lizzy and Bob Seger. I’m not joking. I soundchecked with Bob Seger tonight!

JAMIESON: He’s an amazing songwriter!

JAKE: Especially as we approach our late twenties. That song, Rock & Roll Never Forgets, which is literally about staying connected to rock music even as you get into your thirties or so. The older I get the more that means to me. Anyway… I’ll shut up!

LEELAND: My list is gonna be pretty short. I’ve drawn a blank and I can’t think of anything. I tend to hang out on Bandcamp. I like to go to the metal or rock and just see what’s been released recently. I can think of one specifically which is, The Black Tower by Sons Of Crom. There is one acoustic song (Legacy). It has such beautiful voices, these baritone singers and acoustic guitars. I get chills just thinking about it.

JAMIESON: There is a Portland band called Idle Hands who have just put out an E.P. Imagine if you combined Dissection and Depeche Mode with Sisters Of Mercy and classic Heavy Metal.

LEELAND: My other guilty pleasure…

INDEPENDENT VOICE: We dont believe in guilty pleasures! There are NO guilty pleasures!

LEELAND: Haha! I guess I’m not guilty about it, but I really love electronic music and I really love the huge explosion of retro synthesizers. Dan Terminus’s new album (Automated Refrains). Obviously, Carpenter Brut. There’s a band from Ontinerio called TWRP who have a new album called Together In Time, it’s like a funk fusion with electronica and vocoders. I eat the shit up! It’s so cool! If you go to Bandcamp and search for Starwolf you can hear my own bumblings with making electronic music.

JAKE: I’d love to shout out some other buddies. Weaponlord! The new Weaponlord album from Seattle, they’re buddies of ours from the North West… and the new Substratum E.P.

JAMIESON: The North West is killing it right now

JAKE: North West metal is amazing! I know Skelator is recording a new album. They never disappoint…
The Eternal Champion album… Everyone is eating that shit up!
Oh, and I want to shout out to the new Ghastly album! It’s called Death Velour.

LEELAND: I used to spend a lot of time on YouTube (checking out bands), but I got tired of being mired in all these really old things. It was cool to see what was out at the time but now it’s like, I just want to hear what people are doing now. That’s where I’m at right now with my discovery phase of music. I just like to hear the new stuff that’s happening, so I tend to go to Bandcamp. It’s like a buffet thats a hundred miles long!

INDEPENDENT VOICE: Ha! And on that note, I will bid you farewell. Sadly, I am out of questions. So unless there’s anything else you want to add…

JAKE: Yes. Buy records! Go to shows! Start your own band!

INDEPENDENT VOICE – Wise words, sir, and thank you very much for your time.

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